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The First Chapter in a War Epic I'm writing. All characters and locations here are original.
Could people please comment?
The land is divided, heroes and lords clash
A deal is made, warlords unite
It is well known that there are multiple worlds in the vastness that is the universe. If you observe from above, one may notice similarities between one and another, but if one cared to take a closer look they could see just how different each is. One such world, known by its inhabitants only as Aelithia, bears a striking resemblance to ours from above. It has land, wherein one could find mountains, forests, valleys, plains, rivers and lakes, and it has vast and mighty seas, whose rage deters all but the bravest or most foolish. It bears continents, some separated by vast seas and others joined by land. It also carries sentient life, predominantly humans very much like ours in appearance and intelligence.
One such continent, resting on the western hemisphere of Aelithia, was known as Garneia. Since humans had first set foot on that continent they had been divided into tribes who vied for land, food, fields to graze their herds upon and other such necessities. This division led to conflict, which in turn led to war. It lasted centuries, claiming generation after generation. It wasn"t until the first emperor, Carlos Highbane, emerged as a powerful warlord that the war ended as he united much of Garneia, followed in success by his sons. The land knew peace once more, until the nineteenth emperor failed to name his heir before sickness took him and the continent was divided into five states; Reibarn, Gorgoth, Lamea, Uria and Lucifan. After two centuries of fighting, the emperor of Uria defeated his rivals and so began the second dynasty of a unified Garneia.
Two and half centuries passed, with the Uria bloodline reigning. The twenty-first of his line, Secudus Uria III, listened to the advice of his officials and favoured them with rank and possesions. The emperor did not attend court, allowing his court officials to divide and monopolise the empires power. This did not sit favourably with many, and resentment for the court officials and their corrupted rule continued to grow.
During the twelfth year of Secundus III"s reign, a series of catastrophes had struck the four corners of his empire. Famine plagued many regions while heavy storms battered towns villages elsewhere. Wild beasts grew bolder and attacked farmsteads during the day, slaying livestock as they pleased, and influential bandits retreated to strongholds in the mountains, private armies in tow, preying on the innocent. The star of Uria began to dim at night, which the emperor noticed as he bedded his consort, a daughter of a Court Official. When he approached his officials, they told him not to worry, but he would not be swayed. A group of the greediest officials met in secret, discussing treacherous affairs. Their names were Altos Septis, Garin Greybeard, Nathaniel Griffonson, Oromis Mountainborn and Primus Lionsbane.
"The Emperor will soon learn of the Empire"s affairs and seek to destroy us!" Garin began. There was murmur of agreement from each member of the group.
"He has lived longer than his father before him, and has sired three sons, one of which has come of age," Nathaniel added, "I feel that we should dispose of the emperor and install one of his children instead." The other conspiritors nodded in agreement.
"If the Emperor is to be disposed of," Primus interjected, "It must be during some other turmoil, or else we will be finished."
The five agreed that during some turmoil, instigated by their hand or otherwise, they will remove the emperor and replace him with his second son, a youthful and healthy boy that they could easily manipulate. They drank together heartily that night before returning home.
As it just so happened, a man by the name of Gilliam Tigerblood had returned home after slaying a pack of wild wolves. His father had previously been lord of his home region of Rivan, until a jealous court official had disposed of him and installed their son as imperial protector of the region. Gilliam was a learned man, despite his lack of office, and a skilled hunter, popular in his home village. As he sat outside his house near the outskirts of town, a hooded figure approached him. The figure asked if they could rest awhile, to which Gilliam agreed and offered him some meat he had been cooking and some wine he had stored. Sharing this meal with his guest, Gilliam spoke of the discontent talk of the people and their loathing for the court officials.
"If only the Emperor would be deaf to their venomous words and listened to the cries of his people, the state would not be in such a terrible condition," Gilliam lamented.
"Surely, you have noticed the star of Uria has dimmed in the night sky," the figure suddenly stated.
"I have," Gilliam replied, "But what of it? "Tis but a star, nothing more."
"When a star fades, what it represents is doomed to end," the figure answered, "The fading of Uria"s star signifies that the Uria reign is drawing to a close." Gilliam listened intently to what his guest had to say. "The Emperor has lost the heart of the people," the figure continued, "Just as the Highborn dynasty before it, the Uria rule has weakened and now heroes, lords and officials possess all real power." Gilliam nodded, intrigued by his guest.
"I am but a man," Gilliam said in response, "How can I correct the wrongs of the times? I have no army, I have no supporters in court. I have no power to oppose the Uria dynasty."
"I could grant you the power you require," the figure responded, "All you"d have to do is agree to take whomever I specify as your consort when you rule a domain of your own." Gilliam knew now what this figure was, and what it was proposing. But still he listened, for in his heart he wanted what this figure had to offer.
"What power would you grant, pray tell?" Gilliam inquired.
"I could grant strength beyond and ordinary man, that the masses would fear and respect you," the figure answered, their words tinted with suggestive power, "I could grant you knowledge of arts that could smite your enemies, that your foes would cower at the mention of you name." Gilliam"s eyes burned with desire, and the figure knew that Gilliam would accept. "I will also grant you a consort so beautiful that every man, woman and child would envy you. Your rule shall strong and your bloodline will remain strong long after you"re gone," the figure continued to add, "From now until the endtimes, people will love, fear and respect you and your name will go down in the history of the world. This I promise you, if you agree to my deal and hold true to it." Gilliam stood up, before kneeling before the figure.
"I accept your offer, kind master," Gilliam said, "Please bless me with the gifts you promise!" The figure stood up and presented an ornate knife, glowing runes etched into it. Gilliam understood and accepted the knife, cutting his palm and allowing the blood to flow freely to the ground. "I Gilliam, son of Richard," Gilliam swore, "do solemnly swear to give myself to my kind benefactor and take whomever they choose as my consort and bride, and no other until the end of time. If I betray him, may my enemies blades find my heart and slay me. I do so swear." The figure gently raised Gilliam to his feet, before holding his cut hand. As he did, an unearthly glow surrounded Gilliam. The man felt power flowing through him, as his cut healed. As soon as the figure released him, they produced a dark, bound tome from within the folds of their robes. Though the language written upon and within it was unknown to men, Gilliam understood every word of it. The figure then walked away, stopping a few metres before looking their shoulder at Gilliam.
"Remember Gilliam, son of Richard," the figure warned, "If you do not stay true to your pact, you will fail." The figure then continued walking away, laughing as they disappeared slowly. Gilliam stood there for a few moments before retrieving both his sword and his rifle from his home. Walking into town, he spoke of grand schemes, rallying masses to him. Wandering from town to town, he amassed a following of thirty thousand, which he separated into three hosts numbering ten thousand each, led by various men whom Gilliam had found possessed some form of talent.
Hearing of this uprising in the East, the officials knew that the time had come to dispose of the emperor. He died in less than three days, officially of illness though the conspirators had paid the physician to lie regarding their deadly poison. Installing the second son, a boy named Tiberius, they immediately turned their attention to quelling this uprising. Realising that they had no army of their own, they immediately called up the Supreme General Henry Redmane. Tasked with quelling Gilliam"s rebellion, he raised a host of fifteen thousand, which he divided between him and generals Charles Marin and Ulfric Bailor.
Meeting the rebel hosts, Henry bested the northern rebel host twice in battle, causing them the camp upon higher ground, while Ulfric managed to best the southern host once, before being stopped near the Whitetooth river, where the rebels had camped on the other side. Charles however, was faced by Gilliam and his host. Thanks to his forbidden knowledge, his troops bolstered by the dark power of his benefactor, Charles"s troops were defeated on four occasions, fleeing to the Redfang pass, mere weeks march from the Capital. Receiving word of Charles"s misfortunes, Henry immediately sent out a call across the empire asking those loyal to the throne to raise troops and fight the rebels.
The call was answered by many, though several who had received it had instead gone over to the rebels, bolstering their already considerable forces.
In one town, a man walked looked at the notice asking for recruits for the imperial army. He was tall, with black hair and rough stuble. To many he was handsome, and was loved by all in the village. He had studied somewhat and knew of both battle and warfare. His name was Frederick Stormson. Reading the notice again he sighed in anguish, feeling helpless during this time.
"Good sir," a voice behind him began, "Why do you sigh towards the troubles of the times, yet do nothing about it?" Frederick turned and saw and muscular man, silver hair flowing around him, despite his youth. He was at least a few inches taller than Frederick, and much stronger.
"I sigh as I feel I can do nothing against this storm," Frederick answered, "May I ask you your name, friend?"
"I am Michael Martel," the man answered, "My father owns a farm just an hour from town. He wished to join the army along with me and my younger sibling, but alas he suffers an old injury from a dire wolf and my brother, though spirited, is too young for the world of war. I came to uphold our family honour."
"I am Frederick Stormson. My family deals in various goods, though my father is unwilling to join the army," Frederick said in reply, "I was about to enlist and try my arm against these rebels." Michael moved and stood before Frederick.
"Perhaps it is fate that brought us to this place," Michael stated strongly, "I know a good smith who lives near my farm. He can forge us weapons and together we can enlist to face off against the rebels." Frederick liked this plan and the two retired to Michael"s farm, where Frederick was welcomed as a family member and the two swore that they would stand alongside each other and support each other in this life and the next. The next day, the smith forged for them weapons and armour or great beauty. Frederick chose a longsword which he could wield with one or both hands while Michael took a great axe which could fell a mighty tree in a single stroke. The two returned to town and enlisted, before leading a volunteer force of just over two hundred, all on horse.
Riding for a day, the volunteer forces noticed smoke rising from the horizon. Riding at full pace, they found a small rebel force pillaging the town. The rebels numbered just in excess of five hundred and were led by a despicable bandit-turned-soldier named Luther Forlath. Seeing the volunteers, he quickly organised his men and rode forward to attack. Michael immediately answered this challenge, riding forth and swinging his axe. Luther was sliced in two with one stroke and his forces broke and fled.
Marching again for another day, the companions and their followers, who had met other volunteers along the way, numbered one thousand. They soon encountered an Imperial camp beset by three thousand rebels led by another bandit leader. Seeing the volunteers, this man arranged his men and gave battle. This time it was Frederick who answered his challenge as he felled his opponent in a single attack. The rebels fled and in the chaos that ensued five hundred were captured. They readily joined the imperial army, as they had despised their general. The imperial commander, knowing he had been saved, greeted his reinforcements heartily.
"I am Varis Taltheim," he said, "I was tasked with relieving the beset general Charles Marin, who has been worsted by the rebels repeatedly."
"Why him when other generals have undoubtedly lost men as well?" Michael asked.
"He is camped in Redfang pass," Varis answered respectfully, "A strong defensive position, definitely, but a mere weeks march from the capital. If the rebels take that pass, there is nothing that can stop them in time." Michael accepted this answer and did not question Varis further. "Pray tell me thy names, good sirs," Varis requested, "And thy office."
"I am Frederick Stormson," Frederick answered, "And this is my companion Michael Martel. We are volunteers and without station."
"Surely the divine will was mistaken, placing such talented men in such a lowly position," Varis stated, "As soon as we have relieved General Marin, I will write at once commending you and requesting you be placed in a higher station." The companions and their host then feasted and drank that night while exchanging tales and singing songs. At daybreak, their combined host then marched towards Redfang pass.
What awaited them on their journey will be revealed in the next chapter.