War and Hope, in the Skies, on the Horizon ( Nivansrywyllian & Dreamless)

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      "Come on, sweet lady," the roc rider crooned, body pressed flush against the giant fowl's warm back feathers so as not to create resistance against the wind. "I know we're almost there, but if you're holding back, now is not the time..." By the subtle dip of the sun on the western horizon, however, Vega knew speed was a moot point: twelve, noon, had since come and gone, and she was already too late. Yet another broken promise for which her brother would be loathe to forgive her.

      Eyraille's citadel was just overhead, the broad expanse of its green court yard looking about a size that would accommodate the doll houses with which she used to play as a little girl. Digging her fingers into the roc's feathers, she braced herself as the beast bellowed her piercing warning in preparation for a quick landing. Hasty as it was, with the ground coming under the bird's feet so quickly that, if not for her vice grip, the rider would have been jarred off the roc’s back, the way the knights were when their horses became irritable. There was no sense in reprimanding the feathered beast, as she knew without looking into her tired eyes that this was simply her means of informing her rider that she did not take kindly to being rushed through the air for hours, with no amount of speed seeming to suffice.

      The trip had long since pulled Vega's rust-coloured locks from its bun at the back of her head, leaving her looking as though she'd been caught in a wind storm. Not the best way to present herself, but presence alone trumped mere appearance, at this point. The high and mighty members of the council would simply have to suck in their guts and bear the eyesore that was her windswept look. "I know, I get it. This is my fault." The rider murmured to the bird as she dismounted and dropped the lance she'd been clutching, stretching circulation back into her thighs and calves, cramped with knots from hours of clinging for dear life upon her soaring roc. "You're a good sport, Aeriel. Rest, now; you know I'll make it up to you."

      Loosening the vast fowl's harness, but without a spare moment to fully remove it, Vega sped through the courtyard's flower beds and benches, all the way to the citadel's back entrance, so fast that the young sentry standing guard was hardly awarded a chance to recognize her. "Sir Vega...?" He queried, lowering the spear he'd nearly raised to block her path. "What--"

      "Can you please see to it that Aeriel is fed and provided with water?" Was the only response he received from the retreating young woman. "Oh, and that she's groomed--but mind her wings, she will snap if they're tugged too hard. Thank you!"

      Vega hadn't been the one flapping her wings for countless hours, and yet she felt exhausted before she'd even begun to run, hard-pressed to find her voice and respond to the various other queries that she barely heard as she tore down the corridors, glad for the traction on the soles of her thick leather boots as they scuffed the floors, the stair cases, as well as the carpets which were not supposed to be tread by outdoor footwear. By the time she reached the council hall, she'd made a mental note to later apologize to anyone with whom she'd nearly collided, as well as the cleaning staff for her footprints on the carpets. Though the faces she encountered through the gilded doors were written with far more scorn than those of the serving staff would be.

      "I'm sorry," she apologized immediately, hair falling around her face as she offered a shallow bow to her brother and his council. "I misjudged the time it would take to return from reconnaissance... Might I ask what transpired in my absence?"

      There was a pause, as there always was when Vega inquired after information concerning dilemmas of the court. If her brother hadn't made her privy to such information, she was certain the rest of the council would be quick to close the very doors of the citadel in her face, never to allow her to re-enter. "We are about to finalize the details on preparations for war, my Lady," the scribe at the other end of the long table explained, his quill presumably scribbling the minutes of the meeting that she had missed. "You may read the minutes yourself as soon as I--"

      "Whoa--whoa, hold up. War?" Vega's pale eyes sought those of her brother's, Caris, with shock and confusion. "Forty-eight hours... Not even quite forty-eight hours, I'm gone, and suddenly Eyraille is preparing for war? What, exactly, has transpired?"

      "It is not what has transpired, Sir Vega, but rather, what could." The head of the royal guard asserted, eyeing Vega's windswept appearance (and, likely, the fact that she hadn't taken a moment to remove her leather armor) with disdain. "We can no longer go about ignoring the fact that neighbouring empires continue to exhibit hostility towards us, and those that do not have gone eerily quiet. We cannot just sit and wait for disaster to occur. Preparations need to be made, and we must begin by closing the gates to travelers."

      Yet what else is new? Vega wanted to demand, but decided to veer towards diplomacy instead. Not that any amount of calm rationale would reach the ears of the most unreasonable people in Eyraille, who currently sat around the table. "Right. So I assume that these preparations for war will require funding from the kingdom itself. A raise in taxes are in order, I assume. To pay for equipment and reinforcements."

      "Naturally," the man replied. "Though I am positive Eyraille will be more than happy to provide, knowing the effort its very monarch is putting forth to protect it." At that, he cast his eyes on Caris, who looked a mix of angry and uncomfortable under such scrutiny.

      That was where Vega drew the line. It was one thing to spew ludicrous, unfounded ideas and pass them around the table like fact. It was another to try and feed those ideas to her younger brother who, although at the end of the day had the last say, was inexorably pressured by the domineering presence of everyone at that table. And she would not have him manipulated.
      Caris might have been king of Eyraille; but she was still his big sister. She'd been his protector since the first time she held him as an infant, and that wouldn't change, for as long as they were both alive.

      "With all due respect, good sirs, Eyraille continues to squirm under the new rule, as it has not functioned under a permanent authority for almost two decades. It is difficult enough to argue the taxes we already have in place," Vega struggled to keep her voice steady, firm. "And with almost two decades since my father's death, and no war has yet befallen this kingdom--not even between the time of the old king and Caris, when Eyraille did not have a ruler--this does not strike me as being particularly a prominent issue. Not at this point in time."

      "Well. That is not up to you." Another council member argued. Vega only recognized him by his lined face, but couldn't for the life of her remember his name. Though neither to her was that important.

      Nonetheless, he had a point. "You are correct. That decision falls on my brother..." Turning to face Caris, she added, "...whom I beseech to suspend this issue for the time being. At least until a greater threat provokes it."

      Gasps and angry utterances consumed silence in the wake of Vega's perceived audacity, until Caris' voice surpassed it all. "My sister has a point. I wish to further meditate on the issue before I come to a decision."

      "But my liege, we discussed—"

      "I said, I would like time to consider this." Young though he was, Caris' face always aged by decades when he had to assert his authority. And it broke Vega's heart such that she would never tell him. "Therefore, I conclude this meeting. And I would like to speak with my sister in private."

      Not another word was uttered, the sound of chairs scraping against the stone floor serving as silence's only companion, until the last council member left, and the door shut heavily behind him.
      With only the two of them left in the vast expanse of the council hall, Vega took a seat next to her brother. "I am so sorry I wasn't here from the beginning," she sighed, shoulders sagging under the weight of her guilt. "I'm a great judge of distance, but a poor judge of time, it seems..."

      "You said you'd help me. You said you wouldn't leave it to me alone, that you wanted to be part of this." It was as if Caris hadn't heard her apology. Small red splotches bloomed along his neck, almost like a rash, the way his body had always responded to a spike in anger and adrenaline. "Then, for the love of Heaven, Hell and all creation, Vega—be here! Be part of it, and help me, or don't help me at all and then away with you, in that case!"

      "Caris, listen--"

      "No, you listen. How often do you forget that I have to have the final say, because you preferred to have an indirect voice? You think I don't know you take to the skies with your damned roc so often because you want to escape? You think I don't know that, if you had even the slightest reassurance that our own council wouldn't take advantage of my power, you'd take to the air and never return?"

      The roc rider had enough poise not to flinch as if she'd been struck, but she wanted to. Caris only ever opened this wound, the everlasting elephant in the room, when he truly felt hurt, and wanted her to know she'd hurt him. It wasn't Vega's fault that their father had been a borderline tyrant, and his father, and his father before him. It wasn't her fault that nary a race that was not human had survived being conquered or driven out of Eyraille all together, in the past century, thereby alienating any and all relations with neighbouring kingdoms not governed by humankind. It was not her fault that his tyranny had earned him an early death when she was only ten, and Caris, three, or that it was never discovered just who had poisoned his wine on that fateful night. It was not her fault that Eyraille had been governed under martial law until she had come of age to take the throne.

      It had been her fault, however, to return it to martial law, the day before the crowning ceremony when she had decided to abdicate, reserving the throne for her little brother until the day he was old enough to assume his position as Eyraille's new ruler. A destiny never meant for him, and a fate he’d likely desired even less than her.

      That said, it wasn't as though Vega Sorde had remained idle in all that time. There was so much damage done onto Eyraille by her father’s and forefathers’ injustices and greed that she and her brother struggled to prioritize issues to tackle and problems to solve as the kingdom carried on as it always had, still lacking a ruler. And by the time Caris had ascended the throne—despite all of the preparation he had had that she had not, leading up to the day—neither of them could have realistically prepared for the hostility that endured towards their bloodline, likewise from the humans of Eyraille to the races of neighbouring kingdoms that had been driven out a century before.

      It wasn't her fault that the Sorde bloodline was one of the most hated on the entire continent. Her culpability lay in the fact that it was a burden that had never been meant for her little brother’s shoulders. A fact that he would never let her forget.

      Wordlessly, the would-be queen of Eyraille covered her younger brother's white knuckles with a warm hand, rough though it was from her leather, fingerless gloves. "It's true. If I saw an out, I'd try to find a way to escape," she admitted. "But not without you."

      The sincerity of her words disarmed the overwhelmed young man, and the red gradually drained from his face, only to be replaced by a worried pallor. "So... what do we do? Commander Ulrick was talking about subtle aggressions from Ilandria that have been escalating... What if they are planning to lay siege against us? They know I'm overwhelmed--everyone kingdom on the continent knows how weak Eyraille's ruler is. I’ve made it more vulnerable, now, than it ever was under martial law."

      "No. You are not weak, and neither is Eyraille; don’t swallow that sort of poppycock from those buffoon,” Vega cautioned, her tone careful to veer away from accusation. No one was more critical of the king than the king himself. “It has been almost two decades since father died, Caris... yet in all that time, no one touched Eyraille--even at the most opportune of moments, when it had no real ruler."

      The elder sibling tried to reassure him, but knew it was futile. The pressure was too much, at the best of times, only to be exacerbated by warmongers like Ulrick, who saw violence in everything. “Just because it hasn’t happened as of yet doesn’t mean it won’t, though,” he argued. “What if we do need to prepare? And the Eyraille finds itself conquered before I can lift a finger? I’ll have a worse fate than father’s poisoned wine.”
      Vega shook her head. "Like I would ever let that happen to you. I am sorry I wasn't here to mediate what transpired, Caris, but war is not something think we need to worry about, as things stand. After two days’ reconnaissance throughout the continent, I can tell you with confidence that the worst we seem to be facing is nationwide apathy. Let's progress as we have been, building a rapport with Eyraille, and extending branches to the races that our father drove away."

      "Are you sure? This is what we should be focusing on, when in two years we've hardly budged in terms of our standpoint?"

      "I wouldn't say so if there was any shadow of a doubt."

      Caris was still hard-pressed to be placated, however, in the aftermath of a council meeting that had sought to manipulate his intentions. "It still bothers me that in so long, no one has laid siege to Eyraille, for everything it’s done to its own people, and then some... I need some time to think about this. Alone, please."

      Vega rose from her seat, but not without squeezing the young king's shoulder. "You know I am here for you, right?"

      "Then actually be here for me, next time. That would be a start."

      Feeling she well deserved that blow, Vega left without another word, allowing the door to shut silently behind her. Loathe though she was to admit it, the seed of doubt had officially been planted and had begun to bloom in her mind, as well: what if another empire was planning to attack Eyraille, in the early years of its transition to new leadership, and with all of the changes it sought to make, in the wake of their late father's mess of errors? Caris would never trust her again, and their kingdom would fall into a whole other despair, well beyond the injustice of driving out the other races and outlawing magic.

      To prepare for war would not endear Eyraille and the races of bordering kingdoms to the house of Sorde; failing to do so would, on the other hand, would leave them as vulnerable as they currently stood. All they could do was hope for the seventeen years of cold silence between Eyraille and the other kingdoms, in lieu of hot warfare, for which they were wholly unprepared.

      Over an hour later, Caris still sat in the council hall, when he was approached a man of the guard. “Your Majesty,” the sentry bowed, lance firmly in hand. “Our men at the gates need to know if they are to remain open for people to freely come and go. Commander Ulrick informed us that there was a possibility that they would be sealed, for security reasons.”

      That bastard, Caris thought so bitterly he could taste his thoughts on his tongue. When he had asked to suspend the issue until he further contemplated it, he’d assumed the head of the guard didn’t have the patience of a squirrel. “The gates are to remain open for travel and exodus, for the time being,” he informed the armoured man. “And you can let Commander Ulrick know that when I suspend an issue, that is not a metaphor for requesting a bloody hour extra of contemplation. You are dismissed.”

      Heaven and Hell, Vega, the young king thought, casting tired blue eyes to the liquid gold of the setting sun through the windows. I’ll the you if you aren’t right.


    #1 Dreamless, Jun 14, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2016
  1. Volantaris Dormus was a swarthy man, dark of hair and slight in build. Nobody would expect the handsome rogue to be the leader of one of the most acclaimed mercenary companies on the main continent. He was dressed rich, silken clothing with travel leathers wrapping his legs. He wore a sword at his hip, and a dagger at the opposite, but was otherwise unarmored. He sat astride a dappled mare, an unremarkable horse to the untrained eye, but one trained for the rigors of war.

    He turned his eyes upwards, to the grand gates of Eyrialle. If somebody had told him five years ago that he'd be leading an army through these gates, he'd have laughed straight in their face. There was a time, he could recall, when everybody knew that marching to war with the kingdom of Eyrialle meant death. Of course, he wasn't exactly an invading army. Volantaris turned his eyes down to his second, a dwarf, thick with muscle. The man had shorn his head free of hair, likely to allow for the helmet he now had tucked under his arm. He had a ruddy beard, braided, and ringed with silver down the front of his chest. He looked none too pleased about the situation.

    A column of dwarves marched past, each wearing a tower-shield on his back, each wearing an ax at his waist. Volantaris' second watched them, chewing on his own tongue as if he could barely contain himself.

    "Say it, Dolgan." Said the swarthy man, amused.

    The dwarf practically burst at the permission, gesticulating wildly with his helmet. "Are we really going to fight for these warmongering birdfuckers?! They've driven the elves out of the forests, the dwarves out of the mountains, the centauri from the plains, and the mages from wherever they've gone to ground!" He exclaimed, though he tried to do so quietly enough that the column couldn't overhear the particulars. "We're surrounded by the enemy Volan, and they'll see us dead before they see us paid. We don't even have your godsdamned mage-corps with us. If they come down on us with those birds-"

    "Then they will not live to regret it." He said simply, as the end of the Dwarven line marched past. They had been given leave to take up residency within the walls, due to fear of an imminent attack.

    A column of human spearmen followed the Dwarves. Certainly they hadn't needed all their men armed, but Volantaris had wanted to put on something of a show for his new employers. "We have fought Arealists before. If they turn on us, we will do so again. But not before. We do not kill for free." He glanced down to his second again. "And I want you to keep an eye on your men, Dolgan. Make sure that no tempers run high. We start no trouble here."

    The dwarf gave a harrumph, but subsided enough to give a reluctant nod.

    After the spearmen, came the armored cavalry. Armored humans, with armored mounts, and heavy lances. After them, came the light cavalry -Centauri spearmen and swordsmen- and the mobile-archers, consisting of Centauri fighters wielding short-bows.

    "Besides, this is our chance to open relations with the kingdom of Eyrialle. Someone must extend the hand of peace and goodwill."

    "And I suppose we'll show our peace and goodwill by killing the enemies of Eyrialle?" Muttered the dwarf, wryly.

    "With great aplomb." Agreed the leader of the band, as if the dwarf hadn't been dousing his words with sarcasm.

    "And if we're set upon by dwarves? Or elves? Or by fucking magi?" The dwarf asked, glancing back up to his commander.

    "Then we'll kindly show them the error of their ways. If they persist, we will continue showing them the error until they live in peace, or until they are all dead. And then we get paid."

    The dwarf harrumphed again.

    Following the cavalry units, were the Elven longbowmen, each looking pristine and beautiful. Behind them were the irregulars. The rangers, -largely elven, with a few humans smattering their number, and even five particularly stealthy dwarves- the skirmishers -a mixed-bag of races that were largely responsible for covering the retreat- and finally, a small unit consisting primarily of humans and dwarves, specially suited to -what Volantaris fondly referred to as- delicate tasks.

    When the column of his fighters -numbering precisely one thousand- had all marched through the gate, Volantaris and Dolgan moved in after them, though the mercenary captain dismounted to walk beside his second.

    "Peace, Dolgan. This contract will see us wealthy and happy. And if we can avoid fighting nonhumans, we will. Come now. We are expected for an audience with the King."
  2. "Eyraille has bowed low, Vega. Our father and his fathers before him kept it that way. But this--"

    "Caris. Listen to me carefully: your suspicions were confirmed. I was wrong." Nothing could have compared to the look of remorse that creased Vega's youthful features. And there was nothing she could have done to make up for her prior lapse in judgement. "Ilandria wants war with us. Ulrick has confirmed that out earthbound militia comprise of little over half the manpower than a decade ago, and the Skyknights alone cannot bring us victory. This is our only chance."

    In the weeks that had passed since Vega had convinced her brother to hold off on preparations for war, the Skyknight had done her part to ensure that it had, in fact, been the right decision. Yet after a variety of reconnaissance missions, and with the same tune of hearsay being repeated on the wind, the terrible truth had revealed itself.
    Ilandria of the north was not peaceful; in fact, if the rumours were to be believed, their goal was to defeat Eyraille so as to assimilate it into their own empire in favour of expansion.

    And what better time to attack than when a kingdom was weakened through lack of numbers, and lack of faith in its monarch?

    Eyraille's king was not, however, placated by his sister's efforts to mitigate their chances of falling forever. And rightfully so. "So we die at the hands of treacherous mercenaries instead. Genius."

    "We either invest our trust in strangers with the hope of Eyraille remaining in our hands, or we trust no one, and we are sure to fall. Even Ulrick agrees, and that man's opinion is impossible to win over." Vega sighed. There would be no winning this argument, not today. Because there was no time left to argue.

    "Your Majesty," an armoured sentry bowed, as he was trailed by an unfamiliar man and his dwarvish companion. How long had it been since the other races had so much as set foot willingly on Eyraillian soil...? "I present Volantaris Dormus."

    "This was your idea," Caris muttered, keeping a stoic face. "Have at it."

    Of all the times to be immature... Vega gave an imperceptible shake of her head, before stepping forward, while her younger brother remained seated in the uncomfortably large throne. Dressed head to toe in Skyknight armor, which comprised primarily of leather and light steel engraved with ornate symbols, she looked more the part of Caris' own bodyguard than his sister. "Volantaris Dormus," she enunciated the foreign name on her Eyraillian tongue. "I am Sir Vega Sorde of the Imperial Skyknights. Eyraille and its King welcome you."
    At least, that much, she hoped.
  3. The young mercenary captain strode through the streets of the city, taking in the wonders of the architecture. The press of people. The castle, in the distance. He and Dolgan peeled off from their mercenary company, leaving the fighters to make their way to the temporary barracks on their own, with strict orders to keep the drinking to a minimum. Drunkards fought, and the last thing the mercenaries needed was to make enemies of their employers.

    Volantaris wasn't worried about brawling however. His men knew better than to pick a fight in a foreign city on whose coin they happened to be presently drinking. Mostly. What he WAS worried about, were some of the local regulars not taking kindly to the nonhumans among his number. Old prejudices died hard.

    The walk through the palace was a pleasant change of pace from the press of the city, and Volantaris managed not to gawk like a bumpkin for the most part. It was rare that he had the excuse to see a castle before it got sacked. His mind -however unwarranted- began to formulate stratagems for taking the castle by force of arms. It would be difficult of course, with the Sky Knights to harry them. Going over the walls was out of the question. They'd have to bring in their gnomish siege-workers. Maybe some dwarven sappers to go under the walls, where the bird-riders couldn't reach them.

    He gave his head a shake, as they were met with a sentry at the entrance to the audience chamber. Volantaris shot him a toothy smile. "Volantaris Dormus, here to answer an audience summons with the king." He said simply, handing off his sword-belt. He knew better than to approach a foreign king in his own castle, with a sword at his hip.

    He followed on the heels of the sentry, as he was announced, trying not to grin wryly as Dolgan sat on his temper. His old friend was a fantastic leader on the battlefield, but felt squarely out-of-place when it came to politicking.

    Volantaris stepped past the sentry, alongside his companion. Each took a knee, Dolgan's heavy plate making something of a racket when he did. "Your highness," the mercenary captain said, by way of greeting. "Sir Sorde." He pushed himself to his feet again, followed by his companion. "Your reputations precede you. Allow me to introduce my second in command. Dolgan Stoneboots, of the western mountains."

    The dwarf stood, impassive.

    "While tales of your forward thinking have been wide-spread, there were few tales of your loveliness, sir Vega." He flashed the woman a smile as well. "But I have come to let you know that the Moonshadows-" The name of the company, "-are at your disposal."

    Of the mercenaries available, Volantaris' Moonshadows had something of a reputation for forthrightness. It was said that once they were on contract, their loyalty couldn't be purchased again, for as long as the contract remained viable. They'd been trying to set a standard for mercenaries to follow, if the stories were to be believed.
  4. It was all Caris could do not to grimace at the man's superficial charm--particularly that which was directed towards his sister. Vega might have been more apt to take up arms, but he was no less her wall of defense, as her only lasting family. "Might we perhaps skip on the formalities and get on to business?" He suggested in an even tone of voice that his eyes did not reflect.

    Vega was demure enough to maintain a placid visage at the compliment, despite that its deliverer had no idea the impact it made. Her alleged 'loveliness' was certainly not the first thing that came to the minds of Eyrallian citizens when they thought of the Sorde daughter. Coward. Deserter queen. The selfish princess.
    She wasn't the only person who couldn't forgive herself for abdicating the throne and thereby forcing responsibility onto the shoulders of her younger brother...

    Clearing her throat, the young woman nodded at the two strangers, not at all surprised at the look of wariness from the dwarf. Her generation would probably not live to see harmony between the humans and other races once again, but even so, she needed to put the wheels in motion, should Eyraille ever wish to have allies again.

    "We thank you for your support. The help and cooperation of the Moonshadows is crucial to the future of our kingdom," she went on. Truly, it should have been her brother conducting this discussion, but Caris was far too honest and open a person to so much as feign trust where it did not exist. "As you may well know, the Sorde bloodline has in the past ruled with such an iron fist that it smashed and condemned its very own. My brother, his Majesty Caris Sorde, is burdened with the responsibility to rebuild this kingdom from the ground up. To repair everything that our father had destroyed, and his father before him... But now, we find ourselves threatened by the northern kingdom of Ilandria. And sources have assured us that it is their intention to attack while we are at our weakest, so as to assimilate what is left of Eyraille into their own empire. We don't have much time to prepare, and both our official guard, as well as our aerial units, simply aren't enough. We... we, in hope, were preparing for peace. Not for war."

    It was no easy task to speak of Eyraille at its most vulnerable, but there could be no skirting around the facts. And the more that Volantaris knew the better he could prepare his own forces. "Again, your help is of great value to us, and I can assure you that you it be rewarded. We do not undermine the value of any ally." Not even if their help was contingent on the money that they received.
  5. Volantaris may not have known the specifics of what effects his words had on the monarchy of the kingdom, but he did know one thing. One of the most useful tools in negotiation, was to know which buttons to press, to elicit a response. Apparently, one of those buttons was the relationship between the siblings. How, he wasn't quite sure yet. He'd find out though, and use it if it came down to preserving his men.

    "As your highness wishes, of course." He canted his head, and folded his hands behind his back as the woman spoke of the state of the kingdom, on the verge of war. Ilandria was preparing to make it's move then. It wasn't unexpected, exactly. The land was in turmoil, and it wouldn't have surprised Volantaris if war didn't rage across the face of the continent, from one end to the other. Old alliances were coming to an end, and older rivalries were being rekindled. Assassination was a serious problem to be considered for the eastern kingdoms, and there was talk of an invasion from across the sea.

    "You have no need to thank us, Sir Vega. The Moonshadows haven't done anything worth thanks yet. If you would like, you may sign the contract for our wages, and consider that thanks." The man lifted a hand to the laces at the front of his tunic, to produce a thin leather satchel from within. "Two thousand crowns per month of service, to be paid on the first of the following."

    He opened the satchel slowly, so that the monarchy of the troubled kingdom didn't take it as an excuse to skewer him. It was a steep fee for a mercenary company, but not an unexpected one for men such as the Moonshadows. At least not if the rumors were to be believed.

    "Of course, there are certain conditions to the contract." He said, extending the paper toward the woman, who seemed to be doing the negotiating. "It is our loyalty you are buying. Our lives, and our deaths. While I respect the need for cohesion with your army, I must maintain the final say as to where my troop placements are to go. Largely, I will not balk at orders your strategists give, but I will not lead my men needlessly to their deaths. Feel free to read over the contract at your leisure, and if the terms are agreeable, and the paper is signed, then we will be happy to call you allies."
  6. The Sorde siblings shared in a silent moment of tension as Volantaris dictated the circumstances of the Moonshadows' cooperation. It wasn't just about the money; when was it ever about money, regarding nobility? Eyraille was rich with self-sufficiency, in tools, trade and the necessary provisions of life. The price might have been steep, but it was the freedom of action that particularly worried Vega. Not a single military leader in Eyraille led their men into the clutches of death; but that was not to say that death was not inevitable. Did he mean to up in flee when the water got too hot? To veto any agreement to help?

    Unexpectedly, Caris rose from his seat to stand at his sister's side. "Please excuse us a moment," he said, before placing a hand on Vega's arm and urging her to follow him out of the servants' exit in the far right corner, leaving Volantaris and his dwarven companion alone with the sentries. A moment passed, then five, and then ten. It was at a quarter to an hour that the Sorde siblings finally returned. Caris' expression was unreadable, but the hint of colour in his youthful face suggested that the discussion behind closed doors had been heated. The very lack of colour in Vega's cheeks confirmed it.

    "We have carefully read and discussed your terms, Dormus," the Eyraillian king declared, though not without a hint of reluctance. "For the sake of my kingdom and the lives at stake, I hope you can come through for us. Vega,"
    He nodded to his sister, and the Skyknight crossed the room to retrieve an inked quill from an ornate end table. Caris took it from her in a somewhat irate gesture and held the parchment stiff, scrawling his signature across the bottom. As a witness to the act, Vega, in turn, scrawled her own signature below her brother's.

    With the deed done, the king handed the contract back to the contractor without a word. There would be no winning with Caris, it seemed, not with his current state of mind; that was perhaps up to his sister to deal with, but she would not be changing minds today. It was best to simply bring this formality to a close.
    "We look forward to working with you and yours," she told Volantaris then, gesturing to the foremost entrance of the throne room. "If you and your companion would be so kind as to accompany me, I will provide you with more insight into our situation."
  7. Volantaris bowed, as the king and his kin rose, and removed themselves from the audience chamber. He straightened, when the door closed, glancing down at his stout companion.

    The dwarf arched a stern brow at his commander, and ran his gauntleted hands over his helm. "This is a bad idea, Volan. We've signed on to mine a hole with rotted supports."

    The commander dropped to a knee, to look his companion eye to eye. A hand rose to rest on one thick shoulder. The metal was cool under his fingers, and the pauldron was large enough to make the hand look like a child. Short though they were, dwarves were all too often mistaken as small. "You and I have gotten through stickier situations than this, my friend. We'll fight for this country. We'll win. We'll get paid. I won't let some prejudiced fool waste the lives of my men. You have my word."

    That wasn't to say that there wouldn't be any casualties, of course. That was the nature of life as a mercenary. Only that Volan would mitigate the losses to the best of his ability.

    The dwarf rolled his eyes, and let out a sight that sounded much more explosive than he'd meant it. "It just rubs me wrong, Volan." The dwarf insisted.

    "I know, Dolgan. But these people are no different than any other. There is good, and there is evil to be found in all of them. We will fight beside them. We will die beside them. I need you to stand with me for this. I need you to show your men that we can -and we must- get along with these people."

    Volantaris regarded his friend in silence for a moment, as emotions struggled across the dwarf's broad face. "If you thought, deep down in your bones that this contract wouldn't benefit us and ours, you'd have kicked up a considerably larger fuss than you have, and long before this. We wouldn't have gotten the army on the road. But we're here. Can you do this, my friend?"

    The surly dwarf stared him in the eye, before cutting a terse nod in his direction. "But don't fucking expect me to drink with the bastards."

    "If the wine's good my friend..." He said, his teeth flashing white, in a grin.

    The door to the antechamber rose, and the swarthy man rose, turning to face the royalty once again. His cloud-grey eyes flicked between the two, and over his contract as the signing took place. Satisfied, he smiled, and took the contract in hand. He didn't fold it yet, for fear of smudging the signature.

    "But of course, my lady." He said, making to follow. Dolgan moved to stride alongside Volantaris, wordlessly.
  8. The air beyond the throne room felt so much lighter in Vega's lungs as they left Eyraille's king to contemplate the situation alone. She made a mental note to speak with him, much later, but these talks were becoming increasingly difficult. Whether it had to do with Caris' continual loss of faith in her or in himself was difficult to say, but regardless, it did not yield a good prognosis for his future decisions as king, let alone their relationship as brother and sister.

    "First, I believe it is crucial for you to understand that Eyraille's forces are divided," she began, footsteps echoing through the corridors as the Skyknight led him onward. "You might already have met Commander Ulrick, who leads and directs the majority of our forces; if anyone were to have glared at you on your arrival, then it would be that old man. Try not to talk it personally. He is... an artefact of my father's previous reign, and has retained his position for his respect for Caris as a king. Unfortunately, that respect is limited to my brother. The man would argue with you were you to claim the sky is blue, simply for the sake of argument. I am telling you this now so that you are not perturbed by his seeming lack of cooperation... If he can agree to work with me, of all people, then he will agree to reach common grounds with you."

    She offered a half-smile of reassurance, though it didn't quite reach her pale eyes. "You won't be taking orders directly from him, of course; our method is more collaborative in nature. That said, I am in charge of the remainder of our forces--namely the Skyknights. Eyraille has long since harboured a tradition of managing its aerial units separately from the rest for a number of reasons, namely that you cannot command a person on a horse the same as a person upon a roc. The movements and navigation are not at all the same, not to mention that while the Skyknights are arguably among our most powerful forces, they are also one of our more vulnerable..."

    On that note, Vega's pace slowed ever so slightly. "Above all... You can rest assured that under my brother's rule, no life is worth losing. We have worked hard to restructure our army in such a way that casualties are few and far between. I want you to know that you and your forces are no different, Mr. Dormus. While you are among us, you will be treated as one of us, and the lives of you and yours matter just as much as any Eyraillian's. We..." The Skyknight paused, as if searching for just the right words. "We do not take lightly that you will fight for us. Even if your loyalty comes at a price."

    At the curve of a corner, Vega at last turned on her heel to face the sellsword and his dwarven ally. "Now that you are aware of the more crucial matters... Please make yourself at home, here. The citadel and beyond are all open to you, and palace staff have been advised of your arrival." Clasping her hands in front of her, she looked from one man to the other. "Do you have any questions? Anything else you think you might require, please do not hesitate to ask."
  9. Volantaris walked, and listened, and his dwarven compatriot did the same. He had not -in fact- noticed the surly fellow who may -or may not- have been glaring at him upon his approach, which was more or less fortunate considering Dolgan's current humor. An army divided was a dangerous thing, but there was something of an advantage to be gained by having access to the skyriders for recon. Especially if the enemy forces lacked magi.

    "We thank you for your hospitality, my lady." He said, when the woman finished. "And there are some things you may wish to know about my army as well. You may have guessed by my silent companion here," He gestured to the dwarf, "That we are a mixed number of humans, and dwarves. Additionally, among our ranks lay a number of elves, and centauri. I left behind my mage corps, in respect for your laws, and my gnomish engineers, as you expressed no interest in paying for siege-workers when I spoke with your agent up north. They can be called here if need comes, but that will take time."

    He paused, taking in the sights beyond the doors of the throne room. "I appreciate that you may care about the lives of my men, and I am grateful that I will have the freedom to conduct them in coordination with your armies, without being bound by a chain of command. I may have something of an issue with authority." he confided, with a grin.

    "But in addition to the numbers, I suspect you may also wish to learn what your gold has earned you. You have purchased our loyalty. We fight now for your land. For your homes. For your king. We will keep on fighting until our contract is terminated, and we will take on no new contract until we have cleared your walls by six days forced march, at the very least."

    A thought occurred to him, and he turned to the dwarf, who had remained silent. "Dolgan. Please gather the Shadows, and direct them to Ilandria. Recon only. They are to return with news two weeks hence."

    The dwarf stuffed his helmet back onto his head, and clapped a fist to his breastplate. "At once, commander." He said, before marching off.

    Back to the skyrider he turned. "I did have one request, if I may be so bold: I would very much like access to a small contingency of your skyknights. Not for active combat of course, but for intelligence purposes. I understand that this may be overstepping my boundaries, but it would be a fantastic boon to the Moonshadows."
  10. It was all she could do not to laugh at the sellsword's open disdain for authority. "Our very own monarch has spent his entire life turning a cold shoulder on authority," she confided, the corner of her mouth turning upward in a grin. "That is nothing that I haven't heard before. Caris will have the final say before anything is executed, but our strategists and tacticians consult with all parties before forming a plan. I hope you will find this satisfactory."

    As Volantaris proceeded to assure her of his loyalty, and that of the Moonshadows, it was Vega's turn to listen intently. The greatest risk she had taken was in hiring someone whose trust was not guaranteed. That had been Caris' primary fear; that they had, perhaps, already been contacted by Ilandria, and that their mission was one of sabotage. Vega was at a loss as to prove otherwise, even with all of the permanent ink on that contract, but she had listened to the speech of liars all of her life. Volantaris did not strike her as one, yet with naught but intuition alone to fuel her opinion, her brother had yet to believe it for himself.

    Yet as with all things that concerned Caris Sorde, it would hopefully come with time... sooner, more preferably than later.

    Some might have accused Vega of being far too apt to trust, as with her offer to provide the sellsword with whatever he needed. That is, until he made special mention of the Skyknight's. Her uncertainty was mirrored with the turn of her shoulder as she worried her lower lip; immediate reluctance might have been the first thing to come to mind. "Mr. Dormus... Please understand that it is because of the Skyknights, and the centuries upon centuries of taming the rocs from the mountains, that Eyraille has ever managed to be regarded with high authority... Though even with that said, the roc riders are by no means as numerous as our cavalry, our archers, or anyone else who keeps their feet on the ground." Inhaling slowly, she turned back to face Volantaris, though not with the same open demeanor as before. "Only a small fraction of our Skyknights are seasoned. Many are still in training, as are their rocs... You can understand why I am hesitant to grant this request. They are, specifically, my charges.

    "Not to mention, I fear that few of them would wish to comply with the whims of a non-Eyraillian stranger. Even if I were to suggest that they do. I... I can hardly think of anything else that I would be so reluctant with which to provide you, sir." Her expression fell between a curious grey area of remorse and obstinacy. "I am not trying to come across as unyielding or non-compliant. But I am not convinced that you understand the magnitude of what you are asking..."
  11. Volantaris smiled, although he kept the smile a small one. He'd found another button. "Concerning your stratagems, I do indeed find them satisfactory." The picture he was painting in his mind, the one involving Vega, was turning out to be most interesting.

    She had not refused him. Not outright, but she was looking to talk herself out of providing him the fliers. "We are not so dissimilar as you may think, lady Vega." He said, folding his hands behind his back casually. "Allow me to illuminate my thought process, for your peace of mind." Rather than asking again for the riders, he turned his gaze towards the castle gates.

    "I began fighting in the Moonshadows when I was fifteen. I didn't want to be a farmer, or a clergyman. They took me in. They trained me, a mud-stained commoner whose only knowledge of blades came from tilling the field, and carving the roast come dinner time. I fought with men, and dwarves, and centauri. With elves, and gnomes, and once had the fortune to fight alongside a number of the fair folk. These men lived and died at my side. They were my brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers."

    He turned his grey eyes back to the rust-haired woman. "Our commander at the time, Commander Yoefild was a man of honor. He saw something in me, and took me aside. Trained me for leadership. When the time came to step down, he did so, and the Moonshadows became mine. These men, these compatriots of mine, who had fought beside me, lived, laughed, and loved within arm's reach of me, were now my duty. To every last man in my company, they have become my children."

    "I train them for war, so that when the time comes to kill or be killed, they will come home carrying fewer of their brothers than the men they faced. I hold to a code of honor, so that our standard is something they can be proud of. I mete out punishment and praise as justly as I am able. But more than that, I have accepted that there is only so much that I can do to protect them."

    "Just this morning, I marched one thousand of my children -many of whom are nonhumans- into a city that has been the seat of power for men that would have seen them driven from their homes. I have asked them to fight for these men and women, who may fear, or hate them. And when the time comes, I will send my children to your walls to stand beside the men and women of your city in defense of a home that will belong to them only for as long as they fight for it. I send them to stop the gap. I send them to flank the line. I send them to die, in blood and pain beside the men they don't know."

    "I think perhaps that I am very well aware of what I am asking you to do, and the gravity of the matter. If it is a matter of numbers, I could make fantastic use of just two. Two of your knights, well away from the fighting. These two could save the lives of my men." He paused.

    "You do not need to answer now, of course. Think it over." He bowed elegantly. "I must see to my men, lady Vega. I sincerely look forward to working alongside you."
  12. "Sir Vega," she corrected him, promptly, but not with disrespect. "Only by blood am I noble. My role here is that of a Skyknight; an Imperial Soldier of Eyraille, Mr. Dormus... With no disrespect intended, I implore that you address me as such." Part of Eyraille's blood-soaked history that Vega had strategically failed to provide was that of the role of women. Prior to the death of her and Caris's father, the very thought of a woman serving retaining the title of a knight would have been laughable. As soon as Caris had ascended the throne, however (or, more specifically, as soon as the old man had passed away), Vega hadn't hesitated to train with the Skyknights, excelling such that she had climbed in stature, and now happened to lead them.

    It had only been a natural progression; for unbeknownst to Eyraille's former king, she had long since tamed and learned to ride upon her own roc. Like many other things, her (relatively) open-minded brother had simply made it possible to fulfill what she felt to be her own destiny. That said, the titles of Lady and Sir were still laden with troublesome connotations that led her to prefer the latter honorific.

    All that aside, however, the sellsword's story did little to endear the Skyknight to his cause, ans instead incited a flicker of ire in her otherwise steady composure. The possibility of death had already been discussed; was that not what they were paying him for? The Skyknights had never been on the table as part of the bargain, and it bothered her that, all of a sudden, they had become part of the equation.

    "I can make no guarantees to you," she said at last, sticking to her resolve. "I understand what you and your men are doing for us, Mr. Dormus. More than I can even express. And I know that no amount of money is worth even if the loss of a single, precious life. But I know far too little about you and your Moonshadows to so readily hand over two, or even one, of my Skyknights. I'd be more than happy to provide you with knowledge you can use in the future: acquiring and taming a roc, how to ride upon one like any mount, aerial combat an navigation... In fact, I would even offer to provide the training, myself, as a later favour with no strings attached, when all is said and done, and when Eyraille is safe again. But I am not comfortable placing my own Skyknights in anyone's hands but my own."

    She hadn't realized her own passion on her stance until she took a moment to notice the warmth in her cheeks; colour where there hadn't been any before. As much as she chided Caris for his stubbornness, so characteristic of the Sorde bloodline, she often failed to recognize it in herself. "I, too, have matters to which I must attend... Should there be anything else that you or your men require, for practical purposes or for your own comfort, we will do our best to provide." After a pause, she added, "And if for whatever reason your requests are not taken into consideration, send for me, directly. Eyraille has opened its doors to the variety of the world's races once again, but... well, old habits die hard. Particularly in terms of the staff who served my father, prior to my brother."

    With her own respectful nod, then, Vega turned and continued down the hallway, heart still racing and cheeks still flushed from the audacity of the sellsword's request regarding her Skyknights.
  13. Volantaris straightened, turning to go. He stopped short, when the woman began addressing his back. Turning on the woman once again, he arched an inquisitive brow.

    The knight's outburst tickled the sellsword's sense of satisfaction. Another button. It was all too easy to rile the monarchy of the country, it seemed. That boded ill for their fortunes, but a contract had been signed. Without a further word to the woman, he finished his turn, and left. No, it seemed that trust was not to be found within the kingdom. With luck, they would follow through with supplies, though he began to formulate plans should those too go unprovided. One never could tell with rulers who thought they'd been slighted.

    He collected his sword and dagger from the doorman to set off to the line of barracks they'd been allowed upon entry to the city.


    Volan found Dolgan among the men, dressing down one of the elves who'd gotten into a fistfight with one of the local soldiers. A hush fell over the barracks as the mercenary commander stepped through the doors. The only sounds that filled the air were the thick, dwarvish accent, and the sound of the commander's bootheels on the floorboards.

    The dwarf caught sight of the commander, and finished his tirade with an irritable gesture. "And if I catch you at it again, one of the Hserin will ride home on your fucking back!"

    Volantaris recognized the name of one of the Centauri clans, and arched a brow, trying not to smile.

    "Now get off with you dammit, I've business to attend. And I don't care what the fucking humans call a single fucking one of you," The dwarf roared at the barracks, "-because I've fucking said as much and worse, my own fucking self!" The surly dwarf turned on the commander, his tone returning to a lower, more conversational one.

    "The Shadows are away sir. They'll be back with news by the end of the week."

    "What was that all about, Dolgan?" He asked, allowing the grin to spring to life on his face.

    The dwarf looked as if he were about to spit, but a glance at Volan's face convinced him otherwise. "Ellonwyl took offense to one of the humans calling him a knife-ear in the street. There was a scuffle, but we broke it up before any of the locals had to step in. I'll keep 'em in line. How'd your talk with lady go."

    "Sir," Corrected the mercenary. "And she is... A passionate woman. This is something that I appreciate. There will be no help from her however. We will have to depend on more traditional scouting, and pray that the enemy does not employ real divinators. Ser Vega has offered to teach us the art of Roc taming however. I shall make a point of reminding her, come the end of our contract." He regarded the barracks.

    "Dolgan, I am going to familiarize myself with the city tonight. Should anything happen to me, you'll have the Moonshadows."

    "And what shite is this? You plannin' on gettin' kidnapped, sir? Stabbed in a back-alley for your coin? Pinchin' the king?" The dwarf deadpanned.

    "Just a feeling, Dolgan. Regardless, I want a watch set. Two outside each barracks, and one in. The air smacks of trouble, and I want us to be prepared for it when it comes."

    The dwarf ran a hand down his beard contemplatively, but nodded. "You ought to take a guard with you if you're expecting trouble."

    "I'll be fine, Dolgan. But I know how you worry. Send for a few of the irregulars. Whomever's here and ready in five minutes will go with me."

    "Aye sir," Said the dwarf.
  14. A piercing whistle cut through the din of the afternoon as the formation of approximately fifty Rocs and their riders tore through the air in staggered V formations: five groups of ten. A the forefront, on the Roc with the gold-tipped wings, was Vega, guiding them in the unique choreography of their formation. Bringing the whistle to her lips, she blew another, lower note, and the band of Rocs cooperated, diving sideways, their feet nearly touching the earth before they swooped towards the sky again.
    The whistles were the only way to communicate with the giant birds over the rush of air, and Vega was the one with its power, guiding and informing the birds and their riders. With the glint of their silver lances, and the majesty of the birds themselves, the Skyknights' ritual training was aesthetically pleasing to watch. Even in the midst of battle, when their armor was bloodied with the remains of the fallen, there was something undeniably beautiful about the way they moved. Perhaps it had something to do with the compatibility and interdependence between the rider and the bird, the former whose job was to maintain balance and strike the target, and the latter's, to get the rider to that very point.

    Unfortunately, it had been nearly a decade since they had engaged in battle at all. One of the reasons why Vega was so reluctant to give up any of her numbers for Volantaris' cause. That said, she was nothing if not reasonable, and when she had brought the topic up to her aerial fighters, there had not been a lack of interest.

    One last blow of the whistle, and the Rocs came in for a gentle landing, upon the soft grass of the citadel's training grounds. Removing the leather mask that shielded half of her face from the bite of the wind, Vega loosened the harness at her Roc's saddle, and gracefully dismounted, leaning her spear against the castle's outer wall.

    "Sir," a young Skyknight hurried up to his Commander, mask and lance still at hand. "You will deliver my note of interest, yes? I promise I won't miss a second of practice, but if I you say I'm not yet ready for battle, at least--"

    "Theirry. I will make Mr. Dormus aware immediately," Vega replied, her chest heavy with reluctance. "Perhaps, then, you can show me some of your leadership and guide the fleet to the caretakers, in case any of the Rocs require tending."

    The young knight's bright eyes widened with ecstasy. "Sir! I won't let you down. I'll show you that I can be an asset."

    Watching the young man run off, Vega couldn't help but feel the subtle weight of defeat. Losing Thierry would put them at an odd number, and no other trainees were ready for the air quite yet, let alone battle... But she was no one if not a woman of her word. And perhaps he could be a true asset in a reconnaissance mission.
    Tucking tresses of windswept hair behind her ear that had escaped its tight weave, the Skynight left to find her hired mercenary to deliver the news.
    Both Volantaris and his dwarven companion were just finishing up a conversation when she came upon them, offering a respectful nod. "Mr. Dormus. If you have no already sent your men on reconnaissance, one my my knights has expressed interest in being of help. I told him that I would pass of his interest." And, by the reluctance in her voice, it seemed that her promise was the only reason she had passed on the message at all.
  15. Volantaris glanced to the entrance to the barracks, when Sir Vega's voice sounded. Of course, it wasn't strange to see a woman in his barracks. The elves and dwarves were famously indiscriminate when it came to gender roles in battle, and a fair number of his irregulars were women as well. He might have had some in his vanguard, but most of those were trained men, hired on from other kingdoms. Kingdoms who didn't much take to the idea of women in formation.

    No, Volan's surprise didn't come from a woman in the barracks. It came from one very specific woman in the barracks. "Sir Vega," he said, surprise coloring his voice. "I had not expected to see you so soon. I will not ask what changed your mind." He said, as the sound of hooves on wood approached behind him.

    The first Irregular to arrive was a rarity in his army. A lone Centaur, not belonging to his cavalry. He was a broad-shouldered man, with thick arms, and wide hands. He looked as if he'd be a better fit at a forge than in a cavalry charge, despite his equine lower half, and stood half again as tall as the commander. He had wild red hair, and a braided goatee, and what looked to be some sort of pelt-vest. He carried a thick staff in one hand, almost like a spear.

    "But I will gladly accept your man. I have sent spies so far, but I have saved the scouts for the morrow. He is welcome to join them. I will discuss my expectations with him tomorrow, with the sunrise. You are -of course- welcome to attend."

    Another two irregulars arrived. One an elf, sporting no weapons visibly. He was shorter than the commander, and gorgeous in the way of elves with blonde hair swept back from his face in a bun. The third of the number was another human, a woman with dark hair, and darker eyes. She had plush red lips that looked used to smiling, although they were politely solemn for the time being. She too carried a stave, though not as thick as the centauri's.

    Each irregular sported a patch, somewhere on the attire, of a red sword, broken just past the hilt. In the case of the Centauri, it had been painted -or dyed- on his flank.

    "For now, I intend to familiarize myself with the city, along with a number of my companions. You're welcome to join us, of course, but I will understand if you have other duties to attend to.
  16. "It isn't so much that I changed my mind, but rather, that my knights--one of them, anyway--saw fit to assert his own will." Such was not spoken without a sigh. Vega's reluctance to contribute any of the Skyknights to Volantaris had not waned, not insomuch that she had agreed entirely willingly. "I did tell you I would discuss it with them, and I am a woman of my word. One of the younger wished to exploit the opportunity for recognition. Mind you, while he has already mastered the technique and technicalities, I still do not believe hm entirely battle ready. He... I fear he has the tendency to hesitate before striking. Which is why I'll provide you with his skills for scouting, and scouting alone."

    It went unsaid, but likely understood that she would be attending the meeting with the two of them tomorrow. If for no other reason than that she felt personally responsibly for young Theirry's life and safety, and would like to here the sellsword's expectations for him first hand.

    Admittedly, it was not without some unease that Vega turned an eye to Volantaris' crew as they arrived. Not for fear of or discomfort amid the races that Eyraille had, centuries before chased from its land, but for the quiet judgement that she knew they all harboured. And she couldn't blame them for their mistrust. Fortunately, the Skyknight was used to atmospheres of suspicion and mistrust, but it never made it any more pleasant.

    "On a typical day, the Skyknights typically finish their training in the afternoon; it allows sufficient time for the Rocs to be fed, tended, and to rest," she informed him. "My duties to them for the day have ended, and I've received no word of my brother requiring my audience or assistance." Yet... "I'd be more than happy to brief you on the layout of the city, if you like."

    What she didn't mention was, perhaps, the necessity of her presence in merely keeping the peace. While the skirmish between the elf and Eyraillian had so far surpassed her attention, Vega was intensely aware of the discomfort and uncertainty that the presence of dwarves, elves, centaurs and the like would inflict on the predominantly human population of her kingdom. After all, the people were not, for the most part, aware of the military decisions that occurred in places to which they were not privy.
    #17 Dreamless, Jun 17, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2015
  17. Volantaris nodded his head casually. "My scouts do not take place in the fighting, unless it has come down to defending a city from it's streets. Their skills are largely too valuable to risk them in combat, with a few rare exceptions. Your man will not see any fighting whatsoever for as long as he remains taking directives from me." Ideally speaking, anyway. Volantaris didn't intend to fly the novice knight anywhere near battle, though the best laid plans frequently went awry when faced with the rigors of battle. Still, he didn't anticipate the need for the boy's combat skills as much as he did the bird's eye reports of troop formations, and rapid delivery of messages.

    "Allow me to introduce you to my men, Sir Vega. This is Mafarri," He gestured to the Centaur. "Wynnon," The elf, "And Sarah." The human. "These are some of my irregulars."

    Each of them sketched a bow, but it was clearly not an action they were accustomed to. "Sir," They said, in a ragged chorus.

    "Let's be on our way." Said the commander, lifting his sword an inch clear of it's sheathe, and dropping it back into place. An old habit, to check for binding.

    Volantaris made his way out the door first, his thumbs tucked into his belt. He kept a slow and easy pace, apparently uncaring of any looks they may have garnered on their way through the streets. "I have particular interest in seeing firsthand the places of military importance within the city. Chapels, food-stores, armories and barracks. Any places I may have to quickly locate in case of a breach of the walls. I should think I can manage finding the castle of course," He joked lightly. "But the rest of your city is relatively new to me."

    A glance at the knight commander, and he added, somewhat delayed. "And if it pleases you, I would like to know more about your king. Rumor and hearsay serve him ill, but I am inclined to give my employers the benefit of the doubt. I would know him better, if I may."
  18. Vega returned their bow with a solemn nod. "Pleased to meet all of you," she assured them with the ghost of a smile prior to falling into step with Volantaris. "The armory and barracks of both the Imperial Guard, along with the Skyknights, are located back at the citadel, and shouldn't take you long to discover," she explained. "Separate from the civilian infantry, but I would be more than happy to show you those landmarks. This way."

    She led the sellsword and his entourage towards downhill, towards the heart of the city that brimmed with the life of its citizens. Already, she was certain her palms were beginning to sweat underneath her fingerless gloves, and not from the exertion of having taken to the skies on her Roc not a half hour before. Flight was more likely to leave her chilled, not overheating as she was with nerves. The only thing more difficult than introducing change to a kingdom that had once been so set in its way was trying to introduce that change when one was nearly as ridiculed as the change that they proposed. What she hadn't yet (and likely wouldn't) confide in Volantaris was just how little respect she'd earned from Eyraille's denizens, thus far. Witnessing her accompanied by the other races would not earn her a brighter place in their good standing.

    "The chapels should not be difficult for you to spot," she mentioned, pointing to the visible, golden Vs at the top of two separate towers in the distance. The tips stood as tall as the treetops towards the farmlands. "Look for the golden Vs that reach for the sky. There are three in total in this city, to accommodate both the rural farmers and the citizens that dwell at the heart of the city. The religion here used to be strictly monotheistic, but since my brother's reign, they are slowly being converted to welcome all denominations, as a means of opening the doors to invite all other than humankind to Eyraille."

    But on the very topic of her brother... Vega's shoulders stiffened. "What, specifically, might you have heard of my brother's reputation?" It was difficult not to have her hackles raised at the mention of Caris--particularly for the fact that it was her own fault he'd had to assume a position on the throne. "Caris is young, and was not raised with a proper role model as either a father or a ruler... And he was left with a terrible mess when our father passed away. I don't know what details you are looking for, Mr. Dormus, but I can assure you that no one is more conscientious about the fate of our kingdom than Caris Sorde."
  19. Volantaris arched a brow as the woman's feathers were once again ruffled. "I do not trade in hearsay, Sir Vega. And it is Commander Dormus." He said. Largely, Volan couldn't care less about what he was called by his employers in private. In front of his men however, some decorum needed to be observed.

    "You do not need to assure me of anything. You have me on contract. A contract I will be sending to your king in triplicate later this very evening, for proof of employment." He said, his tone easy. While his words carried a certain gravity to them, it was clear that the whole of his mind wasn't on their agreement. His eyes were scanning the city, flicking from landmark to landmark, committing each to memory for mapping purposes later.

    He turned to the woman. "That you don't trust me is as plain as day. This is understandable. It will be very difficult to maintain a working relationship however, if you take my every inquest as an attack on your person. Difficult, but not impossible. If pleasantries unsettle you, perhaps you will prefer frankness."

    He kept right on walking, his eyes scanning the crowd, thinning though it was as the sun sank toward the horizon. "I am looking for understanding. Understanding of the situation in which I have embroiled myself and my men. I look to know the nature of the man I serve, to better serve him. And to better serve myself."

    The small party of sellswords seemed impassive at the exchange, tense though it may have been. Apparently, it was not uncommon for Volantaris to irk his employers, though how he managed to keep business was anybody's guess. "I am beginning to gather that he -if he is anything like yourself- has a dangerously exploitable temper. Does it run in your family, Sir Vega?"
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