The Rebirth of Terenia

The Rebirth of Terenia - A Land in Conflict

The events that sparked the Terenian Civil War, as seen through the eyes of Grenric "Gren" Layne.

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It was the year 804 of the fourth age, and a rarely seen calm spring was upon the lands of Terenia, yet turbulence was brewing ahead. It was the first time in a hundred years that the lands of rich culture and history had not been ruled by House Romaria. Arthos Romaria was gone, and Demiqas Liacan had taken his place as the new sovereign. A man dead set on correcting the mistakess of the past, he made it his mission to bring reform from the ways of the old Romarian monarchs. Liacan wished for Terenia to remain independent and free of outside rule. Albeit small in size, he decided to proclaim it a Kingdom of its own, and thus he was crowned as the new King. In the matters of assisting him to preserve the new regime, he assembled the Terenian Council for the sake of bringing a just rule to his beloved homeland. Yet there were those who opposed this decision, and rejected him as Arthos's successor. And as King Liacan was looking for the means to assure the Terenian people their freedom, many of his own Lords abandoned him. Randyll Emory, a respected Lord in the County of Cedynia, has chosen not to swear fealty to the King and turned his back on him. Many of his loyal vassal Houses followed after him, leaving Terenia weakened and drained of resources. There were hard times in store for the inhabitants of this land, but nonetheless Demiqas would not see his people fly the Romarian colors once again. With hopes of swaying others to his cause and forging long lasting alliances, King Liacan travels and meets with other Lords and Nobles alike. Grave determination is driving him in his quest, yet the road ahead of him remains shrouded in a mist of unceartainty.

Chapter 1: Harbinger

"It's too bloody hot!" Devron shouted as Gren was using the bellows to blow more air in the forge. The youth of thirteen seemed dipped in sweat as he pulled the steel out of the fire. Holding the pliers in one hand, he placed the steel over the anvil and started clumsily hammering it until the blade's tip was formed and it's edge seemed sharp enough.

"Looks awful bumpy to me, brother.." Grenric Layne shook his head in disproval. He brushed over a strand of dark brown hair as it got in way of his sight. He didn't have time to cut his hair or have his moustache and goatee trimmed. Feeling less like a newly styled lord, and more like a common beggar you'd meet in the alley. His brother had left to join the Terenian forces, and he couldn't keep Layne's Anvil closed for another day. As ungainly as young Devron was, he will have to do. The family's business has been doing worse since the death of his old man, and help was scarcely available at an uncostly price. "All the same, put it down and let it cool properly. We'll have to make nine more of those by midday."

"NINE MORE? But these fires are burnin' hotter than Daemon's piss!"

"Language! Our family is lordship now, and as my own blood I'll have you act the part." He knew he had to talk sense into the stubborn youngling in revolt. If he wanted the other Nobles to respect him, he couldn't have Devron talking like a street rat. They already looked down upon him, for he had no land other than his residence and the smithy as a source of income. He was a Lord without land, the smallest of the small ones - and the others made sure to not let him forget that.

He was just about to continue with his work when he heard a knock on the door, and someone entering without being asked in first, as if the house were his own. A medium sized man walked in, wearing brown breeches and a white shirt around his slender figure. He used his hand to comb aside his light chestnut hair and Gren could see the sharp features of Ddraig Hamilton's face.

"A good day to you, my lord. " he gave his fellow Council member a courteous nod. "How can I help you?" It wasn't until recent that King Liacan promoted him to the Terenian Council and made him his second in command, and as High Regent he was just starting to figure out which of the newly appointed members he could trust. Hamilton, head of industry, was always looking at him with a half grin. Why does he always look like he's up to something, Gren thought to himself.

"Just been runnin' a few laps. The days grow hotter, my friend." Hamilton smiled at him. "You should see the attire on some o' them lasses!"

"Is this really what you came to tell me today?" Gren couldn't help but wonder.

"'Course not. Lady Redwind has requested an urgent Council meeting. I was tasked with sending word to you."

Gren did not like the thought of already leading a council meeting. They just had one, two nights ago before King Liacan left. The King decided to travel to the lands Allegoria and ask for the support of Count Clark Van Natiel. In the King's absence, it was up to him to lead the Council meeting. "Devron. There's some lesser steel from the iron mines in that cart," He told his younger brother and pointed at the far end of the smithy. "Keep practicing what I taught you. I need to hury now."

"Please, do allow me to accomany you." Ddraig suggested.

"By all means, m'lord. Just allow me a moment to get dressed for this." He rushed out the back door and down the path leading to his residence.

The morning sky was streaked by thin grey clouds, when he was riding out on his mare. Gren was wearing a tight-laced leather jerkin and breeches of roughspun brown wool. Over his heart was sewn the Terenian sigil - crossed blades above a howling wolf, across a field of black and blue. By the time Gren reached him, Ddraig Hamilton was already saddled and the two of them went into a slow gallop through the narrow streets of Tenarath. "And what does Lady Redwind wish to speak with us about? " He had to ask. "I didn't even know she was in Tenarath."

"I'm afraid I've been left in the dark on that matter." Hamilton stroked his chin. "It does seem quite pressing though, as Lady Redwind rode in through the Wanderer's Gate on the first sight of dawn. Important news, from the looks of it." They were passing through The Tenarath Market, which at this time of year was a square of beaten earth sprawling with farmers selling vegetables. From there they turned left and entered the Adamant Street, where a mummer on stilts was striding through the throngs like some animal, but the small children seemed entertained by him.

"If she says it's important, then it just might be." Gren found himself thinking out loud. He knew Aeren Redwind well enough from the time they were both working for Demiqas Liacan. Back then, he was no King, but simply the Head of Intelligence under Arthos Romaria - a position now given to Lady Redwind for her services. Those times seemed ages ago to him.

The two of them reached the Tenarath Castle, and proceeded to unsaddle. Hamilton went to look for someone to tend to their mares, while Gren was approaching the entrance. The Castle was built of pale white stone. Seven drum-towers crowned over him with iron ramparts, peering over the massive curtain walls surrounding the keep. It was positioned on a tall cliff separating it from the main land, surrounded by nothing but sea. The walls had a great wooden draw bridge that was lowered as soon as the guards spied Gren. By the time it was down, Gren could make out Aeren Redwind waiting for him on the other side. She was dressed in black leathers with the hooded purple cloak of Terenian Intelligence. She was the only one of them who got to keep that cape. When Gren approached her she pulled down her hood, and the morning sun caught her strawberry red hair. She was a pretty sight to behold, that one. With green, doe's soft eyes and a mane of curling hair that fell about her shoulders in ringlets. Yet Gren was well aware of how dangerous the woman was, from the few missions they went on together. She did not rise to the Head of Intelligence position without reason.

"My Lord Regent," she gave him a cryptic smile, "I've been waiting for you to show yourself. Unfortunately, it appears that our King has left the city while I've been gone. Time for you to rise to the occasion, hmm?"

I've a lot more trust in this woman than she does in me, Gren was certain of it. "Apparently so, m'lady," he bowed his head. He wanted to think of something witty to add to that, but by that time Hamilton had already caught up with them.

"Ah, now I already feel safer." She gave them a sardonic grin, "Come, you two. Walk with me." And they made their way through the Royal Gardens. There, the air was spicy with the scent of flowers, with birds sang from hidden nests. And tall birch trees spread dappled shadows across tinkling streams. The weather was foretelling a long and fruitful summer. "I'm rather curious what urgent business you bring to us, my lady?" Hamilton uttered as they were making their way to the Council's Tower, "I just hope it shan't take up too much time, on a beautiful day like this." He smiled, but Lady Redwind was quick to shoot back. "It'll take as long as it will, Ddraig. And you'll hear about it soon enough."

When they reached the Tower, Commander Eldurin's men were already stationed outside the entrance. And sure enough, when the three of them finally climbed the stairs up to the council chambers, Thoras Eldurin was already seated at the table. His armor was steel plate in a deep-sea blue, with silver chasings and clasps that glittered as the sun rays from the balcony caught them. His head was shaven bald, with nothing but a dark bushy beard covering his stern face.

"About time you lot show up here." He was tapping his foot against the floor of the tastefully decorated chamber room. He was looking at Gren with an impatient look in his eyes. "Shall we begin?"

"Perhaps we should wait for Lord Chandier?" He spoke while taking a seat in Demiqas's royal chair, as was custom in the King's absence.

"Wait for him all you want. Small good it'll do you, though," the Commander reached out with his hand toward Gren, handing him a letter. It bore the seal of House Chandier, unmistakebly coming from the Royal Treasurer himself. With everyone gazing at him anxiously, he broke the seal, reading through the signed message it revealed. He couldn't help but frown at the words.

"Apparently Lord Chandier has chosen to resign from his position as the Royal Treasurer." The words left a bad taste in his mouth. Thaedar Chandier always had a talent for breeding and multiplaying coins. He knew to buy grain when it was plentiful, and sell bread when it was scarce. He'd buy the finest summer silk from the south, and wool and pelts from the north - stored it, moved it, sold it again. They say he could rub two coins against each other, and they would breed a third. Ddraig Hamilton cursed him out loud, "And now we have to find a replacement for him.. well that is just grand!"

"A matter for a different day, Ddraig." Lady Aeren was quick to chime in. "This is not what we came to discuss here today." Thoras responded with a grunt. "Aye, and what is that? Last I heard of you, my lady, you were looking into the Dragonscale Clan raiding our northern hamlets and villages. Do you mean to tell me the issue has been resolved?"

"I'm afraid not."

"Ha! The King should've given me fifty good men, and we'd not be speaking of this today." "Allow Lady Redwind to finish, Commander. Please," Gren had to interrupt. "I am rather tired of being kept in suspense here." Aeren gave him a nod, then continued on.

"My Lord Regent, the north of Terenia has been severely weakened by the Clan. When the clansmen came through they overwhelmed our guards. They put people's homes and crops to the torch, and ate half of their livestock. The other half they kill for spite." She frowned, "Yet the question here is why? The Dragonscale Clan rarely leaves the shelter of the mountains."

"Perhaps they grow bolder now that The Romarian Empire has fallen." Gren could only guess.

"No. No, it is not that. They are there on somebody else's command." Her teeth clicked. "I'm talking of Randyll Emory."

Hamilton gasped to that. "Emory!? What business does the fool have with the bloody Dragonscale Clan?"

"Traitor!" Thoras Eldurin slammed his mailed fist against the table.

"He's promised them land to farm on." She continued, without paying mind to the two of them. "He's promised them our land. Once he is King. Once Terenia is no more, and he proclaims these lands The Free Kingdom of Romaria."

"He's declared war on us?" Hamilton's face turned to a slightly pale shade.

"I'm afraid so.. " this time she answered, "Lord Emory has raised his banners, and is leading his host to our doorstep. They'll be here within the fortnight."

He means to sack the city, Gren realized. And when King Liacan returns to his homeland, he'll be thrown right out. No, this cannot happen! Not under my command. Gren gave them all a worried look, and ran a hand through his hair. "How many men?" "According to my rangers, five hundred. With the clansman it should be shy of seven hundred men. "

"Virtue save us..." Hamilton uttered, "That's too many! How can we defend the city, when the King has taken most of the royal host with him?"

"First things first," Gren looked to Aeren, "Does the King know?"

"Not yet, I'm afraid. The King has crossed the borders to Allegoria, but I've already dealt with it." She assured him. "I've sent three of my fastest birds to our eastern border outposts. Each will send a thoroughbreed rider after them." But then she gave him a sad look, once more. "But if you want the truth of it - I doubt they'll make it in time. My wager is Emory will be here first." "Then let's make sure they break their spears on our gates!"

Gren stood from his chair, and approached the wooden closet in the far end of the room. He took out a large roll of parchment and placed it on the table before his fellow Council members. It unfolded the city map, showing the three gates and all the streets and alleys of Tenarath. "Commander Eldurin, how many soldiers does the city have left?"

"Three and a half hundred." Thoras gave him a worrying look. "If we're bein' generous."

"We can work with that. The city's defenses must be strong, and every man our walls will count for ten below them. I will take upon myself the task of assembling the reserves. We need the numbers, and those strong enough to hold a weapon must be put to use!"

"Are you certain? I can have one of my Generals taking care of the reserves."

"Their military training would be wasted on the commonfolk, Commander. I believe I will sufice in this case." Eldurin agreed with him on that, and Gren began studying the map.

"Hamilton, I want a ballista and catapult on each side of the Wanderer's Gate." He pointed with his index fingerm, "and one by the Trader's gate, as well as the Bronze Gate. No doubt Emory has the confidence to take us head on, so we will wait for him by the Wanderer's Gate. The two side gates we must barricade heavily. And have thirty men on top of each."

"Will that be enough?" Commander Eldurin seemed uncertain.

"Can we spare more?" Gren frowned. "Hamilton, make sure we have as many projectiles for those ballistas we can get in the time we've got left. And barrels of oil will also do us good."

"If they're playing with fire, they shall get burnt." Hamilton grinned.

"I've no wish to cover behind our walls." Thoras rasped, "If Emory's got a half a wits to him, he'll send his clansmen in the van. I'll take a hundred of my best soldiers, and meet him on the field."

"As you wish, Commander." Thoras Eldurin was a man made of steel, Gren could not deny him that. They were fortunate enough to have an acclaimed warrior like him on their side. "Lady Aeren, I'm sure your agents will be most useful among our archers. Organize them in units and have them cover our walls. We must be prepared for an assault from all sides."

"As my Lord Regent commands." Sho gave him a nod. "A rain of arrows will shower Emory's troops before they can even come close to us."

"Good. Let's hope we've enough days left to realize this plan of ours." He looked between the three of them. "The King is depending on all of us now. His realm suffers, and it is us who must protect her." He rose from his chair, once more. "I will not have him return to a sacked city." And with those words, the council meeting was adjourned. Gods help us all, Gren thought as he was watching them walk out of the room.

Chapter 2: Warmonger

It was a suspiciously quiet late afternoon, when Gren was visiting the Sept of the Virtori. He was already well prepared for battle. With the crossed blades of Terenia painted over his armor, he dressed in high boots of soft, tooled leather, a wide belt studded with nuggets of silver and a cloak of blue silk. It has been six busy days, since news of Lord Emory's plans had reached them. And the day of the final conflict has arrived.

The old sept was made of white stone, built in the shape of seven corners - each of them serving as a small altar for one of the virtues. When he entered through the low wooden door, he gazed upon a large crowd of people all gathered in there. Old wives and women with children, all with fearful looks on their face. And who could blame them. On the morrow of that day, the people of Tenarath were woken by the sight of of a hundred tents before their gates. Randyll Emory's vanguard has arrived, and it was only a matter of time before the rest of his army caught up with them.

A rider carrying a peace banner arrived at their gates shortly after, carrying the terms of Lord Emory. He wished for Gren to open the city gates for him, and proclaim him the one true King of Romaria. He'd have to denounce the false King Liacan and swear fealty, only then Tenarath would be spared. They were harsh terms, and Gren would never accept them. But if Tenarath falls all of their lives will be on me, he made himself look at all their faces before approaching Altar of Humility. It was decorated with flowers and golden ornaments, with a painting of a man kneeling before a bright silhouette. He lit a candle and placed it before the altar, while saying a quiet prayer. Gren never put too much trust in the gods of his people, but he figured he had nothing left to lose at this point. The fool I am, he thought bitterly to himself as he was leaving the sept. The Romarians always prayed to their gods, for all the good it had brought them.

Gren was saddled on his mare, and reeled it through the deserted streets of the city, toward the Wanderer's Gate. The whole city was afraid, Gren could see that plainly. The smallfolk were hiding themselves behind closed shutters and barred doors, as if that would keep them safe. If Tenarath should fall, looting and raping would not be an uncommon sight, Gren knew that. A city that fights back, can expect no mercy.

By the time he reached the gate, the last Commander Eldurin's footsoldiers were passing through it, before the guards shut and barred them. The reserves, consisting mostly of peasants, were grouped up behind and Gren could make out his brother Devron among them. He was wearing chainmail over boiled leather. Gren bid him and the rest of the lads to stay put and await further commands from him. He unsaddled, and headed towards the walls - he had to know what they were up against. He was making his way up the steps, as he once again spied Aeren Redwind waiting for him on top. "It doesn't look too good.." she told him, "Best see for yourself."

He climbed the watchtower to look upon his enemy. The sun was low on the west, painting the fields and farmlands all glowing red. Emory's men were spreading out to encircle the city gates. It was hard to judge their numbers; more than seven hundred, for certain. Through a lens tube, Gren looked upon the banners of the northern Lords rallied behind Emory. There was even Lord Jon Wyllock of Rahlmont - Gren's homeland. The thought of killing his own men was not a pretty one, yet Gren was no less determined to go through with it.

They'd even brought trebuchets and a siege tower. How long have you been preparing for this, cursed traitor? The tower was a giant wooden monstrosity on four wheels, the exact height of Tenarath's walls. On top of it was a large draw bridge to lead his assailants across the wall. The defensive walls of the siege tower were covered in otter bear pelts, to protect it from flaming arrows. It stood tall, looming over Emory's vanguard.

Commander Eldurin had the right of it, his van was consisting mostly of clansmen. He could make them out by their horned helmets and cloaks of bearskin and sealskin. They were preparing themselves to march, with some of Emory's cavalry mixed between them, as well as his War Trison riders. The three-horned beasts looked fierce in their armor. But so did Commander Eldurin, waiting by the gates. His men were in formation, and he was shouting commands on the back of his own armored Trison. "He's looking to walk over our walls, the snake!" Lady Redwind turned to Gren. Emory was smart enough to know he shouldn't damage the city too much, as he'd have to defend it from King Liacan later. "We'll make it no easy task for them." He let out a sigh, and gave Aeren a troubled look. "If they breach the city, it's over."

She had nothing to respond to that, but turned away and started shoutint commands at the row of archers positioned on the walls. Soon enough, the fierce blasts of Emory's warhorns echoed in the air, as the beating of drums led his clansman into a march against Thoras's army. And so it begins, he muttered silently, while watching over the vast, empty field before him. It didn't take long for the two armies to clash against each other. From the get go, it was apparent that the Dragonscale Clan lacked the organization of any real army. There were no battle lines, only a swirling chaos of banners and blades. Shouts and screams rang through the crispy air. Emory's men seemed to have the numbers, but the Terenian army men were far better led, with Thoras Eldurin swinging his mighty longsword ontop of his War Trison. They had pulled a pincer move and caught the clansmen unaware. Gren watched them charge and wheel and charge again, chopping the larger force into pieces every time they tried to form up between the smaller hills. Lady Aeren was yelling at her bows. "Nock! Draw! Loooooose!" And they sent a swarm of flaming arrows flying against the red sky. For a moment, it even looked beautiful.

Gren was shouting his command at the men operating the catapults. And they flung barrels of burning oil, sending them arcing across the field, into the groups of clansmen. The flames would spread violently wherever they shattered, and the shrieks of men ablaze followed soon after. Dark smoke was rising, and the scent of burning flesh caught Gren's nose. It made him sick to his stomach, but in that instant a trebuchet flung a stone at them at hit one of the ballistas, sending it trembling down the walls. That gave Emory the courage to send forth his siege tower. The clansmen were keeping Commander Eldurin busy, and a larger group of Emory's men were pushing the tower toward the western side of the gate.

Gren was trying to see what was happening amidst the smoke, when an arrow flew right by him. No doubt it was meant for him, but it was the guard behind who was hit. The arrowhead went in his throat and exploded out the back of his neck, dark and wet. Gren quickly took cover behind the stone wall, and tried to look for Lady Redwind.

But it was too little too late, as the draw bridge had already lowered, only a couple of feet next to Gren. He quickly shouted for the reserves to join him, but by the time he got up to his feet, the first man was already at the top of the bridge. He was quick to unsheathe his blade, "For Terenia!" he screamed as he thrust the castle forged steel through the attacker's chest.

"Behind you!" He heard his brother Devron yell out, and in an instant Gren whirled around. The second man was bearded and helmetless, his dirk between his teeth to leave both hands free for climbing. Gren gave him a swift kick and sent him flying down to the ground. Yet it seemed a hopeless endeavor. For each one Gren cut or stabbed or shoved back, another one was coming over the wall. Until soon enough they were overwhelmed. Gren saw two of Aeren's agents standing on top of the watchtower by the gates. The pots! He remembered quickly, and started yelling at them. "Torch them! Torch the bastards!"

And soon enough, the two of them used slings to send the flaming pots of clay flying at the tower. The pelts were not enough to shield it from the fire, and the siege tower was soon ablaze. Most assailants were flaming up, and Gren himself had to try his best to avoid the trails of flame spreading across the wall. Soon thereafter, Gren and the reserves managed to overpower the remaining assailants. A small victory, but a sigh of relief nonetheless. As the night grew darker and the smoke spread it was harder to make out what was happening below, but the din of steel was still loud and present. Even though the shouts and warhorns gave way to moans and piteous wailing. Commander Eldurin has defeated the clansmen. Lord Wyllock had lost his horse in battle and staggered back across the burned farmlands, bleeding from a dozen wounds while a rain of arrows and stones fell all around him. Thoras Eldurin and his men were chasing him and the remainder of his soldiers across the battlefield.

Yet when Gren climbed down the stairs of the watchtower, he was met with an unpleasant surprise. Ddraig Hamilton was running toward him. "Layne! Layne!" He was shouting before he finally reached him. "It's Emory. In the midst of chaos, the bastard took his men and creeped up to the west." Hamilton seemed nervous, "He took a battering ram to the Trader's Gate, and is leading his men through it as we speak!"

It was what Gren had feared the most, and now somebody had to drive Emory out. It has to be me, there's noone else. He looked at his group of reserves, in their ringmail and boiled leathers. They were no more than boys, afraid and uncertain, with some men who have never before held a sword. Yet they were all he had left.

"Men!" He shouted out, while his brother Devron joined the rest of them in formation. "Emory and his lackeys have breached our city!" He spoke out loud, while drawing his blade, and pointed the naked steel nort west. "Let's kindly show him the way out, shall we?!"

The men answered him with the most fierce battle shout they could muster up at the time, and the group marched toward Market Square, to meet Emory head on. Gren feared the outcome of it, but he could not let the others see his uncertainty.

When they were getting close to the upper platform of Market Square, Gren could already hear the crash of swords and axeheads on oaken shields, over terrified trumpeting of maimed horses. He wanted to get there as fast as possible, so they traveled between the houses, but the fighting had spread from the streets all over the smaller alleys. The smell of death was overwhelming him at the time, with wounded soldiers covered in blood pleading for help, but Gren couldn't even make which side they fought on.

At Market Square, Emory's troops were hacking their through the Terenian soldiers. The clangor of steel was spreading through the streets, when Gren gave a loud shout. The rest of his group soon came pouring out of the ditches and small alleyways, with him following behind them, his cloak flapping after him. He cut down the first man as he turned his back on him, shoved past a second, slashed at a third. His blade swirling blue sparks. Yet when the swing of a morning star found and crushed in his left shoulder he was sent falling to the ground. An unbearable ammount of pain pierced through his shoulder, but he managed to get back on his feet.

For a brief moment, it seemed as if they were trouncing Emory's men. But more of them arrived through the Trader's gate.When he meant to charge further, Gren found himself face to face with Randyll Emory. The man was armored in steel plate, with a tabard bearing the sigil of House Emory - a black harpy against a deep green field. He recognized Emory by his black whiskers, and the golden circled of kingship adorned on his battle helm. A false crown for a false king, Gren thought. When their eyes met, Emory was quick to approach him. His longsword was already stained in blood, and he had a grin from ear to ear as he stood before Gren.

"Ha, Liacan's lapdog! I've been looking for you," He slashed at him, but Gren caught the blow with his oak shield, sending wooden splinters flying through the air. "Don't worry, your Pretender King will soon join you in the next life."

The throbbing ache in his shoulder was too much to bear, he had to lose the shield. It was dead weight on that arm, so he threw it on the ground before Emory. With a swift shove, Gren sent him staggering back against a wall. But before he could assume a proper stance, Randyll Emory was already on him, swinging at him with a fierce yell. His blade leapt up to meet Emory's longsword on the down blow, and steel clang on steel. The Lord's cuts were coming hard and fast. From right and left, low and high, yet each one found either blocked or parried in Gren's clumsy attempts to keep up.

The Lord was driving the younger man back on his heels, and he found himself pushed against the very edge of the platform. Gren caught one blow with his blade, and countercut quickly enough, but all to no avail. His swing was once again met with Emory's longsword. The two blades clashed and sprang apart, as Gren was bullying his way from the edge. Taking three steps forward, and two steps back. But before he could muster up the strenght for another attack, the Lord's longsword whirled and slashed at him. In a flurry or blows, one of which slashed his upper thigh area, he took back the ground Gren had previously gained. With a ruthless kick Emory sent him staggering into the damaged fence and falling from to the lower lever, breaking through a wooden merchant stall. The Lord was determined to finish him off, no doubt, but he found himself surrounded by enemy troops and it was so that the two of them were separated.

Gren was lying still on the empty stall, overwhelmed by his pain. A large splinter had pierced his leg, and when he tried to stand up all of his efforts were in vain. When he realized the stall had caught fire in the midst of battle, he was quick to gather the remainder of his strenght and push his body aside, sending it falling on the ground. He was laying in a batter of blood and dirt, with men fighting and steel ringing all around him. He pressed with his hand against his leg, where Emory had cut him. When he lifted his head to look upon his palm, the entire hand was painted dark red. This is the end of me, he realized.

By that time, all of the enemy troops had entered the city, and they were outnumbering his own men. His men were retreating as Emory soldiers slaughtered them in the open streets. Gren rested his head against the stained dirt, and slowly drifted away. Was it sleep or death, that he did not know, only that he was tired. Oh so very tired.. and in a matter of seconds everything faded to black.

But when Gren opened his eyes, he was met with a bright light and calming silence surrounding him. He was no longer in Tenarath, no. This was a forest, a bright and peaceful forest. The trees had shining lights about them, similar to Angelica's tears, but in a broad spectrum of different colors. A glowing cord was coming out of his chest area, and it was leading him into that forest. He felt a soothing sense of tranquility surround him, as he spied bright silhouettes waving at him from the other side of the tree line. He made out the shape of his late father, and even his lady mother was beside him. On the farther left end, he could even see his brother Devron. For a brief moment he felt at peace, until a he heard someone cry out.

"Layne!" And there it was again, the stench of death and decay went up his nostrils. And loud voices of men fighting replaced the soothing silence. "Layne!" The shapes in the forest seemed so distant to him now, and he could hardly make out their faces anymore. "Layne!" It was then, that he felt something pull at the cord coming out of him, and his first reaction was to resist. No! Leave me be! but the shouting continued. "Layne!" it echoed all around him. And the next pull was too strong to resist, sweeping him from under his feet. "Layne!" He found himself falling to the ground, and falling... and falling... Yet when he meekly opened his eyes, all Gren could make out was Ddraig Hamilton's face staring at him. He seemed relieved.

"Layne! Oh, for a moment there I thought Sanguine took you from us."

The head of industry stopped shaking him, and helped him stand up, with Gren wrapping his right arm around his neck. All around them, men were shouting. But no, not just shouting - they were cheering. He looked to Hamilton, who had a warm smile on his face. "It is over, my friend," He said, "They came up through the ashes while the farmlands were burning. Emory's banners were neck deep in the river, and they took them from the rear. Some ran, but more bent the knee. We have won! Oh, what a victory!"

"I don't understand," Gren grabbed his throbbing head, "who..."

"The King!" Hamilton cheered, "It was King Liacan in his wolf armor, and tall spear. He arrived with Count Van Netiel's men accompanying him. They say he killed Lord Wyllock in single combat, and a dozen great knights as well! His men are throwing down their swords, Gren! Oh, sweet triumph!"

Chapter 3: Peacekeeper

In his dreams, they were simpler times. Gren and his brother were practicing swordfighting with two sticks in the yard. That was when his father was still alive, and his childhood in Rahlmont a happy one.

But when he was awake, he found himself lying a dark room, with pain overwhelming his entire body. At first he couldn't see a thing, but after a while the vague outline of a bed appeared around him. The drapes were drawn, but he could see the bedposts, and the velvet canopy over his head. He was not in his own bedchamber, and across the room he could spy a figure approaching and moving the drapes aside. And Gren was greeted with Lady Redwind's warm smile. "Glad you're still with us, my lord."

"Where am I?" He uttered meekly.

"You're in the castle. The court healer has been taking good care of you." She placed a wooden cane by the side of his bed. "I hope you'll join us in the throne room at noon. The King will be adressing the court."

"I will be there." He promised, and his words had sent her reaching for the room's exit. But before leaving through the wooden door, she looked back at him over her left shoulder. "Drink some essence of the shade if you're in pain, and I'll tell your guard to wake you in time for the court audience. Oh.. and good work out there, Layne."

Good or not, it was the aftermath that interested him here. While gathering the strenght to sit up by his bedside, he grabbed the cane in his right hand. The cast around his right arm was making his shoulder managable, but his leg was a world of burning pain for him. He took three smaller sips of the shade, but it was clouding his mind and Gren did not like it. Nonetheless, it made his leg pain slightly more bearable, and gave him the courage to try and stand up - resting his weight on the cane.

It was a great struggle for him, but he wished to go outside. Out of that damned room, smelling of sickness. He desperately craved some fresh air. And so his guard helped him up the stair to the balcony overseeing the Royal Gardens. By the time Gren reached the bench to rest his leg, the few steps he had to take had left him entirely out of breath. But the warm sun rays felt good against his skin, and he was soaking in the crisp air. A new day was upon them, and Tenarath still stood proudly.

"My brother, Devron," He looked to the silent guard standing by his side. "Is he well? Do you have any word?"

"I do, m'lord." His question was met with a frown. "Your brother fought valiantly and brought great honor to your Family. But I'm afraid he didn't survive the battle. I was among those who found what was left of his body on the morrow, trampled by a War Trison, with several arrows piercing him," the guard shook his head, "It was hard to say what killed him." The grief overtook him for a moment. How would he explain it to his mother? That her younger son had died under his own command. The thought of that saddened Gren beyond words, and he was starring out into the emptiness of the royal gardens.

When the sun was high above Tenarath Castle, people started making their way toward the Court Chambers. Gren had set out to arrive before the rest of them, so he would spare them the misery that was him trying to ascend to his seat by the King's Throne. The throne room was a sea of golden ornaments, furs and bright fabrics. The Lords and Ladies began filling the hall and stood beneath the tall windows. Lady Aeren arrived first of the council members, dressed in purple samite, with a black mantle studded with rubies. She gave Gren a courteous nod, before taking her seat next to him. Ddraig Hamilton followed soon after her, leaving the chairs of the Royal Treasurer and Military Commander empty. One resigned, the other wounded in battle.

Silenced spread through the gallery, as a loud blast of trumpets announced the entry of King Demiqas Liacan, first of his name. He rode his warhorse down the lenght of the hall and dismounted before the Throne. A tall man with short, dark auburn hair and a trimmed beard, he stood well over six feet tall with broad shoulders. His armor was Gren's own work, made in his family's smithy. To this day, it was still the armor he was most proud of. All burnished blue steel, inlaid with silver scrollwork and ornamentation. His rondels were were a half moon, a golden crown on his head, and a roaring wolf on each shoulder fastened a blue cloak so long and heavy that it draped the hindquarters of his charger. Even the horse's armor was shinning and the silk around him was emblazoned with the crossed blades of Terenia.

"Bring forth the captives." He spoke in a deep, commanding voice. A fanfare of brazen trumpets announced the Lords who abandoned Emory when they saw the King's banners. They were brought before him in chains, and each of them made a show of dropping on one knee and swearing everlasting fealty to the Kingdom of Terenia. Gren would rather see them all hang.

"The virtue of kindness also teaches us to be merciful," the King was adressing the Lords, "and we should all follow in that wisdom. I hereby pardon you of your crimes, m'lords."

After that General Erling Eldurin stepped forward to accept the King's badge of honor, on behalf of Thoras Eldurin. The Commander had crowned himself in glory on the battlefield that day, yet he was still recovering from the wounds he sustained during the fighting. The bards were calling it The Battle for Tenarath now, and all of the heroes were brought forth to receive the rewards for their services to the Kingdom. Ddraig Hamilton unrolled a piece of parchment, and began reading out loud. "It is His Grace's wish that all of you good men be rewarded for your valor. By his decree, Sir Gregor Vane shall henceforth be Lord Gregor of House Vane, and to him shall go all the lands, rights, and incomes of House Myron of Armathain. His firstborn son is to be raised to the estate of knighthood, and granted land and a keep in the midlands. To Athanaric Karling, a sword and suit of plate, his choice of any warhorse in the royal stables, and knighthood as soon as he is of age. And lastly, Lord Grenric Layne is to inherit rule over Watcher's Rock and the County of Rahlmont, all of the lands, rights and incomes of House Wyllock."

He's giving him rule over Watcher's Rock, Gren couldn't help but be surprised. Whoever rules the Rock is also the Lord of Rahlmont, his old homeland where his family had a rich history. Sadly the old fortress itself was a piece of work, and remained only a shade of what it once was in the days of the old rulers. Yet he was more than willing to make amends to his people. He bowed his head at the King, as graciously as he could, and thanked him for the honor he has bestowed upon House Layne. A proper lord now, a voice that sounde eerily like his father's was ringing in the back of his head. But he could see his King had other matters on his mind, and soon enough he waved the gathered Lords away with his hand.

"Bring forth the traitor!" His voice rasped the command, and all eyes fixated on the hall entrance. Two guards were dragging a weak man in chains forward and kicked him down on his knees, before the King. Randyll Emory was dressed in rags, and didn't look half as intimidating as Gren remembered him to be. In place of his crown was a balding head with wisps of grey.

"My men have found him hiding in a city house." Lady Aeren rose from her seat. "He killed the family hiding out in the cellar and took refuge there."

The King seemed abhorred at that, and gave Emory a hateful look. "What do you have to say for yourself, traitor?"

"I know I've no right to ask this of your," he uttered, " but please, mercy for my family."

"Your family will be stipped of all lands and titles," Demiqas Liacan was quick to shoot back, "yet I will allow them to live out their remaining days in peace, if you proclaim me your King - here and now."

The angered former Lord Emory could only spit on the floor, to show him what he thought of that proposal. "Never. You're no king of mine."

"So be it, then. Take him away, and prepare everything for the execution." Gren could make out the fear in Emory's eyes as the guards were dragging him away. He had even soiled his breeches, to the laughter and amusement of the gallery. When the King deemed the court hearing dismissed, all of them were quick enough to leave the throne room, leaving the King alone with his fellow council. Gren found the sudden silence filling the room very strange and awkward, when there was chatter and shouting filling the hall moments before.

"I've managed to gain some of the support from our fellow Counts," King Liacan finally broke the silence, with a grim look on his face. "Allegoria, Ravenshedge, Apskog.. they all share a vision for Terenia with me."

"And why is it you don't appear too happy about that?" Gren had to ask. "We will needs those banners to free our lands from the remaining Romarian supporters."

"Aye we do, but that won't do us no good." The King handed Gren a roll of parchment from his sachel and he began curiously reading through it. All the color he had previously managed to gain back in his face had left him in an instant, for he had found out that his own landscape was not the only one going through changes. A new Empire had risen in the west, one larger that anyone had ever seen - and it was only beginning to grow. Emperor Vaizer Phoenix had freed his people from an army of slavers, and next he had set his gaze on the Old Kingdom of Zygethia. He sent word to all Lords to bow down to him or be destroyed. He was set out to establish the greatest Empire known to mann.

"How many?" was all he could muster up at the moment.

"Too many," Aeren almost seemed to have shuddered for a moment, "largest army anyone's ever seen if word of mouth is to be believed."

"So was it all for naught then?" Ddraig Hamilton complained, "It doesn't matter who rules Terenia now, we'll all fall to this.. this Emperor?"

"Not if we can parlor with him" The King spoke with gasps received from both Layne and Hamilton, while Aeren chose to remain silent. Demiqas disregarded their disbelief and continued on. "With Emory defeated, I will be the one sending my army down to meet this Emperor. And unlike Emory I am capable of reasoning with him. Mayhaps.. we could be a Duchy, like in the old days of Zygethia. But it would still be Terenia, and it would still have its people. Perhaps it could even have peace."

Gren had to admit the reason in that, "It seems we're left with little to no choice in that regard.. how could we ever hope to stand up to such a force when we're left here fighting each other."

"Aye," Ddraig nodded, "I'd rather have a Terenia under this new Empire than a restored Kingdom of Romaria. That nasty experiment was but a failed state and ought to be left burried three feet underground."

"Brethren, in that we agree." The King stood between Gren and Ddraig and placed a hand on each of their shoulders, "and I promise you this, I will do everything in my power to protect this land and its people. First and foremost by cleansing Terenia of those who curse its name, those who never wanted it to begin with. We shall begin with that now."

"Follow me," the King rasped in a sullen voice, "there's one thing left for me to do here." and the rest of them went after him to the gates of the throne room. All safe for Gren.

"I will be following soon after you" He assured them, as even attempting to stand up was causing his leg to cramp up in pain. Yet he would not miss what was about to happen, not for the life of him.

The bells were ringing when Gren Layne was limping on his way toward the upper level of the white marble plaza, to take his place next to Lady Redwind and Lord Hamilton. The castle entrance was a solid mass of people, all yammering excitedly at each other and straining to get closer to Tenarath Castle.

Randyll Emory was standing on the platform, below him a line of spearmen kept away the crowd screaming their taunts and obscenities. Behind him, a Qindred Priest was chanting some prayer Gren could not make out while climbing the stairs. King Liacan was overseeing it all warily, remaining a firm grip on his longsword.

When the bells ceased to toll, King Liacan raised his voice and sent it piercing through the crowd's chanter, demanding nothing but silence. "People of Terenia, hear me!" He shook the grip of his blade, until the steel was released from it's scabbard. "Randyll Emory stands before you today, guilty of commiting treason. He has needlessly shed the blood of our own people." A stone came sailing out of the crowd and hit Emory in the left arm, but the spearmen managed to push the crowd back.

"I, Demiqas Liacan, Lord of Tenarath and rightful King of Terenia, hereby sentence you to die!" He gave one of his guards a nod and they brought Randyll Emory to his knees, placing his head over the edge a wooden chest. "I will have your last words, my lord."

Randyll Emory seemed to be shaking, well aware of the fate that was awaiting him. "Curse you.." was all he could muster up at the moment, "Curse you all!" As the King lifted his blade above Emory's head, sunlight seemed to ripple and dance down the metal, glinting off an edge sharper than a common forged blade. The whole thing was over in an instant, with Emory's severed head rolling down the floor, stopping close to the edge, as a hot black gush of blood came streaming out of his neck. It was justice, Gren told himself as he watched warily for the King's next words.

"This war we've been fighting among ourselves must end, for all the harm it had brought us!" He declared. "This realm needs peace, and peace is what I vow to bring you!"

The ecstatic crowd was cheering him on, as Ddraig Hamilton turned his head toward Gren. "Well, I'm glad this folly is finally over with, wouldn't you agree?"

"No, I am afraid this is merely the beginning of it."

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