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Fiction Herald Of The Old Ones

Discussion in 'Fluff and Stories' started by Mr.Crocodile, Oct 28, 2021.

  1. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Summary:
    Lustria has long been the world's truest and strongest bastion against the Chaostide. The very land is a bastion, it's inhabitants an unbreakable army. Home to the strongest magic.users and the mightiest warriors to ever stand.

    But Lustria has also long languished in inaction. Ensorceled under a great stupor. Assailed by the Ruinous Powers. Plundered by the malicious and greedy. Poisoned by a corruptive plague.

    But that is no longer, the time of innaction is over!

    And with the beating of a warm-blooded heart as their Herald, as their war-drum, the First Children of the Old Ones march again.
     
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  2. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Notes:
    Hello everyone, I am excited today to share with you my most ambitous project! Herald of the Old Ones!
    (For any interested, I have also published a short story, Only Fools Wander Into The Jungles, which serves as a prequel and introduction to the Lustria Unbound series, of which Herald Of The Old Ones is the main entry)
    With this epic story I hope to take any of you who will take a chance with it on a journey that will have everything from Warhammer's classic epic battles, to deep and emotional moments and the kind of insane worldbuilding and twists I'm known for.
    So... I guess the only thing left to say is...

    ENJOY!
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2021
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  3. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Prologue: Foolish Choices

    When thousands are needed, thousands will come.
    When a hundred is needed, a hundred come.
    When none are needed, none come.
    When one is needed. He comes.

    -Ancient Lizardmen Proverb, “Collected Works of the Eldest Race,” by Eike Tauber.

    Sudburg, Settler’s Coast, Isthmus of Lustria
    12th of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/40.0.9.9.15. 6 Men. 7 Sotz’.

    Jerónimo De Lerma was, in all honesty, not the best moral example Estalia or the whole of mankind had to offer.

    It simply took a “special” kind of man to take up the career of “adventurer” in Lustria. Ruthlessness, a healthy dose of greed and a disposition towards backstabbing were only three of the many traits which could be found in most of the men who took up the plundering of Lustria’s many ruins as their profession.

    De Lerma had all three of them, and many more, equally undesirable.

    The difference between De Lerma and most other adventurers, raiders and pirates (for there are few and faint differences and a fair amount of intersectionality between all three) was both a simple but important one.

    De Lerma was successful.

    While most adventurers never returned from their expeditions, and many others returned only marginally wealthier (or even poorer) than whence they had set out, Captain De Lerma was capable and lucky enough both to have gathered his riches and live long enough to enjoy them.

    Because of that, while most would have been confined to the pirate haven of Port Reaver, where men of his reputation and profession often conducted their business and sold their wares or being forced to moor his ship, the Rapaz, in Swamp Town, was the one place where the kinds of men he employed could truly feel at home. He, by contrast, was enjoying a couple of weeks of well deserved rest, excess and debauchery in the only city he believed truly deserved the “honour” of serving him.

    Sudburg, Lustria’s youngest polity, was the only port in all of Lustria’s lethal greenery which could rival Santa Magritta in beauty and size. Jerónimo had seen it grow for the decade it had existed for with guarded curiosity.

    On the one hand, having a port city in the Isthmus that was properly governed, unlike Port Reaver’s petty pirate kings and cartels, Swamp Town’s general anarchy and lawlessness or Skeggi’s tribal nepotism, had done visible wonders for its growth and attractiveness for traders. For the city had quickly grown fat with settlers, and its coffers fat with tax. And most importantly, traders and merchants, who being the ones who bought his artifacts of gold, silver and gemstone, were De Lerma’s greatest friends.

    On the other hand, that same government, with its Imperial Governor, its Imperial laws and its guards to enforce them. That government, with its regulations for everything from trade and commerce to how it dealt with indebted gamblers, outlaws, pirates, and brigands (all terms the Estalian found extremely distasteful) had always made him guarded of ever setting a foot on the city alongside his crew.

    He had heard of one too many adventurers like him who, upon docking on the city’s port, had been apprehended for “crimes” that any other New World city would have seen as anything more than gentlemanly behaviour, such as bribery, smuggling or impersonation.

    Because of this, he had had a good mind and held back from exploring the city in person, but was always studying it with his spyglass during the hundreds of times his ship had done the trip from Port Reaver to Swamp Town and vice versa.

    That was, of course, until today. He had recently heard from one of his most trusted (meaning that he had a healthy amount of blackmail on the man) contacts in Nuevo Luccini that the city had apparently slacked its noose around the collective neck of Lustria’s fines. If De Lerma had to guess, it was probably nothing more than local bureaucrats realising that men like him were the only solution to the problems that were their empty pockets. The fact that he was currently enjoying the finest wine he had tasted since he had left Estalia as a young man more than three decades ago was proof enough of that!

    He had no real plans for the foreseeable future beyond securing a few more sales of artifacts. All of which were being guarded aboard the Rapaz by the few sailors under his command who he trusted enough not to steal any of them (meaning that they were too clumsy not to get caught in the act). With that money, what he had already safely hid in a safehouse in Port Reaver and a possible selling of the Rapaz to one of his Bretonnian partners? It would only take him a couple clever investments in the burgeoning Sudburg to be able to retire.

    Oh, the mere idea of not having to spend a single day of the rest of his life risking his guts in the fetid swamps or blistering, humid depths of the jungle made him giddy enough that he had already invited the rest of the Lucky Harpooner’s patrons to at least two rounds the night before. And he had half a mind to invite them to another one on that bright morning!

    As he planned out his activities for the day (Perhaps a long overdue visit to a refined lupanar? Or maybe a visit to the city’s famed grand plaza?), a commotion could be heard on the outside of the establishment of ill repute.

    Jerónimo, used to such streetfights and mobs being a common sight on the Settler’s Coast’s other burgs paid the sounds no mind.

    Had he been a tad less drunk, overconfident or boastful, he may have realized that those kinds of brawls were strikingly less common in the Imperial colony than they were in the lawless settlements of the region. He may even have paid enough attention to the fact that the commotion was fast approaching the tavern. He may even have realized what a short window of time he may have had to avoid what was about to happen.

    But he did none of those things. And as such, when one of his men (bruised into unconsciousness) was shoved so hard against the only entrance to the Lucky Harpooner that the door broke from its hinges and feel into the room, and when city guardsmen swarmed into the room like a pack of wolfs, shouting his name, there was nothing he could do.

    Nothing beyond screaming in indignation as he was dragged away in that childish and undignified way only men of his ilk and dishonour could, of course.

    Overhead, from the roofs of the many buildings and from the air, azure-coloured wings followed him in his disgraceful procesion. Never losing sight of the robber.

    -------------​

    Jerónimo was unceremoniously carried out of the tavern, thrown onto the pebbled street, shackled with his hands behind his back, and searched for all of his belongings by two men of the city guard. Young and tanned, probably half-Estalian.

    The captain attempted to use this, calling upon some kind of heritage-based camaraderie. It didn’t work.

    Instead he was forced to walk, half undressed and confused, all the way from the Lucky Harpooner, located near the city’s docks, to the city’s outskirts, beyond the walls which protected it and the shanty town, Eastroad, which had grown beyond the official limits of the trading hub.

    At least, on the way he did get a chance to see the city’s grand plaza. Situated at the very top of the hill the city was built into at the very center and heart of the city, the plaza, paved in large slabs of stone, was dominated by two features.

    The first was one the adventurer had seen many times with his spyglass. Waldeswacht Fortress, Sudburg’s inner fortification, home of the governor. With its walls and towers of green-stained grey rock hiding behind them the guard’s armory, the city’s treasury and probably many other places of import he was unaware of. It stood proudly before the plaza, its gates closed.

    The second, standing proudly at the center of the plaza was a great spire of tan and reddish rock. It seemed out of place amongst the human architecture of the city, rooted into the ground so deeply that, according to the tales he had heard, not even 50 men pulling in the same direction had been able to topple it. The settlers had decided to build their original camp around it a decade ago. It was decorated with carvings Jerónimo knew very well.

    Geometrically perfect, beasts of cold blood, twisting vines and scenes and symbols no man had been able to decipher decorated it.

    It had been placed there by Lustria’s ancient lords. And despite how old it felt, neither creeping vines and mosses nor Lustria’s inclement weather had weathered it down at all.

    It was while he was being made to cross the plaza that he finally noticed what should have been evident from the start. The city’s literal and metaphorical heart, the crossroad for every major street and pathway, was empty.

    Not a single soul was crossing it, or taking water from one of its fountains, no men or women sold or advertised their wares from the many establishments which surrounded it. The most he managed to glimpse were eyes and shadows from behind half-closed doors or shuttered windows. Eyes which stared at him and the guards, the only source of movement or sound in the streets.

    Eyes that stared at him. A few with anger, others with resentment or curiosity. Most, most were fearful.

    Now that he noticed, the city, despite its busy life and thousands of inhabitants, was as silent as the depths of many of the catacombs he had raided. As silent as only death could be.

    Even his arrest, an event that would have usually gathered large crowds of heckling and curious onlookers, had only managed to gather the stares of passers by as they hurried somewhere else. Always whispering and muttering about something.

    As he had been forced to walk forward and abandon the plaza by the butt of one of the guard’s spears, he took greater notice of how even churches and chapels, be they to the Imperial’s Sigmar, the Bretonnian’s Lady or his own people’s Myrmidia all were closed.

    The city had barricaded itself, not a single soul dared step outside.

    Except him and his captors.

    They walked across the entire city, beyond the outer walls and their spade-like bastions, beyond the shantytown and small patches of “farmland” on the outermost edges of civilized society.

    All the way to the edge of the jungle. Where a retinue was awaiting for him. More than 60 men.

    Most wore the colours (red, black and white) of the city and were armed with halberds and a few crossbows and handguns, their heads protected by morions and their bodies by scattered pieces of armor, some had only breastplates or greaves (often only in one limb or unpaired), only a couple had gorgets or other plates of armour. If nothing else, it proved that the city made do with what it could produce, because no man would be stupid enough to export armour to the new world.

    Amongst the men stood a few others, older, probably city officials. Two gathered his attention. The first was a Sigmarite priest, who constantly stared both at the jungles before him and the safety of the city behind him, the old man looked like he could either start running or spontaneously die in any second.

    The second was a tall man with an extremely busy and large full beard of well-cared for brown and curly hair. He, unlike his men, was armoured with a full set, and his morion was finely decorated with feathers of what probably was some local bird. The clothes under his armour were clearly of fine quality, as good or even better than the ones the Estalian wasn’t wearing anymore. His breastplate was decorated with what he could only assume were some kind of Imperial condecorations and honours and from his waist hung a great blade.

    It didn’t take a genius to realize that, as his knees were kicked from behind and he fell onto the damp soil, he was kneeling before Imperial General Governor Siegmund Armbruster.

    “Captain Jerónimo De Lerma? Of the Rapaz?” The man asked gruffly.

    “Ye-yes,” He swallowed his own spit and centered himself. Whatever was going on, it’d require extreme caution to navigate whichever madness he had gotten himself into. “May-may I ask on what charges and for which reasons have I been arrested? As far as I know I conducted myself lawfully with port autho-” He started trying to defend himself until the man cut him off.

    “Good, it would have done us no good to catch one of your men and not you, they would not have been easy to deal with.” The man said with a curt nod, more to his men than to him.

    “Them? Is there a bounty on me!? In that case I can assure you that it’s both unwarranted and licentious! And even still! I very much can pay twice whatever the reward is for myself!”

    “Not men.” Was the governor’s only response. The Imperial turned to what De Lerma could only assume were advisors of some kind. “Gentlemen, with the Captain secured, I think our conversation should be postponed until this crisis is resolved.”

    Jerónimo found it darkly comical that the Sigmarite clergyman looked like he had beholden a miracle in that moment. But that was secondary to what truly occupied his mind.

    He was not stupid, if men weren’t after him and he was standing on the edge of Pahualaxa’s jungles…

    He stared ahead, and saw the truth.

    They were hard to see, they always were hard to see. But he had experience.

    The small shapes which scurried from here to there, merely shadows of shadows. And the larger ones, who were easier to see more by the glint of their blades and armour which they wore, than they were by their movement, for they stood still, like stone.

    Always watching.

    “What! What is the meaning of this? Do you not see the danger we are in? Release me at-ARGH!” His pleas were interrupted as an armoured hand slapped him in the face, an explosion of pain combined with the force of the impact fully threw him from his kneeling. As he laid sideways on the damp grass, he could feel his mouth begin to fill with his own blood.

    Before he could try to recover, he was jolted back into kneeling by the very same gauntlet which had struck him grabbing him by his hair. His blurry vision managed to focus on the face of Armbruster mere centimeters before his own.

    “Dear captain,” The man spat. “If it weren’t for you and your Sigmar-damned ship, we would not be in danger, so I advise you keep fucking silent.” He let go of the Estalian, who barely managed not to collapse again.

    Quickly, the man started shouting orders. “Form up men, inverted wedge! Gunners back!”

    Quickly the men, who until now had nervously iddled around, started moving, forming a wide and double-layered V, brandishing their weapons.

    Siegmund stood where the four lines of men converged, Jerónimo knelt in the widest point of separation between them.

    “Bernart! Fire!” The commanding man shouted. Seconds later, one of his men, who brandished the largest gun of all the ones among the more than 40 men there, raised his multiple-barreled gun and started aiming it. Instinctively, thinking that this was some kind of bizarre execution or a monstrous sacrifice to the beasts beyond the treeline, he braced for his own death as much as a man could.

    But it did not come, instead his ears rang with the sound made by the shot. The gunner, a young man, had pointed his repeater handgun (the first one De Lerma had seen in a decade) almost straight up into the sky.

    A signal indeed. And it was soon answered.

    The treeline parted as a lone figure, called forward by the gunshot, emerged from the darkness.

    And it terrified the man of fortune, not for what it was, or what it looked like or intended, even if those were terrifying on their own.

    It terrified him because of what the figure meant.

    It was a lone man, young, twenty at most. Too young for how he carried himself. He carried himself like too many things at once. Like a soldier, like a commander, like a priest and a politician and a…

    “Herald.” The city’s head defender greeteed loudly.

    The “herald” merely nodded, his face emotionless. He walked forward. None of the men lowered their weapons.

    It gave the Tilean man ample time to behold the… Unnatural naturality of the young man.

    He was incredibly tall. Probably the tallest human man he had ever seen. And his face was honestly just gorgeous, sharp and defined and framed by ears decorated with half a dozen golden and gem-like studs and earrings, and a mane of black hair which was intricately and tightly braided into a thick tail which reached the small of his back, tied together with bands of golden twine. But what truly took his breath were the decorations on the rest of the body.

    His body looked like a canvas. Painted with strange pigment or etched and carved into the skin with tattoos and scars so intricately connected that it was hard to tell when one item ended or another started. Most were repeating geometric parents, giving them the appearance of blue and red scales, but there were also minimalist designs or beasts and small four-fingered handprints; some strange cypher dominated his forehead. Dozens of pendants of different sizes and lengths of chain hung from his neck. His shoulders and arms were armoured with pauldrons fashioned after reptilian skulls and bands of bronzen gold and covered with ivory and bone, but otherwise his decorated chest was bare, giving the startled Tilean a good look at his defined and lithe chest.

    From his waist all the way to below his knees hung a strange skirt, made of ivory, scales, obstinate and bone, sewn to each other and into the underlying leather with golden staples. The entire structure hung from a large belt buckles with a large symbol of a sun set within an octagon.

    The man walked barefoot, but his ankles were decorated by bracelets which chimed like bells with every step.

    Of course, beyond the strangeness of this individual, what the man held on his right hand was what finally kickstarted the adventurer’s reaction, making him fall on his back and attempt to worm his way towards the soldiers he knew were behind him.

    With the bottom of its saft in the tan man’s right hand, and the top of it resting in the pauldron of the same arm, laid an enormous halberd of unmistakingly reptilian design and craft.

    A long blade of onyx-like stone, sharp as a knife, was socketed within a large piece of gold, which itself was armed with claw-like spikes. The top of it was armed with a large beak on one side, and a jade-like mace on the other.

    [​IMG]

    It looked like a cruel weapon. It was a cruel weapon. Built to mangle and rip into as many enemies as possible with every single strike.

    Once the warrior reached the Estalian in the V formation’s middle, he simply looked at him.

    Scrutinizing, analyzing, calculating…

    Suddenly, he hefted the weapon. Jerónime screamed, trying to cover his body with his limbs but failing due to his shackled state. He closed his eyes. For the second time that day, his life was spared, for when he opened his eyes, he saw that the weapon was less than a forearm's length away from him.

    The warrior had simply let go of it in order to free up his hands, but the weapons size and weight were so great that the momentum of the fall had stabbed it deep into the soil.

    De Lerma, however, had little time to contemplate this, for an instant later he felt a hand wrap around his neck and, with a great tug, hoisted him up by it.

    The man was so tall that, just keeping the Estalian at his same height meant that he was practically hanging him from his neck, his legs kicking ineffectively as he tried to gain some sort of footing or slip out of the iron tight hold.

    The fingers holding onto his neck and depriving him from breath were ringed, cold metal and sharp, razor-like, nails dug into his skin.

    The man brought him closer.

    “Please…” He wheezed, the stranger did nothing, his stare emotionless and still.

    Only when it was clear that he would soon suffocate did the man grab him by his torn up undershirt with his left arm, releasing enough of the pressure so that he could take in a few gulps of air.

    “You stole from us.” The voice was cold. Emotionless. And spoken with a strange cadence and guttural accent.

    It hadn’t been an accusation or question. Merely a statement of fact.

    “I-I-ahgh!” Before he could finish the sentence, the pressure was back.

    “Where are they?” The being turned his head to look at the man behind Jerónimo.

    “In his ship, we have confiscated it.”

    Another emotionless nod.

    “Is everything you stole from the Temple of Kara in your ship?” This time the question was directed at the raider.

    And for the first time, emotion. Contempt, utter disgust. Blue eyes stared into his soul, disturbingly, the man’s irises were surrounded by a golden corona. It wasn’t that part of his iris was golden, it was that between his iris and the white of his eyes there was a literal thin band of swirling fluid gold. It was thin enough that it could only be seen from such as short distance. But he could see it, and it terrified him.

    Jerónimo wasn’t stupid, he knew when answering honestly was the right thing to do.

    “N-no, I sold a couple in Port Reaver, I-”

    “TO WHO?” The grip on him somehow became tighter. The gold felt so cold that it burned.

    “Co-conrad de Vienne! He works for a collector in Ack-ack-” As he tried to finish the sentence, he ran out of air. Only then was he again given a respite.

    “Aquitaine! He probably still has them; they only send his finds back home every few months! Please! Let me go! I-I swear by Myrmidia I will never again-ack!”

    He was moved aside, literally, still held by the neck, the warrior moved his hand aside in order to have a clear view of the General Governor.

    “Our terms have not changed, if the artifacts are not all placed in our care before sunrise tomorrow, Sudburg will be punished.... However, we will exclude from these conditions the two items which you cannot physically return.”

    “I believe that to be fair, Herald of the First ones. I assure you that before midnight every single item on that ship will be delivered, some of my men are already working on it.” The man nodded, sparing a glance at the choking Estalian.

    “Acceptable.”

    “If I may ask, do… Do you want the men under his command delivered to you as well?”

    That garnered a confused look, which for such an emotionless face only meant a raised eyebrow.

    “If the items are returned, no punishment is needed.”

    It was Siegmund’s turn to raise his eyebrow, as he glanced at the now limp man.

    “Fair enough. I believe our business is concluded?”

    “Yes, it is.”

    Only then did the left hand open. The body of Captain Jerónimo De Lerma, one of Lustria’s greatest and best adventurers, dropped into a lifeless heap onto the soil.

    Almost instantly, a great shape broke the stillness of the treeline’s canopy. It was a large bird, a rylok. Lustria’s equivalent to the Old World’s vultures and carrion birds. But this one was unlike any other ryloks (or condores, as he had heard them be called by Estalians), vulture or bird of prey Armbruster had ever seen.

    This one, the Herald’s companion, was a massive beast, easily the largest one he’d ever seen. And while most of Lustria’s carrion eaters he’d seen were ugly beasts. This crested raptor sported a “mane” of blue feathers and a face that reminded a man of a setting sun. It’s wings were of deep blue colours, azures and cobalts.

    [​IMG]

    The beast was unique, or at the very least, no explorer he had broached the subject with had ever heard of a rylok of such description before.

    He had never asked the Herald about it.

    He would not ask about it today either, merely looking away as the carrion bird pecked at the corpse’s blue-tinged face. Tearing off strips of skin and flesh.

    The Herald simply took hold of his weapon and started walking back towards the treeline. Only stopping for a moment to call for his beast, which promptly abandoned the disfigured body and flew towards its master, landing on his pauldron and making itself comfortable.

    “Always a pleasure to deal with you Roland!” He shouted, making a gesture for his men to stand at ease.

    The Herald turned his head around to look back with a teasing smile which showed too many teeth.

    “Likewise Governor, the Lord of Pahuax is greatly pleased by your willingness to collaborate. And please, tell priest Oswald that I haven’t forgotten about that meal he owes me!”

    “Only if you send your sister my regards.” He laughed loudly to compensate for the increasing distance.

    “I find this trade fair!” Were the Herald's parting words, raising his great weapon as a salute and disappearing into the treeline. As he did, the entirety of it seemed to shake as their hundreds of spectators followed suit, heading deep into the greenery.

    A few minutes later, as he and his men reentered the city and watched it come back to life now that the catastrophe had been avoided, he was queried by one of his men, the young Bernart.

    “Sir, what… What do you think will happen to Port Reaver? Will they…?” He asked shyly.

    “If they are clever,” He explained. “They will do what we did.”

    “And if they don’t?”

    The Norlander general looked around, at the lively city he called home. Deep in thought.

    “Then we will have one less problem to deal with.” He answered finally with a smile. Half sardonic, half somber.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2022
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  4. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Hell of a way to start uh? ;)

    Thanks of course my friend Smiley who provided the awesome illustration for the big birb!

    I hope you enjoyed the story and I honestly appreciate all and any comments or reactions you may be gracious enough to gift me!

    As an aside, it would be great if, if you enjoyed the story that is, you took a second of your time to go over to ao3 and left a kudo and a commnet over there, since it is my main posting site (where by the way chapters of this story will be posted a day early).
     
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  5. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Note to self: MUST READ IT. :D
     
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  6. Paul1748
    Saurus

    Paul1748 Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting. Didn't expect a human to be the herald of the First. I wonder how he would interact with other races of the First, and maybe he could make some close friends with them. By the way, the illustrations are a nice touch.

    Done. Keep up the good work!
     
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  7. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Thanks for the kind words and the AO3 kudos!
     
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  8. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Very original and intriguing. I like it very much and i hunger for more.

    A brilliant beginning for what appears to be an epic journey!
     
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  9. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Do not worry! For work on ch1 starts this very weekend!
     
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  10. Imrahil
    Slann

    Imrahil Well-Known Member

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    * Reminder to read this later *

    Grrr, Imrahil
     
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  11. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Chapter 1: Marching Band

    “Very little is known of what events or actions triggered the razings of Dalmark, Cadavo or dozens more of the many now forgotten failed settlements dotting Lustria’s eastern shores, conjecture and folk tales making up most of the paltry sources we historians must make use of.

    Much more is known about events such as the First (901 IC) Siege of Skeggi… Carnskeg for those of you who haven’t done the recommended reading. Or the Port Reaver Raid (2420 IC). These, like other recorded raids against still standing human and elven settlements, all have concrete casus belli behind them, these motives being perceived slights or crimes perpetrated by the polities against the native population, most often in the form of theft. The validity and legitimacy of which we will explore in later lectures.

    While the Skirmish Centuries-name by which I will be referring to the aforementioned period from now on- were indeed as tumultuous as one might imagine... In hindsight we must recognize how these punitive raids paled in comparison against the campaigns, battles and massacres which would eventually be seen throughout Lustria during the Judgement War.”

    -Excerpt from the Collected Lectures on Lustria by Gottlieb Ochsner. Volume I: Overview of Lustria’s States.


    Jungles of the Salamander’s Cove, Near Sudburg, Isthmus of Lustria
    12th of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/40.0.9.9.15. 6 Men. 7 Sotz’.

    Roland leisurely made his way through the foliage, experienced feet took him through the invisible pathways created and maintained by the greenery’s denizens, like meandering streams which would eventually join the rivers that were Lustria’s ever changing pathways. Every now and then he employed his halberd, sometimes like a glorified walking stick, sometimes he’d drive the obsinite blade into a fallen log or the side of a tree to catapult or swing his body around an obstacle. Mostly he used it to clear the path of branches and long grasses. More to the benefit of his smaller companions than for himself.

    There were 15 skinks around him, close enough that he could feel their familiar presence. They made their way alongside him, some taking the easy route and using his trail, but had he looked around he knew less than half would actually have been visible through the thick underbrush.

    Ottagar and himself had taken a good two hundred with them to the warm-blood city some days before, to keep an eye out for any foul play. Just in case.

    They weren’t moving in formation, it wasn't necessary now that the situation had been assessed and a satisfactory conclusion had been brought to the wretched thieving filth. Instead, a loose and wide column of saurus and skink warriors made their way inland, each cutting his most optimal path.

    Ottagar had ordered Boqgor to stay with 5 warriors and twice as many Skinks to retrieve Kara’s artifacts. agreeing with Roland’s assessment of the unlikeliness of a betrayal from the angaz-wearers.

    Roland found himself smiling against his knowledge, a strange instinctive habit he had inherited from his warm-blooded cousins. He had a reason to nonetheless. Justice had been made today and a just settlement had been reached.

    A voice at the back of his mind relished on the fact that he had been spared the infelicitous task of having to call for more drastic measures.

    Another voice, hidden behind the first one, a shadow of a shadow, gloated over and cherished the memory of a neck in his hands, of feeling a heartbeat climb and climb and climb… And drop. Of taking a life with the certain knowledge of its deserved fate.

    His smile disappeared as he mentally scolded himself. That kind of bloodlust and vengative rage was undesirable outside of battle. It was inadmissible for one of his duties as executioner and rank as Herald.

    He shook his head, trying to dispel the unwelcome thoughts.

    “Mahrlect.” He chastised himself.

    Soon enough their procession swelled in size, the full contingent of warriors who had stalked the city converging on their leaders as they marched northwards. The scattered parties coalesced into a true warparty.

    Once they left cover and entered one of the wider paths, large footprints indicating that it had been created by a stegadon herd, the dozens upon dozens of cold-bloods were able to pick up speed, unhindered by their beloved wilderness, and march side by side. Roland listened as small-talk started to pop up. A couple of red-crested green skinks made small talk, joking about a third Skink who, from what he could gather, had been ordered into a scouting party and thus missed the chance to participate in their mission.

    A few paces behind himself, a Saurus complained about his poorly balanced mace to an accommodating skink, who assured his larger fellow that he knew exactly the goldsmith to tweak it to geometric perfection.

    Roland stayed mostly to himself, answering to the cordially asked question of a couple of courier skinks. One asked him about the information he had gathered on the whereabouts of the rest of the artifacts, which he answered easily enough. The second one’s question concerned whether there’d be any change in the supplies they would need for the rest of their mission. That one he directed to Ottagar.

    But soon enough he found true company for the remainder of the day’s marching. More accurately, company found him.

    With a powerful beating of wings, a heavy weight landed on his pauldron. He adjusted his position and posture to accommodate for it with the instinctive practice of a lifetime.

    As soon as the Blessed Rylok’s wings furled and it got its comfort, Roland was greeted with a vengeful and vindictive peck to the side of his head, just above his left ear.

    “Hey! Stop that!” He chastised, he could feel a trickle of blood dribble onto his helix. The shameless bird stared at him for a few seconds, then tried to peck him a second time with a petty squawk. This time he was able to dodge by twisting his neck, and after letting go of his weapon so it’d rest against a tree’s side, he fought back by flicking the rowdy carrion bird’s beak.

    The exchange continued for a good minute longer until they both settled for a truce, with the bird settling down and letting himself be pacified with a good amount of neck scratches. Of course, the animal continued to look at him with what only could be described as feline entitlement. How a feathered raptor could succeed at that, only Tepok knew.

    So there he was, Greatest Amongst the Fourth Race, Lord Tleconexquiza’s Herald… And he was offering explanations and an apology to an animal whose preferred food item was putrid flesh.

    “I know Tlahui, I know, I would have let you eat your fill… But you know time is of the essence and we’d be ill advised to make a scene now of all times!” He argued.

    His flying companion regarded him with a pointed stare. For someone of Roland’s stock that was as good as a full sentence.

    “Don’t you dare bring up the accord you insolent bird! We both know the circumstances that day were very different from today’s!” He defended his position.

    Finally, the animal relented and, after some mandatory preening, the vulture leapt off and took flight, quickly catching some unseen air current and gaining altitude until he was nothing more than a dark blue spot in the heavens, only visible when he flew under the white clouds.

    Only then did he notice that he had gathered a bit of an audience. To his right, on the pathway, a couple of Sauri and a few more Skinks were looking at him and at the rest of the onlookers.

    To his left, were the felled trees which had been pushed aside by the massive herbivores now long gone and the jungle met, dozens of curious eyes stared at him. Lizards, snakes and amphibians of all denominations looked at him from the forest floor, while a couple of monkeys and a gaggle of colorfully feathered birds looked at him from the branches.

    The moment he grabbed his glaive, the menagerie disbanded. Flying, crawling or swinging away. The charm broken.

    He paid no attention to his first brethren. He was used to those kinds of stares. Not judgmental, mistrustful or fearful. Unlike his warm-blooded kin, the First were above such trivalistic nonsense.

    He knew that if he looked back at them, there’d be nothing but honest curiosity in them.

    After all, one doesn't meet a Blessed By Itzil everyday. And much less a warm-blood.

    Honest curiosity, wetheas a First would have been honoured for such a gift, he was regarded with honest curiosity.

    He hated it, another reminder, just like the warm blood that had already clotted and dried up on the side of his head.

    Another reminder of the truth.


    That evening Roland enjoyed a warm meal together with a few Skinks, two of which were elated to see him accept the offer to touch up his paints. Paints usually lasted for months in the skins of Saurus, Skinks or Kroxigors, and often couldn’t or wouldn’t be redone until they completely disappeared or one molted.

    But Roland’s skin, naked and (even worse) sweat producing as it was, meant that if he wanted to stay decorated (which he most definitely did) he was dependent on getting his paints redone and fixed weekly (or even daily) if he could the time to. His only other option for more permanent skin decoration being his scars, which had obvious drawbacks.

    Of course, not everything was a drawback. His-and his siblings’- skins had made them favourites among the many Worker Caste Skinks of artistic inclinations in Pahuax and the surrounding region. Giving the artists and paint-makers a chance to have living practice canvases and the breathing room to make mistakes had done wonders for their creativity. And he could not count the times fellow warriors had expressed envy at the fact that he could just… Change. That if there was a celebration honouring Sotek, he could just cover himself in red serpents. That he could turn his skin into a lake to honour Tzunki’s gifts.

    And even even Warrior Castes, like the one drawing a python wrapped around his arm right now, enjoyed the pleasure that was the chance to engage their more imaginative side.

    Of course, the warm fire and delicious meal of roasted fish only heightened the experience. Somewhere, in the jungles nearby, he could feel Tlahui enjoying his own meal. Together but separate, like always.

    The large rylok feasted upon what remained of a boar, probably killed by one of their very war party’s many foraging bands. The animal probably had forgiven him by now, enjoying what Roland could guess were some delicious guts did that for even the feistiest of raptors.

    Knowing him, the condor would be back to his side before midnight, the animal enjoyed the heat the human provided and he would always welcome the calming presence that his lifelong companion offered even on the darkest of moonless nights.

    But the relaxation would not last, or more accurately, they could not afford allowing it to last.

    Before him, making his way into the small clearing he and the 5 Skinks had been using to spend the night, appeared the large shape of the party’s largest Saurus, Ottaga.

    Ottaga wasn’t one for many decorations. Beyond some golden plating on his back and head crest, the dark blue warrior was quite the ascetic Saurus. It made sense considering his background, Ottaga came from the southern reaches of the Creeping Jungle and was the kind of warrior who just moved from temple city to temple city and from camp to camp. He had only been living in the region for the last five years, and he and Roland had only met after being given their orders to track down the thieves a moon ago.

    He had been an unknown in Pahuax, one of many newcomers who had been inspired by Lord Tleconexquiza’s bellowing call. But a Saurus didn’t receive the kind of golden armour or shield medallions Ottoga wore without the experience of might to truly deserve them.

    The warrior let go of his large blade, letting it rest by one of the Skinks, who took hold of the weapon and started examining it, fueled by that curiosity which permeated their kind from the most humble wood worker to the mightiest Starseer.

    [​IMG]

    The warrior greeted them with a low rumble, two of the Skinks changing their resting places in order to allow him to sit by Roland. One also offered a skewered fish to Ottaga, which he accepted (would have been dumb not to with how Roland’s own portion had been). They sat in comfortable silence while the Saurus ate his portion and Roland’s new friend did the snake’s last details, adding a forked tongue.

    Eventually, Ottoga started drawing on the ash left by the still burning fire. Said fire had already served its purpose in cooking and would not be fed further, nights in Pahualaxa were never cold enough to need them. But it still had enough fuel to aid them in one last thing.

    It was soon obvious to Roland that the warband leader was drawing a simplified eastern coastline of the isthmus. And once he was done, he pashed the stick to Roland.

    “The warm-blood city is…” He led Roland.

    “Here.” Roland drew a dot on the largest outcropping area in the Salamander’s-or Settler’s-cove.

    “And the one where they claimed the rest of Kara’s gifts are being kept in?” Ottoga continued.

    This time Roland drew a second spot in the middle of a wide bay to the northeast of the first spot.

    [​IMG]

    “What does Port Reaver mean Herald?” Was the follow-up question. It was jarring to hear the Reikspiel word in the middle of a fluent conversation in Saurian. He had given Ottoga the warmblood names for all the settlements they could potentially visit in one of their first conversations.

    Roland thought for a moment before explaining. “Reaver… A reaver is like a thief, a plunderer, but while a thief will try to avoid being found, a reaver steals openly and with even less shame. A thief sneaks into a temple and tries to leave it seemingly undisturbed, a reaver will try to break the temple’s walls so he can more easily carry its contents out.” He offered.

    “And they openly named their city after their crimes? Have they no… Have they no shame?!” Ottoga snarled.

    “Why wouldn’t they,” Roland shrugged. “They do not believe their own kind will punish them for their slights against their own, much less against the Great Plan. And they have been correct for hundreds of years, if not because of a lack of intention, then because of a lack of resources.” He contemplated.

    He could remember clearly of many an occasion from his visits to Sudburg in which warmbloods such as the Governor General would complain about the lawless state of Port Reaver. Or men like the skittish Sigmarite Oswald lamenting the “rampant heresy” of Swamp Town.

    Ottoga remained silent for a few moments, mulling over Roland’s explanation. Until eventually he asked the one question Roland did not wish to answer.

    “I agreed to your plan of seeking parley with the walled city because I saw no harm in trying, and then I found myself pleased to see that I would not have to fight a needless battle… But I also did so after hearing you speak of the other times the warm-bloods within its walls have behaved as they should in our march from Pahuax… You spoke of no such way of this Thief Port.” The Saurus looked at him.

    Sitting they were of equal height, and standing Roland only was slightly taller due to his straight back. Roland didn’t stare back, instead choosing to stare up unto the starry sky. The constellations unveiled none of their secrets to him, but they did offer a welcome calmness.

    “The Fourth are… Strange, unpredictable, sometimes they can be as loyal to the Great Purpose as us without knowing it, and sometimes they can be as rotten as Anathema itself.” He sighed. “Port Reaver opens its gates to them all.”

    “But which ones will answer when you call for them to bring us Kara’s Gifts?” Ottoga asked the most important question.

    “Only Sotek will tell… But…”

    “Yes?” Ottoga prodded him.

    Amber eyes met gold-bolted blue ones. For a second one of the Skinks watching their leaders parley could have sworn in the name of Lord Tleconexquiza that the golden circlet had grown.

    “But just in case, send couriers out, to look for scouting parties, and to the Monoliths...we may need their help in… Making sure demands are understood.”

    Ottoga’s response was to extend his arm, the Skink who had taken hold of his obsinite blade giving it back. With a lazy swipe he destroyed the upper part of his sand map as he stood up, dragging its weight and creating a valley in the ash pile.

    Wiping “Port Reaver” from the map.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2022
  12. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Apologies for the late chapter, this was meant to be posted here on the 30th but real life got in the way... Hope it was a nice read still!

    I hope you enjoyed the chapter and I honestly appreciate all and any comments or reactions you may be gracious enough to gift me!

    As an aside, it would be great if, if you enjoyed the story that is, you took a second of your time to go over to ao3 and left a kudo and a commnet over there, since it is my main posting site (where by the way chapters of this story will be posted a day early).

    P.s. Ottoga's design is based on the mini shown above, painted by my friend Legion over on discord. I plan on basing as many of the lizardmen characters as possible in miniatures by him and another friend of mine. If you are interested in me adding your own designs to the roster of candidates I'm recieving, feel free to ask for more details privately
     
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  13. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Oh, indeed it was! the story is draggin me into it, even if the excerpt at the beginning of the chapter doesn't give many doubts on... certain developments. ;)
     
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  14. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Chapter 2: Scouting

    “There are few things as dangerous to a man who ventures into Lustria as thinking himself safe in his base.”
    -Common saying amongst adventurers, originally coined by Tilean explorer Fortunato Di Martini (2380-2439) after a failed expedition.


    Port Reaver, Settler’s Cove, Isthmus of Lustria
    20th of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/40.0.9.10.3. 1 Ak’b’al. 16 Sotz’.

    Stefan reached the alley in a full sprint, to the point that he almost skidded to the ground when he made the last tight turn on his space route.

    Last time that had happened he had both gotten himself covered in mud (one of the reasons why he no longer did hit and runs anymore) and gotten caught by the man he’d stolen from. That Tilean man had given him the third hardest beating of his life and two chipped teeth.

    But as he made the bend, and ran his last stretch, the raving and coughing of the kislevite he had stolen the pouch from became more and more distant, simultaneously making the odds of a new beating to add to the ranking smaller and smaller.

    He entered the Blushing Maiden, the whorehouse John’s mom worked at, from the backdoor, greeting the ladies who were not working at the moment.

    The arrangement was a convenient one: Johnny Bent-Ear’s mom, the eponymous Blushing Maiden, got half of whatever a member of her son’s gang got if they used her business as a hiding spot. And the whorehouse was just a street away from one of the Bentear’s second best stealing spots, a specially busy and cramped intersection of many between the unplanned streets of Port Reaver. Perfect for inconspicuously bumping into someone or for getting lost in the crowd after just snatching whatever hung from a belt with a running start, Stefan’s favorite technique.

    Of course, Stefan wasn’t dumb enough to run directly towards the Maiden, his route had entire loops around multiple buildings to it.

    He inspected his loot, finding a dozen kislevite silverine coins and almost twice as many copper coins decorated with bears and eagles inside the worn down and well used pouch. A good find, the best of the day to say the least.

    He gave Martha the Maiden her and her son’s “half” (they wouldn’t miss a couple less copper coins) and prepared to wait out until it was safe enough to attempt another run.

    A bit less than a fourth of a timekeeping candle, he had learned, was enough that almost anyone who tried finding thieves like him after getting robbed would have already given up by now.

    And experience, also known as the second hardest beating, had taught him that any man willing to wait for longer than that, as uncommon as they were, would have waited for days or weeks anyways. So there was really no reason to wait longer.

    He walked out into the beautiful, sunny, rank smelling and disease ridden street of Port Reaver.

    What a day to be a thieving street rat! He thought to himself as he made his way towards the beautifully named Butcher street, not to be mistaken for The Butcher's street. The first, you see, was named after the refutable profession of most of the men who had set up businesses there.

    The second, almost on the opposite side of the city in fact, was named after one of Port Reaver’s most well known “businessmen,” Pieter The Butcher. Whose profession was far from refutable.

    In a few minutes he reached the point in which Butcher Street crossed paths in an almost straight line (there wasn’t a single truly straight street in a city built by pirates) with the Dead Man’s Way.

    The Dead Man’s Way, one Port Reaver's three main roads, had received its uplifting name due to the fact that it ran from the port and markets southeast all the way through the city to the opposite side. It connected with the gatehouse and the almost two meter tall walls around the city, the only part of the city the pirate merchant lords took care to maintain.

    To him though, that simply meant that there was a street anyone who wanted to buy fresh (or not that fresh) meat in the city had to visit… And it crossed with the one used by the hundreds of adventurers and hunters arriving or leaving Port Reaver on a daily basis.

    Exactly the kind of congestion that made his job oh so easy.

    Men returning with sacks, bags and pouches filled with valuable goods. Men who, more often than not, were exhausted or even wounded enough that a scrawny kid like him could outrun them.

    And today, even with how much traffic had lessened over the last few years according to the older Bentears, the crossing was packed with possible targets.

    All he needed was to be patient (and inconspicuous enough) to find a good target.

    Because worthwhile targets were all over the place, people just had to walk around with coins in their pockets if they wanted to get anything done. A random person he chooses, unless he chooses a fellow vagrant of course, would have something worth snatching as long as he was clever and fast enough to get his hand into the right place.

    A good target, on the other hand, was someone who looked easy, like that returning Kislevite who( despite his size) visibly looked like he had caught something and that it was not going to be pretty. And no sick man would be able to outrun him.

    It didn’t matter if an easy target had little to no loot on him. A pouch which turns out to be empty was always better than a loaded one if you ended up getting a purple eye for it. So he continued looking for a good target. Hiding in plain sight with a group of other kids, mostly Bentears like him but one was a butcher’s kid who had provided for them to have a game of knucklebones.

    It took him two games, with three of the other players cycling out to make their own businesses and dealings. But he eventually found a good target.

    And boy was it good.

    The guy stood out in the crowd like a bugless cot at the orphanage. And much like one of those (honestly non existent) sleeping spots, the thing that made him stand out was the fact that he was just grossly clean. No sweat marks, no grime, no stains on his shirt. Like a prissy princeling from the merchant’s quarter.

    He was tall, which only made his purposefully plain and oversized clothes look even more painfully out of place.

    In a city like Port Reaver, you either wanted no one to be able to recognize you if you were someone like Stefan, or you wanted everyone to notice you. If you were an adventurer, or a pirate-merchant lord, then you sure as hell made sure that you were ready for what that attention would get you.

    And this idiot certainly wasn’t. Stefan, it seemed, had hit it big. Because if his instincts were right (and they usually were) what he was looking at, all uncomfortably pushing through the crowds and constantly looking for something like a lost puppy... He had to be the classic example of the successful merchant’s coddled sonny, looking to have some fun in totally inconspicuous clothes. Because clearly there was nothing suspicious about the oversized large-brimmed hat or the long sleeves in the middle of the day...

    He had probably spent the night in whatever establishment had managed to entice him most and was now trying to make his way back to daddy dearest. Probably half as heavy or even more in gold.

    But, by Stefan’s accounting, still enough to share with a poor orphan boy.

    So he forfeited the game, got up, and took position.

    Run, bump into, scream about “being sorry sir” and just tug and keep running. And hope for the best.

    So he ran, bumped into the tall guy, who felt more solid than he had looked like, and found purchase on a… Bronzen? Bronze ring that connected a beautifully heavy-feeling leather pouch.

    So he tugged and… And found himself, heels firmly dug into the dirt, hanging from the man’s belt-pouch. So he looked up, craning his neck, and greeted the confused man with a roguish, if scared, smile and a:

    “Oops?”

    The man only had time to raise his eyebrow and emote a confused “Uh?” Before Stefan, heart pounding in his chest, made another attempt to break the pouch’s lip and finally heard the riiip he had been looking for.

    He managed not to lose his footing when the force suddenly released and booked it.

    He weaved his way through the crowds, eliciting offended grunts and surprised yelps as he stepped over boots and grabbed onto anything, be it hair or a sleeve, to boost himself forward.

    Usually he would be hearing the well known call to apprehend a thief or to “get back here you bastard!” he was used to.

    But this time nothing came, not that, no sound of a pursuing revenge seeker. Nothing. And that bothered him more than any ax wielding Kislevite could.

    Jungles of Pahualaxa, Near Port Reaver, Isthmus of Lustria
    20th of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/40.0.9.10.3. 1 Ak’b’al. 16 Sotz’.

    The river he was bathing at, by his reckoning, was a slow moving tributaire of the Toskitl, perfect for his needs. Had he followed its course he would have eventually reached the rapids which gave their voice to the Head Monoliths. But here the waters were tranquil and clean. Perfect for a long bathing session and a lot of scrubbing.

    Enough to remove every single bit of paint beautifully decorating his skin. He hated it, he hated it as much as he hated having to take off his earrings and studs, which together with the rest of his belongings were now under the care of Tek’Qila, the very skink who had touched up his paints a few nights ago, and stored in one of Wajgrani’s sisal rope baskets.

    [​IMG]

    But had he not gone through the step of making himself as inconspicuous as possible, he knew his task would end in failure.

    Didn’t mean he enjoyed having to behold his bare skin in the reflections created by the water.

    “Might as well…” He muttered to himself before turning around. On the shoreline, a few dozen Skins were working, most were either fishing with nets and their spears from the riverbanks, with a few preparing what had already been caught. The rest were either working on mending different items, making use of the good lighting of the riverbank, and a few were crafting darts and javelins.

    “Any of you have a blade to spare, as thin and sharp as possible!” He asked, pointing at the dark fuzz growing on his lower face. One of the bunch who were fishing, a flat and tall fish skewered on the skink’s spear, warbled in recognition and went for the belt slung around his chest.

    Roland walked towards the skink, wading through the water and stretching his hand out, receiving the handle end of a thin obsidian blade.

    “Thanks!” He acknowledged, moving back towards the deeper waters in order not to disturb the fishing further.

    “It’s nothing lord herald!” The skink cheerfully responded as he himself climbed up a boulder where a basket full of already caught fish had been left.

    Soon after he got started working on lightly scraping the blade over his skin, starting with what had grown over his lips and cheeks and slowly and methodically working down his body, making sure to shave as much as he could reach on his way to the final stop that were his legs. There were of course some areas he just couldn't reach, those would usually be taken care of by his warmblood cousins back in Pahuax, but he could make do.

    It was as he rinsed the blade off(would have been uncouth not to) and was taking one last swim to fully rid himself of any hairs which could have stuck to his skin, that he heard calling for him.

    A skink, one of the warriors which had not been on the riverbank moments before, was signaling for him to come because his presence had been required by Ottoga. Roland briskly walked over the smoothed pebbles which covered the waters, making an effort to squeeze as much water as he could out of his hair (a task he failed at), shaking it off like a hog and quickly tying it into a messy braid.

    When he arrived at the clearing where Ottoga had ordered their main camp built, he quickly took in the reason why he had been called for.

    There were ten warmbloods in the clearing, immobilized of course, with their arms and legs still tied to the staff they had been carried with behind their backs. He could guess that resting on one’s stomach with their limbs bent behind themselves wasn’t the most comfortable position. But then again, trespassers weren’t in a position to protest such treatment.

    “One of our scouting parties apprehended them to the warmblood city’s northeast. About a fifth or a fourth of the total they ambushed” Ottoga informed him. “I don’t believe they will be of much use to the task, but I’d rather be sure of it, will you question them?”

    Roland nodded, taking in the pile of confiscated belongings to the side, he went to survey that first. Most of it wasn’t on note, arms, what pieces of clothing and armor had been removed, backpacks and bags of supplies. But he knew by now where to look, so he purposefully went for the one piece of equipment that seemed of the finest craftsmanship, finding a finely made satchel.

    Inside, carefully organized even if a bit jostled, was a collection of interesting items: A compass, a spyglass, a collection of papers he would have to remember to translate later, a few bags of coin and other such knick knacks… And a map; sure, a crude diagram of Pahualaxa’s northeastern reaches and coastline, but a map nonetheless. A map with a clearly marked point of interest.

    “They were heading towards the Ziggurat of Dawn!” He shouted, halfway twisting his head to the side but not fully taking his eyes off the map. “Or at least towards one of the lesser temples near it!” He amended.

    A chorus of growls was the response he got. With one, a local saurus’, rising above the rest.

    Roland looked at the skink who had been, like him, going through the pile of items.

    “Part of the party which caught them?”

    “Yes.” The skink chirped.

    “Which one did you take this from?” He asked, raising the satchel up by its shoulder strap.

    The skink responded by pointing at one of the figures, a lanky human (at least three of the other ones were of the third race).

    Roland pointed at one of the saurus and then at said man.

    “Bring me that one.” He commanded, the warrior quickly understood and, grabbing each end of the stick with one fist, hauled the limp body to Roland.

    The man, upon closer inspection, really did look like he was the stachel’s owner, his clothes, although muddied and torn, looked like they might have been of fine make at some point. The nose was clearly broken, but had probably been hooked at some point, and there was a tuft of hair growing from the man’s chin, two others (although tussled) grew towards the sides from just over his lips.

    Roland quickly untied him from the thick branch, but kept in place the knots around the man’s wrists, and hookining his arms under the man’s armpits, hauled him backwards until he was laid to rest with a tree’s trunk to his back.

    Roland squatted before the man.

    And slapped him.

    That awoke the fool, who fell to the side with what started as a gasp and ended as a confused shout-scream. Quickly Roland took hold of his upper arm and heaved him back into position.

    The man spoke in a language none of Roland’s cousins had taught him; his questioning, confused and scared tone however, gave enough of a clue as to what he was saying. Roland roughly placed his hand over the man’s mouth, applying light pressure and muffling the thief. It made for a good order across language barriers.

    “Reikspiel, do you speak it?” Roland asked in the most common of warmblood languages.

    The man nodded slowly, his eyes were wide like those of fish, their frantic motion giving away how he was taking in the scene surrounding him.

    “Good. Once I remove my hand, please don’t scream, all you’ll gain is irritating us, understood?”

    Another nod, Roland removed his hand, absentmindedly wiping it off of the man’s clothes. And noted with satisfaction how the man had heeded his advice, staying silent.

    “Now, you are going to answer my questions. And you will answer them with honesty.” He ordered. The man’s gaze moved downguards. At first that confused Roland, until he followed the captive’s gaze.

    Hastily shoved between two of the many lengths of cloth which made up the garment was the blade he had used to fix himself. In his haste to answer the summoning he had forgotten to return it.

    He looked back at the thief, at least it was helping him get his point across. Perhaps an amusing little gift of the Old Ones? No matter, he would return it once his current task was done.

    He went for the satchel, digging around it until he found the map again.

    “This, how did you get it?”

    “I bought it from a friend,” The man hurried to answer. “He told me that he had been part of a party that had found abandoned wealth in the area.”

    “Where is this friend?”

    “Back in-back in Sartosa, he retired…”

    That gathered a snarl from Roland, making him frown and show his teeth.

    Sartosa, he had heard of it many times before. A land like many others beyond the World Pond. A land where every port was a reaver port and every man was a thief.

    “Wealth, he told you he found wealth… He found our temples, he found our archives, our offerings to Chotec, and he took them with him.” Roland explained.

    “Yours? You mean…? You work for them!” The man explained, as if that had not been evident. Still, Roland did not waste spit or breath explaining that he wasn’t working for “them” but that he was one of “them.”

    Instead, he moved to the side, grabbing hold of the man’s head with one hand and pointing at the rest of the captives with the other. “Then, do they all serve you?”

    “Yes-yes, the dwarves left the Blackfish Docks with me, the rest I contracted here.”

    “Here where?”

    “On Port Reaver! On Port Reaver!”

    That, finally, caught Roland’s attention.

    So far, the man’s story had been just like those of the hundreds who he had seen walk to the top of Pahuax’s temples and never return. He had not asked them himself of course, too young to be trusted with said task. But his cousins and his siblings always talked about what they had learned when translating themselves.

    But now, knowing that the man had left Port Reaver, and recently at that, judging by the distance…

    “Ottoga!” He shouted, fluidly switching back to High Saurian. “You can send the rest to Pahuax, I only need this one!”

    Ottoga raised his claws in an agreeing gesture, quickly roaring out orders for a small detachment to do so.

    “And you… You are going to tell me much of what has happened to that rotting mass of wood you deem a city since my last visit…” He idly fidgeted with the thin blade as he explained.

    He would profusely apologize to the skink scout for his rude tardiness later. Much later. Well into the night, as a matter of fact.

    Port Reaver, Settler’s Cove, Isthmus of Lustria
    20th of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/40.0.9.10.3. 1 Ak’b’al. 16 Sotz’.

    The Bentears, per tradition, met up nightly. Just after dawn, so that any of the kids who had work to do in the dark would not be strapped for time.

    It was mostly just an excuse for them to unwind all together… And for Johnny Bent-Ear to collect his fare for letting the younger kids work in his and his main crew’s turf… Of course.

    That was why he had tried to avoid it today, because with what he’d found in the day’s last run… It could have fixed his life. No more going to bed hungry, no more sleeping in a moisty cot at the orphanage. Hello to warm full meals and having his own room!

    Except, except he’d opened his damn mouth and fucking shown off. And rumors, like a rumor about a Bent Ear with a bag full of gold, spread through Port Rever like a bog fire. Before he’d had time to hide or spend any of it, two of Jhonny’s older goons caught him and carted him off to the hideout. Not before giving him a purple eye of course.

    Of course, the hideout wasn’t more than a side room in a weirdroot den owned by the Stragglers, the gang the Bentears were a literal cadet branch of. But it served its purpose, it kept the street rats all packed into every beam, barrel, nook and cranny they could use to rest while Johnny gave his “speech.”

    “-and this little shit!” He accentuated the shit part with a kick to Stefan’s back. “Thought it’d be okay to betray us! Betray me! Your big brother!” And another kick. By this point Stefan could not remember how many he’d received, or for how long he’d been crying and cowering in a fetal position.

    At this rate, Johnny would be taking first spot in the ranking by the end of the night. It had been foolish of Stefan to assume no man would ever surpass his father.

    “But don’tcha worry kids! Because Johnny and the Stragglers are here precisely to deal with these kinds of ungrateful little shits!”

    Stefan didn’t dare look up, but he could feel that Johnny, with his floppy right ear like a mutt’s, was rearing up his leg in order to deliver the mother of all kicks. He hoped this one wouldn’t be another one to the head, those were the worst ones.

    Instead he only got the loud sound of something hitting the leaky ceiling up above the Bentear meeting spot. And a second later, an explosion of sound from the already loud and rambunctious main room in the drug den.

    None of the Bentaear kids did anything, what could they do? Johnny was the oldest and he wasn’t even old enough to be inducted into the Stragglers. Most of them, orphans and street rats and bastards… Most of them had the instinct of flight ingrained on their eight, ten or fifteen year old skulls.

    But they didn’t even flee, frozen by the sound of fighting, of toppling and splintering chairs and breaking glass to do anything. It did give Stefan a much needed respite, which he used to slink and crawl back away from where Johnny was, like everyone, staring with wide eyes at the wall between them and whatever hell had unleashed .

    The sound subsided in a few minutes, the brawl and going and giving way to the sounds of pained groanings.

    That was until the limp body of a man, who Stefan recognized by his mostly-bald head as one of the three Stragglers who had been guarding the business that night, crashed through the door, almost tearing it off its hinges.

    His pitiful moaning was obscured by the children’s collective gasps of fear and surprise.

    But Stefan had run out of fear for the night, so he instead stared at the figure just beyond the door’s frame.

    A tall man, the tall man.

    Johnny Bent-Ear was first to act, and like the bully he was, his instinct was to pull a shiv out of his ratty trousers and run screaming at the man.

    BASH

    All it took was one punch, square against Johnny's head, a bit above his cheek. The seventeen year old crashed against the ground like a puppet whose strings had been cut, a heap of tangled limbs. Had the room been better illuminated than by just a few candles, Stefan would have seen the pool of dark liquid forming just where Johnny's head landed.

    Only then did the Bentears’ (who would probably be looking for a new name come morning) flight instinct truly kick in. Most went for the door directly leading to the alley behind the building. Others went for the windows, showing an agility most would not have expected from scrawny and underfeed kids like them. A few braved the door behind the tall man, their evasive maneuvers reminiscent of a fly’s.

    But Stefan was not one of them, the beating had taken too much life out of him.

    So he just stared as the man knelt beside the heap Johnny had become, rummaging through his clothes, until a certain clinking of coins in a bag was heard.

    A bag Stefan knew was filled with unfamiliar square and rectangular golden coins, decorated with geometric patterns he had never seen before in his years as a thief. The bag was filled to the point of obscenity, no wonder the other kids had caught him when he himself had been the one carrying it.

    He, very much against his will, let out a pained wimper. Which finally gave him, as shrouded in the room’s shadows as he had and as small as he had tried to make himself, completely away.

    “You…” The tall man with long hair said. Somehow being able to recognize him.

    The man rose, rehooking the bag into his belt as he did, and walked towards Stefan. Who tried with all his might (read, none) to crawl his sorry ass away.

    But the stranger didn’t go to grab him, merely inspecting him from up above, judging.

    “Why? Why do you steal? You steal from us wherever we go, whatever we carry… Why do you steal so much from us?” The man asked, his strange accent of hard cees and hissing esses alien to the boy. He didn’t understand much of what the stranger was saying, but he knew to answer a question when a man stood over him. Or else.

    “I… I needed it.” The fourteen year old whimpered, sniffing his own bloody snot.

    “For what?”

    “Fo-food?” He answered tentatively.

    The stranger with the blue-golden eyes did not respond, he just kept staring at the crying child.

    Maybe he lost consciousness, maybe he fell asleep, maybe both. But when he woke up the next morning, sore all over and with his skin covered in bruises, he found three pieces of rectangular gold, each as long as his finger.

    And maybe, just maybe, that’d be enough for a few good meals until there was a new gang to join.

    Many argued the following night, over drinks and puff of smoke, about who could have been responsible for beating up four Stragglers only not to steal their catche of weirdroot. The names of different gangs and pirate lordlings were passed around, with no good answer being found.

    But what was certain was that no one thought of the tall man in ill-fitting clothes who uttered the words “They don’t feed their own children.” Over and over as he stalked the streets of Port Reaver for the entire night.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2022
  15. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Apologies for the long wait, but studying for exams, the exams themselves and my beta catching covid all caused heavy delays... (Don't worry she's fine now)

    I hope you enjoyed the chapter and I honestly appreciate all and any comments or reactions you may be gracious enough to gift me!

    As an aside, it would be great if, if you enjoyed the story that is, you took a second of your time to go over to ao3 and left a kudo and a comment over there, since it is my main posting site (where by the way chapters of this story will be posted a day early).

    P.s. Tek’Qila's design is based on the mini shown above, painted by my friend FlyingScanian. I plan on basing as many of the lizardmen characters as possible in miniatures by him and the previously mentioned Legion. If you are interested in me adding your own designs to the roster of candidates I'm recieving, feel free to ask for more details privately
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2022
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  16. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Chapter 3: Brutal Pragmatism

    “As numerous as the tales of what has transpired beyond the treelines of Lustria are, from the whimsical and nonsensical, the detailed and grounded to the dark and esoteric, one must always remember that these tales are born from us children of Sigmar, Hyacinth, Grungni or Ursun and vastly differ from those of the Lizardmen.

    These legends, or at least the most famous ones, tend to have their origins as campfire or tavern tales that the first men who ventured into the New World told each other to pass the time or as boast of their own deeds. Tales such as that of the legendary Lost Eriksson, the Vampire Coast, the Folly of Prince Rodrik, the Legend of the Umbral Tide or the Sieges of Xahutec and the Sentinels have entertained men as far as Ind.

    But whereas tales of that category are most famous, the truth is that they are greatly outnumbered by a perhaps even more relevant but oft ignored category. Because for every grandiose tale of legendary battles, there are a hundred little ones concerned with much more small scale events. From the ghost stories told in Carnskeg about the revenants of its bloody past, to the fairy tales of Santa Magritta, the fables of Mur and the songs of the Citadel… Stories of creatures who stalk the crooked streets of Old Port Reaver, of the Lost Caravan of Sudburg… These are what truly makes up the cultural heart of the New World colonies. Not the stories adventurers tell each other during their expeditions, but the ones mothers tell their children every night and teenagers attempt to terrify their younger siblings with.”

    -Excerpt from Folk History of the New World by Cheslav Nevolin.


    Port Reaver, Settler’s Cove, Isthmus of Lustria
    21st of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/40.0.9.10.4. 2 K’an. 17 Sotz’.

    “What in the Lady’s name are you doing here Roland?” Nicolete hissed as she took hold of the large young man’s foreman and dragged him towards her tavern’s backshop.

    She had recognized him instantly. The wild man, the Governor-general and their usual assembly had used her father’s tavern as their designated meeting spot for as long as she had known them to hold such casual meetings. But she had not expected the man to appear in her tavern in a completely different city.

    She hoped that none of her patrons would think much of her dragging the man away just as he had stepped into her establishment. Hopefully he’d be assumed to be an unruly relative and not… Whatever the Herald actually was. At least they shared the same dark hair color. She could probably use that as proof if some drunkard got too snoopy for his own good.

    “I require information. I believe you can provide it.” The Herald answered as he walked around the room, paying no mind as she closed and locked the door. He inspected the different jars, sacks and kegs.

    “How did you find me?” She asked, she knew Roland was dangerous to deal with. But a couple years of seeing how her father dealt with him from behind the family tavern’s bar had taught her that deference would not help or hinder her unless she actually was in trouble, and if she was… She would already know.

    “Last time I visited the Canard Bleu you were not there, upon inquiry your father explained that you had left for Port Reaver. I had no reason to believe he was lying.” He explained while opening one of the jars lining the shelves, after an exploratory whiff, he brought its up to his lips and drank the contents in a couple gulps. She cringed but did not attempt to stop him from drinking the jar of imperial sauerkraut.

    “I mean how did you find my tavern? I didn’t even know you even visited Port Rever.” She continued questioning.

    “Your… Your tavern is named the Cygne Bleu?” He explained in mild confusion as he wiped his lips clean from pickling juice with his thumb.

    Oh… Yeah… That’d do it

    “Well, in any case… You said you needed assistance?” She composed herself.

    “Yes, there is a man I’m seeking. Conrad de Vienne, do you know of him?” He asked.

    Now came the actual dangerous part. Over the years of service she had seen how fine the line between a conversation and an interrogation was for the lizardmen-raised. She racked her memories of a year’s worth of gossip for the name. She had to give him everything even slightly useful lest he assume her unwilling to collaborate. At least she had until he finished another jar, this time pickled apple, to figure her answer out.

    “I think… He’s Bretonnian right? With that name?”

    “Yes, I believe he comes from Akwutayn.”

    “Ak-? Ah, Aquitaine. Well, I believe he’s a merchant? Probably based on the Grails? That’s where most of the Bretonian merchants have been doing business since King Borġ made a push for a bunch of them to set up shop permanently.”

    “Nothing else?” Roland walked up to her.

    “No, I’m afraid not, it’s not like the man’s ever come here… But…” She had to think of something quick. “If it suits you, I can ask around, the Blue Swan is fairly popular with Bretonnian sailors, one of them is bound to know.” She fidgeted.

    The man stared at her, the intimidating nature of his stare somewhat dampened, but not erased, by the very recent memory of him swallowing pickled cabbage. At least he didn’t get close enough that she was forced to smell his breath.

    “Yes… That is a suitable arrangement. I shall await here while you gather information.” Was his only response before he walked past her and back into the uncongested tavern. At least she received the small mercy of him arriving that early in the morning, thus saving her from having to explain their interaction to her husband. Leopold was better off not knowing or having to deal with the burden she seemingly had just inherited from her father.

    Because much like whenever the Herald had arrived at the Canard Bleu, the man simply picked a sunlit table next to one of the windows, reclined, and started sleeping.

    He reminded her of a basking lizard. And not in a cute way. Because he reminded her of a very specific kind of lizard.




    The day went as normally as Nicolete could have hoped for. Multiple customers did end up asking about the man dozing in the corner, but the “Oh that’s just my cousin from Sudburg” lie held up, mostly thanks to the fact that no one bothered to wake him up to get his side of the story.

    Leopold did enquire further, after all her husband had certainly not seen him at their wedding. Thankfully she hadn’t married him for his brains, so the simple excuse of him being a sailor had worked.

    People came and went, mostly Bretonnians as always, sailors from the homeland drawn in by her sign in her mother tongue instead of Sartossan Tilean. There were few Bretonnians who made a living in the Settler’s Cove’s older settlements, most emigrants had chosen the much more homely Bregonne or Mur down south. Her own family had only even settled in Sudburg after her great grandfather had been forced to leave Jeruga in disgrace.

    It could be… Isolating at times, at least in Sudburg her people had their own quarter. Here… Here not even her husband could speak her tongue, and she had quickly found after arriving with her husband to the city a year ago that the average Freeman who settled in Port Reaver was not the kind of Lady fearing man she would like to have dealings with.

    The sailors, at least, were a respite from the isolation, if a tad rowdy and crude. They craved interactions with a Bretonnian woman as much as she craved a conversation with anyone Bretonnian, and Leopold’s burly arms kept them perfectly chivalrous.

    Her casual “So, whose ship are you working on?” or “Any contracts on the horizon?” were answered earnestly by men who could not wait to rant about today’s slave driving first or second mate or whatever the latest news from the Old World were.

    The conversations were loud, for the sailors had no reason to believe there was any ulterior usefulness to their ranting and complaining. But if her guest was actively listening, she could not know. Although in all fairness, the man didn’t even speak their language to begin with.

    The morning of serving breakfasts and cheap alcohols became a midday of lunches and an afternoon of more drinking. Leopold mostly stayed in the backroom, cooking his stews, but came out to help now and then when she grew tired from the continuous cleaning and serving and recleaning and reserving. With the night came much drinking and little eating, but eventually men with ships to crew had to return to their floating quarters, a couple rented rooms above the tavern’s floor, and the few local drunkards were kicked out.

    “What have you learned?” His voice resonated across the room as she cleaned one of the tables with a wet rag. Leopold looked at their guest in confusion. Confused by both the contents and tone of the phrase.

    Like in the morning, Nicolete quickly dragged the outsider towards the backroom, giving her husband a strained smile and a look of “cousins am I right” as she closed the door.

    “Aren’t you supposed to be inconspicuous?” She accused.

    “When it is relevant to my success.” Was his only explanation. “What have you learned?” He asked a second time.

    “De Vienne is indeed one of the merchants at the Grails, he buys artifacts from pirates and explorers who can’t or won’t make the trip to Sartossa, then sells them in Barboza, Alquezaro and in a few ports on southwestern Bretonnia.” The mentioning of artifacts earned a growl. “His offices should be easy to find, the grails is a looping street, like a hoofprint, his building is almost in the middle but I don’t know exactly which one.” She finished.

    Roland internalized the information, pacing around the room. She hoped it was enough to get him off her back. Hopefully his business with Conrad would be over soon enough that he would not be returning.

    “Do you have nothing else?” He asked suddenly, to which her response was only to shake her head and avoid his stare.

    He continued pacing for a minute more, quietly muttering in what had to be his masters’ language.

    “Could you find more from tomorrow's men?” Was his final question.

    “... No, I don’t think so, my only source are sailors and the odd sellsword, and I don’t really think there’s a good chance one that has worked for him recently will be here just tomorrow, or that he will be looking to talk exactly about that…'' She fidgeted.

    “Well enough, I think this information will suffice.” He concluded, heading for the door.

    She felt the urge to step in between him and the door and ask what he even had needed the information for or what he was planning. But she had overheard enough conversations at the Canard to know better than to involve herself.

    Instead, she intended to let him through. but it was him who stopped, turning and pulling something from his belt. The movement made her gasp, but when she looked down, the blade she had expected was replaced by a hand digging into a leather pouch.

    “Your compensation for services rendered. I hope our relationship will grow like that of your father and the Governor’s.” He commented as he offered a few golden coins, rectangular and unmarked, to her, which she instinctively accepted . The metal was cold to the touch when it dropped on her open palm.

    Her father had been lord Siegmund Armbruster’s informant on the Bretonnian quarter for as long as the Imperial had held the position. They had met almost every week for years, or at least they had since she had memory.

    She really hoped that the unnerving Herald’s wishes would be dashed. When Leopold asked, her explanation was a simplified “Family issues.”




    The man was overweight, his dirty shirt poorly concealed his pot belly, his hair and beard were cut short. His left eye was swollen shut, not Roland’s fault, probably the results of some drunken brawl. His legs futilely kicked at Roland’s thighs, probably in an attempt to hit his knees and make him buckle, but the height difference rendered the attempt futile. The man’s nails dug into the skin of his upper arm, his entire body thrashed.

    For a third time, Roland drove the man’s back into the wall behind him, earning a pained grunt. The man responded by releasing one of Roland’s arms and attempting to shove it into his face, his middle finger pulling at the younger man’s eyelid. His counterattack was to bite into the space between the thumb and index finger. When the pain made the man attempt to retract his hand, Roland used his newfound freedom of movement to elbow the man’s head against the wall, on the second hit he felt the man go limp.

    Letting go of the dazed Bretonnian, who slowly tried to lower himself using the halleyway’s wall as a crutch, Roland stepped back and gathered his breath.

    “If you do not have any information on Conrad De Viviene, you could have merely said so.” He spat the man’s blood.

    “Put-putain de batard…” He growled as he landed on the floor holding his bleeding hand.

    Roland’s only response was to walk away.

    This was the third Bretonnian who had indeed not had information on the thief, but Roland had not yet lost hope.




    Port Reaver, Settler’s Cove, Isthmus of Lustria
    25th of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/40.0.9 .10.9. 7 Muluk. 2 Tzek.

    Fine Bretonnian Brandy was hard to find in Port Reaver. And by hard Conrad meant impossible.

    Port Reaver was a pirate port, Port Reaver didn’t do imports, much less fine imports. The Great Ocean may be a two way road but goods only flow one way in a place like the one he did business in. Anything import-like came from Sudburg, and even then those reboches kept most of the good stuff to themselves. No, if you wanted fine things, good brandy, good wine or good whores you had to be a pirate lordling at the least.

    At least the tobacco was cheap and good. He took another long draw. At least the tobacco was good and cheap.

    Sometimes he wondered why he had even left Aquitaine for this fetid swamp. Then he remembered how that bastard of a knight, Guilliame Ternant, had ran him out of the dukedom over fucking with the wrong woman. He could have fled to Bordeaux or Brionne, both host to ports he could have rebuilt his mercantile career in. But he was a born Aquitanian, he knew that Ternant would not tolerate his presence anywhere he could find him.

    Because that was what Conrad would have done in his place.

    So he had fled to the New World, and rebuilt here among the filth that floated on the broth’s surface. He had always wondered to himself whether he could have set up shop in Sudburg or even on a proper Bretonian New World port, but the first were superstitious cowards, and the second were too familiar.

    He still made business, selling Lustria’s seemingly unending supply of bizarre knicknacks to any lordling, earl or marquis looking to decorate his halls, with buyers in his home region, at the end of the day that was where his contacts were.

    He was dealing with some of that business right now. His latest cargament of waves was right now collecting dust in the vault under his very feet, waiting for him to find a trustworthy captain to carry him and his latest collection back home.

    Alas, trust was harder to find in Port Reaver than brandy, good or otherwise. He was looking at a couple prospective piratelings. A Sartosan cripple and a brother duo from Monte Castello. He was leaning towards the brothers, if they tried to backstab him he’d probably be able to pit them against each other enough to hightail it. But it would probably not come to that, he had his own muscle to bear.

    As he sat down on his office desk, he gave a cursory read to a yellowed paper containing a list of names. Port names, half a dozen major ones, the rest smuggling dens in Aquitaine. Those were the places where he had found prospective buyers on his last trip, so in this one the itinerary was to go through them until he ran out or reached Bordeleaux. Hopefully no peasant revolt in the coastal villages this year, those always hurt business.

    He yawned. The unexpected side effect of his office being on the same floor as his accommodations was that it encouraged him to stay at his office until late, pouring over his arrangements, reading from his sparse library in candlelight. He could not wait to get out of the cramped building and enjoy a few weeks in the high seas.

    “Hey! The fuck you think you are!” Came muffled shouting from the building’s entrance downstairs. One of his men, he recognized the babbling shouts of Big Erwin, must have caught another beggar attempting to sleep under the raised foundations.

    CRASH

    From behind him came the sound of breaking glass, and confirmation came in the form of a windowless frame. There was a rock on the floor, and smoll riverstone. He ran to the window, but thinking better than sticking his head out and getting it caved in, he pushed himself flush against the wall. Hoping to tackle whoever was about to climb in, he unsheathed the dagger on his boot. His cigar was forgotten, abandoned on his desk and scorching some of his papers.

    He could hear the commotion downstairs. Big Erwin’s angry shouts intermingled with Olaf’s shrill anger and Cipriano’s raspy confusion.

    They continued brawling with whatever muscle had been ordered to make a commotion while someone else sneaked into his office. The bastards probably expected him to be asleep. Well they were about to learn why no one stole from Conrad de Vienne.

    The unmistakable sound of someone scrambling up the wooden facade of his property made itself apparent.

    He just had to wait until the right moment… The right moment… Just…

    There!

    He sprang to action as the intruder’s shape attempted to jump over the frame. But his unexpectedly lithe quarry had an easy time avoiding his arching slash, aided by the fact that there was nothing at the height he had expected a throat to be at.

    And he was met by large inquisitive yellow eyes mounted on a rounded snout. A snout which in his second of confusion leapt forward and clamped around his nose.

    “AAAaaarhg!!” He shouted in agonizing pain, He stabbed blindly with his dagger as he tripped backwards, arms flailing, cartilage tearing.

    The blade found purchase on something, flesh, and the thing let go of what remained of his nose.

    “Ah! Argh! Gods damn AHHG” He shouted, whatever that thing had done to his nose disrtorted his voice with a wet and broken filter, it hurt so fucking much, his eyes were watering, but he managed to push through.

    The thing was short, barely a meter and a half and mossy green, initially it made him think of a goblin. But it could not be one, it was reptilian, with it’s crest and long tail and fucking snout.

    The thing was in pain too, he had managed to stab it in the arm, but unlike him kneeling on the floor it was already running at him, bloody blade discarded.

    Its arm was raised, and he could see the candlelight reflecting off whatever it was holding. Like stained glass.

    He raised his arms in time for it not to smash his brains open, but felt as the serrated blades dug onto his wrist.

    He was not going to win, that was clear, so he did what had to be done.

    “Please, please stop, I'll give you whatever you want!” He begged, sobbing and with his lower face drenched in his own blood.

    The thing did stop, not going for whatever its next strike would have been, instead it moved back, taking in the room as he crawled towards the door. It chirped and growled with a shrill voice, and then the rest came, answering an indecipherable signal.

    About half a dozen of the things clambered into and over the window, one ran for his assaulter, fuzzing over it, another clambered on top of the stool he had braced himself against, staring at him, growling quitely, keeping him under watch.

    The rest? They scrambled, all around the room, tearing it apart, opening every drawer, flinging his belongings to and fro.

    They were looking for something. They were not finding it.

    In his pain, he somehow managed to register that the commotion downstairs was no longer. And those loud footsteps were running upstairs? He could only hope it was Big Erwin coming up to check up on him after wringing the neck of these monsters’ master.

    But when the unlocked door was shoved open, startling one of the lizardmen into jumping in place, it was not one of his men who crossed the threshold. Instead a man, tall, young and of long hair. His shirt was stained with scarlet splatters, and he was holding Cipriano’s club, there was something stuck to it.




    When Roland stepped into the room, the first thing he noticed was Ra'kaka fussing over a wounded Tek’Qila.

    The second was that the rest of the pack was still searching the room, meaning that either the gifts were well hidden or somewhere else.

    The third was the bleeding and whimpering shape on the floor.

    “Where are they?!” He spat at the thief, he could be no one else.

    The man’s response was confused and pleading babbling, he wasn’t understanding him.

    “Where are the gifts of Kara?!” He asked again, this time in Bretonian and not Reikspiel. Warmblood tongues were a mess.

    “What?” The man reacted. “You, you want the gold? It’s downstairs, behind the cloth bolts, you can have all of it!” He bargained for his life.

    “You three.” He pointed at the Skinks who had just stopped searching the room. “With me. Ra'kaka put out the signal.” He ordered.

    As he hurried downstairs, followed by half the pack, he could hear the man continue to plead, losing energy and drowned out by Ra'kaka’s bird-like call.

    They are found. The signal meant. Retreat.

    In the end, he had not found a single man involved with the dead thief’s collaborator, so he had resorted to pragmatic tactics.

    There were eight hunting packs in total going through the buildings in the middle of the “grail-belt”, he had just gotten really lucky that the men he had used as a distraction and to cause a commotion had also led him to his quarry.

    From the open doorway he had smashed a body through minutes ago he could see the orange glow of flickering flames. Was another one of the buildings burning? He hoped the Skinks were all getting away.

    It took three doors to find the one with the large cylinders of cloth. And it took the help of two of the skinks to help him move them aside until a hidden chest was uncovered,

    No time to open it, voices could be heard on the streets. Time was running short. So he squatted next to it, took hold of the metal hoops on each side and heaved.

    “Mahrlect.” He swore under his breath, it was heavy.

    He slowly ambled upstairs, the three Skinks covering his retreat, he heard a voice, human, enter the building, but the swoop of a blowpipe and the thud of a body hitting the floor calmed him.

    By the time he reached the office, the fiery glow could also be seen from the second floor’s window. The rest of the pack had waited for them. He finally had to let go of the wood and metal contraption, its weight shaking the room. He took a moment to barricade it just in case, emplotying a Skink to help him tip a shelf in front of the doorway.

    He was about to pick the large strongbox for a second time when the robber’s voice stopped him.

    “Who… Who are you?” The man’s blood-choked voice wondered.

    He did not dignify it with an answer.

    He squatted and lifted again, this time the Skinks had enough room to help him maneuver the trunk to the window ledge.

    And down it went, smashing and splintering against the ground two floors below.

    Would have been a waste of time to attempt opening it beforehand.

    Voices. From the stairway.

    He didn’t need to order anything, by the time he was climbing down, using a rusted gutter to aid him, all the Skinks were already on the hallway floor below, grabbing up the contents of the chest.

    One, Quiriguá, held two items up for him to inspect, they were enormous, two comically oversized rings of bronzen gold. Each with dozens, perhaps more than a hundred, bracelets hanging from it.

    “Yes, yes! Let's go!” He statically confirmed.

    They had found the last two gifts of Kara.

    Behind them, the fire had extended, now the building just beside the one they had entered was burning in earnest.

    They ran, hundreds of gold coins and trinkets abandoned behind them, worthless in comparison with the gifts.

    Almost fifty Skinks plus him, running, clambering, crawling and scurrying through the maze of streets and sewers of Port Reaver. Overhead Tlahui guided them, making sure they would avoid the areas with the highest concrettartions of warmbloods. Even if the burning street behind them provided for ample distraction, it didn’t hurt to have some reassurance.

    Plus, the carrion bird was feeling weirdly cooperative after days of feasting on fresh Bretonnian.

    And a building, with a bleeding scrap of a man trapped in it, burned to the ground.
     
  17. Killer Angel
    Slann

    Killer Angel Prophet of the Stars Staff Member

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    Excellent, as always!
    worth the wait. ;)
     
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  18. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Thanks! ( ◜‿◝ )♡
     
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  19. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    Chapter 4: Predictable Outcomes

    Port Reaver was not always the polity we know it as today.

    In a physical way of course, much of it was destroyed during the earthquakes that shook the world during the final events of the World Tempest. With the more inland and sprawling sections of the city affected, it is only what locals now call Old Port Reaver, comprising the port itself and the original belt of quarters that survive in full from before then. This is not a rarity, Port Reaver’s streets and districts have been rebuilt many a times following catastrophe, such as the 2420 raids, the Cadavo quake of 1944, the Grailfire of 38’ or the more violent of the five “Nights” that compromise the Revolution, the Night of Cleavers and the Drowned Night. Port Reaver is a city whose violent history can be seen recorded in its build, from the many mismatched upgrades of the Citadella, the city’s confusing layout or the fact that-if memory serves me right-the Von Daling Tower is being rebuilt as we speak for the sixth time.

    But also in an ideological and political way. Established originally by the ousted Pirate Prince of Sartosa, Lucciano Soprania, in 1801 as a pirate haven and inland raid launching point. Port Reaver was the first truly independent state established by Old World settlers. And while this original feat is overshadowed by the lawlessness and pirate-port nature of its population, ruled by a succession of despotic pirate kings and cartels until the arrival to power of one King Bastjan Borġ, sole man honored as “Only King” by the people of the city. It is clear, however, that these origins as a rogue and unsubmitting society, fiercely independent from Sartossa’s political machinations, which led to the eventual establishment of the Principality of Port Reaver after the revolution, and it’s this elective monarchy which we can truly call the first independent state established in Lustria after the thousands of years since the foundation of the Amazon Empire millennia ago.

    Said Queendom also presents an incredible study subject, one I hope my wife will be able to…

    -Excerpt from the Collected Lectures on Lustria by Gottlieb Ochsner. Volume II: On the Isthmus and its City States.


    [​IMG]

    Old, heavily damaged map of Port Reaver found in a wax-sealed container on a shipwreck.

    (Formerly) The Grails, Port Reaver, Settler’s Cove
    22nd of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/ 40.0.9.10.5 3 Chikchan 18 Sotz'


    The charred wood crunched under his boots, his men milled around the now open space, just like how many onlookers did, in some areas there were still smoking coals, while in others enough remained to get an idea of what structure had been there before. Beggars and street rats combed the area too, giving the soldiers a wide berth. It wasn’t like his men would have stopped them, for they themselves had taken the lion’s share of what valuables had survived the fires already. Perks of being first to arrive.

    If those people managed to find anything worthwhile still buried under the ash, cracked tilings and charcoal, they were welcome to keep it.

    He wasn’t even fully sure why he was still milling about in what once had been The Grails after hours. He had arrived while the locals had barely started getting the fires under control, and was still there now that none of them still burned. An entire night, he could feel it in his eyes.

    Maybe he was grieving? After all, establishing an attractive and safe(by his city’s standards) merchant community, Bretonnian or otherwise, had been one of his biggest projects, and the only one truly successful so far.

    Not anymore. He mocked himself.

    It had taken him years to buy all the properties in this very small section of the city, and longer to attract the merchants with enough bribery to get them to grow roots; that alone had cost him more than the buildings themselves. He had done it all at a loss, hoping that the increased trade would indirectly repay him by filling the Citadella`s coffers.

    And they had, for a while.

    Not anymore. Just like his stake in the Felldowns or efforts to keep out Sartosan upstarts. Everything worked, only for a while, with the blasted city refusing to ever change. An untamable horse.

    And he had glued his boots to the stirrups.

    “No luck boss.” Colmazio, one of his men, spoke from behind him. “All the people around say there was a fight for sure, started at the same time as the fires so not a coincidence. But anyone who was close enough to tell who was involved… Well…” And with that he pointed at where his men had drapped a tattered cloth over what remained of a blackned skeleton.

    “No one’s got the slightest fucking idea where the fire started, so we can’t tell who they were going for specifically, and without that…” The man did not need to finish his sentence.

    As he had learned last night from his front row seat, any fire strong enough to survive in the muddy dampness that permeated his city was already burning strong enough to eradicate any trace of its origins. It had taken a miracle and a lake’s worth of sea water to contain it to the Grails and the surrounding buildings, but no one had wasted time or energy trying to save what had been swallowed by the inferno

    “We are looking for a ghost.” Bastjan groaned.

    He could not even punish whatever bastard had turned his merchant quarter into a wasteland. No one to make an example out of to remind everyone of what had made him King. Not unless they revealed themselves. And if they were that stupid they had probably already slipped up on their own drool last night and died in the fires they had started. His only respite was his men’s loot and the good coin he’d make from the now freed but land in the middle of the city. The only real commodity produced within the bounds of Port Reaver, it seemed, was empty space. No matter how much he wasted trying to change that.

    He could already tell of the headaches that the pirate lordlings’ and gangs’ fighting over what amounted to a few dozen building’s worth of now barren space would cause him, like dogs fighting over a clean-white bone. Headaches that would compound with those the Abbess would give him over her right to the “bodies” or Azzarello’s soon to come complaints about her wood supply being encroached upon.

    “Who was the idiot who convinced me that being in charge of this curse of a city was a good idea?” He muttered.

    “I think it was you boss.” Another one of his guards, a younger kid he had recruited last year, quipped. Growing pale when Bastjan turned an eye to him.

    Bickering searats and leeches the lot of them. He continued to ruminate. Incapable of seeing beyond tomorrow’s coin and whores, made blind by today’s ale.

    “There’s nothing for us here, not anymore, tell the men we are going back to the Citadella.”

    “Yessir.”

    “And…” He grabbed onto his old acquaintances shoulder before he left. “I will let it slide because we’ve known eachother since before I owned the Cinghiale, but I swear on Solkan’s name that the next time one of the boys hears you calling me boss and not Lord in front of them, I’ll sell you to the first slaver who docks here, understood?”

    Colmazio gave him a nervous laugh and a nod as his only response, unsure of whether his King was joking or serious.

    And with that, Bastjan Borġ, Pirate King of Port Reaver took his leave from the ruins of what had once been the Grails, surrounded by what stood for a royal guard in a place like Port Reaver.


    Jungles of Pahualaxa, Isthmus of Lustria
    22nd of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/ 40.0.9.10.5 3 Chikchan 18 Sotz'

    His leg felt like it was on fire, truly, and it had gotten only worse since the warmblood had gotten lucky and buried his blade deep into Tek’Qila’s thigh. Maybe it was that the excitement and adrenaline from the fight had worn off, he definitely had not felt this in pain when the dagger was still inside his leg. He was at least thankful for the new cotton cloth dressing the wound.

    The last one had gotten soaked to the point of dripping.

    The bleeding had slowed down. The pain, again, very much had not. He was thankful for the Herald, he did not believe he would have made it out of the warmblood temple city otherwise. The growing pain had sapped his strength to the point that he had collapsed, he had taken a moment of respite while they hid in an alley to avoid a warmblood party to catch his breath resting against one of the clay-made walls, and his legs simply refused to move afterwards.

    The Herald had merely hoisted him over his shoulder like a fresh kill and hauled him all the way to their temporary hidden camp beyond the treeline. Whereupon he had entrusted the wounded Skink onto one of the party’s Saurus, all of which had stayed behind. Capable of stealth as the larger warriors were, they were not suited for this kind of infiltrative endeavor.

    Quite competent at using their bulks to carefully carry a Skink-sized weight thought. Something Tek’Quila was thankful he was personally learning right now.

    He noted to himself that he should get both the Saurus and his warmblooded leader tokens of his appreciation, it was only fair. It was easy to think of something for the Xho’za’khanx, he loved getting his skin painted as he had learned a few nights ago, and had been forced to remove them in order to fulfill his tasks. While Tek’Qila was far from being as good of a painter as the artisan Skinks back in Pahuax, he could probably convince them to give him some of their better paints given the situation.

    The Saurus, a fellow he believed was named Hanok, was a harder question. He would usually offer food to any Saurus who may have done him a favor, just a nice big game item.

    But in his current condition that could be… Problematic. His fellow skirmishers had tried to comfort him by explaining how, once they got back to the party’s main camp on the riverline, he’d get all the help he'd need. But the numb fire emanating from his limb meant that there wouldn’t be much of a healthy limb in his future. A limb, yes, the pain hadn’t made him delirious enough to think they would remove his leg, but he was already imagining the scaleless scar.

    The Blushing Maiden, Port Reaver, Settler’s Cove
    22nd of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/ 40.0.9.10.5 3 Chikchan 18 Sotz'

    Stefan should have been enjoying the warm, clean and oversized bedding. He really should have, considering how was enjoying the creature comfort of a proper bed for the first time in his life. And he had, for less than a day.

    The morning after the… Incident in the Stragglers’ den, bloody and bruised as the young boy was, he had managed to pick himself up, hiding the three gold pieces all over himself, just in case someone incorrectly (or correctly, depending on one’s outlook) guesses that Johnny had not taken everything from him.

    This time he was adamant not to make the same mistake.

    He had not dragged himself back to the orphanage, no, he knew what happened to beaten up kids there. The caretakers smelled blood like sharks in water, so did the other kids.

    So he had gone to the closest thing he knew to safety. The Blushing Maiden.

    The women there had always been kind to him and the other Bentears. Yes, the reason was that Johnny was their boss’s son. But there was also the solidarity of being together at the bottom of the barrel, solidarity, kinship. Many had probably been like the girls Stefan knew back at the orphanage at some point.

    But no charity, no sir, the Maiden’s girls did nothing for free. And what would they give even if they were inclined to? The orphans of Port Reaver made up the bulk of the streetrat population, but the bastards, whore’s children or otherwise, made up the second largest group.

    Stefan was friends with around eight kids whose mothers (and one father) worked in the very place he had rented the bed in, knew all their moms and one dad) by name, too.

    So he had been forced to pay with one of his “gold sticks” for accomodations in the Blushing Maiden. The place was an inn after all, just not one where men were expected to order a room just for themselves. He (luckily) didn’t qualify as a man yet, so he had gotten himself into the smallest room in the place, still leagues above the pigsty that the orphanage was. They had even helped him dress his cuts!

    Charity-less boy. The one who had cleaned his scrapes with an old alcohol doused rag had playfully mocked him. Not heartless.

    Her name was Kirsa, she was one of the youngest women there. She was really nice.

    He didn’t know how many nights at the Blushing Maiden the coin had earned him. Kirsa had only criptically said that it’d be enough “For you to get back on your feet.”

    But no, he had not rested on the night after he had crawled out of the deserted drug then, nor had he this one. Sure his bruises were much better and he was now covered in scabs instead of cuts. But he had caught a barely serviceable amount of sleep.

    The reason was the same as to why the Blushing Maiden, Port Reaver’s most famous house of pleasure, was slightly less busy than usual, which was how he had even physically been able to rent one of the rooms in the first place. There was a reason the place had been so useful to him as a thief, it usually was absolutely packed with people who had random children very far down their line of priorities.

    The reason? Martha’s, the eponymous Maiden, cries and wails of grief.

    Of course she was grieving, her son was dead, his body had been buried at sea by a priest of Manann. Her sobs could be heard as if they came from the building itself. The woman was devastated, and as much as Stefan had hated Johnny, even he felt mournful just by listening to her.

    Mournful for Johnny, who had beaten him within an inch of his life and who he had only moments later seen get his skull cracked open by the tall stranger.

    Stefan had not said a word of it to anyone, he didn’t think he would any time soon. Johnny had not been the only Straggler, junior or otherwise, to die that night, and it was best to stay far away from the ensuing chaos between Port Reaver’s gangs.

    From what Stefan had seen and heard the day before, the woman’s audible suffering had turned off almost half of the stablismnet’s prospective customers, something told him today wouldn’t be as extreme. Women, after all, seemed to be one of the Port’s priciest commodities, sobbing or otherwise.

    Stefan, on the other hand, had to figure out what to do with himself before his one gold coin’s worth of bedding was spent. He sure as Stromfels’ wet halls wasn’t returning to the thieving life.

    But as hard as that life had been and as much pain and near death experiences it had earned him, it had been the only thing he was truly good at. And there was only one place where someone unskilled like him could get a job which didn’t involve those dangers.

    Tomorrow, he would go look for a job at the Felldowns.

    Completely different variety of life-threatening circumstances…

    Things were looking up for young Stefan!

    Jungles of Pahualaxa, Isthmus of Lustria
    22nd of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/ 40.0.9.10.5 3 Chikchan 18 Sotz'


    “I suppose congratulations are in order.” Ottagar grunted, swallowing the large chunk of bloody meat he had just torn out of the pack beast limb he was holding. The animals didn’t get very large in the isthmus, Roland had heard of them being big enough in other regions that no solitary Cold One could down one.

    [​IMG]

    Lustrian Lesser Pack Beast

    But this one was just big enough to feed the group of Saurus who were enjoying it for the day. The warrior who had downed it with a quick bash from his mace was enjoying the best cuts of the bloody meat to the side.

    “Hnks.” Roland grunted in an attempt to say “thanks.” The piece of meat he was stuffing himself with making speaking hard. He had bitten into a particularly sinewy part of a forelimb and the meat was refusing to fully separate. Roland was holding one side of the bone in a hand, anchoring the other on the soil and using a blade to attempt to free it, maintaining the offending ligament tensioned by pulling with his teeth.

    Once it was freed, the release almost made him lose his balance and fall on his back, but his crossed legs offered enough stability that he managed to brace himself with the palm of the blade holding hand.

    The Saurus around him laughed in between their own gorging, which he responded to with an elbow jab.

    The campsite was alive with activity now that he and the Skinks had returned, particularly in that they were dismantling it. Roland would help later, once he was done with his breakfast.

    “It is good I listened to you. No casualties.” Ottagar continued.

    “You would have reached the same conclusion I did, I was merely able to find out faster.”

    Simply put, their small expedition did not have the resources or numbers to frontally assault a place such as Port Reaver. A party of thieving warmbloods? Absolutely.

    But a city’s worth of men? Impossible for a party of few more than a hundred. They would have died trying to enter, and if they had somehow crawled in undetected they would have died trying to get out.

    On top of that, their mark was too unpredictable, it would have been impossible to track the man down without the Herald’s research, and even then they had only found the specific building as fast as they did thanks to what felt like Old One given luck.

    On top of that, there would have been no certainty that the thief would not have just taken the Gifts of Kara and left with them. And at that point everything would have been for naught.

    No, a sthealier approach had been the only good option. And it still amazed him how flawlessly the plan had gone. It either spoke to the competence of the Skink skirmishers who had converged with him in the harbor, or to the utter incompetence of the warmblood guards.

    Knowing Tek and his spawn-brothers, it was probably both. The Skink had him worried sick last night, bleeding enough that it had drenched his warmblood clothes (Something that he wasn’t particularly saddened by) the green Skink was doing much better now at least.

    It comforted Roland that he could see Tek from his place sitting huddled around the carcass with the Saurus. The smaller lizardman was resting on a tree stump, his upper leg wrapped in ointment saturated bandaging.

    “Heading back to Pahuax?” One of the saurus asked, already filled and playing around with the animal’s tail bones.

    “Yes, Old Blood Karakas doesn’t trust the Daughters, he does not want us meeting with them alone.” Roland answered, Lord Tleconexquiza had ordered the items retrieved by his warmblood servant specifically, but it had been the Old Blood who organized the actual party.

    “Of course he doesn’t trust them, the only reason they have not to skin us is that your lot’s scales are hideous.” Ribbed another Saurus. Earning a tail swat. “Drown in mud!” Another one responded.

    The conversation continued until Ottagar, Roland and the successful hunter were all done, as custom demanded. Then Roland went off to help load all their material onto the many baskets and bags woven into Wajgrani’s howdah, the subadult Stegadon happily welcoming his scale-less friend who always remembered to grab fruit from the high branches for him.

    Von Danling's Tower, Outskirts of Port Reaver, Settler’s Cove
    22nd of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/ 40.0.9.10.5 3 Chikchan 18 Sotz'

    He ate his breakfast, a piece of bread with a thick slice of cheese on it, while looking out of his window. To his side, on the windowsill, rested a small half-empty mug of ale. Next to it was another mug, this one empty. The roots had been kind enough to bring this second one to him

    He had been woken by the smell of smoke and burning the night before, fearing the tower was to see its final night. He had jumped out of his bedding, bracing for the worst. Poetic it would have been, had fire been his endbringer.

    But no, the smoke had come into his office from a few of his many boarded up windows. So he had peered through them.

    Port Reaver, or more accurately a small section of it, was burning, the plumes had climbed and climbed all night long.

    For the first time in decades, he removed the boards, wanting a clearer view.

    It shouldn't have surprised him, he had seen the city grow over the years like a pile of shit behind a stable. And shit, when dry, was quite the good substitute for firewood. But it still was a rare thing, change. Growth and decay was a cycle he was very familiar with, but growth and decay weren’t a cycle in Port Reaver, neither were they in lustria.

    Port Reaver grew as it decayed, in a balance that benefitted nothing,

    Lustria had neither grown nor decayed for a very long time.

    Until recently that was, for Ghyran had started whispering to him short ago, not even a decade, in a way she had never done in his years on this side of the ocean. Ghyran was becoming louder, growth and vigor flowing like water in a dried up river bed.

    But water in dry river beds caused mudslides. Deadly. Decay.

    And now he was seeing that mudslide reach old Lucciano Soprania’s city.

    Balance, the cycle, was returning to Lustria. But that meant that decay was too, and someone had to bid them welcome.

    Ghyran might have become stronger in the recent past, but that night it wasn’t her flows and ebbs that he felt.

    No, it was Ghur whose calls were heard. And even larger than his still…

    The Cold Blooded Fire. Hissing in triumph. With gusto and vindication.

    They had returned, after so long.

    “Time to dust off the old Tower, it seems…”

    Outskirts of Pahuax, Jungles of Pahualaxa, Isthmus of Lustria
    22nd of Sommerzeit, 2538 IC/ 40.0.9.10.5 3 Chikchan 18 Sotz'

    When the Skink scurried into the clearing where he knew the campsite to be, it was completely deserted. Tents were empty, the coals of recently consumed fires smoldered, random items, from utensils to clothes. The place was also completely silent.

    It instantly put the crested lizardman on edge.

    This was an ambush.

    And his explicit mission was to directly walk into it.

    So he did, slowly and without drawing the weapons on his back, what help could have they served him?

    A few seconds later the silence was broken by whistling.

    The arrow tip buried itself on the ground just before him, just where his four-clawed foot would have stepped just a moment later.

    “Not a single step more creature.” Came a voice that, while clearly speaking saurian, sounded very strange to him.

    It reminded him of the accent the Xho’za’khanx Host had. But even less familiar.

    He… She? Xho’za’khanx had a strange way to divide their castes stepped out of the jungle from the direction the arrow had come from.

    His-Her body was covered in green, literally, her skirts were woven with green leaves, as were the items she covered her upper body with. Even her head, sporting a long and dark green hued mane of black fur, was decorated with a wooden crest that went all the way around her head. No wonder he had been unable to see her. She must have been the warmblood equivalent to the Chameleon Skinks.

    As if he was not still on edge, he noticed the long, heavily curved, semicircular blade in her hand, which she pointed with at him.

    “What is your business here iguana, know that your life is dependent on your answer.” She commanded.

    “I-I bear the words of gloriosus Lord Tleconexquiza, Ashen One. The artifacts are safe, they are to be placed in the vaults of Pahuax.” He instinctively blurted the answer he knew he was to give.

    “And why, in Kalith’s name, have the gifts of Kara been placed there!? We agreed that you would give them to us post haste!” She threatened.

    “It is where they are most safe, the Ashen Lord has sent me to invite you to gather them, he commands on the Will of the Old Ones that no harm shall come to you until you leave the Ashen Jungles.” He defended, stepping back.

    The man stood for a few more moments, looking at the much shorter Skink with calculating eyes.

    “Go.” She finally grunted. “Tell your ash lord that we will be there to retrieve them soon.”

    With that the Skink took off into the jungle. Gone as quickly as he had arrived

    Behind her, another woman’s voice spoke.

    “I knew they would stab our backs Melandra! Now what? We go into their city? They’ll eat us, we’ll be lucky if they kill us before we do.”

    Melandra turned around to look at her companions, who were all now stepping out of hiding, about fifty Amazonian Piranha Warriors and Stalkers.

    “The scalies are many things, but oath breakers isn’t one, neither are liars, their minds are too slow to manage that… And besides, you are talking to Melandra Hawkeye, if there’s a place or situation I can’t escape my way out of, it has not been created yet!” She boasted with a proud smile full of mirth.
     
  20. Mr.Crocodile
    Saurus

    Mr.Crocodile Active Member

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    For those wondering about the long wait between last chapter and today's, I posted a short story in between, A Father By Any Other Name, something I plan on doing for this series of mine evey now and then.

    I hope you enjoyed the chapter and I honestly appreciate all and any comments or reactions you may be gracious enough to gift me!

    As an aside, it would be great if, if you enjoyed the story that is, you took a second of your time to go over to ao3 and left a kudo and a comment over there, since it is my main posting site (where by the way chapters of this story will be posted a day early).

    P.s. The map is an edit of a teaser of a full Port Reaver map I am collaborating on with the artist PlanJanusza while the sketch of the Lustrian mammal comes from my friend London. I have plans to flesh out a lot of the lustrian fauna, particulalry the strange warm-blooded creatures who scurry under the shadows of their dinosaurian and reptilian overlords.
     
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