Nova Ara Lore - Grey Order Guild
by Licinia Phaedra
Chapter 1 - The Caravan to Nova Ara
The evening was perfect for travel; there were some clouds in the sky, but the stars still shone through. There was just enough of a breeze to keep the air moving, and the air was cool enough to be comfortable in the wee hours of morning. Word had gotten around over the last several weeks of a man called Garek Ambrose, a noble reinstated by King Conan himself. This man was going to be rebuilding a rundown city somewhere near the Poitain Province, away from the political and religious turmoil in Tarantia. He was looking for followers, those who wanted to start a new city and even start a new life. This group, this project, would be called The Grey Order, and the city would be called Nova Ara. Word traveled quite fast of this adventure; from Stygia to Cimmeria, people knew. We met under the cover of darkness by the wind mill overlooking the convoy to The Wild Lands of Zelata. Almost 30 men and women came to meet this man and follow him to what would hopefully be their new home. Yes, it was a good night to travel.
People walked, rode horses, and giant mammoths on the caravan to the new city. We left after midnight to try to avoid any surprise attacks. It took several days to get to Tesso, where we stopped to rest. Our animals needed it and so did we. There were merchants available so we could stock up on food and supplies. Everyone followed Garek without question. The weather was still good, and people were getting more and more eager to reach the new city. Gaius Plinius Marsus was our guard accompaniment. He watched over everyone silently, unless he needed to intervene, which happened a few times. Kallikrates, the newest member of the Order, wanted to be sure he got paid for the journey. He was hired on last minute as another protector, in case the need arose. Aleda got lost for a few days shortly after leaving Tesso, but found us again before we had to send out a search party. There were a few strange people following us, but they kept a big enough distance that I couldn’t determine who they were.
The large bridge we had to cross along the way scared some. I remember someone was afraid it would break right underneath us. We traveled one by one across, until something stopped Garek and the rest in front. I could not see as I had not crossed the bridge entirely, but I heard some yelling and arguing between our leader and a strange voice. All of a sudden, I heard the stranger command to attack, and people were drawing their weapons. I was still confused as to what was going on, but took out my crossbow and shot at the people I did not recognize. Several of us got injured, and I believe a few ran to hide, but eventually the ambush was over, and we got to take stock of what had just happened. We had to rest for Fayore to heal – his injuries were substantial. But thanks to Lyra, he recovered fully. I was injured myself, and don’t recall some of the happenings while we waited for Fayore to get better. As soon as we started moving again, we were stopped by a man named Akkri. A stygian drifter, who claimed to be a respectable man, was inquiring about our journey. Many of us fought Garek for us to leave him behind – Stygians are not to be trusted, you know. Garek, the noble and honorable man that he is, allowed Akkri to join the Order, only because he was recognized by Xaelgodus as someone of decency.
Several days later, we were stopped yet again, by another single man, weaponless. This hooded stranger knew of the ambush on our caravan. Garek, caught off guard by this, demanded to know how. Blur, he called himself, said he had given us some sort of test to see if we could handle the duty of rebuilding the city. The caravan was outraged at his arrogance, demanding that he be either killed or imprisoned. Some even demanded that he go unclothed to ensure he was hiding nothing else from us. Garek, getting impatient, allowed us to hold him captive, but insisted that we continue on our journey. Plinius kept a close watch on both Akkri and Blur, later questioning them in grave detail. Somewhere along the way we managed to pick up others, all interested in our Order and our city. Word was still spreading of this grand adventure arranged by the king.
When we crossed over the hill in Poitain, coming up on our land, some of us were awed with disgust, others with amazement. The buildings left standing were barely worth calling buildings. The wood rotted in many places, pieces of wall or roof missing entirely. Grass and wildflowers had grown through the cracks in the floors. There was much work to be done, and it would take several months to complete. Knowing we needed something soon, the most basic of buildings, to keep us alive, Garek ordered us to work fast and hard.
The river was close enough to see but not hear, and there were stray animals near. We were near Caenna Village, so merchants would be available for things we could not make on our own. There were mountains surrounding us, the view was spectacular. I can imagine that on clear nights, one could look at the horizon and see as far as the stars stretch out in the sky. There were unknown buildings that we could see off in the distance so Plinius sent Kallikrates out to look at the surrounding area, to see what we were up against. The rest of us worked from dawn until dusk mending our broken city. After what felt like an eternity of laborious work, we were able to stop, with just enough to have a functioning city. Nova Ara was officially born on the eighteenth day of Messor, in the first year of the lion. Be it a hollow month, considered to be unlucky and ill-repute, we had great hopes for Nova Ara. Glory and honor were ours to claim.
Grey Order Scribe
Chapter 2 - Fortifying the City
25, Messor, the year of the lion
We have discovered two other cities near by to our beautiful Nova Ara. One is made entirely of women that have banded together after the loss of their men in war. The other city has been pretty quite, and we have rarely spoken with them. But both cities seem decent enough that we know of, yet we have much to learn about them. Garek decided that despite their friendly interactions so far, it would be best to build guard towers and a wall around our city. If the wars from Tarantia were to spread our way, we would want our glorious new city to be protected.
Barely recovered from building the workshops, we hauled wood and standstone day and night in order to build our walls and towers. It was amazing to see such a large group of people come together so quickly. We were still getting to know each other, and many were still skeptical of each other’s abilities, but Nova Ara was becoming stronger each day. Garek was still the only leader of the city, so we did as he said. He decided the guard towers were the most important, since we can see high above the city from the top platforms. We built guard towers surrounding the Keep, and then more surrounding the entire city. From the tops of the towers we can see for miles, looking at the impressive country side, river, and hills. It seems as if our city was built on top of the world, standing high above everything and everyone else.
It is very important for Garek and Plinius to be able to watch the city from all sides, so we can walk along the walls from tower to tower, day and night. Guards will spend many hours watching our city from the walls. Kallikrates has shown his unyielding dedication to Nova Ara and became the first guardsman we have. I am eager to find out who else will protect us. We ran out of resources and gold pieces to buy the supplies we couldn’t gather for ourselves, so the wall has been left unfinished for now. We will soon enough find a way to complete our city. We will persevere.
Grey Order Scribe
Chapter 3 - The King Requests a Visit from the Baron
6, Crinso, the year of the lion
Lord Garek had received word from the King! He was to come to Tarantia and meet with King Conan so they could discuss the progression of the new city. This was a nervous and exciting time for all of us, but especially for the Baron. With all the turmoil going on throughout Aquilonia, Garek did not want to make the trip unattended, so he requested the help of the Guard and any available citizens of Nova Ara to escort him.
Just after midnight, we gathered outside the trade post of Nova Ara to begin our journey to the castle. Garek was dressed in his finest clothing; he had to look good for the king! The Captain of the Guard and three of his guardsmen were waiting, as well as a handful of citizens. Plinius ordered Kallikrates to lead the group, while he and Sethiik personally escorted the king. Mallin was to take the rear, defending the Baron from any attacks from behind. Ferryn and I held the front with Kallikrates, and Ayita and Xaelgadus held up the rear with Mallin.
It was a good thing we had enough people to assist, as we were attacked by many bandits throughout our travel through Poitain. Even a few fierce badgers attacked! We managed to keep Lord Garek safe, but during one of our battles, his horse got scared and ran off. He had to walk the rest of the way to Cannae Village, where he talked the merchant into giving him another.
The trip through The Wild Lands was quite uneventful, surprising to us all. Someone from the rear, possibly Mallin or Ayita, killed the diseased bears around us, but they were no threat as they were too ill to attack. Was it out of boredom or were they putting the bears to rest I don’t know. I think the ease of this portion of the trip took our attention to other places, because we actually got separated just before arriving in Tesso. We managed to reform at the top of the hill just before Tesso, and Garek announced that he needed to meet with the Governor there. He met the Governor for drinks in the local tavern. They spoke for quite a while as we guarded them both from intruders into the tavern. When their meeting had ended, Garek offered free drinks to everyone, so we stayed to rest for a time. Some of us took the time to enjoy the drink of ale, while others continued to maintain their positions fortifying the tavern.
After a time, the Baron decided it was time to continue on our journey, so we got back into the Captain’s formation and worked our way to Tarantia. The trip through the city was just fine until we arrived in the Noble District. It was a war zone behind the gates, so we were all at the ready. Sethiik wanted to form a plan to get us through the mayhem, but before we could finalize everything, a few of us had already been attacked by Nemidians. So the plans went by the wayside and we forced our way to the castle approach. Mallin’s archery skills along with a few others’ fighting tactics saved the Baron from any distress.
At the castle entrance, Lord Garek ordered that just his personal escorts, Plinius and Sethiik, were allowed to come into the castle with him, while the rest of us were to continue to guard the castle entrance. Only just a few people had valid reason to enter, so we did not have much to watch for. Hours passed before the Captain and Sethiik came out. It took the Baron even longer to return to the group. We were all growing bored and anxious to find out what was taking so long!
Finally Garek came out and told us that the king was quite pleased with our progress so far. He authorized us to expand the city, providing us with more resources to build as we needed them. He also stated that Garek would be receiving an assistant, a prefect, as well as what Garek described as a “powerful Mitran Priest”. This news came with mixed responses from the group. Sethiik was quite concerned with the news of a priest that would flaunt his powers. But the Baron said he did not get much information, so speculating this early would do us all no good. When the prefect and High Priest would arrive, no one was sure of.
The Baron also said that Conan discussed some troubles ahead, so the war would continue. Garek didn’t go into much detail here, so both Conan and he knew little, or he did not want to scare us prematurely. Instead of returning home right away, we stopped by the Armsman’s Tavern in The Noble District for some food and drink. The Baron allowed us to stay the night to rest before the journey home. Sethiik introduced the Baron to Brudi, an alley he, Xaelgadus, and Kallikrates had done some guard work for previously. He discussed a trade boosting event in Tesso he was planning, and invited us to attend. The Baron sounded interested in watching, so I expect some of us will be able to participate. Brudi also asked to visit Nova Ara, so the Baron will have to make arrangements for that at some point.
The food and drink were quite good, being that it had been a long time since any of us ate that well. Ayita suggested that we hire a cook for Nova Ara. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to have our own tavern and place to eat. Hopefully the Baron will accept such a proposal in the future.
This was a good journey and a wonderful adventure. It gave me hope to know that we could protect our Baron as well as we did, with little to no injuries of our own. The Captain has trained his men well, and the citizens of Nova Ara are taking pride in their home and people as well. This city has become a fine place to live, and the king recognizes it as well. Long live Nova Ara!
Grey Order Scribe
Chapter 4 - Assassin Accused of Murder!
13, Crinso, the year of the lion
What started out to be a peaceful and calm evening turned into mass confusion, anger, and frustration. The citizens of Nova Ara were minding their own business, wondering the city as they would on any night. Ayita and I met for conversation on the trail to the Keep, Lyra and Ferryn were bargaining with the trader, Lucious, Kallikrates, Lysandros, and a few others were doing their own business as well. All in all it was a very normal night.
That is until Dreeill came in shouting for us to open the gates. He had a captor with him! Unbeknownst to many of the citizens, there had been a contract out for Lord Garek’s head! Dreeill had been secretly hired to find this assassin and bring him to justice. Even the Baron didn’t know of this contract, for if he had known, he would have refused aid, being the prestigious noble that he is.
Hamza, he called himself, was bound and forced into the stockade in the barracks. He swore up and down that he was tricked and had no idea where the Baron was. Of course a hired assassin would speak like that! But since the people of Nova Ara are not savage beings, we did the honorable thing and held a trial for the Stygian. Lysandros was chosen to be the judge of the citizen trial.
Kallikrates was ready to slit the man’s throat without wasting our time for a trial while I was demanding to know where the Baron was. Ferryn and Lyra had not heard of this contract until this night, so they were quite startled to hear and see anything. Dreeill argued that this man knew of the contract for Garek’s head, and was most certainly guilty. Lucious said we should check his weapons for fresh blood, and Ayita and Akkri waited quietly to see how things panned out.
After deliberating alone for a few moments, Lysandros and Dreeill had come to the conclusion that the daggers Hamza had been carrying were in fact not fresh with blood. Without a dead body, we could not find him guilty of an assassination, and therefore he was free to go. Kallikrates, quite obviously upset by this, was even more furious when Dreeill announced that on behalf of Lord Garek, he would allow Hamza to stay safe within our walls if he had the desire to.
Somewhere in the midst of all this arguing with whether Hamza was really guilty or not, Lysandros slipped away without word. I seemed to be the only one to notice at first since he left before the trial was officially over. Dreeill was instantly begging Hamza for forgiveness when just a few hours earlier, he was insisting that this was the man to try and kill our leader. The rest of us were just in shock and awe as to what was going on. No one knew what to believe or say, just that the Baron’s location still had not been confirmed. Ayita said she was told he had gone away on business, but no one knew for certain.
I questioned Lysandros’s intentions for leaving so quietly and abruptly, but no one could believe that he had a larger part in the contract against the Baron. Or could he? Hamza was not quick to forgive any of us, and didn’t even want to speak to me much less help find out what Lysandros was up to. Lucious tried to help calm the situation down, but it was just too much. We left the barracks, all shaking our heads in disbelief. No one seemed to know what was going on; except that we were no longer sure we were safe behind our own city walls. What would become of this whole debacle?
Grey Order Scribe
Chapter 5 - A Strange Goodbye
20, Crinso, the year of the lion
Things didn’t quite seem to settle down amongst the citizens of Nova Ara after the whole situation with Hamza. Citizens were uneasy walking the streets of Nova Ara. It was quiet and empty at night; people were afraid to meander the streets as they once did. The moon still lit up the walkways and alleys, but instead of a once beautiful haze, it now looked eerie and cold.
During the daylight it wasn’t as awful, but the city came to life by force. People had to go about their business and trade. Conversations were shorter and less inviting. The citizens of Nova Ara started to trust each other less and less. Something was going to happen; it was just a matter of time.
The Captain of the Guard must’ve sensed some kind of trouble as well, because on this day, he promoted Kallikrates to Sergeant of the Guard. He would be in charge of all the guardsmen should the Captain be away on business. Kallikrates accepted the job even though he admitted to me that he’d rather be in the trenches with the other guards than leading them. He would uphold his duty to the city regardless and show the Captain he would be a successful leader.
Not long after Kal announced his promotion to Sethiik and me, Blur arrived. He had been gone for so long it was a shock to see him. At first, I didn’t think much of it, but before he left so long ago, he told me he was struggling with his powers, and he needed to go away to straighten things out.
I tell you all in my writing, because it could affect the future for Nova Ara.
Blur was not acting like his usual self. He was speaking of crazed ideas, immortality and the like. He had a look in his eyes that made me afraid for him. Something had gone wrong while he was away, but he only spoke nonsense and laughed a psychotic chuckle. Kal insisted he was joking, and Sethiik just ignored him.
All of a sudden, Blur broke out in some sort of spell. Black smoke filled the air around him, swirling round and round. Then Blur started to rise off the ground, speaking of how he would soon be leading hell itself. More smoke whipped about, then pillars grew from the ground and he collapsed. He started sinking into the ground, and just as sudden as everything started, it all stopped. Nothing was left, and the ground looked as normal as it did before.
The commotion drew the Captain and Chigaru to the scene; Sethiik, Kal, and I were there to witness it all. No one knew what was going on, but Kal still insisted it was some kind of joke. A few of us looked around to find him, but Blur had disappeared. Were our enemies using him against us? Was this just one big joke? No one knew what to believe. After talking it over, the Captain decided that Blur, despite being a city guard, was no longer welcome in the city. Sethiik had heard him speak of unmentionable things to Xaelgadus, I knew he was struggling with his powers, and no one could forget what we’d just witnessed. Plinius ordered all the guards that if Blur was even alive, and if spotted, to kill him on sight, as someone of this crazed power and mind was not welcome in the city and would only put us in danger. Our lives depended on the city’s safety, and Blur would only disrupt that.
One thing was for certain, we needed a plan. A defense and an escape route, just in case something happened to the city, and we were forced to abandon our homes. We needed to prepare for war, but would we be fighting against our own people, or enemies? Only time would tell.
Grey Order Scribe
Chapter 6 - A Letter from the High Priest
Baron Garek Ambrose,
I hope this letter finds you well. My name is Alchaeus and I have been ordered by the High Priests of Tarantia to serve Mitra in your newly founded city of Nova Ara. I wanted to introduce myself to you by parchment, since I have not been able to join your city as of late.
I am an only child from wealthy commoners. At the mere age of seven, my parents sent me to the Mitran Temple in Galparan to become an oblate, and then priest. I have spent all of my life as a priest in Galparan, so I have not had much excitement to discuss. That is until the somewhat recent events I’m sure you’re quite familiar with – King Conan’s return to the throne. Tarascus and his thousands upon thousands of men camped on the west bank of the Shirki River in Galparan and the Gundermen and Bossonians as well waiting on the other bank. I must say it was an unforgettable sight, in spite of all of the evil that lurked about those men. Throughout all of it, I managed to stay in the temple, avoiding the cursed men that trampled through my city gates.
Despite the fact that my parents were prosperous, I have lived like a poor man all my life. All I need is the strength of Mitra to keep me happy. I’ve found that most everything else is useless to me. Anyone can trust me regardless of how well they know me. I keep to myself, but if I feel there is something you should know, I will come to you immediately. As and oblate, we were required to watch the other oblates for infractions, so I may be quiet, but I am always watching.
King Conan expects religious tolerance, and I understand you agree, so I will regretfully allow it into my daily life. Let it be known, however, that I will command any and all citizens and visitors to respect Mitra, and if they act maliciously, then they will feel the wrath of Mitra upon their souls. The priesthood of Mitra is a power of literacy and education, influencing the codes of honor developed and practiced, granting legitimacy to the aristocratic order. I do not expect to be a part of your government, but I do expect to have an importance worthy of respect by all, and Mitra shall have even more respect than I.
I feel it an obligation to advise you that I am no murderer. I do not believe in human or animal sacrifice, and I do not act in violence. I will pray for the dead of our people, and also I will pray for our fallen foes. If you require my religious support on the battlefield, I will go, but know that I would be more helpful aiding the fallen than fighting on the front lines.
Please tell your people I look forward to coming to your Nova Ara, and when my duties in Galparan are complete, I will come straight away. Since I have not traveled much, I do request an escort if at all possible.
Walk with Mitra!
Alchaeus of Galparan
Chapter 7 - A Citizen Captured
9, Horuma, the year of the lion
Shortly after our High Priest arrived, I think people decided it was a good thing he had come after all. One evening he saw the Baron speaking with Ayita. He thought nothing of it, and went about his own business in the temple. Not long after, the city alarms sounded and everyone nearby could hear Kallikrates shouting to come to the main gate.
Kallikrates, now Sergeant of the Guard, had ordered a call to arms – all guardsmen and all citizens available were needed outside the city walls. The Baron and Ayita had wandered off during their discussion and the Baron failed to bring an escort with. Something had happened to them outside Nova Ara’s walls!
The air was chilly and it was getting dark outside, clouds covering over what little moonlight there was. The citizens and guards, as ordered, spread out to look for the two. Down the path by the river, they found Lord Garek lying on the ground almost dead. Curses, what had happened?
Alchaeus used the power of Mitra to heal the Baron back to life just in the nick of time. If they had shown up much later, the Baron would’ve been dead. Garek exclaimed that at least twenty horsemen had ambushed them while they were walking. He didn’t know who they were, but they had taken Ayita captive and left! The Baron demanded to help find her, despite his weakened state. He needed to see Ayita safe again.
The small army followed the Baron and Kallikrates to Caenna Village, the first place anyone could think to look. Bandits of all kinds were lurking in the shadows, attacking them when they least expected it. It seemed as if they would be in for a long journey. Lord Garek found out from the city guard in the village that a group had gone through on horseback. He heard them say something about Tesso. Knowing that this was going to be a longer trip than they had first prepared for, they gathered supplies and food, and headed towards Tesso. Fighting more bandits and wild animals, they finally arrived. The horses needed to rest as did many of them, but they knew they couldn’t stay long.
Lucious and Alchaeus were on foot this whole time, Kallikrates, Ylossk, Garek, and more were on horseback. They rested while Garek talked to the Governor of Tesso. He just couldn’t stop until this search was over. The Governor was able to help, stating that a group of men had left heading towards Corvo. He believed this was the group of kidnappers we were looking for.
Tired and sore, they continued on. Everyone had agreed that the men that took our Ayita needed to pay and they needed to get her back as quickly as possible. Nemidians were thick in Corvo, so everyone had to be very careful. There were dead bodies along the path, and most were not Nemidian. Spiders almost the same size as the men were attacking them, along with some kind of raging beasts. This was not the place for a lovely woman like Ayita. This was no place for any of them.
Rescuing Ayita was a true test of strength for the citizens of Nova Ara. The land was dead from war, a grey fog hovering low in places. There was an eerie presence surrounding them, but they had to press on. Kallikrates ordered them through exceptionally well, and everyone listened. The citizen army acted as one body, forcing their way though the Nemidian camp. Garek himself killed two at once, a feat for a noble of his stature. The further in they got, the more courage everyone had. Across the river that runs through Corvo, they found a few small huts and heard Ayita screaming inside one of them. She was alive!
There were guards swarming the huts, but by the time our army was through with them, not one stood standing. Alchaeus healed Ayita with Mitra’s guidance, once again proving his worth to the city. She didn’t say much other than that she was not harmed and wanted to go home. No one would ever know what the Nemidians had put her through but everyone hoped that they would never capture her again.
Ayita wanted to go home straight away, so they went steadily back, making sure to keep her safe in case the Nemidians followed. Once inside the walls of Nova Ara again, Lord Garek broke out some of his finest ale, celebrating Ayita’s safe return, and the unity of the city. Kallikrates had done a superb job leading our citizen army, and when the Captain came back from his duty to the King, the Baron said he would be sure to find out.
Nova Ara was strong enough and brave enough to fight for its people. Nothing would get in our way, not even Set himself.
Grey Order Scribe
Chapter 8 - The Baron Chooses a Prefect
27, Horuma, the year of the lion
The night was quiet, but not peaceful, the stars were hidden behind wispy clouds that streaked the sky. The cool breeze sent a shiver down my spine as I walked the city streets of Nova Ara. As I approached the inner gates, I found the Baron sitting on the ground against the wall, quietly talking to himself.
I asked him if he was alright, as it was very peculiar to see a man of such stature like this. I was not at all prepared for his response. Garek looked up at me with a hint of despair in his smile. The bags under his eyes confirmed that he had not been sleeping well since Ayita’s kidnapping.
Rising from the ground in silence, he motioned for me to follow him into the keep. There was no one in sight, but it was obvious that whatever was going on, Garek wanted to speak in complete privacy. I had never been entirely alone in a room with the man before, and as much as I respected and trusted him, I wasn’t sure what to make of his invitation.
We continued on in silence until we were in the keep, occupied only by the Baron since we had no magistrate or prefect yet. He poured us both a mug of ale, downed his in one large gulp, and poured himself another before uttering his first word to me.
I sat in silence as he described to me his life as a child, watching his father lead the life of a politician. He went on to describe his family’s fate during the time when King Conan was in exile, getting separated from them and living as a poor man on the streets of Tarantia. He re-lived his first meeting with the king where he was given the land to build Nova Ara. As he spoke, the look of misery never left his face.
Refilling our mugs, he asked me then to tell him what brought me to Nova Ara. Since he had told me everything about his life, I thought it would be unfair to leave anything out of my past. Beginning with my youth at home with my parents, I went on about my father’s death, my horrific experiences as a wife and slave in Stygia, the loss of my daughter, and then the fateful night of my cruel husband and escape back home to find my mother and sister gone.
I admitted to him that Nova Ara was all I had left in my life, and without this city, I’d be lost. The townspeople were my friends and family now, and I couldn’t imagine what I’d do if I lost them like I did my real family. Losing Blur and Kallikrates had struck my heart so deeply, and I feared that if anyone else left the city, it was a sure sign that Nova Ara would fall. Kallikrates promised me that he’d be back, but the outcome of war is never something you can predict.
Things fell silent for a few minutes as we both collected ourselves. Garek cleared his throat, sat a bit taller on the bench, and looked at me square in the eyes. “If you love this city so much, how would you like to assist me in leading it?”
Astonished at the proposal, I just about dropped my mug on the floor. He went on to explain to me that he had come to learn that he was not at all like his father. He was no politician and the desire to lead Nova Ara was slipping away. His life as a commoner in Tarantia gave him a whole new light on life, and he wanted more of it. He wanted a wife, a family, a life of his own. The loss of his family had left an empty hole in his heart that he yearned to fill. He needed to try and find what he could of his past, and build a future of his own. He feared that he could not lead the citizens of Nova Ara and find explore his personal needs at the same time. He needed someone to be there for him, to take over for him when he was away.
When he originally spoke to the king, he was only hoping for something small, a group of people he could take to a settlement away from the city. He wasn’t expecting to be put in charge of a broken city with the expectations to heal it and make it grow again. He loved and cared for his people and did not want to abandon them, which is why he came to me.
He couldn’t ask the Captain of the Guard to assist anymore than he already was – he had his own military duties to attend to. The High Priest was still so new to Nova Ara, but more importantly he was a servant of Mitra, not the king. He had seen me lead the Militia despite its small number, and knew that I was a good leader.
I did have to admit that I missed the Militia, and I missed having people come to me when in need. I knew I couldn’t handle it if the city were to completely fail. I needed the city as much as Garek needed his own private life. With Kallikrates off at war, it would give me another thing to preoccupy my mind. If and when Kallikrates returned, it would only be that much easier to lead the city.
Images of the city and its people flashed through my head as I thought about what Garek was asking of me. I sat quietly for what must’ve felt like an eternity to Garek before I could even respond. “I’ve got no nobility in me. I’m just a commoner! Are you sure I'm the best fit for the position?”
“I wouldn't want anyone else to lead Nova Ara with me. If something were to happen to me, and I never came back, I trust that you could lead this city even better than I,” he replied, beaming with hope. “You’d be doing me a great service if you help lead Nova Ara to success.”
Repeating the name over and over in my head, remembering how hard it was to accept being called “Captain”, I shook my head in disbelief. What would my parents have thought of me now? Their daughter, a Prefect! I came to realize that this would make travel to Stygia easier. It’d be harder for my husband’s family to kill a Prefect of an Aquilonian city without repremand than it would be for them to kill a commoner.
My mouth dry, the ale getting to me, fogging my thoughts, I looked up at Garek. His eyes pleaded with me to agree. I peered out the window to see the sun slowly rising over the horizon. We’d been talking all night long and I hadn’t even realized it. I stood up and walked around the room, waking myself some and clearing my head. A breeze poured in the window and the smell of lilacs wafted in. Closing my eyes, I smiled as I took in the wonderful sent.
“I will do this for you, Lord Garek, for Nova Ara. But you must realize, I've never lead anyone before I lead the Militia, and that didn't last. I fear I am not what this city truly needs.”
"You will do just fine, Licinia. There's no doubt in my mind!" he exclaimed, thrilled that I had accepted his proposal. We continued to speak until the sun was fully up in the morning sky. Exhausted and in need of sleep, I finally left. I could tell that Garek would at last get some much needed sleep of his own.
Prefect and Scribe
Chapter 9 - Alliances Formed
15, Kapray, the year of the lion
I am still learning my duties as Prefect of Nova Ara, and much to my dismay I’ve come to realize that it is not at all what it seems to be. I have had to re-learn how to think and act among my people. I want to act as a commoner, but know that I cannot. It has been a struggle to accept this position of authority, and I have questioned my abilities many times already. Garek is still confident that I can continue to assist him in leading this city better than he could alone.
Tonight was a testament to that, I suppose. In my political dealings with other cities throughout Aquilonia, I learned of a group by the name of The Order of the Obsidian Flame. Lead by Zael, these men and women have been trying to defeat the powerful Thoth-Amon. It was decided that the two of us should meet, and to form some kind of alliance, seeing as how we each had one common goal – that of peace.
We decided to meet at midnight at the Tesso Tavern in the hopes of escaping any bandits that may be lurking about. Zael came with a few of his men as did I. A single clansman from the Sheild of the Lion came as well. I didn’t have much of an opportunity to learn of this clan, but Zael and his men were obviously allies with them. I hope to learn more of them at some point. They called him Danewolf, and he seemed quite honorable.
Kal had finally made his way back from fighting with the Corinthians and heard of our meeting, so he came to join us. Captain Plinius welcomed him back, expecting him to start his duties again the following morning. Garek remained quiet, allowing me to test the waters as a leader of the city. Ayita sat back and watched, nudging Kal awake from time to time.
The Order of the Obsidian Flame will be a good people for us to ally with. Zael and I have already vowed to assist each other when needed. I can only wait until we can speak with them and meet more of their people. Their city is somewhere in Poitain, but I don’t know where or how large it is. Zael mentioned that their group had lost some of its members, but he did not mention how many followers remained.
Thaina is the only name of Zael’s people I can remember, as we all had much too much ale to drink; all except for her. She seemed quite calm and relaxed despite the fact that she was the only Stygian at the meeting. She said she is just a resource gatherer for their city, but I believe she does much more for Zael than that. She had an air of wisdom and authority about her. Unless I am entirely mistaken and she was using her Stygian charm to entice me, but I most certainly hope not.
There is much to discuss and plan with them, so we will be meeting again. I can only hope it’s in the near future. After this encounter, my hopes have grown enormously for this city and its survival. I wish I could remember the words to Zael’s ending toast, as it was most fitting for this occasion. At the next meeting, I must remember to drink less ale.
Prefect and Scribe
Chapter 10 - Confusion Sets In
29, Kapray, the year of the lion
Lonely, confused, sad and happy all at the same time, I sat in my bed trying to organize my thoughts. The day’s events swarmed my head, and I had no idea what to do. This was the last thing I’d expected. I plucked at a loose thread on Blur’s Guardsman cloak as I tried to collect myself. I could only imagine what everyone else was thinking.
It all started with a letter received by Alchaeus. He was told of a witch roaming the lands of Poitain, trying to find Nova Ara. As a worshiper of Mitra, he knew he must find her and save her soul. But he wouldn’t be able to do it alone. Garek spread the news to the Captain, Sergeant, and Ayita as Alchaeus prepared to perform a cleansing ritual to save this poor troubled woman. The only problem was that Alchaeus didn’t know the area well, and the letter didn’t give any insight as to where to find her.
Lucious somehow managed to run into them on their search. Mitra must’ve been guiding him as well. The group fought off bandits, wolverines, guard dogs, and even a few giant scorpions as they roamed the countryside looking for the girl. They came to the top of a hill with a big rock. Garek and Alchaeus climbed the rock to see miles and miles of land beneath them. As they stood there, admiring the night sky and beautiful horizon, Kallikrates’ rage fumed. He had no patience for the natural beauty in their homeland right then.
The search continued until they came across someone they’d never expect to find. Blur had somehow returned! He was with a strange Stygian female, who had run from the scene. She was no witch after all. Blur confessed to forging the letter and sending it to Alchaeus in an effort to remove us from the city so he could try and be allowed back in to Nova Ara. He had no chance if we were protected by the city walls. The girl was just a ploy, a mere victim of events. Kallikrates refused to listen as Blur tried to explain himself. Transforming himself into the Liche he could now control, Blur allowed himself to be killed by the citizens to save the girl. He knew she was innocent, and knew he had made a fateful mistake by involving her. It was all so confusing, Blur dying before in the city, and again now, no one knew what to think or what to believe.
Blur’s reasoning for returning was that he had killed the man that had caused him all of his pain and suffering in his life. He was finally free from anguish of his past. He remembered his promise to protect Nova Ara and came back to keep his promise and uphold his duty to the Guard. After hearing this whole story, Captain Plinius decided that Blur should be allowed to rejoin the city, but Kallikrates stood firm with his opposition. Blur returned to the city with the others in an attempt to speak with me. Since I now led the city it was decided that I should make the official decision on Blur’s fate within Nova Ara.
Without witnessing the events in the fields of Poitain, I could only base my decision off of what I knew previously of Blur and what I’d been told of this day’s dealings. I am leery of Stygians because of my past, but even when I first met Blur in the uneasy circumstances of our caravan to Nova Ara, there was something about him. We connected somehow. I felt comfortable with him, safe with him. He was a dear friend of mine regardless of our pasts. When he disappeared in the city, I felt lost and unsure of Nova Ara’s future. I was no witness to his transformation into a Liche and did not hear first hand his reasoning, but I knew this man was no harm to my people.
Blur and Kal went off to speak alone, and I can only imagine some harsh things were said between the two. Ayita, Lucious and I were left to ponder the entire situation, and try to make the best sense of it that we could. Blur came back after what felt like forever, only to say that he would not be staying. He would be returning to Stygia to try and speak to that girl again, and told me to call for him if Kal would allow it. He handed me his Guardsman cloak and asked that I give it to Kallikrates. He said his fate within Nova Ara was up to Kal, and then he left.
Even more confused than before, I offered the cloak to Kallikrates, but he would not take it. Instead he stood silently looking into the sun. It was quite obvious he needed some time and space, but I needed answers. Yet no one could give me any.
I tried to go back to work at the keep, but my mind just kept racing and thinking about Blur and Kal. The two men I felt closest to in my life since my father died were the two men at odds with each other with the possibility of no resolve. Unable to focus on anything but them, I went to the stables. I saw Kallisto in her stall, and smiled as I remembered Kal riding her, speaking foul to her, and loving her. It’d been so long since I’d seen him happy like that. I rode outside of the city gates without a second thought of being alone. Garek and Ayita had been ambushed outside the gates not that long ago, but at that moment, I didn’t even care. I had my crossbow with me, but if something were to happen to me, I wasn’t going to fight.
I found Blur sitting atop a hill by the wall looking down at the water. We spoke for quite some time about everything that had happened to him, to me, and to this city. He shared things with me that I cannot repeat in this passage, as they are too personal and close to my heart, but he only reassured me that he is meant to be a part of this city. Yet he would not accept anything from me. No matter what I said, he pressed that Kallikrates is the only one that will be able to allow him to come back to the city again.
Emotionally exhausted, I said goodnight to Blur and headed to my quarters in the Keep. I took out Blur’s cloak, closed my eyes and saw Kallikrates riding Kallisto, and that is where this passage starts. I have made no progress in this writing, other than to exhaust myself even more. Yet I fear I still won’t sleep.
Prefect and Scribe
Chapter 11 - Finding A Cure
10 Kiphias, the year of the lion
The Baron had fallen ill, along with some of the Captain’s men. The guards must’ve caught something during their rounds outside the city and spread the curse to the Baron. They were all complaining of weakness, moaning in pain, and unable to move. Lord Garek had never looked that pale before, and the guards were starting to turn an awful shade of green. Something had to be done before other members of Nova Ara became sick.
As Prefect, it was my duty to keep the city safe, and thank the gods that my mother had taught me some of her healing remedies. She had told me once of a very rare plague that could cause these symptoms. The only way to tell the progression of the illness was by the skin color. The ailing one would start with a pasty color to their flesh, and then it would turn drab green, and then on to more of a grey color before death would take them over. The entire time they would be engorged with pain as their bodies deteriorated starting with the innards. This was a horrible way for anyone to die, and I wouldn’t even wish it on Set himself.
My mother, however, had not told me of the cure. I spoke to the High Priest, Alchaeus, first, in the hopes that maybe his healing powers included some knowledge of this devastating illness. Full of regret, he had to turn me away unaided. I then checked with the local alchemist, but all he could tell me was that the scorpions in Poitain were required. The venom could be used with some other ingredient to cure this ailment. But that was all he could share as well. He suggested I see Teltus, the alchemist in Tesso.
It had been days now since the Barn had fallen ill, and the guards were not getting any better. They were starting to drift in and out of consciousness now, unable to eat or drink. I had run into the Captain and a few of the local citizens on my way to speak with the Baron one last time before I left the city. Plinius was worried about his men, Ayita was worried about Garek, and Ferryn wanted to know if it was spreading. I had no answers for them. A Stygian newcomer named Scry was somewhat knowledgeable, stating that a stinging creature was needed, but feared that we would shun her as everyone else had in her travels through Aquilonia. She was not willing to say much on the subject, but was very interested in the Baron’s wellbeing. Lithius, a priestess passing through, asked to examine the Baron to see if she could help. She said she could sense the illness in the city and just had to lend a hand.
I took Scry, Lithius, and Ayita into the Keep to examine Garek while Plinius, Akkri, and Ferryn stayed outside. They found Gideon who made no objection to assisting us in finding the cure for our people. At once we left for Tesso. We had to fight off the usual bandits and beggars along the way, but this trip to Tesso felt so much longer than our previous excursions. Most of the time we rode in silence just trying to keep moving.
Finally we arrived in Tesso. Despite my weariness, I went straight to Teltus but told the others to rest and refresh the animals. Teltus was also of little direct help. He said his daughter was familiar with potions, but if we were looking for something rare, we’d need to venture on to Kerkyra, a small village to the south. An old man named Octavian knew more about this plague than he. He did confirm, though, that the venom sacs of scorpions were a required ingredient. I told this to Scry, who I think felt more at ease, knowing that she had aided our Baron as much as she could. She knew that we all appreciated it.
Informing the others, we all continued on to the south, looking for Kerkyra. Teltus had informed me that there were Dark Beasts on the loose, and to be careful. Without Plinius accompanying us, it was quite possible we would’ve never made it to the village. He had to rescue Ayita once, and was able to scare off most of the beasts on the way. The rest of us were able to kill some of them, but it was quite obvious he had the skills of a soldier.
The houses in Kerkyra were empty, personal belongings scattered everywhere. We could hear the howling of the beasts surrounding the village, but where were all the villagers? We ransacked every house, looking for Octavian. Finally Akkri found a man huddled in the corner of one of the houses, quite frightened. We were able to question him and found out that he was Artarius, Octavian’s son. The Dark Beasts had dragged Octavian from his home, and his son watched him die. He had tried to fend off the beasts but there were so many of them that he just ran back to his home to await his death. We had come in time to save him, but what about the Baron?
Artarius found his father’s scrolls and records and turned them over to me, knowing we needed them. I quickly read through them while Plinius and the others continued to fend off the Dark Beasts and care for Artarius. He was quite weak from shock and couldn’t stand well at all. One of the scrolls had the recipe for the serum!
I was horrified to find out what we needed – the venom sacs of twenty scorpions, boiled for one whole week before they were ready to use. We were lucky to have the scorpions wandering all around Poitain, but did the Baron and the guards have a week left in them? Once the venom sacs had been boiled just the right length of time, we needed to add Deathcap Fungus to the liquid. This, thankfully, could also be found in Poitain, but it was very difficult to find as each plant only sprouted one cap each year, and we were not in sprouting season.
Artarius asked if he could continue on with us since there was nothing left for him in Kerkyra. We gladly accepted his company, but regretfully had to part ways with Lithius. Her well trained senses told her she was needed more at her home than with us. Now that we knew what we needed, she felt safe in separating from us. We hurried as fast as we could back to Nova Ara. We killed as many scorpions as we could find until we got the venom sacs we needed. Artarius with his bow and Plinius with his sword were both a huge help. We would’ve all been stung to death if it were not for them.
I took the venom sacs back to the alchemy tower, and started them boiling right away. I didn’t even think to check on the Baron or the guards; I just wanted the serum started. We’d have a week to find the Deathcap Fungus, if they all made it that long.
Prefect and Scribe