about the enemy

Bogdan shifted nervously from foot to foot, feeling the cold faceless gaze of the armored women flanking the door.  He didn’t like being summoned to talk to the High priestess.  She could be quite capricious, given to the sort of sudden violent outbursts for which priestesses of the goddess of storms were famed.  Bogdan hadn’t served her for long and could not read her moods.  Whenever she wanted to discuss matters in private he had come to expect the worst.

“Send him in.” came Hicran’s voice from beyond the door.

The two armoured women, members of the fearsome Thunder Guard, shifted their stance, raising their tridents from their crossed position in front of the doors and bringing them vertical.

“Enter.” One of them said.  Her voice was surprisingly feminine and quite at odds with the heavy armour and the monstrous visage in which shape the face plate of her helm had been grafted.

Bogdan turned the handle of the door and stepped into the high priestess’ office.  Hicran was seated at her desk.  Several scrolls were laid out in front of her.  The top one seemed to be a map of the Vale of Glas.  She didn’t move to acknowledge him, but continued to look at the map.

She was very young for a high priestess; still under 30.  Her long red hair was tied back in a pony tail.  She was slim and shapely, but with a very full bosom.  Her face was beautiful, although the word handsome somehow seemed more appropriate for her aquiline features.  She wore a simple while gown, rather than elaborate ceremonial robes, but one of pure silk which showed her figure off to good effect.  Bogdan realised that he had been staring at her cleavage when she raised her head and looked at him with her piercing green eyes.  Hicran bridged her fingers and looked thoughtful.

“Tell me about the Glasians.” She said.

“Maam!” Bogdan came smartle to attention before giving his answer. “The main pass through the mountains is guarded by a garrison of thirty men at the fort of Riben.  Our latest intelligence reports suggest that the enemy numbers…”

“No.” Hicran cut him of, dismissing his report with an offhand wave. “Tell me about the people.  I want to understand them better.”

“Oh… erm.  Well, they’re quite insular.”  He began, a bit unsure where to start. “The respect all the major gods, but their main patron deities are the earth goddess, Gaia, and the War god, Mars.  They are patriarchal…”

Hicran gave a contemptuous snort at the word ‘patriarchal’.  Bogdan paused to allow her to comment, but when no comment was forthcoming he continued.

“Yes.  erm.  Any wealth they have belongs to the male head of the family.  Women don’t have any political rights.  They can’t vote or hold office, except as clerics of Gaia.  Their marriage customs are quite unusual.  Different from the rest of the Golden Empire.”

Hicran lent forward, seeing interested in what he had to say, which made Bogdan feel a bit more relaxed.  He continued talking, getting enthusiastic as he went along.

“It is traditional in the valley for women to get married on the festival of furrows.  It is the most important holy day for followers of Gaia, during which the furrows are blessed to make them fertile, in preparation for the sewing of their crops.  It is thought by the Glasians that a marriage made on this day would also be blessed by Gaia and that their seeds would also be blessed when they… plough their furrows, as it where…”

Hicran gave a disapproving look at the coarse innuendo and then sighted, but gave no indication that Bogdan should stop.

“The women of marriagable age gather in the town or village square and the men bid on them in auction.”

“They auction their women?” Hicran said, apalled at the hipocracy of the act.

“Well, yes.  But not as slaves.  As wives.  The Glasian marriage laws put a lot of responsibility on a husband, but make divorce quite easy for any woman who wants it.  The amount that they pay for their wife is seen as a mark of respect to the wife and is used as part of their welfare system.”  He was a bit flustered, concerned that he had offended the high priestess.

“Go on.” Hicran told him, “Tell me more of these barbaric customs.”

“Well, they start with the prettiest of the girls.  The men bid on how much they are willing to pay to have her as their wife.  Half the money is given to the family of the bride and the other half goes to welfare fund.  They then continue with the next prettiest girl, and so on.  When they get to the ugly girls, or the crippled ones that nobody would want to marry they offer them up as brides to whoever is willing to accept the least money in order to take the woman as a bride.  The money raised by those paying to marry the attractive women is used to pay for people to take the others as brides.  In this way every woman is married off and finds a husband.”

“Hmmm…” Hicran seemed to be thinking about what she had heard, but Bogdan couldn’t tell whether she thought that the Glasian custom was a good thing or a bad thing.

“As I said before.  Divorce is quite easy.  If a woman wishes to leave her husband she need only petition a priestess of Gaia and tell her in what way her husband has failed in his duties as a husband.  If the priestess thinks she has good reason to leave her husband and that she is telling the truth, then she is free to leave.  If the husband is found to have been deliberately cruel in his treatment of her, then she also gets half his wealth.  It does sometimes make it harder for her to find such a good price from a husband, and so she is unlikely to get such a high status marriage, but she has no reason to stay with an abusive husband.  Also a woman has the right to refuse to marry whoever bid highest for her, but in that case she is not allowed to marry at all that year.  She can’t just reject potential suitors until she gets to the one she wants.  It is the mans choice; not the woman’s.”

“I forgot to say; a single divorced or widowed woman can own money, but as soon as she marries her money goes to her next husband.  Divorced women are allowed to marry outside of the festival of furrows.  I think this is so that they aren’t left without anyone to provide for them, but it also allows them the freedom to arrange their own marriages to whoever they want.  Now, should a man want a divorce then he has to either prove that his wife has been unfaithful or else he has to give half of his wealth to his wife.  If his wife has been unfaithful the husband also has the legal right to kill her lover, so women aren’t going to try to get divorced in order to be with a lover.  There isn’t any law that allows a man to divorce an overbearing and bullying wife, without her getting a share of his wealth, but as the law gives complete power over a woman’s welfare to her husband, a man is allowed to discipline and punish a wife in whatever way he sees fit.  Her only recourse is to either win her husband over, change her ways or file for divorce.”

“Sounds barbaric.” said Hicran in disgust.

“It’s… different.” replied Bogdan, a bit defensively.  “They also have quite an interesting welfare system.”

“Go on.”

“Well, they have a system in place to ensure that everybody in the country can have a job. If you don’t have a trade or land to support yourself you are guaranteed work doing something.  It’s not usually very well paid, but everyone is given work.”

“How does that work?” Hicran asked, puzzled by how such a thing could be possible.  She had heard that some countries had welfare systems, but other than temples taking in widows she had never been in a country which had some form of public welfare system.  There were always people out of work and it seemed impossible to guarantee everyone work.

“The army hire a lot of the more able bodied ones.  Then the royal estates employ a lot of paid laborers.  If you want to register for work you simply tell an overseer what skills you have and what you are capable of.  You then get given paid work doing whatever you can.  If you don’t have any useful skills they have training farms where people are taught how to become farmers.  You get food, accommodation and a small salary whilst working there for a single year.”

“How do they make sure they work?  Surely there must be shirkers?”

“Oh, probably.  The royal estates also have a lot of slaves on them.  No distinction is made between paid employees and slaves.  You work like a slave and get treated like a slave.  Most people stay just long enough to earn enough to get them started in their own business or until they can find someone else willing to hire them.  The shirkers get flogged and beaten, just the same as lazy slaves.  It is not intended to be a handout.  It is intended as a last resort, so that nobody needs to starve.  since everyone is expected to be able to get work or somehow support themselves, they have some pretty harsh vagrancy laws.  They also brand the farming school graduates at the end of the year, so that nobody tries to go through that system twice.”

“And the cripples?  What happens if you aren’t able to work?”

“If you are born crippled it is up to your parents whether they want to raise you.  If you can’t find work they continue to be responsible for your welfare.  I think the idea is that if they want to raise someone completely useless then it is their fault and should never be a burden to the state.  If a person is crippled whilst working for an employer then it is the responsibility of their employer to find work that they can do as a cripple.  The army has a lot of crippled ex-soldiers working in stores and training recruits.  If a free person is crippled but has no employer and is below the 500 Li tax bracket then the state will pay for a slave to be given to them, to look after all their needs and work for them.”

“That does seem quite… considerate.” Hicran spoke slowly, puzzled by what she had heard. “I thought these people were meant to be evil.  Wasn’t Cassander some terrible tyrant?”

“Erm… yes maam.  Some of their customs may seem nice but it is all quite self serving.  It is easier to put people in work than to deal with lots of thieves and bandits.  It also increases productivity.  The Dragon blood kings really only ultimately care about their kingdoms wealth.  Cassander taxed the people heavily and made them suffer.  If people can’t pay their taxes the Glasian practice was to exempt them for taxes for that year, but at a price.  The early kings were quite kind to their people, wanting them to be loyal to the throne.  Outside of the vale they taxed their subjects through the nose.”

“Ah, yes.”  Said Hicran, “I’ve seen the poor devils in the streets.”

“Yes.  Outside of the valley, if you failed to pay your taxes then you were given tax exemption for the year, to allow you to be able to keep your farm running and hopefully build up the needed wealth by the next year, but they would cut off your nose as punishment for the lost taxes.  If you failed to pay on the second year, then your wife and children were sold into slavery to cover your debts.  If you were not married, then everything you own was taken and you would be enslaved.  Cassander raised the taxes higher than most people could afford and after mutilating his subjects for their poverty he bought the more attractive wives and daughters for his harem.”

“Inside the Vale of Glas people were still given the one year tax exemption, but did not usually have their noses cut off.  Cassander was the first to extend the practice to there.”

“And the harem?”

“Oh, that has been going on a long time.  Most of the Dragon blood kings had large harems.  By tradition the king has to be chosen from the closest male relatives to the last king, so it was considered a royal obligation to have a lot of children.  A king might name a preferred successor, but it was up to the council of nobles to choose who should rule them as king.  In theory it makes it more likely that they will have a competent ruler.  When the concubines get older the kings would usually arrange marriages for them to some of his loyal followers.  The more he liked his concubine, the higher status marriage he would arrange for her.  Usually there were financial incentives.  It’s because of this that there are so man sorcerors in the Vale of Glas.  The royal dragon bloodline is virtually everywhere.”

“Cassander was famed for the cruelty with which he treated his concubines.  When he was bored of them he usually had them fight to the death in gladiatorial exhibitions in order to earn their freedom.  The performances were perverse, often involving the women fighting convicted murderers and rapists and being brutally raped before being killed.  Brutality, murder and rape was encouraged in his solders.  He treated the army well, using it to oppress the rest of the kingdom.”

“And now that he has gone?  Are you telling me that the Glasians are really not such a bad bunch and that they were just led astray by a cruel tyrant?”  There was a cruel, cold edge to her voice.  She leant forward and her arms seemed to tense.

“Not at all.  Cassander was a monster,” said Bogdan quickly, keen to try to appease her notorious temper, “but he surrounded himself with monsters and psychopaths.  Anyone who opposed him was either framed and executed or assassinated.  The country has been ruled by the most evil of men for about a generation now.  You can be certain that everyone in a position of authority is going to be ruthless and self serving.  The nation has been filled with evil for too long for it not to have influenced people at every level.  You can be sure that the new king of Glas and his advisers are also evil men.  The common folk haven’t been suffering for as long or as badly as in other parts of the Golden Empire, so I’m not sure if we can expect the same popular uprisings, but I doubt they will have any great love for their kings.”

Hicran sat back in her seat, her body no longer as tense.  The threatened storm seemed to have died down without coming to pass.

“Leave me.” she told him, “I have much to think about.”

Bogdan gladly turned and left her room, pleased that the meeting had gone so calmly.

Wheat harvest, wine harvest, war.

There was a traditional Greek saying which I remember reading, which translated as “Wheat harvest, wine harvest, war.”

The idea was that in an agrarian society warfare was often seasonal.  In Greece the summer was too hot and the warfare was mostly in the winter and spring, starting just after the wine harvest.

In order to give the calendar for my fantasy setting an interesting and agrarian feel I intend to give each month a name based on what should be done within that month.

Thus there is the wine harvest month, but also a wheat sewing month, a livestock slaughtering month etc.  I will note down a vague timeline of seasonal activities here and then decide which activity the month should be named after.

a useful link is here: http://www.penultimateharn.com/history/medievalfarmingyear.html

By Thys Fyre

I first encountered this poem on the blog above. It seems to be an anonymous English poem of the 14th or 15th century (Raymond Oliver, Poems without names: the English Lyric 1200-1500).

Januar: By thys fyre I warme my handys

Februar: And with my spade I delfe my landys

Marche: Here I sette my thynge to sprynge

Aprile: And here I here the fowlis synge

Maii: I am as lught as burdie in bowe

Junii: And I wede my corn well mow

Julii: With my sythe my mede I mowe

Auguste: And here I shere my corne full lowe

September: And with my flaylle I erne my brede

October: And here I sawe my whete so rede

November: At Martynesmasse I kylle my syne

December: And at Chritemasse I drynke redde wyne

another useful link is here : http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/medieval_farming.htm

January: the hedge moon

Febuary: The manure moon

March: Birthing moon

April: plough moon

May: the harrow moon

June: Haymaking moon

July: Possibly the war moon.

August: Harvest moon

September: Threshing moon

October: Wine moon

November: Blood moon (slaughter of livestock)

December: The feasing moon

13th month: The hidden moon.

They use a lunar callendar of 13 months, each 28 days long, so that any illiterate can easily tell when it is in the year.  This gives 364 days in the year.

Every generation, 22 years, there is an extra month, called the passing of the age.  This month follows after the war month and helps to bring the callendar in line with the seasons of the lunar cycle.  This is not a perfect correction, but the system has not been in place for long enough for it to cause any great problem.

Dark Lords setting

The Vale of Glas is a temperate region.  The Glas river flows through the region, opening into a wide, shallow valley.  The valley floods every year.  The towns are either raised on stilts, or settled in the foothills of the surrounding mountains.  Because of its geographic isolation, it was easy for whoever controlled the region to hold it against outside invasion.  The main economy comes from fishing, rice farming and goats (in the hills).  The area has an unusual geology, which causes sheer rock cliffs to rise up out of the flat valley (much like the Guilin region of China)

guilin

Guilin 2HK-L-361

On one of those isolated peaks a fortress was carved into the rock.  It is known as The Wyrm’s Head and was the stronghold of the Dragonblood Throne.

For centuries the region was ruled by a family of warrior sorcerors, allegedly descended from a golden dragon.  Because many of the kings have taken servants to their beds the region has an unusually high number of people with the potential to be sorcerors.  By tradition the king should be the son with the best potential as a sorceror, so as to keep the bloodline strong.

Dark Lords Prologue

I am planning to write a fantasy novel, based upon a war between two states.  Both are going to be morally ambiguous at best, with the focus being on the evil rulers of a small country on the verge of being conquered. 

It is a high fantasy setting, which could easily be used as a D&D setting.  I will be changing the names of the gods, once I decide upon a pantheon that I’m happy with.  I have posted the prologue below.  Any feedback would be appreciated.

Dark Lords Prologue

On the seventeenth day of the wine moon in the year of the celestial goat, in the third year of the patriarch of Celadon, twenty three years after his rise to power, King Casander the third of the dragon blood throne of Oreus was defeated on the plains of Midiae by the blessed army of the Deltaen theocracy and his tyranny was brought to an end.  Thus began the first year of the new Orean calendar.

Wyrms Head, the twenty fourth day of the wine moon.

The Dragon Mountain rose steeply from the waters of the Glas.  Its rugged cliffs seemed almost impossibly steep, especially on the western face.  To the south there was a wide plateau, a quarter the height of the mighty peak.  It was said by some that in times long past a second peak has sat alongside its twin, but in the war between the gods a blow from the sword of Mars has cleaved the mountain, scattering it miles across the lake.  The smaller, distant flat topped God-struck Plateau to the north was said to be the remainder of the lost mountain.  On the plateau of the Dragon was the small fortress town of Wyrmston.

Far above Wyrmston, carved into the very rock face of the Dragon Mountain was the ancient fortress known as Wyrm’s Head.  It was the earliest bastion of the Dragon-blood kings.  Auric the first, of the golden wing had used the ancient cave network in the mountain as a base of operations when he and his followers conquered the surrounding lands.  As they had expanded their power his successors had the fortress carved out of the rock as a symbol of their power and dominance over the land.

Xander the first, the tenth ruler of the Dragon-blood throne had been the last king to rule from there.  The kingdom had expanded far beyond the Vale of Glas and the city of Oreus had seemed far better located to serve as the capital of the expanding kingdom.  Wyrm’s Head had continued to be an important symbol, but no longer served any great strategic purpose.  Yet it was still the most impregnable of all the fortresses in the kingdom and as the great golden army lay broken and scattered, it was to this ancient stronghold which the surviving officers had returned.  There, in the great hall, overlooking the pass through the mountains from the west they had gathered, to consider whether there was any hope for their kingdom.

Draco was pacing back and forth across the room, his black plate armour chinking with every step.  His agitation was plain to all the other present.  They knew that Draco was not a patient man.  He was a man of action and it was clear that he wanted to lash out at someone or something.  He had been amongst the mightiest of Casander’s generals and was certainly the greatest fighter of those who remained.  He was a large, powerfully built man and although he was no longer in the peak of his youth, he was still as strong, swift and deadly as ever.  On his back was slung the distinctive flamberge blade, Dragon fire, which had claimed countless lives in battle.

Ancalagon arched his fingers, pondering how best to approach the subject which they clearly needed to discuss.  He was an impressive looking man, powerfully built but with the grey starting to show in his dark hair and beard.  Well over six feet tall, taller even than Draco, but not as muscular.  He was dressed in dark robes, lined in red and trimmed in fur, with a plain sword at his belt.  He liked to take care of his appearance, but was not given over to unnecessary adornment.  Those adornments which he did wear, the large silver pendant, the cloak fastenings and the ring, each bore the symbol of the god of war and marked him out as a priest.

Standing behind him, and to his left was Rhymar, alert as always.  The eastern swordsman distrusted nearly everyone, except Ancalagon, whom he served with a near fanatical devotion.  He was dresses in fine silks and a shining shirt of mail.  His twin scimitars were fastened across his back in their ornate, gilded scabbards whilst his kukuri was sheathed to his belt.  He had good reason to be anxious.  The death of a king left a power vacuum and there was no telling who might make a bid for power.

The most humble looking of the assembled men was probably the most dangerous, yet the least likely to start trouble.  Gordias the Great they called him, although to look at the skinny man with his long unkept hair and scruffy robes it would be hard to see why.   Gordias cared little about appearances and reputation.  He was an enchanter, and a talented one.   As long as he was free to conduct his magical experiments he was happy to use his power for whichever of them might rise to the top.  His experiments were considered distasteful to most, as they did not seem to understand how important the sacrifice of just the right sort of victims in the correct way could be to the success of his magical experiments.

The garishly dressed Piper, with his bright tabard of red and white and his cloak of deep royal blue would follow Draco in whatever decision he made.  He was a bard and was useful in inspiring and motivating the men.  He considered Draco to be a warrior, worthy of legendary renown and had served him well over the years.  He was also surprisingly skilled in battle, but very likeable.  Of all of them, he was the one who best understood how the remnants of their army were feeling and what sort of decisions they would be most likely to accept.

It was the woman, Thea, the dark haired beauty that was the main cause for concern; she and her master.  She was dressed in a gown of black and purple which showed off her figure, whilst modestly covering her pale skin.  Her dark laced veil made her appeared as though she was in mourning, but this was her usual attire.  The clasp on her short cape, bearing the symbol of a skull in a teardrop showed her allegiance to Cthulu, lord of the undead, of whom she was a priestess.  Across her arm she held a tunic of dark velvet, which she stroked occasionally.  Priestesses of the death god were known to place know value on life and to be amongst the most psychotic and unpredictable of people.  Yet it was her other master who invoked the most immediate sense of fear and apprehension.

The tendrils of mist drifting under the heavy oak door and across the stone slabs of the floor indicated that her master had arrived.  The other men shifted in apprehension.   Casander’s assassin had arrived.   The mist drifted across the floor towards Thea, where it rose up into a column of white.  The tendrils of mist gathered to it, causing it to thicken and take human form, until it has solidified into the form of a naked, pale skinned man.  Jonah.

Of all the warlords, sorcerers and priests who served Casander, none was more feared than Jonah, for none was more deadly, or harder to kill.  Jonah had been Casander’s chief assassin.  The creeping death, they called him.  He had been a monk, before the transformation into a vampire. An expert in unarmed combat, he had become far more deadly with the speed and strength of the undead.  He could turn aside blades with his bare hands and punch through plate armour.  The knowledge he had gained though his monk training gave him the strength of spirit and purity of body to resist nearly any magic and by turning into mist he could penetrate the strongest defences.  He was the perfect killer, and he knew it.  He was also very handsome.

Thea embraced him, pressing her face against his muscular chest.  “My love.” She whispered.  He gently laid an arm around her in a gesture which seemed more propriatorial, than holding any real warmth.

“What news?” asked Draco, interrupting the display, which he considered distasteful.  Jonah sneered at him, then, brushing Thea aside he held up an arm and replied with a dismissive wave.  “A moment.”

He took the velvet tunic from his lover and pulled it on, then waited as Thea fastened a dark silken sash around it.  She then proffered to him two rings and an amulet, which each contained magical powers, which further enhanced his abilities.  Finally he slipped two black leather bracers on, which each bore a raven emblem.  Once those had been laced lightly he took his place at the table and addressed the other lords.

“Oreus has fallen”

“Damn it.” Cursed Draco, slamming a gauntleted fist onto the table.

“It’s hardly surprising.” Replied Ancalagon.  “I take it the armies are scattered.”

“Scattered or slain.”  Jonah replied.  He smiled wolfishly.  “A great many have met Cthulu this day.”

“How many are they.” Draco demanded.  He was no stranger to the slaughter of battle, but was annoyed by the perverse delight which Jonah took from their defeat.

“Too many for you.  At least ten thousand.  Probably more.”   Draco’s face hardened at the reply.  It was true.  With the few hundred soldiers that they had brought to the northern stronghold there was no way that they could defeat the Deltaen army.

“So we’ve lost.  Too bad.” This was from Gordias, who seemed to take the news as though it were only a minor setback.  Perhaps because he had the least invested in the country.

“I don’t think so.” Replied Ancalagon.  The others looked to him, waiting for him to expand upon his thoughts.  As a priest of the war god Ancalagon had learnt all he could about wars and battles.  It was his passion.  It also gave him a great understanding of strategy.  Draco could understand the lay of a battle and sense the shift in the flow of a fight, sensing instinctively the weakest point in any army, but nobody in the kingdom understood strategy better than Ancalagon.

“They have conquered or kingdom and slain our king.  The wealth of Oreus is
theirs.  To take Glas or Mnander would still need full scale military campaigns, possibly taking them years.  Casander may have been a tyrant, but that doesn’t mean the people of Oreus will gladly accept a Deltaen ruler.  Not when so many of our people were slain by them in battle.  Their mercenaries have been fighting hard and now they will want plunder and tribute, to recoup the expenses of their campaign.  There is bound to be resistance.  Add to that the fact that the Delta is a theocracy.  They are bound to want to convert people to the worship of their sun god.  They will be reconsecrating churches and bringing in their foreign traditions.  That’s bound to annoy a lot of people.  No.  It will be years before the people of Oreus accept the Deltaen rule.  I don’t think they can afford to hunt us down.”  The others waited quietly to Ancalagons reply.

“So what will they do?” Draco asked, at length.

“Once they know how small our forces are, they’ll dismiss most of their legions.  We don’t have enough forces to go on the offensive and they know it.  There were too many mercenaries for them to keep paying them when they aren’t needed.  The rest of them will be used keeping order in the cities and on the major roads.  The terrain up here is too restrictive.  If they brought an army against us they wouldn’t be able to use their weight of numbers.  We have the terrain advantage.  It would cost them thousands of men to dislodge us and what would it earn them?  The Wyrm’s Head doesn’t command any major trade routes.  The Glas valley may have been the old heart of the kingdom, but it doesn’t have any real wealth.  We guard the high pass into the wild lands.  What loss would it be to them if orcs and goblins were to move back into the eastern mountains.  Far better for them to leave a garrison at Stymphalos to keep us penned in here.  In a few years, when they have more control over the populace, then they might try to dislodge us, although they’ll likely consider Mnander an easier target.  I think they’ll accept the loss of the outlying regions for now, or try to take them through diplomacy”

“So there’s nothing we can do?”  asked Draco.  “I can’t accept that!”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that.” Ancalagon replied. “We may not be able to fight them in the field, but we know the land.  We can fight the little war, as the westerners call it.  Attacking their patrols, their supply convoys and their tax collectors.  We can fight a war of attrition against them.  With the right leadership we can inspire the people to join us in overthrowing these invaders.  The harder the war, the more or god delights in the challenge.” He smiled at Draco, knowing that he too delighted in a challenging fight.

“Whilst we make things difficult for them here, we can take the fight to the Delta.  After all, it wasn’t that many years ago that the tribes of the wild lands were last persuaded to ally themselves to a human sorcerer.”  This time he looked to Gordias, who smiled at the idea.

The quiet as they considered Ancalagon’s suggestion was broken by Jonah’s laughter.

“You humans and your little wars.” He smirked.  “How you so love to trouble yourselves.  Very well.  Have your little war.  In a few weeks the Deltaen satrap will be appointed.  All their best heroes and wizards will be in attendance.  I shall slay them in their beds after their festivities and take whatever magical artefacts they possess.  You can then fight your little war against their thrice cursed priests.  Once you have your army of monsters I’ll return to slay their patriarch and lead you to victory over the Delta.”  Jonah then stood and brushed himself off.   Whilst he spoke Rhymar quickly swallowed the cup of wine in his hand and began walking around the room towards him.

“Stop!” commanded Ancalagon.  Thea looked startled by the outburst, not sure whether he was talking to Jonah, or to his henchman.  Jonah froze completely still.

“Do you know why I don’t like vampires?”  Ancalagon asked.  He then continued without waiting for a reply. “Because you think you are so much better than the rest of us and some stupid, ignorant, pathetic people forget what you are.”  Thea, looking in outrage at Ancalagon noticed that he had reversed his ring, and the symbol of his god was now facing with his palm, towards Jonah.  The sudden realisation that the priest was channelling his god’s power to dominate the will of her lover filled her with a fiery rage.  She reached for her holy symbol, hoping to use it to bolster Jonah’s power, shielding him with Cthulu’s power and freeing him from Ancalagon’s domination, but she had no time to act.  Rhymer lunged towards her with superhuman speed, aided by the potion in the wine cup which he had just consumed.  Both his scimitars plunged through her body, piercing her lungs.  She felt the spells with which they had been enchanted draining the life from her and striking her dumb.  She could not even utter a word in prayer as her last dying breaths were leaving her body.

“People see you, being pretty and young and oh so powerful.  They forget that you aren’t people.” Ancalagon continued.  Neither Draco nor Gordias look surprised by the sudden turn of events.  He smiled at the look of unbridled hatred which crossed Jonah’s face.  “Just because you have the memories of the people you possess doesn’t mean you are them.  You are just a corpse, animated by dark magic and guided by a demonic spirit.  Life means nothing to you, because you don’t have any. That’s what she didn’t understand.”  He gestured to Thea, who was still enduring her last few seconds of silent agony, held up by the two blades through her body.

“She didn’t realise that she was just a tool to you.  Stupid child!  She was so infatuated with your vampiric mystique that she completely ignored what you are.  As a creature of dark divine magic you are a slave to the dark gods.  You are just a particularly elegant tool who seems to have forgotten his place.  Without that infatuated child praying for you, you would be powerless against any priest who opposed you, but even with her you are still vulnerable.  By hiding behind you, she has not allowed her full potential to develop.  Why should her god bother to grant his full power to an idiot who would put the desires of one of his creatures above his divine will?  She probably hoped that you would eventually reward her with your vampiric kiss.” As he spoke Thea’s corpse slid from Rhymar’s blades, to collapse in a bloody heap on the stone floor. “But we both know why you never would.  If you did create a new vampire it might have her memories and her powers but it wouldn’t be Thea and it wouldn’t love you.  You needed her infatuation with you.  All those feminine humors which have addled her mind.  But corpses don’t feel love.  If you had made her a vampire, she would have been able to dominate you as easily as I am doing.”

“The trouble wit’ you is you don’t ‘ave feelings.”  This time it was Draco who spoke.  He rose and walked towards Jonah.  “I mean.  Sure, we’re a bunch of ruthless bastards.  We wouldn’t ‘ave survived if we wasn’t, but we’ve all got stuff what we care about.  But the thing is that none of our ambitions gets in the way of each others.  Right?”  He looked towards Gordias for confirmation.

“It’s true.”  He replied. “Draco and Cal may like their wars, but they aren’t idiots.  They appreciate the importance of having allies.  They also quite care about their followers.  You, on the other hand, don’t really care about anyone.  It’s not as if any of us wants to be a king.  It’s really too much hastle, but we’re certainly not going to be slaves to a creature like you.”

“Yeah.  Me and Cal serve the same god, and so neither of us minds serving each other.” Added Draco.

“But we both embrace war.” Added Ancalacon. “Which is less than ideal for a ruler.  A general can be seen to live for war, but a king should be seen to want to bring prosperity and peace to his nation.”

“And I have no interest in ruling people.” Said Gordias “It takes up far too much time and has all these silly responsibilities.  I just want the wealth and resources I need for my experiments and a ruler who wants to support my quest for greater magical power.  That is why we have decided to find ourselves a suitably impressionable young idiot who can be made to look like a good ruler for this nation.  But we can’t very well do that with you stirring up trouble now, can we?”

Whilst he spoke, Draco picked up the chair which Thea had previously been seated on.  At the break in Gordia’s speech he snapped off one of the legs and looked pleased at the sharp point which it had sheared away with.

“And that is why you are going to walk onto that stake.” Said Ancalagon. “But first you are going to explain to us the powers of each magic item you or Thea possessed, so that we can better decide how to share them amongst ourselves, along with the location of any hidden wealth.”