Ch. 8: A New Beginning
The peace of Kantros has been shattered. The kingdom of Sah’ra lies in ruins, its major cities in ashes and sacked by the invading armies of the Bairing Islands. However, hope remains for the people of the desert. They managed to escape to their fortress in the desert, the Scorpion’s Lair. From here King Acre is hoping that his small army can hold out until help can come from the Fortis Empire, the Beinn Kingdom, and the Confederation of Vallos.
Thousands of people crowd into the desert fortress seeking refuge behind its walls. Its walls are large and strong, nigh impregnable. This ancient fortress was constructed by the Fortis Empire’s greatest architects during the height of its power. It has fallen only once to an attack, the people of Sah’ra during their war of independence. Now the mighty fortress will protect those people from a new invader, one looking to plunge Kantros into darkness.
It has been a day since you have arrived at the Scorpion’s Lair. People from all over Sah’ra have come to the fortress seeking protection. The capital city of Acre was not the only one attacked. The cities of Ayos and Jiffra were also attacked. Unfortunately, not as many people managed to escape with their lives from those cities. Stories of unspeakable atrocities are whispered from survivor to survivor.
King Acre has summoned you to meet with him in his headquarters. You grab your gear and head down.
The headquarters is quiet at the current time. The generals, king and his daughter have done a fine job of strengthening the defenses in their short time in the fortress and are planning for many different scenarios. They have organized the citizens and militia into a makeshift fighting force to compliment their now inadequate army. Many soldiers of the Sah’ra were lost defending the cities and buying time for its people to escape.
“Come in, come in, please, sit at my table.” The King motions for you to join him. As you sit he speaks. “Commander Antarius here speaks of your valor and skill in combat protecting my people. Thank you. Who knows how many people would have died if it not for your efforts. Now on to more pressing matters. Commander Antarius bring everyone up to speed.”
“Yes my king. We have been collecting as many resources and weapons as possible over the last day for the defense of the Lair. We have enough food stores to last us nearly a month. After that we can always eat the horses. The springs that run through the caves and mines provide us with a plentiful water supply. The only concern is man power. Our garrison and remaining forces should be able to do the trick, but for how long is the real question. The Bairing army had more advanced siege weapons than we believed them to have. If they are able to move their forces into the interior of the desert and keep their army supplied then we could be in trouble. That however, is a big question mark, can they survive the desert?”
Vizier Elsen enters the room. “My king, a message from Emperor Fortis and King McMasters.”
The Vizier hands the letter to the king. He quickly reads over it and a smile begins to emerge. He motions for his daughter, Isla, who was standing in the corner of the room, to take a look. After reviewing it King Acre asks his daughter Isla to read the message.
It is with great sadness that news of your dire situation reaches me. However, do not despair, it is for this reason that Beinn, Sah’ra, and the Empire have joined as friends and allies. You are in luck, for I have been performing maneuvers with a legion of my soldiers outside of Centreville. I am but several days march from Fort Navaro and the Kawa River. We will rally to Fort Navaro where we will link up with legions from the mighty fortress and from the Lion’s Keep to the south. I have already sent messengers and ravens to the farthest corners of my Empire to begin preparing for war and bringing together our army. King McMasters, of Beinn, has pledged to do the same. He is preparing his cavalry as we speak to make the journey.
I hope my men, Salvador, Ekans, Lazarus, and Medici, have made themselves useful. They are industrious and talented young men. Unfortunately, I have need for them; please tell them that they are to meet me in five days at the bridge at Fort Navaro.
In the meantime, may the gods be with you and keep you safe through these difficult times.
Emperor Nathaniel Fortis
“I am sad to see the four of you leave, you have been such an inspiration to our people. Is there anything that you require before you are on your way?” The king asks.
“Once again thank you for your service. I can only hope that our paths cross again someday.” With that the old king leaves the room.
Commander Antarius, “If the four of you will follow me, I’ll get you some horses for your journey.”
The four men follow the commander and begin preparing their mounts for the trip. They make sure they have all of their belonging packed and Marco makes sure he has his pack mule with the spices as well. As you mount your horses and make your way to the massive gate of the fortress, Princess Isla, the king’s daughter motions for you to come over and speak with her.
“I am sorry we cannot properly reward your heroic deeds at this time. However, I would like to give you this as a parting token of our appreciation. I have for you each a bottle of our desert’s famous Scorpion Brew. It may make the ride over the next few days a little more tolerable.” The future queen bows and gracefully turns and leaves. You can only hope that your paths cross with her path once again.
As you exit the mighty fortress with Commander Antarius the soldiers and men of Sah’ra stand and cheer you on. It appears as though the stories of your heroism have spread throughout the hosts of people behind the walls.
Once outside the walls you get back on the road that heads southwest towards Fort Navaro. The journey is long, but it must be made as quickly as possible to reach the fort in five days. Your party races off in a full gallop.
If Gib Ekans translates the third encrypted message this is what it says.
How goes it my friend? I hope this letter finds you in good health and busy as always. I am writing you to encourage an increase your production. More slaves are required. As usual you will be well compensated for the merchandise. Reports have been that the slaves previously provided have been quite industrious. Continue the efforts, just double the output. I doubt you will have much trouble; The Empire is preoccupied with other things at the moment. The ship for pickup will be at the rendezvous point as usual. Until our paths cross again you dirty piece of filth.
Your journey has been a dangerous one, but one that has gone quickly. You cross from the desert into Northern Vallos and make for the river and Fort Navaro. As you get closer to the river you notice a large trail of dust stretching upwards towards the sky from the south. Unfortunately you don’t have time to investigate.
You reach the bridge easily enough and are relieved to find several legions of the Empire’s army breaking camp and getting ready to move out. Pickets stop you at the bridge but you quickly show your rings and are taken to the Emperor’s tent.
Relief washes over you as you notice some familiar faces, Lucius’s father Cyrus and the head of the House Atlantic, Hyperion Gateway.
Emperor Fortis sees you and cracks a smile.
“I am glad you made it. I didn’t know what had happened to the four of you. I send you to get a peace treaty signed and you end up in the middle of a war. A twist of fate isn’t it. Anyways, on to more pressing matters. Give me a report on what happened in Acre.”
“Troubling and disturbing news. I received a message just this morning from King Acre that the Bairing Army has laid siege to the Scorpion’s Lair. However, they have yet to launch an assault. Any word on whether Vallos is planning on helping? I know King Acre reached out to them for help as well.”
“As I said in my message we were training a couple of legions, otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to get here so quickly. I know you already know these two gentlemen, they have both told me that you trained at their respective academies. I trust it did you well. They were going through maneuvers and tactics during our training and have accompanied the army at my request. General Tyrell is back in Imperial City mobilizing the rest of our forces. We are even preparing an armada with King McMasters to strike at them from the sea. I can only hope that the Confederation can put their bickering behind them and join this fight. It seems as though we will need the strength of all of Kantros to turn back this dark tide that washes upon our shores. You must be tired, quickly get some rest and a bite to eat. We will leave in just a couple of hours. Let me know if you need anything.”
You go outside and find a place to relax and get some food. A couple of hours pass and word spreads that it is time to head out. The Legions of the army fall into line and a soldier from the Emperor’s royal guard informs you that he wants your party to travel with him at the head of the army.
In total three legions, 15,000 men, will be making their way to rescue the Sah’ra who are holding on in the Scorpion’s Lair. Hopefully the defenders can hold on long enough for the help to arrive. As the army begins crossing the bridge several riders are seen on the horizon. A column of infantry and cavalry are behind them. They are flying the colors of the Confederation of Vallos. The columns stop and several riders from the lead break off and make towards your position.
Emperor Fortis signals for the army to stop and he rides forward with several of his royal guard following along with several officers, including Gateway and Cyrus Salvador. You are told to follow as well.
The two parties meet and stop in front of each other.
“Aldemir Vallon, it is good to see you and even better to see your army.” Emperor Fortis says.
“I wish I could say the same. You are trespassing on Vallos land.”
“What do you mean? We don’t have time for these stupid games and political bickering. The Sah’ra are being attacked as we speak. They are held up in the Scorpion’s Lair, under siege by an invasion force from the Bairing Islands.”
“I know the situation well. I do not need an intelligence report from you. My spies and agents have informed me of the dire straits of the Sah’ra. However, I didn’t anticipate them escaping to the Scorpion’s Lair though. No matter. It will fall soon enough. You see Nathaniel; I am binging about a new beginning for Kantros, ushering in a new age. All I needed was some help from a couple of allies.”
“You are mad Vallon! Do you mean to tell me you are behind this invasion, that you have made an alliance with the Bairing Islands? Do you know what you have done?”
“I am perfectly aware of all that is going on because I have orchestrated it. You are lucky to be alive. Acre is lucky to be alive. Those are the only parts of my plan that haven’t gone according to my wishes, those assassins were sent by my new ally.”
“I find it hard that the other ruling families of the Confederation would be so quick to sign off on this war.”
“They didn’t. In fact they had no clue up until the time that I had them executed. The Jerstons and Welleks had many enemies that were willing to sell them out and assist in my rise to power. In fact that young man’s father helped. He gave me lots of wonderful information on how to take down the Jerstons.” Vallon points at young Marco. “His father was a great pawn and the best thing about pawns is that they are expendable. I have men like that all over, who knows Fortis, maybe I have pawns surrounding you. The Confederation of Vallos is no more, a new beginning is upon us, it is now the Kingdom of Vallos and I am its lord.”
Suddenly the soldiers around Vallon take up crossbows and begin launching their bolts towards Emperor Fortis and his party. Cyrus Salvador jumps off of his mount in an attempt to protect and shield the Emperor, he is struck by two of the crossbow bolts and falls to the ground. The royal guard leaps into action and begins battling Vallon’s men. A fierce melee breaks out and the emperor is whisked away.
Vallon darts back to his line and horns blare. A massive line of cavalry rides up over a ridge and races across the plain towards the Fortis soldiers.
Emperor Fortis, generals, and Gateway begin barking orders once they get back to their lines and the Fortis Legions quickly try to form ranks. The cavalry dashes out in front to meet Vallon’s charge head on. As the masses of men and beast smash into each other the sounds of spears being broken and shields splintered can be heard. The war for Kantros has begun.