Hear my Nation's Plea

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Rokku Hizori, May 6, 2012.

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line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} </style> <![endif]--> [FONT=&quot]The people of Inasus are wretched creatures, pathetic in both military and culture. They barely have a government to keep order, and have no complex religion to speak of. Their writing is little more than a few scratches that represent sounds, too simple for the civilized world. Their language exhibits some poetic ability, but literature of these people is minimal, and what exists is a pathetic excuse for literary work. It is my opinion that they would be better off under Makurian civilized rule, as we can depart the knowledge of our glorious civilization upon them, and I am most certain they will praise us for it. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Letter from General Marius to King Moriun[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]On the prospects of the suppression of Inasus[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]Enari 12, 699 AFE[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]The siege of Inasus went well, and the city’s walls crumbled in a day. The coward of a king fled when he heard we were on our way as opposed to staying and fighting, and so it was not a complete victory. However, I feel confident that they can be overrun, as this was the largest city in the country, and to the best of my knowledge, the only one worth retaining, the rest could be burnt to the ground, if his majesty wishes. The people seem to be either deaf or dumb, and seem slow to follow orders. It is a good thing we arrived when we did, otherwise the people may have turned into animals at the rate their intelligence was dropping. At least now we can instill true nobles and true law and order to this forsaken land.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Letter from Captain Amerii to General Marius,[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]On the conditions surrounding the siege of Inasus City[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]Enari 31, 699 AFE[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]The barbaric armies, if they can be called such, of Inasus have had no major victories, and are only capable of harming us when ambushing, and even then, they are usually met with defeat. The majority of Inasus’s forces is based in volunteers and mercenaries, and it is no wonder the people seem to throw open their gates at our arrival. I believe that a strong government was required to keep order here, and that these people have been without good law and order for far too long. I thank the gods and the Ruler of Them that we were able to bring culture to these lost, frightened people. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Letter from General Marius to King Moriun,[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]On the condition of the war against Inasus[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]Kopouri 27, 699 AFE[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]I regret to inform the throne that the wretched cretins that make up the populace of Inasus were not simply without law and order, but I am coming to believe that they cannot function under it. They continue to ignore the laws set in place to bring honorable rule and culture among them, and It saddens my heart to have to resort to public example, but I feel that this is the only way to force these people to understand how law and order functions. In time, perhaps these animals will be able to understand how the civilized world functions, but as of now, the prospects do not appear to be very promising. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Letter from Lord Korzai to King Moriun,[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]On the civilizing of the people of Inasus[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]Detarus 8, 700[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]After six months of the fall of Inasus city, I am pleased to report that we have not met with any kind of actual resistance. Other than a few countryside skirmishes, there has been nothing worth reporting to the Makurian throne. Rumors, of course, flow around that there is rebellion brewing, but there is nothing to support this claim. The cultureless barbarians that make up this country shuffle along with their lives, and nothing seems to be amiss. The peasants submit to their new rulers with little problems, and there is no malice of note from the middle class. I feel that their adoration and way of life has been adequately secured for us to begin pulling out troops and commencing with the invasion of Alataria, to further expand our glorious kingdom.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Letter from Lord Korzai to King Moriun, [/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]On the occupation of Inasus[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]Mache 7, 700 AFE[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]There is little wealth to be had in these lands. The middle class is exceedingly small, a common fishmonger passing as a merchant in this “country”. The people have no industry to speak of, and only basic farming, their crops having little to offer our people, or the rest of the world, for that matter. I can see no true use for this land other than farmland. It is my opinion that the entire country should be ploughed over, the people used for slaves, as they are not intelligent enough for any work besides unskilled labor. This is the only way to force this barbaric land to fill our coffers for the time. In a few decades, after immigrants from Makuria become the majority rather than the minority, it can become a functioning province of the kingdom.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Letter from Lord Korzai to King Morian[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]On the economic power of Inasus[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot]Verium 15, 700 AFE[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Chapter one: The Calm before the Storm[/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot] The inn was alive with music, laughter, and of course, ale. It was the first time a great many of the men there had taken the time to celebrate anything, but losing a war tended to do that to a people. Tonight, however, no one thought about the lost war, or the slain king, the armored men marching through the streets, or a that there were so many more women than men. No, right now, the only thing that mattered was that two young people had just been married, and set out on a new life together. This was a celebration of beginnings, not of endings. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The Common Room was cleared of tables and stools, made into a humble ballroom. On the far side, opposite the roaring stone fireplace, was the raised stage, where a bard played a flute with a lively tune. The people around were laughing and dancing, clapping to the rhythm as best they could, and swaying back and forth, switching partners mid-stride. It was certainly an atmosphere of glee and light-heartedness. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The bard played for a few moments more, and then brought the song to a faded ending, the last note ringing through the air as the dancers made the final step, to end in synch with the music. The bard took a bow, the feather in his hat falling before his face, and he stood back up to the roar of applause. He smiled, an action that many women would sigh at lovingly, especially on a face like that. The handsome face was only enhanced by the raven black hair that showed through the cap, of medium length, though it didn’t drop below his ears. His clothing was rough looking, but not ripped, and the cape he wore was the brightest blue one had ever seen. He took another sweeping bow, and got off stage as another group came up to play for the slower dances. He went to the bar, and sat at a stool. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “A lovely performance, as ever, Stephen.” The innkeeper, a woman in her mid-thirties, plump, but not fat, and her beauty certainly wasn’t marred by it, and she retained more than a hint of youth. Not a single one of her brown hairs had begun to be even the slightest bit grey. “But you must stop smiling. Combine that with your emerald eyes, and there’s just no way the other bachelors here can compete.” She said with a small chuckle. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Flattery will get you nowhere, Satara, unless its towards the General-Captain.” Stephen replied with a roaring laugh. His sense of humor seemed to have a much lower threshold than that of others. He quickly trailed off the laugh, now most of the bar laughing at his awkwardness, and then attempted to change the subject. “So... Does the happy couple have a marriage home, or not?” He said, making the attempt. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] A man next to him nodded, cloaked in the wedding garb of the father of the bride, a long robe of deep red, symbol of fatherly love, and of passionate love, the groom wearing the same color, though his robes far more elaborate. “Aye, they have a home. Took every last scrap of gold the family could muster, but we got it for them, praise be to the Mighty.” He said, watching his daughter and new son-in law dance together. “But it be worth it. He makes her happy, and he’s the best blacksmith in the town, I could not ask for more for her.” He said with a beaming smile. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen nodded, smiling himself. He had been a close friend of the groom, for about six years now, it had to be, and the bride wasn’t a stranger either. “Larrinari and Kahrint, the names kind of go together, when one thinks about it, anyway. But, that ‘s probably nothing more than a poet’s romanticism. Still…you have to admit, they make a fair couple, do they not?” He said with a smile, motioning toward the two, still locked into a dance together in the middle of the inn. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The older man nodded, smiling just as wide. “That they do. Reminds me of myself and Rache, such memories… but that’s a tale for another time. For now, we’re focused on my beloved daughter and my new son-in-law!” He said, beaming a smile and the couple that had just finished their dance. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Well, looks like it’s my turn again.” Stephen said, rising from the bar, flapping his cape in a dramatic, but elegant, fashion. He was one of few people who could make getting out of a chair a stately event. He walked onto the stage as the other two were getting off, and waited as a man brought him a set of rings that were placed together. “This is perhaps my favorite part of a wedding ceremony…” He said, smiling wide at the people watching him. “These rings are a symbol of the idea of marriage. Two people, separate and glorious apart, but together…” He said, and took the two rings and twisted them together. “They are more glorious than they could ever be individually. So this is marriage.” He said, and took the rings apart again. “One ring to the groom, one to the bride, at death they come together again, so too do the souls of the be-wed. What love has forged between these two, no man can wrest asunder. Live long, love deeply, and laugh much. The Mighty bless your lives together.” He said, and then presented the rings to each of them.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The two looked into each other’s eyes, smiling, and slipped the rings on each other’s fingers. The bride wore a long blue dress, made of wool, in this time, but would have been silk in another, though it was still embroidered with golden thread, grape vines wrapping around the sleeves and neckline. The groom wore the crimson robe of the father, but it had long, trailing ribbons from the neckline, and a cape that added a regal air. The two stared at each other for a long time, the world stopped, silent, even with the roar of applause that was surrounding them. It was a near perfect moment. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]Then the soldiers kicked the door open. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]They expected it to happen, eventually. This marriage wasn’t recognized by the state, which the occupation would be enough to stop our traditional marriage ceremonies, but they quickly learned that no one gave two shakes of a sparrow’s tail. That was when they decided to outlaw large gatherings. They would never outlaw cultural practices outright, but this effectively eliminated non-state sanctioned large gatherings. This was one of such. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]The soldiers were covered in steel armor. Their helmets were crowned with lion’s heads, the roaring mouth showing their faces, cold as an arctic lake on a winter’s night. His armor was polished to a brilliant sheen, and painted the colors of Makuria, red and blue, a sickening mockery of the wedding dress that graced the bride and groom. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]“Kamehus Huvire, by order of the royal court, you are hereby under arrest for resistance to conscription, and treason against His Majesty. You are herby pronounced guilty, and sentenced to death by the noose!” He shouted, lowering his spear to attack, the two soldiers behind him leveling crossbows. This was not what the group was expecting. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “No! You can’t!” Larrinari screamed, moving daringly in front of her father. At least she was smart enough not to threaten them. Her new husband, on the other hand…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]“Back off! You won’t touch a single person here, so help me God!” Kahrint yelled, clutching a knife he had probably picked up from the table, or that Satara had given him. “You’ll leave this place! Now!” [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] One of the soldiers holding the crossbows took this time to remind us our place in life. He fired at Kahrint, hitting him square in the shoulder. The people gathered began screaming, and a number ran to the man, and the rest crowded around Kamehus protectively. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The head soldier with the spear smirked, saying “We have more than enough bolts to end you all, if need be. What determines whether this is a blood bath or not ultimately rests with all of you, I’m happy with whatever you choose.” He then raised his hand, the sign for “prepare to fire.” [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “No! No, enough…” Kamehus said, rising. “I’ll have no more bloodshed. I’ll come, I’ll come.” He said weakly, pushing his way through the crowd, despite their protests. “Now, all of you be quiet…this is my problem, and I’ll deal with it.” He said, waving them all away. He walked toward the soldier, and stood silently for a time, then lowered his head. “I’ll submit.” He said.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The soldier smiled, a sick look, in truth. “I am glad you see clearly the power of good law and order, I’m so delighted that we could bring it to you all. “ He said, and then dropped his hand, the order to open fire. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The two bolts found their marks, one in Kamehus’s heart, the other in his lung. The thud of his body on the floor was muffled by the combined screams of outrage and terror. Larrinari ran for his body, but the soldier kicked her back with a mailed foot to her chest. “This corpse is the property of the crown, and it shall be displayed as a warning to other would-be rebels. Consider yourselves lucky I do not include the rest of you in this category. He said, still wearing that sick smile amidst the crying and rage that under laid it all. “Haul the trash up. We’ll hand him in the square.” He spouted, as the two men came forward to drag the body away, the blood smearing a trail on the wooden floor. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] No one spoke or moved when the soldiers left. What could be said at this point, anyway? People cried and held each other, Sartara was trying to get the wound of Kahrint to stop bleeding, and Larrinari was weeping over losing her father on the same day she gained her husband. Stephen didn’t say anything, only held the weeping bride clutching his arms, praying that Kahrint’s wound wasn’t fatal, for the sake of himself as well as everyone there. That was the last thing the frail group needed, another death. [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]​
    [FONT=&quot] The group all stayed at the inn that night, too afraid to go out in the dark with the image of the dead so ingrained in their heads. Stephen was the first to rise, and made his way down to the common room. Kahrint was sleeping on the stage, wounded, but not dead. Satara was pouring drinks, ale, of course, people certainly needed that after last night. Stephen wandered up to the bar, and slumped into the stool.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “A tankard of wine…” he said, receiving a look from Satara.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “I thought you didn’t touch the stuff, ever!” Satara said, a weak smile gracing her features. “But if that’s what you want, I’ll get it for you.” She said, walking off toward the kitchens. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen snorted at her words, but said nothing else. There were several people awake at this hour, but no one was much for talking at this point. Sorrow’s relentless song permeated the air, and it took a toll on both body and soul. Kahrint stirred slightly, and that caused a number to rush to him, but Stephen remained where he was. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Damn good to see you care so much, Stephen.” He managed to get out, though he sounded rather groggy. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “I do care, but there were plenty of people rushing to you already, why add to the confusion?” He replied, glancing up at Satara as she returned with a simple mug of sour wine. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “It’s the best we’ve got, I’m afraid. It’s sour as last night turned, but it’ll do the trick same as any other.” She said, nearly dropping it on the counter in front of Stephen. “And you should have more concern for your friend.” She added with a scathing look at him.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen took a swallow of the wine, and his face contorted in disgust. He shoved it away, saying “I am not full of enough despair to drink that vile brew…” He said, and got up, and headed over toward Kahrint. “I assume it hurts?” He asked, crouching down in front of him.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Like hell, but I’ll survive. Is Larrinnari alright?” He asked, his eyes searching for her face among the crowd.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “She’s fine, likely drunk from sorrow, but alive.” Stephen said, ever the one for flowery language.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Kahrint sighed, and shook his head. “Can’t say I’d blame her, not after last night. I think everyone is either miserable or drunk.” He said, trying to rise, but everyone rushed forward, holding him back with their concern, if not their arms. “Alright alright, I get it!” He said, collapsing back down onto the blanket. “You’d think I’d have three mothers and six fathers.” He said, roughly, but not unkindly. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Aye, and a grandmother, her name is Satara.” Stephen said jokingly, receiving a look with all the intensity of death from her, and a soft chuckle from the others. “But I’d be careful about her, she has a temper.” He said with a smile in her direction.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Yes, and an loud-mouthed uncle that’s about to be paddled with a frying pan.” She responded with a smile that was just as loving, but with said pan in her right hand. This brought a real laugh from the crowd. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Watch your mouth before it gets you killed. We don’t need Satara killing you before the soldiers get a chance, aye?” Kahrint said with a smirk.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Aye, of course, forgive me, my songs are crimes against the state!” Stephen said, bringing his hand to his chest in a mock-offended fashion. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot]“Enough of your damned jokes, ain’t nobody laughing.” One of the men said, sitting at the bar, already drunk from the look of it. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Aye, that’s true, but nobody’s crying either, so I’m going to keep at it if you don’t mind, and you’re going to go upstairs, you’re an angry drunk Martiz.” Stephen said, completely serious. “The last thing we need is for you to get all bent out of shape and start throwing fists at us, or worse, the guards.” He finished, adding a frown and a hard look. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The man stood, wobbly, but Kahrint’s call of Larrinari sent every head to the creaking wooden stairs that led to the upper story. She had not changed from the night before, the wedding dress now wrinkled. Her bloodshot lavender eyes told a tale of a sleepless night, spent crying in her sister’s arms. Tears stained the fair complexion, and the soft features held a sternness that made them almost eerie. Her golden hair was disheveled. Taken as a whole, she currently carried an air of deadly beauty. Kahrint was up despite the labored pleas in a heartbeat. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] He got to her, his chest heaving with the stress, but he acted as if he was unaffected by the wound. He wrapped his arms around her in seconds. Her arms slowly made their way to clutch his short black hair, and pull his head next to hers. “He’s gone.” She whispered. “And no Rites spoken…He…he can’t ascend to Bliss with a closed door…we…we have to…” She began, and then collapsed into him, sobbing. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] No one had the heart to remind her that every last priest was hunted down and killed, every page of the Holy Word burned to ash. Some remained, of course, but they were far from easy to find. Many souls have been considered lost without a priest to guide them to the Land of Winds. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Kahrint held her close, saying nothing. The entire room was quiet, save the woman’s sobbing. It spread, slowly, as tears began coming to the other eyes of the room. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen abruptly rose, and took a large book from his satchel. No one paid him any mind. He quickly opened the book, revealing that a newer, black, leather bound book rested within the frayed volume that surrounded it. Stephen walked toward the couple and held the book level with his head. “I can speak the rites.” Was all he said, and then he held the entire room’s attention between the pages of the black book. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “You’re no priest, you’re a bard…just because you got yerself a book don’t mean pigeon spit.” Martiz said, drunk enough to voice the opinion of most of the others.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “We know you mean well Stephen, but you know as well as the rest of us that only priests can open the door to Bliss.” Satara said from behind the counter. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen shook his head, and reached into his satchel once again, and pulled out a silver pendant, a dove in the center of a wreath of grapevines, the fruit inlaid with emeralds. The people were too shocked to gasp at the symbol of the Living Saint, the holiest man in all of Inasus. “The Revered One ordained me as a priest, and gave this to me to show as proof. I am perhaps the last priest of our religion, and I will speak the rites as I have done for the others who have died. The doors have not been sealed.” He said, and no one spoke, too desperate and hopeful to deny such a claim. His word was all the proof they needed. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Larrinari looked at Stephen, half not believing him. “You will speak the rites? Even with him on public display as a traitor?” [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen nodded. “I will do it. I’ve done it several times. I’ll do it right in front of the soldiers if I have to.” [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Satara came from behind the counter, her hands on her hips. “I’ll hear none of this talk of martyrdom. Me, you, Kahrint and Larrinari will walk to the square. We’re permitted to assemble in small groups once again, so four won’t draw a single bit of suspicion. We’ll stand and stare like the others, and Stephen will whisper the rites. We will then leave.” She said, in such a tone that no one was willing to argue. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen grumbled, but nodded in agreement. “Fine, as you say. Let’s go then. The sooner we get the gates open, the sooner Kamehus can ascend unto Bliss.” [/FONT]

    [FONT=&quot] The tiny group made its way to the central plaza of the small town. It was once clean and well kept, made of brick forced into the ground, an array of assorted shades of red and orange. In an age where Inasus was its own nation, it was well kept, weeds trimmed back, and landscape maintained. In this age, however, the town had long since decayed away. The buildings were made of wood, once polished and well kept, painted and plastered even, but now they simply chipped away at a hard breeze. The wood rotted, and even buildings made of stone, though there were few, were slowly giving way to weather and neglect. Weeds were conquering the plaza, and rot took hold of the wood. The entire city seemed as if it were abandoned and resettled. On the contrary, the Makurians forbade the restoration of non-residential buildings of Inasus. Any that fell would be replaced with “the superior architecture of the Kingdom.” And it’s previous owners displaced unless they were deemed “adequately civilized.” [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] In short, the city had seen better days, even though it was only a small town. The Makurian soldiers patrolled the streets now, however. They watched from towers, and flew the Kingdom’s flag. The people of Inasus tried to rebel early in the conquering, but it had long been realized that there would be no victory for any rebellion. Makuria simply had superior technology. Upon this realization, the souls seemed to have simply ripped from the bodies of the Inasese. There had been no rebellions. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] This was the world into which the young Inasese were born. This was the world that the four walked in now. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen walked as defiantly as one could, standing at his full height, though five nine was not substantial. Sheer determination flew from him as he slowly overtook the rest of the group, and it was only Satara grabbing the back of his shirt that kept him from racing away. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “The goal is to stay together.” She snapped, pulling him into the line with the rest of them, at a slower pace so that Kahrint could keep up. His wound most certainly pained him, even with Larrinari supporting him. “We won’t solve anything by starting a riot. All that would come from that would be more de- Divine One above!” Satara said, stopping and bringing her hand to her mouth. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen had already frozen, pale and unmoving at the sight of the central square. Larrinari lifted her head for the first time, and collapsed to the ground, Kahrint catching and sinking with her as best he could, guiding her tears to his chest, absorbing her sobs with his arms. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “What new blasphemy is this?” Stephen whispered, and saw the three corpses on the platform, the latest of the victims to be put on public display for breaking the various laws meant to “instill civilization.” The sight was not unusual, but what stood before the group was a new measure of Makurian cruelty. All three of the bodies, including the one of Kamehus, were mutilated beyond recognition. The torsos had been ripped open, the entrails left to hang in the air. The eyes seemed to have been burned out of their sockets, and gashes and cuts lined the rest of what was exposed. And on the wooden planks, before each of the corpses, were jars filled with ash. Everyone knew it could only be one thing. Their hearts. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] A wail of fury and despair shook Larrinari’s small frame. The few others in the courtyard seemed to take no heed; they were already broken. Kahrint her as tightly as possible, weeping with her. Satara shook visibly, and standing was clearing requiring a great deal of effort. Stephen could say nothing, but he knew that there was nothing that even he could do now. The heart was the source of life in this world. Until one entered into Bliss, the heart is what supplied life to the soul. To destroy the heart before the Rites were spoken was to obliterate a person’s soul from existence. This was the first time the Makurians had stooped to such measures. The Inasese would be broken. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen clenched his fist, and shook with rage. There was nothing anyone could do to save the three people that stood as food for the crows. “This…is too far.” He said, barely able to be heard, but full of rage. Then a thought filled him. He looked around the plaza to see that there were several small groups, but only five soldiers. Ideas rushed through his head, crazy ideas, ideas that could get him and everyone with him slain. In the end, he simply scoffed. “I’m no leader…” He whispered.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “But you are a bard, Stephen.” Satara whispered, her own anger now apparent through the tears. “Do not let them break us any farther.” She said, placing a strong grip on the man’s shoulder.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen looked at her, and nodded. He quickly went through his satchel, and found a smaller harp than the one he usually used, but one he could still get a tune from. That simple act brought the gaze of the soldiers upon him. He stared back defiantly, and slowly walked to the platform where the bodies stood. The crowd looked with shock, glancing between him and the soldiers, tension building with each passing moment. Stephen gave one final glare at the officer in charge of the five men, returning the glare of hatred with one of defiance. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen then brought his hand to the small harp, and pure, soft notes filled the air. They rose and fell slowly, a gentle rhythm dancing though the air. And then Stephen began the song, his voice bright and pure, each note and pitch captured perfectly in his throat and then freed with grace from his lips. The words filled the air, an old Bard’s song in the savera verse. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “The rain falls down, upon the world…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Purity, for a time…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] As all the world, washes away…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Beautiful, is this rain…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] As all the world’s tears slowly fall…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Rectify, all lost souls…”[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The entire square had their eyes on the man, and the song held them there. It was A pareti av rune, the Purity of Rain, the song that began the Inasus bard tradition. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Look to the sky, as it slowly falls…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Drenching the world, in its embrace…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] As sorrow simply flows away…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] There is hope here in this rain…”[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The soldiers remained where they were, awaiting orders. One among them, wearing the same armor, but with a white fountain of feathers in his helmet, watched the man, or rather, watched the crowd and how they received the man. The soldiers began to walk toward him, but the officer raised his hand, the order for hold positions. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen glanced at the signal, knowing very well what the officer was doing. “If he wants a show, he’ll get one.” He thought, and then sang the second verse. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “The moon lights this ink-stained time… [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Pacify, all your fears…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] As we wait for the dawn’s soft touch…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Feel it now, dawn’s first light…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The winds of the storm begin to blow…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Let it start, gentle rain…”[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The crowd did not do more than watch and listen, though slowly, others came. Women poked their heads through upper windows, shopkeepers stood in their doors. This was the first many of them had heard music in a very long time. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Divine One above…does he not know the penalty? Thirty days imprisonment and thirty lashings a day for singing that song!” Kahrint said, still holding the still sobbing Larrinari. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Look to the sky, as it slowly falls…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Drenching the world, in its embrace…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] As sorrow simply flows away…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] There is hope here in this rain…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] For all the storms born from our lives…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Listen for, the crying…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Let the sad tears all flow away…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Nullify, all your pain.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Listening to, the gentle rain…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Nature’s song, God’s embrace…”[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The officer held his gaze upon Stephen’s face. The two locked eyes, Stephen seeming to dare the man to come and stop him. An invisible battle was being fought in the plaza. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Look to the sky, as it slowly falls…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Drenching the world, in its embrace…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] As sorrow simply flows away…[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] There is hope here in this rain…” Stephen finished the song, ending in a flourish, and continued playing the melody on his small harp. The crowd remained silent, until a small child clapped their hands. Slowly but surely, the others followed suite, until there was roaring applause. As the officer nodded, the crowd dispersed quickly, as the five soldiers marched forward to the platform. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “By order of the Captain of the Guard, you are under arrest for violation of the Sanctity of Civilization!” The first said, his spear leveled with Stephen’s heart. The others surrounded him on all sides, five being all they needed for such a submissive crowd. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen glanced at all of them, his face unreadable, and then looked back to Kahrint, Larrinari and Satara. The three returned desperate stares, but none of them made a move. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The officer stepped forward, his plume shaking with his walk. He wore a long, orange silk cape, which he held over one arm as he came toward Stephen. He had a vastly elegant air, but a deadly aura surrounded him. “A fine performance.” The man said, his voice deep, but neutral. “It is a shame that you waste that voice on such foolish songs, or those fingers on such worthless excuses for instruments.” He continued, and removed his helmet. He was perhaps forty, and had rough, hard features, with an even harder gaze, and the slate grey eyes did not help matters, nor did the scar trailing across his forehead. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “I know no other songs, guardskeeper.” Stephen replied.[/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “You know very well what my position is. Do not try that Inases jargon with me, I am in no mood.” Was the man’s reply, a wicked smile spreading across his face. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Perhaps you have forgotten that it is the Inasese people that live here?” Was Stephen’s own retort. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] “Perhaps YOU have forgotten that Markuria rules these backward lands now. Inasus is no more, there is only Makuria.” The officer said, his smile now gone. “Perhaps several days in the prisons will remind you. Take him” He ordered, and the soldiers rushed the platform. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] Stephen’s fingers twitched across the harp, playing several notes, and he opened his mouth to speak, but a spear was at his throat before a sound could be uttered. Another soldier pulled the harp away, hurling it to the ground to snap it in half. Another kicked him from the platform to the ground. The final one pulled him from the ground, twisting his hand behind him. But Stephen gave no hint of defeat. Through the entire ordeal, his gaze remained defiant. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] As the soldier marched past the officer, Larrinari had begun weeping again, and tears welled in Satara’s eyes. Stephen glanced at them, and gave a quick smile, and then turned to the officer once again, and said “You will not break me.” As he passed. [/FONT]
    [FONT=&quot] The officer smiled, a wicked action, a wicked look. “We shall see about that, bard. It’s my orders directly from his majesty to break you. Each and every one of you, and I make sure all my orders are carried out. Get him out of my sight.” He ordered, and snorted laughter when Stephen was shoved and drug away. [/FONT]