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Author Topic: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon  (Read 4489 times)

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Offline Operative13

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #45 on: March 28, 2021, 03:33:57 AM »
A Tales of Cadamaria Story - Chapter 5

Whether it was from the cool night breeze that caressed the candle-lit halls or her unabashed words so brazenly spoken before the guests of honor and her own father, her skin pricked like sharp needles. Avelina could only imagine what awaited her in the morning as she walked the empty hallways to her room.

Jarl Erik wasn't one to take insolence so lightly, and he was bound to deliver some act of retribution because of it. She could still hear the voice of her past self drowning inside her head, screaming and crying at her bedroom door as the keys rattled outside. There she would sit for days alone to herself, with no one to talk to, save for Frida, who would spare only a brief time to teach her studies at noon, and Elda, who brought food and cleaned her room every morning and night. If dying from boredom was real, Avelina surely rotted down to the bones. Her scant moments of human contact confined to mundane lessons and bare living essentials. Only the window gazing out to the front gate served as her outlet to the outside world.

Then again, her memory of her mother came once more. The last smile she gave as Avelina watched from afar in her bedroom. It was around that time that her father Erik began to lock Avelina up in her room. She would cause her usual bout of troubles as a little girl, and her father would always send for the servants to lock her up in her bedroom for days until Avelina knew the full extent of her actions. Rebel she would, refusing to answer when called or throwing a fit in her room, tearing up fabric or breaking furniture. Yet that only exacerbated Avelina's punishment and left Elda taking the brunt of Jarl Erik's fury as he shouted obscenities and insult towards the poor old woman, standing in submissive silence.

Aunt Frida always expressed some warmth with Avelina, as brief as their time together was during the lessons. It was lonely for Avelina, who could only spend her days within the four walls crammed inside her room. No friends to speak to or write of. Just a young girl and her imagination. But Avelina's imagination could only go so far when her room was stripped of any playthings to occupy her time with. No dolls or sticks or even books to read. Avelina suspected Frida must have known about her talking to herself, as Frida would every so often ask if Avelina had something to say. She would lie and say no, but if Frida pestered Avelina again, Runa was always the one she would bring up. Who else could it be? All the servants were barred from speaking to her during those times. Avelina dared not admit she had resorted to chatting with herself to keep her sanity. With Runa, they could presume it to be Avelina's grief over her mother instead of a child that's been driven mad in her isolation. No one would take her seriously otherwise, as though she had been possessed by a wicked spirit. With a relieved sigh, Frida would give Avelina a sweet honey treat to gnaw on and expressing herself as someone Avelina could confide in whenever the need arose before continuing their lessons.

Now with Avelina's shieldmaiden training under Eydis, she could frolic about in the world, free to explore as she pleased without worry for Jarl Erik's disapproval. He hadn't brought up the lock and key as he once did for Avelina's transgressions. Not since that fateful day when the clans of Demorea gathered by her side. Yet, Cairlann's arrival gave new reasons for Avelina's fears. The mobs that torched Demorea and attempted to storm Castle Finskalt mere days earlier kept Avelina shut within her chambers. The same people that once fought for her freedom and gave her purpose in life. She was imprisoned once more, yet not by the decree of a single man but by the very people Avelina cherished. She dreaded the sight of her beloved town burning in the night sky, a witness to tragedy beyond her control. If Runa was there, she would have kept everyone in line no matter the circumstances. Her father may be feared, but her mother was loved by all. So much so that the Huskarls, Demorea's greatest warriors, would gladly turn their shields over in her defense over their Jarl Erik. But Runa was no longer there.

Avelina scratched her hair in frustration.

"What are you doing getting yourself worked up?" she muttered. "You said what you wanted, so now you got to live with it. There's no use thinking about it too much."

"Hello?" A soft, high-pitched voice squeaked around the corner.

Avelina had never heard that voice before. She came around the hallway to see a little girl with long silvery-blonde braids standing outside her bedroom door. She was at least a full head shorter than Avelina and a timid one at that: the girl hid her face behind a cream-colored envelope as she stood in place.

"Hello there," Avelina waved, although it was futile of her to do so. The little girl couldn't see it through the parchment held up between them. "What are you doing here? Are you lost?"

"I-I'm... looking for Frey Ava... Avil..."

A silly grin stretched across her face. "Avelina?"

The girl nodded, braided hair bobbing up and down.

"That's me!" Avelina cried out in delight.

The girl dropped the letter down just enough for her sparkling emerald eyes to meet Avelina's but immediately squealed and hid behind the letter again.

"It's alright. I won't bite."

Avelina thought for a moment. The little girl was terribly shy of her for some reason. She certainly was too young to be a thrall in Jarl Erik's service. Perhaps she was one of their children?

"What's your name, little one?"

"M-Mioll," the girl stuttered.

"Like snow?"

She slowly nodded.

Avelina smiled. "It's a beautiful name, quite like your hair. I wish I had hair as bright as yours. Did you do your braids yourself?"

"Mama... did," Mioll answered, with a quiver of hesitation.

"You're blessed to have a mother braid your hair, Mioll. And so well too! Elda does mine," Avelina said, twirling around to show her.

"It's... nice," said Mioll, peeking out over the envelopment.

"Isn't it? But it takes so long to do! And I can't do it myself. I'd love to try something simple, but I'm not sure what style I'd want..." Avelina looked back at Mioll, hiding her flustered face back behind the envelope.

"I'm sorry! I didn't mean to ramble on like that. An old habit of mine, you see. I hope I'm not bothering you too much."

Mioll shook. "N-n-no, my Frey."

"Avelina. No need to be formal with me. My friends sometimes call me Avie. You can call me that if you like."

"Friends?"

"Yes, friends! We're friends now, right?"

Mioll's eyes wandered, seemingly contemplating Avelina's words as Avelina grinned back with her own starlight eyes. Hesitantly, the girl uttered.

"Yes... friends."

Avelina breathed a welcomed sigh of relief. "I'm so glad. I thought I was coming off a bit too forward there, suddenly asking you to be my friend. I hope I didn't frighten you or anything. You remind me a lot of how I used to be."

"Used to be...?"

Mioll's words caught Avelina off-guard. Only moments ago, Avelina swore she wouldn't think too hard on the past, but now the memories were flooding in again. The locked room, the agonizing wails, the towering shadows... No, Avelina wouldn't trick herself into thinking that again.

Avelina chuckled and instead turned her attention to the envelope. It had the wax seal of a bear's head, the sigil of Clan Signe. "Is that letter for me?"

Mioll bowed her stuck and stuck the envelope out to Avelina, keeping her eyes glued to the floor. Avelina graciously took the letter and petted the girl's little head. Too cute. Too innocent. She didn't need to know too much about Avelina. Not now.

"Thank you, Mioll. If you don't mind my asking, where do you live? I'd love to meet your mother sometime."

"Signeheim," said Mioll. She didn't stutter this time, a sign perhaps the girl was starting to warm up to Avelina. But Signeheim lent Avelina's attention.

"Signeheim? Your mother serves Hauld Halvor?"

Mioll nodded, her eyes glancing off to the side. The letter must be from Grandfather Halvor. It was very unusual for Halvor to send letters. He preferred speaking to people in person instead of picking words on expensive pieces of parchment. Hard to convey feelings in the written tongue, he once said. Yet lately, Halvor hadn't been around much, not since he rallied the clans to force Jarl Erik's oath to the shieldmaidens. In fact, Avelina hadn't seen him for weeks since the riots. What could he have to say now?

"He writes to me instead of coming here himself..." Avelina muttered, somewhat irked by her grandfather's absence as she gazed upon the letter's wax seal. "...if you were here, what would you say to my father?" She looked back to Mioll. "Give my kind regards to your mother and that I've received Hauld Halvor's letter when you get back. Thank you again for bringing this to me."

Mioll parted her mouth, uttering something soft and unintelligible. Avelina couldn't quite make out her words, so she leaned in closer to hear them. Instead, Mioll raised an open palm to Avelina.

"C-Coin... please," she mumbled, her face shimmering bright red.

Avelina paused. It took a few moments for her to comprehend what Mioll had asked for, instinctively reaching for a belt purse she didn't have. She let out a funny chuckle. "I must have left my purse inside. Would you mind waiting here for a bit?"

Like an eager puppy, Mioll bobbed her head in excitement. Avelina had caught the little girl's attention, as now Mioll watched her every move, from the key Avelina ruffled from her pocket to the bedroom door closing between them. Atop the dressing table near the window overlooking the front gate sat her plain leather purse, left there by the thralls earlier that noon. She went over to the table, catching a glimpse of the gatehouse as she passed by. By the time she opened the purse, Avelina had realized she'd seen someone familiar and doubled back to the window.

It was Berengar, waving at her with Brunflek by his side as he stood alongside the unamused gatekeepers with their burning torches in the dark starry night. Her body jumped out in joy at seeing him again after a long tiring day. She wanted very much to open the windows and call out to him, her hands already reaching for the latches, but stopped short of pushing them open. She could see rows of tents pitched side-by-side, filling nearly every inch of the courtyard. Soldiers sat around campfires, brewing stew or cooking skewers and quietly tending to their business as others slept around them. The Great Hall of Finskalt Keep couldn't fit the entire Cairlannder Army at one time, so the troops were catered to one lot at a time. They had already gotten their fill and were merely passing the time at this point.

Berengar raised a finger between his lips, signaling Avelina to keep quiet. Through the window, she reciprocated the gesture, and the two beamed smiles at one another until Berengar raised an open hand towards Avelina and tapped his palm with his other finger. He mouthed something to her, but Avelina couldn't quite figure out what he meant until she mouthed it herself.

"Letter," she muttered.

Yes, it had to be that. Berengar had taught her the guessing game when they first met. One would have a word to act out, and the other would have to guess what it was. Of course, no one could mouth the words. That would be cheating. But Berengar made it easy for Avelina as it was her first time playing it. She never knew about any party games then, or anyone to play with for that matter.

She pulled up the letter Mioll handed her earlier, and with a satisfied grin, Berengar nodded with approval. He waved her off, beckoning Avelina to move along. Mioll was still waiting at the door, and Avelina had yet to deliver her coin. With a tepid smirk, she waved farewell, and with a fist to his chest, Berengar saluted her, ending their mute conversation.

When Avelina returned to the door, Mioll had been humming a soft, soothing lullaby to herself. The little girl panicked and nearly jumped upon hearing the door creak open.

"F-Frey Avel...!"

"Just Avelina," Avelina corrected. "Didn't I tell you earlier we were friends?"

Mioll whimpered. "...sorry."

"No need to apologize! You were just startled. Here, I have something for you. Hold out your hand."

Mioll swallowed and held her delicate hands out in a tiny bowl. With a warm smile, Avelina raised her grip and released it upon the girl's eager palms. Mioll's eyes widened upon seeing two shining pieces of gold in her grasp, her mouth stretched open in awe, barely containing her emotions.

"T-Th-This is..." Mioll tried to utter.

"Gold?" said Avelina. "Yes, it's very pretty, isn't it?"

"This is too much," told Mioll.

Avelina was taken aback. It was the first coherent sentence she had spoken since they met. Not only that, but Mioll was turning down Avelina's gift. It could very well be the first time the little girl had held so much money in her modest hands. A single gold coin was enough to feed a family of four for several months. Many worked their entire lives to only make silver, a fact that bothered Avelina in her trips around town. She never grew up poor, but Avelina could understand the struggle to put food in one's belly or keep oneself warm in winters. Runa always told stories of how she grew up in Signeheim, a time before Erik was Jarl of Demroea, scolding Avelina whenever she refused to clean her plate.

At that moment, Avelina realized just how much it meant to be Jarl Erik's daughter, the daughter of the most powerful man in Demorea. She had servants, guards, a warm bed and baths, good food, the things many could only dream of in their lives. Yet, for a long time, Avelina felt just as powerless as them. But for what? What gave her the right to feel as troubled as they were? Here, Mioll stood fascinated by the two gold coins set upon her hands, and Avelina could only complain about her freedom. What good was it to be free if she was still chained to the realities of life? She didn't know Mioll's situation, and she could only ever imagine why Mioll would want to turn it down. But her imagination was enough for Avelina to picture just how much those two pieces of gold meant to Mioll. Truthfully, Avelina hated to admit to herself. She wouldn't have gone far had she not been the Jarl's daughter, and even if Avelina hated the terrible things her father had said or done, she still needed him.

Avelina wanted to change, yet she never asked herself why. The answer should have been clear: to help her people. But what did that mean to Avelina personally? Seeing Mioll's eyes light up and speak so confidently for a brief moment gave Avelina a mere glimpse of what she wanted. It was still a murky image, but she knew seeing people blooming with smiles brought great joy to her. Yet something was still missing. Was she becoming like her mother?

Avelina cupped Mioll's hands closed and pushed them back.

"Consider it a gift." Avelina winked. "To our newfound friendship. I do want to know how your mother braids your hair, however, so don't think that's for free!"

"Y-Yes, Frey... I-I mean, Avie!" Mioll stuttered with an awkward grin.

She quickly bowed before taking off into the long hallways. Avelina smiled and watched from her bedroom door as the little girl skipped away, humming her sweet little tune, a playful bounce in every step. For someone like Mioll, sweet and pure as she was, Avelina would give it her all to protect. But she needed the strength to do so. It had only been the first day since Avelina returned to training, but she needed to commit to it to see it happen. That meant another night of sneaking under darkness, awaking before the first song. Jarl Erik said he'd have someone accompany Avelina, but he never mentioned who. Regardless, Avelina had no intentions of waiting for that person. Eydis waited for no one. And she still needed to read the letter her grandfather Halvor sent.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Offline Operative13

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #46 on: April 04, 2021, 06:59:26 PM »
A Tales of Cadamaria Story - Chapter 6

For such an important letter, Grandfather Halvor didn't waste an inch of parchment. It was the only piece of parchment, in fact. A single sheet etched with stiff, pointed letters covered from top-down, the faded black barely discernible from the buttery background against the dim light of the oil lamp. Avelina held the letter near the steady flame and began to read.

"Avelina, my dearest granddaughter,

I just heard from your good friend Berengar that you resumed your training this morning with Eydis. And she even brought you a real sword to practice with! I lack words to say just how proud you make us all, to have another maiden following in the great traditions of our ancestors for hundreds of years, just as your mother did and her mother before her. Keep at it, young Frey, and one day you'll become as strong and mighty as your mother was. If I had known you were practicing then, I would have ridden all the way out of Signehelm to see you in person. But even then, as Hauld of Clan Signe, there are urgent matters I must address. Your father's insistence on embracing Cairlann has left me in a difficult position. Alfgatt and Heidrun already have run their mouths to me of their misgivings with his careless arrangements with the foreigners, and, while my obligations as his father-in-law would try to convince him otherwise, he simply won't listen to reason. Be wary dealing with these Cairlannders, little honeycomb. Their words are as sweet as honey, but their actions will sting you at the most opportune moment. I regret not coming to the banquet and leaving you alone to be surrounded by these strangers, but I cannot risk associating myself with them. The people of Demorea trust me to be the bridge between them and your father, and if that trust is jeopardized in any way, I fear things will only worsen for us all. And yes, that means I cannot see you anytime soon, as much as it pains me to tell it. I will be staying in Signeheim indefinitely until your father finally decides to call upon the Tyng once more. I urge you to visit us any time you're able to. Perhaps our Shjaldmaering school could teach you a few lessons you'd be interested in. Lessons Eydis might not teach you. May Fyrga protect you in these trying times.

Your loving Grandfather, Halvor of Signe."


The tender words of her grandfather warmed Avelina's heart, a slight smile peering from her lips. Yet, she could not help but feel a shallow, empty void in her chest. She missed his great, bellowing laugh, his proud, shining smile, and even the bearish hugs he would give that would squeeze every ounce of breath from her delicate body. For a strong and powerful man, Halvor carried a gentle touch both in his actions and demeanor. He was the Hauld of Clan Signe, a clan renowned for its great warriors and fighting practices. Yet, for such a warlike clan, his character portrayed nothing of the sort. He preferred the songs of reason over the clash of blades. It's the one thing her father Erik and grandfather Halvor shared. Yet neither of them appeared wanting to see eye-to-eye or even face-to-face. They would act like long-lost friends one moment, exchanging cups of ale and song together, and then like bitter enemies the next, with one storming out from the other, curses aplenty.

The two were not always like that. Avelina still held onto fond memories of Halvor taking her on walks around the courtyard, holding her little palms up as she learned to walk, legs still struggling to keep upright, while her mother and father watched nearby, cheering her on. It was after Runa left that the troubles began. Halvor would seldom come to the castle to visit young Avelina anymore, and eventually, she would stop seeing him altogether as Jarl Erik tightened his reins around Castle Finskalt. No more benign visits or frivolous activities. Everything had to be for the realm's benefit. And Avelina's life was to be shaped in that vision.

Avelina had hoped dearly that her little expeditions outside the castle would mend the tattered ties between her two families. Rediscovering her grandfather and bringing him and the other clans together through the shared tradition of shieldmaidenry -- Shjaldmaering -- should've convinced him and her father to set aside their differences for a common cause beyond themselves. Yet, instead, it seemed to have strengthened the conflict between them. Halvor now refused to step foot within the walls of Demorea unless called upon out of obligation. Meanwhile, Jarl Erik carried on with his single-minded intentions, unwary of any dissenting opinion. Halvor choosing to write to Avelina about this issue instead of directly addressing her father spoke volumes to her of how disinterested he was engaging with the man.

Nevertheless, the letter was addressed to Avelina and not Jarl Erik. She must be the one to reply in short, even if she was not all that wary of the nuances surrounding present issues. Perhaps a modest affirmation of her receiving the letter or an acknowledgment of the warning Halvor's given to her and the steps she'll take to follow them. Should she write to him about the curiosities of Shjaldmaering she has and ask what secrets he had to share? Or perhaps urge him to reconcile with her father despite their bitter feud?

While Avelina gave thought to what she would address in her reply, another detail soon caught her attention. At the very bottom of the letter scrawled a small addition, separate from the rest of the writing. The handwriting was the same stiff and rigid cut, but the words were unmistakably different from Halvor's.

"Avelina,

Be sure to arrive at Eydis's earlier than last time. You'll need to cut enough firewood before she wakes up at dawn. I'll leave an axe and lamp out atop the tree stump next to some logs to cut for you. Don't make too much of a commotion stumbling around in the dark when you get there. Eydis prefers she gets all her night's sleep. Stay safe.

Bere."


Next to his name, Berengar had scribbled what appeared to be a smiling bear's head, just as stiff as his writing. Avelina rolled her eyes at the playful gesture. She was more than capable of taking care of herself, having trekked all the way to Eydis alone without too much trouble, but still smiled at the kind thought he'd given to prepare everything for her. Avelina wondered if swinging an axe was anything like a sword. Would she be taught how to use one in combat? Axes, after all, were just one of many weapons a shieldmaiden used in combat. Perhaps she would be taught how to wield a spear, how to toss daggers, how to shoot a bow and arrow. And who could forget the namesake shield of a shieldmaiden? She dreamt of the designs she would place upon its field, the fine wood and leather it would be made of, and the weight it would have against her shoulder. Soon, Avelina would be like the champions of her stories -- the great warriors of legends -- just like her mother, with her own arms and armor and a name to be remembered by. The idea sent shrivels down her spine. Eydis would most assuredly teach her such things and more, right?

A knock on the door.

"Avelina, may I come in?" Frida's muffled voice droned through.

Avelina sat the letter down and hurried towards her. "Yes, coming!" With a solid click, Avelina pulled the door open to the sight of a worried look painted on her aunt's face.

"Aunt Frida, what are you doing away from the banquet?" Avelina asked. It was not too long ago that Frida said they had to present themselves as a courtesy to the guests. Now Frida had broken that etiquette too, having left her seat at the table.

"I came to check on you, my Dear. You left in such a stammer I felt I needed to see how you're faring."

"I'm quite fine, Aunt Frida. I appreciate the concern. I just got a letter from Grandfather Signe."

"That old coot Halvor sent you a letter? I can't remember the last time he wrote anything to us! He must have sent you a wonderful letter. You don't seem as upset as you did a few moments ago."

"Well... yes and no. I loved getting the letter and reading all that Grandpa Halvor had to say, but it's what he said in that letter that worries me."

"What he said?" Frida asked, furrowing her brows. "Well, now I must know! Just what did that gray bear write that was so upsetting?"

Frida entered the room, and she and Avelina found seats near the dressing table. Avelina picked up the letter, skimming over its words one last time, before turning it over to Aunt Frida to read herself. As Frida's eyes rolled back and forth upon the parchment, Avelina explained.

"I worry things between Father and Grandfather are only getting worse. Now he refuses to set foot inside Demorea unless he has to. The anger, the riots, and now our own family is shunning us."

"I'm sure Grandfather Halvor has our best interests at heart. He wouldn't do something like this out of spite. Not when he cares very much about you, as we all do."

"But how do we know for sure? Father and Grandfather have been fighting each other for ages! Grandfather practically abandoned me when I was left alone without Mother. What's to say he won't do the same thing again?"

"It wasn't your Grandfather's fault that happened," Frida said.

"Then was it Father's fault? That I grew up without so much as a childhood to love about?"

"Your father only had the best interests in mind for you."

"But what about my interests!? So far, Father hasn't done anything much to show he cares at all outside of silently bowing his head like a stoic Gota. I'm sure he's already spoken to you about what he'd say he'd have done to me from now on..."

"That he did." Frida slowly nodded.

"And?" Avelina pestered. "Who is it?"

"What do you mean, who?" A confused look struck Frida's eyes.

"The one that's supposed to follow me. Father said he'd have someone look after me everywhere I go."

"It's not one person, Avelina. It's whoever accompanies you. We need to be sure you're where you're supposed to be and that nothing horrific happens to you. You're still a young girl, Avelina. Not yet strong enough to fend for yourself."

"I can be if you simply have some trust in me. Instead, I'm having my hand held like a child," she pouted.

"It's not about trust or being a child, little one!" shot Frida. "This is your life we are discussing. You only get one life to live. Runa couldn't comprehend that and left you with the life you have now. We don't want you to repeat that mistake, Avelina."

"What's so wrong about doing something you believe in?" Avelina asked, taken aback by her aunt's answer. "I'm only trying my best to be who I am. Is that too much to ask?"

"It only means you're trying, Avelina. It doesn't mean you're there." Frida took Avelina's hands and held them between hers. "You have only one life, that's true. But you have a long life ahead of you. A life to grow and cherish and experience. Yes, there will be trips and falls and scrapes and bruises, but that's only part of the journey. It's what you learn from them that makes you who you are. But you don't have to go it alone. That's why you have people to help you make the journey a tad safer."

"You sound just like Berengar," Avelina playfully scoffed. "He was telling me that exact thing just today."

"The young man that wrote you this little piece?" Frida turned the letter around and pointed at the writing portion at the bottom. "I can tell he's the very responsible kind." She winked.

Avelina's eyes twitched, an annoyed expression smeared across her face, and she quickly swiped the parchment out from her aunt's hands. Frida giggled with childish delight as Avelina went to shove the letter into one of the table drawers.

"Are you always going to be this giddy whenever I bring up Berengar?"

"Whatever do you mean? Frida said innocently. "I'm only stating what good qualities he has. Your friend that's a boy, after all. Your only friend that's a boy."

Avelina groaned. She fathomed whether Aunt Frida's fascination with Berengar was because Frida herself never had a lover or because she genuinely believed she saw something more between them. Either way, Avelina had no intentions of letting her aunt play matchmaker in a place where there was none to be made and so switched back to the main subject at hand.

"So then, who will be escorting me to Eydis's home this morning? They're not going to follow me everywhere, would they?" she asked.

"Oh, I think as long as someone we know has an eye on you, it'll be fine. My words, not his! Don't tell him I said that..." said Frida.

"I won't."

"Good. Then I'll be escorting you to Eydis just as we did last time."

"You will!?" Avelina exclaimed. She had thought it would have been anyone else, but to hear Frida would be the one to escort her was a joy to her ears.

"Certainly! And I always keep my trusty knife with me in case we have trouble along the way."

"That's quite funny, Aunt Frida, but I don't think that will do much for us."

Frida laughed. "Why, of course not! We'll have someone else with proper training escort us."

"Who?" said Avelina, quite puzzled. She did not think there would be a third person. "Is it one of Gulbrand's huskarls?"

"At first, I thought of having one of his men escort us. Or perhaps Gulbrand himself. It would have been nice to have him look after us as we travel down the road out from Demorea. But alas, they're preoccupied with other matters."

"It must be one of the militias, then. Would we have Berengar with us?"

"Oh goodness, no. Those men aren't suited for that sort of work! No, instead, the good Captain Halan had volunteered his time to escort us on your father's behalf."
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #47 on: April 11, 2021, 08:33:44 PM »
A Tales of Cadamaria Story - Chapter 7

That night, Avelina couldn't sleep. Even the softest feathers and the coziest wool couldn't lull her to slumber. Tried as she did, tossing and turning, trying to find a decent position, but it was no use: all Avelina could think about was that man Captain Halan. Why would Captain Halan volunteer to escort her? Why did Frida agree to it so readily? And why would anyone in the castle think this arrangement was alright? Captain Halan is a Cairlannder, an enemy of Godwyn. They invaded her home, slew her people, took her mother away. Now, Avelina was expected to simply accept how things were now and live with it?

None of this felt right to her. It had the makings of a bad dream, yet she was still wide awake through it all. All the soldiers, the killers her father so joyfully lauded, nestled just outside her window in the courtyard below. The pungent stench of cedars soot from the smoldering campfires pricked her nose as it fluttered past her room, a scent akin to the blazing torches and blackened bones of pinewood buildings from riots weeks earlier. Just down the hallway, Captain Halan had taken residence inside one of the guestrooms. The thralls had worked long hours until the night, moving what sounded like large crates or chests into the man's room as giant thuds of wood and metal clamored onto the stone floor. The tremors rattled Avelina's bedside. Voices croaked behind her closed doors, with flickers of light dancing under the gaps. Avelina buried herself into her pillows and pulled the sheets over, desperate to fall asleep. But it did no good.

Yet, it wasn't the rattle, the racket, or the smell that disturbed Avelina so much as her wandering mind. They all merely called attention to the situation she now found herself in: surrounded by strangers in her own home. Strangers she knew little of but the pain and cruelty they've inflicted. They came from another world, with different lives and beliefs, all of which rang unfamiliar to her. Now, these strangers called Demorea their home as she did, and although Avelina had lived here her entire life, she felt like she was the stranger. Avelina envied Berengar at this moment, detached from the world in the great forests with no one else to cater to, and regretted not pleading harder with Eydis to stay at her home. Perhaps if she had done so instead of coming back to Castle Finskalt, Avelina could have continued her training blissfully innocent of the Cairlannders and their ways. She would have never needed to walk alongside a man that denounced the very thing her mother was, what she hoped to become.

But the blame ultimately fell to her family. Her father Erik welcomed them in, and her aunt Frida accepted it. Grandfather Halvor disapproved, but that was all he did: disapprove. All of Demorea could rise up to oppose her father as they did only weeks ago, and still, it could not change his mind. The Cairlannders came, stained in blood, and the people kept silent. No swords and torches, or even words of loathing, only brooding in the shadows. Everything was self-evident: Cairlann was here to stay, and they had no intention of leaving.

Avelina twisted and turned for what seemed like hours. By then, all the lights had dissipated. The thumps and dragging of objects were long gone, and the odor of smoke became distant. Avelina let out an irritated groan.

"Forget it, Avelina. You're not falling asleep tonight."

She tossed her blanket and stared out the window. The morning birds had not yet sung, but the stars had begun to fade away. There was still time before morning. If there was no sleep to be had, she might as well get ready to leave. Avelina pulled through her wardrobe and dressed into a batch of clothes similar to what she had worn last time: dark with a heavy cloak and boots. She stared into the dimly lit mirror and sighed. The drabness still didn't suit her. Avelina pulled her red-fangled hair out to the front, and with a brush, began to comb it straight again. The thought then occurred to her that if Frida was coming along, perhaps she could help braid her hair this time. No more dull ponytail to wrap her hair in, as Avelina very much enjoyed the familiar weight wrapped around her head, knowing how beautiful it looked. The thought then further occurred to her that if she prettied up her hair, what's to stop her from also prettying up her attire?

Avelina hopped back to the wardrobe and began picking through the vast array of garments. Green emeralds, red rubies, blue sapphires, there were so many colors to choose from. There had to be something she could wear out to Eydis. Or so she thought. As Avelina continued rummaging through the wardrobe, she soon realized just how little she had in practical clothes. Nearly all of them were fancy dresses full of decorative embroidery and fine linen, totally unfit to move around in sweaty and dirty. Few were tunics that were either too tight-fitting or too thin to stave out the chilly morning air. She picked out a pair and held them up to herself in the mirror, but neither of them matched well with her current attire. In fact, they stood out quite awkwardly with how bright they were compared to the flat-toned cloak and trousers. Perhaps Avelina needed a new wardrobe.

Resigned to her current outfit, Avelina packed her bags and hovelled towards the bedroom door. She wondered if anyone would be up at this late hour. If Avelina wanted her hair braided, she'd need to ask early. It took time for the braids to be done, and she still needed to get to Eydis early enough to get started on the woodchopping. Frida was on the floor above, but getting there meant crossing Captain Halan's room to reach the stairwells. She'd have to tread carefully to avoid drawing his attention.

Avelina opened the door but fell back and screamed. It was Captain Halan.

"Oh, you're awake," he said. The man towered over Avelina wearing his mail armor, the dragon's helmet staring back at her under his arm.

"Why are you standing at my door!?" Avelina exclaimed with a look of terror.

"I was about to wake you, but it seems you're already up. Or rather, it appears you've been up all night. You don't look so well."

"A nightmare. That's all," Avelina answered.

"I hope you're alright."

"Believe me, it was getting worse."

A high voice called out from down the hall. It was Frida. "Avelina! You must come and see this!" She stuck her head out from Captain Halan's door and waved them over.

Puzzled by Frida's commotion, Avelina strolled over with Captain Halan to see what it was about. Inside the room stood a large device with two cylinders and several gears connected to a cistern. One of the cylinders held water with a closed spout at its bottom that drained down to the cistern attached to the second cylinder with gears. The other cylinder had numbered markings on it with a rod pointing at one of them marked 'four.'

"Is this a water clock?" Frida asked. "I've never seen such a fascinating thing before."

"It was a gift bought for me all the way from Mercade," said Captain Halan. "The scholars there are always concocting new devices. You can set the gears here so that the bell rings after a certain number of hours." Halan pulled the lid off the second cylinder to reveal a small brass bell contained inside. He set the gears to slightly above the 'four' mark, and on the opposite cylinder, he opened up the spout and allowed the water to pour into the cistern. The rod slowly lifted before reaching the new gear and triggering a hammer that struck the bell four times.

"You brought something like this just to tell time?" Avelina asked.

"Why, yes. How else would anyone expect to tell time at night? Or any time when the sun is shy?"

"It's a marvelous tool, Captain Halan," Frida complimented. "Would you know where I can get something like this?"

"I'm afraid not," Halan replied. "As I said, it was a gift. One of my uncles happened to be traveling there and thought I could use something like this to... manage my expectations. He's off elsewhere now, so I wouldn't know where to ask."

"That's a shame. I would love to have something like this for the castle. Perhaps bigger and in one of the towers."

"I can send word and ask around about your request. Maybe one of our engineers could help figure things out for you."

"That'd be wonderful, Captain!" delighted Frida. "Aren't we blessed to have such a generous man here, Avelina?"

"I suppose..." Avelina replied. She wasn't at all impressed by the machine. It was large, bulky, and overly complex for something built just to ring a bell. And obscenely ugly. The clock had the aesthetics of a pile of junk tossed together. The wood cylinders and cistern looked dull and chipped, with the deep gray metal beginning to exhibit signs of rust. The clock certainly had gone through some rough times, most likely from the long travel it endured coming all the way here, and it wouldn't be long before its parts break down and fail.

"Are things like this common in Cairlann?" Avelina asked out of curiosity. She imagined it must have cost a fortune to buy something this exotic from the southern lands just to lug it around up north during a war. Yet Captain Halan didn't seem like the kind of man with wealth behind him.

"The clock?" Halan asked.

"In general. You said this came from Mercade. That's beyond the Arvusians, if I'm not mistaken. Why carry around such an unwieldy thing all the way here in the middle of a war?"

"To appreciate the little things we take for granted in this life," he astutely answered, without a moment to pause. From Halan's confidence, it might not have been the first time someone's asked this question from him. "When I was growing up, we had a church that would ring its bell twelve times in the day. No matter if it was raining, snowing, or whatever kind of day it was, the old monk would always ring his bell for the town for every hour. When the old monk passed away, his apprentice tried his best to keep to the old schedule, but as lazy as he was, the apprentice never paid as much attention to the number of times he rang the bell, nor how long he last rang that bell. As a child, I used to hate hearing that bell, waking me up so early in the morning all the way until nightfall. But as I got older, I became annoyed at how poorly the apprentice did as I kept missing the hours in my day. Eventually, it got so bad that the town was considering building a sundial instead in the town square. They didn't want to stop the apprentice out of respect for the monk's wishes. So, a few of my friends and I volunteered to keep the town's time in place of the apprentice. Ringing that bell every single day as punctually as possible taught me how much we all take the little things in life for granted. When everything goes right, no one notices. But when it all goes wrong, that's when people start caring. I don't have to keep time anymore with this by my side. But it's a good reminder of what I left behind."

"A rather cumbersome reminder, if I'm honest," Avelina quipped.

"I get that impression a lot," he admitted. "But it does have its uses every now and then. There are plenty of other things I've collected here that might interest you two. I welcome you all to come by whenever I'm here, and we can share some stories together."

"It sounds like you have some fascinating stories, Captain Halan," said Frida. "I wouldn't have any good stories of mine to tell. My life is so tragically boring, even a thrall would have better adventures than little old me ."

"I'm sure we can find something that'll pique both of our interests, Lady Frida. Shall we talk later this evening?"

"Oh, please do!" she squealed. Avelina rolled her eyes at her aunt's lackluster flirtations. "Where shall we meet?"

"My room, of course."

"I can't say no to that!" Frida smiled with glee.

"And the same for you, Lady Avelina. My room is an open book. I keep all my business outside, so you can rest assured I have no secrets to keep."

"I'll consider it," Avelina replied.

She, however, did not wish to spend any longer in Captain Halan's room than she already had. The vast decoration of knick-knacks and contraptions scattered along the walls and tables eerily resembled her father's study, and that room was already as old and hideous as it was without the gimmicks. However, Captain Halan had yet to answer Avelina's original question.

"So then, I take it it's not usual for a Cairlannder to have these sorts of... contraptions lying around?" she said, eyes wandering around the room.

"Good heavens, no. Maybe if we lived a different life where the Old Empire still survived, but we're not. We still have to make do with things the old-fashioned way."

"You're eccentric, then."

"Some might say that. I prefer to see things through different lenses. You can't always win battles trying the same tricks over and over."

Frida nodded. "Wise words, Captain. But I believe we should move along. Avelina has places to go, and we wouldn't want to keep her here forever."

"My apologies." Halan bowed his head. "I get carried away sometimes. We'll get saddled up and leave with my men."

"No," Avelina interrupted. "We'll walk the way there. Without your men."
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #48 on: April 18, 2021, 11:17:19 PM »
A Tales of Cadamaria Story - Chapter 8 (Ongoing)
Disgruntled scowls followed Avelina and her two companions as Kled and Olaf pushed open the rickety gates of Demorea's border walls. She glanced behind her shoulder to see the middle-aged man, who had once greeted her with apathy and indifference, now met her gaze with woeful judgment. The others likewise shared the old man's skepticism with stiff frowns, rigid bodies, and tense hands hovering over the worn hilt of their swords. Like a pack of wolves, their sharp eyes followed the trio passing through the gates. Yet, it wasn't so much the young Avelina or dainty Frey Frida that the men were watching, but the towering figure in white Captain Halan. He, too, shared that same attentive gaze through the visors of his helm, yet the calm in Halan's voice suggested a casual tone.

"Thank you, Hersir..."

"Tullsgaer."

"Tollsgr," Halan tried to mimic. It wasn't exact, but the pronunciation was enough to illicit a short grunt from Tullsgaer. "Rest assured, the ladies of Finskalt will be taken care of."

"Best be on your guard, Cairlannder," said Tullsgaer. "Many dangerous beasts hide in the forest. They can sense fear in their prey, and they aren't shy to strike."

"Then they best not show fear. It would be a shame if I had to cut down some poor animals."

"There aren't any wild beasts lurking around this hour, are there?" a worried Frida asked.

Tullsgaer gave a lighthearted chucked, easing the men's tension. "No, my Frey. Just a few songbirds off to catch their morning supper."

Frida exhaled. "That's a relief. Godryn's mercy if there's anything but innocent creatures."

"We'll be safe, Aunt Frida," assured Avelina. "It's not the first time I've gone down this road."

"Avelina, I hope you're not assuming nothing will happen."

"Of course not! That would be silly of me! We have... Captain Halan with us... after all." The hesitation in Avelina's voice did not reassure Frida one bit, as Frida returned a low-brow glare.

Animals were the least of Avelina's concerns, however. She could see the dreadful mood all around her as if a ravenous fox had found its way into a chicken coop. The militiamen had doubts about the man that claimed to be their protector, only heightened by the wordplay Halan and Tullsgaer slung between themselves, though Frida had yet to catch on. Although the riots have long passed, many Demoreans still opposed her father's rule. Rumors abounded that rebels were camping around the forests in Demorea and that more and more were joining their cause every day, determined to oust Cairlann however they could. In hindsight, Jarl Erik was right: it was dangerous for Avelina to travel alone in the manner she did before. Who knew if those rumors held true? Yet now, she wondered if having Captain Halan escort her only invited more trouble ahead.

Avelina cleared her throat. "We'll be on our way now. There's a long road ahead of us, and I wouldn't want to be late again! Thank you, everyone."

"Stay safe, young Frey," said Tullsgaer.

The man never said that the last time Avelina left. Perhaps her fears were justified, that things have certainly changed in Demorea. Yet, as Avelina looked up to the great Captain lighting a torch beside her, she could not help but feel a strange yet ominous peace in his presence, knowing that those amber eyes behind the dragon's helm were there as her protector and not as a foe.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #49 on: April 26, 2021, 01:30:11 AM »
Order of the Knights Sanctum


Soldiers of the Knights Sanctum decimating a Godwynian village during the Cairlannder-Godwynian War

In the early days of the Occupation of Vermaris, great strife and turmoil threatened to plunge Cairlann's new holdings once more into war. A solution set forth by King Karsis the Pious was the creation of the Order of the Knights Chaplain, an order that would oversee Vermaris's administration and conversion to the One Faith. However, many Vermarians distrusted the Knights Chaplain, as it was an order that answered solely to King Karsis and held no accountability to any other power. Furthermore, adding Vermarian lands to Cairlann's growing realm meant religious pilgrims traveling to holy sites between Cairlann and Vermaris. Attacks against these pilgrims became routine as the Occupation dragged on, and the Knights Chaplain would do little to safeguard them, having no interest in the pilgrims' plight.

However, long before the Knights Chaplain came to existence, a Vermaro-Cairlannder priest named Nicolas of Salbot founded a small sanctuary in which these pilgrims would be safeguarded by Vermarian volunteers during their travels. These volunteers comprised of former Vermarian soldiers and local civilians provided aid across Vermaris to these pilgrims, and later the sanctuary would expand to contain a network of thousands. The Sanctuary of Nicolas would expand several times since its establishment from charitable donations and royal grants from King Karsis himself, ultimately coming to rival the Knights Chaplain in both power and prestige. However, Nicolas would not live to see his work fully realized, soon passing from old age. For his selfless acts and devotion to the One Faith, Nicolas was canonized as a saint by King Karsis, formally establishing the Order of the Knights Sanctus under Nicolas's name.

Despite the Knights Sanctum's original purpose, King Karsis was swift to reorganize the Vermarian volunteers into a formal military unit attached to the Royal Army. While Karsis and Nicolas both shared an understanding for spreading the beliefs of the One Faith, Karsis distrusted the Vermarians that Nicolas oversaw. Vermarians generally held a negative view of King Karsis, and he could not risk the Knights Sanctum turning rogue after Saint Nicolas's death no matter how much Nicolas had vouched for them. Many of the original members of the Knights Sanctum were forced out of the Order. In their place, Vermarians loyal to King Karsis and vetted by the Knights Chaplain would fill the ranks of the Knights Sanctum, and the Order would soon become synonymous with collaborators of the Cairlann regime, all but losing the original purpose it was once founded by.

By the Invasion of Godwyn, the Knights Sanctum possessed thousands of Vermarian volunteers who swore loyalty to the Cairlannder Crown. They would become instrumental in cutting off Godwyn's access to the Eastern Sea in Fjollen-Ellstrivar, preventing much-needed goods and reinforcements from entering their ports.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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Re: CAIRLANN - Coming Soon
« Reply #50 on: May 03, 2021, 01:19:24 AM »
Hirdes, Shepherds of Fjollen-Ellstrivar


Ellstrivari Hirde in the Arvaltan Mountains

Despite Fjollen-Ellstrivar's rugged, mountainous highlands and long blistering winters, the region enjoys unusually rich and fertile pastures thanks to the mineral-rich waters of the Arvaltan Mountains that flow through its deep valleys. Vast numbers of hardy grazing animals such as goats and sheep often frolic these lands under the careful watch of Hirdes, shepherds well experienced with the rough terrain and the ravenous predators that stalk them. From these animals procure the famed Ellstrivari leather and wool, known for their distinct toughness and durability. However, the fibrous quality of these goods meant they were difficult to work. Only experienced crafters with many years of practice handling such unwieldy material could fashion them into usable commodities. Wool especially is highly prized in Godwyn for keeping warm in Fjollen-Ellstrivar's cold climate and thus often reused or recycled rather than discarded.
“To give of oneself is the noblest of all acts.”

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