A Light Most Pure

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Rillian knocked an arrow into her maple bow, crouching down silently. The sleight and small bosmer--even for her race's standard--had slipped between a moss-covered stone and a large Oak. Using one foot to pin her body against the stone by the tree, she was lifted two feet off the ground. Orcs were passing, she was outside Orsinium. A group of Orcs were in combat with a "local pest" as they called it in their rough voices as they passed.

With a small smile, she was pleased to see that, for once, she was not the one being hunted. She was a few leagues into the Reach, a place that had been her hunting grounds for awhile. What the orcs were doing? She had no idea, until now. The "local pest" must be the undead issue cropping up; something that had been happening remarkably often in the Reach.

She suspected that these orcs and Rillian had a great deal of similar motives, although she wouldn't much enjoy having company. So, she preferred to follow them.

Rillian glanced up, the oak loomed over the edge of the boulder, which was a platform-like boulder with a wide edge that acted as a barrier to the road in the mountain-hill regions of the Reach. It was only about eight feet tall, but that was very high to a Bosmer on the ground. On a tree? Not a problem. She simply pressed both knees into the side of the tree, placing both palms against the tree, and crawling up. The eighty pound elf moved easily along the Oak, and sat on the side of the boulder, watching the orcs carefully.

There was six of them, walking in a pack. There was no formation, but they were all armed and three carried torches. The other three carried shields. She stood up silently and quietly walked along the ledge of the boulder, which stuck out about another thirty feet, before falling off again into an open field and the side of a fork in the road that she followed from the distance--and upon which the orcs were walking.

They spoke of the local pest, one said to that which appeared to be the leader, "Why don't we just go to the Hollow and beat them down?"

"We need to better know our enemy," replied the one that the others seemed to look towards for leadership, a suspicion that was confirmed as he gestured to the right fork, "We go this way, today. We need to make an extra loop before heading back." He was big, but seemed compiled and intelligent.

Unfortunately, her boulder didn't much help that way, she had to go down next to the brush along the side of the road, and follow from a greater distance--or she could come out in the open. Not like she had much to hide. But, as skilled as she may be in talking out of situations, she thought these orcs seemed a bit paranoid, and an elf would not be a welcome sight--or probably wouldn't. Orcs and elves didn't get along well.

She stopped short of sliding off the edge of the mossy stone, but the orcs made their move. One turned and shot an arrow at her, which missed by a few centimeters. She returned the shot quicker then they thought she would--clearly. Perhaps they didn't realize they were dealing with a Bosmer. Her arrow met its target, right into the orc's upper leg, missing the artery, but bringing him down.

One shouted, throwing an axe at her, which she sidestepped, and she shot another arrow a centimeter from his foot, calling down, "Whoa, orsimer. It is not you that I have a fight with."

The orcs managed to get into formation properly in the half-second exchange, the two shielded ones still up guarding the injured and the shieldless. It would be harder to bring them down. The leader called up, "Why does an elf stalk us in our own lands?"

"You seek the enemy of whom I strike against."

"What, exactly, does a Bosmer have to do with necromancers in the Reach?"

"It is not my association with my heritage that binds me to this, but conscious choice."

"What, you some Stendarr follower?"

She smiled, shaking her head, "No, not really. You and I have more in common then you think."

"Well, you probably weigh about as much as my axe, so I'm not sure that counts."

"Right, but I was about to leave--honestly--and neither of us need any more injuries then we have to, if we're to avoid losing ourselves to our dead friends."

"So, you lower your bow, and we both back away slowly. Then we'll never see you again, Bosmer?"

"Yeah, next time, I'll be more careful." She said, coyly, as she walked backwards, her knocked bow pointed down. They backed along the road carefully, dragging their injured comrade.

She took three steps back, until the boulder obscured her vision, and then span around and ran along the boulder. Upon reaching the end, she didn't slow, but lept across a ten-foot gap and clinging to the side of a faraway oak. She swing from the closer branches to a distant one, which swung over her weight, which allowed her to grab a neighboring trees one. It bowed under her weight, bringing her closer to the base of the other tree, not fifteen feet away. She safely landed on the side of the road, seventy feet from where she was eight seconds ago--and several obstacles between her and the orcs.

The orc clan in the region wasn't that interested in trusting her--not a surprise--but one of them was a particularly good tracker. She was impressed. Not quite as good at archery, though.

She sat along the side of the oak, nursing her shins that had taken quite the beating during her flight along the trees. She was actually observing the goings on in the area, her sharp ears twitching back as she listened. And then, she caught it. It was a noise she thought she had heard earlier. A quiet groan of some sort, well off the track. She guessed it was four-hundred feet away, deep into the woods and hills to her South.

She knocked her bow again, and approached the noise. It got much louder as she got closer, and then the firelight flickered along the failing daylight. She felt safer when Mundus shown, but she could handle the darkness--indeed, she used it quite well. The firelight that flickered was that of a camp, and the groaning was that of a man... Or what used to be a man.

The camp was occupied by one person, a small ritual circle of runestones and regular stones, and a corpse in the center--a recently dead orc. Rillian pulled the arrow back, frowning as she watched the hill barbarian do his ritual, cutting open the stomach of the corpse, and sticking a soulstone in the dead intestines. He took out a sacrificial dagger, and brought it down on the throat of the corpse. The runestones glowed as the necromancer began to chant cursed rituals.

An arrow from Rillian's bow was in his throat, tearing his vocal cord from his skin, letting it flap in freedom as blood poured over the long wooden object in the necromancer's throat. Another shot landed in the side of his head, tearing at his jaw and up, behind his jaw. He fell back, she had struck his frontal lobe. He wasn't dead yet, but he would die soon. She closed the ten-foot distance into the camp quickly.

She crouched next to the dying necromancer. She drew a dagger, tearing the robes off of his chest, he was a handsome man, in his own way. Although, he repulsed her. She could literally smell the death on him. The dagger plunged into his chest, a nonlethal blow. In a series of cuts and other blows, she cut a crude emblem into his chest--Mundus, with rays around it.

She seemed, however, to have miscalculated how quickly the ritual could be done--or simply the soulstone that was in the corpse's stomach finally found a soul to steal, either way, cold, dead hands were on her throat. She thrust her knife backwards, it jabbed into his gut, and the thing reeled back. Incredible pain burned through the undead, throwing it off course. But, the surprisingly strong undead recovered.

It countered with a body blow so heavy she was lifted from the ground and threw a few feet. She attempted to draw her bow, but the beast was on her again, attempting to rip at her neck. She was forced to hold him off at the neck with both hands to hold him off. She hadn't wanted to, but she was forced to close her eyes.

She was lost in memories as the undead was disintegrated.

It was strange, she grew up in her ancestral home, but never fit in. For no real reason, she always had a burning association with the Light, that affinity for it she couldn't avoid. She was attracted to it, physically, mentally, spiritually. She never found recompense in the most mainstream of faiths. As a very young elf, she was nihilistic, and a little self-loathing. She was alone in Cyrodiil, before the total collapse of all law and order there.

It was there that she found the obscure Daedric Prince of Life, the Lady of Infinite Energies and the Living Light. In a lonely Ayleid Ruin, surrounded by nothing but her own loneliness and nihilism, she found the first hint of purpose.

And she followed it all the way to a relatively small statue on a small platform, covered in moss, cracks, and vines. She was in High Rock, and it was the only true shrine of Meridia she could access or find--a tiny, modest Daedric Shrine. It was abandoned, and forgotten for what looked like centuries. She had no doubt it was. And it was there that she found that old tome.

In that old tome, she had discovered all she desired to know of Meridia, the Lady of Lights. She realized that all of her life, she was looking for something actually quite simple: life. Meridia was the key to that life. And, on a secluded shrine, miles from the nearest living sentient, and with a head of an slain undead--her first--she first swore her allegiance to the Living Light. The Daedric Prince of Life was the only patron she ever desired or needed. She gave her life purpose, and for that, she would forever follow that purpose.

She was not the Champion of Meridia, but she would spend her life proving that she was worthy of Meridia's Light and Infinite Energies. There were many Seekers of Light, secretly worshiping their obscure Prince around Nirn. Rillian Nighthollow was one of them.

Rillian was on her back, covered in the ashen remains of her opponent. She hadn't wanted to reveal that energy so early, wanting to scare the necromancers with the unknown, but perhaps it would work to her advantage. The ashes of a depleted undead, and the sacrifical killing of a Necromancer might do the trick. But, to use such bursts of energy took much out of Rillian. To totally disintegrate a beast of that size, and to completely consume a soul gem, was not easy.

She sat up, and instantly heard that there was something wrong. Adrenaline pumped through her aching body, as the dust fell from her. She pulled her bow up and knocked a bow. As she did so, she was already out of the clearing, her nimble form carrying her quickly and quietly through the forest.

She was being followed, and then she felt the cold hand touch the back of her head. She was thrown by that one hand into the air, and against a tree. The thing that had attacked her was incredibly strong, and Rillian was weak and nearing unconsciousness. It descended upon her, but she had excellent eyesight at night, she saw a humanoid form, moving with surprising grace in the dead of night. The cold hand, the incredible strength?

It came to her as she launched a burst of gold flame at the beast. It recoiled in pain, an unearthly loud shriek raising the hairs on the back of her neck. And she was up again, this time fleeing up a tree, throwing herself from tree to tree and branch from branch. She was a wood elf, and if a vampire who hadn't fed in awhile could follow her, she was in trouble for other reasons.

She wasn't powerful enough to defeat a powerful vampire when the vampire had the surprise attack--even a reduced one. She had to flee, to regain her composure, and return with a plan.

There was a great deal more going on then she had originally thought.
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Posted Apr 2, 14 · OP
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A vampire surrounded by a relatively small cabal of necromancers in the indigenous hills of the Reach was too much of a coincidence to be expected. The vampire was powerful, her brief encounter with the being had shown her that. Vampires were exceptionally strong, but he threw her like a ragdoll with one hand, while they were both running. She was a talented bosmer, so escaping via tree was the only skill she had on him.

It shocked her, though. She was hunting what she thought was a small cabal, but so far, it wasn't adding up. The paranoia of the powerful orc tribe which had recently invaded the northern region of the Reach out of the Wrothgorian Mountains had surprised her, but she thought it was superstition. A vampire, even just one, was incredibly worrying. Worse yet, the necromancer she had slain, while not powerful in and of himself, had managed to raise a particularly powerful husk--and his use of a soulstone to power him implied the development of constructs--undead beings independent--at least as a power source--of the lone necromancer that summoned him.

They were building an army.

She had her keen eyes open, summoning her limited knowledge of illusion to allow her to better see at night. She was high in a tree, looking over the wooded hills before her, or what she could see. It wasn't so difficult to imagine that the vampire was still looking for her, but she had gotten far ahead, and the darkest hours of night were upon them both. She had trained for years to fight vampires, but she still wasn't much of a match against one of such strength. She had to move carefully.

She heard a rustling that most would not have heard, but the trained bosmer could hear. The rustle sounded like foot on grass or leaves, and she peered around. There was nothing that her limited nighteye could see.

How could the vampire have caught up to her? Or found her at all? She was at least a mile ahead of him when she stopped.

And then she saw the red eyes glaring up at her through the gloom of the artificially formed twilight that only she saw; at the same time as she lept from this side of the tree to the next, moving from another one, she felt the small trickle on her arm. Sometime during the chase, she had scratched her arm. It was bleeding. Adrenaline had kept her from noticing the pain.

She'd never be able to get out of the range of the vampire before he was exhausted until she cleaned the wound, but she didn't have time. She moved from one tree to another, beginning to climb it higher, sitting on the last branch that looked like it would be a good perch on the semi-tall oak. She sat down on the branch, gaining perfect balance. In a quick motion, the vampire began to come up after her, jumping from branch to branch with his undead strength. He was able to avoid her bow for awhile by leaping from side of the tree to another with each branch he came up, but it slowed his progress.

She carefully drew her knife, needing a different strategy entirely. She wasn't a master of active magic, but she was skilled in passive magic, especially related to her deity and minor obsession. With the knife, she etched runes into the tree, leaping down to a branch on the other side of the tree--and slightly lower--to finish her rune circle on the top of the tree. The vampire was making progress. He was tall, thin, and a Reachman. With deep red eyes and pasty skin, he was clearly old and powerful, and hadn't fed in a long time.

As she felt a scaly hand on her ankle, she finished the rune. She felt her body wrenched down with incredible strength, and she grabbed onto the branch she was standing on with her hands as she came down, catching herself. Hooking the branch under one arm, she stabbed her knife into the side of the tree. With the vampire pulling her leg in a strange direction, she had to move quickly. The now free hand launched a small ray of flame magic at the rune circle, which exploded into energy upon activation. It had created a small nova--like a very weak, miniature version of Mundus.

It was both sunlight and fire magic that licked out and touched the Vampire, who, in his state of exposure to both flame and sunlight, was slammed with the power that was sapping Rillian of a great deal of her strength. The vampire let out a deafening shriek of pain as he lost his grip on the tree, in agony. Unfortunately, the ninety-pound Rillian had no chance in holding up a two-hundred pound vampire with only one arm; she lost her grip, and began to fall.

One thing that she was good at was climbing a tree, and she'd never fallen off of a tree in her entire life. With both hands clear to grab onto branches, she was able to slow her descent with painful and sudden slams into her arms as she grabbed onto them, and they either broke or she lost her grip. Finally, she caught one on her descent, but the vampire's weight was still on the iron tight grip on her leg--the wrenching stop forced his hand clear, but not before the angle by which he stopped ripped her knee severely out of place, dislocating the kneecap and possibly breaking or badly spraining her ankle.

She let out a short gasp of agony as pain shot through her entire body from her right leg, but the vampire took the worst of it--he fell the extra thirty feet and landed poorly on his feet. By the sounds of his yells, it sounded as if he had broken his legs. She looked down, in the haze of pain, and confirmed it by the strange angles they had broken; he had landed bow-legged, his knees had fallen to either side, and both looked shattered.

Rillian groaned, climbing up onto the branch, and with another yell of pain, relocated her kneecap. Her ankle wouldn't be as easy to "fix," though. She had a small pack with her, for survival purposes. And she was in a tree--she had all the aspects necessary to create a working brace that may allow her to at least walk. And upon further inspection, she found by touching the swelling ankle that it was not, as she had feared, broken. It had been a bad sprain. Using a branch and some bandages in her pack, she set the ankle firmly and wrapped it up, placing her boot back on and using her arms to climb to another tree.

She looked down, the vampire was roaring in anger. She drew her bow again, knocked an arrow, and sent a shock of magic to allow it to erupt in golden flames. She took careful aim, and then sent the flaming arrow at the vampire, who shrieked in pain immediately as the glows of the flame began to touch him. He was engulfed in the flame as the arrow went through his neck, and he continued to shriek deafeningly as he slowly burned to death, writhing in agony. The fire wouldn't spread past the undead vampire. It was designed not to affect the living in the way that it affected the undead.

It was the next day, and things had quieted significantly; her leg was still in agonizing pain, but she had managed to pitch a tent and built wards that would not allow vampires to attack in her troubled sleep. Now, it was morning, and they would be dormant. She rose and packed her supplies, thinking carefully of her situation.

It was time to approach the orc invaders, but first, to chronicle the events and send word to her allies abroad.

She took out a message, sitting on a small stump of a tree that had been cut years before, and had since died, that she had pitched next to; it was still within her protective wards. She wrote the events of the previous night...

"2E 238, Midyear 18.

Attempted to begin operation against necromancers; was surprised to see construction of self-reliant husks. Destroyed necromancer and husk. Ambushed by vampire of all things--powerful, had to run. Accidentally got scratched, vampire tracked me down. Managed to kill it, but dislocated one knee and a bad sprain. Can move pretty well, but need to rest a few days and keep taking the healing medicines.

If necromancers are creating army of husks, will need to talk to the orc invaders. Possible allies? Seemed to be worried about the menace; and if there's even one vampire, there's probably more. Vampire was a Reachman, but that doesn't mean I can assume that's the only one. Need to be careful about associations. Still, orcs are known to be hunting necromancers, too."

She then wrote the report on a piece of paper, and slipped it into her pack. She'd have to send it next time she reached civilization. There was several areas that she could do so, and perhaps the orcs could aid her in that. She wouldn't request back-up yet, but another Seeker may be necessary if the operation was bigger then she had anticipated.

Rillian let out a sigh, putting away her parchment and ink carefully in the small survival pack. She had finished, folding the makeshift tent she had created, and then removed the wards.

She knew where the orcs were, and she knew where she was. They were five miles away, it would be quite the walk, given her injuries, but she would not show up to the orcs weak. Her healing herbs will have done her good by then, and she had kept a souvenir of what was left of the vampire to prove to them she had slain him.

Now, time for the walk.

It was midafternoon by the time she reached the encampment of orcs; it wouldn't have taken so long, but with her injuries, she had to move slower. She was right, the healing herbs had done her well. She no longer walked with a limp, although she suspected she'd still be weaker in a fight then she normally was.

She eyed the encampment from her hiding spot in a tall oak carefully. There was ways to make an approach to the semi-paranoid orcs that would allow her an appearance to their War Speaker--the orc that was leading the invasion. Their intent was conquest and money, of course, but they had been surprised by an organized necromantic cabal. Something that she had intended to observe. Current events included, she had to speed up her plans.

That meant enlisting help, if she could.

She found the orcs surprisingly welcoming as she approached. Instead of drawing weapons and threatening her, they only drew weapons. After she quickly explained that she wasn't here to fight, and only wished to speak to the War Speaker about the necromancer problem, they seemed to be expecting her.

This surprised her a great deal more, but it became clear when she discovered horses were stabled--and they were a High Rock breed.

She wasn't allowed in, but the orcs guarding the encampment sent one to seek approval, and then they heard that she was carrying evidence of Vampirism in the region, she was invited in. She found herself in the center of the encampment, with a small group of Bretons on one side of a war table, the War Speaker and his Council was sitting on the other side. She approached warily, and an orc announced her presence.

The War Speaker nodded and stood up, "Our scouts said there was an exchange with a Bosmer. What business have you, elf, here?"

"I seek to destroy the necromancers here--and was surprised by what I found."

"Speak," said the Breton who sat at the table--the rest stood around him.

Rillian looked to him, "I am Rillian Nighthollow," she paused to allow them to introduce themselves.

"War Speaker Mutgur gro-Graan," He nodded, sitting again. He gestured gruffly to another chair at the table, and Rillian sat.

"I am Sir Hercon Lenchart, unlanded Knight and brother of Baron Garrin Lenchart." He smiled to her as she sat, "Now, speak of what you've seen, Madam Nighthollow."

Baron Lenchart had sent a detachment led by his own brother deeper into the Reach? It was strange. The baron was the son of one of many small noble lords who, being the younger, unlanded sons of powerful men in High Rock, had decided to raise a Knighthood and invade the Reach, and build small border forts to command. Baron Lenchart had inherited his father's military skill, coupled with his own intrigue. Using his skills of subterfuge, he had managed to capture the titles of several other Baronies in the Reach, garnering skill and power as a march lord--a Lord who owned lands on a border of a dangerous region to protect the mainlands.

He wasn't a very important noble, but he had slowly and very steadily harnessing more prestige and strength. But, it still didn't really click with the reason he'd send his own brother to a war table with an orc in a much deeper region of the Reach, unless he knew something they didn't.

"Uh... Right," she continued, realizing they were watching her, "I happened across a necromancer in the region I knew that they were operating. He was working with a dead orc, doing an unholy ritual with a soulstone. He placed it in the stomach and began to incarnate the husk. The soulstone hadn't been charged, so the husk was simply in animation. He had planned to sacrifice something to fill the soulstone; unfortunately, I was not aware of this, and killed the necromancer. This was the sacrifice needed.

"The Husk came to life, and I killed it, finished my work in the area, destroyed the soulstone, and fled. Unfortunately, that's when I discovered the other problem; I was attacked by a vampire as I fled. A strong one."

Both looked surprised, and Sir Hercon said, "Did you kill it?"

"Well, I fled at first, he attacked me by surprise. I managed to escape--I thought--but I had unwittingly gotten a scratch on one of the branches. He tracked me down again, and although I was minorly injured, I slew him." She took out a small vile filled with gray dust, passing it over to the War Speaker first, who opened it and smelled it.

He scowled, passing it over to Hercon, "Vampire Dust. Fresh. I suppose this confirms the story, then."

She nodded, continuing, "I don't know what worries me more, though. The fact these necromancers seem to be building independent husks--and therefore an army--or the presence of powerful vampires. But, I'm also curious on your arrival, Sir Hercon. What would bring Baron Lenchart to send his own brother this deep into the Reach?"

He nodded, "I was explaining this to the War Speaker as you arrived, Madame Nighthollow." He looked at the War Speaker.

The old orc warrior nodded, "This story is enough to gain her a seat at the table, speak, Breton."

Sir Hercon continued, "As you may know, my brother, Baron Lenchart, is the Grandmaster of the Fellowship of the March, a Knighthood that our father founded before invading the Reach Marchlands to gain tactical advantages in a possible war with the Reach. They were minor gains, and went unnoticed by High Rock in general, but my brother has done much to garner better positions for House Lenchart. He has sent me, the Lord-Master of the Fellowship, to establish a base deeper in the Reach, to investigate questions of necromancy--and now vampirism, so it appears--in this area. I was to leave Sir Koren," he gestured to a tall, young Breton to his left, "in charge, but after these reports, I may spend more time here then I thought."

Rillian looked at the War Speaker, "I know it is not common for your two kinds to work together, but in this case, I may suggest a truce. I see no reason to fight each other if the Reachmen are coalescing power at a greater rate then any of us were aware."

Mutgur nodded, "Right, I agree. We have had no contact with the Fellowship of the March before, and therefore no hostilities. So long as we can have an honorable agreement not to fight each other, the War Riders of Graan are quite willing to put aside natural suspicion, at least so long as the necromancers--and apparently vampires--remain a threat."

Hercon nodded, "On behalf of the Fellowship, I, too, will make an honorable agreement with the War Riders of Graan of armistice. None of my knights, or anyone who follows us here, will fight with the Graan legally, or face the punishment of the Fellowship and the Graan." He looked at Rillian, "You say you've been tracking them, or were somehow made aware of them?"

"Yes, an... Ally of mine sent word to me through my contacts of their presence as he was passing through. I came to investigate. I've been here a few days, and had enough information to know where I thought the main base of operations were, but I suspect it may not be so." Rillian stood, taking out her map and laying it down next to the larger tactical map that the orcs had made--it was a very good map. She used one of the force markers to place the camp she had discovered on the map. She placed two down.

"This was here, I found about ten cultists there, along with their constructs. I tracked them down to subsidiary positions that this camp supplied, and were supplied by... Here." She placed down three more markers in the area, "They were spreading out, creating roots. They raided shallow graves filled with Reachmen, and also attempted to kill and capture as many orcs and Bretons from the border as possible. This is what first tipped me that their operation might be larger then I thought, but I had no proof until I found that they were making an army."

"Why are you so convinced they are constructing an army, Nighthollow?" asked the War Speaker.

"Because, War Speaker, I've tracked necromancers for a long time. It is very difficult to upkeep more then three constructs with you on your own strength, no matter your power. However, if you go through the much longer--and short-term draining--experience to use a soulstone to independently power your undead constructs, you can give them some basic intelligence and also turn them self-sufficient. It's much harder, but it can be done; I have never seen an entire cult of them do it without intending to build some sort of fighting force."

The War Speaker nodded, looking over his shoulder at an older woman, who nodded in agreement, speaking, "Yes, the elf's analysis seems accurate to me. Although I may suggest that they simply seek to bolster their numbers, to fight off the Graan."

"That seems logical, which gives me a thought," She looked to Sir Hercon, "How many are with you, and how many are coming?"

He nodded, "I think I see where you're going," he paused, "Right, I have four with me. I plan on taking fifteen more. My forces are in camp... Here." He placed another marker down, a differently colored one--blue. He put two down. They were far to the west of their area of operation, about a day's walk, "And, before you ask, I am almost certain that none but those who are here know of their approach."

"Excellent, so, right now, the necromancers only know of the War Riders and myself. They'll be preparing to counter an attack from the War Riders--or attack them outright. We'll need to scout out their positions more thoroughly, and prepare an assault strategy on this camp." She pointed at the three black markers on the map, pointing out the necromancer's encampment.

The War Speaker frowned, "But you said you thought it wasn't the only encampment--why?"

"Because I only saw ten or so constructs. As many necromancers as there are, and if they are making independent constructs, I would think there would be more."

"What's to stop them from bringing reinforcements from this other encampment?"

"Lack of necessity. If the War Riders attack, they'll be prepared--or think they are. They'll call these encampments back," she pointed out the various, smaller camps spread around their area of operations, "Which they believe should be enough to counter an attack from you. But, they will not expect an assault from the West. We'll scout out a safe passage for Sir Hercon's Fellowship forces to attack from the West, and that should allow us enough time to eliminate the camp and fall back before reinforcements arrive from the other camp.

"Alternatively, we should also see if we can't find this other camp, if we have time. But, we should focus on locating the outlying camps in their area of operation before we try and find the other encampment, which is far away."

The War Speaker nodded, "The War Riders are twenty-two strong in riders, and eleven strong in scouts. You, Nighthollow, and my Scouts should work together to locate the necromancer's forces. The Fellowship should remain put until we have a staging ground that will get them close enough, but far enough away that they won't be noticed."

She nodded, "I agree, War Speaker. We should keep the Bretons on the bench, so that--if any of our scouting parties are seen, they don't see any Bretons with them. For that matter, I shouldn't be scouting with your orcs, either."

"Indeed, Nighthollow, but you'll be receiving their reports with Durak, my Ridemaster."

"Furthermore, we'll be dealing with undead and possibly vampires during this battle. It's more then my even my expertise can handle. If you will allow me to send a message to Camlorn, I have an ally there that will come. A magus with the Mage's Guild named Athlas Caemal; an Altmer of supreme skill--if he rides hard, he can receive the message and come here in... Four days, yes?"

Sir Hercon thought a moment, then nodded, "That sounds about right. So, we have five days to scout out and prepare. I'll return to my camp, and leave Sir Keron and two messengers here as emissaries." He nodded to the tall Breton, who nodded back.

The tall Breton smiled, "It will be an honor to work with all of you."

The War Speaker stood up with Sir Hercon, followed by Rillian. He pounded his chest to the human, who bowed his head respectfully, "Thank you for your time, War Speaker."

"An honor, Sir Hercon. You conducted yourself well. Nighthollow, I'll introduce you to the Ridemaster, who leads my scouts. You and he will work closely in the coming days."
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Posted Apr 5, 14 · OP
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A hawk had arrived with a note to their foot faster then any rider could have; just one day after the messenger to Athlas had left. What it read began to worry Rillian, although the Ridemaster and War Speaker were not that worried.

"2E 238, Midyear 19


It is good to hear from you again, old friend. Unfortunately under such dire circumstances. There is good and bad news. The messenger you sent is remarkably good at his job. He tracked me down to the Mage's Guild, only to discover that I had already left. In less then a day, he caught up to me on the road. I am returning to the Reach already.

And that is the bad news. I cannot come to your position immediately. To the north, about a league and a half, there is a similar situation. Unfortunately, our friend in the North did not have the luck or skill you did. There are fewer necromancers, but he only managed to convince a small group of adventurers to work together on this. I go there first, to end their issue. The necromancer's cave there is filled with about ten, and they are not aware of our mutual friend's presense, or the eight adventurers. With my help, we should easily be able to eliminate this cave. We think it may be a major supply for some sort of network, given your news.

The War Riders seem to have spooked your group. But we see no evidence that they're sending messages in any way we can communicate. But these are necromancers, and if there are Vampires, it is a serious issue indeed. They may be communicating in more ways then we thought.

I doubt it though.

I should be able to make it in time for the festivities, though. I'm confident we'll face little resistance here. I'll bring the adventurers with me. Do wait for me though, dear Rillian. You may need the back-up."

The message implied that Athlos considered the possibility of a network. So, with the bad news about the work to the North, they delayed their situation a little. Sir Hercon retreated his forces back about a quarter of a league, and found a better hidden spot, remaining well out of sight until the time was right. The War Riders continued scouting, coordinated by Rillian and the Ridemaster. They were quickly gaining knowledge of the lay of the land, good places for ambushes, where the necromancers patrol, and so on.

They also had identified their numbers, plus constructs. It was about sixty-five, but it was only ever forty that stayed in the main camp at a time, and if they chose the right day, it got as low as thirty. Still, thirty cabal necromancers--or more accurately, ten to twenty cabal necromancers and their entourage--was not to be taken lightly. After coalescing their forces, accounting for the ten that might come from the North, they had sixty soldiers. It was an equal match, and the War Riders and Fellowship had a better plan.

The necromancers seemed content to continue operations, believing that the War Riders were alone, and outnumbered. They knew that an outnumbered invasion--even one that was of orcs--would not attack a superior force in an entrenched position. They'd have to strike the heart, and they thought that the War Riders didn't have the numbers to strike at the main encampment and still take out the outside positions without alerting the main camp. However, of course, they were wrong. While the War Riders assaulted the main camp, Rillian would rendezvous with her allies and the Fellowship and destroy the outlying camps and any possible reinforcements. They would then move further in and capture the main encampment with the War Speaker.

It was a good, effective strategy. The War Riders had made sure that the necromancers never came anywhere close to the Fellowship forces, which were too far away to logically be noticed anywhere. There was no chance they wouldn't have the element of surprise. Especially with Athlos' forces.

It was seven days, and the forces were anxious. It had been three days longer then the plan had intended, and Athlos had not been able to make it with his forces, or send word that he was approaching. Rillian sat at the war table, and listened to Sir Hercon, who had arrived and replaced Sir Keron as the representative to help with a strategic a new approach. The War Speaker, his Elder, and the Ridemaster sat, too.

"I say we stick to the original plan, but without Athlos. I'm sorry, Rillian, but I think he's hit some sort of trouble. We'll be outnumbered, but if Rillian takes a small detachment of soldiers and attacks the furthest camp... Here." He pointed to the camp furthest from their current position, and hardest to reach, "Keron and I will split our forces and attack the other camps. We will each have war horns, and when we capture the positions, we'll blow our warhorns. Then we move in and attack. We still have the element of surprise. They won't expect a full attack on the encampment from the War Riders, because they don't expect us."

The Elder nodded, "It really doesn't seem like a bad idea. We need to move fast, lest word of Athlos' troubles in the north reaches our enemies before they reach us."

The War Speaker looked at the Ridemaster, who nodded, "I agree with Sir Hercon on this, War Speaker. We must make our move today. In the night."

Finally, Mutgur looked to Rillian, she shook her head, "No, not at night. We do this, we must do it in the bright daylight. We've heard no reports of vampires, but it is entirely possible that we are mistaken. Plus, none of us have a natural skill to see in the dark. So many necromancers? Some of them will know how to use illusion well enough to make some light. It is best we move in the daylight."

"I agree," said the War Speaker, "We should move in the daylight. We are prepared, but the Fellowship must get to the specified positions. Can you do this without being seen, Sir Hercon?"

"We've been over it a hundred times, War Speaker. We'll make it there."

"Good. Then you send your messenger when you are prepared. My riders will prepare for war. Ridemaster, prepare your scouts. Have them move in and keep sending us information of the battlefield. They will be the first strike force if we must improvise, so keep in touch with all of them."

Rillian nodded, "I will go with Sir Hercon and organize his men, since I will not be waiting for Athlos. When we prepare, I'll take your best, stealthiest soldiers, Sir Hercon, and we'll move into position first. I have the furthest to go in that matter."

"It's a deal, Madame Nighthollow."

He stood, and left to stable his horses, she nodded to the orcs, "Keep your blades sharp. Our plan is good, but much can go wrong."

"And if your news from the North is reliable, then we will have much more to do when we destroy this."

The outlying encampment was small, but Rillian's force was smaller. She ended up with her intended amount of soldiers: three as back-up. They were rangers, trained to stealth, fight in length and up close. One specialized up close, and so he was moving in next to the tent, when he first struck, the other three would strike.

There was four tents, three in each. Plus four constructs. Rillian was to take out the constructs immediately. To do that, she used a small round wooden ball, which she had etched her runes into. When powered, she could turn it into a rolling nova, which would shortly blind the necromancers and horrifically burn, probably destroy, the four constructs. It wasn't easy magic, and it would drain her a bit to keep it going, but that's why it was remote activated. The ranger up close would roll it into the center of the action, and then Rillian would activate.

He would then kill all close to him, while the other two rained very precise shots into the others. It was a good plan, and it was unlikely they would fail to take the camp; especially since four of the necromancers were sleeping. Only four were on watch, including the constructs. The constructs would be out of commission, and they'd drop the four on watch before the others could react, likely, with that nova blinding them. They'd have to get in and rip them a part before the sleepers could properly prepare.

The ranger up close was a Knight of the March, a relatively small Breton man. He moved in close to the tent, still undetected. With one hand, he held his sword, with the other, the small wooden ball with etchings on it. The rest were on a vantage point on a hill, hidden behind some oaks, overlooking the clearing. The ranger rolled the wooden object into the center of the camp, focusing on getting it as close to all four constructs as he could manage. He then spun back around the tent and closed his eyes.

It was perfect, three of the constructs had approached curiously, two of the necromancers as well.

She activated it, it exploded into a fury of sunlight and fire, briefly engulfing the three constructs, then growing smaller, its ambient rays catching the cloth on fire, as well as the constructs. The heat was too much for the eight necromancers outside, who reeled back, covering their eyes which burned.

The ranger up close went for the one that wasn't blinded, but still disoriented. He dispatched him in the surprise attack with a dagger he drew in his offhand. An arrow went through one of the blinded watches, then another through the other. The one inside quickly dropped the last watcher, as the constructs burned in agony.

Three seconds after the battle had begun.

The other rangers moved closer and continued firing arrows. One struck true and brought another down. Then the necromancers had managed to begin fighting back, but the ranger up close had them distracted. Two more down.

Eight seconds after the battle had begun; nova still burning.

Rillian moved closer, sweat brimming; as the wards weakened, it required more energy to keep the nova up. The rangers had carefully avoided looking at it, but one necromancer tried to be clever by moving in between the nova and the fighter, but a ranger that was approaching had the dignity to dispatch him before the inside ranger was forced to blind himself.

Fourteen seconds into the battle; sleeping necromancers fighting their way out of burning tents, dispatched quickly.

They were winning, only two more necromancers left. They had swords and had raised magical shields, but they were going down. All three of the rangers were in range, and continued the fight.

Twenty-eight seconds into the battle; nova had gone out. Rillian approaching.

Something was going wrong. One of the necromancers dropped dead, but then a small burst of magic went from his body, which smoldered into dust. The other one did the same, but he had stabbed himself with a dagger. Rillian approached at speed, something was going wrong.

Forty-five seconds into the battle; ground shaking, dirt moving.

Constructs in very shallow traps began to pull themselves up. Ten of them at first, then fifteen. They weren't strong, but they were what was necessary. One moved in and began the attack, but was cut down. Rillian knocked an arrow, shooting one with an arrow blazing with golden flame.

Minute into the battle; twenty constructs, moving into position quickly. Nightmare situation.

Rillian was the only one not in the circle of constructs. She launched attack after attack, bringing three down in her adrenaline, but it wasn't fast enough. The rangers were in melee, and losing. They were getting injured, but had managed to keep them away, mostly. The battle was being lost.

Minute ten seconds into the battle; ranger down, probably dead.

Rillian moved in close, drawing an axe and a sword from her belt, both blazing with the golden flames of her patron. She launched the attack viciously, bringing down two as the others brought down three between them.

Minute twenty seconds into the battle; twelve constructs left, two rangers dead. Rillian and one left.

It was time to make a move. The other ranger was barely holding up, he had an axe in his back. He was going to die, it was only a matter of time. So was Rillian, if she didn't do something drastic. She closed her eyes, going down to one knee. Using the last bit of energy she had left, she sent out a flame circle around her; it burst out, catching everything around her in flames. The constructs, the fallen rangers, and the still active ranger.

Minute thirty-three seconds into the battle; constructs being dispatched, all rangers dead or dying painfully. Battle was won, at a horrible cost.

Rillian stumbled into the center of the camp as the constructs fell a part and were destroyed in the flames. She was exhausted, but was prepared. There was a flask at her side, she took a sip of it. A clear liquid with a bluish tinge rejuvenated her slightly. She glanced around, looking down and inspecting herself. To her shame, she hadn't been injured. She felt horrible about what she did to the rangers, but what was done had to be done. They had to destroy this camp to win the battle at large. It had to be done.

But she had heard no war horns yet. She reached out, blowing her horn loud and clear. It was time to go to the encampment, as planned, and hope that the greater forces that Sir Hercon had brought would fair better against the trap that was laid. It was not, however, time to figure out why they knew to do that.

She was just over a hill until she got a view of the encampment, she could smell and hear the battle. Roaring of orcs and the sound of fighting from the necromancers. She couldn't tell by sound how it was going, but she hadn't heard a single war horn as she walked, it had been ten minutes. That worried her, but she just hoped vainly that the horns were blown in the fray, and she hadn't heard it.

She was wrong about one, however, but relieved never the less. As she about reached the crest of the hill, she heard a horn blow loud and clear to the West. Reinforcements were coming!

And then she saw something that made her heart sink. As she walked over the encampment, she saw a dark cloud--literally--floating above the encampment, very low. It was magic designed to block the suns' rays. A tactic that was extremely clever, and she had never seen before, and only read about. It meant only one thing: vampires.

And then she saw it.

On spikes, outside the palisade walls of the encampment, were ten heads on a spike. One was a high elf, a head she recognized well and instantly.

It was Athlos.

Shock and horror struck her, she recoiled slightly, but recovered. They had killed two Seekers, and were clearly better organized then any of them had ever imagined. Everything had gone wrong so far.

But she was skilled in a unique way to be rid of fowl vampire magic. She was tired, but she had recuperated in her run to help the War Riders. She crouched down and began a ritual, using her dagger to build a small ritual circle of wards around her. She placed out small stones that she had made especially for her prayers to Meridia. If there was any time to pray...

But it wasn't mere prayer she mouthed, but also spells. Meridia valued the proactive, and so she prayed and worked on a spell that may eliminate the issue. A difficult ritual that strengthened the rays of Mundus in a localized area. It would sap her of a great deal of her energy--moreso even then the nova. She had never succeeded in the operation before, and strengthening the rays was only the weakest form it took, but it was likely all she could manage; the strongest would send pillars of flame from the sky, but that was incredibly difficult.

And she prayed for strength.

The war sounded like it was going badly, but it was raging fiercely. She had one last moment of sensory, before it was all engulfed in her ritual. Her eyes were open, but she didn't really see.

And then Mundus began to shine brighter then ever over the dark cloud. It wasn't enough though.

The fighting had spilled out of the encampment, the orcs were being forced out by five vampires who were holding their own. Eighteen War Riders, none of the leaders but the Ridemaster. She hoped there was more inside.

More light began to shine, the War Riders were being overwhelmed as more fighters spilled out, aiding the vampires. A great deal of them were constructs. They would be lit aflame if the rays touched them--but she wasn't strong enough. She couldn't get them through... Rillian prayed to Meridia, hoping that She would answer.

It was the hardest part of the ritual, the slump; she was hitting a wall as the War Riders struggled to keep their position and not be overwhelmed entirely. It might have already been too late.

And then, somehow, she got a burst of energy as she was over "the wall." She'd hit it, and pushed through. The light flowed easier then she had thought, the beacon over the encampment growing. The dark clouds began to be thinned--but it might not have been enough anyway.

But then everything started to change. In less then a second, she had lost all of her energy, but the ritual had already been activated, and now the wards around her were full of charge. She slumped to the ground as the War Riders pushed forward inexplicably. Tiny rays of light had pushed through the clouds, weakening the vampires and even the undead to a small extent.

With a sudden burst of activity, as if the ritual had gained a second burst of strength of something, fire began to rain. Not only did it strike down and create floods of flame that seemed to only affect the vampires and constructs, but it destroyed the dark cloud. The vampires screeched in pain, and roared orders that were not followed by their constructs, which were burst aflame by pillars of fire. Rillian was shocked, she'd never seen it happen like that. Inside, more shrieking as more vampires were struck by the sudden weakness of sunlight.

And the War Riders pushed hard, but Rillian could not move. She was physically beaten, she could only sit on her hill and watch, surrounded by glowing runes that had ceased causing the sky to rain flames, but still forced bright sunlight into the encampment.

She had fainted somewhere along the line, but was being shaken awake by a young Breton knight, "Madame Nighthollow, wake up! The encampment is ours! We've destroyed the necromancers!" He sounded excited, and she awoke with a groan.

The young Knight was standing over her, cradling an arm that looked broken. His forehead was bleeding. She straightened up, and saw flames billowing from the encampment which was being burned, along with a pile that was growing of bodies; constructs, vampires, and necromancers. She was also struck by how many dead soldiers of their own were being lain gracefully in neat rows.

The Ridemaster approached her upon seeing her conscious, "I am sorry for your friends, Honorable Bosmer, but you did a great service with that magic you wove."

She shook her head, "I'd trained on that spell for a decade, but never succeeded. I guess... I was never put under enough stress."

"Amazing what the body could do under stress," he smiled darkly, "They were ready for us, Orcfriend. Our glorious leader, the War Speaker, was injured badly and possibly mortally. Sir Hercon is not accounted for, his band from the furthest camp never reported in. When we scouted, it looked like all of them were injured or killed. There were much more there then we expected."

"It's true of my camp, and probably Sir Keron's, as well. It's unfortunate to hear of the good Knight's death. We should recover his body."

The Ridemaster was astonished, "You had them, as well?"

"Y-yes, that's why my rangers didn't return... That's why it took us so long."

"Sir Keron said that neither of the other camps had the trap. That he overwhelmed his forces easily."

She looked up, "Really? What took him so long, then?"

"Where is he?" Rillian was suspicious, it was a strange coincidence.

But it was one she didn't want confirmed, the suspicion. She fiercely desired an answer to the questions; how they knew of the trap? Athlos could have told them, but how did they know about Athlos? He wouldn't have gotten the information wrong, and he would have never betrayed their trust to strangers.

But it seemed, wanting did not bring desire as she rose. The Ridemaster and his soldiers who had gathered around him--about six of them--all looked around, peering for him. Sir Keron was standing next to two orcs and a younger knight. They were speaking darkly, she watched him carefully, raising her hand as she watched. He had strangely verbose hand motions, given the dark mood. It was like he was a bit too happy, but it wasn't reflected in his face.

Then it struck her, he wasn't motioning to the conversation, he was sending out a signal.

Before any of the three could react, he had drawn his sword and cut them all down around him. Seven other soldiers dispersed throughout the survivors begin killing everyone around them--no one was prepared. All but the Ridemaster's constituents and Rillian were dead, as none of Keron's soldiers had been around the Ridemaster, it seemed.

The shock of it, the suddenness of seeing all of her companions cut down by their own ally's hands was enough, not to stun her, but to infuriate her. She drew her bow, and as Keron shouted an order that her fury didn't allow her to hear, she launched an arrow at him.

He was about thirty yards away--it was a long shot without aiming a bit; luckily, he wasn't looking her way, but towards the many wounded. As his soldiers, having successfully massacred most of those remaining, approached the wounded, the arrow went deep into his back, throwing him forward and on the ground.

Another shot from one of the scouts killed him. And then the battle had reignited.

The Ridemaster, infuriated and realizing that they were trying to kill the War Speaker, ordered them all forward. But he didn't even get the order out. An orc drew the Ridemaster's own ax, and in a roar, struck him down by a blow to the back of the head.

One more drew their blade, and then it was four friendlies fighting the two assassins. It wasn't just Bretons, but orcs. The four killed the two, but they had taken down one more. Now it was three, and Rillian. They moved forward, but were cut off. The traitors were moving up the hill that they stood upon, about five of them left. It was a fair fight, considering the survivors had tactical advantage.

Rillian was the only one with a bow. She took down one before they got in close, evening the odds. They didn't focus on one on one combat, instead, no one went towards Rillian. Two focused on one orc, which fell immediately. They were trying to kill as many as possible before the bow and ax lay them dead.

By the end of the combat, it was just Rillian.

Everyone else was dead. One extra cultist had gone in and slain the wounded, and Rillian killed him.

Everyone was dead.
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Posted Apr 5, 14 · OP
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She had collapsed and been in a haze for what felt like days. She knew vaguely that she was being moved, but she couldn't tell where, or by whom. Someone had splashed water into her mouth, but they couldn't get her awake and conscious long enough to eat. But on the fourth day, she awoke in a warm bed; or was it the fourth day?

She couldn't tell anymore. The bed was much too large for her, and the architecture was Breton. It was confusing, and she looked around to her surroundings. She was in a dark infirmary with several others, mostly soldiers. A priest noticed she was awake, and approached, smiling to her softly, "Greetings, Miss Nighthollow. Welcome to Fort Lenchart, we understand you've been through quite the ordeal."

Rillian opened her mouth in shock, "Wha'? How'd I get...?"

Sir Hercon was in another bed, and he leaned up, smiling, "Sorry, I should explain this to you. I was injured as well, and my brother insists I stay here. You were in far worse condition then me, although I saw no physical injuries on your body--which is what worried me."

He frowned, looking down, "I failed my soldiers, Miss Nighthollow."

She shook her head, "No, Sir Hercon. Your friend and confidant betrayed you, along with a surprising number of orc soldiers, and your own forces."

"They were my fellows, my Knights. It was my responsibility to know them. We all knew each other, it wasn't like I had hundreds of soldiers. We were close-knit. How did I not see this?"

"How did they know to infiltrate the Fellowship and the War Riders? How did they do it?"

"What the hell are we dealing with? I spoke to some allies about Athlos, he was an incredibly powerful magus. How did they best him?" He said, before shaking his head and continuing, "Nae, enough questions. I'll tell you what happened to me, then you say of what you saw."

She nodded, "Deal, Sir Hercon."

He gulped, then nodded self-assuringly, "When we approached, we outnumbered them a great deal, and they were not ready for us. We immediately destroyed them. But the last one used a spell, and twenty constructs appeared in a circle. We fought them off... But then, something horrible happened. Sir Keron and his men showed up. I was shocked, I told him that he had to attack the other encampment.

"All he said was, 'The other encampment is not an issue.' Then he stabbed me in the stomach. His soldiers killed or maimed all of mine, before blowing his horn and going away. He had lost most of his men in the fight, so necromancers appeared and took their clothing. An illusionist among them transformed their appearance, but left me. I was too suspicious. They thought I was dead, but I was faking. I have magic of my own, I was trained in Restoration, and I was able to keep myself alive.

"I managed to save a few others, and we dragged ourselves away. We were sure everyone was dead, but when we were able to recover--when I had healed us all enough that we could walk and reorganize, we decided to scout out the situation. We found everyone dead, and you unconscious, but seemingly uninjured. Then you never seemed to wake. You were hazy, and we kept giving you water, but you were still out. You slept for almost a week and a half when we finally got you back to Fort Lenchart. We were all injured, badly."

"You said there was an illusionist among them?"


"Could it be that they killed the soldiers and took on their appearances, using some sort of amulet or something?"

"We didn't find anything..."

"They'd probably have taken them from the bodies if they did."

"It's possible, I suppose. Which makes them very, very smart. It doesn't explain Keron. We would have known if he had disappeared long enough to be replaced. I think. Maybe it wasn't Keron after all?"

"We simply don't know. We need to get back out there."

"I agree, but you're too weak--what happened to you, anyway?"

And Rillian told him the story of what she did. How she used her magic to overcome the constructs--she left out the part where it was she, and not the constructs, who killed the rangers. She reasoned that the constructs would have killed them all, anyway, if she hadn't done what she had done.

She spoke of how she prayed for help--she said she prayed to the Divines, but of course, that was not true. She doubted even a brother-in-arms would accept that she was a Daedra Worshiper, no matter how naive that may be. She explained the sudden betrayal, watching Keron and his men kill everyone. The two orcs who turned on the rest. How she slew the last ones, and then collapsed in exhaustion.

The priestess, who was listening, nodded, "Yes, I understand why you were so beaten. I'm surprised you survived a spell that size, given your lack of experience in it--no offense."

"None taken, Priestess. I understood the risks."

"You did a great thing, Miss Nighthollow," said Sir Hercon.

"Thank you, and call me Rillian. I think, after all that's happened, we should at least be on a first name basis."

He smiled darkly, "It's a horrible thing to watch, seeing your own soldiers slaughtered by someone you considered an ally. Horrible. How does one recover from this?"

She looked up at him, not speaking for a long time, then sighing as she had food thrust on her stomach, over the covers she was laying under. She ate a little, before answering--it had been two or three minutes after, "By hunting down those responsible, and destroying them. As should happen to all vampires and necromancers."

He looked up at her, and nodded. She ate in silence from then on.
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Posted Apr 5, 14 · OP · Last edited Apr 5, 14
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Sir Hercon, who stood almost a little over two feet taller then Rillian, steadied her. She was beginning to walk again, regaining her strength slowly from the aftermath. He had already been up, in conversations with his brother, Baron Lenchart, and preparing the Fellowship. He smiled down at the Bosmer, "You're alright, Rillian. Just a few more steps."

Rillian nodded, concentrating on the remarkably difficult task of moving her legs. Her body was recovering from being starved and totally drained of energy after her ritual, and it had been almost two weeks. Her legs were still stiff, and she was having trouble with her balance. Hercon had no trouble holding her up, but he couldn't do that forever. She took the four extra steps without his help, getting to the ledge that she could barely see over, overlooking the hill ranches that Fort Lenchart protected, people tending sheep and crops in the hot summer light.

Hercon stepped next to her as she leaned on the bulwark, "It's good that you're walking again. Chieftain Brukkar gro-Graan is coming today, and he wishes to meet you and I. He's brought an army to avenge the deaths of the War Riders and his brother, the War Speaker."

"Does he believe our story?"

"The fact we invited him and his entire clan into our fortress was definitely a step in the right direction. It's not hard for him to investigate the evidence at the Hollow, though." The Hollow was what they'd come to call the flat, unwooded region that the Necromancers had set up, and the battle there had come to be called the Massacre at Necromancer's Hollow.

"It'll be good to meet him. Is your brother prepared to invade the Cabal's lands?"

"He's hesitating, but I doubt he'll say no. The Earl Karkinsor has already promised soldiers to the cause, he's as worried about this cabal as the rest of us. Athlos' allies in the Mage's Guild have sent specialists. We're coalescing our forces, but I'm worried--who can we trust?"

She looked up at him, frowning, "I've hunted vampires for many, many years, Hercon. Would you like to know their greatest weapon?"

"What's that?"

"It isn't their strength, their power, or their ability to infect almost anyone they can get access to. It's the fear that grips an entire population if even one is known to have infiltrated a region. It's true of cabalists as well. Oftentimes, I've seen communities tear each other a part, leaving nothing for the vampire to do but to continue their vicious hunt, they don't even have to target anyone important."

"So, what you're saying, is that we must be cautious, but optimistic."

"Know who you can trust, and trust them. You can trust your brother, you can trust those who you've known all your life, and you can trust me--you've seen me fight them and kill many. Know your allies, and do not doubt them."

"So be it. And the Chieftain, should we trust him?"

"No," she looked over the fields and hills laid out before them, "but not because he might be a cabalist, but because he is an orc chieftain who has just lost his brother and War Speaker. We do not know what he will do, or who he will target."

"We need him, if we're going to go back to the Hollow, and fight the Hollow Necromancers face to face. They say he brings over a hundred orcs with him to avenge his brother."

"Then use him, treat him as an equal, and use him. He will use you, but ultimately, you seek the same thing: the destruction of the Hollow Necromancers." She nodded, looking back up at him.

"So, we remind him of who is the enemy here, and of whom we should focus."


Sir Hercon helped Rillian into her chair at the war table, a map of the Reach was set out, with all known locations of the Hollow Necromancers placed out. Baron Lenchart had been sending out scouts for weeks, and Magister Urson, who was sent after Athlos' death, had been directing acolytes to help the scouts. It was a month after the Massacre, and Chieftain Brukkar hadn't arrived. He was coming all the way from the Wrothgarian Mountains with a small army of orcs, so his progress would be slow. And he had to stop for permission at many lords' positions, as they got word from Baron Lenchart of their movements.

It had to be very insulting, but he was doing it for the honor of the Clan. She was surprised by how far he was willing to go in irritation to avenge his brother.

Sir Hercon took his seat across the table from Baron Lenchart, who put down his glass of wine. They were in the war room, a large stone room in the base of the Fortress. Rillian had only recently been able to get down the many flights of stairs to be there in person, and had been giving advice and expertise to Hercon and Magister Urson, as well as Baron Lenchart every now and then--from her bed in the small chapel.

Now she was at the table, Baron Lenchart smiled softly to her, "It is good to see you are feeling--at least a little--better, Miss Nighthollow. Your advice has been invaluable, and you deserve a spot at this table, a spot my brother has kept empty for your arrival."

He nodded to the man who was standing behind him, an Imperial in Medium Legion Gear, she recognized his rank from his outfit, a Centurion, "This is Centurion Vlattus Olcronax. Centurion Olcronax is the leader of the Imperial Legion force sent here to aid us. They are eighty strong. Combined with my personal military and the Fellowship, we number about one-hundred-and-eighty strong. The Guild has promised about twenty specialists. With the Chieftain's forces, we number three-hundred."

"Unfortunately, the Centurion has made a discovery with his scouts, which he will explain as he sits." Baron Lenchart gestured to the seat on the left of Sir Hercon, the commander of the Fellowship and the Baron's personal levy.

The Centurion moved across the table and sat down, "My scouts have discovered what we believe to be their base of operations. It is a hill fortress with pallisades and spans about three-hundred yards in length, and a hundred in width. We haven't identified their numbers, but in this fortress alone, we believe there to be at least four-hundred, many of them independent Constructs."

Rillian reeled, "Whoah! Four-hundred!?"

The Centurion nodded, solemnly, "It's a serious threat, now. They won't be able to invade High Rock or threaten the stability of any major legion positions, but they would be able to lay siege to Fort Lenchart or your subsidiary lands, or possibly Fort Stand, of Earl Karkinsor's holdings. These positions are important positions held by Bretons in the Reach."

He sighed, rubbing his eyes, "It's also consistent with a trend that we've seen in the Reach lately."

"What's that, Centurion?" Asked Urson, the Magister.

"The Reach's most powerful Warlords are coalescing their forces, militarizing. We don't know what, they've always fought wars among themselves, but right now, it looks like they're preparing for something big. We think there is about to be another massive war in the Reach, and that could be especially bad."

"Because," continued Rillian, "That would leave a thousand recently dead Reachmen for a powerful cabal of Necromancers--like the Hollow Necromancers--to raise. And recently dead are easily to reanimate."

"Exactly," he nodded.

Sir Hercon looked at his brother, "We should send word of this news to Lord Karkinsor, and invite him to the table. We need to ignore our differences and create an alliance. We've brought the Chieftain to the table, now we need Karkinsor to do the same."

Rillian tilted her head, "I don't understand, why would Karkinsor be reluctant?"

"He's... Not the biggest fan of orcs," finished Baron Lenchart.

"Oh, right. I understand, but, if we send the Centurion or he sends one of his officers to explain it, he'll know we have to act immediately." She nodded, leaning forward and placing some markers down where the Centurion pointed out the main base. It was where she thought it would be--precisely where it tactically should be. It was surrounded by high hills about a league out, but those are too far away to set up a siege camp on. To do that, you'd have to dip down well below the hill fort. That made it hard to see, and hard to siege, absolutely beautiful place to set up a hill fort.

Furthermore, the smaller camps--with a total numbering of about two-hundred more soldiers in servitude to the Hollow Necromancers--surrounded the position in tactically distanced positions. It would be hard to launch a surprise attack without being noticed by at least one of the camps.

Whatever happened, they'd have to launch a campaign.

She looked up, but the Baron already was beginning to ask the question she hoped to ask, "How does this force compare to other regional powers, and how likely are those powers to help the Necromancers?"

"Well, this force is significantly smaller then the five powerful warlords. None of which are all that keen on helping a group of relatively weak necromancers get what was almost certainly going to happen to them, especially since we believe they are preparing to go to war with each other."

"So, now, we are forced to coalesce our forces. It should be about a week before the Chieftain arrives, he should arrive before we bring Karkinsor fully into the equation; send word to him of the threat, tell him we're willing to make an alliance, but he'll have to work with the orcs. Make it clear that the Chieftain has a full seat at the table no matter what by letting him take it first, then we invite Karkinsor over with his forces. Combined, we should be able to put together a powerful offensive." The speech was given by Sir Hercon.

"I agree, and I'll bring all my allies out of the woodwork. As many agents of my skill and better at this sort of thing. I should be able to rally almost twenty specialists, next to the Guild's specialists, we should be prepared. To do that, though, I'll need messengers--a lot of them, and fast."

"Will they reside in major cities?" asked Baron Lenchart.

"Not all of them, but many."

"We'll use our hawks for the major cities. We'll send messengers to the rest."

"Thank you, Baron Lenchart."

"Speak to Roderick, or hawk master. He'll get you what you need form them, and then we'll send the foot messengers with your message to each of them," he nodded to Rillian, "Well, thank you all for coming. We have ourselves a plan, and something we'll be doing. Brother, you will lead the talks with Karkinsor for the time being. I would trust only people at this table to such an important task, given the circumstances of our loss." He referred to the betrayals, "and remember. Everything from here is secret, our plans, everything."

"Also," spoke Rillian, "my allies will come in secret, it should also remain secret that they are involved in this. They, at least, will be able to look like traveling civilians."

"Very good, so no one breath a word of Rillian's contacts, the fact we know the Hollow Necromancer's numbers, or the talks with Karkinsor. We need to make sure the agents of the Hollow Necromancers are not so well-informed as they were at the Massacre."

Sir Hercon stood, and moved to help Rillian back up the many stairs. It was time to prepare a counterattack, and quite the counterattack it was shaping up to become. They weren't fighting the Reachmen, they were fighting a comparatively small force. Even still, it was quite the war they were about to launch. A small regional war.
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Posted Apr 7, 14 · OP
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Rillian was running along the bulwark, soldiers stepping out of her way. She hadn't struggled running this much in a long time. Her head poured sweat, it was the strangest feeling she had ever had. To be totally drained for weeks and weeks. It was beyond physical exhaustion, but spiritual and exhaustion of the soul. She knew what she had to do, but there was no Shrine to be found in this area. So, she would have to build one.

She had run for a mile and a half, and her body was exhausted. She sat down on the edge of the Bulwark, hanging her feet over the internal courtyard of Fort Lenchart. The Orcs and Bretons sparred in the courtyard, with the Chieftain and Sir Hercon commanding each. They were testing each other's mettle, and both looked impressed. The soldiers that Sir Hercon trained were not to be scoffed at, and no orc clan avenging fallen brethren would ever be scoffed at. They were still making approaches to Lord Karkinsor, who was reluctant, despite the Legion's getting involved in the discussions.

Four of Rillian's agents had arrived, and they were intermingling with the commonfolk, learning about them. They were becoming her spies--or, more accurately, her counter-spies. They were hunting down the real spies in their midst. They had been remarkably successful; the Baron, Sir Hercon, and the Chieftain all thought she was the best spymaster they'd ever seen. What they didn't realize that, short of any brilliance in intrigue, Rillian was simply using skills that came naturally to true the devout of Meridia.

It wasn't that Meridia could gift some special powers--or that she did so often, she definitely could, if she wanted. It was more the skillset that was learned from spending years hunting what Meridia hated. Exactly the kind of spy they were dealing with. One thing that continued to escape her agents and Rillian, was how the necromancers communicated. They had only captured three agents, and none of them seemed to have any particular method of communication in common. One was a scribe, who wrote a great deal. The other was a blacksmith, who didn't even know how to read or write. The final one was a Guard, who never had time to write.

They had ruled out writing, but the pattern remained. They were newcomers, all three. They were well set-up, with a very well-built backstory that could be taken a part if anyone bothered to look closer, but no one ever did. They were too good at selling their lie, and didn't seem important enough to look deep into it. However, the Fellowship's traitors implied that they were not all that way. Some had been deep sleeper agents, who had been in the cult for a very long time.

Sir Keron was a trusted agent, although he had volunteered--practically insisted, in fact--to come along. In retrospect, it was obvious. But no one would have suspected in the time.

Rillian straightened up, moving to the stairs and slowly descending them. She approached the place in the front of the large courtyard that the Chieftain of the Graan Clan and Sir Hercon stood, they both greeted them in culturally regular ways, and she bowed her head carefully. Her golden hair was sleeked back in braids that were fairly common for her exotic species. She clasped her hands behind her back and joined them, overlooking the forces, "You both possess skilled soldiers. It will be an honor to join them in battle."

"I look forward to seeing you in full strength, Orcfriend." The Chieftain said, again. He had been saying this for awhile, as rumors of her prowess had spread remarkably quickly, given that no one had witnessed it directly. Apparently, her magic had been quite bright, though, as Sir Hercon claimed that one of the last things he saw before he went unconscious was her magic, in the distance. It was again her magic that awoke him a few minutes later.

She smiled, "I have a few more steps to recovery that I must take alone. Speaking of which, Sir Hercon, can I ask of you a few materials and not tell you why I desire them?" She hadn't disclosed her worship of Meridia. To most folk, she was another Daedric Prince of whom they did not understand. She kept it quiet. To build a shrine to Meridia, she'd have to have a few special ingredients. Her amulet would be enough to imbue it with Meridia's presence. It wouldn't be like one of the true Daedric Shrines, and she would not be able to call for Meridia, but it would be a testament to her prayers, and perhaps good for her drained body and soul.

It wasn't just the magic she was attempting to work past. She was very young, for an elf--or any other species, to be honest. She hadn't seen as much of the world as other elves, but tried hard to hide the fact that she was barely in her mid-twenties. Where she was from, she wouldn't even be close to a cultural adult. But elves matured physically--and, in theory, mentally--as quickly as other, less long-lived species. She had left the relative safety of Valenwood at a very young age, and found another way. She renounced her "savage" ways, and had never since partaken in the Battle Feast, nor did she ever speak of it.

Sometimes she could feel the eyes on her, especially from soldiers of the Legion, who had heard rumors of the savage and powerful Bosmer from the Moving Forest. She was a very strange sight, and the exaggerated tales of their savage ways did not gain her much grace, but her now be relatively recognizable, people had taken to judging her less. Most just assumed she was a devout of Arkay or Stendarr. She never explained her worship, she kept it very quiet.

She glanced up, realizing she had drifted off back into her mind, the veteran orc, who probably guessed she was not as old and wise as she pretended, went back to looking upon the field of trainers and trainees. Sir Hercon, however, moved over and crouched down to the girl who barely came up to his chest, "Just get me a list, go on. Do you need help back to your quarters?"

"You are kind, Hercon. No, I should be able to make it." She smiled to him again. He probably assumed she was older then him. It felt odd, everyone assuming she was in her sixties or older. He was definitely older then she, probably by over a decade. Bretons lived a little longer then most humans, but he looked honestly like he had a lot more Nord blood then he let on. She turned moving slowly up to the place that, after the worst of her physical recovery was over, the priestess had set her up with. She was still getting daily visits. The Baron had decreed that her recovery was of upmost importance.

As she rooted out spies, and prepared to build a Shrine of Meridia, the soldiers prepared for war; the diplomats spoke intrigue and politics to Karkinsor, who feared the growing regional power of House Lenchart. However, he had to see that the true fear, by far, was the Hollow Necromancers.

There was less then a month before they were forced to begin making moves to capture lost terrain to the Hollow Necromancers. The Centurion had reported that his scouts had told them that they were advancing, preparing to make plays to capture some outlying Breton colonies that were outside the range of easy protection by either Karkinsor or Lenchart. It was the smart move, but Rillian secretly doubted. She suspected that those villages had already been taken over, and the Hollow Necromancers were simply preparing to move into the open there.

Either way, the war was coming to the Marchlands of High Rock and the Reach, whether those March Lords that defended her were ready or not.
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Posted Apr 10, 14 · OP
Rillian stood above the small hill fort that protected the distant hamlet that they had recently retaken from the Hollow Necromancers. It had been the strangest battle she had ever fought. Olcronax had informed them that a cabre of Necromancers had infiltrated the distant hamlet of Reachpoint, which was protected by the small hill fort of Reachpoint. It was a strategic staging ground. How the Centurion knew this was true was easily explained: he had stronger access to agencies across the Reach then they did.

Centurion Olcronax's intelligence and scouting organization was truly some of the best she had ever seen. She remarked that he should be in command of the Empire's regional intelligence organization during the battle. He smiled, and continued. It was a shock, though, just how powerful the man was. The Legion had put together a powerful force, despite their size. Teamed with forty Knights of the March, and a small force from Earl Karkinsor as a showing of friendship, they had captured Reachpoint in a surprise attack with almost no casualties on their end, including civilians--who didn't even know that the cabre had captured Reachpoint and their leadership yet.

The Centurion assured them that the war was not going to spill over deep into the Reach, where the warlords clashed daily over huge suaves of land. One of them was rising to prominence, but Rillian was unconcerned. Olcronax had proven his intelligence's worthiness, and he assured them that they had a long time before they had to be worried. The Black Drake and his followers were weakened by war and barely winning.

The capture of Reachpoint was a major victory, as the Hollow Necromancer's strategy was clear. They were going to use Reachpoint as a staging ground to launch an assault on the fields and hill farms that made survival in the Marchlands of the Reach possible. Without Reachpoint, it was nearly impossible for them to do that. The next step was to attack their camps outside the other major hamlet in the region, which was protected by a small war camp: Roth's Way.

Roth's Way was on a small river, and had a miller's economy. Roth was a major Mill in the region, producing the food that fed the majority of Karkinsor and Lenchart's countrymen. Roth's Way was strategic, but not quite so much as Reachpoint. The war camp had reported sightings of Hollow Necromancers in the region.

The war was revving up, and the Graan Clan had begun their march to positions outside of Roth's Way. Karkinsor had signed a war treaty with Lenchart to agree to hold off aggression to the Orsimer clan until the Hollow Necromancers were defeated, and to send forces to help them at Roth's Way. It had been months since the Massacre at the Hollow. Reachpoint was the first major battle since, and it looked like the war was going to unfold very slowly.

Sir Hercon and Aalia--the young female priestess who had treated Rillian and still checked up on her daily, but was here to treat the wounded--approached. Rillian turned on the Reachpoint Hill Fort's barricades, looking down at the Commander and his medical officer. The Rillian ran her fingers through her hair, smiling to Aalia and Sir Hercon as they ascended the wooden stairs to the barricade's top. Aalia hugged her as she approached, she was a short Breton woman, young and pretty, but talented. She stood a little taller then Rillian, herself. They'd become good friends over the months of near constant contact.

Sir Hercon smiled down at Rillian, clapping her on the shoulder, "Well, the four people injured are attended to, they should all survive. A shockingly good victory that the Centurion handed to us."

"His intelligence network must be awe-inspiring," Rillian replied, placing her right fist over her heart to Hercon, a show of respect.

Aalia smiled to her, "You must come with us. The Centurion's forces are preparing a feast for the commanders of the battle. They even made some specially prepared dear for your specific diet."

Rillian laughed, "My diet would consist of something totally different if I still was in Valenwood."

"I don't think Olcronax could convince his men to... Cook the entire Hollow Necromancer army."

"Nor would I want him to. The Pact my people made with Y'ffre was for Valenwood, and Valenwood alone. I needn't follow it outside of Valenwood."

Aalia gave her a smile, "Mhm, well, the cook said he never made an easier dish. He just seared it on either side and left it for you."

Sir Hercon laughed, "I don't think Olcronax has had the pleasure of watching you eat a Venison Steak yet, Rillian."

"I think Chieftain Graan rather respected me more after he watched me," she said, as they all began to descend the stairs. It would have been strange, to an outsider, to see the Commander himself come to escort Rillian to the feast, but it wouldn't shock anyone who had spent time with him. He was an honorable man, and still felt indebted to her after the Hollow Massacre. Her feats of which she had failed to repeat--nor did she much feel like doing so.

In the wooden palisades that protected the inner fortress, there was a small courtyard. It was more then enough room to hold a feast of sorts, with ten seats laid out in front of a table. There was no food, but on the right hand of the front sat Olcronax. Sir Hercon sat at the front, and gestured for Rillian to take his left-hand seat. Aalia sat next to Rillian, and Olcronax smiled to her as she sat across from him. He looked a little nervous. Legends of the Bosmeri diet had been more accurate then he originally wanted to believe.

"I heard your diet is the stuff of legends among the cooks of Fort Lenchart," he said, smiling gracefully to her.

"So have I, but I've yet to confirm it," she replied, with equal grace.

A soldier approached, pouring them all wine. She waved him off as he approached, smiling to him, "Oh, thank you--but I'd prefer water."

Sir Hercon nodded as he drank the wine, he knew she didn't drink. On the other hand, Olcronax was surprised--and would have been offended, but for the legendary strangeness of the Bosmeri diet. He looked at her, "Why not drink to the victory we have here?"

"I'll drink with you, but I won't get drunk with you. It's truly not a pretty sight. I revert to my... More primal customs. At times."

"I... Take your meaning."

She smiled at him, she never specified to anyone what those customs were. Honestly, she wasn't even sure it was true. But alcohol never sat well with her. She got drunk nearly instantly and blacked out shortly thereafter. She used to drink with her family after she had eaten her family's enemies, but never remembered what had happened afterwards. Sometimes she awoke with someone she didn't want to think about in her bed--with her.

As other soldiers and commanders approached--knights from the Fellowhsip and ranking officers from the Legion, they all greeted Sir Hercon with a bow, a salute to Olcronax, and a graceful nod--and sometimes a flirt--to Aalia. Most of them didn't either immediately acknowledge or know how to greet Rillian, some of them placed a fist to their heart--those who had, at least, spent some time with her. It was her way of acknowledging authority of equal or greater measure. Her version of a salute, really. They returned it--assuming it was customs of her people. It wasn't, but she didn't mind at all.

Food came out slowly--well-cooked meats and fruits, with some sweets that were very rare and well-made--all of which made by Olcronax's excellent cook. In true tradition, the Cook came and introduced the meals, smiling as he came to the lone, barely cooked Venison Steak that was made for Rillian, and introducing it as if it was made for everyone. No one eyed it with fancy.

Afterwards, the Priestess of the Table--Aalia--stood to bless this food in the name of the Eight and especially her patron goddesses, Mara and Dibella. She sat and they began the feast.

Rillian listened to the conversation of the feast primarily. Hercon was locked in conversation with Olcronax regarding further strategies, and how much they trusted Karkinsor's men to work with Graan's. Neither suspected issues from Graan or the actual soldiers of Karkinsor's levy, but the commanders of the Karkinsor Levy may cause problems. None of them were present, although a representative of Karkinsor's forces was about as far down the table as possible--they had sent such a tiny force to help, they hadn't really felt much good will towards Karkinsor.

Aalia was fending off the advances of many-a man, while holding a conversation with Rillian. They spoke primarily of Gods and Goddesses, she was the only one that knew of her worship of Meridia. However, it was soon known by all around them. It wasn't acknowledged much, but Rillian was watching Hercon. He was listening to her conversation, and caught the discussion of Meridia. Aalia was asking questions to Rillian about Meridia, which was context enough to understand what that meant. He didn't seem to mind.

Rillian had been remarkably closed to everyone except Aalia, her sole confidant regarding her life. Day in and out, she had spent hours with Aalia due to her physical weakness after the Hollow Necromancer, and they had grown extremely close. Rillian and Hercon had been very close allies and friends, but he was more of a military and political confidant--spheres of which, while Aalia was intelligent and surprisingly adept at, she didn't much enjoy conversation about.

Hercon, and indeed everyone else except Aalia, had been completely unable to get past Rillian's shrewd sweetness and firm grace, both fantastic defenses to the ever present, well-hidden questions of her past, personality, and customs. Rillian was a master of avoiding conversations she didn't like without anyone noticing she was avoiding conversations that she didn't like. Aalia had taken a long time to break through the folds of graceful sweetness that acted as a bravado to protect Rillian from prying questions. She had been successful, however.

She was fascinated by Meridia, and Rillian could talk hours about Meridia. It had always fascinated her, why so few knew about her. Aalia made comparisons to Arkay--which were apt, but not quite in the spirit of what Meridia represented, which was the energy of life, not the cycle of life.

Hercon was talking about the Knahaten Flu, a horrible disease that was breaking out in Wayrest, "I think it will be contained, I heard that the Priests and Priestesses of Julianos were hard at work to create a cure, along with the Mage's Guild."

"Was it not why Magister Urson had been pulled from our presence? He was something of an expert in the field, afterall--or at least more of one than others in the region," replied Olcronax.

"I got word that they might have a cure, which would be good. Glenumbra had an outbreak, recently. If they have a cure, then it would truly change things," replied Aalia.

Hercon looked at her, "Oh? I had heard that those rumors were untrue."

"Perhaps, it is horrible to watch. Anyone know the recent death toll?" They all looked at one another.

"Four thousand," Rillian supplied. The short conversation ended abruptly. Rillian had finished her Venison, and Olcronax had been aptly disgusted--but the news of the growing number was a sobering concept. Rillian smiled though, raising her glass, "But to Oblivion with Perylite's poisons, we have achieved a great victory here! Put to rest our sadness for one night, and let us drink to victory and merriment."

The whole table, which hadn't been involved in the conversation, but had noticed that the important end of the table had fallen silent, stood to the toast. They drank their glasses down, and sat again. Rillian did the same, and cooks approached from the camps to pour more wine and water. The festivities at the Commander's Feast was great, but by no comparison to the din that could be heard in the main yards of the fortress. The food was worse, but the soldiers were making with it what they will.

Hercon smiled as he heard the noise, noticing that a great deal of the Commander's Feast had been left uneaten, he stood and said, "How much wine do we have left?"

"Three kegs of the best," replied Olcronax's cook.

"Keep one for the Commanders. Go give the soldiers a taste of the good stuff today, they deserve it!"

The Cook grinned, "Yes, Sir! Lord-Commander, Sir!"

"And take the rest of those roasted pigs out for them, too. They deserve the best." As the cooks busied themselves to prepare the reveal, Hercon pulled himself to the top of the palisades that protected the inner fortress, which allowed him to see all of his two-hundred forces outside.

Rillian, Olcronax and Aalia followed him to the palisades, while the other commanders stood on the other side of the palisade from the soldiers, watching Hercon prepare for his speech. His voice could not be drowned out as he let out a roar for silence, which achieved a returning roar, then silence.

The tall, brown-haired man in his forties stood, with one foot on the end of the palisade, making his figure impressive against the rising moon, "Soldiers! This is no time for great speeches, so I won't give you one, but you fought well tonight! We annihilated the Hollow Necromancers and their first attempt to achieve victory over us. The Legions have done their Empire proud! Let this be a testament to the great lords in their destitution in Daggerfall and Wayrest that the Empire and High Rock can, indeed, be friends!"

He nodded, looking down, "But the politics of war are not what concern you tonight. The Empire's growing animosity to High Rock shouldn't bother you. Not tonight, because tonight, we are friends. We are allies. We are blood brothers! And tonight, you will have the best wine and best-cooked beasts in the region! Let's have three cheers for Olcronax's spectacular cook, Mr. Garner--the Centurion himself--and his large supply of wine--which you will now be able to have!"

The doors to the pallisades opened, and revealed people carrying two massive kegs of wine and a large amount of the best-made meals. Three deafening cheers filled the night air, some yelling Garner, some yelling Olcronax. It didn't matter, the cheering continued well after three, and then died down as Olcronax stepped up, "And three cheers for the Lord-Commander, for he--above all I have had the honor of commanding next to--has the skill of leadership!" Three more cheers roared out for the Lord-Commander, and it continued as the soldiers came to help the cooks carrying the kegs bring them, and others got their mugs to get the food and wine in a din of excitement.

Rillian smiled at the mirth and happiness, Aalia was laughing, her prayers of blessings to the soldiers left almost completely unheard.

They descended. The hour or so feasting they had spent had been up, the somber moments gone. As Hercon and Olcronax descended on the commander's side of the palisade, there was more clapping--although it was more dignified then that of the soldier's--from the commanders. They all got refills of wine and water, and sat again. Less food then before, but knowing that their men had far higher morale the next day and weeks to come. Something that was important. They had a grueling campaign before them. They needed this night.

Hours later, very late at night, everyone was either drunk, asleep, or very tipsy--except for Rillian. The more serious conversation had died down, and jokes and merriment were the norm for those still awake. The cooks had long begun drinking themselves, and Mr. Garner was actually sitting next to Olcronax, who had invited him to sit there--the previous inhabitant was asleep.

He was an older, shorter Imperial who was quite the entertaining storyteller, amusing them all with stories of adventures that no one thought had actually happened. He was firmly drunk, and so was everyone else. Olcronax was a surprisingly graceful drunk. It had struck Rillian how odd he seemed, at times he would be almost exaggeratedly drunk, but if someone caught him off-guard with a question, he was absurdly alert. It was a type of drunk she'd seen before, but it was rare. Still, it was odd.

Aalia was resting her head on Rillian's shoulder, drifting between sleep and alertness. She wasn't the best with her alcohol, and it was very late. Hercon sat proudly at the front of the table, laughing happily at the jokes and tales of Garner the cook, and telling his own at times. He was only tipsy, having been careful with his drink.

After another fifteen minutes, particularly amusing tale that left peels of laughter from those still awake, Aalia stood up, bowing to all those left at the table carefully, "It is late, and I must take care of all the inevitable complaints of headaches and vomiting tomorrow," she said, laughing softly with the rest, "Probably from the Centurion at this rate." She remarked, at his incredible intake of alcohol--more laughter.

Everyone stood with her, it was customary to do so for the Priest--or priestess--of the Table. Plus, this one was of Dibella, young, and pretty. The young commanders all were careful to be extra charming, albeit drunk, to her. She pecked Rillian on the cheek, who returned it and remarked jokingly, "I'll make sure you're not followed, Aalia."

More laughter from the table as she accepted a very graceful kiss to the hand from Sir Hercon, and curtseyed to the table another goodbye and left.

They all sat down, Garner continuing his stories as Hercon began to drift into sleep. Olcronax was the next to retire, and finally Hercon stood up. All the others stood at immediate attention. With one hand, he waved them to ease, "Please, don't get up on my account. I must take my leave."

Rillian stood with him as others sat down, they would only sit for as long as Hercon was out of sight, then move off the table. You didn't sit down at the table after the Lord-Commander had left it, no matter what he off-handedly said.

He smiled to them, took Rillian's hand and kissed it, she smiled to him. He began his rather ineligant way back to his room, and Rillian soon followed for her own sleep. She had waited for Hercon to leave before she retired out of respect, a Bosmer tradition of not leaving the table until the commander had done so.

The merriment and victory was good. The next day would be painful for a lot of them, but they wouldn't regret it. She was sure of that. The degree to which they had bonded was useful. You needed to be able to trust your fellow commanders in the field. Now they had ate and drank together. It was a matter of honor to uphold one another's.
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Posted Apr 22, 14 · OP
The following months were heavy on Rillian's heart, and they stretched from months into a year, and longer. Finally, it was two years since the Slaughter at the Hollow, and Rillian had rarely seen nought but the campaign. The winter came, and was horrific. It left, and now it came back again.

It was the winter they all dreaded. Six-hundred strong, fighting against greater numbers of Constructs, the seemingly endless war between the Reach's warlords continued, and the Black Drake only secured his victory--although, Olcronax's excellent intelligence network informed them repetitiously that the Black Drake was not a threat... Yet. An unrelated group to the Hollow Necromancers, which made sense. But the Necromancers had grown in power at an alarming rate, using stolen bodies for mass constructs, weak but large in numbers.

The Reach was potted in high hills that sometimes would lapse into mountains in the North, and lowlands to the South. It was misty, it was heavy in precipitation, and in the winter, it was dreadfully cold. But this wasn't a war in which both sides decided to stay home for the winter, the Hollow Necromancers grew in strength compared to the Coalition of the Reachmarch, the name that the forces of Centurion Olcronax, Count Karkinsor, Baron Lenchart and War Chief gro-Graan put together, aided by the Mage's Guild experts as well as the unnamed "Meridian Agents." Each held a spot in leadership, but Sir Hercon--Lord-Commander of the now rebuilt Fellowship of the March--was the primary field commander.

The wars in the Reach had more then once overlapped, with Black Drake raiders assaulting Reachmarch soldiers, and visa versa. There'd even been fighting between the Black Drake and the Hollow Necromancers, but it was minimal. Neither cared to fight each other, the Black Drake would have slaughtered them, but it was too much work for a nonthreat.

Winter had arrived, and morale was low. They were huddled around the fires of their campsite, when they weren't tracking down Necromantic forces and launching assaults. The current campaign was in a standstill, but Rillian, gro-Graan, Olcronax, and Hercon had all been working hard to create a new, revitalized campaign. The Necromancers knew that the Reachmarch lost steam in the winter, and always expanded attempts to retake territory lost to the Reachmarch during the other seasons. They'd lost miles of real estate, and had almost been pushed back to their lair, the primary campsite they had come to call "Dor Dubhuir"--A Reach term for "Dark Place."

There was now miles between them and Dor Dubhuir, which was a veritable fortress situated on a hill that was taller then all those that surrounded it. It was a brilliant staging point for a campaign, almost as good as the Fortresses of Lenchart and Karkinsor. The various traps and primitive war machines employed by the Dor Dubhuir necromancers made a direct assault on it very difficult, albeit not impossible.

However, they didn't expect them to make a push in the dead of winter, the opening days of Sun's Dawn--a fitting month for such a campaign, bemused Rillian.

The plan was simple, they send Olcronax's shock forces forward, with gro-Graan's War Riders and Skirmishers. This shock assault would carve a dent in the speckled camps and forces of the Hollow Necromancers and their minions. This would be followed by the newly trained Heavy Riders of the Fellowship. These well-trained "Knights" were trained in heavy armor, wielding weapons on their warhorses. It was the most expensive investment that the Fellowship had ever made, and they would be the heavy hitter of the forces, pushing the lines forward considerably, supported by the Experts--a mix of those agents that were left of Rillian's fold and the Mage's Guild cohort.

The main force of the Lenchart and Karkinsor Levies would come up the rear, providing immediate support as they push deep into Hollow Territory. The hope was to bring in enough forces to secure land to begin a siege of Dor Dubhuir through the winter. The difficulty was, of course, supplies.

While the Constructs required supplies, they were not seasonal shortages. This plan had been in the works over the summer, so supplies had been in deep stocking all over the Reachmarch regions, something that was noticed, unfortunately, by Hollow agents, despite Rillian's best efforts to root them out. This would heighten the awareness of the Hollow Necromancers, but they would expect them to move in the following month--when it was still cold, but had some relief, not in the deadest part of Winter.

The forces had been preparing for days, going through operations and training to be prepared for the prolonged fight to secure a wide enough birth to be both defensible, but also wide enough to avoid being surrounded. It seemed as if most of the Construct's power came from Dor Dubhuir, so if they could just destroy Dor Dubhuir, then the small army of constructs that still outnumbered the combined Reachmarch forces.

Of course, they had been coalescing their forces as much as possible. Lenchart had spent so much on making an elite force, they hadn't the money for Mercenaries. Luckily, Karkinsor had provided buy hiring a small army of Mercenaries to provide relief and to protect supply lines to the siege camp. The experts had been speaking to their allies in other lands, Mage's Guild experts, priests of Arkay and Mara, and others coming to join in the fight that would put down the Hollow Necromancers. It wasn't a famous fight they were preparing for, no one would sings songs of it, but it was necessary.

Luckily, healers had flocked, and were using their power to keep them enforced, sort of the exact opposite of how the Hollow Necromancers were doing it.

But, without Karkinsor's mercenary forces reinforcing their army's supply lines, it was unlikely to be a success. They had pushed back the invasion another week, after Karkinsor informed them of his "generosity" in hiring the mercenaries.

At this point, Olcronax decided it was time to hold a meeting, presumably a bit of intelligence that would be important. It took several hours to get the various commanders in place, but Hercon and Rillian had arrived earlier. They made conversation with the person they now considered a friend for quite awhile, and he mentioned the issue, but skirted it--preferring to wait until all had arrived.

As, eventually, all the commanders arrived that needed to hear, Olcronax brought up the topic, "It looks like we've granted some good luck from the Gods, again!" He spoke excitedly, brushing his hands through his graying mane--it had grown longer, and grayer, through the long campaign, "It appears, my friends, that winter has been hard on the Black Drake. His forces are starving from lack of resources, and they've lost a great deal of ground. He's been beaten back, and while he will no doubtedly put down these rebellions, he's going to take more time. This gives us time to put down Dor Dubhuir and regain our forces to rebut his attack."

He nods, Hercon looked as if he was about to speak, so Olcronax--and therefore all else--turned to him, "What, exactly, Centurion, would you say is the chances that he'll pull out of this part of the Reach? This place is getting pretty damn crowded, these days."

"I would say it's almost certain. His forces here are aware that our fight is taking up the region, and it isn't worth getting involved--especially in this winter."

"That's strange, because our scouts showed a militarizing of Black Drake forces, minor, but definitely there. They've gotten resources and soldiers," it was the new War Speaker this time, a gruff man who was skilled in different respects then the previous, but still undeniably skilled.

"We believe they're preparing in case the Necromancers--or us-- get an idea that attacking them now is the best time to attack them. They're threatened and are taking no chances in getting all their forces to the front."

"That seems to make sense," said Rillian, hesitantly, "This is good news, though. Excellent news, in fact. I'm not sure how it changes the goals of laying siege to Dor Dubhuir."

"Oh, it doesn't. What it does do, is reveal that we have some leeway to return, and rebuild, before we can expect an attack from the Black Drake. At least moreso then we thought, before."

Replied Hercon, "If the Black Drake decides to attack us..."

"..We're dead," Rillian finished.

"The Hollow Necromancers are a small subregional war--more of a series of skirmishes that has been prolonged a great deal," Hercon said, "But if the Black Drake attacked, there wouldn't be a chance. Our allies in High Rock may defend us, they might not. Either way, we'd have no chance."

"Then it's good they are focusing less on us, then, isn't it?" Rillian decided to add, off-handedly, "It is good that you've brought this to our attention. We should continue to prepare our forces. Extra rations--at least a little--as we approach the battle. It will be harsh. Many will die."

"This may be our last meeting before the eve of the battle against Dor Dubhuir," Olcronax remarked.

"Then let us wish each other luck, pray to our Gods, and hope that the Necromancers remain blind to our preparations," It was Hercon, this time.

Warned the War Speaker, "they will not remain entirely blind."

"They won't see this coming," Hercon finished
"If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world." - C.S. Lewis
Posted Apr 27, 14 · OP