@warsman: Count me in!
I wholeheartedly accept your presence in the Band of the Ivory Skull.
(Starting in medias res, we can make origin stories as we progress.)
"Forward you cowards!" A voice thundered over the battlefield.
Midland, specifically the grassy plains near the Belion River, saw an uprising in the form of a rebellious lord seeking to overthrow the Isuldorian monarchy while its armies were occupied on several other fronts. Rumor grew into confirmed truth and the mercenaries were called upon. The Band of the Ivory Skull formed the vanguard for a noble son of the Isuldorian royal family who wanted to see his first war. As such, they were paid the highest if he survived the siege of Ral Castle.
The voice from earlier belonged to the commander of the Ral forces, a dreadfully strong man named Vralskar Hund, who also earned a fearsome reputation as the captain of the Red Lion Knights. He aimed to kill the Isuldorian noble with one charge and lowered the lances of his cavalry division as the heavy knights neared their target.
"One kill and half of these dishonorable mercenaries will scatter! Push them back, men! No mercy!"
Meanwhile, Gaiseric unsheathed his blade from its thorned scabbard and took his best warriors out of the vanguard. These were the strongest enemies they would fight today, meaning the noble son would be safe. Forming a wedge, he signaled for a charge with a downward stroke pointing straight at Vralskar.
"The one who brings me his head receives twice their normal payment."
With such a comparatively modest battle cry to inspire them, the soldiers he chose were nevertheless the best he could ask for on this field. He trusted their courage and began the countercharge knowing they would follow him.
"Look! The Skeleton rides with a force less than half of what ours is! We will crush him easily!" Vralskar howled, thinking the siege won.
Gaiseric knew better. These were the finest soldiers in his company. They would not fail him.
(This post is open for anyone to pick up on. It's the first step in the story.)
@warsman: A clash of armies was always beautiful to see.An amazing mix of skill and brutality.That day was not different.
As an orc,Vro'zhul Coldblood fought wars always with pleasure and a sadistic smile.He was a fearsome warrior,which deeds echoed in the voice of orc troubadours around Skellbrieg.He lead a small offensive against the Skeleton.Confident of his success on the battle,he swung his warhammer in direction of the mercenaries,hoping to incapacitate at least one of the fearsome enemies.
His objectives were clear,eliminate Galseric and protect Vralksar.
"Let's get this over with,I want a new skull to join my trophies collection."
In that moment, Gaiseric recognized a sight relatively uncommon in these parts of the world. An orc fighting for Isuldor was one thing, but one elevated to the position of captain within the Red Lion Knights? It seemed that even the xenophobic nature of most of those living within Isuldorian borders melted away once they were threatened with something they could not defeat alone. In this case, it was the rebels of Ral Castle being outnumbered by their former kinsmen.
The orc made a splendid mess of some of the weaker mercenaries of the Band of the Ivory Skull. His small division of ferocious knights tore into the Skeleton's riders and allowed for a momentary distraction. Even dedicated lancers had a difficult time of approaching the berserker, let alone cutting through his thick armor with their pikes. Gaiseric still had Vralskar to worry about, but in conjunction with the orc the outlook of this charge seemed doomed. In that moment, the most heavyset of the Band members gained speed next to his commander. A silent nod and he veered right, with no support, and disappeared into the dust.
"May your strength guide you to victory Lorkir," Gaiseric muttered as he deflected a spear that would have ripped out his throat.
The point of the lance rolled off the surface of his shield and he mutilated the Red Lion responsible with his thorned blade. An arc of blood, and the Skeleton continued his attack. At the front of the wedge, he pierced into the block formation of the Red Lion Knights, making straight for Captain Vralskar and his orc bodyguard. Suddenly, the mercenary from before - Lorkir - broke out of the dust with two spiked maces and began bashing his way back into visual range of Gaiseric. The figurehead of the Band of the Ivory Skull sent three more of his best warriors out to recover Lorkir with a gesture. Two of his most trusted men already fell to wounds with another three crushed under the hooves as their steeds were taken out from under them. They did not die without reason, however, and their contribution to the battle told a tale of at least one Red Lion Knight each.
Coming into close quarters now, unable to retreat and charge again, Gaiseric slashed the throat of his fourth Red Lion Knight, sending his head skyward in the process. A lance splintered his shield only to be grabbed by the Skeleton behind it. With a monstrous tug, the lance and its keeper fell from the crimson-armored horse and the blade of Gaiseric Aelius plunged once more into Red Lion flesh.
Vralskar had seen enough. Spurring his horse onward, the commander of the Red Lion Knights brought his pickaxe to bear. The weapon's weight alone needed three men to lift, nevermind wield. Vralskar twirled it like a dry twig and howled a thunderous war shout.
"Push forward! Kill the Skeleton! Without him, his mercenary dogs will retreat without a fight!"
@warsman: @demolitionguy: Walmer had seen many wars, many battles, but never like this. He stood as a phantom in the middle of the battle, his body phasing though everything inside this massive skirmish as he witnessed dozens of spirits crawling out of the fresh dead bodies. When he was alive, he was a thief, a purse cutter who cowardly skimmed through life until his demise, but not this time. He chose his side, and he was going to push this threat back whether anyone noticed or not. He saw his target, one of the closest men near the commander of the resistance and flew right into his very soul, possessing him. Looking over to the commander he shouted. "I need to know where they are coming in from so I can cut it off, no time for questions!"
(That makes things interesting, then.)
Vralskar heaved his hammer back, preparing for a swing. He glared at the man who spoke to him.
"Shut up, you fool! I am your commander and you will follow my orders! You got that?!" He shouted, unleashing the power in his arm at the Skeleton mere feet away from him.
There was no time to dodge, so Gaiseric took the full brunt of the pickaxe strike with a second shield. The blade of the axe popped through without hesitation and caused the Skeleton to spin out of his saddle. His horse galloped onward, aware of his master's location so that he could swoop in at the right time. His entire right side burned numb. The giant man lumbering over him still on horseback shouldered the mammoth pickaxe. The fighting between the Ivory Skull and Red Lion formed a circle around them, recognizing their talents as warriors.
"Is that it? The Skeleton is dismounted with only one of my attacks? I should be surprised, because one strike is enough to kill a full-grown bison! I just need to finish this in one more strike and go back to Ral Castle with your head on a spike!"
Roaring forward on his monstrous horse, Vralskar motioned for another vicious swing of his pickaxe. Gaiseric, shieldless, stood his ground. It all seemed hopeless for the Skeleton until he found the strength in his legs to leap with all his heavy armor into the air. Evading the second swing altogether, Gaiseric thrusted the thorned blade of his sword through a slit in Vralskar's helmet. Looking at his assailant, a weak smile on his face, Vralskar's dying vision locked with the cold gaze of the Skeleton.
"You talk too much," Gaiseric mocked, slicing upwards.
"S-So fast!" Some of the other Red Lion Knights shuddered as the commander of the Band of the Ivory Skull landed back on solid ground.
"You," Gaiseric said, motioning with an extended finger to the one Red Lion Knight who spoke out against Vralskar, the one that Ash Walmer possessed.
"You're not one of these soldiers. They would never suggest any sort of strategy to Vralskar out of fear of his infamous temper. I also do not remember having a spy or hearing about one in the enemy's ranks. Are you some sort of spirit?"
"Retreat! Vralskar is dead! Inform Lord-Commander Braun, he'll take out that Skeleton bastard for sure!"
"Looks like I've made quite the mess," Gaiseric said, relatively unimpressed. Lorkir and the other warriors rode up beside him. The thick mercenary with the twin clubs looked rather proud of his blood-drenched personage. The horse from earlier trotted next to Gaiseric, who mounted the saddle.
"My name is Gaiseric Aelius. The battle near the river is won for the Band of the Ivory Skull and for the Isuldorian army. I don't know what your business is here, but I would very much appreciate if you were to observe the upcoming siege of Ral Castle. Perhaps then you will realize what kind of enemy we are fighting. But for right now, we surround the city and make camp. The soldiers are tired and hungry. They've earned their rest,"
Dismissing his loyal warband, Gaiseric swung his sword through the air, licking it clean of blood with a single stroke, and sheathed it.
"Choose whichever side befits you, traveller. Whatever rumors you might have heard of Isuldorian xenophobia rests solely in those Isuldorian hearts responsible for such animosity. I fight to provide my soldiers, men and women I have known for a long time, with food and an honest living. I also have a dream of human liberation here during the dark age we live in. If I must crush rebellions to earn my keep for a dishonest monarch, then so be it. At least my friends will live to see another day. That is all that really matters to me. I bid you good tidings, traveller, and may the road of your choosing lead to prosperity."
With that, the Skeleton departed. The battle would continue anew the following afternoon.
@warsman: Even having an edge when it came to numbers,the Red Lion Knights momentanealy retreated,acting by instinct.But the men feared Vralksar even more than their iminent deaths.
The orc didn't backed a single step,reliant on his skills.
Onslaughting with an insupressible exasperated shoulder bolt,piercing the oppostion's warriors defense,intending to hit Gaiseric.Independent of the success of the hit,he carried forward with a jab at his antagonist's chin.
He knew once the leader was defeated,the group would lose consistence,occasioning a favorable outcome to the Red Lion Knights,and if he was the one to collapse the Skeleton,he would be turned into a legend,after all,his one and only objective while alive was earning his place at Dreakmür(Orc's Heaven,if you are ok with it),where only the bravest warriors were allowed.
"Time to rip the skull out of the skeleton.",his heavy voice thundered on the battlefield.
He snorted heavily,oppening both nostrils and assumed a defensive stand.
Completely caught off-guard, the Skeleton was knocked once more off his horse. His jaw felt like it had dislocated. Struggling back to his feet, Gaiseric removed his sword from its thorned scabbard. The eyes of the orc turned into something more violent than before. The spirit of the berserker was awakening within him. He had smelled blood, and wanted more. Still, he recovered some of his conscious talents of active swordplay and kept on the defensive instead of unleashing an all-out attack.
"Orc," Gaiseric said.
"Do you fight for gold or glory?"
The answer, by this point, was obvious. No mercenary - no matter how greedy - would stay and fight outnumbered when most of his allies were already retreating and his commander had fallen.
"Draw your sword. Let us honor the ways of war, not sport."
@warsman: @demolitionguy: Ash, who had been following, floated down near the Skeleton, knowing a being as supernatural as him can see the specter. "Ok ok! Lets take a step back here before we get all glorified yeah? That..Is an Orc..And the last time I checked, I was literally ripped in half by one! This fight isn't worth it mate.."
@warsman: "Those who have money die known by many,but are quickly forgotten within the wind.Those who have honor die to become legends.We shall do this the honorable way."
With a single move,Vro'zhul unsheated both of his twin swords,letting his warhammer hit the ground,lifting a small dust veil.Still with both nostrils wide oppened,he waved to his foe,allowing him to strike first.
"No, but he doesn't seem to want to move. Perhaps I could persuade him."
"Your skill and strength is admirable, orc. But this battlefield is hardly admirable. Within a day, the dark elves will have swept this place barren. Our corpses would be desecrated and our memory stained with the pain of never returning home or defending what is precious to us. I shall give you a choice, orc. Strike me down now and obtain a passing victory against a tired old man or travel with me in the Band of the Ivory Skull. Study my fighting skills firsthand. Learn what it is to challenge me. Then we shall have such a fight that will go down in history, I promise you that."
@ash_walmer: @warsman: The orc nodded,what he could possibly lose while helping the Skeleton?His army was disperse and the commander dead.The worst that could happen was a betrayal,but Cooldblood was too arrogant to believe some tricky bastard could sneak and kill him.
"Tis fine by me,Skeleton.But you must keep your word,otherwise you won't be more lucky than that son of a grom."
His heavy voice took a more serious tone while he pointed at a man he had killed,torn apart by a devastating blow.Sheathing his swords again and placing the warhammer at his back,he spat on the ground and stared his new 'companions' one by one.
(You two want to make a PM for plot points?)
Sheathing his thorned blade with some measure of content, Gaiseric could easily have been smiling behind his skull-shaped visor.
"Good. Tomorrow, we lead the attack on Ral Castle and end this battle. Perhaps then the Band of the Ivory Skull can finally get clearance to leave Isuldorian territory."
Day of the Siege - Ral Castle
The Band of the Ivory Skull broke camp. Nearly a thousand mercenaries answered the rising banner of the gruesome totem the Skeleton took his moniker after. In block formation like they had practiced, the mercenaries joined the other forces surrounding Ral Castle. Most of them were Isuldorian peasants gathered and forced into combat by will of their superiors. The nobler classes were easy to distinguish because of their thick armor and great weapons. Gaiseric pitied the peasants and hated those so-called 'knights' who bullied them into fighting without the proper equipment. Most of them wore scale mail shirts and carried simple swords and round shields.
Hardly the stuff of legend.
But, regardless, they were just fodder for the arrows and cannons.
"Shed a tear for the foot soldiers, but do them justice by remembering their sacrifice when you are cutting throats," he muttered. It was an old saying amongst commanders of code and discipline.
The first shots were fired. Preliminary rounds from the trebuchets and catapults landed squarely in the gut of the walls. If they had been anything but solid rock, then the cobblestone would have given then and there. Yet beyond those compressed boulders stood another layer of stone, and then another beyond that. Having been tested before, the walls of Ral Castle were at least twice as thick as any normal castle in the county. Entrance had to be forced through the weathered gates.
"Cannons! Aim for the doors!" Gaiseric shouted, raising his hand in preparation for the order to fire.
Wheeled up into place, the giant guns had already been loaded. They just needed the signal and the flame.
Sparks from flint and steel licked the fuses and the earth shook for a split second, the two forty-pound iron balls ripping through the gates like wet paper. The defenders trying to reinforce the doors were splintered just as the wood did at their fingertips.
"Unleash hell!" Gaiseric shouted, putting one foot in front of the other as he leaped from the trenches sword and shield in hand.
@warsman: The orc remained impacient the whole scene,he couldn't delay any longer what he did best,cause sorrow.His urge for blood spilling was immense.Concentrating his strenght at his legs,he leaped through the trenches,falling near a small clutch of his old allies.Swinging his warhammer on a rage rampage,he tore apart anything or anyone which dared to stay on his path.
Coldblood could handle his own alone,but the Ivory Skull would get crushed withouth his aid.
Garhering forces with the band,he now fought side to side with Skeleton.
"I cannot let thou fall by any sword other than mine."
The battle seemed won for the most part. However, a single figure rose out of the depths near the base of the central tower. Each step he took rang like a quaking church bell. This was Lord-Commander Braun, instigator of the resistance at Ral Castle. His helmet snarled like the royal feline common to the Red Lion Knights, meaning that he was also their supreme grandmaster. Hefting the battle axe larger than an ox cart over his shoulder, the pseudo-giant cackled.
"So, you're the insects who killed Vralskar? Pathetic. And you!" He shouted, singling out Coldblood with an enormous finger.
"You were one of his knights, whose strength he trusted in the thick of battle! You betray yet another commander? Where does your treachery end, renegade?"
It was in that moment, before anger could overtake Coldblood, that Gaiseric intervened.
"Grandmaster Braun, I presume? Your retribution is at hand,"
"Retribution? You command a ragtag force of misfits! Cobblers, peddlers, and merchants - hardly the stuff of soldiers! Mewling worms destined to die in the mud!"
"I command no one. These men and women follow me out of their own free will and are entitled to leave at any time. If they are not up to your standards because they still have free will, then I would have it no other way. Prepare to die,"
"Bold words for a dead man!" Braun howled, removing his axe from his shoulder and bringing it into striking range of the Skeleton.
Sparks shot out from the collision between axe and shield. The Skeleton slid underneath the monumental weight of the weapon and lashed out with a strike at Braun's eye between the slits of his visor. The thorns on the blade lashed out, and Braun found not only his eye slashed out from his head, but a fair part of his facial skin as well. He had moved out of a fatal confrontation with the fearsome ivory sword in favor of losing a functional helmet and part of his face. Bleeding profusely, he would have had the strength to counterattack - but the Skeleton did not have time for the games of a knightly duel. This was war. It had to be won sooner or later, and his soldiers - while they were fighting bravely - did not have the full strength of knights who had stayed in a castle for the duration of the conflict.
Braun's head fell to the ground, sliding off the stalk of his neck like a lump of meat from a plate. Gaiseric, still weak from his several days of constant fighting, leaned on his sword in order to keep standing. The resulting image almost seemed regal, as if a noble had triumphed over some great beast. But the Skeleton was hardly noble, or even native to this land. He turned his attention toward Coldblood, whom he knew was watching attentively.
"Capture the tower. Whatever treasure you find in Braun's personal armory is yours to keep. Here,"
Reaching into the folds of his armor, he retrieved a handful of black cloth. In the center of the fabric floated a skull crowned with thorns that glowed a modest ivory in color.
"Raise my banner, if you truly want to continue on this journey with me."
@warsman: Vor'zhul watched attently as the man decapitated the fearsome Braun.He knew powerful people,skilled men that could kill 100 enemies withouth getting hit,but none matched the Skeleton.
Vro'zhul past was a secret,but that arrogant,egocentric man unveiled part of it.He was banned of his own tribe.
He approached the fallen ally,his eyes fixed on the ground,the flush of memories and feelings were too intense,even for a though and emotionless warrior such as Coldblood.He accepted his duty to lead the band throughout the deceitful corridors of the tower.
Taking the front row position,he lead the other mercenaries with his bravery,but withouth saying a single word,lost at the depts of his mind.Killing every enemy that opposed him,he reached the top of the sentinel,claiming it for the Ivory Skull by raising their flag,which flickered with the wind.
Two soldiers protected what wasn't yet taken:Braun's armory.Onslaughting at them,he lifted one with his own shoulders,making him hit the stone floor.The other one tried to strike him at the eye,but it was too predictable.Hitting the man's abdomen with his weapon's hilt,than using both hands to land a final blow at the enemie's head,smacking it on the ground .Blood spilled everywhere.
He turned to the men under his lead and lifted his hammer above his head,stating their spectacular victory,most probably against all the odds.
"Grab all ye can!Ye fought with valiancy and prowess!"
While the man celebrates by pillaging,shouting or clapping,Vor'zhul moved away from the group,finding in a rock,a comfortable place to sit and rest.Supporting both arms at the warhammer's cable,he inhaled deeply and closed both eyes,as if waiting for an execution.
Across from Vor'zhul, the Skeleton whips his blade through the air, cleaning it of Braun's blood. He sheaths it without a word, the mutual understanding between the two warriors now a contract of battle rather than a simple agreement. Vor'zhul signed such a contract when he raised the Skeleton's banner. Their duel would come sooner rather than later, but for the moment they were allies.
Gaiseric could rest easily knowing that.
One week later
The capital city of Isuldor welcomed the return of her valiant soldiers with open arms. Women and children, the sick and the old, all flocked to the streets and celebrated with such applause that the victory at Ral Castle seemed so much more than a simple siege. They had won the war against the pagans. They were conquering heroes, honoring the fallen with their strength and memories.
The mercenaries entered Athras Mor with just as gallant acceptance as the native soldiers. They, too, contributed against the pagans. They were heroes, but heroes who fought for money rather than to protect their country. Still, the fact remained - they were indeed victorious alongside the Isuldorians. Gaiseric did not exactly seem comfortable in this environment, though he had experienced it plenty of times. The Band of the Ivory Skull had been to many battlefields with the Isuldorians. They were a household name at this point, one that could be relied on. Gaiseric just wanted to get their payment and leave as soon as possible. The parchment he had signed with the king stated that they were free to leave once Ral Castle had been captured and the money transaction went through.
"Hail, glorious conquerors!" A voice he did not want to hear chimed from the distance.
There, at the top of the stairs to the governor's house, stood King Darnoll. Gaiseric lowered his head respectfully, peeking out to Lorkir and especially Vor'shul, imploring them to do the same.
"Gaiseric, mighty Gaiseric, is it true that you slew both Vralskar and Braun? Two of the enemy's most powerful knights?"
"I could not have done such a task without the help of my soldiers, your grace," Gaiseric responded modestly before dismounting his horse.
"Nonsense! You are among the greatest swordsmen in Midland!"
"I thank you for the compliment, your grace, but I - " Gaiseric began, trying to move the matter at hand to the money he needed for food and supplies before leaving Isuldorian territory.
"Which is why I ask you, as king of Isuldor, that you stay as one of my knights - nay, as Lord Protector of the Realm!"
Shock overtook Gaiseric. This was precisely what he wanted to avoid. Dishonoring the king's request meant certain danger. He lowered his head in a show of piety.
"I...humbly accept, your grace,"
"Magnificent! Your mercenary force will become the White Death Knights, the grim reapers of the battlefield and the most feared in all of Midland!"
Gaiseric said nothing. Accepting the king's request meant that he could take land and have a sufficient amount of money for his troops. But he knew that any victory he won from this point onward would not be considered a victory for his troops, but for Isuldor. He almost began quaking with anxiety. The freedom of humanity he dreamed - nay, yearned for - would slowly shrivel if he were to continue fighting for Isuldor and unite all of Skellbrieg under its banner like he knew the king wanted. Isuldor did not mean freedom nor did it mean true unity. He knew of their persecution of Aralgnorian refugees based solely on their religious beliefs.
He needed an opening, and soon, but that time would have to wait. For right now, he had to accept the king's request lest his Band be put into danger on the spot.
"The knighthood ceremony will begin here at dawn tomorrow. I already have your first assignment ready for you once you officially become Sir Gaiseric."
"It is an honor, your grace. I shall see you hence."
Once the king departed for his chambers within the governor's house, Gaiseric stood. He did not immediately turn to his retinue, but rather just remained stationary.
@warsman: Coldblood could be many things,but he wasn't dumb.He knew that if he didn't kneed,that could be seen as an act of rebellion or disrespect.
He heard carefully.Hoping for Gaiseric to deny the king's request,he knew that,as an orc,he was going to be made fun of,perhaps downgraded,or slavery.Many possible outcomes from a single mistake.
Later on that day he was ready to leave.He was at the room he rented at an alehouse nearby the burgh.
Please Log In to post.