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by Erisande on Jun 02, 2017 at 04:21 AM
One moment, I was helping the girl Nuala to find some comfort after her imprisonment with the brigands. The next thing I knew, I had become their prisoner as well. Sylfang warned me about her, did not trust her. He told me that very day. I planned to tell Kanz, but she let her friends in before I even saw him again.

They forced me to dress like a slave - parts of my flesh bared, my brand fully exposed. Before I barely had a chance to catch my breath, they cut my hair. They lopped off my braid at the base of my neck to be used as the proof that they had me. My first thought was relief they had not taken my head with it. My second was the thought of Kanz’ fingertips running through the long strands. The idea brought me comfort for a time while they chained me and simply left me.

I fell victim to their cruel taunts, their promises to do to me what I’d heard the others were subjected to. I whimpered and begged for them not to cut off my fingers when I angered one of the brutes. I was pawed and groped by their leader, who seemed to have some strange fascination with me. I think it was the crown I will wear that fascinated him most, however.

Though I was isolated, they allowed me a beautiful view above the valley where the spiders dwell. I am certain I was placed there to taunt me with freedom. An attempt to climb out spelled certain death. During one long afternoon, I swore I saw Thrainn in that valley below, seemingly looking for me. I screamed, hoping he might look up and see me. Instead, my commotion brought a guard, and I do not remember anything after that.

Yet, by a small miracle – I was not alone. Sylfang found a way to talk to me through a bird of prey. He brought a message from Kanz, a promise I would be rescued. So I was. Somehow, someone…killed the one known as Fenris, the one who sought to take liberties with me. Relief washed over me when I heard of his death. Hours later and in chains, another of my captors brought me to the top of some tall steps, their gates, and freedom.

Down below were my people – I noticed Kanz and Thrainn. All were ready to do battle for me. Yet, the negotiations concluded, and I was sent down the steps to their waiting arms. Thrainn lifted me, and carried me all the way home to New Cromheim.

It felt like mere moments before I was placed in my own bed that Kanz all but broke the door down. His face seemed frightened in a way I did not even realize he was capable of. Tearing the furs from around me, he bent over and slipped his arms beneath me.

“Hold onto me, dawn eyes. Danger comes, we must get to safety.”

Barely understanding his words, I wrapped my arms around his neck and let him carry me. As he burst through the door of the long house, I could feel the wind whipping through my now short hair, felt the tiny pricks of sand upon my skin as the wind whipped them toward us. Somewhere in the distance, I thought I saw a tentacled beast. They told me later it was an avatar of Yog, but I have trouble believing the gods care what goes on in this place.

His pace swift, Kanz took me to a tiny alcove of rocks, only marginally protected as the sand grew denser, the winds stronger. There, he protected me from all he could – his arms around me as he took the brunt of the storm, protecting me from those dangers.

When the storm passed there was no Cromheim. The buildings lay in ruins, our way of life utterly destroyed. Yet we still have our people, our health – and they have their Queen back.

We will rebuild.
by Silwynn Bloodbane on May 26, 2017 at 11:46 AM
I stumbled across a journal left by another Exile by the name of Razma. In my search for the Truth about these Lands I will follow the bread crumb trail left by this exiled princess. Perhaps she has uncovered secrets I have yet to discover. In the mean while, I continue my search for the ghosts that I have encountered in the wastes. I am determined to find answers to what this prison is and how to escape it!

by Silwynn Bloodbane on May 21, 2017 at 03:43 PM
Crucifixion kills by suffocation. When a person’s arms are secured straight out from their body and slightly above their head the weight of the person’s body closes the airway. A cruel executioner will place a wooden block under the victim’s feet. Desperation will make the condemned soul push up on the block with his feet, opening the airway ever so slightly. This simple mechanism will prolong a man’s suffering for hours.

Why do I know these things? The desert sun cooked the man’s brain in his skull. Raised blisters on his exposed skin; and all of his skin was exposed.

A truly vicious executioner will place the block so that only the victim’s toes will reach it. Silwynn’s calves burned with effort. He sucked in a series of short, quick breaths. He had seen divers do as much before long dives. When they had to hold their breath for a long time.

“A curse on all Stygia and their serpent god!”

His legs gave out.

He held his breath as long as he could. Finally, lungs burning, his instinct for self-preservation took over. He was nigh-unconscious as his legs spasmed, lifting his body again on his toes. Desperate breaths brought air to desperate lungs. His head spun from effort and exhaustion.

“Why do you fight?” He heard the Stygian nobleman’s voice as loud as though he were standing before him again. “The torture will last as long as you allow it. All you have to do,” he leaned in close, his potent perfume stinging Silwynn’s nose, “is die.” Silwynn had pulled against the steel binding his arms to the stone wall of the prison. Only a noble would use steel in his dungeon instead of iron. Silwynn spat in the noble’s face. He had spittle then. No so now. Not under this brutal sun.

He pulled against the hemp rope that secured his arms to the wooden cross. “Well,” he breathed, “at least it’s not stone!” He started laughing. Tears rolled down his cheeks. His legs shook. His hysterical outburst was answered by a pitiful moan from somewhere behind him. Who was that? One of the others? There had been, what, fifteen, twenty prisoners chained to that wagon? He heard one more feeble outburst behind him, then nothing more. Strangulation was a quiet death.

“Mitra,” he prayed, “I have tried to do my best by you. Please,” he croaked, “just don’t send me to hell.”

His legs sagged. He imagined himself jumping off the foredeck of the Bloody Mermaid into the crystal clear waters of the Barachan Isles. He sunk down, down into depths he knew he would never rise from again.

He sunk to the bottom and landed on the soft sand. The sand became soft leopard fur rugs. Cool water became a cool jungle breeze drifting in through an open window in the large reed hut. Silwynn lounged under silk sheets. The sheets stirred and he felt the warmth of a naked body pressed against his. He pulled back the sheet so he could see his wife curled up next to him. Her dark skin stood in stark contrast to the white spider-silk sheets. She flashed him a crescent-moon smile and ran delicate fingers through the hair on his chest. He caressed her face with his fingertips – sharp features carved in obsidian with fire-opal eyes. His heart skipped a beat every time he looked into those eyes. Sounds of the jungle floated on the cool breeze. The woman he loved kissed his chest. “Come,” she whispered, “rule with me. My king.”

Silwynn sat bolt upright. Panic squeezed his chest like a hungry jungle snake. he gasped for breath. The soft sheets were pulled away, leaving him sitting on hot sand. Stars filled the sky above him. A crescent moon smiled down on him like his lover. He shook his head. Confusion ruled his senses. His wife tickled his chest. He brushed her hand away. But it was no woman, but a scorpion the size of his palm. He jumped to his feet and was almost thrown back into the depths of unconsciousness by the effort. With the force of a physical blow, realization returned.

He was in the desert. He was no longer on the cross. He rubbed his wrists. His hand encountered the bracelet. The gold bracelet with the glowing gemstone. Before he could fully gather his wits, he saw another figure laying in the sand. He scrambled over to the man, rolled him onto his back. Like Silwynn, he was naked. Like Silwynn, he was no longer hanging from a cross. Silwynn could not tell if he was breathing. If he was alive or dead. He felt suddenly alone. Lost in a foreign desert. He balled his fist. Pounded on the stranger’s chest. Again. Again.

The man’s eyes popped open. He convulsed. Sucked in deep breaths. He locked eyes with Silwynn. “Who – who are you?”

by Silwynn Bloodbane on May 07, 2017 at 04:58 PM
A lone figure draped in a dark cloak dashed down an alley between two squat, grey-stoned warehouses. His hard-soled boots splashing dark water from puddles – the remnants of last eve’s drizzling rain. He stopped suddenly and pressed himself against a damp wall, trying to wrap the shadows around himself. He fought to control his breathing, sucking in lung fulls of cold, damp air through his nose, blowing out through his mouth; trying not to be heard by early morning dock workers. He could smell the sea now. The inviting aroma of salt and dead fish, tar and sweat. He was almost home, almost safe. A couple more controlled breaths. He scanned the alley behind him, looking for pursuers. After a few tense moments he let out a breath. Turning back toward the wharf he peered around the corner. He saw a wide, muddy avenue, another row of warehouses, and, beyond that, the masts of ships docked at the pier. Almost home.

The rising sun broke through a dark cloud on the Eastern horizon. A cold wind stirred the hem of the man’s cloak, blowing the fetid smells of the city out to sea. He smiled. The tide was going out. The wind was with them. Before the morning mists were burned off the shale rooftops the City of Karazim would be a memory on his horizon. He pulled his cloak tight about him, assumed the hunched posture of a disgruntled dock worker, and shuffled out into the avenue. Minutes later he was standing at the foot of a long stone pier. At the end of the pier was docked the most beautiful two-masted Brig he had ever laid eyes on. The Salty Mermaid was an old ship, as ships went. Most of the square-sailed vessel was old, anyway. The fore-mast was only a year old. The port side railings had all been replaced on this stop. The rudder, six months ago. The Salty Mermaid wasn’t a merchant vessel. In these waters she was a Privateer of Argos. In waters to the North she was known by another name: The Bloody Mermaid. Pirate ship.

He squared his shoulders and strode confidently down the pier, throwing his cloak over his shoulder. The stone pier. Stone. Everything in this drab country was made of stone. He longed for the feel of hemp rope and polished wood. Halfway down the pier his stride slowed. The small hairs on the nape of his neck bristled. Something was wrong. His ship should have been a hive of activity preparing to launch. He could see no one. No sailors in the rigging. No one in the crow’s nest. The forecastle, quarter deck, poop deck – all empty. A cold lump formed in his stomach. He turned to walk back to the city and stopped. A phalanx of cyan-crested soldiers was marching out of a nearby warehouse and forming up at the base of the pier. His escape route was effectively blocked. He momentarily thought of jumping the side of the pier, but the sight of waves beating against jagged rocks changed his mind. He sucked in a deep breath and continued toward The Salty Mermaid.

He saw people on board now. A small honor guard of soldiers, red shields emblazoned with the crest of the House of Zed-ei-el. Dred washed over the man like a cold rain. Before he could decide what move to make next, two people separated themselves from the soldiers. He knew them both.

“Sirrah, I do not know what you are saying!” The heavy set bearded one was saying.

“This is now my ship!” The other, dressed as a local nobleman demanded. “I won it in a game of chance with your captain.”

“My captain?” the bearded man said, flabbergasted.

Just then the two men, almost simultaneously, noticed the man standing on the pier. “There!” the nobleman pointed, “There is your captain! He can explain to you.”

The bearded man stared, gape mouthed. In a heartbeat confusion drained from his face and was as quickly replaced with red-faced rage.

“Silwynn?!? My captain?” He sucked in a deep breath, seemingly having trouble speaking. He turned back to the nobleman. “My lord. That man is not the captain of The Mermaid. He is just a deckhand. I, sirrah, am the captain of this ship.”

That information took a moment to register. Yes, Silwynn thought, I duped you. And almost got away with it.

“I will have this ship!” Lord Zed-ei-el screamed. His snake-encrusted headdress shook with his rage.

“My lord!” Panic made the captain’s voice crack. In a moment, he recovered his composure. The famous Captain Balthasar, who once talked a Kushite crew out of their hard-won plunder without ever raising his sword, smiled at the irate nobleman. He stepped in close to the man and spoke in conspiratorial tones, “I have some Aquilonian Brandy in my cabin. Perhaps we can find a way to compensate your losses over a drink?”

The nobleman looked dubious. They always did at first when dealing with Balthasar. “And what of him?” Lord Zed-ei-el looked at Silwynn.

“By all means,” Balthasar’s smile had a hard edge to it, “take him into custody.”

Lord Zed-ei-el made a curt gesture with his hand. Guards marched down the gang-plank. Laid rough hands on Silwynn. Escorted him onto the ship. Home suddenly felt like a prison.

Much later, too late to sail on the morning tide, Lord Zed-ei-el and Captain Balthasar walked out of the Captain’s quarters. They were laughing like old friends. Lord Zed-ei-el was carrying a small chest, holding it protectively with both hands. Captain Balthasar walked over to Silwynn and laid a heavy hand on his shoulder. “There are prices to be paid for the games you play, Silwynn.” Balthasar dug his fingers painfully into Silwynn’s shoulder. “I hope that the price you will have to pay is far more painful than the price I paid.” He released Silwynn’s should and turned his back on him.

“Take him!” Barked Lord Zed-ei-el. The guards formed up around Silwynn and escorted him off The Salty Mermaid. Cold rain began to fall as Silwynn was marched down the stone pier. Stone. The prisons were probably made of stone as well. He would soon find out. Craning his neck, he could see activity on The Mermaid now. The gang-plank had already been removed, the lines had been freed of the stone cleats on the dock. Silwynn’s heart sank. As he turned and walked into the cold rain one bright thought rose through the darkness clouding his mind. He couldn’t suppress a chuckle at the irony, “At least my wife won’t be able to find me here.”

by Lyanka del Fora on May 03, 2017 at 10:54 PM
There is much to be thankful for, this I know. Even in these wretched wastes I find the best of people, the most winning of smiles and the most open of arms. I do not know how it was that I came to be so lucky. A roof over my head, a bed to sleep on, food to fill my belly, wine to make my eyelids heavy when I finally lay my head to pillow. I have as much as I did here, in New Cromheim, as I did when I was exiled from Kordova. More, even; the people here are permanent, like fixtures of the city. They run the grounds like blood through the veins, and the city comes alive. There is so much beauty here, so much to live for. I find myself smiling even as I heft stone and raise walls. This place is home, I feel. My heart aches less when the sun pours in through my window, waking me as early as it chooses. Though I shall never truly forget them, I call upon the bittersweet memories of my family less and less each day. It is both a blessing and a curse, to forget what my husband's laugh sounded like. To not recall my daughter's eye color straight away. I am thankful for the time I had with them, while I had it.

They are enjoying eternity together, this I know. I find peace in that, at least.

It's been nigh a moon since New Cromheim took me in. I remember stumbling into town, gasping for water, covered in blood. Mostly my own. I fell before the city's well, and when I awoke, I was laid upon a bed. There was food left for me, and water enough to quench a stable of horses. I drank it all. I ate all of the food, too. I remember laying back and tracing the prominent outline of my ribs, and turning over to do the same to my spine. My cheeks were so gaunt, then; I hardly recognized myself. I spent a few days there like that, resting, eating, and learning of who had saved me. There were a few faces that quickly became familiar to me. Though it was Erisande, the leader, that I came to know the best. She was just and kind; she asked me of myself, my beliefs, my story. I told her. She was exceedingly easy to speak to. Before I knew it, the hollowness had left my face - and my heart. I had begun to build muscle just as we built the city up from cracked walls to a force to be reckoned with. I cobbled a home together with my own two hands. It was hard work, honest and brutal, but it made me proud. It made us all proud. We run like blood through the veins of this city, pulling it together like a needle through fabric. I have the beginnings of a family once more and that is something I never wish to lose again. We grow in number with each passing day, and for that I give thanks.

I am New Cromheim. We are New Cromheim. And we shall run like blood through these wastes.
by Erisande on Apr 21, 2017 at 12:11 AM
Lok'ir lives.

Nothing brings my heart more joy than those two words going over and about in my mind. Last night as I was hosting Desna of Asendance and Daradyn of The Coalition, one of the Amazons came to visit as well. This Amazon, Celine is her name, took me to Lok'ir. Though he was recovering in one of the Amazons' bases, I brought him to Cromheim with me and now he is sleeping peacefully in one of the rooms near mine.

Once more my idiot brother got himself injured being overzealous in battle. He helped fight the creatures that were threatening Cromheim, as well as other parts of the Exiled Lands. Fortunately, the one called Zerrah was there to tend to his wounds.

It would seem that he has joined the Temple of Derketo, and is serving as a guard there. I know next to nothing of this new group, and so offered to visit Lok'ir there when he is feeling better. How strange that he should outright refuse such a thing. He said he wants me nowhere near there. This makes me curious, wondering why he can serve there, but I cannot visit? I shall have to do some research on this Derketo, or ask around as to what goes on there. I had heard of their opening and received the invitation, but matters in Cromheim took precedence.

Lok'ir has offered to stay in Cromheim for a time while he recovers. Though his ability to help with our repairs is limited, just having him near will give me a good bit of strength. I find myself needed more and more as the days go by. Though I am not alone in my endeavor, I will accept all that I can to stand behind me.

The scout in the wilds reported back. There is no sign of Rhonan still. Despite his absence, I invited some of his allies to Cromheim to show them that we are rebuilding and that I wish to uphold those alliances. They seemed skeptical. Hopefully as the repairs continue I will be able to strengthen the alliances more.
by Erisande on Apr 20, 2017 at 01:17 AM
I am not sure if Cromheim has a new enemy, or perhaps a new ally.

As I returned to the city this day after tending to some business in the wilds, I was surprised and shocked to find spike embedded in one of our walls. Dangling from that spike were various skulls and bones. Along with them, a wooden sign proclaimed “Astrid, Chieftain of Clan Vargar”.

Talking to our warriors, the undead walked about our broken walls this day. It was only the grace of warriors passing by and our own skilled archers that kept them from simply walking through and killing all who reside in Cromheim. It is a terrifying thought.

I knew there were some caves in the Exiled Lands, even some patches near the Black City where such creatures dwelled. I had no idea they could possibly threaten Cromheim, and that realization makes me wonder if we should rebuild elsewhere. Yet even as I write this, I can see Chrann Saor, and my heart knows we must stay. That tree stands strong in this desert, and so shall we.

The message is strange, though. Did this Astrid help with the murdering of the undead? Did she mean instead to send us a warning? Was it perhaps a very crass introduction, maybe she seeks an alliance? I am not sure which answer I hope for more, in all honesty.

Our warriors will remain vigilant, and will see this undead threat destroyed.
by Erisande on Apr 18, 2017 at 02:00 AM
​Repairs in Cromheim are going well. The damage to the walls has been mostly repaired, though I still fear there are weaknesses in it somewhere. The great hall stands strong once more, at least on the outside. There are some repairs on the inside needed, though the stonemasons are a bit hesitant to continue without their King's say.

Still there is no sign of Rhonan, though I have a skilled scout seeking him in the wilds. No trail can be found, nor any evidence that he has met his end. He has simply vanished, and my heart breaks with it. Cromheim must continue to stand, however. This place gave me refuge when I needed it most, and I will not leave in its hour of need. The path forward is murky, and grows murkier by the day.

The Amazons opened their kegs once more for all in the Exiled Lands yesterday. Several of the residents of Cromheim attended, they deserved a bit of rest after all we have been through. Further, these events are a good place to gather gossip and news, and I asked them to keep their ears open while they drank their fill. I especially asked them to keep their ears tuned for any news of Rhonan and Lok'ir.

It would seem the men in my life are wont to disappear. I know that Lok'ir sought to rebuild our clan here, yet something went awry and already they have disbanded. Did I betray him, I wonder? He told me of his wishes to rebuild our clan, yet I remained in Cromheim. Did I allow the desires of my body to make me turn my back on my family? Perhaps he avoids me. The last time we talked, I mentioned my slavery in jest, and he asked me to leave. I should have known better. Still my capture is a sore spot with him, and I need to be more cautious. To me, it is simply a part of who I am now. To him, it marks a failure as a warrior and as a brother.

Unfortunately, Lok'ir was nowhere to be seen at the tavern. I honestly do not know his whereabouts. Instead, I saw the one known as Kanz there, smiling and drinking, that smug bastard. My feet carried me to him, thinking about punching him dead in the face. I had not decided. The moment I confronted him, the Queen of the Amazons stepped in and took me aside to talk of other matters.

With Rhonan's disappearance, Queen Skara is hoping that I shall take the leadership of Cromheim. I am not certain how laying with its King prepares me for such a thing. Though, Thrainn seems somewhat disinterested in politics, I think his head is always more interested in his ale. I met Boudica only once, and I think she too has found a homestead elsewhere. Though there are some stronger personalities among the servants, I see no leadership potential in them, even though I desperately want to.

I never wished to be a Queen. I came to this place because Rhonan offered me refuge. In time, he offered me a place in his bed and a part of his heart. I would have happily stood beside him, yet without him I am uncertain. I spent the first half of my life among warriors, the second half of my life in servitude to other men. Though I am free now, I do not know if I can lead the people of this city. I do not even know if they will follow me. Why would they?

I laid with the King. Other than that, I have simply been a villager, hunting, or gathering, or helping drink the kegs of ale and wine. I am their equal in all ways, and I cannot imagine they would simply accept me as a queen.
by Erisande on Apr 09, 2017 at 10:45 PM
I have not put pen to paper in many moons, but right now it shall calm me, I pray.

The battle for Cromheim has ended, and still Cromheim stands. Though a trebuchet blew a large hole into our main hall, our walls still guard the city. My little house is hardly touched, and most of the servants of Cromheim live. Still, we will honor the fallen on the morrow.

I have not set eyes on Cromheim's King to confirm he still draws breath. I am told he still lives, told that the rush of battle seems to have been stolen from him. All of the stories I hear tell me that the battle never actually reached our gates. The Amazons prepared and flanked our invaders, killing and capturing most of the Maw. Everyone says that Rhonan did not even get an opportunity to lead his men into the battle. While I am glad the monster Karg no longer lives, I worry that Rhonan sees the success of the Amazons as an affront to his own honor. He has disappeared, and I am frightened.

Rhonan demanded I be out of the city in preparation for the attack. Though I wanted nothing more than to stand by his side, I did not want him distracted. If he worried over me, then he might not see an arrow or blade intended for him. I did not sleep, have not eaten since we said goodbye. Now I am maddened by his disappearance. Did he go to find the rest of them in their keep? Did he chase one down in the wilds and now lies dead and alone by their blade? Has he left me and all of Cromheim behind? No, that is not him. Still Chrann Saor stands, the symbol of our hope that we will escape this place.

The keep where I share his bed needs great repair, and I hope the work will begin in just a few days once the materials are gathered. For now I sleep in my little house, with the furnace burning hotly to warm me until Cromheim’s king returns.
by Sadiyah on Feb 15, 2017 at 02:04 AM
As I sit at the table in my home and sip cool water I still have trouble believing I am alive, much less prospering. I reflect on the events that lead me here and marvel at how good fortune arose out of bad.

I was first a slave and then a favoured concubine of a prince of Stygia. The intrigues of the seraglio can be deadly and another wished to be more favoured by our lord than I was so it was testified that I had coupled with dogs in a remote garden of the palace. As a measure of clemency I was condemned to crucifixion instead of being torn apart by wild horses in the plaza.

In exchange for serving the lusts of the guards who conducted me to the wasteland, men more accustomed to dockside whores than palace concubines, they left one wrist tied loosely when they hung me on that cross. I worked my way free and set off into the desert towards what appeared to be trees or plants in the distance. I (who was more used to silken robes, perfume, and sherbet) found myself naked and helpless. I was lucky enough to find a skin of water abandoned along the trail and so fortified I made my way North to the hope of water, food, and shelter. To be honest I thought bandits would find me, rape me, and slit my throat before I found any safety.

I have always been clever and was able to fashion crude implements from what I found. I ate bugs I found clinging to bushes and finally found a river and water, which is life in the desert. Strange misshapen men, or things that might have been men, attacked me and I battered one to death with a rock attached to a stick. I had never killed before, but I was determined to live that day. I killed again, and again. I have become accustomed to killing, it seems.

I wandered the banks of the river aimlessly, living off the land, seeing signs that a few others had made a home here but not meeting anyone. Finally I built a rude shelter of rocks and sticks across the river from what appeared to be a town. While I was working outside my hut a man walked up, he was tall and broad chested, armed and armoured. I was naked and unarmed and caught helpless, but instead of what I expected to happen he showed me kindness, giving me meat to eat and clothing to wear.

He served a clan of Amazons, he said, who helped each other to make a home here in exile. I had no hope of surviving by myself so I immediately offered to serve this clan, offering my labours, skills, and anything else they wished of me if they would take me in. The Gods smiled on me and the Amazons took me in and gave me a home.

I was once little more than an ornament, a soft pet kept by a prince. Now I live by my own strength and the strength of my clan. I hunt, I kill, I survive.

I serve the Amazons.