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Wonderful Contest Raven, thank you for this community contribution ♥
In the Summer of 671 of the Fourth Age, Xeilian Legionaries storms the Forest Floor of the City of Sarerani. The Count of Amani Jasiri had protested the Xeilian Emperor’s insistence on expansion and violent repression of internal opposition. The lifts, which typically gave Menn access to the canopy above, were deactivated. Those who could not get to the lifts were trapped. Many of them would have died if it were not for a Kypiq girl.
Barely in her ninth year, this orphan girl led countless of the trapped Neran, Weard and grounded Kypiq away from the rampaging Legionaries. She died in the chaos: but she would live on in the legends of what is now known as the Sarerani Diaspora.
A group of Neran who fled the raids believed her to be the embodiment of the Virtue of Kindness, Kedryn. The Neran of Amani Jasiri, however, called Kedryn “Aina”. These Neran held Aina in their heart as they fled south, away from Xeilian hostility and away from their home. They travelled through the forest floor of the broadleaf forests, the dry shrublands, and the wide steppes. They faced all manner of illness, pain and suffering. But through it all, Aina stayed with them, and they met their challenges with vigor, determination, and hope.
Eventually, a Neran named Daric rose to the fore. He led scouting parties ahead of the group, helped to forage for food, and addressed concerns among the Neran. When the Neran finally arrived in the hills of the Novigrad Valley, Daric had been given the honorary title of Theuderic: leader of menn.
Theuderic decided that the Neran had wandered far enough and started to build a new home for his people in the hills. Mji ya Aina, a village dedicated to Aina, was born.
Under the leadership of Theuderic, Aina grew into a strong city which sought to protect the innocent as their savior had. By this point they had given the little Kypiq girl a name: Ravenna. In 696, at the end of the Great War, Mji ya Aina became known as Ravenna in her honor, as the village had become a fully-fledged barony and had been recognized by the First Warden as a rising force in the region. House Theodoric, the kin of Theuderic, would lead Ravenna to greater heights in attempting to embody the Virtue Aina.
The Barony of Ravenna is built on the same principles that drove Ravenna herself and the Count of Amani Jasiri to act: an abhorrence of tyranny and a hatred of injustice. Its motto, taken from the very founders of Sarerani, is “Peace through Valor.” Ravenna will keep the hinterlands safe and secure the mountain passes for merchants and citizenry. If an enemy makes it down the hills, it means they have despaired at the thought of siege. They will regret leaving Ravenna unconquered. The Bastion of the West will not fail.
"Humanity encapsulates our seemingly unending determination and our individual search for the fulfillment of self." ~ Unknown
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World beginning, World end. We fought like a blazing wildfire against our woes and greedy men we call the Kings of the South. Everything that they inflicted on us was only a scratch. First, they took our workers and bled us dry of our economy. We lost half our supplies and grew tired. That scratch became a cut, and we started to realize our wounds were going to pour out our hard earned blood. The novelty of rich food. Oh, a novelty which has become our enemy.
We coul no longer stand it. We had to fight back. A group of women had travelled to Amani Jasiri to seek help. They told them we were in necessity. But they understandably could not help us at the time. Our last hope was to abandon our town and join Amani Jasiri.
We needed to survive. Time passed and we gathered the strength again to recoup our losses and resculpt our beings to develop our old town once more, stronger than what it would have been. Our unity, staring back at us tore through our souls and placed strength in us where even we could not notice it. Our strength was a phantom inside us that made us appear brighter.
We seeked vengeance, but it never advanced. Instead, our workers returned, and we prospered once again.
THWOOSH. As the arrow left the bowstring, Becky winced a little as she heard the faint whistle from the nock as the missile sped towards it's target. The grazing deer did not realize the danger in time, barely lifting it's head before the arrow instantly dropped it to the ground. With a sharp whistle, Becky called the wolves to bring the sled so the animal could be prepped and loaded for the trip home.
Home. The bustling city of Sarerani. It was no place for a hunter used to the subtle smells of the wild, attentive to the sounds of the world around her. With a wistful thought, Becky looked at the beauty surrounding her in this moment, in this place. She glanced quickly at her loyal lupine companions to make sure they did not detect danger, then allowed herself to slip into a daydream.
She thought of herself in a new place, this place. But not as mere hunting grounds, but as a home. The vista was gorgeous, the sounds and smells of life clear as the day which surrounded her. She and some of the other hunters did not enjoy the trek back to town after a long hunt, and talk around the feasting table had often gone wistfully towards thoughts of someday founding their own hamlet or village. As she looked around her, she saw this as that place.
She knew there was a small hamlet just over the ridge, but had never taken the time from her frequent hunts to visit. Today was going to be that day. Her hunt had already yielded more than normal, so she would visit and offer some of her bounty to the hamlet.
Approaching, she noticed fields laid out, and carefully tended. The few houses were tidy, well cared for, and children played gleefully. She found herself smiling at the pastoral scene as she approached riding her sled. The local innkeeper was gracious as she arrived, and offered to take care of the wolves with food, water, and a place to curl up together and rest. The sled and harness were removed, and Becky offered one of the deer she had as payment for the night. The innkeeper smiled a great smile, as both knew it was a generous and abundant offering for a simple nights stay.
As she sat around the dining room of the inn that night, she was visited by several of the locals that thanked her for the meat. Their last hunter had grown old, and one day did not return from his hunt. The village had plenty of grains and vegetables, but was hungry for the filling portions of meat to keep them strong. Becky thought again of the land surrounding this place, and knew. This was it. This was her place, her time, her future.
As she rose to retire for the evening, she asked the innkeeper who the local mayor was. He lowered his head a little, and said it had been the hunter, and in the weeks since his disappearance nobody had wanted to take the responsibility of seeing over them all. Becky made her decision then and there. "I shall return to Sarerani, as it is my duty to finish my hunt. There I shall inform those I work for that I will continue to send meat and hides, but I will be doing so from my new home, here in Paradeisos. Myself, and I'm sure several of my friends as well, would be pleased to come here to join this delightful community."
The innkeeper blinked twice, his mouth trying to find the words. He finally said "You would live with us, and bring others with skills like yours?" "Of course!" Becky said. "This place, these people, they have always been the stuff of my dreams, I just needed to find it."
The innkeeper put his arms around her in a great hug. "Thank you. We had to have faith someone would come to take care of us. We had no plan for what to do after Scarus, our lost hunter and mayor, failed to return. We would be blessed to have someone with your kind heart and skilled bow come to keep us whole, safe, and of course, well fed!"
In the morning, the whole hamlet turned out to wish her a speedy return. The instant affection she had felt for this town was quickly returned. This was the home her heart had always known was out there, but simply waiting to be found. As she rode back to Sarerani for the last time, she looked forward to telling her friends about this wonderful place. The hamlet would be a village soon enough, filled with love, nature, and beauty. She smiled at the thought of her friends reactions to being invited to live in paradise.
Trade would be easy, as they already knew all the right people in Sarerani, and she knew one particular trader would want to join the community as well. She knew the people joining her here would maintain the strong ties to their birthplace from their new homes. She also knew it would be a personal challenge for her as well to assume the leadership, but one that tugged at her heart to accept.
Home. A true, forever, home in Paradeisos.
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You saw the man, sitting there alone in the icy cold Tavern of Frostfire. Cloaked and old, with a presence of wisdom and enlightenment. A foreigner. A man of the warmth you could tell. His skin was not like yours. A man of warmth that you could never understand. But suddenly, a look. And just as suddenly a calling.
"You there! Yes, you. Would you be a kind lad and throw some more wood on the fire? You Yoru are more accustomed to the icy winds than I...".
He spoke your words well. Father said to stay away from the dark skinned but perhaps it would be fine to help them just this once. Walking over to the corner pile of lumber laying across the room your lanky arms pick up the cold wood. Shifting towards the orange glow of the fire and walking over, you can't help but not stare at the strange old man sitting there by the fire. He was old yet felt young. Ancient, yet new. Wise yet inexperienced.
You throw the wood on the fire and prod it ever slightly so the flame burnt aglow once again. A phoenix from the fire. A new birth.
The old man looks at you. He ponders about you. "You boy. Sit down here. Let me tell you a story. It's been oh so long since I told one."
With eyes bright, you sit. You've sat many times in front of this fire alone. And many times long ago with your mother. Mother told you stories here. You liked stories. Father does not like stories. Father said not to listen but something is telling you that you best listen. Mother would want you to listen. You like stories.
The old man shifted in his seat and hunched so as to become more level with you. He coughs and then smiles warmly.
“You like stories boy?” “Y, yes” you say, your child like voice contrasted with his ancient croak. “Good. I’m going to tell you one that I’ve not told many.” The old man looks up, finding words and pictures long ago put away. He then looks down once again, and looks you right in the eye. His eyes were as a fire.
"Long ago, through the mountains, up against a creek, down a stream, and over a field, deep within the majestic Kingdom of Alesia there lived a man. Yes, that's right, a man. But as you will soon learn this man was no mere man. No, for this man's name was Sirvi Ravenwind. Not to be confused with Sirvi Ravenwind the third current count of Amani Jasiri."
You had never heard of these places, and you never heard of a 'Sirvi Ravenwind' before. You were confused. And you must have looked it too.
The man laughs. "Ah, you've never heard of him? Haha let me tell you about an old experience I had with him in my youth.
But first, allow me to introduce myself." The old man removes his hood rather dramatically. "I am the ever famous Caspain Fraujis! Third son to the ever 'noble'... Peasant Fruela Fraujis. Anyway, where were we? Ah yes! Sirvi! You see lad, Sirvi was a stout gent, with an equally stout wife and 3 children. Betizi, Sirvi the second, and Corathal.
I met him in my service to Lord Umber many years ago. We were downing the uprising of the Totharian raiders who were marching on Sarerani. If you don't know that's found within the county of Amani Jasiri, a much warmer place than this."
"What does it look like?" you ask, eager. The man gives you a look with his eye, one eyebrow raised higher than the other, and he gets closer. "What does it look like ye say?" You nod. He laughs. "Laddy, it's the most beautiful city you will ever lay your eyes on. Hell, all of Amani Jasiri is a paradise. At least in those days. In spring the fields would be arrayed in golds, pinks, reds. Alive with color. In summer you could pick a grape the size of your head". Caspain flicks your head. It hurts a little. You rub you're head. "And the women. Oooh the women." Caspain looks down on you as if coming back from a faraway land and realizing where he is. He then smiles. "Maybe I'll tell you about them whence you are older, laddy." 'Women?' You think. Father says to stay away from women, especially the naked ones in the strange house down the street.
"Anyway, where was I? Ah yes! Sirvi! When we first met I was a lad no more of 17, and he 37. You should have seen him then! Big, strong, able to take on an ox or two even at that age.
If there was a tavern nearby you could always expect Sirvi to be there drinking the local ales. He loved those. From Fireskin Brew, to Acidcrest, he drank them all! You Yoru don't know the half of all the ales you can taste, especially a lad like you.
I remember one Tavern I was in. The ‘Ship of Fools’ they would call it. I loved that place. It was burned down years ago, but it still lives here” The old man points at his graying hair. “I remember chatting with the most beautiful brunette you would have ever laid your eyes on. Dreamy eyes of blue and yet a curly hair that flowed like the waters of the Thard. A clean gal too. Not like the whores in Fortuna. No no no. She was a commoner with a heir of dignity.” He said this looking into the fire, his eyes bringing him to a time long ago.
You had never heard of the Thard or Fortuna or Alesia or any of these places. Everything was new to you. A new birth…
“But then… A man almost twice my height came across from the tavern. Him and one of his friends. I would say the shortest individual I’ve ever seen came hobbling over. Drunk and angry. They wanted her for themselves. And I wouldn’t have it. And I was fool. I saw their swords. These were not common folk, but gentry. Knighted in some way. Warriors who command other warriors.” The last words slipped off of Caspians teeth with malice and darkness. “But I was young and stupid. As far as anybody was concerned that had the authority there. They drew their swords and I went for my axe. Before I knew it my axe was somewhere else in the room and I was on the ground, my hand in a bloody mess.”
Caspian held up his left hand, mostly covered in his robe this entire time. Your eyes widen. You see that the old man has only 3 fingers. “I guarded in the wrong place at the wrong time” he says in a dark low tone.
“But then, a stout figure comes in front of me almost from nowhere. ‘That’s enough men’ he said in a commanding tone. ‘But my lord-!’ ‘I said, that’s enough Nelson’. The 2 men bowed ever so slightly and then hobbled away, returning to their drink. The pain was throbbing in my fingers, tears dripping down my face. But I wanted to still impress her. I looked for her, trying to save face but alas she was nowhere to be seen. Holding my hand, panic slowly beginning to kick in that I had lost a couple of old friends, but suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was the stout man. ‘My good man, I’m so sorry for this. Good men are hard to come by and those certainly were not good men.’ He held out his hand to me, which I readily took. He brushed me off ever so slightly, and looked me over. I knew this man. He was a commander on the battlefield. Lord Umber Ravenwinds son. This man was Sirvi Ravenwind the warrior, and I knew it. ‘What’s your name boy?’ he said. ‘Caspian son of Fruella Fraujis, my lord’ ‘Fraujis?’ ‘Yes my lord.’ ‘The one with the red hat? Was he in the Golvari war of ‘21?’ ‘Aye my lord, he was.’ ‘Well I’ll be! I served with him then. He was a cunning warrior. I would have sworn he was a gent in a commoners body. I remember one time at the Battle of Shynar he cut down 6 men in one fight. By the gods, fast he was. How has he been?’ ‘...Dead sir.’ I said, clutching my hand and gritting my teeth in the worst pain I felt in my life. ‘Damn shame.’ he said, pondering about me. ‘Don’t worry, you can still clutch a weapon.’ he said. ‘And you have your father's blood! You will find a way, trust me. Here’. He then put down coin on the counter. ‘Drink the night away if you like. But don’t be fooled by these women boy. They be whores disguised as maidans.’ His slightly fat body began to walk away, and I’ll never forget those parting words. ‘A true man saves himself for the maidan of light in his life’...
I followed those words.” Caspian looked down solemnly at a ring on his finger. Arrayed in ruby reds and sapphire blues, with a clear crystal that you had never seen before. Was this man an exiled king? You had never seen such an exquisite piece of jewelry.
“My maidan…” he said, fiddling with the ring. The old man seemed sad.
Then, as if awakening from a dream, he continued: “That was the first time I met Sirvi, but it wasn’t the last. From then on Sirvi took a personal interest. He taught me to navigate, he taught me most of everything I know. Sirvi and I fought together, drank together, and became the best of friends. He was as a father to me and I his son.”
A long silence fell for a moment. The old man stared into the fire, remembering long lost nights and adventures of old that were forgotten by all. “Aye, a father.”
“He eventually allowed men to serve under me. I was not of noble birth, but he was confident in my abilities, and I was ever grateful. They were damn good men all of them. And I loved them as brothers I did.”
“What happened to them?” you ask.
He smiles a grin and looks down upon you. “Ahh, that’s another story for another time boy, let us finish this one tonight.”
You nod, awaiting the words from the wise man's mouth.
“There was one time though that Sirvi was injured to the point where he couldn’t walk. An arrow in the leg and a slash across the tendons. Nasty wound I tell you, but he was an ox. He demanded to stay on the field with his men, but his father wouldn’t have it until he was healed up. His father's escort was to take him back to Amani Jasiri. To Sarerani. His father also had talk of establishing another hamlet somewhere in Amani Jasiri. A trade route of sorts. By the name of Asturias. But Sirvi being the man he was would have none of it and demanded that instead of his fathers escort coming me and my company take him in their stead. I was much obliged.
We were in the far south, on the borderlands, and we needed to head north. 50 damn men were with us, plenty to keep one man safe. Excessive would have hardly described it! He absolutely hated it. You should have seen him. He tried to delay as long as possible in hopes his wounds would heal! It took us nearly 2 weeks until we finally left! You know the excuse we told him?” he asks.
“No, what?” you say.
“Resupply. If it was for the war you damn well know he would be up for it. And so off we went.
We left from Alesia's badlands up through Foxes Crest and Heralds Sword, following the river Thard. By the gods it was gorgeous, especially in those days. The spring blooms were coming out and you could smell the sweet wines of Alesia passing every hamlet.”
“What does sweet wine taste like?” you wonder aloud.
Caspian snorts and looks at you with a look of bewilderment. “You’re father really does keep you in the dark here! … Sweet wine is hard to explain. It has the flavor of Alesias fine wine, yet it has the refreshing taste of the crystal waters from Kairos , mixed with the hearty brews of Bordweall, with just a tinge of chocolate from Vornair.”
All of these tastes and places made no sense to you, but you decided to nod in understanding anyway.
“As I was saying, we were to head north. And all went well. We were making good progress, and we even entered the borders of Amani Jasiri. All we needed to do next was make it to Sarerani. But then… We heard a cry.”
“Aye boy, a cry. It was just off the road, in the middle of nowhere. Forest all around. I took my spear and asked 2 men to come with me. Sirvi hobbled out from the wagon, walking with his wooden crutch and demanded to come too. And I… I…. Obliged.
We ran off into the woods towards the sound, leaving Sirvi hobbling behind us. We then saw a woman cloaked in brown. Huddled with her hands on her face, crying her heart out next to a tree. ‘What is the matter my lady?’ I asked. She looked up. She was aged slightly, a woman in her 40s perhaps, eyes blood red. ‘We were travelling. They came. They. They took everything. They took my boy. My husband. They killed… Oh God please. Stop them.’ ‘Where are they now my lady?’ I asked. Her bony fingers covered in blood pointed somewhere into the woods. ‘How many?’ ‘3 sir, grimy broots, but young, no more than 15 from their birth year. One of them looked perhaps a little older.’ She said. By this point Sirvi approached and I told him the situation. He ordered for us to scout out further, and he absolutely demanded he go us with. The damn fool!
But we thought ourselves the strongest in Amani Jasiri. We were young, strong and foolish and Sirvi was old and prideful. We trekked in that forest for 3 hours and couldn’t find a thing. Until the end of the 3 hours that is.”
“You found the bandits?” you ask.
Caspian chuckles. “No no boy. We found hell…
The sun was going down and we would have no liked to head back in the pitch dark with bandits afoot. Then we saw it. A strange rock like structure was in the ground. Man made for a certain. The stones were squared remarkably well. The structure itself square with walls no more than up to your head. No ceiling. And the stairs. Oh by the gods the stairs. Narrow stairs that merely went down into the darkness. It had a strange foreboding about it, but we couldn’t complain. It was shelter. A torch was lit. We decided to go in and go in we did.
We walked down the foreboding steps and we realized that this was more ancient than we ever could have realized. The stones seemed to choke in around us. The steps going down and leading to what seemed like a natural cavern. We were amazed. Until we saw the blood that is. Yes, the blood. Looking ahead, allowing the fire light to guide our way we saw pools and pools of it. Until we saw the bodies. 3 men, 2 of them no more than 15, the other a little older. The bandits themselves, mutilated and cut. All dead.”
Fire crackles in the darkness within the cold tavern.
“Our weapons then were drawn, including Sirvi who decided to use the walls as his support instead of the crutch, hobbling along with sword in hand.
All was quiet.
Then we saw it. A pedestal tucked away on one of the walls, carved literally from the stone of the cavern itself. An ancient yet eerie artificial guardian of stone among the naturals caverns. The fire light flickered off of it, and the darkness clawed in around us. The glow of a blade we saw on the pedestal. A dagger, about a foot long, it’s handle etched with gold gilding of an elegance that we had never seen. On the blade itself was etched a graceful phoenix. Beautiful and pure, and it was almost as if it absorbed the fire light itself.”
The unsheathing of a blade was heard, and Caspian revealed a dagger. “This is the very blade itself.” He gives it to you. The blade almost glows in the darkness, and the elegant phoenix can be seen. And the gold. You had never seen “gold” before, but you decided you liked it.
“We then explored the other side of the cavern. Another pedestal was found; with nothing on it. Well with that we were satisfied, and decided that perhaps camping here was not the best choice and decided to make our way back to the company. On our way out we passed the bodies yet again.
Sirvi stopped by one of them. ‘Bring the fire over here Casp’ Sirvi said. I walked over and illuminated the mutilated corpse. A sheen caught our eye. A dagger, much the same as the one I looted. However this was different. The gilding was arcane purple. The blade, a dragon rising.
Sirvi Ravenwind picked up the dagger. And to our surprise it started glow.”
“Yes boy, glow! Glow purple. So. Much. Purple. Sirvi, he… He changed. His eyes weren’t his. ‘Sirvi?’ I asked aloud. My men, came up besides me. One of them was good friends with Sirvi. He knew him well before I. Stephen of Torn his name was. He put his hand on Sirvi’s shoulder. It was the last thing he ever did. Sirvi took his newfound blade and pushed it right up through the mouth and into the brain. Stephen fell the the ground. Then my other guard, Asher charged him with a Spear, Sirvi sidesteps and merely cut open the belly of the man. That man had mail on boy! Mail! Our armor was like butter to that blade.”
Fear starts to rise within you. Mothers stories were not like this. You drop the blade and it falls to the floor with a clatter.
“I backed against the wall, dropping the torch. For that instant I was no longer a man. I was a boy again. I was a stupid boy far from home. ‘S, Sirvi?’ I said. No response. ‘SIRVI PLEASE!’ I yelled with tears. No response. Only the eyes. The purple eyes. The shuffling of the feet. Coming closer. And closer. Closer. CLOSER.”
Tears begin to well up in your eyes. You don’t like this. You are scared and you know it. The old man gets closer to your face.
“I then knew what I had to do. I unsheathed the blade of the Phoenix, and it glowed red like fire in the dark. He came first, but I knew what he would do. He taught me everything. I parried, sidestepped and struck. He blocks and kicks me away. I fall on my back but roll away before the blunt of his blade pierces me. The blade then got stuck in a cavern crevice. I knew I only had a second and I struck, and I struck true. But where? ‘Please don’t kill him’ I remember thinking. I heard a grunt and I quickly let go of the Phoenix, running over to the dying torch on the cavern floor. I picked it up and ran back over to my friend. He no longer held the blade, instead he held the blade of the Phoenix protruding from his chest. He looked at me with that same fatherly smile I had always known. ‘It seems the student has become the master’ he whispered. ‘No… Please no.’ I said, with tears in my eyes. ‘It’s alright Casp. It’s alright. I was a fool to come anyway. But I’m glad I did. This could have been you, I’m glad I could step into your place.’ ‘Damn you... Why did you have to come?!’ He chuckled for a little, coughing up blood. ‘Because… You’re my friend.’ And he was. He was my best friend. ‘I want you to have Asturias. My father wanted me to be Mayor but… I think.... You… Would be better suited.’ ‘No’ I said. ‘You’re going to live!’ He then coughed more and more and wheezed and… I knew. I knew he would never make it back. He grinned. ‘You know the truth as well as I.’ ‘My father… As proof of my blessing… Tell him of… My bastard child. He’s with the Yoru.’ ‘The Yoru?’ He merely shook his head with a smile. ‘Just tell him… He knows I wouldn’t tell anyone. His name is... ‘ His breathing became more labored. ‘His name is… Quel.’ And… And then Sirvi Ravenwind died. My friend.”
A long silenced ensued, with the crackling of the fire in the back. “In the end, Umber Ravenwind believed me, and granted me mayorship of Asturias. My life was forever changed from that point. It was all because of Sirvi Ravenwind.”
“You mentioned Quel” you say. “My grandfathers name is Quel! My mother used to speak of him.”
The old man looks at you with a warm smile. Sleep overtaking him. “Aye... Your grandfather Quel is the son of the great Sirvi Ravenwind.”
“Heh, yes laddy. You are a Ravenwind. Boy,” Caspian Fraujis extends his hand to the young man. “Let me bring you to Asturias. I will show you your true family. I will show you the home of Sirvi Ravenwind, your great grandfather. I will teach you the ways of the warrior.”
You sit there in disbelief. A crackling of the fire is heard throughout the cold tavern. A phoenix rising in the dark. A new birth.
It had been a tiring trip back from the rocky valleys of the Stormlands, but worth every gold piece earned selling all those trinkets he had stolen along the way. Selling the merchant’s caravan and horses also added a nifty weight to the pockets; poor Neran shouldn’t have tried to fraud a Kypiq.
The plan was going… just as planned; gather as many valuable items as possible, steal transport, travel to distant settlements and profit.
No more than a few days of walk now separated the clever prick from his dream: buying his way to gentry, and eventually into aristocracy. Why work hard and earn respect when you can have others do it for you…
Nocci easily recognised the border into Saorsa; the colossal twin ironwood trees dominated the area, and their canopies kept sunlight to themselves. Amani Jasiri, his home county, wasn’t much farther. Surely that leader-wanna-be he had in mind would be gullible enough to let him buy his way into noble ranks. Moyo was the name he had chosen for his settlement, it sounded soft and joyful, people would want to live there.
He chose land less than a kilometer from the county’s keep, Sarerani, at the edge of its ironwood tree’s shadow. Four other small settlements had already sprouted the same way so his would look no more than casual he thought. Barely three days had passed, and the hired workers had finished carving a giant mushroom into what would become a barn. He nimbly climbed up top to gaze at his land and noticed smoke a few hundred meters north; another brand-new settlement was coming to life, Prosperity was its name he heard, well chosen for a place he’d feed from, he tought.
As weeks and months passed, Nocci hired more and more thrill seekers and formed a thieves’ guild. They began digging a web of tunnels to travel stealthily across the region, they opened small banks in other settlements under fake identities so villagers would themselves gather in one place all goods to be stolen, and they actively sabotaged competing breeding farms to keep their product’s prices high.
Business could hardly get better and the underground web, constantly improving, was growing into a settlement of its own. Economy based on poisons, enhancing alchemy and luxury objects on the black market made many rich. Houses were built, villas even, forging a strong mercantile association and bringing people of all tribes together. The surface part of Moyo was eventually abandoned to farmers.
Well concealed in his hidden fort, Nocci hadn’t noticed that Prosperity too, was thriving. Somehow, it had found a way to be renowned as Alésia’s top in terms of medicine, combat wound care and economy. When the news made it to him, he thought it impossible but had to see for himself. He hurried to the closest exit leading in a farmer’s closet, went out into the street and was upset by the sight.
Buildings everywhere; Prosperity had acquired most land between the settlements and even around his own, therefore legally owning most land his mischievous band had dug into.
Furious, he rushed back down and ordered everyone to expand the city towards Prosperity, he could not allow another to solely own the glory of something he had a part in. Surely, fighting wasn’t the wise choice, instead he chose to replicate the surface city everyone seemed to praise. He spent most of his fortune to have it done properly and even gave up precious items from his personal treasure to make it prestigious, he had to bring more people in.
He felt like years had passed, but the work had been achieved. Moyo couldn’t be more perfect to his eyes; it had everything Prosperity had plus the soft, natural lightning of phosphorescent plants. The digging effort had led the economy to be more oriented on precious metals as Prosperity was sitting on rich gold veins.
Nocci headed to the tavern to celebrate for himself and asked for a bottle of Saorsa’s blue wine, his favorite. As he tilted his head back to gargle a sip, his eyes met with those of a straight-standing, serious-looking female holding a wax-sealed scroll. She handed it to him.
‘’Read’’ was the only word that came out of her mouth. He executed the order.
He was being summoned to meet Sirvi… that wanna-be leader he had known as a teen. He pushed the scroll towards the messenger, clearly expressing his decline. Guards approached from every corner of the tavern.
‘’Follow’’, she said. He stood up nervously and obeyed.
Immediately, he was led to a large, lightly guarded room. They obviously weren’t afraid of him. Sirvi, smiling, came in with a comity. They explained Nocci that they had taken advantage of everything he had done; from the poisons, they had developed the most efficient antidotes, they purified his drugs to make potent medicines and treatments again traumas, and the frequent squirmishes between militia and thieves had forced the development of better medical tools and procedures. They had followed his every step from the start, they had spies in his ranks, paid by him.
They made it clear to him that he could never have been the boss, but that he could have his part in greatness. Two choices from which only one was acceptable were given to him: be tossed aside, exiled, or work for a strong Moyo-Prosperity future, they did acknowledge his leading abilities.
Sirvi wasn’t the gullible princess he thought she was, after all. With what was left of his pride, he accepted the union and signed the contract. Merged together, they would become a model for all, perhaps even surpass the duchie’s capital.
From now on, Moyo would be the roots holding the alliance in ground, and Prosperity the branches, ever reaching for the skies. He would lead it from the darkness and she, into the light. It wasn’t what he had planned, but it felt great… better, even.
Moyo-Prosperity rose to greatness, both above and below. The sage two-fold queen approved of this symbiosis and blessed them with eternal balance.
Congrats to first and second place!
"Humanity encapsulates our seemingly unending determination and our individual search for the fulfillment of self." ~ Unknown
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Thank you, and I feel humbled after reading some of the other great stories submitted as well. I look forward to seeing if Ravenna, Asturias, and Moyo-Prosperity come to be, as they are all places I would be pleased to visit.
Thank you Sirvi. PM is on the way.
Thank you very much Sirvi, that is very generous of you and I feel honored. I hope everyone liked what i wrote. I may work on more in the future :)