OOC/Sign-up Thread: Click Here! Accepted Members Group: Click Here! ~The prologue is a preface to the primary plot. It is the time to get your feet in your character(s)’s shoes, start to interact with others and get a little more familiar with their homes and the world. After a period of time it will transition into the first chapter.~ ╠ PROLOGUE ╣ It is a week before the anniversary of Brill's fall. Though their loss is still heavy in their hearts, the people of the realm live and carry on. The capitals, with their rulers and citizens, bustle as they always do, but few if any expect what is to come. Gashton As the date approaches, shadows still dance on the horizon west of Gashton. A gentle northern breeze carrying the salt from the Sea of Thrones weaves itself through the busy streets of Greycastle. The inns and streets are buzzing with gossip – speculation on the King’s impending speech. It’s hard to get away from the buzzing, in fact. The noon bells ring, a perfect octave hums and chimes over the murmur. People have already begun to arrive at the inner gates to the citadel courtyard, dressed in their finest clothes. Most gentlemen sported doublets, some with dress swords on their waist, others with feathers in their hats. The women are in their bright shoes and long dresses, hair done up and make up drawn on comically, as if putting on a stage production. The bracketed dark oak doors buckle and bump against their braces as the guards prepare to open them. Then the flood of colors, feathered hats and buzzing fills the modest courtyard. The courtyard was packed as the air grew thicker, but hardly anyone noticed – the girls practicing their swooning, the men comparing dress swords. The balcony doors above the courtyard opened as King Henryk and Prince Xander emerged from the citadel, the King stood and placed his hands on the weathered railing of the balcony as the Prince stood off to his right. Henryk was dressed in finely tailored clothing while Xander wore his much preferred polished armor and a crown adorned the head of both men. “People of Gashton, we approach one year since our allies in Brill fell,” his voice echoed like the noon bells. “Shadows remain above that cursed land. But Gashton, Gashton remains in light!” Cheers erupted from the crowd as he spoke. “Let the enemies of Gashton know that her people are not afraid and that no magic, in all its wicked forms, shall cross our borders unchallenged. That magic which so tragically stole the lives of our friends and loved ones will always pose a threat, one that we must never turn our backs on.” “Turn our backs on?!” Another voice erupted violently from the crowd, which separated like ripples, revealing an ordinary-looking young woman. “And what did you do as your allies died around you. You fled!” The Prince walked up to the railing of the weathered balcony as the King stood stunned. “What were we to do, remain to be crushed by falling walls? Do you believe leaving Gashton without leadership would have been a better idea?” Two guards gripped their polearms as they pushed through the crowd. “You could have stopped it, but you chose not to!” The woman screamed the words as the guards bound her hands forcefully. “You were too cowardly to see what was right in front of you! You’ve sealed our fates, ignorant fools!” She spat the last words, fire erupting from her wrists and leaving the guards to howl and recoil. The witch was outnumbered – four more guards piled on top of her and she was swiftly removed from the courtyard. The buzzing becomes loud once more - murmurs of confusion, astonishment, and disappointment. The crowd is led out the gates under the buzzing, so that all that is left in the courtyard is the thick air. The King and Prince disappeared back inside the massive citadel. Eventide It was the fourth annual Family Potluck, a party where anyone could attend, one of which was set up by the Prince in order to improve relations between the Royal Family and the common rabble. The air was unusually hot for this time of the year – even for the sun-swept port city. Despite this, the prince’s party appeared to be a success. The gardens of Stormhaven castle are a sight to behold. Climbing vines, exotic flowers, and eroded fountains built by generations passed. By this time, the tables lining the walls of the garden had been picked clean of fruits, meats and cheeses; the wine pitchers empty. People of all races and creeds gathered in discussion over the public debate held earlier that day. Announcing himself, a minstrel summons the remaining guests for one last act. The crowd grew quiet as the bard tuned his lute. “Good evening lairds and ladies! I hope you’re enjoying yourselves.” He posed, ready to play. “You might recognize this next old rhyme, arranged to music by yours truly.” He flashes a smile to the ladies and began a lilting melody. Five gifts the ancients blessed thee, five blade-less hilts to be concealed entrusted to the Realm by fate, and from the wicked ones be sealed For the just and pure of soul, born to sea and summer glare – a circle of ancestral eyes, an empty map of cosmic air. To the kind and pure of heart, of a good and noble birth – the means with which to grow a world, a golden nest of fired earth. For the ardent, pure of flesh, heirs to burnt and scarred land – a sign of harrowed deeds to come, a metal-glass with liquid sand. To the brave and pure of blood, scions of a fabled name – promise of a legacy, a vessel hewn from frozen flame. And for the wise and pure of mind, born to northern wind and rime – a window into pasts untold, a silver pool of captured time. The minstrel finishes his song and wanders around the guests, entertaining them as well as himself. Those that were still there, look to their peers and begin saying their goodbyes as the hour grew late. The Prince, looking to the skies, lets his mind roam. The first year of this event, little to no people showed up due to the prejudice he constantly faces; but thankfully, as the years went on, patrons started showing up, if not for people then for food. These last few years have been hard on him but looking around, it was well worth it. The Prince walks towards the stage where the minstrel just finished his song and calls to gather everyone's attention. “Esteemed patrons and guests! I wish to thank you for attending my party this year and I hope you all come again next year as I plan on making it bigger than this one!” He looks around the crowd with a beaming smile. “And Sal, I look forward to trying that roast of yours this weekend. Your wife says great things about it.” With his closing statement of inviting Sal and his family for dinner at the castle, of whom was a common butcher, the Prince steps down and makes his goodbyes with everyone at the party as they leave. Kadra The stands were packed and screaming with excitement. A variety of bright colors surrounded the arena like a prism, each crowd attempting to cheer louder than its neighbors. Two matching gladiators stepped into the ring. Their orange-tinted armor gleamed in the sun – plated greaves and bracers strung together with bright green straps of cotton and leather, splint-mail kilts and breastplates stamped with dried blood, all capped with an ornately wrought helm. They clashed their shields and great clubs together, and let out a roar for the audience to lap up. The green section of the stands rose in anticipation. Focus turned to the opposite end of the sandy arena, to a single archway with a portcullis in shadows. The bars jerked as gears and chains caught them, and the gate rose with a billowing of dust. From out of the shadows came a massive creature. It had bright red flesh, dried and cracked and flaked with metallic blue. The ground shook as its trunk-like legs carried it into the ring. Boos erupted from the green stands, while the rest screamed as if already victorious. Then the three were on the move, spinning around each other, each sizing his enemy up. The half-giant swept his great leg across the ground, blinding a gladiator with a torrent of sand and grit. Charging forward into the cloud of dust, he met a gladiator’s breastplate with a boulder of a fist, sending him hurtling towards the fifteen-foot wall surrounding the arena. The half giant turned, but the other human had gone. Footprints in the sand appeared from beneath the dust cloud, but as the half-giant turned to follow them, the other gladiator leaped to its shoulders and landed a wicked blow to its head and neck. The half-giant faltered and fell to its knees, but before the gladiator could set up another blow he was in the half-giant’s hands. Spastically the gladiator squirmed and yelled in pain as the giant rose with him in hand. Gripping onto the man’s feet he began to spin. Then another blow – this time to the back of the giant’s knees. The helpless man was released and tossed by the crippled giant. His partner, recovered from the blow to the chest, circled around to the giant’s front as the gladiator who was just tossed reclaimed his club and moved to flank the beast. With a synchronized and heroic leap, the two humans pounded the giant’s stone shoulders into the sand. The dust settled, and the crowd sat in silence. The half-giant didn’t move. Cheers erupted, and the gladiators removed their helms, revealing the man and woman’s faces to their fans. The couple offered their team in the stands a salute. Lightning cracked and the darkened sky opened up. The stands emptied quickly in confusion to escape the abrupt rainstorm. Slipping and sliding in the mud, the drenched spectators made their way home. Back in the city of Arcay, gossip had been spreading of the King of Gashton’s embarrassment during his address. Though details were lost, one word from the incident carried over: traitor. The citizenry already had their doubts cast and confidence shaken over the loss of the northern kingdom, and the notion of another kingdom’s responsibility was quick to spread through the public sphere. Perhaps it was an elaborate stunt to undermine the image of magic and hence that of Kadra. A hoax even? As conspiracy grew, so too did the rainwater begin to rise. No one had seen the storm coming, and the baked roads and hardened earth were even less prepared. As water began to breach residents’ thresholds, the King and council called an emergency. Men scrambled to raise levees – with some success. The city roads became rivers within a day, after which the rain vanished as quickly as it had come. Homes had been devastated – foundations softened and eroded and roofs run through with holes. Even the castle’s magnificent public gardens had been flattened. Arcay struggles bravely to recover. Ormont The trial came to a close. For the first time, doubt had settled itself in the citizens of Calay. Faith in Ormont’s rule had taken a chip that threatened to grow and fracture. The noble Chevalier house was found innocent of all fraud by Duke Alaric. The storeowners and craftsmen of Calay had lost. A different verdict would have compensated the working class for the money they had pooled together. Money that was supposed to have secured a promise of subsidy for higher grade trade goods. The glaziers were out of Kadran color, the forgers out of Gashton steel, jewelers their metals and ore, and tailors out of damask and silk. Families were already scraping by, albeit happily. But that was while they were occupied. The citizens would be well fed, but their goods would be fewer and cheaper, and shops emptier of variety. Without their trades to keep them occupied, minds wandered in search of something better. The evening took over and the cramped and lopsided taverns lit their lamps. Talk was disheartened, alcohol was plentiful. In a dimly lit and incense-filled pub, central to the most centered district of Calay, debate had sparked over the risen price of booze. Soon, dirty cuffs were pulled back and fists flew. Soon the brawl had grown and began to fill the streets. Many hid behind locked doors and windows, though just as many stood to watch the blood and teeth fly. Eventually, the guard arrived. Dressed in their light plate mail and silk emblems, the soldiers began to indiscriminately subdue anyone fighting and anyone standing in their way. Many arrests were made, but as a show of good faith Duke Alaric ordered the release of all but two. And with that small gesture, the nobility once again took hold of the gentry’s hearts. Brill Void of animal life, the land of Brill remains cloaked under a slowly spinning, blackened sky. Occasional flashes of green, like lightning, reveal living shadows on the plains and in the trees. Outlying villages remain abandoned and decrepit while the once mighty fortress of Ivanshold remains nothing but a shell of it's former glory. What evil really inhabits this land is unknown, but there's no doubt that it haunts the minds of all walks of life in this Realm of Uncertainty.