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Interdimensional Observer

Biographies of the Crusaders

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After an attempt to write the Tellius Continental War (in a larger effort to write the history of Tellius) year-by-year ran into issues of a lack military history on my part, and the sheer length of the conflict, I decided to change course. 

I'm writing some biography this time, of the legends of Jugdral. I try to keep it in line with canonical information about the Crusaders and such, but I might have missed something, and if so, do inform me in the feedback thread I shall create.


I'm going to save Nova and Dain for last I think, I'm just not feeling them and it has the whole Thracia divide and curse deal around it. Instead, I'm starting with none other than the leader of the Crusaders himself, Heim

Note, that his original name Gaius is not to say a time loop exists whereby the candy thief becomes a Crusader. It is only a stand in, I wanted to give Heim a name change for his lofty status, and decided he needed an earthly name for earlier years. I went literal for this, Gaius is the masculine of Gaia, which means earth, what I should've gone with is something Norse, perhaps the Norse for earth or earth-bearer or something, but I couldn't be bothered to look it up. I'm none too good with names, which should be apparent in how I don't always give names to people likely should.

And here is it, my first attempt at a Crusader biography:

  1. Heim:
    1. Age at the Miracle- 55
    2. Birth Location- southeastern Grannvale.
    3. Life up to the Miracle:
      1. Born the son of a tanner in JC 577, whose particular talents were in the making of vellum, a high quality form of parchment which the Loptyr Empire, like any, valued in the production of books and important documents. Heim, given the name Gaius at birth, was trained in his father’s trade and expected to follow it through his simple life. It was a toilsome, filthy trade to some, but the young Gaius diligently performed his duties, when not misbehaving as an innocent child would. He knew what the vellum he produced was for, but he was never taught how to read and write. He would on scraps try scribbling crude letters and forms, but that could not take him very far. 
      2. At the age of 16, Gaius found someone, a non-Loptyrian priest wearing wolf’s clothing, how to read and write. A few nights a month, the priest and Gaius would meet for lessons. In the process of becoming literate, Gaius became learned in the priest’s ways. He soon began uttering prayers over the corpses he would tan, and developing a sense of pride in his faith, he would perform prayers and then blessings and other services for family, friends, and even strangers. He was gaining a second profession, and continued to meet with the priest. The priest provided him with access to his personal writings and the handful of books he had access to which were not of the Lopytrians in origin, but allowed to exist in the Empire.
      3. At the age of 30 in JC 607, Gaius was beset by awful news, his priest-mentor had been found out as deceiving the Loptyrian Empire with his true faith. Elsewhere in the Empire, the ordinary priesthood had been tolerated to various extents, but Grannvale, the center of the Empire, had very little mercy for such. The priest was tortured and executed, and Gaius feared he would be found out as an associate of the priest. Rather than risk death and endanger his family, including a wife and children, he burned his writings, saw to it that his wife and kids would be cared for, and then proceeded to throw himself into a river, to feign death by drowning. When the Loptyrian Inquisition came to investigate Gaius’s home, the excuse that he was a madman who had stumbled into a river worked, and his family escaped punishment.
      4. Gaius, now forced out of his prior existence, began life as a vagabond. From his priest-mentor and literacy, he learned well the atrocities of the Loptyr Empire, and he too had been feeling disillusioned with his old life on the inside, knowing his vellum became the surface onto which hails to the Dark Lord were etched, and decrees ordering the suffering and death of hundreds and thousands were made. He first turned southeast, and proceeded to the future Manster District. In northern Thracia, Gaius found a more tolerant atmosphere, where some priestly activity could be carried out. Thus, he traveled alone, preaching to those who suffered to the Loptyr Empire. Subsisting on foraging and the goodwill of others, he wanted to do more, and having to deal with thieves as a lone traveler, taught himself the magical arts from the rudiments his mentor had bestowed him with.
      5. For four years, Gaius traveled through the western region of the Thracian Peninsula, mostly the north but also the south, and then turned west to the future Miletos. In 611, a perfect storm of rebellions broke out across Jugdral, including a Liberation Army in southeastern Grannvale, under the leadership of a man named Kobar. Gaius immediately turned to supporting the rebellions in Miletos, both rallying the resistance troops and using his magical talents to fight. Unfortunately, within three years, major resistance in Miletos was crushed, and Gaius saw the final decisive blow carried out firsthand by a Loptyrian crown prince who bore the Brand of Loptyr. Gaius was bewildered by the strength of the Empire, and considered abandoning hope, but he survived to live another day.
      6. Fleeing back to the Thracian Peninsula, the liberator Kobar had been forced from most of Grannvale, but his forces in Thracia were successful in liberation there, and the Loptyrian Empire had been forced eastwards. Gaius now joined the Liberation Army’s ranks proper, and quickly began to work his way up the ranks. He was assigned to expansionary efforts into the weakly-held southern Thracian Peninsula, the experience restored his shaken conviction. But the revitalization of Loptyrian forces in the north after five years and the dearth of the south, forced the Liberation Army to abandon southern Thracia.
      7. Now it was 619, and Gaius had gained much experience as a liberation fighter, he too was getting older, now 42. Although south Thracia had been abandoned, Gaius emerged from it a rising star for his successes therein, and applying his talents to thwarting Loptyrian efforts in the center of the future Manster District, he again showed his valor. After a year, he was withdrawn and sent to meet with Kobar, north of Melgen. Kobar, age 47, was impressed by Gaius, and Gaius all the more so by Kobar. Kobar promoted him to the higher ranks of the elite of the Liberation Army. Kobar then had him return to Thracia, whilst he remained where he was closer to the center of affairs.
      8. Two years later, despite Gaius’s best efforts, the Loptyr Empire was still gaining ground in Thracia, and from Miletos the Empire was hammering at the Liberation Army’s southern flank. In this year, Kobar was assassinated by the Loptyrian Empire, and his Liberation Army was shocked to its core. As one of the commanding generals, Gaius returned to the Yied Desert, where the resistance was headquartered. It was here that it managed to wage as best as it could an international conflict against the Loptyr Empire, the leadership tried to keep calm. With the Thracia front in the process of being lost, Gaius in negotiations with the now-collective leadership agreed to its gradual abandonment, reallocating its “surplus” forces to Issach, where hopes remained higher for success. Gaius remained in Yied as part of the high command for much of the next ten years, venturing in all directions as necessary to preach to the troops and inspect the progress of things firsthand. Thus he saw some of Issach and Silesse, as well as Grannvale again. Gaius became well-respected and a well known figure. When he had the spare parchment, he would besides issuing orders, invoke his inner conviction to spread hope to those far away.
      9. Yet for the next ten years, the Liberation Army gradually declined, every front became a tally of losses, and the high command thinned. By 632, Gaius was a rarity- a soldier who had fought the entire war, had met Kobar, and had not yet died. That he was promoted to the highest position by that wasn’t simply the product of his charisma, talent, and seniority, it was because there were few left who could contest it. Gaius did regret not being on the frontlines, but he felt he contributed more as a distant strategist and logistician than as a sage in close combat. 
      10. In 632, the Liberation Army’s two decades of hope were meeting their final demise, the great threat to the Loptyr Empire was reaching its end. The Empire had won, and it would surely be generations before another rebellion on so continental a scope would arise, through which countless Jugdralians would suffer. The Liberation had been forced out of east Grannvale, it had been forced from Silesse, from Agustria, from Thracia, from Issach. Reduced to a few thousand in Yied Desert, and the desert itself now being invaded, Gaius continued without hesitation issuing orders as if nothing was awry. He despaired and prepared himself for death as he had so often for the past two decades, but he would ready to die fighting. At the old fortress constructed in Darna, the Loptyr Empire, numbering at least ten thousand, was ready to put the final nail in the coffin, in what would be a short siege against an enemy less than two thousand strong. They eradicated the forces outside its walls, and then began to pound at the fort itself. Gaius was in the war room, ready to order the last stand.
    4. The Miracle and the Holy War:
      1. Descended, the dragons of Archanea. Descended, in a bright roar of light. Descended, through the fortress walls. Descended, before twelve valiant souls. Descended, the Miracle of Darna.
      2. Naga led the twelve dragons of Archanea, whose blood they had chosen to grant to these humans aboard. With blood, stone, and artifice of dragonkind, the Twelve Crusaders arose. As the leader of the desperate warriors, Naga herself went before Gaius, and peering into his eyes and soul, saw in this aged man the makings of a king, who had they been born to dragonkind in its golden years, Naga would have sought the counsel of. Thus, she bestowed him with her very blood, and to be certain Loptyr could be stopped gave him some of her very essence, contained in the most powerful tome that would ever be wrought. Naga warned Gaius that this power would consume some of his being, that to defeat Loptyr, just as she gave to him, he would have to give to the burden of her awesome might. Gaius accepted this.
      3. With Naga’s power coursing through him, Gaius joined the other eleven. The radiance which had dazzled the Loptyrian siege was ending, and they now tried to crack open its doors. Running out of the war room, Gaius yelled with Naga’s voice in him, open the gates, go at them! And so the twelve souls alone annihilated thousands of Loptyrian soldiers in a twinkling. The Loptyrians were aghast and even the commanders fled in cowardice. The dragons spoke again, they would not stay here for reasons of minimal intervention and the concerns of their homeland, they told them about the truth of Loptyr, entrusted this twelve with the future of their world, and Forseti and Naga stated they would remain in contact via their souls imprinted on the bearers of their power.
      4. Gaius, given his prior position and Naga being the leader of the dragons, was declared the leader of the newly named and formed Crusaders. It was then he changed his name, as the leading light of Jugdral, and changed in his humanity by Naga’s spirit, he took the new name, Heim.
      5. Through the next fifteen years, Heim would spend much of his time in Darna and Yied as a whole. He would travel elsewhere from time to time, but as supreme commander of the Crusaders and the Holy War declared in the months after the Miracle, he would have to remain in a place where he was accessible to all fronts. Naga continued to speak to him for guidance, including avoiding a direct attack on the Loptyrian Emperor right away. Although the power given was great, liberation was to be the primary goal for now, not the slaying of Loptyr. Twelve could kill tens of thousands, but even they were vulnerable given enough troops thrown at them. To fight Loptyr directly, they would need to slash the Loptyrian Empire’s might, and to add to their own thousands more, so that when the final battle came, the Crusaders could prioritize the foe only they could slay. Furthermore, Loptyr was supported by many Deadlords, many more than twelve, although twelve were their strongest. The Deadlords of this era were powerful, stronger than those faced later by Seliph, owed to the nearly two centuries of Loptyrian rule. Only the Crusaders truly stood a chance to defeat them.
      6. In 646, the final campaign against the Loptyrian Empire began. Having successfully liberated Agustria, Silesse, Issach, Thracia, and then Miletos, the Crusader armies invaded on multiple fronts. The final battle against Emperor Galle XVII took place in central Grannvale, within the soon to be Duchy of Dozel two years later in 648. The Emperor had fought in prior battles where Heim was not, devastating the Crusader forces, but in this final Holy War, Heim was sly despite his advanced age, and maneuvered from front to front as need be to check Galle XVII wherever he went. In the ultimate clash, the eleven other Crusaders vanquished the last of the Deadlords and greatest Loptyrian priests, while Heim went alone before Galle XVII and annihilated him readily. Truly, Naga was more than a match for Loptyr. Thus the Holy War ended, the Loptyr Empire was destroyed, and the hope of the continent had been fulfilled.
    5. Post-Holy War
      1. Heim, as leader of the Crusaders, played the leading hand in the formation of post-Loptyr Jugdral. Heim chose to settle in the former, very populous and developed, center of the Loptyr Empire, what would be called Grannvale. Originally he was offered the title Emperor, but its association with the Loptyr Empire led him to deject it, settling for the humbler title of King of Grannvale. In return, the seven Crusaders who also chose to settle in Grannvale reduced their titles from King and Queen to Duke and Duchess.
      2. Outside of Grannvale, Heim and the other Crusaders agreed to the establishment of four kingdoms- Issach, Silesse, Agustria, and Thracia. There had been considerations of uniting Jugdral in a single, holy empire, but after the Loptyr Empire, empire had its stigma. Although in practice their levels power differed, the kingdoms of Jugdral would all be equal in theory. 
      3. In the Yied Desert, deemed antithetical to human existence, small desert communities remained, but lacking at all for the possibility of a great kingdom. Darna as soon as final victory came became a holy site, and the question then arose who would govern it. Heim, to be honest to himself, would have liked to spend his last years in the desert, reminiscing about all that had happened. But, Heim could not, he had become the leader of the world, and the obligations of it required he ignore this. Heim instead gave Darna to a group of his comrades, whose devotion to the glorious cause would see to it that Darna would be preserved for as long as the memory of the Crusaders was needed. These former soldiers sorted themselves out and with Heim’s approval, established the Steward of Darna, the title which would be bestowed on the ruler, in a nonhereditary position with the purposes of both ruling the desert dwellers at Darna and along the relevant tracts of the cross-country travel trade networks, and maintaining the holy site and caring for the pilgrims.
      4. Miletos too presented itself to Heim as a gift, given that he had preached through the peninsula for a few years. Heim however chose to give the peninsula its freedom, and it took the form of city states under a variety of governments. During the two hundred years of Loptyrian rule, the peninsula, epitomized in the Sorrow of Miletos, was subject to frequent abuse and persecution by the Loptyr Empire. The result of the heavy exploitation was depopulation there, depopulation so heavy that it left much of the country empty. No Crusader choosing to settle there, Heim ordered Baldur who had settled in Chalphy, as well as Bragi through the Church, and the neighboring Kingdom of Thracia, to for a few years, until the split of Thracia, provide aid to heal and stabilize Miletos. 
      5. Heim’s primary concerns were politics. Despite being a priest who loved the profession, his ascension to leader of the world meant he had little time for spirituality, and had instead to spend it on building a new political order. Heim instead entrusted the spiritual concerns to Bragi, who was just as devoted to faith, if not more so, than him. Heim did provide through his words and actions others had compiled a core of Bragi’s teachings as did other Crusaders, and from time to time, he like the other Crusaders would lead in religious services. Yet he, like other Crusaders yet again, chose to submit to Bragi’s new priesthood on a daily basis. Given they themselves were holy and revered, the Crusaders with the priests’ willingness could nominate and check priestly appointments, but more often, they chose to stay out of these matters, and Heim on one occasion allowed himself to be led in services by an orphaned boy now an acolyte whose prayers memorization was far from complete yet.
      6. Although himself unable to meet with Maira’s descendant, through Bragi and Ced, Heim learned of Maira’s descendant, and through consultation with Naga, who too spoke with Forseti, came to conclude that the Mairan line be spared so as long as it kept to the one-child rule. Likewise, Heim had Grannvale and Hezul’s Agustria initiate bans on adding Verdane to their holdings. It had been left largely alone by the Loptyrian Empire as barbaric and much too densely forested, and it remained mostly aloof from the Liberation struggle. All the Loptyrians had done there was deforesting the north and northeastern borders of Verdane to provide for timber for everything from manor houses to burning peasants alive. For fear its conquest leading to the outing and extermination of Maira’s many greats child, Verdane’s independence, a shelter for them and the last Mairans, would be formally secured. Nonetheless, if through the Mairan line Loptyr would reemerge, Heim, Naga, Ced, Forseti, and the rest of the Crusaders agreed that they would have to take up arms to destroy it.
      7. Although Naga's power in Heim had slain Loptyr, his soul remained embedded in his nominal tome, to destroy this would require nothing less than Naga herself in the flesh. The remnants of the elite of the Loptyr Empire found solace soon in the Yied Desert as the Liberation Army had. Their numbers were few, they would grow later when the mercy of the Crusaders to the Mairans faded and caused many of them, faced with persecution, were radicalized in the Loptyrian camp. Heim ordered the eradication of the Loptyrian remnants, but as if by the little miracle of their own cunning god, a few escaped divine wrath. Yet they lacked for Loptyr's Brand and his soul, as long as they lacked both, they were a threat the Crusaders or their descendants united could easily destroy.
      8. Speaking of Loptyr's soul, Heim had grabbed the tome from alongside Galle's disintegrating corpse, and kept it on  his person for some time. Although nobody but one of Loptyr's Brand could be possessed, the darkness still emanating from the tome was itself enough he feared to corrupt the weak. Naga's presence and his own strong will kept Heim safe. He then had the tome sealed deep and secretly within Grannvale itself, including a number of magic locks, some of which required holy blood, Naga's included among them. It was not until much later that the seals were broken, the process began when Manfroy corrupted Grannvale, and Manfroy found a loophole- holy blood without needing a holy warrior- that is say he extracted the blood he needed to lockpicking.
      9. With the foreign, eternal menace from Archanea gone, Naga ceased to visit Heim, save on a small handful of occasions, so as to leave humanity alone, free to grow by its own hands. Nonetheless, Heim’s fundamental character had changed from her frequent possessions. He was still himself in many ways, but the more he communed with Naga, the more he became tempered to her views, and the more he saw himself removed, not wholly without reason, apart from humanity. Not a god, but not so mundane an ordinary as those he fought for were.
      10. Heim had at the age of 57, taken a new wife, who was in her forties. Heim did not do this out of love, although the woman was a veteran noncombatant of the liberation effort who deeply admired him, but for the sake of creating new heirs, endowed with Naga’s divine blood. Long before the dust had settled, Heim was confident of the future and with Naga realized the continent would need strong rulers to replace the Loptyr Empire and keep the threat of Loptyr ever returning at bay. With Naga’s vitality, his wife conceived, and she would bear him a strong, Brand-bearing son, as well as a minor daughter. Heim was not particularly intimate with his new family, he had been with his old wife and children, his Naga-ordained duties simply denied the opportunity for this. It would be a daughter of the son who, with her aunt’s support, would visit the Manster District seeking to understand her grandfather’s life, and in the process coincidentally found love, thus founding the Tahra line descended from Heim with Naga’s blood.
      11. Of Heim’s old family and friends, Heim forbade himself from interacting with them whilst he fought Loptyr. Some of them, including a prior son and a nephew, had joined the Liberation Army after learning of his role in it. Once the Liberation Army became holy warriors with the former Gaius its leader, more joined him. When the fighting ceased, Heim met with all of the people of his old life again. He bestowed the virtuous among them with good livings, and those who had proven themselves in service fighting the Holy War were enfeoffed at his new capital of Belhalla. After explaining why his youngest son, over thirty years the junior to Heim’s firstborn, had to inherit the throne, it was accepted and the new crown prince received the oaths of all Belhallan nobles, the Dukedoms, and all the other kingdoms.
      12. Heim took the throne at age 71, but Naga’s strength allowed him to reign for the almost the full first decade of the Kingdom of Grannvale’s existence, Naga’s immense spirit he had channeled being corrosive too to the human body, he could not be expected to live for much longer beyond that. Heim died at age 79 in 657, a century before the Issach Campaign. 
      13. His body was cleaned and anointed by Bragi, and Heim’s funeral services lasted for days, the official mourning period was six months. He was then interred in a tomb southwest of Behalla, which would become the family necropolis of the Heim-Naga lineage, with a separate, much smaller tomb for some of Heim’s first family and their descendants established elsewhere in Grannvale. When Loptyr entered Julius and Arvis’s reign waned, Loptyr sought vengeance on Heim and Naga after all these years. Julius paid a trip to the tomb and had it desecrated. He stripped the walls of ornate elements he liked for reuse later, and the gold and silver were stripped for smelting. Quietly, he ordered the opening of Heim’s sarcophagus, and had the bones thrown out and pounded into dust. Thus was the gristly postmortem which he, the leader of the Crusaders, who had borne a life of hope, despair, growth, and sacrifice, had to suffer. A few bone fragments were rescued by the commoners who were present at the desecration, and these were presented later to Seliph and Julia, then reinterred in an ossuary in the restored tomb.



Next will be Neir, I going into more personal detail as I'm writing him, whereas Heim is more focused on the big picture stuff. I gave Heim 10 sections/paragraphs pre-Miracle, and Neir, with whom I've just reached the Miracle, has 19. Individual Crusaders will fluctuate between the distant and the personal, and as I go along, I may add things involving Crusaders that I have already described. Partly because the weight of the interaction falls on the latter Crusader, and or because I didn't come up with the relationship at the time. For instance, in Neir's biography, I will mention that Heim taught him literacy, since Neir's background never gave him the chance (just being realistic here). I might even go back and in the story wholly belonging to one Crusader, add a more detailed episodes of a time in their life I described only in general. Who knows.

After Neir, I plan to take break from this rabbit hole activity for a long while, but I wanted to get a topic for this out of the way I could return to later. But I think I already have my next Crusader after Neir in mind.

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Now I have him out of my system, written entirely in less than three days. Here is Mr. Automata Neir, in pretty thorough detail (as in just sort of 7000 words):

  1. Neir
    1. Age at the Miracle- 27
    2. Birth location- southern Agustria.
    3. Life Up to the Miracle:
      1. Neir was born in southern Agustria in JC 605, along the border with Verdane. His mother was the child of an impoverished farmer and his wife, his mother’s father labored harvesting plentiful timber from the region with others to supplement the income from his meager crop. Verdanian bandits however attacked his little village one day, destroying the fields and killing his wife and several children. Heartbroken, he himself died of sorrow.
      2. Neir’s unwed mother survived the bandit attack, but was raped, physically scarred, and pregnant with the Crusader to be. Stripped of family, she wandered alone in search of any labor she could undertake to survive, even whilst being with child. She managed to find a community willing to care for her in the last two months of pregnancy, and thus had something of a hovel into which Neir was born. He was underweight at birth, and the birthing was difficult, but once in his mother’s arms, the bawling babe healed her spirit and she lived on.
      3. Unfortunately, Neir’s mother could not remain where she had received shelter for long, a few months after giving birth, she was once again set loose and in need of work. With her now was the infant Neir, and together, the two wandered for years. When possible, Neir’s mother would keep him besides her as she worked, but as he grew, this became more difficult and she sometimes have to leave him on his own if she could find no one to watch over him. Being a poor unwed mother and child was dangerous enough, and this was the Loptyr Empire, infamous for its child hunts. On multiple occasions, Neir was at risk of being kidnapped, sometimes he managed to run away from the Loptyrians before they could catch him, other times, his mother was able to hide him, without herself becoming a victim either. It could be considered that Neir’s survival, sometimes very narrowly, through these early years of his life, were altogether the first great miracle of his existence.
      4. Neir’s perilous wanderings came to an end by time he turned seven, in 612. His mother had found a widower living in west-south-central Agustria, he was a peasant farmer of average standing, and was willing to wed her despite her past. Neir now had several step-siblings both male and female, some older than him. His mother too would bear two half-siblings, by her new husband, despite how much Neir’s labor had belabored her. Neir now worked on the farm and adjusted to it, having tried to do little things to help his mother the years they been alone. He befriended his new brothers and sisters and children from the village, these were the treasured years of his childhood.
      5. This would not last, the family farm hit particularly bad times when Neir was 14 in 619, it was nothing usual, weather just produced famine, not feast. Unable to pay taxes, nor obtain tax relief, Neir’s stepfather was faced with ill prospects as to what he could do, already, as was typical of farms, the wife and children contributed to the activity of the farm and other small opportunities to meet end’s meet. There was one option available, although there was already a tax in labor being paid by Agustrian peasants, a father could indenture the labor of their children to the Loptyrian state. Of course, without legal process the Loptyr Empire sometimes already took people as servants, practically slaves,  and using it as punishment for failure to pay taxes was legal as well. Even so, Neir’s stepfather thought it was better to do this voluntarily than wait for the state to do so rapaciously upon him and his family, or worse. So it was decided that Neir would be indentured to the provincial notables for a period of three years, that would hopefully pay the owed taxes and other debts should bad times not strike hard again. Neir would never see some of the family he left behind ever again.
      6. Neir had voluntarily accepted his stepfather’s decision, he knew it pained him, it pained the whole family, and of course he wept at doing so. His mother was very distraught, for she had rarely been apart from him for the past fifteen years, and she harbored no illusions that he may never return. When he was contracted into servitude, Neir was in the process of becoming a fine young man. Despite his terrible origins not providing him with adequate nutrition, he was fairly tall, with broad shoulders, a strong square jaw, not a bad face, and rather thin given a lack of food; he was handsome enough, and more importantly had a ideal form suited for manual labor. The choice to indenture him was done under the assumption he would fetch the highest amount relief from the overdue taxes. The next three years were filled with hard labor as was expected, mining, timber, farming, the notables of western Agustria employed him in a variety of tasks throughout the seasons, despite a lack of winter clothes. It wasn’t all bad, the food was scant and tasted bad, but he had regular meals, and made transitory friends with the other laborers. Nonetheless, Neir couldn’t wait for the day his contract would be fulfilled and he could return home. Illiterate like the rest of his kind, he and his family couldn’t correspond, and the overseers would say nothing of the matter.
      7. In 621, Neir expected his service would soon be over, only to be told it had been extended for another three years. He wanted to know why this was, and physically threatened an overseer who refused to tell him anything. Neir was then restrained and punished with lashes across his back, a common practice, fortunately Neir was usually mild and well-behaved, so it was rare this ever happened to him. He was a few days later informed that his family had been unable to keep up on taxes, and had agreed to extend his service by another three years. Neir was saddened by this, and wasn’t sure if it was true, but hoped it was, since he would continue living through this if he felt it helped his family back home. 
      8. Two years into this extension, in 623, Neir was forced to march east, further east than he ever had before, he walked with the overseer’s whip behind him for several days. This was suspicious for him, as he had never ventured so far what he knew to be north and east. These suspicions were confirmed when he laid eyes on a great estate which, despite in his five years of servitude, had never seen before. He had been brought to northeast Agustria, he discovered with the rest. This flabbergasted him, the contract, he still remembered every word of it, had restricted his labor to his home province, why was he here? Wary of letting loose on the overseers again, Neir physically had a breakdown and tried to restrain his sorrow and anger to himself. An overseer noticed however and asked what was wrong with him, then commenting he was on his way to Grannvale, what was the heart of the Loptyr Empire. But why? Rebels across the empire he was told had interrupted the normal course of things, and His Majesty Emperor Galle needed to import labor to compensate. The contract he was told was canceled, he would remain in service of the Emperor wherever and for as long as was required, possibly forever.
      9. The terms of the contract, VOIDED! Neir weeped as he punched the ground, the one thing he could harm without receiving offense, until his knuckles bled and cracked. His tears covered the ground beneath him and he collapsed. Recognizing he might be a goner mad as he was, a Loptyrian soldier approached and pointed his spear inches mere away from Neir’s spine. A fellow laborer begged the soldier to stop, and the overseer bade the soldier to relent, give him a day, if he doesn’t move on, then he can be ended. Two of Neir’s friends lifted him off the ground, he yielded like a warm corpse, and then dragged him away, he remained sobbing head turn downwards with eyes closed as they went forward, to their destiny as slaves to the Dark Lord.
      10. Neir awoke in pain the next day, his will to live was nearly extinguished. With the encouragement of others though, he got back up and proceeded to do as desired by his masters. Now enslaved, a hot iron was applied to his chest, marked permanently for his new status. They were called upon for service near the border of Grannvale and Agustria, and there quarried stone for a while, Neir threw himself into the task, a case of trying to hide his sorrows through work, although he too was being a bit careless with his life. Once they were done after a few weeks, they resumed their journey into Grannvale, passing by the area of future Freege, they stopped and labored again. This time, in anticipation for the Emperor’s arrival somewhere in the area, the laborers were told to break midday and lined up for several hours man to man. Each laborer was carefully inspected for appearance and ability, those who appeared the strongest were to be removed from this group and brought to impress His Majesty. Neir was among those chosen, and thus he was carted off from the rest.
      11. Moving further east and north, Neir was brought to the lavish estate of a high Loptyrian noble, the one was trying to cow the Emperor with such a show. In his earliest years, his mother had warned him that he could end up being captured and having his soul sold to the Emperor, and now, here he was. The day came, and Neir grew ever more tense. This was it, he feared the Emperor, but he too hated him, he wanted to anything to defy him, but he knew how powerless he was and lamented it. As the procession of Loptyr approached, he and others were supposed to be toiling away, and he was assigned in a group to pulling a stack of exquisite timber, bought from elsewhere in the Empire, as a gift to the Dark God. But with every passing moment, Neir’s pulse intensified, it became visible how hard yet slowly his heart beat, he sweated profusely. His face, the anguish transmuted into a reflection of his soul. The music of the marchers getting closer, he could’ve ran up to and broken the nose of Loptyr if he had the skill.
      12. Neir snapped, he would not have it anymore, he did what he stood a chance of doing coming out alive, he ran as fast as he ever would in his entire life. He surprised the overseers, who at such a time would even attempt this? He ran not towards the approaching living god, but away, which further puzzled the overseers, thinking that he meant to harm His Majesty. Anyone he approached he shoved aside or gave a good punch at, fortunately no on duty cavalry were nearby, and keeping him from being caught. He was fortunate, due to the approaching Emperor, the man in charge of keeping decor demanded that the search be ceased for now and the panic subside. For the noble who was trying to impress Loptyr, this was a faux pas, but he remained in the Emperor’s good graces, it was only one slave. Still, Loptyr was interested the one who fled, and hoped he would be caught sometime.
      13. In the meanwhile, Neir continued to run, escaping into a small forest. Once the Emperor had moved on from the opening procession, slave catchers were sent in again to retrieve the runaway. Neir did his best to hide, hounds and horses alike were being brought in to reclaim him. Through the hours of the night, Neir remained hidden, if barely at times. Past midnight, thinking his catchers were gone, he walked out of the forest, anything to get further away, he would walk through the night. And yet, in the open tranquility of the darkness, Neir began to feel his pains, he had received some bruises, some cuts, certainly some bones had fractured, and an arrow had grazed him, its head was still stuck in him. Neir just kept walking, although he found nothing so secure as the forest he had been in before, still, he found a cluster of bushes and he buried himself on the ground, he would rest here for a few hours.
      14. Waking just before noon the next day, Neir’s pain was fully felt now. Fortunately he found among the bushes some berries which proved not to be poisonous, they provided sustenance for his drained self. Now in daylight, Neir could see where he was, near the coast, he could see the dark blue horizon. He fell back asleep and began moving again in the night, he knew not where he was to go, he just kept walking, until he felt safe, that is all he wanted. After four days of night running and midday sleeping, he saw in the distance a small farming village. Feeling the brand on his bare chest, his shirt having been badly torn and discarded earlier, he knew he could not blend in, but nonetheless, he hoped somebody would take sympathy on him and take him in. He approached the village that night, but as he did, he was surprised to see movements in the shadows, movements that were not natural, they seemed human, he feared being caught. Trying his best to hide himself, he slipped up and they caught onto him. He tried to flee and conceal himself once more, but such failed him. Someone lit a lantern and shined its blinding light on Neir, who then, with a sense of inquisitiveness, but no anger, called out to him.
      15. Neir was caught, but not by slave catchers. His luck was good, his captors who themselves moved in the shadows, were a handful of locals who had decided to join the Liberation Army. They explained themselves to Neir, that they were headed east, towards Yied Desert, where the Liberation Army was centered, Grannvale being an awful fight for it. Those in the retinue gave Neir their spare clothes and dressed his injuries as best they could. They asked if he would join them, surely a runaway slave would do battle with the Empire? Neir, as a slave, thought such was futile, but as he had already done a futile thing in escaping, and having been rewarded so kindly after years of brutality, he joined the band, and in the night they set off again for the nearest temporary hideout.
      16. Proceeding along, Neir and others eventually reached the edge of Yied Desert, and were at this point in relative safety, finding refuge south of Phinora. Here, Neir could finally relax. It was 622 at this point, and the Liberation Army was on the wane, with its leader Kobar having died the year prior. And yet Neir knew nor cared not about this, for once, he had hope, even if others could see it fading. He access to a little clean water, enough to wash himself, he had new clothing, in the little things he derived joy. Now he turned his well-forged body to war. Having been raised on a farm, Neir was not unfamiliar with dealing death, a few pigs and chickens he had slaughtered in the past. Lacking the time to train with the blade, nor the experience worthy of getting one, he tried the spear, but found the most comfort with the axe, a familiar tool to him.
      17. Neir was then assigned as a grunt to the relief of Phinora, which in one of its most successful efforts, the Liberation Army had taken. But now with Kobar gone, and the Loptyr Empire very aggressive, Phinora was in danger of falling again, which would then undermine the successes in Silesse, triggering a wave of defeats. Neir could be reckless as a foot soldier, but he generally fought well and stood his ground. Unfortunately however, after about two years’ resistance, Phinora fell, and the Liberation Army had to regroup without it. In the Lubeck area, the Liberation Army still held together, but it had already been stuck in a difficult battle with Zaxon, which received continual reinforcements from the sea. Neir was relocated to Lubeck, and for the next three and a half years he fought in eastern Silesse, another futile effort. Neir received a couple small promotions, but remained a foot soldier, not that he minded.
      18. Lubeck too was lost in 628, and Neir was forced to flee to northwest Issach, a relative periphery of the Empire where control remained weak. Still, there wasn’t much in the way of resistance efforts here, and he was beginning to lose hope again. Liberation was failing, but Neir, who had already said goodbye to the world he loved years ago, still maintained some semblance of happiness among his comrades. He was quite active in noncombat duties, used to performing such labors, like some of the other soldiers. After yet again reorganizing, the fighting continued in this area, but it too eventually fell, and in 631, a hurried retreat sent the remains of this force across the desert, to the last great bastion- the fort of Darna.
      19. Neir arrived in Darna depleted, he was, like the rest of the Liberation Army and Jugdral itself. The fort reminded Neir of himself, its walls were worn, it bore no signs of finery, and yet it was tall and sturdy. Neir once more like the rest accepted that death was soon to be. He had lost so many battles, and this had to be it, there was nowhere else to go. When the Loptyrian army began their assault, the last they believed of this dragged out rebellion, Neir had been assigned to the forces to defend outside the fort. These soldiers were exterminated in short order, but a few in the rearguard managed to survive and then quickly retreat through the fortress gate before the enemies could penetrate it. To be fair, the Loptyrians were in no rush, Neir saw how like game they fancifully lanced and sabered through his comrades. Having just committed cowardice, Neir felt guilt, and decided to die a brave, selfless man. Somewhat injured, he mustered all his strength when he heard the gate being rammed against from the other side. He threw all his weight against it, in a desperate effort to keep it closed, others followed his lead and did the same. Holding his axe as he did this with his shield on his back, he put on the bravest, most angry face he could and pressed his shoulder hard, should they break through, he was ready to chop down as many as he could in his final flame.
    4. The Miracle and the Holy War
      1. Descended, the dragons of Archanea. Descended, in a bright roar of light. Descended, through the fortress walls. Descended, before twelve valiant souls. Descended, the Miracle of Darna.
      2. Just as Neir expected the gates to break, all turned still, numinous. Before him came Varaha (Hindu name borrowing- Naga is also Asian, so why not), who was of the Dagons (yes, I'm fan-canonizing these SoV additions FE3 was to have as a high-intelligence Archanean dragon tribe). Neir did not understand what this was and reached for his shield, ready to defend himself against this mysterious intruder. He saw all around him, his friends comatose by the light which now permeated every inch of the fort around him. Lowering their hood, Varaha then opened his upturned palm (the classic Buddhist “have no fear” gesture IRL) and looked towards Neir. Finding his resilience profound, Varaha had been drawn to Neir, and told him that if he lowered his guard, he would receive the fortitude of all the walls which surrounded him. Neir was hesitant, but Varaha spoke more to him, he had come to grant a new hope to Jugdral, to free it of Loptyr. Neir wanted this, he wanted to believe, and finding himself in dire straits yet again, he decided he would, the alternative was certain death to Loptyr. Neir spoke, whoever he was, if he gave him the strength to serve others, to endure the unendurable, he would accept it, the cost mattered not to him. 
      3. Thus Varaha shifted a finger of his into a dragon’s talon, and sliced open another digit. He placed his talon then upon Neir’s neck, and moving to the top of his chest, made an incision, where he then let the bloody finger drip and run down. In the next five seconds, by magic, blood flowed from Varaha into Neir, and he stepped nearly falling back for the feeling of it. Varaha then clutched the axe Neir had dropped, he rubbed his hands over the axe’s whole several times, and then manifested a dragonstone. When the dragonstone was put into the shaft, the axe suddenly transmuted, from a lightweight single-edged axe, it reformed double-edged, sharper, with a freshly forged sheen. It was a bit bulkier, but when Neir grasped it from Varaha, the weight was of no real issue to him, it fit his hands perfectly. A Crusader was born.
      4. Armed with the Helswath and coursing with dragon blood, Varaha told him the battle would soon resume, what would he do? Neir responded he would would be the fortress his comrades needed, he would go and let the enemy have at him. Varaha accepted this answer, and then stepped away, for the moment at least. Soon indeed the numinous scene ended, and the Loptyr Empire began to ram the doors again. Hearing’s Heim’s voice issue the call to attack, Neir charged the doors open, knocking aside the battering ram and its bearers. Not all the Loptyrian soldiers were fazed by this, and a marksmen found their target, certain of the conclusion. So the arrow would in a matter of infinitesimal moments pierce through a windpipe of mortal flesh; the point disintegrated against the bare neck of a demigod.
      5. Victory at Darna was overwhelming, the intervention of Naga and her allies had sparked a real revolution to affect Jugdral for centuries to come. When the battle ended, Neir was still overflowing with power, he removed the armor from his upper torso so it could breathe. Taking off his shirt beneath that, he saw that the blood of Varaha had slid down his chest, passing over his slave mark, where it had encrusted itself. Wiping away the dried blood, he saw the hot iron’s insignia was gone, replaced by new symbol, clearly not of human design. Varaha appeared before him, the brand of shackles no more, now the Brand of a limitless savior.
      6. After meeting with their dragons one more time before they departed, the Crusaders began to plan and pursue their Holy War. By Naga and Heim, they were convinced they would have to liberate the continent before doing battle with Loptyr. This was even with the almightiness of the dragons no easy task. Already for two decades Jugdral had gone through riots and rebellion, populations had declined as a result of the conflict it brought, hopes for the majority of Jugdralians had been long spent, most wanted to settle back into the rule of the Loptyrians, thinking change was impossible and conflict made the bad only worse.
      7. Thus the Crusaders each took a retinue of friends, soldiers, and in small packs most left Darna to be like missionaries. To rekindle the dead flames, to tell people it was possible to dream of a better future once more, that destiny was on their side. Fighting was a core aspect of their duties, and through battle they could win adherents to their message, but war without human interaction was not enough. In 633, onward to Phinora and from there Silesse went Ced, Fjalar, and Hezul. To Issach traveled Ulir, Tordo, and Hodr. To Thracia were Bragi, Dain, and Nova. Heim had to remain in Yied and Darna, Baldur too stayed with him initially, as did Neir. These would change over the years, Baldur would go to Issach, Hezul would later go to Agustria with Bragi for instance, but that was not until they had secured enough of Silessean coastline for them to not be easily caught by the Loptyrian navy.
      8. Neir’s choice to remain at Darna was influenced by the need to defend what remained of the Liberation Army’s holdings, which were wholly amid the sands. Protected by the desert, they were nonetheless close enough to invite much Loptyrian pressure, and Neir would deflect it with his axe. He too sought to be a bodyguard for Heim, not that one profuse with Naga’s aura needed a bodyguard. Prior to the Miracle, Neir had seen and heard Heim, but he never personally communicated with him, and considered it a great honor to be at his service. Heim could see Neir was very humble, a little too self-deprecating for a Crusader, likely derived from having spent so many years in servitude. Heim tried to lift Neir’s sense of self, and he confessed he had not left also because he felt he was no leader, he lacked a good voice for speaking, and was of course unable to read or write. Heim then relayed his own travails of literacy, and in his rare off moments, Naga’s Voice gave lessons children would later in much more peaceful conditions be taught to the Shield of Jugdral. Neir felt blessed to receive these instructions, and was a diligent student.
      9. Six years passed from the Holy War begun in 633, and Neir remained in Yied. Heim did not mind this, there was always the need for defense but others inquired why he was still here. Things were progressing well elsewhere, Darna was no longer so perilous. Neir did want to admit it, but Bragi, back from his sojourns in Thracia, managed to open up Neir to him. Neir spoke he feared leaving Darna, he feared leaving what he loved and never returning to it again, it was irrational perhaps for Darna, but it was rooted in his painful past. Bragi took the time to listen to the story of Neir’s life, and wrote it down, he asked Neir if he wanted this record canonized or burned, he would do either. Neir didn’t find much value in his life, and asked that it be burnt. Yet later through sympathy with Bragi, and seeing how so many like them had begun weak, he agreed to let them, in all their detail, sometimes humiliating, be kept for future generations, and retold as best he could all he said before to Bragi. 
      10. Back to the moment however, Bragi did his best to convince Neir that all would be okay, as did Heim. Consoling him with news of the latest war efforts not being enough, Bragi then said he was soon to sail for Agustria, where Hezul alone had established a beachhead. He would appreciate having someone to protect him, Bragi being the most frail of the Crusaders. Neir saw how Bragi had appealed to his fond memories of home, now he would be able to return there at last. Leaving Heim, the other Crusaders, and their thousands of troops in Yied, Neir traveled past Phinora to Silesse and from there to Orgahill and thence to Agustria, arriving sometime in JC 640.
      11. The next five years of Neir were spent in Agustria, where he began, as awkwardly as he did, to preach the good word of liberation, and of course fought with all of his steely resilience. Neir for his humility and common touch won the ardent affections of many, and as his confidence grew, he visibly could stand beside the Shadow Knight Hezul without looking weaker. Of the three Crusaders in Agustria, Hezul was the fiercest, in his public persona at least, Bragi was the gentlest, and Neir rest between the two.
      12. Halfway into his five years, Neir finally after asking almost everyone he met and learning little, was able to reach his old hometown, which he visited on a short personal leave of absence, inasmuch as Crusaders could have those. The village from a distance was much the same, on closer inspection it had been damaged with a number of repairs if not as many as were needed, expectable for any town in these decades of warfare. Neir was greeted by a number of childhood friends, although none of his family, they were impressed that he of all people had left that one day a servant, and returned a legend. They slowly brought him back to his homestead, where he was greeted by some of his siblings and their children. He hugged them and they showered him with even greater warmth. He wished to enter the hovel where he once ate and slept, and to see his parents again, but was told his stepfather had died and how he died, this was a blow, but Neir could bear it. He was then told how his mother had died, and the Crusader’s mortal soul was rent asunder. 
      13. Of course, it was logical that she would be dead, she was a poor woman in her thirties when he left over twenty years ago, but Neir was too close to his mother to accept it. He always assumed she would be there when he returned, just as it had been when he was a toddler. The rest of the bad news, now that the elephant in the room was addressed, was let out, of how his other siblings died and how the farm had to be sold at one point, they had borrowed it only realizing that Neir the Crusader was their Neir and would hopefully return to see them. Neir wanted to see his mother’s grave, and was shown it with the rest. He stuck the Helswath firmly in the soil over her, and his tears ran down its edges. Neir was told that when she laid dying, everyone said would be meeting Neir again soon, she refused to believe it, he would be living for her, even when she was dead. Neir spent the night in his former hut, beneath a sheet he insisted be as threadbare as that of years ago, the cold he most certainly could bear, was not the Brand proof he could? 
      14. When Neir left the village the next day, he left Helswath there over his mother’s resting place. One of his troops told him of this, he was not the great Crusader he was without it. He said he knew this, and told them to fetch it for him. Bragi upon learning of the visit from others was taken aback by how Neir reacted. Bragi apologized that he had suggested he come to Agustria, he did not mean for this to happen. Neir thanked him instead, he needed this, to lose his fear, to accept some realities. Neir welcomed those from his village into the Liberation Army, and held Helswath over his head before them in in the mid-morning sun, seeing her reflection in it for an everlasting instant. But he would never return to his home again.
      15. By JC 645, all of Agustria had been liberated, and now Neir fought to free Grannvale. The mountain passes that lined the border were ideal for him, several encounters he faced had Loptyr’s great hordes coming at him single-file. No arrow, nor spear, axe, nor even sword could make him flinch with pain, spells took he took without being knocked off his feet. The final battle in 648 had Nier approach from south of the Imperial Army. He rode in on horseback, cleaving skulls and looking for the best place to set himself up. When his horse was injured he immediately dismounted and let the creature go, he was more comfortable fighting on foot, finding his size and riding awkward together, and he made the last of hundreds of last stands he had done over his martial existence. Deadlords swarmed him and they could bring him to harm, to his knees even, but he would not grovel in front of Galle, he kept his head straight and his fellow Crusaders responded to his selfless defense of them with their own. Keeping his distance from the Emperor, leaving Heim to his duel, he scowled in Loptyr’s direction as he continued to finish the peons. Once they were done, he still sought to help Heim, and from much afar as Ulir pelted arrows, Fjalar, Ced, and Tordo their magics, with faith in its long-awaited return he threw the Helswath. It grazed Galle’s body, but did him no real harm. Still for Neir, this was enough. For Heim, the covering fire of Neir, Ulir and the mages, alongside the encircling of Galle by Baldur, Hezul, Nova, and Dain, provided him the opportunity to catch Loptyr firmly between Naga’s summoned jaws. So ended the Holy War.
    5. Post-Holy War
      1. Once the Holy War ended, Neir, for as ill-educated as he was, for as ill-educated formally speaking as most of the Crusaders were (education being the privilege of the elite), he found himself now a ruler of the world. Not so confident he would be able to govern alone (although he did have self-confidence), his attachments to Agustrian strained by old memories, he opted to join in the project of Grannvale. 
      2. He made his Duchy/Dukedom in the center of Grannvale, in closest proximity to where the capital of the Loptyr Empire was of all the Duchies. He was in was one could say was as close to the geographic center of Jugdral as was possible. From here, he and all his generations to come would be able to defend all of Grannvale readily were it necessary, to defend all of Jugdral. Heim’s tomb too was close by, a decision of Heim’s, he wanted Neir to defend him even after he was gone, like those years spent at Darna.
      3. Neir whilst he was in Darna fell in love with a young lady who was four years younger than him in 634. She was kind, gentle, and perhaps like his mother, or so Neir would admit she might be, whether it was the case or not it was not certain to him. Nonetheless Neir did not propose to her, there was a war for the future of Jugdral going on, him being  a Crusader made him less likely to die, but also more likely in a way. Neir was a good kid, he had avoided illicit activities as a servant and slave, he preferred a homosocial environment so as to avoid falling in love, and then risk losing it all. Reasonable for a servant/slave, and perhaps for his situation now, but now he was falling in love and it bothered him. At the least, he wanted to avoid marriage for the time being, when the war was over he could wed. 
      4. When he left Darna for Agustria, he did not tell his beloved, and later was written to by Fjalar, who when at Darna had learned of this. Fjalar scolded Neir, and later Bragi admonished him as well. Now able to write, Neir was told to use this to speak to her over the vast distances between them, she could not read, but they promised one of them, maybe Fjalar, maybe Heim, or a mere mortal friend of Neir’s would read aloud the letters to her. Thus Neir began a correspondence of love, receiving letters ghostwritten by the same who read the letters in the exchange. Later his beloved started learned to read and write crudely wrote her own missives, and Neir’s weren’t that good either, but they were his and frank, neither she nor he cared about the form surrounding sincerity.
      5. Four years into the venture in Agustria, Neir’s beloved arrived suddenly, he had said before he wanted her safe in Darna and elsewhere. But Bragi, Hezul, and others close to Neir had snuck her over, Agustria was safe now, the two could be together again. Neir gave into their reasoning, and both he and her were happy to meet face to face again, but he still kept from wedding her, there was still war to be waged. She wasn’t so patient, but understood him. In private to very few, Neir confessed having her nearby only worsened his lustful, natural urges. 
      6. Once more his friends tried to help him. As the final liberation fight was getting closer, it would require all of their strength to fight it, and even then they risked death. As a precaution should they lose, their bloodlines needed to be preserved, so that their great power could enduring into a future where victory might finally come. Thus they suggested doing what he wanted to, but would not, using the weight of duty in their argument. He saw that most of his friends and fellow Crusaders had wedded, already, from Ulir, to Hezul (who was actually romantic, and a prolific, good father), and even sweet Bragi. With the circumstances of war, he could not give her the grand ceremony he wanted to give her, and certainly would not at all let himself be with her without a wedding. 
      7. Yielding to this and changing his mind such that he knew he would win in the end absolutely, that there would be no chance of sorrowed parting, he chose to wed his beloved in 636. The ceremony was kept short, though it was officiated by Bragi, but Neir appreciated its modesty in its own ways, it was more suited to him personally, the grandeur he sought but couldn’t get was for her. To make up for it, the coronation as Duke and Duchess of Dozel would be unusually lavish for Neir, a second wedding of sorts. Before that happened, the year after their wedding, Neir’s wife gave birth to a daughter; and she would on coronation day be with their son. As a father, Neir was gentle, but for all his strength, and perhaps an unintended side effect of having been treated like a slave, at times a little harsher than you’d think for a man as soft as he.
      8. Turning away from the courtship of Neir at last, we get to his reign as Duke of Dozel. Neir kept the laws simple, easy for anyone to grasp. Having come from such common origins, he was sympathetic to the commoners’ plight and knew how they worked and lived and what they wanted needed. In his time, he banned all taxes in labor in Dozel, and the rest of Grannvale was abolished or was very generous to the ordinary folk with this practice. He was willing to forgive debts, freeze prices on grain in famine, live austerely, and put the Ducal treasury under stress if it alleviated that of ordinary Grannvalians. Frequent visits to the villages of Dozel, and other parts of Grannvale too won Neir popular affection, and he would sometimes grab a hoe, axe or pickaxe and give a swing. Little surprise that Neir would become a patron saint after his death to many forms of labor. 
      9. His ascent to sainthood came at age 56 in JC 649 eleven years later, war and hard labor alike contributed to this. The cause of death was the rupture of a well-worn artery and subsequent bleeding out, his blood would not clot well enough and he losing it too fast. It was a terrifying sight as others tried to help him, but it was some time before he went into shock, enough to say his acceptance of the end and his dying goodbyes. Once last time, his ironclad resilience, innate to him and magnified by Varaha, came to the fore.
      10. His burial blended his humble origins and his rise to greatness. Like the other Crusaders, there was a six month mourning period, Heim before his death had wanted them to be equal despite him having been their leader. The funeral services lasted for days too, and durning this time, Neir lay dressed in the coffin with Helswath by his side. Once the services were done however, the Helswath and worn finery were removed, his body stored where it was cool and dark for any friend or Crusader who had yet to come to see him. Once all were satisfied, by Neir’s last will, he was stripped naked and placed in the ground uncovered, the coffin he had used was recycled for another person’s funeral. Rather than an underground necropolis or a mountainside tomb, he opted for an freestanding mausoleum built over his body. People were led to think he was buried underneath the stone there in glorious fashion, but he wasn’t, he was as he wanted it to be. 
      11. Before being covered with hard granite however, his skeleton was exhumed and a rib that would’ve directly protected his heart was removed before reburial in the same spot. The rib was brought to Agustria and secretly buried two feet beneath the surface of his mother’s grave, he wished not to disturb her rest too much, but he wanted to be with her again. There was little risk of it being dug up, as the village soon became a popular pilgrimage spot in Agustria, and good church was built next to the farm now too sacred to plant on. The place where Neir’s mother and his other family members were buried became sanctified by Neir’s life and passing, and with it they too became saints.


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Well in my absence, I couldn't help but continue a bunch of this. I did not finish any single character's story, mostly going up to the Miracle, and it needs work. Nonetheless I'm willing to present some material.


To be precise, I'll present Ced. The only issue with his years is that of the actual Holy War- those will be something I work on later. Partly, it is because I have yet to define everyone, I still can't decide what the heck to do with Hodr. I took one major artistic licensing move here, with the reason being it helps flesh things out and explains how someone else found out about what was happening.

For convenience, I'm breaking this down into "chapters" of differing lengths, even though I didn't write it that way. It's for the sake of making this more manageable to read.:

Chapter 1- Birth of the Wind User (I think Treasure makes this his title)


Age at the Miracle: 22

Ced was born in western Silesse, in the still fairly habitable area. He was the son of peasants, who tilled the soils of Silesse, which had a short growing season of 3-4 months. He was neither the oldest nor the youngest of his many siblings, he was just an ordinary child. In birth at least, in character, he was something of a rara avis. He was quiet, it took him unusually long before he started talking, yet he was not bitterly antisocial, generally bearing a slight smile on his face, although he could be angry and sad. He did all the manual labor asked of him, including hunting and collecting timber. He would often talk to himself, musing about practically anything. They could be insightful whispers, but they could be purely meaningless babble too, and even sometimes mischievous or lewd. His behaviors worried his family, was he cursed by Loptyr, or simply the village idiot? As long as he contributed more than he cost to care for, he would out of love be taken care of. But given famine, a child hunt, or some form of public outcry, they would let him go. Not to say he was wholly asocial, he made friend with fellow village kids, but he was a little out there.

At the age of eight, a passing non-Loptyrian priest came to the village. Although the Loptyrian faith dominated society politically, the old gods were still worshipped, but the Empire kept it in check- no massive public gatherings for instance. The material wealth too of these non-Loptyrians was kept low. Ced displayed what was thought to be a natural instinct for the priesthood when the priest came and he went to them with candor. His parents, faced with many mouths to feed, wishing to get rid of this abnormal child, and liking the idea of having a son who preserved the old belief, allowed the priest to take him away. Ced didn’t mind, he just kept smiling as he left his family behind. Ced wasn’t particular bound to his family being so young, and when he saw them again, he wasn’t really sad or happy, they were mostly strangers to him.

As he ventured with the priest, he did have a longing to stop walking at times, to stay at the various villages he now passed through, and cried a few time to see his old home again, but the priest was kind and kept him calm. Eventually they arrived in northern Silesse, where cold conditions were at their most bitter, and for this reason, Loptyrian control was very weak. Priests from across Silesse gathered here, being so removed the Empire wouldn’t bother persecuting them. A few agricultural villages too existed in this area, but they were few, roaming clans of hunters preyed on the plentiful game here. The monasteries and neighboring convents formed in themselves small villages, and as the old faith permitted sexual relations among priests, there were a number of families of monks and nuns and their children, raised communally in the sex-separated areas. The priests would live lives of poverty here, and some would venture out and visit the rest of Silesse to minister to the masses.

Ced learned to read from the priesthood, he learned the ethics of the old faith, its myths, its practices, and all else. He was a good a student as any if on the eccentric side, he continued unusual musings, and other times fixated on theological points, but in the context of religion, he accepted as mystical, and not blasphemously so. Sometimes when lacking for paper or slates upon which to scrawl, he would stick a finger in the snow and write a message, he didn’t mind that it didn’t endure.

After four years of instruction, he was deemed ready to begin touring with other priests, generally in group of three, five or more was feared to be too much for the Loptyrians to tolerate. Ced liked visiting villages, hunting clans, and even sometimes towns, despite those being centers of a greater Loptyrian presence and hence intolerance. He continued learning the old faith while carrying out the rituals of births, comings of age, marriages, alleviating sicknesses, deaths, and the occasional calendrical festivity and many ordinary blessings and prayers. He saw the whole cycle of life, and even bore witness to child hunts and was himself nearly arrested several times. His eccentricity spared him though, either he would be innocently stupid it seemed, or he would unnerve the Loptyrian lackey into not taking him away or killing him on the spot. This wasn’t always the true him, he knew he was strange, and could sometimes use a particularly befuddling persona whilst keeping rational beneath the surface. 

The people whom he visited him thanked him for his arrival, and he loved making people happy. Sometimes he would be of a cruel love, blunt language or a trick that wasn’t so funny, and his superior(s) would sometimes criticize his behavior, but he was never spiteful. Where he was spiteful, strangely, was with the Liberation Army. The year of his birth was the year the continental rebellions broke out, and when they were removed from immediate battle with the Loptyr Empire, he did visit some of their locations. The old faith supported the rebellions, but not all of them wholeheartedly preached to them. Association with the Liberation threatened their ability to interact with the masses, as the Loptyrians did execute even priests who had no affiliations with the Liberation. The group to which Ced belonged was of a middling opinion, it preached to the Liberation, but never where it was too visible to the Loptyrians, never did they openly pray for Liberation specifically, never did they directly support Liberation physically, they would pass through, do their priestly duties, and leave.

Ced was disaffected, he believed in good and evil, he liked good winning, but he didn’t fear evil the way others did. The clash was natural, nature filled his personal philosophy, the old faith of course had plenty of references to it, but Ced did less with gods and more with nature pure and free, as he had before he was taken into the priesthood. He felt pain, he could be frustrated, he could be depressed, but he didn’t consider himself able to really interfere in these matters, he just worked to get over them and appreciate life regardless. It came to be normal to him and he didn’t question it. The Liberation Army didn’t need to exist, what would it really do to the reality of the Loptyr Empire? It would fall whenever it naturally would. It was a waste of human lives, trying to extraordinarily change this.

Ced’s eccentricity led him to frequently break from his fellow traveler priests. He would become enthralled with a given community and ask to stay there for a while longer, his superior(s) would usually approve of the choice, they just walk to the next village and preach there waiting for him.  Although these breaks could get unusually long, and over time, the priests bore with it. Ced would sometimes forget, others get lost, and at least twice had to be rescued from near death, but he never died and always returned to his fellow clergy.


Chapter 2- The Acolyte Meets the Vagabond


It was in 627 that Ced was back in western Silesse, in the Spring, that Ced had been traveling once again with others. He had begun a new tour, to give the rites to all that had changed during the winter hard to travelers: births, deaths, new homes, comings of age, and blessings for the fields being planted. In his usual habits, he made an unusual deviation, leaving his associates, he decided to talk a walk along the empty coast. Here, he glanced in the distance, a lone figure walking along the empty shores as well. Curious as to who would be here, he ran towards them, the figure, being noticed, stopped their determined walk. Ced remained silent when this happened and slowed his own pace to a stop, he awaited this person to respond to him. 

The person spoke, saying they were but a vagabond, strolling the sands, wasting away a life. Ced responded they looked too good for vagabond, they had shoes, quality ones at that, and the rest of their white and brown attire was equally neat. So too was their long hair, ruby, with a strange, seemingly metallic sheen. The vagabond then asked who he was, doing the same as him, Ced answered he was an acolyte, departing from the joyous flock to think about things in quiet. The vagabond then turned around, his face was masculine, some stubble, of a handsomeness with a contrasting hint of beauty. He wished the best for the acolyte, and then turned his back stating he would return to his vagrancy now, off to the next town to beg.

Ced chose to follow this young man, around 25 in age. Perhaps he would care to join the priesthood he asked, the vagabond responded it would do nothing for him, he was irredeemable. The acolyte continued to follow the vagabond, and continued to ask him questions, some with an element of jest, such as had he ever sired bastards. The vagabond eventually commented the acolyte should return to his flock by now, had he not seen enough of these shores? And snapping, he said he would like to be left alone, he would like to partake of humanity on his own. The acolyte answered this by saying how could one appreciate humanity alone? Two were necessary for that, and was not he granting the vagabond what he wished then. He said he liked humanity, he enjoyed watching them, he enjoyed traveling.

The vagabond then calmed down and decided that he would discuss humanity with the acolyte then. They started with general philosophical statements on humanity, and then approached a number of topics, free will and nature being among them. Both loved humanity, but they differed on free will. Both acknowledged nature, and the concept of destiny/fate, which the acolyte saw as being the same as Nature, while the vagabond did not. The acolyte saw free will as mostly an illusion wrought by Nature. The vagabond disagreed, he believed that free will truly existed, and determined destiny to the arrangement of probabilities, fate the outcome chosen from those in destiny, and free wills are what ultimately determined fate. They disagreed on a lot of things, and couldn’t understand the other’s complete thoughts. 

What particularly irritated the vagabond was in the discussion of free will, the acolyte had criticized the Liberation Army as trying feebly to defy Nature. The vagabond turned the acolyte’s logic against him and said those who fought had no way not to, to which the acolyte responded he had no choice but to complain about them, and the vagabond to criticize him. The vagabond remained insistent however that there was no force in the universe which would animate all actions of living things, that which lived could see potential futures, even animals could, and they had to consciously will them into being. With this, the two stopped speaking, and the vagabond went about his way, the sun was to set in a couple hours, and he wanted to be off. 

The acolyte then asked how the vagabond knew so much. The vagabond chalked it up to drink, but the acolyte saw through this, although he had only ever tasted a little sacred libations, nothing could produce such fluent philosophy. He then asked, could he come with him for the time being? He would inform his fellow missionaries of this, there were three of them, he could certainly make up an excuse. The vagabond thought for a few minutes in deep contemplation, and emerged from his stoicism, if he were to come, he could do so, the darkness would impair his wanderings anyhow for the rest of this day. He stated they were heading east along the coast, he could preach to people along the way. The acolyte was happy for this, and returned to his fellow priests, who accepted his departure for the time being, although he did not mention the vagabond. 

Upon leaving the village to find the vagabond again, he encountered him coming towards the village. The vagabond said that were he to travel with him, he would have to bear the cold, for they would always be sleeping outside. They went into the nearby woods and collected wood for a fire, a big bright one to keep them warm through the night. For a meal, Ced had received some provisions from his fellow priests, while the vagabond said he was fine and did not eat. It was a little chilly to the acolyte, but he wasn’t turning hypothermic or suffering frostbite, Spring was not so dangerously cold now. Before he rested, the vagabond then asked the acolyte for his name, he had not done so the entire day, Ced offered his name, and asked for the vagabond’s, after which he laid back and closed his eyes in preparation for sleep. Looking at Ced intently, with a slim smile on his gruff face, he muttered something to himself, and then slipped his name, Forseti.


Chapter 3- The Adventures of the Acolyte and the Vagabond


From the distant shores Forseti had come, for how long he had been in Jugdral? Tsk tsk! That I cannot say! As for how he sensed the Loptyrian threat abroad, let us just say Forseti proposed an inspection of the distant lands for distant dragonkin who might have fallen into the feral mentality as the Tribes of Archanea warred, and had sensed a Shadow Dragon’s imprint in Jugdral. And, Silesse was where he ended his travels in Jugdral, did he begin there and see the rest, or start elsewhere and saved the lands of snow for his finale? Who knows? This is all I shall say of this for now.

The next morning, Forseti and Ced set out together and began to roam Silesse, seeing the villages, the towns, and at Forseti’s insistence the Liberation Army places. Forseti and Ced continued to bicker philosophically, sometimes reconciling with a synergistic euphoria of enlightenment, other times they remained apart. Ced did his priestly duties, and Forseti, well he never quite said what he was doing, only that he was observing humanity as it could be, as it was. He didn’t say when he would stop, but only that he would sooner rather than later.

It was all well and motley, the duo of a sixteen-year-old acolyte and a bard of twenty-five. Forseti might have been dragon beneath the Manakete form, and he was here with a mission, but he could relax and play up the vagabond persona very well. He could drink like a sailor and sing like an conman bard, whilst Ced looked on, hardly ever drunk, but delighting in his companion’s revelry. When asked, he claimed he was trying to redeem the drunk, but the liquor was his weakness. It wasn’t always a persona, Forseti actually liked alcohol, and in Manakete form with power suppressed, he didn’t necessarily need a galleon of casks to become intoxicated. Not that for that reason of power suppression was it ever going to be that the bar would cease to exist at any minute, replaced with pile of exploded rubble.

About three and half months into this humanity-observing mission of Forseti’s, albeit one that was far more entertaining than he had expected, he and Ced spotted black smoke on the midday sky. The quantity clearly indicated a large fire, likely one in a village nearby, with a chance of people having been burned or dead from the flames, they decided to visit. When seeing the village from afar around noon, it was obviously in total ruin, the fire it appeared had been intentional, even the fields appeared to be blackened. Forseti stated that they should come back later, not now, Ced was surprised by this, and asked why Forseti was so opposed. Forseti stated they had avoided Loptyrians when possible, to see trouble was one thing, to be in it another. Indeed in their short time together they had avoided the Loptyrians, once more, Forseti had avoided getting to close to active war zones, to scenes in towns where Loptyrians were present, and they had on the few times they encountered Loptyrians in a hostile manner played it cool. Ced nonetheless wanted to go, surely if Loptyrians were still present, they would not mind having somebody properly dispose of their litter. Forseti criticized Ced and grabbed his arm, but he broke free and ran off without him. Of all the times to be impulsive… Forseti was not happy with this, still, perhaps it was a real sign that he had changed him.

Ced dashed into the town without issue, and soon found a body, an old woman’s, slashed from neck shoulder to just above the opposite hip. He performed a prayer and began to look around for other bodies and a proper place for burial. He saw the total devastation, and saw the only animated forms in the distance to be Loptyrian soldiers. As he dragged around the corpses to the place where he would give them a blessed sending off, he ignored the Loptyrians as they approached. One budged his chin with the blunt sides of his spear’s tip, telling Ced to stand and answer. Ced explained he meant no harm, let him only bury this rotting flesh, or send it off in a fire if you would not allow him the former. He would leave afterwards, he meant Loptyr no offense. The soldiers were certain they had killed everyone, and agreed to let Ced dispose of the bodies, with a pyre since it would take less time, and they even dug for him a swallow grave for the cremates. As the flame burned, the soldiers told Ced to hurry up with the prayers, finish them and they could get the job over with. The eight soldiers behind him were the only ones left of the twenty that had been sent for this provisioning, the rest having returned with the bulk of the load the villagers had refused to hand over. When Ced finished the prayers, he felt the cold point of a spear touch just to the left of his spine, it made him flinch. The Loptyrians were going to shove him into the flame, he was going to die. Ced realized there was a chance of this when he had ran off, but this fate, regardless of the truth, he accepted though in shock and fear.

The essence of spirit, that fire not fire, it blew at Ced’s back. He fell face first into the ground, lifting his eyes and looking lowly upwards, the flame about a foot away from his head was extinguished in a greenish haze pouring down from above. He heard somebody call his name, it was Forseti. Ced began to work his way back onto his knees, he grabbed Forseti’s hand and lifted himself back onto his feet. Forseti asked if he was okay and if he had any injuries, Ced spoke of the jab from before and Forseti examined his jaw, he felt no issues there, Ced then took off his shirt and showed the spear puncture. Forseti stuck his index finger into the wound, to see how deep it was and whether it had damaged anything. Fortunately the wound was not severe, a little wide, but not too deep and neither the spine nor vital organs had been hurt. Forseti then held his hand over the wound and told Ced to bear with him for a moment, as a pain ran through the spot of injury, before receding a twenty seconds later. Forseti relayed he had treated the injury, the natural healing process can handle the rest.

Ced as he stood still for Forseti, noticed the flame was gone, and that there was nothing of the bodies left. This made little sense to him how the flame had gone out, and bonfire, far from the purest and most intense, had left nothing behind. When he turned around to look at Forseti again, he saw not a trace of the soldiers who had just tried to kill him, but the ground seemed slightly ashen, charred when it had been less so before, but the charring was slight. Looking at Forseti, his eyes nearly closed by his furrowed brow, he was quiet, with a stern expression. Ced apologized to Forseti, but Forseti remained silent. Ced then asked if he could ask what had happened here? Forseti spoke after a few long seconds, he had been forced to do what he told not to, what he didn’t want to do for fear he wouldn’t stop, he was to blame, but it was his fault for letting him tag along in the first place. Ced let out a quick “hm?” of not understanding what Forseti meant. Forseti told him to sit, it would take some time to explain.


Chapter 4- Ced and the Truth of Jugdral's Condition


Resting on his legs as Ced crossed his, each looking into the other’s eyes, Forseti then spoke the truth. He was no vagabond of course, but he was a traveler, one from a distant land, not from those he knew- the lands of Jugdral- but from a distant continent called Archanea. He had been tasked by his liege with surveying the world as beyond their own, and his first place he landed in was Jugdral. Here, in his disguise, it was not long before he heard the name “Loptyr” uttered by people, and he was in disbelief. He hoped it was but a coincidence, but scratching just the barest surface, he heard the encomia that confirmed the truth. Loptyr was one of his kin, he had somehow come to Jugdral, and used his power to enslave conquer the continent. 

Ced then asked, he was aware of all the stories of Loptyr’s power, he sounded like a god, was he too a god? Forseti replied in the negative, he was no god, but it was his power, a drop of it, which had slain the soldiers threatening Ced and healed his wound. Forseti said that he is exploring the continent, to see whether there is anything here worth protecting from Loptyr. Ced asked if he had found anything, and Forseti said he had indeed, humans, much like those in Archanea, albeit far better off, humanity in Jugdral had progressed much further than the humans in his world for some reason. His liege likes humans, his people are in decline, and his liege believes humanity would make fine heirs in spirit, Jugdral appears to provide evidence for her beliefs. 

Ced then asked, has he decided then how he will protect humanity? Forseti gave a sad no. It was difficult to explain, but Forseti said his liege forbade him from close contact with others in foreign land. And concerning humanity, although she loves them and is willing to risk her own life to defend them, she was against direct interference in their lives, only to protect them from her kind was her cause for intervention. She wanted them to live freely, any problems they suffered stemming only from themselves were theirs to solve. Ced could hear the tone of anger in Forseti’s voice, and commenting on it, Forseti replied that indeed, he disagreed, seeing Jugdral, he was coming to truly love humanity. He originally had not her liege’s love for them, he was ambivalent, but now he loved them he believe more than she ever could. 

Ced asked then why not defy his liege and save humanity himself, if this was but a drop of might, surely he was strong enough to rescue Jugdral? Forseti said no, he wasn’t. He surely could with time free the continent from Loptyr’s peons, but he was not strong enough against Loptyr, Loptyr was a magnitude of power greater than he. Only his liege, Queen Naga, she alone could crush Loptyr, but she could with ease. Ced asked about Naga’s power, and Forseti replied she could make the tides recede, the soils sprout with boundless fields of wheat, and melt all the snow on every mountain in the dead of winter in Silesse in an instant. Ced was intrigued by this great power, and Forseti then waxed philosophical. Perhaps this explains why he believes so in free will, Naga too is ultimately subject to fate and to her inner nature, but her power is such that the Nature Ced so embraces as omnipotent, is pliant, she could distort it beyond all recognition. Ced said that is a god, even if you say she is not, to him, she is, and to him, so is he. Forseti appreciated the complement, and hoped that humanity could one day be as strong, although he hoped they would use their divinity wisely. Ced responded his kind wasn’t setting the best example with Loptyr, Forseti gave a laugh to this. Loptyr certainly isn’t the only one like this right now, be fortunate the rest all stayed in his homeland, they’ll only be his problem, never Ced’s. Ced asked if he could one day see Archanea himself, Forseti said maybe he could, but first, let him finish here.

They cut their conversation short here, and set about preparing for nightfall, they would sleep in the ruined village and leave tomorrow. They didn’t have much firewood, but it was approaching summer by this point, the time of Ced’s birthday, though he knew not the exact date, so it wasn’t too cold at night. If there were to be any chill however, Forseti would keep Ced warm, for he himself didn’t need so much sleep, and the cold didn’t bother him so much. Ced asked if that was why he ate so little, Forseti replied it was, but he did need to eat, to drink, and the other functions humans required, he too was born and could and would die he tossed in. But not today, not until Jugdral was saved.

The next morning, Ced carried out a few more prayers for the fallen of yesterday, and then they continued heading east. A couple days after this Forseti said he wanted to show Ced the world beyond Silesse, to show him more of Jugdral, for Silesse was only a part of Jugdral, and one where the yoke of Loptyr could be at times very weak. He walked Ced to the coast of the North Sea, between Silesse and Grannvale, across here he said, was the heart of the Loptyr Empire, where many more people lived than in Silesse, and where the brutality and debauchery of Loptyr was at its heaviest. To walk there would take too long, so Forseti grasped Ced’s hand, and he told him to hold tight. Forseti began to run towards the sea, Ced running behind him, as they touched the water, their feet did not sink, their agile steps getting ever faster let them skim the surface, until they touched it not more and kicked off against mere air, and the steps became less and less frequent the further they went. Ced’s hand slipped from Forseti’s and Forseti turned his head back, but Ced was scurrying and managed to catch up with the seeming god. In less than a half hour of constant dashing, they crossed on Grannvale’s northern shores, what a thrill Ced found this.

But now things got serious again, Forseti and Ced took a tour of Grannvale, witnessing the oppression therein. The worst came when Forseti brought Ced to the capital, and a major Loptyrian holiday came, one spectacularly celebrated with praise for Loptyr and his world order in the open air of the great city. Children under threat of being killed were forced to kill each other with weapons scattered about. The victors and losers alike were presented to the Emperor, who marveled at these innocent, harmless young humans. The bishops drained their souls, and their hallowed selves became the monotonous inner servants of the dark lord. Forseti and Ced alike grew angry, but they kept their cool and left before being noticed. Ced was now absolutely convinced, there was nothing natural about this suffering, he wanted to kill Loptyr and restore the natural cycle he had interrupted. Forseti shared this sentiment of course, but told him not to rush to his own death, nothing could be done at the moment, do not obsess over Loptyr. 

Ced heeded Forseti’s words, and Forseti said they should return to Silesse for now. Heading west and then north to show Ced a little more, they dashed over the sea once more and were back in Silesse. Forseti to entertain Ced used his powers again, and they leaped over the central mountains, like the Pegasus which occupied them, they flew. Forseti offered to take Ced up to the highest peak he could find, but Ced said not yet, he hadn’t the right to see the world from that vantage point. Forseti brought Ced near his old monastic home, as he had said he would before. Forseti then said he was leaving Ced, he had seen enough, he would return to Archanea and swore that he would earn Naga’s approval for an intervention. Ced asked if he could come, bring a Jugdrali with him as proof. Forseti said he wish he could, but it would only irritate Naga more, he wouldn’t speak of their times together to her. Ced was disappointed, and then asked what he should do now. Forseti responded, what does he think? Ced’s gut instinct told him he had to do something to stop the Loptyr Empire, but he didn’t really know what. He couldn’t fight, all he could do is console like the rest of the clergy. Forseti told Ced to figure out what he could do best, but then agreed his options were slim. 

The Liberation Army needed fighters, and one could reconcile fighting with preaching he believed, Naga was a Sage-Queen he stated. But physical weaponry did not suit Ced, and Forseti commented, before Loptyr, for all the advancement of humanity had done in Jugdral, the arts of magic were still quite unknown to them. If there was something positive Loptyr had done, it was bringing the arts of spellcasting, of channeling one’s essence and the power of spirits in the nature which surrounds us, to Jugdral. The issue of course was that Loptyr had used it solely to build his evil empire, and while it had seeped into the lower levels such that the Liberation Army had some mages, even the majority of priests knew nothing of the magical healing and supportive arts. Magic however could outdo any blade, it could level castles in the right hands. 

Asking for his little journal, where Ced sometimes scribbled down his thoughts of any kind, Forseti took out a writing implement and began to etch words onto blank sheets of the book. He understood the syllables, but they were jumbled into non-words, they must have been of Forseti’s native tongue Ced supposed. He told Ced to memorize them, to see them in his mind as he closed his eyes, to focus on those words. Soon, Ced began to feel something strong around him, but he didn’t know what to do next, and stumbling, he stopped midway. Forseti expected this, and taught Ced the magical arts in detail in a week of intense practice with little time for sleeping and eating. He was taught how to sense spirits, how to channel magic, the dangers, the use of words as a tool for proper concentration, the words themselves mattered not. By the end of the week, Ced had mastered the fundamentals in practice and understood in theory how magic worked, he could channel magic even without tome or staff as a medium, but too knew the additional dangers of it and how to craft proper catalysts. 

Forseti was impressed by his student, and said it was time for him to leave. You now have purpose, do not keep to yourself all you know, share it with others. He didn’t need to say too much, Ced was fully aware of his purpose and what he generally needed to do. But Ced stated he still didn’t know everything, Forseti however was confident Ced would only improve, his intuition was remarkable. Agreeing he would try, Ced hugged his friend and now mentor, his guidance was invaluable, and he wished for him a swift return. Forseti looked to the gentle snowfall, beneath the snow lay the grasses and the flowers, waiting to germinate with Spring’s return, in this season of latency, cultivate the humanity they love in his stead. Ced vowed to do so, and Forseti vowed his return. To ease the parting, Forseti without Ced’s knowledge, put him in a hypnotic sleep. 

He left Ced’s sleeping body by the monasteries, where someone by morning next would notice him. He then turned around, walked far out of sight, and then shifted into his true form, by flight he left Jugdral, godspeed to Archanea. On his departure he roared, which Ced in his dormant state could hear, this broke the hypnosis, so he would be sure to wake up in time.


Chapter 5- Ced in the Liberation Army


When Ced awoke, he was in a monastery bed, he was drowsy and unsure of himself. He spoke Forseti’s name several times, which others didn’t understand. He said he had been found laying outside in the snow in early hours, his body was cold, but we was still alive and they brought him in. Ced began to think, had it all been a dream? All an illusion? At what age had he started that dream? Why did it last so long? How did Forseti and all the rest come to be? It was such a beautiful dream too, despite the bitterness in it, he hadn’t wanted to wake, this was an awakening from which he wanted to sleep. He looked himself over to see how physically old he appeared. Someone then commented it had been nearly three quarters of a year since he had gone missing, what went wrong? And how’d he not end up dead? Must have been the gods’s favor they concluded. Three quarters of a year, he asked when he had vanished, the answer was early-mid Spring, evidence he had been awake. He then considered how else he could confirm that it hadn’t been a dream. His clothes had been removed, and he hadn’t gained any scars to prove his absence. 

But then he thought- his journal-turned-tome, he asked if he had been found with any possessions. He said there had been some, including a book, but told him to rest easy for now and he could examine it later. Ced was impatient however, and if others for his recovery refused to get him his book now, he remembered he didn’t need one to cast magic. He began to focus and concentrate his power, and yes, he began channeling magic- Forseti and the rest had all been real! Unfortunately, his excitement caused him to lose control, and he blasted himself out of bed, cracking his left elbow against the stone wall and being bruised elsewhere. Laying on the floor, naked with the bedsheet blown away, he was left in a humiliating position to explain, he said it was case of really bad gas. He would now need real time to recover without Forseti to patch him up. But he was jubilant enough and even injured he began to prepare for his new role- to allay Jugdral’s worries until Forseti returned with Naga.

When his arm became functional enough again, it was very early 628, in winter’s most violent throes. Ced nonetheless announced he was leaving the monastery for good. He said it was nothing of faith, and that, for all his prior distaste of the Liberation effort, he had undergone a change of mind. This was acceptable, he was not the first to leave over Liberation, although those close enough to consider Ced something of a friend could tell something was different about him. He maintained his old gentle mystery, but now seemed to be more determined than they known him to be. They prayed for his safety and let him go, taking a few belongings with him. 

When they saw the conditions he intended to leave in, a thick snowstorm, though not a blizzard, they told him to reconsider, to wait at least until this died down, if not Spring. Ced replied he was not worried though, the winds, the chill, he had measures for stopping them. He then stepped outside clutching his tome and began his incantations, creating a warming flame, and then dispelling it as the wind came directly at him, he created a counter airflow and reversed the wind’s direction. Amazed they were, some had seen magic before in the Liberation Army, and a few miraculous souls had been able to conjure minor acts prior to the Loptyr Empire, but they were mostly astounded. They asked how he had learned the arts, he said he just discovered them yesterday, which wasn’t exactly totally wrong. Wishing to know more, Ced said he wanted to practice a while longer before he felt comfortable teaching others, find him later, and he would likely be willing to. 

Leaving on this high note, Ced had in his days of recovery come to a conclusion as to his initial course of action. Unlike every other Crusader-to-be, Ced knew things nobody else did, he knew that barring the unimaginable, it was a fruitless effort trying to try overthrow the Loptyr Empire. He knew that Loptyr was untouchable, and against him, he and the entire Liberation Army were but insignificant gnats. This didn’t mean Liberation was as he had before thought, that it was a waste of lives and a defiance of Nature. The less Loptyr controlled, the better it most certainly was, and Forseti had told him that though Loptyr withheld ultimate victory, the Emperor seemed not to venture too much through his realms in battle, perhaps he found squashing rebels beneath him. Against the weaker forces in his army, prevailing seemed possible, though it would be long and hard.

Ced didn’t know when Forseti would return, he hoped for soon, but he had no idea how far away Archanea was, nor how stubborn this Naga could be. Ced did not speak of Forseti when he set off, who would believe him? Everyone who knew him before already thought him off-kilter, maybe it was true. This is not to say Ced never spoke of Forseti, but his references were brief, minor, and ignored. He wanted people to hope, and he used the earthen religion, he didn’t want others to be like him and place their faith in distant mysterious travelers, waiting for their return when in the meanwhile they, unlike the aloof him, might endure hardship. Thus when Ced set out, he sought to give comfort and hope, but accompanied by a will to resist.

He knew he was late to the Liberation effort, and it didn’t take Ced too long as a member to realize its practical abilities to hold territory had been in decline. It was his desire, that should even fighting cease, whenever the time at last for true Liberation came, that the people had within them the vitality to rise to it. He too knew that they were worn however. Ced’s solution was passive, peaceful resistance. This wasn’t wholly new, people had naturally been doing this for years, and both the earthen religion and the Mairan Loptyrists had spoken of it. Nonetheless, Ced put his own twist into it, using his vocabulary of Nature similes, metaphors, and other literary devices. He spoke in natural cycles and how Loptyr had interrupted them, but that natural would overcome unnatural, as light dispelled darkness eventually. He developed a following despite his youth, and people were touched by his words and sometimes whimsy acts. Children, confused by his words, would question how Loptyr was both darkness and he was unnatural, and was darkness unnatural. Ced didn’t preach here, he admitted he wasn’t quite sure, and that he had mixed his words, he didn’t exactly know all, but he had what he felt was a sense of right, be right natural or not, be good light or dark or neither.

Not all was peaceful for Ced however, he found himself often tired and hungry from his constant brisk travel across Silesse in an attempt to rally all. More concerning was how his vibrancy alerted the Loptyrians, who would attempt to break up his gatherings. The madman act not always sufficing, the Loptyrians would threaten him, would surround him, would threaten his followers. How to reconcile passive, peaceful resistance with the presence of violence. For this, Ced developed a simple philosophy, he would allow Loptyrians to harass him, he would allow them to take him away and to hurt him. But he drew the line when others were at risk of harm, they did not agree to this passive self-sacrifice the way he did, and thus he turned to the action of his magic. He tried to keep it restrained, he tried to avoid mass devastation, and avoid killing the Loptyrians who opposed him, wind was most useful here among the elements due to non-lethality. 

Another line was drawn when it came to his own life being in fatal jeopardy, he admitted to hypocrisy here, he would allow himself to be battered and bruised, he could heal himself later, but he would not be a martyr, he had too much to live for he thought. This is not to say he opposed martyrdom as a whole, on several occasions through his many years to come, his a few devoted followers would give up their lives in martyrdom. Provided they were wholly steeped in his teachings, that they seriously understood them and the implications, he was not against martyrdom, it was foolish suicide he wanted to rule out. It was not always he signed off on a martyr without controversy, and most of the time he did not have any say at all, but he did not deny his role in the martyrs’ choices, he accepted some responsibility.

Ced developed his following in and without the Liberation Army. Ced was an informal member at first, he occupied no post in it, but the Liberation appreciated his informal sermons as they did any. To them as to hunter bands, peasants, and townspeople, he gave rudimentary lessons in magic, the same Forseti had given him. Albeit with adaptations to a less-than-prodigal crowd, and rather than use the old draconic language phonetically rendered in human Jugdralian (which is also human Archanean for sheer convenience of understanding in any storytelling medium of course), he used human words, prayers and verses from the earthen religion being a common choice, adding the draconic tongue for mystical mantras, and he wasn’t above a little self-promotion to inscribe his own original artistic lines. He couldn’t do too much right now, but he did all he could, sometimes sleeping no more than four hours a night. 


Chapter 6- Ced and the Decline of the Liberation Army


As his reputation grew, it took a mere two years to affect a sudden rise in the much-depleted Liberation Army. Ced’s position was never clearly defined, he straddled the lines between in and out of it, he had followers both inside and outside of the Liberation Army, and his duties with each were largely separate. 630 however saw the Liberation in eastern Silesse on the verge of being overwhelmed by the Loptyrians, the region which connected this branch of the Liberation to the rest of Jugdral, the Agustrian effort having already been silenced. A council of leaders in the region of all levels were called, and together they discussed what to do. Ced was among those called to the meeting, as was Thurd, whom he had met in the professional context several times before. 

Thurd did attend a few of Ced’s sermons, and were interested in them, although Thurd’s reasoning process and Ced’s differed. Simplified, it was intuition vs. logical deduction. Ced was not overly concerned with perfect logic, while Thurd was baffled by some of Ced’s leaps and reflections. They could find common ground and they did, they both agreed on mental exercises, and they both agreed on a role for emotion, which after all is what drove them to oppose Loptyr. Outside of the realm of thought, Thurd asked where Ced had learned his magical arts, he recognized some of the mantras, Loptyr having taught them to his followers, but much else was different. Thurd’s conventional magic lessons were formal, based on his memories of the sets of primers and instructions that had been common in Grannvale for decades. And he did do his part to mentor some pupils every year while in the Liberation Army, for their curiosity and to bolster the Liberation with more mages, even if paper was lacking. Ced’s style was informal, perhaps it was from another Liberation mage who had defected from Loptyr? It would have to be a noble or a Loptyr Cult priest, it couldn’t be a commoner. Ced replied just the opposite, a vagabond taught him in a week. Thurd couldn’t believe this, but Ced wasn’t lying it seemed to him, at least, not all the way, was a half-truth in truth, leaving out the true character of the vagabond. The Thurd and Ced hadn’t the time to become friends, but they were acquaintances who knew enough about each other.

Thurd and the majority of the Liberation chose to withdraw from eastern Silesse into Yied and perhaps northeast Issach. Ced however chose to remain with a few other commanders in Silesse, they would head further north, they still held there, it was unconquerable they believed, and they tried to hold on the southern face of the mountains, plus some of western Silesse. In the remaining year, they lost west Silesse, and Loptyrian forces were tenacious enough to take the south to the solid face of the mountains themselves. They began a slow approach from the west towards northernmost Silesse. Ced was losing confidence now that northern Silesse could be the place where Forseti with Naga could return, which he had deep down yearned to provide.

Ced then awoke to the reality, he was being selfish. He was still provincially Silessean in mind, the Liberation here was failing, certainly Loptyr would not be interested in holding the farthest north forever, but a punishing blow he could come, deal, and leave. Following the departure of others, Ced’s two roles of inspirer of passive resistance along the masses, and as a wartime commander of Liberation had merged, and his position rose even higher in these desperate straights. He was now the de facto leader of Silesse’s liberation despite others militarily outranking him. Forseti would return, Ced kept his vow as unbreakable, but Silesse and Jugdral itself was running out of time for this Liberation. Wait any longer, and Naga could expect no human support, he doubted the great civilization which Forseti would tell her about would be at all left by the time she came. Forseti wouldn’t have been okay with this, it must have been Naga’s fault, Forseti wanted to save Jugdral now, he wasn’t so removed that he would’ve just let these two decades of resistance die out for nothing! Ced was truly upset.

To put aside his unproductive fury, which he could let no other see nor hear, Ced made a choice. For Silesse’s sake, for Jugdral’s sake, he had to leave for Yied, to fight there. In Yied, besides others from across vast Jugdral, at a great crossroads he had been told, there he would give it his all to save the world. Ced’s voice was filled with passion, with determination, and with a sense of both frustration and the dire circumstances. It was very much unlike him, but his followers therefore knew he meant it, and that this was no small matter. They unanimously despite their misgivings and earnest desires let Ced depart for Yied. Others offered to go with him, but he responded he would go alone, and appointed his replacements until his promised return.

Crossing through eastern Silesse, Ced walked out of frost into blazing sun, using his magic to keep his face from being ravaged by abrasive sandstorms. He found Phinora, conquered, and keeping his distance, he proceeded further south. He met Liberation soldiers in his journey, who told him Darna was now the sole capital of the Liberation Army. Ced continued despite protest to walk on alone. It was about three in the afternoon when he reached the furthest outskirts of Darna, the fort was small for its importance, its walls were eroded and Loptyrians surrounded it. The last light of Jugdral, this would be it, he was too late to affect a difference, he, mad with sorrow, kicked back and landed his bum on the hot sand, placing his hands behind his head, looking with smile at armageddon. He of course had thoughts of Forseti running parallel in his mind, he spoke his name, asked him questions. Echoing into his mind, a reply sincere, he was caught off guard.


Chapter 7- Ced at the Miracle of Darna


Descended, the dragons of Archanea. Descended, in a bright roar of light. Descended, through the fortress walls. Descended, before twelve valiant souls. Descended, the Miracle of Darna.

The numinous freeze that followed did not faze Ced the way it did others. He could tell right away it had to be Naga, he smile of insanity turned to a smile of overflowing excitement, he casually was enthralled by the sight, as a child would be. Moments later, a shadow was cast over him, and landed gently right in front of him. His color was a most unusual shade, a forest green whose scales like his hair had a metallic quality, his form was evolutionarily headed towards serpentine, but not wholly, for he had wings and hind legs. He was Divine yes, but a half-breed, Ice and Wyvern on his father’s side, like him, he was an oddity amongst dragons. Ced by intuition could tell, and didn’t even bother to say his name, he didn’t flinch, he just spoke how nice it was to see his old friend again. Forseti responded he refused to not uphold his oath to him, and then apologized, Naga needed to see Jugdral herself first, consider the domestic situation, and then form a plan the rest of their people would agree to. They brought ten of their finest besides themselves.

Forseti went on, Naga could not free Jugdral, things were too pressing at home. She and the rest had today to find new leaders for Jugdral’s humanity, they were to give them their power, and Darna, he is sorry to see it was all that remained, but here they have found twelve great souls. As scions imbued with their power, you should suffice. The choice of “you” made it obvious to Ced, he had chosen him as his great soul, he asked if he was really worthy of this, albeit without being too self-critical. Forseti said that he already had determined that years ago. Now, his friend among Humanity, take his greatest gift. Ced stood up now and stretch out his arms, ready for whatever his friend from Dragonkind had for him. Forseti then lunged at Ced, biting him with his great fangs, breaking his ribs piercing his liver and heart and throwing him to the ground. He then bit his own mouth and exhaled, carrying his blood into the conflagration, his divine breath, the mist of life, the flame of wrath, as he willed it, it was. 

Ced opened his eyes, now healed with the vigor of his friend coursing through him. He leaped to his feet, a little unbalanced, but now he was bursting with energy, off to battle he shouted. Forseti agreed, and offered his back to Ced, who rode into into the fray where the rest of the new Crusaders were. Forseti dived low and Ced bounced off his back onto the ground, where he used his newfound power as Forseti breathed death from above. Forseti alone amongst the dragons had met his chosen human in dragon form, and he alone, until Naga appeared at the very end, did battle directly with humanity. Victory was most certainly assured, Forseti by himself could have won the day.


Chapter 8- The First Possession


When the battle ended, the dragons explained all to their chosen, who now became the Twelve Crusaders and would soon declare Holy War. Forseti shifted back to his Manakete form, and then told Ced he too would have to leave, like the rest. Ced was disappointed, but understood, he had his own world to take care of. Forseti then made it clear there was a reason why he alone had not yet received a Holy Weapon. Naga as Ced knew had Heim accept her spirit, embedded into her titular tome, with all the costs associated with it. For Heim had been chosen to lead the Crusaders, he had little choice in the matter, and due to the cruel cost, none of the other dragons felt like imposing it on their human. He explained that the weight of bearing another soul, the soul of a dragon of all things, of a being who could not sustain their own natural form as is due to Nature’s decrees, would surely crush someone in time, it was only a matter of when. So that they could be themselves, the dragons had chosen not to, only Naga for her limitless guidance and almighty power had given her’s. 

In his heart though, Forseti sought to remain in some capacity among humanity, if he could not protect them in the flesh, he wished bestow leave some of his soul behind. Yet he did not force it on Ced, out of concern for his friend. Ced thanked him, and then responded he would have no issues having his body become his vessel, he already had his blood in him. Forseti then spoke again, he will try to be delicate with his soul, he won’t kick it out if they disagree one day. A little joking at this of all times, Ced liked it. Forseti then spoke, although instances of souls sharing a body are few, it in theory was possible for both to coexist until physical death did them part from the flesh, but it would require cooperation and much strength. Ced then asked, could their souls be but one? Forseti responded to this poetic, that yes, union into one soul was possible, Loptyr presently it appears is of this nature with his human host, but eventually Loptyr it was clear would erode the human, the union was temporary. Ced countered, not if they agreed to give and take. 

Insistent on letting himself be given to his dragon friend, Forseti gave into his inner desires, and said then that through his cherished friend Ced, he would stay in Jugdral forevermore! He asked for a tome, any would do. Ced presented down a tome he had on hand, no pomp was necessary, and then laid it down between him and Forseti as asked. Ced saw Forseti form from nothing a small perfect sphere, a dragonstone, he placed it on the tome, and shifted back into dragon form; he then lowered his body, shutting his eyes and closing his wings. Ced chose not to sit across from Forseti, but beside him on his knees with his hands folded on his lap, and then closed his eyes as well. He understood what he needed to do, he concentrated on the tome and the sphere.

The two entered a trance, the dragonstone began to shimmer, and the air around them became charged. Though absolutely motionless, their souls unseen were in full play, they were speaking to themselves, what was said only they would ever know. This was no short process, it lasted about fifteen minutes, but longer and shorter than this to them, the harmonization of souls, to be as ideal as it could, required time to complete. It was also treasured by these two, and they knew that afterwards, they would be physically apart henceforth.

Forseti, the sublime wind tome now was born. When Ced awoke, he bowed and thanked Forseti, or should he say himself? Forseti said he could now leave him and not depart. Ced said he could not wait to see Archanea. The dragons soon thereafter left with all explained, and their power in blood and weapon forms given.

Ced by virtue of possession held a special rank amongst the Crusaders. He was not Heim, a step above the rest of the Crusaders, Forseti was only as strong as the rest not-Naga, but the possession was effectively a half-step outside of battle.

One later asked why Forseti had given him Wind Magic, and Ced said they had talked it over during the soul-transfer, it was because they both agreed he was like the wind more than any other natural phenomena. And whilst his soul spoke, he tried the other elements, they were terrible, it ambiguous whether he had actually shifted into nature’s manifestations in the soul-talk, or if he was joking. Everyone did agree Wind suited him though. Another heard him speaking with Forseti of things and places which didn’t seem to exist in Jugdral. Apparently, although Naga might not have approved of a human of Jugdral returning with them to Archanea, Forseti had taken in some of Ced’s soul during the creation of the tome Forseti. Thus as Ced-Forseti (as opposed to Forseti-Ced who was the Crusader in Jugdral), he got to see this distant land of his dearest friend he curious about. Naga would would certainly find out eventually, but she would not try be so cruel to split from her loyal kin the essence of his beloved Human.


Chapter 9- How Forseti-Ced Existed and How he Interacted with Fatherhood


What was it like to be possessed by Forseti? Ced and Forseti began and to Ced’s dying days remained two spirits in one body. But they were not wholly apart, and by the time of bodily death, they were significantly more fused than they had been at Darna. Ced and Forseti could have independent thoughts and emotions, but what one saw the other saw at exactly the same moments the first experienced it. They could converse without speaking, they could move different limbs independently, or parts on that limb. Their seen personality could be one or the other, but typically they relaxed the boundary between themselves, the person encountered was Forseti-Ced. Even when they were apart, they were indisputably influenced over time by the other being bound to them. Ced remained eccentric and whimsy, Forseti was stricter and driven about his love for humanity, but he had his own relaxed side not to forget it, and Ced of course was not just aloof- he really cared. The changes included Ced being less mysterious, and Forseti’s own remoteness from humanity weakening. Forseti really loved them, but it was love for the idea of humanity en masse, for as an Archanean dragon obeying Naga’s will, he lacked for interaction with humans on a daily basis.

Ced did like the rest of the Crusaders marry and have children. What does one call a relationship when one partner is one, two, or even three (Ced, Forseti, Forseti-Ced) depending on how one counts it? Like Heim, being possessed presented marital issues. It was worse in ways for Ced since Forseti’s soul wasn’t a temporary sometimes full possession deal like Naga’s, who ultimately left Heim before he died and only briefly once full-possessed Julia later, Forseti was never going to leave Ced. Heim had greater issues in that as the supreme commander of the Crusaders, the Holy War, and the post-Loptyr world, he had much less time for love. But Forseti, a young bachelor dragon back in Archanea, would be having intercourse with a human woman in Jugdral. Forseti got over the strangeness of this and with Ced did the bedroom duty that would benefit Jugdral into the future.

As for Ced, he would’ve been fine dying celibate, he was trained to be a monk, liked monasticism, and had spent most of his years in a sex-segregated community rarely interacting with women. Ced also didn’t feel the urge for sex, he had attained a more spiritual form of union at so young an age, to be one with Forseti was superior to carnal pleasure for him. Ced didn’t condemn material pleasure, he saw little wrong with it, and indeed spoke sensuously of his union with the natural world (leaving Forseti unnamed, even if his vagabond human form was referred to from time to time). Forseti made the case why he had to have children, to continue their bloodline, to continuing defending Jugdral into perpetuity with their power. 

For a wife, Ced wasn’t sure what to look for, but he found a female the same age as he, and they wed. She a Pegasus Knight, an art women in Silesse at the time of Holy War had resurrected, they had done so, because the men hadn’t the time. Jugdral was patriarchal, with the “normal optimistic” female strands of power running at 20-30% of all power, although individual strands varied widely based on the institution, time, and place. Women being more homebound and not as connected to traditional labor animals as the men gave them the opportunity and willing to observe the Pegasus and tame them in an attempt to assist supportively, but some assertive women came to use them as fighting mounts. They revived this old tradition and despite some initial criticisms, as the tide turned against the Liberation, the strategic use of them became apparent.

Although being a husband wasn’t exactly Ced’s forte, children were another matter. Ced could be a little endangering as a father, such as urging them on the first snow of the year to go and run out in it, but these edges were curbed by being a king with many attendants who did most of the work. He also let them be free to be themselves, and didn’t judge them for their choices. And he tried to instill his philosophy into them before they could count to twenty, believing all could receive insight. In his early years of parenting, before the Holy War was over, Ced’s time with his children was limited as well, leaving it to the servants and wife. Yet he did make time, and was a decent dad overall, his children liked him, even if the personality fluctuations made him a bit difficult to approach.

Forseti found having kids to be a valuable lesson. Rather than just looking at humans from a distance, or visiting their towns for a day, he had before him individuals whose being he would chronicle from birth to his death. He had conceived the human, he had seen them grow their mother’s womb, he watched their birth, and he saw them grow through all the steps of life. The highs and the lows. When their first child, a daughter, was born, Forseti took an hour one day flexing their limbs, testing their cognition, marveling at the human design. Yet he was examining his daughter though she were a lab specimen despite the appreciation. Being a rich and busy king, he didn’t see everything a more ordinary parent might, but he tried to see what he could.

Forseti found being called “father” unusual, since he really was a dragon, but he gradually with Ced pushing him to forget the difference, came to be a fair father. He had had his own family as a dragon, he a mother, a father, he had grown up with normal parents much as humans did, but he couldn’t quite connect this to being a human dad. Forseti was perhaps a bit too curious about his children, seeing them as a means to explore human behavior and functions rather than people in themselves at times, but Ced warned him when he was going into this sensitive territory. Attempting to use crude comments of wanting of to dissect dragons and see how they worked to remind him of the issue. If Ced was hands off, Forseti was eyes on. 

Nonetheless, Forseti did with Ced’s help come to see “his” children as his own, and he now had strong personal bonds to humans other than Ced. It was not as passionate as his spiritual union with Ced, but the new perspectives it gave him were in their differences appreciable.

As if this fatherhood issue was not complicated enough, there was the tome Forseti. When Forseti-Ced died at the age of 82, he remained living in the Holy Weapon Forseti (and possibly was still alive in Archanea, I dunno about that). Ced had been told long in advance of his actual death that Forseti’s spirit remained in the tome they wielded, and that it for the sake of Jugdral’s future, would enter any future bearer of it with the Brand of Forseti. So while genetically, everyone who could could use Forseti had Ced’s DNA, they also carried Forseti’s blood, and could have their dragon-ancestor spiritually in them, becoming them in a way. What is also true, if nowhere near as important, is that through his union with him while using the tome in which Forseti’s soul rested for perpetuity, a slight bit of his own soul was placed into the soul in the Forseti tome. So any bearer of the tome would also have just a pinch of their human-father’s soul in them as well.


Chapter 10- The Metaphysics of All Future Forseti Possessions


For all this bizarre soul metaphysics, it for the sake of one’s sanity, applied only to Forseti-Ced. The specifics of the case of Forseti-Ced would not be repeated by future bearers of the Forseti tome, this was the exception. Why was it the exception? It goes back to Ced and Forseti having established a deep bond as acolyte and vagabond years before they agreed to the soul union. They personally knew and loved each other and were able to work out the spiritual relationship carefully. Loptyr and Galle I had a fundamentally similar, if diabolical, relationship.

Future bearers of Forseti’s soul received it straight from the tome, a choice made by the Brand bearer alone, Forseti had no say, he knew not the person who called on him, nor the person him. Stirred from the tome, it would take a little time for Forseti to awaken (say some months), but once he did, there was the possibility of him crushing the soul of the bearer. Having Forseti’s blood made them innately strong, but it also facilitated the Forseti takeover, without it, it wasn’t possible after all. One needed enough strength of character to endure possession and avert or delay the soul merge, quintessence would be an okayish indicator of this strength, if far from perfect. The person would not vanish, but their personality and memories remained in a new person and influenced Forseti, on top of a trace of their self being fused to the tome. But the equality found in Ced and Forseti, could easily be replaced by soul hegemony of Forseti.

Forseti did not mean to overcome they who had summoned them, but he was strong, and the more his assistance was invoked, be it the tome in battle or the wisdom of his soul- the more he had to actively act- the stronger his presence came. He liked observing humanity, but having lived out a mortal life and saved Jugdral, his youthful exuberance faded and he didn’t want to interfere too much. He might have wanted to re-experience a bond like that with Ced, or to raise human children once more, but he couldn’t create the former bond unless he fostered a new host while in another, which reeked of Loptyr too much for him to remotely consider it. Forseti too wanted to let his human heirs live their own lives as much as he could, he didn’t want to steal any of their limited time for his own pleasure. He lived on for humanity in Jugdral, not to live a happy but unnatural life selfishly for forever, as Loptyr had.

The dangers of possession it should be apparent were real, and Forseti-Ced did not want anyone to casually enter a union with Forseti, for their own sake. He issued multiple formal statements not to invoke Forseti the tome unless it was absolutely necessary for the sake of Jugdral foremost, with Silesse by itself a secondary concern. Forseti-Ced as a precaution kept the tome with him until he died, refusing as a retired king to hand it over to his heir. Use of Forseti in state ceremony and ritual too was very verboten, although it would take more than hand resting on the tome for a minute as a vow was recited to effect the possession process, better be safe than sorry. It was not banned, but regulated, and Brand bearers touching the tome was never to happen, at most, they would stand before it, the living soul of their ancestor Ced. Forseti’s existence of course was not known, his appearance at Darna was intentionally blurred to have just been the power of Ced, it was Ced who would overwhelm they were told. The Miracle’s truth was buried, to make the Crusaders further gods and hide the Archanean dragons, a boon to them to stay anonymous.

It too is to be worth noting that the Lewyn!Forseti possession in FE4 is also a special case, but a different one! When Lewyn received the tome Forseti from his mother, all proceeded as normal, Forseti was now in him and would slowly awaken, his possession rate/soul merge proceeding according to the rate of the tome’s use. The changeup happened at Behalla, due to Lewyn approaching dying but not becoming dead afterwards. Forseti the dragon could sense the world needed him now, and revived Lewyn before final necrosis and spiritual parting. Lewyn reached a deal with Forseti, allowing him to use his body to save Jugdral, though Forseti for the first few years let Lewyn lead in the shared body the majority of the time, plus a few other occasions. As the time for Holy War approached, Forseti took greater control, and the end result was the full merge into Forseti-Lewyn by the war’s end. Belhalla leapfrogged the possession process, owing to the continental crisis and Forseti’s soul and power being needed to save Lewyn’s near-corpse.

When Forseti-Lewyn departed Silesse in the T776 canon, he left the tome Forseti, which he had always carried for more than a decade, in Silesse, knowing that his son Ced could use it. Now, did this mean that Forseti-Ced Magi Squad Leader resulted? You would think it would, and indeed, a kernel of Forseti was implanted in Ced. However, while it was possible in theory to have two Forseti-human people, this didn’t actually happen. Why? Because Forseti shifted most of his soul out of the tome into Lewyn’s body prior to leaving Silesse, leaving enough to remain connected, so that should in the worst case that Lewyn be annihilated physically, Forseti could still return to rest in the tome no matter how far away it was. Ced therefore couldn’t undergo anywhere near his father’s possession, not as long as Forseti was in his dad, he could use Forseti without the soul merge danger. This didn’t make Ced’s holy tome any practically weaker, it was still able to annihilate legions of humans, only in the most extreme circumstances would having Forseti’s soul in it make a real difference. All the other Holy Weapons save Naga lacked the souls of their dragon-givers in them, and they just as strong, Forseti’s soul was in the tome not for power as the primary reason, but so Forseti could be there for Jugdrali humanity while abiding by Naga’s restrictions.


Chapter 11- King Ced of Silesse


The Holy War was declared in 633, and the Crusaders spread across Jugdral to espouse it, to lift hopes after twenty draining years, and to free the lands from Loptyr. Ced’s life was preaching, he saw every inch of Silesse, and he had popular support there. Freeing his homeland would be nothing to him, the course of the Silessean Holy War 

He did find himself in need of refining his philosophy though, now that Forseti had returned, what of passive resistance and active resistance? He needed troops for the now not-futile battle, but with Forseti’s power, how many ordinary humans did he need? To reconcile these principles, Ced chose to reject the need for a mass army. He allowed other Crusaders to recruit volunteers as they wished in Silesse, but he tried to keep his army towards the smallish side. This led towards a particular emphasis on efficiency, not that he intended for this, nor was alone in being efficient among the Crusaders, it was good thing everybody wanted, but efficiency worked as a way to promote his first goal- peace despite warring. Let those most willing, most suited for battle join him, but the rest he told to provide noncombat support, remaining peaceful whilst still being active resistors. There was not a nobilesse oblige and corporate duties system at work here, only a more general desire to let people live lives free from the violence of war.

As a monarch, Ced was sagacious, as one would expect having the wisdom of a dragon directly available. As a center of scholarship, Silesse punched above its weight, whereas Grannvale had in crude totals more scholars, Silesse had more per capita. Multiple schools of thought were permitted, the snowy weather and mountains encouraged decentralization and diversification in thought. Yet being much smaller than Grannvale, Silesse had a stronger potential centralizing element. Grannvale’s much easier weather and terrain were centralizing forces, but each of the six Dukedoms were powerful and politically equal patrons, with Belhalla their superior, but its political power to influence scholasticism in the Dukedoms could be weaker than in Silesse, where the King alone held direct and primary Crusader lineage.

Ced did not bring his personal mysticism to Silessean government however. In law, he preferred simplicity and letting people be left alone, yet he dedicated significant government assets to the Bragi faith with the intention of using them as an agent for emergency welfare. Even with the war at last over, he maintained the Pegasus Knights, both as a national symbol, and now he issued decrees for converting them into peacetime forces, using them as transport through the snow and over the mountains. He kept the Silessean military small. Forseti was helpful in politics as a second mind who had lived in a great civilization, but humanity and dragonkind were far from alike, which made direct borrowings rare.

Environmental policy was a tricky issue which Ced cared about, Ced loved nature, and wished to preserve the forests of Silesse, its great natural asset, hunters too relied on them for the game which they ate and skinned. Furs were popular in the cold climate of Silesse for clothing, but could also fetch a good price elsewhere. Yet the forests were filled with great hardwood timber, and to compensate for poor soil fertility, swidden, also called slash-burn agriculture, was practiced in certain regions. (Cold water fisheries were also rich in Silesse, but overfishing wasn’t an issue.) Ced needed to balance the interests of nature itself, the hunters, the loggers, and the peasantry. Although the forests of southern Silesse had been depleted heavily by the Loptyr Empire, and some post-Forseti-Ced rulers would return to environmental degradation, while he lived, Silesse like the souls in the monarch, remained in good harmony.

Ced set the titular capital of Silesse for several reasons. It was in the warmer south; making it more pleasant, having less snow it was more accessible; and it was only a small sea away from Grannvale the great, facilitating trade. Ced’s socio-political noble elite were primarily entrusted with fiefs in the west, south, and particularly the east. Save for the east, none of these tracts were too large, given a relative lack of good land and significant religious endowments. An alternative capital that might have been better, would’ve been one further east, it’d be closer to the population and geographical center, with greater Issachan bonds. Yet this would’ve weakened control over the far north and reduced the Grannvale ties.

Much of the cold north was crown lands, governed directly by the King, or more commonly non-noble officials appointed by the King. Ced like all others had nobles, but few wanted the north, and he wasn’t fascinated by them. Royalty existed amongst the dragons, as did family lineages, but nobility as in the human concept, did not exist. None of the Crusaders were quite beholden to nobility, they each had to create them from scratch since the Loptyr Empire had eradicated the pre-Loptyr nobilities. But titles and enfeoffments were a way of rewarding their allies and dependents, as well as establishing a clear governing elite. The original nobles earned their place based on merit, not genealogy, it was not until later that they ossified into a more questionable institution.


Chapter 12- Ced's Retirement and Death


Forseti-Ced ruled from the age of 38 to the age of 63 in 674. Ced did not die in that year, rather he chose to retire from the kingship, passing it to his eldest child, a daughter, who became Queen of Silesse. Ced became a “Cloistered King”, he could be consulted in politics if sought, or if he saw a real problem he would write about it, but otherwise he abandoned politics. The choice to retire had been Ced’s, he was growing tired of politics, and wished to return to a simple existence. Forseti did not wish for retirement, he would’ve been willing to continue governing humanity until his shared body gave. Ced however convinced Forseti it was time to surrender, the Holy War which the dragons came to bring was long past, the awkward aspect of having a dragon rule humanity would now end. His soul in the tome Forseti also assured he would hopefully be able to return if Jugdral needed him. Forseti and Ced now could be alone again, able to share in contemplation of all.

This is not to say that as a Cloistered King, living largely in northern Silesse’s newly built monastic complexes and the austere northern castle. Ced shorn of regalia was not just a monk revising and adding to his collection of writings. He continued to be a public, if apolitical figure, traveling across Silesse some of every year, preaching, praying, and doing charity as he had in his youth. He was popular through his old age, and became the grandfather of the country. When Ced died, it was at the miraculous age of 89, Forseti’s soul having kept him alive for so long, his last years were not glorious, he suffered pains and became unable to walk in his last two years. Forseti bore these pains as well, and appreciated the lessons in aging and dying. When he perished at last, his heart simply couldn’t beat enough any more, a great release occurred, the soul of Forseti, taking a trace of Ced with him, left the body and returned to the tome Forseti, which in preparation for his death had been placed beside him by his grandson and heir. 

When Ced died, he had a choice of cremation or burial. Given permafrost in the northernmost Silessean ground, and the king’s preference for this region of his youth, he opted not for burial. His cremation was carried out in the northern foothills of Silesse, at the old monastery where he had spent much time. The surviving pieces of bone were deemed relics and interred across Silesse, and as per Ced’s last will, all the ashes were scattered into the wind. The locations for spreading these ashes included Darna, amid the highest mountains in Silesse, the shore where Ced had met Forseti. And lastly, at three days’s distance out at sea, no specified direction, but land could not be in sight, in the big blue, the ocean winds would carry if even just a fleck of ash to lands unknown and unseen, by Ced and Forseti alike.


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Next up is Odr.

Age at the Miracle: 48

Birth and Family Background:


Odr was born in a port town of northern Thracia in 584, although he didn’t remain there for very long, just his first year. His father was a merchant, who in had over a year prior sailed to southern Issach, leaving his pregnant wife in good care, he would later return after she had given birth and the child was hoped to be healthy before sailing together back to Issach. Why were they in Thracia in the first place?

Over the centuries, Issach had engaged in constant trade across the Leonvough Sea with the northern Thracian peninsula. Issach primarily exchanged livestock, which it produced plenty of, for northern Thracia’s plentiful crops. In doing this, Issach’s arable land issues were eased, and northern Thracia found itself able to limit and specialize in its choices of livestock, leaving more room for crops. Traders on both sides of the Leonvough grew wealthy, and established families of dedicated merchants. Odr’s was ancestry on both sides came from these people. 

But Odr’s ancestors had gone beyond just northern Thracia. Some Issachan traders settled permanently in northern Thracia, adding to the local culture, and expanding their portfolios and networks. And from these Issachans, came those ventured into southern Thracia, while others went west, and then either south to Miletos, or north to Grannvale. In these distant lands, the Issachan merchants established independent communities, which were largely endogamous and cut off from old Issach itself. Odo’s family had settled in Miletos, and were adept businessmen and women despite whatever challenges came. 

Yet when the Loptyr Empire arose, things began to change. Initially, the Loptyrians accepted the role of the Issachans in commerce, finding them a useful tool like native merchants. Due to their adept understandings of local economic conditions, and thus able to provide them information on how best to extract tribute. The Loptyr Empire, first in Grannvale, and then in Miletos, found the Issachans to be too wealthy, too independent, they appeared untrustworthy and imposed higher taxes on them. This not being enough, the Loptyrians eventually decided to violently purge the Issachans to remove these strong middlemen. 

A few survived in Miletos, but the damage was done, the community was no longer sustainable there, a handful married exogamous into the Miletos community, losing their unique identity. But the rest fled back to the land of origin, seeking comfort there. By foot, with what remained of their wealth, the Issachan merchants crossed back into Thracia, where they attempted to establish connections with their fellow Issachans. 

In Thracia, the Issachan traders, given Issach was across the sea, were allowed to operate, albeit like all merchants under the permission of the Loptyr Empire. To limit cross-provincial mobility for the sake of governance, the Loptyrians forced any ship crossing the Straight to carry a seal indicating they were legally allowed to. Those who lacked these seals had their ships and all contents confiscated, the people on board endured fates varying from being sent back across the sea, to imprisonment, enslavement, execution, and for females of all ages, rape, and for children, being hunted. The Loptyr Empire accepted low levels of piracy, but whenever it got to be too much, or it invoked calls to an end to Loptyr, they were broken.

Odr’s family tried to settle in Thracia, but kept moving east in search of better opportunities, they at last shifted it to northern Thracia in the two generations prior to him, but were unable to rebuild themselves there. The possibility of heading into southern Thracia was considered, since the more sparsely inhabited southern half of the peninsula relied on the local population to be pressed into labor in the mines, while the Loptyrians were successful in importing only a limited number of nobles and others from the Empire’s center, alongside a few troops to maintain order. Issachan merchants were thus permissible here in the state-controlled economic operations. Yet Odr’s family were wary of this path and rejected it. This left them with but one option, to return to the ancestral homeland.


Odr's Childhood:


Following his arrival in Issach, Odr’s father tried to establish himself as a trader in southern part of the region. Unfortunately competition was too tight for him and Odr’s father had to relocate, and after some exploration, was able stand steadily in the southern limits of east-central Issach. East-central Issach was the center of the country overall, and along it most of the domestic trade flowed. In the era of the Loptyr Empire, the political center of Issach was to the south, in Rivough and Issach, due to it being closer to Grannvale and directly across from northern Thracia, where the Loptyr Empire was stronger. The mountain passes south of Sophara allowed some shipments to flow over them to Rivough, but the northern ones were totally inaccessible and unprofitable for all but the most experienced of traveling merchants. These limits on north-to-south trade likewise limited south-to-north trade. Therefore, the whole of the country passed through the big, relatively flat and empty east-central Issach.

Odr’s father resettled his family with him in a town in the area with some distant relatives, where large quantities of livestock would pass through. Odr’s father would determine the quality of the cows, chickens, pigs, lamb, and beasts of burden. He would then negotiate a favorable price from the pastoralists, and then once they left he would as the middleman sell the livestock to butchers, tanners, weavers, local farmers in need of the draft animals, and sometimes to merchants who would bring the traded livestock further south. Odr’s father once he established his bearings and met trustworthy friends, then began to explore other opportunities, and in the off-season, would travel  with others to buy other goods he would later sell. 

Odr’s father would take his children with them sometimes once they were of age, seven being old enough. Odr himself went on many of these trips, typically walking, but sometimes riding a donkey if he had the luxury of it, which were not as swift as horses, but made for reliable travel, suitable for a pack of merchants and their cargo. Although sleeping in a village would be ideal, due to the threats of marauders and sometimes rapacious Loptyrian soldiers. The Loptyr Empire permitted merchants to a measure of self-defense, knives, rudimentary clubs and spears, perhaps some small bows and axes. These could work in a pinch, and were also allowed being utilitarian tools. No swords, no tomes, no staffs, nor anything of quality were allowed. Merchants who carried combat-quality weapons needed an imperial seal to prove it was legitimate trade goods and northing more, or else they’d be arrested. 

Sleeping in a town or village or not, Odr often spent the night sleeping in a camp, perhaps under a canvas roof, but other times not even this. Under the starry night sky, Odr as a child found much fun, he lacked for material toys, and he did not always have the patience for hearing folktales, or had the energy for boys’ sportful play. He didn’t know what the moon and stars were, he only knew what he heard in the usual stories, yet he was awestruck by them. He would try counting the stars, he would give them his own names, groups and personalities, he monitor the movement of the stars and phases of the moon. He would trying predict the future based on the placement of everything, notice with joy unusual changes like novae, meteor showers, eclipses, and planets passing by. When the Moon turned full or new, he would sometimes go crazy with love for it, organizing lunar games with his fellow child-travelers in the merchant groups, or he would bathe in the beneficial selene rays or shadows. He had the makings of an astronomer-astrologer (the science and pseudoscience in this premodern fantasy world, like the premodern real world, being connected).

The earthen old pre-Loptyr priesthood in Issach relied on shamans, illiterate and condemned by the Loptyr Empire, although it ignored the coots if they avoid making too public a ruckus. It was among these that the stargazing tradition of Issach existed. Odr’s father forbade him from meeting these shamans, and this rested in his family being a bit different from the rest. Having spent so long in Miletos and Thracia, a number of old traditions had died off or been changed for the Issach merchant clans, among them were the reliance on shamans. Given there was less toleration in Miletos and Thracia due to the strong Loptyrian hand in those areas, even if they had wanted to preserve it, they could not have. Instead, the duties usually associated with them were passed on to the eldest men and women in a given family, extended family, and Issachan community. Although Odr spent most of his life in Issach, his moving around as a child and his father’s efforts to cling to the old Miletos-Thracian Issachan ways he knew and loved forced a measure of divide within him. His name was not fully Issachan, having been corrupted by the linguistic differences of Thracia and Miletos. Odr thought of himself as an Issachan, but his class was above the true natives the peasantry, below the Loptyrian foreign nobles, and he consciously saw how his father worked on integrating the family into the old Issachan merchants who had never left.

As the son of a merchant, Odr was keen and knowledgeable. He couldn’t read, but merchants could count and make paper transaction receipts and keep inventory even without literacy. He learned to know what to look for in a good product and what not to, and how to bargain effectively. Training as a merchant sharpened in ways his stargazing talents, and having to know when to make camp, when, how far, and in what direction to travel increased his knowledge further, not just of the Moon and stars, but the Sun too. He appreciated the Sun for its warmth after a cold night, and its guidance when the nights were moonless, but Odr generally favored the night, which he thanked the Sun for providing a contrast to.


Odr's Pivotal Childhood Moment


At the age of fourteen in 398, Odr was traveling to northeast Issach with his father, a little further than normal, and Odr always welcomed his father’s journeys. Odr was rambunctious and liked to run around, he would often prefer walking on tired feet to a horse, finding terra firma beneath his soles, even his shoes had given way and had to go barefoot, to be more comfortable than having them dangle off the sides of a steed. Having to sleep outdoors as usual, in the darkness of the night, the campfire the only light, a group attacked the merchants. Odr had been assigned to the night watch on the perimeter with others, and he saw the attackers come on steeds. Odr shouted the alarm and grabbed a spear, he was going to retreat, he was not yet a man and therefore not suited for battle, but the assailants came at him. The first blow fortunately inflicted but a grazing wound would and knocked him to the ground. With a mix of fear, anger, valiance in him, Odr being surrounded by the raiders struck back. He was no match for the raiders however, his spear missed its thrust and was knocked out of his hands, he barely missed a second injury. Not having the time to reach for a better weapon, he grabbed his dagger at his waist and started to take a stance, when another raider struck his right arm and then cut deep into his side. Odr fell hard against the ground, planting his face in sandy soil.

Through the night, Odr remained on the ground, assumed dead by the raiders. When Odr awoke several hours later, in a terrible agony that fogged his mind he found he could not open his eyes, he had a hard time assembling thoughts, he couldn’t form coherent words, he tried to stand, but would only fall. He tried on his knees to move somewhere, anywhere, he didn’t know where he was or anyone else for that matter, but he just tried to move. This torturous semi-consciousness lasted for no more than about an hour, the pressure in his head was too great.

When Odr awoke next, opening his eyes, albeit with very blurry vision, he could make out that he was in a tent. Someone noticed his alertness and tried to speak with him, but their words rang through his skull with pain. Odr would remain in such a state, fading in and out of consciousness, for perhaps a month. He would wake to people moving him, he would wake to people trying to get him to eat and drink, which he would take with some struggle, he would wake to them trying to flex his limbs, check his wounds, or put drops in his eyes. He would try his best to give his name and other details when conscious. 

When at last Odr regained full strength of mind and body and could walk again, he at last found out where he was in detail. He had been found by a traveling band of pastoralists from Issach’s north, were the land was not fertile enough for livestock to be left to graze in a single place for an extended period of time. They explained they had found him towards the end of their south and eastwards migration, thinking him dead, and indeed he almost died. As for the rest of the merchant camp, they found some corpses, but not too many, indicating either others went away slaves, or had indeed escaped. They had taken him in and dragged him around with them, nursing him back to health out of hospitality to all. Now that he had recovered, they did expect a measure of help from him, not too much, but a fair deal for being spared from death. Odr agreed to this.

Odr now roamed northern Issach with the pastoralists, learning their ways and their individual lives. He took on whatever roles they asked of him, and he did them to the best of his abilities. When the next yearly migration eastward came, they would send him off to return freely to his old home. The pastoralists introduced Odr to the Issachan shamanistic tradition, and he liked them and exchanged star information with them. He might have disagreed with their interpretations, but he appreciated them still, and he had them try to remedy his one enduring injury- his eyes. When Odr was attacked, the dagger in his right arm scratched his right eye, and he fell eyes open into the sandy soil. Add the concussion from the fall, and Odr, while not blind, permanently lost some of his vision in the right eye, and little in the left. Yet he did his best to overcome the fault, learning to be more attentive to the little details.

When Odr left the pastoralists, it was with some mixed emotions, he had been grateful to them and enjoyed their company. Yet he was happy to be back home and see what had become of his family, his father had survived the attack, albeit wounded, while others had been killed or dragged away. The cargo had been thoroughly raided, hurting family finances. Odr resumed his old life, but now had a sense of insecurity whenever he traveled, having been victimized before. With the crude weapons allowed to him, Odr began to train, so that he could better defend himself in the future. Odr did not know who had assailed him, if it were Loptyrians or just bandits, but his sense of loss and insecurity turned in a sense of underlying anger against both.


Odr and the Reserve of Ganei


As Odr visited a pub one day in 404, at the age of twenty, he struck up some conversation with others there as was normal. They could tell he was frustrated, they had heard enough about him and from him to determine that he had potential. When Odr was to leave, one of those he had conversed with offered to pay for his meal and drink, and then slipped him a coin, not the usual Loptyrian-approved currency. As he began to walk out, one of them told him to present it at a certain location, an inconspicuous one, and to mutter a certain phrase and present the coin. Interested in what this was all about, Odr the next day did as he was told, and allowed into the building. He was then blindfolded and forced to sit down. He soon underwent an interrogation of sorts, he had been scouted for the Reserve of Ganei, an Issachan secret fraternity.

Odr was not really aware of what this was, but agreed to undergo the initiation trials and became a full-fledged member. Secret societies in Issach had formed after the fall of the pre-Loptyrian political system, and gained strength as a mean to resist Loptyrian rule, however small and hidden it was. They all claimed some connection to the old earthen gods or historical or semi-historical figures of veneration. These were all-male clubs, women were not allowed in, and did not create parallel institutions. Odr came to like his membership, not always given to its most machismo of activities, but he never found a reason to leave. He visited the local branches wherever he traveled, and he in time scouted a few members himself. 

The Reserve of Ganei did feature practice in the arts of war, but nothing significant, just dueling with wooden swords, clubs, spears, and bows, and perhaps a few illicitly obtained ones of metal. The styles were supposed to imitate the old traditions of Issach, and historically speaking the secret societies often had those of old Issachan military or political descent in their founding days. Yet in practice, over time the arts had been distorted, much like the histories orally passed on within the societies. 

Even if the histories weren’t totally correct, Odr and others developed a strong sense of Issachan pride, a powerful connection to the past. For his part, when shopping and finding seeming antiquities, Odr would purchase them and offer them to the societies. If he had heard of some ruined site of old Issach, the Order of Ganei would once in a while pay it a visit and perform ceremonies there. The secret societies rarely attacked Loptyrians, though they did do a bit more with bandits, for they were too weak to do anything significant and they learned it. Their main value one could argue was that they kept a form of cultural resistance alive.

In the years when Liberation was being quietly formed, before it was officially declared, the secret societies of Issach, like those elsewhere on the continent, considered joining at the start or as time passed during the good years of the Liberation. The secret societies could be egotistical, finding themselves the one true group that would save their country, for it was divinely planned. Yet although they weren’t willing to disclose their secrets to the Liberation Army, most proved willing to join its ranks and fight the common enemy. Odr’s branch of the Order of Genei was in these ranks, entering in 409.


Odr and Liberation:


The initial leader of all Issachan Liberation efforts was a man who had spent time in Yied and knew Kobar, from the start the lodestar of the Liberation. The Liberation Army might have added the secret societies to it, but it was independently founded and had its own divinely-inspired mission. Odr was willing to participate in Liberation, he was eager to see Issach freed, if not so much the whole of Jugdral.

When in 411 the Liberation was officially declared, Odr wasted no time throwing himself into the revolts, focusing in his home region of east-central Issach. Odr did kill people, and he already had bloodied himself against a number of brigands in his prior years, so he already understood pain and what it was like to take the lives of others. Fighting actual Loptyrian forces was not something he had done however, and there was a general early zealous overreach of Liberation troops in the first couple years, who did not realize their spirit by itself could not overcome Loptyrian quality in training and equipment. 

Odr learned from his mistakes, he matured into a blend of general caution and circumstantial abandon. He chose the sword as his favored weapon after a beginning with the spear, and tried to refine his swordplay. He questioned the style he had been taught, and meeting Liberation fighters from elsewhere on the continent, tweaked his style where he thought it would benefit him. Odr relied on slashes over thrusts, and he used only a small shield strapped onto his arm or none at all, the blade itself was his primary defense, accompanied by evasive steps, high steps over sliding his feet. He did not consider himself as having broken from the Issachan traditions, inasmuch as he did, nor did he declare his method its own school, he did not have time nor the reason yet to do so.

With the Liberation from the start, Odr rose through the ranks over time, and by 421, the year the tides began to turn against the entire Liberation, he was becoming one of Issach’s most talented commanders. Odr could command from afar and did so as needed, but like the warriors of old, he preferred to throw himself into the fray, issuing only general orders when required. Odr was remarkable, and indeed perhaps the true Reservist of Ganei, he outlived most of his fellow society members, who perished long before Liberation would be completed. 

He traveled in these years only once to Yied Desert, for about ten months in 423. Being amidst a truly continental army of such diversity heightened his sense of difference, of being Issachan. It did away some of his remaining hidden anxiety of not having been born in Issach, since he could clearly see people who in no way were Issachan. He found others strange and they thought the same of him, both in slightly bad and slightly good ways. 

Yet here they all were, dedicated to one cause- Liberation, willing to lay down their lives for their homelands, and some for lands they knew not, but believed had the right to be free of Loptyr. Conversation and interaction broke down some of the barriers, and Odr saw youths whose heritage was thoroughly mixed. Although he considered himself foremost an Issachan, Odr came away from this a Jugdralian second, something he had not thought himself as before. When Liberation became Holy War, and Odr found his blood become that of a dragon from a distant world, he became an Issachan-Jugdrali, he found no contradiction between the two, he was equally universal and particular.

That was still nine-ten years away however. Odr after his trip to Issach returned to the mission of keeping the Liberation alive. Southern Issach at this time was becoming difficult to hold and the Liberation came to cede it, now reforming in a central front. Odr remained respected despite challenges to his authority, and he fought on, somehow even in the Liberation’s decline and while being over forty, was never killed on the field of battle. Wounded he was sometimes, to various depths, but he did not die through his many fights.

In 426, Fjalar was betrayed the Loptyr Empire with her handful of forces and some allies in the lower officer ranks. Fjalar did not get Odr’s immediate attention, though he was aware of her betrayal, since the lower Loptyrian ranks had over the years shown some willingness to defect. In 427, Odr did personally meet with Fjalar, and the encounter was fairly neutral. Fjalar was polite to Odr, and Odr to her, he asked why she had betrayed, he asked where she was from, what her life was like, in general questions. Odr saw the merit in Fjalar, and was certain she had defected for good reason, and he intentionally decided to get a better feel of those merits the old-fashioned and risky way- through fighting alongside each other on the battlefield. This was not chosen willy-nilly, Odr selected a fairly safe battle where it was permissible that he fight where he did. 

A few days after the battle, Odr asked Fjalar if the two could duel, Fjalar consented and they had their sparring. Fjalar’s swordsmanship was Grannvalian at its core, but she had modified it to suit her combat style. Fjalar could be strong with the sword, but her preference for magic placed it in a secondary position. When the enemy came too close for a spell to be safe, or between castings, she would resort to her blade. She expressed a certain flair in her choice of following crippling spells with dashing final strikes, and tended towards trying to be duly offensive. 

Odr found her base good, but disagreed with her emphasis on attack. When she went without flourish, her swings were swift, short, keeping herself sufficiently safe. Odr’s issue was that she was attempting to do too much, her magic was her stronger suit, she had little to gain by also trying to be a master of the sword. Fjalar took Odr’s advice, although she continued to use the sword in some offensive capacities, she worked to restrain her sword hand and rely more on her expert magic. She refused to abandon the sword like other mages, she prided herself on being a versatile warrior, and more often forsook the shield. Although she sometimes strapped a small one on her arm, they tended to get in the way of spellcasting. Instead, she made her sword her shield, using it primarily in defensive ways, alongside a little magic when the sword itself was not defensive enough. Training with Odr further altered her ways, and she integrated a measure of his Issachan methods into hers’.

Though Fjalar proved valuable to Odr, the two and the rest could not sustain the Issachan Liberation. When it was realized that the Liberation was had lost central-east Issach, Odr’s beloved home turf which he fought tooth and nail to maintain, it became obvious the now-isolated central-west Issach could not endure for long. Odr chose to remain in Sophara while Fjalar and others went northwards. Odr was of utmost importance to the hopes of the Liberation, and precisely because of why he was, his experience, he chose to stay here with a few handfuls of troops, buying time for the rest to go north. After disputes, Odr’s choice was accepted.


Odr and the Miracle:


The final great battle in the Sophara basin during the Era of Liberation occurred in late 630, though the outcome was certain. Odr had tried to avoid such a thing, but knew one had to happen for the delay tactic to work. Though he nearly did die, the Loptyrians got the better of him here, he survived and fled south into the mountains with some surviving rebels. Together, they hiked over the terrain into southern Issach, and the proceeded to Yied, where the last of the Liberation Army from across the continent was gathering. Odr collected the last of the mixed northern Issachan and Silessean Liberation forces in the next year, alongside what other troops remained in the depths of the desert, and together they marched towards Darna.

Exchanging missives with Darna in advance of arrival, Heim, whom Odr had never met before, told him the quickest way to Darna would be from the southeast. Heim stated that by the time he and the mass arrived, the last stand might be well underway, he needed Odr to provide a relief force in such a case, to strike the Loptyrians on their right flank. Odr saw no other choice and did as Heim suggested. 

Loptyrian scouts did notice the Liberation forces en route to Darna, and tried to destroy them with small numbers of soldiers from Thracia and Grannvale. They underestimated Odr, and Odr refused to let them get in his way. Issachan-Loptyrian forces were in pursuit he was told, and now Odr risked himself being surrounded on all sides, he could try fighting them, but feared it’d be a trap. Odr instead pushed on, wanting to get to Darna before he were caught, save Darna and then he could turn around.

With the great slope directly to his right, Odr arrived at the siege of Darna not too late it seemed. He did his job and assailed the right side of the Loptyrian forces, however, the slope which benefitted his allies above, seemed to have worked against him. Since only so many could fit on the elevated ground, more of the Loptyrians than he had expected remained below it which he had to fight. Odr had no choice but to attack this horde of better-armed and less-fatigued and demoralized soldiers. The alternative was to let Darna, the last stronghold of Liberation, fall, and then to be minced by his pursuers. He pointed his sword to the sky, cloudy and heading towards dusk, he recited some words from his secret society days, with a trust in destiny, he asked the world above to testify to his valor, as they did his predecessors. 

Odr charged ahead with a battle roar, the rest of his troops motivated by his sounding. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, as friend and foe alike fell around him, he kept swinging and dodging blows. It never stopped, he would not stop, even though endorphins had their limits, and once they peaked, the decline of this hyper-attentive state would leave him to die. The peak came, and Odr’s longsword started to dull, but he never felt the end.

When the calm struck the battlefield, Odr continued in his fury, slashing open the bowels of enemies now stilled though frozen. Only once he had finished another grand swing, did Odr notice that all had changed. He breathed hard after all his dueling, what was this? He was given an answer from an approaching man of green-blue hair, clad in full battle armor, with a sword and shield. He was a little younger than Odr’s age, he stated his name was Rostam, and that the he had come to save what humans here called Liberation. 

Odr asked how he intended to do this, and Rostam pointed his sword at him, to which Odr responded the same. Odr and Rostam had a quick fencing, along the lines of destreza, it came naturally to Odr in this moment. After a still encircling for perhaps a minute, Rostam won in a blink, shoving his sword into Odr’s right eye, destroying it. Odr shouted with great pain, just how did he intend to save Jugdral by doing this!? Rostam said if Odr wanted to return the favor, he was free to do so, dropping his arms and arms. 

Odr then badly bleeding and half-blind came at Rostam, who did not move, but held off the sword from his face using the exposed part of his left wrist. Odr pressed hard on him, and he came close to severing Rostam’s hand before he slid his arm away and Odr returned his sword to his side, now coated in Rostam’s blood. 

Rostam responded, he had the mind, body, and spirit of a warrior at the pinnacle of what humanity could achieve. This was not enough however, he needed more. Rostam’s flesh turned green-blue, and his uncovered head itself like a living helmet. Odr did not know what to think of this inhuman thing, who then swung his bleeding wrist, the blood flying into where Odr’s eye had been. Odr continued to stand as yet more blood was flung into his face, the bursting, chilling sensation made him want to place his hand to his eyes, but Rostam told him to bear with it.

Suddenly, the blood faded away, his vision was back to normal. In both eyes restored he could see clearly, clearer than he had since childhood, why his vision was sharper than that! Odr was actually a bit disappointed in this, why did he not leave the right as it was? Rostam replied he was experienced enough, he no longer needed a young man’s learning restraint. 

Rostam then told him to look to his sword that he still held, it was encrusted in darkened dried blood, he had to clean it off. Odr gave it a few flourishing swings, and the blade he then saw had suddenly and dramatically changed. Flicking off with his fingers the bits of blood still stuck on the edge, it was sharper than anything he had seen. He accidentally cut his finger, and saw how his own blood seemed changed, with a vivacity of its own. Rostam then placed his hand on the hilt, affixing a dragonstone to it and giving the sword a new sheen. Once a mere blade, now the Balmung.

Odr bowed and thanked Rostam, who replied he had done his duty as an Ice Dragon, just as his comrades were doing the same elsewhere. Rostam said the spell which froze the battlefield was no longer needed, with his new strength, beyond that of an ordinary human, save this continent, he haven’t the time to do it himself. Odr said he would, and thanked his benefactor. Odr readied his stance and closed his eyes with Rostam besides him, when he felt the awe broke, he instinctively opened them. He went far beyond what he had achieved in his peak less than a half hour before, he could not be stopped, the Loptyrians did not even know what killed them. He ran out of targets, nine-tenths of those in his vicinity had all become corpses, and the survivors had fled.

After the battle, Odr gathered among his fellow Crusaders, and they met with the Archanean dragons once more, being told all that they need to know about Loptyr, the dragons themselves, and the nature and responsibilities of their power. This general meeting was followed by a brief individualized chat of each dragon and their chosen Crusader. Heim and co. issued orders to the remaining few soldiers of theirs’ to assess the aftermath, allowing them to have their discreet conversations with the dragons.

When Rostam and Odr spoke again, Odr, although admitting it puerile, asked if he could have a true match with Rostam, not the one he had staged. Rostam was willing to participate, and he drew the shield he had been armed with before, along with a blunted sword, Odr used a wooden blade. Odr could sense that Rostam was still stronger than him, but Rostam stated that the strength Odr now bore could certainly slay he who had granted it. The two said this as they sparred, of two different forms, the contrast was good for Odr, given his was not to be common amongst the Loptyrians, whereas Rostam had chosen one that was. Holding their little challenge outside for the space, Odr attempted to funnel what he had done earlier that day, for now it was night, into a concentrated series of movements, after several lunges at Rostam, in a spark of brilliance he had done it. The duel shortly after this was declared over, it needed no winner. Rostam then soon met with the rest of his kind, and giving and being given a final farewell, they left for Archanea again.


Odr and the Cosmic Way:


Now alone in a moment of peace, Odr chose to name his new technique, his perfected flurries of graceful, swift sword strikes. He called his personal style the Way of the Eternal Changing Void- the “Cosmic Way” in more casual language. His love for the night sky had inspired him, the skies above were forever changing, but changed in a perfectly cyclical pattern for eons. He named his personal technique Astra, for it was nigh-infinite to the normal eye, like the stars, and their rapidity was like that of the awe-inspiring stars that in a blink streak white across the dark night sky, only to fade into the shadows of oblivion forevermore. 

Odr wanted to do more with his newfound strength however, although skilled not in magic, he found it was possible with enough focus to impart something magical to his blade on occasion, something inexplicable to him. Odr turned to Heim for an answer one day, and Heim entered a series of duels with Odr, accompanied by other Crusaders and some of their underlings, with the intention of raising his intensity to the point of triggering this phenomenon. It was not quite magic as it turned out, but it was spiritual. 

A change in Odr’s Quintessence was detected during the duels, somehow it had flowed out of him into his blade, imbuing it special properties. They discovered that multiple and different phenomena could occur from a Quintessence flow. It too was discovered that this wasn’t something readily controllable, no single type of swing or emotion could guarantee it to happen, but higher levels of focus could increase the likelihood. 

What was controllable it seemed was the exact kind of flow and the properties it produced. Odr set to out to figure out then how to channel the Quintessence in a particular way. So that even if the effects could not occur on every strike, the flow would always be there for the chance to exist, better than having no flow at all.

Odr did not do this alone however, from the Crusading Army came many willing pupils, and he took in as many as he feasibly could given his status a top military leader with so many other duties. He taught on what was known and then he and his students trained together and exchanged information about what they felt and what they had. Curiously, it was discovered that some people were seemingly innately born with a high propensity for a particular Quintessence flow, that even without knowledge and training, they could continually carry out a given flow with ease. This was like Astra for him, although these techniques were accessible to all who sought to learn them. Odr named the two flows he and his pupils had discovered and perfected: the flow that heals like the warmth of the morning Sun- Sol;  the flow that through thickest armor pierces, just as the darkest darkness is pierced by moonlight- Luna.

Odr himself became the master of the two flows and Astra, which as it turns out was another Quintessence flow, but which received its uniqueness rendering it unteachable from the interference of his distinctive Holy Blood. Odr wondered a few times if it was possible for a flow leading to Astra to be found which didn’t call for Holy Blood, but he never did and gave up on it. Odr didn’t stop here however, he believed that there were other flows with special properties yet to be discovered. He also sought to find a way to combine all three of the flows he knew, perhaps he could splinter a Quintessence flow into three, each mimicking one of the three flows, if not in full, then in a smaller extent. He died before he could discover this technique however- the flow that embodied all of the Heavens above. 

His fellow swordsmen amongst the Crusaders- Baldr and Hodr- he tried to teach Astra, but neither proved capable of learning it, it appears only Rostam’s blood worked. Failing this, he attempted to have each develop their own distinctive flow influenced by their Holy Bloods. Baldr gave up on the training for it some way into it, concluding that although it would be nice to have, he wasn’t cut out for discovering his holy flow, perhaps one of his descendants later could, he in a mature manner moved on. Hodr found fault with Odr’s lessons from almost the start, and the reason was the difference in how they fought- Hodr was a cavalry master through and through, Odr never rode a horse for battle despite Balmung being suited for slashing; Baldr was fairly competent in both. 

(Hodr made a secondary remark that his Mystletainn was well suited for mustering his pure physical strength and slicing through enemy weak points anyhow, and this was enough for this Crusader. To momentarily bolster physical strength, concentration, perhaps a crude and undirected Quintessence change. And or to rip into the enemy’s vitals and or less protected areas. These are the means of the critical hit.)

Odr admitted to Hodr’s first criticism, his lessons, although he tried to put universal meaning in them, were specifically for infantry swordsmanship. The flows of Quintessence took into consideration movements of the human form, they didn’t have to be perfect, but they had to fall within certain parameters for the channeling to work. It was absolutely possible, why it was more reasonable than not, that different movements from the use of different weapons in different ways meant one had to adjust their flows to funnel them from body to weapon. It was discovered in time that the Sol and Luna flows were possible with all other forms of weaponry, that these were not exclusive to the sword, not even Astra was. Odr’s followers included those who attempted with some success to discover and then teach these altered Sol and Luna flows to others. 

Yet in Jugdral over a hundred years later, the understanding of the flows remained weak outside of the infantry sword. This wasn’t only the failure of warriors to experiment, the art of Quintessence flows was not for beginners. To learn of this weird invisible thing called Quintessence and understand it was rare enough, then one had to work on manipulating this intangible substance via intangible means. Once peace was long established in Jugdral, the desire to learn these arts declined as well. So while it was possible for anyone to learn the skills of Quintessence flows, it was difficult and remained the art of some of the dedicated warrior elite, and those who were naturally attuned to them. That Odr had mastered his Astra along with Sol and Luna, was proof of him as a demigod. Records of those who had attained both Sol and Luna can be counted on two hands, learning one technique was a lifetime achievement worthy of respect from all warriors.


Odr After the Holy War:


The full liberation of Issach came relatively early in the progression of the Holy War, owing to its distance from the Grannvalian Loptyrian center and adjacency to the Crusaders’ Yied. The Crusaders did not carve up the Jugdrali continent into their patrimonies during the Holy War, all liberated territory was governed by the Crusaders as a collective. In practice however, authority was delegated to whomever was on the ground in a given region and those who supported them. The Crusaders being equals and all morally sound allowed for the trust enabling this decentralization. And of course, realistically it was infeasible for say Bragi in Agustria to exert any say over events in Issach. 

Being a native Issachan and devoted to the land, Odr received much of the Crusader authority within Issach. By the end of the Holy War, Odr had in effect been heavily prepared for the kingship for years. He was willing to share power with the other Crusaders if they wished to join him in Issach, though none displayed the interest in doing so. Fjalar was born and raised in Issach, but she did not consider herself to be much of an Issachan, having been raised in the Loptyrian culture’s branch in Issach. Her cession was the only one that really needed to be made for Odr to control all of Issach, since the rest of the Crusaders had clear preferences for elsewhere. The Yied and seas made the borders of Issach easily defined, save in the distant west. Easternmost Silesse and westernmost Issach had the potential to be its own if small country, being fairly removed for Silesse and very removed for Issach from their political capitals. Yet no Crusader took up these lands, a mix of good and bad, as their own, and so they were split between the two kingdoms in a peaceful settlement.

Odr was old by the formal founding of post-Loptyr Issach, being of 64 years. As with Heim, he took a second wife less out of love and more out of the need to produce a Holy Blooded lineage. He remained on loving terms with his first wife, and his surviving children from her and their children were treated to at least freedom from need for life, more according to merit. His heir was a son, not the firstborn of the second marriage, but born with the Brand while the first was not and hence emerged as the chosen heir.

Odr’s life as a king consisted of several parallel tracks, which did not intersect each other. These tracks did not interfere and bring each other down, they were able to coexist without issue, if not with synergy either. There was Odr the teacher of the sword, Odr the policymaker, Odr of the secret. 

Odr brought elements of his old society days with him into the kingship, establishing the Sheathed Warriors as a royal guard, which was rife with Odr’s invented and reinvented symbolism and rituals. It did a good job of creating loyalty and camaraderie amongst the Sheathed Warriors, its members came from across Issach and could after some years of service go on to serve in other positions of government. With later monarchs, the Sheathed Warriors would grow haughty and independent of the monarch, resulting in political conflict which would see them demoted eventually. 

But to Prince Mariccle’s day, they remained a ritually and sentimentally prominent part of the Issachan military, many died with a martyr’s mindset fighting Grannvale following his father King Manaan after his assassination. The majority of the rest joined Mariccle after his last stand, and five others perished defending Ayra and Shannan before their capture. Only some retired members survived beyond this.

Odr’s sword school began small following his elevation to a Crusader. Although he was very busy waging Holy War and preaching to the masses of Issach, Odr kept some time reserved for sword practice. In awe of his abilities, others sought to watch with Odr, and a few had the courage to ask to practice with this sword god. Odr appreciated quietness for his practicing, but was of enough ability he did not need it, and instead he decided to openly welcome individuals to his training sessions. Over time, he reduced his own sword practice and increased the time he spent on helping others train. Teaching did not come naturally to him, but he made efforts to try to be a teacher, wanting to help all students. 

Beginning with only the sword, over time his popularity led those of other weapons to seek his guidance. He deferred to experts on those weapons, but did attempt to learn them and offer whatever little advice he could about them, and also tried to universalize what he had learned from the sword. Expansion of his school due to a boundless student population led Odr to undertake restructuring, dividing the different weapon types and levels of mastery into separate subsections and establishing faculty for each to do the day-to-day management. Upon becoming King of Issach, Odr did another reform of the system. He made the breaks he made earlier even stronger, creating independent schools whose names deviated from his own school’s, united under a single Issachan umbrella. The glue preventing an overproliferation of martial schools was a minimum of standards enforced by a governmental Board of Martial Arts and its provincial sub-boards. The Board could every few years could dissolve fraudulent schools and approve of the creation and consolidation of new and present ones. As the long peaces took hold, the number declined, the larger schools absorbed the smaller ones, and the membership and patronage of each school became typical.

As for his personal School of the Way of the Eternal Changing Void, it continued as the officially sanctioned royal school, focusing primarily on the sword. The leader like, in many schools, had to be of descent from the proper lineage, in this case Odr’s, although other schools not tied to Holy Blood permitted relations through marriage. Owing to its special status in relation to the state, it maintained a certain prestige which many in Issach aspired to, but in which few found membership.

While Grannvale established Dukedoms/Duchies, like Agustria and Manster District, Issach established a system of kingships. There were four kingships: Issach, Ganeishire, Rivough, and Tirnanog, the first being greater than the rest, being the King of Issach as a whole, and always of Odr’s descent with the Brand. Each King had the right to invest their own subservient nobles, and the King of Issach had the right to inspect the selections of the inferior kings, and provided good reason, replace them with their chosen alternatives. The three inferior kings and their subjects all offered service, revenue, crown lands, and ritualized gifts to the King of Issach, as did the King of Issach’s own of course. And in return, the King of Issach bestowed ritualized gifts in turn, maintained the investments of those kings and nobles, and granted them significant privileges and freedoms.

Odr’s tomb was different from those preferred by Grannvale. He had built a dome halfway in the ground, and had his body interred in it in 654, having just lived to through his 70th year. Much longer could not be expected of such a battle veteran, covered in scars as numerous as wrinkles, most from his pre-Crusader days. The tomb was to be allowed to naturally cover with soil and grass over time, as long as the structure was not compromised. It was a traditional Issach burial practice, albeit on larger scale than ever before. Rather than establish a family tomb, although dear friends, servants, and family who had died before him were allowed into it, Odr's tomb was to be specifically for himself. Later Issachan rulers would establish their individualized tombs according to their means and popular trends at the time.


Edited by Interdimensional Observer

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Now is Thurd's turn.

Age at the Miracle: 37

Birth and Upbringing:


Thurd had the most fortunate birth of all of the Crusaders in 595. He born in northeast Agustria, not too far from where he would later establish the Dukedom of Freege in Grannvale.  At the time, this place just over the modern border was governed as though it were a part of the imperial core. His family was 4th in the 11 official ranks of Loptyrian nobility. In addition to the eleven ranks, topping the system was the royal Loptyrian lineage, for a total of twelve formal categories of the political-administrative-military elite.

To be fourth in this system was to live a fairly lavish life. Those in it never really knew hunger or want, servants were plentiful, although not able to have palatial livings, a very fine manor was still in reach. The possibility of the honor of seeing the emperor, albeit from a distance, was also quite possible. To be fortunate enough to reside in the imperial center expanded one’s world, if at the same time resulting in ways more stringent Loptyrian oversight. As he grew up, he came to favor his extended family’s “cottage” by the sea over the border in Agustria, and better visits here and his education, was rarely at his home mansion.

Thurd’s grandfather died of natural causes when he was but an infant, and his father died by his early teens of his own health complications. This left Thurd’s mother as the informal leader of the noble house, accompanied by Thurd’s older brother as the male leader.

Thurd’s life was typical for a high noble of the Loptyr Empire. He was educated in Loptyrian catechism and loyalty to the emperor, and he was trained in all the subjects which a learned man was to be taught, from mathematics, to poetry, to the martial arts. Despite being based on one dragon’s hatred for humanity, the Empire permitted some freedom in education, mostly the “harmless” literary fields. Thurd wrote the usual uncreative-if-technically-sound prose and poetry of the elite, blending the old themes of beauty and nature, devoid of deities, with the occasional reference to Loptyr. Thurd’s own writings exposed a preference for poetry and its careful meter. 

In academic standings, Thurd placed in the middle of the pack, neither a dimwit, nor a genius by the standards of the Empire. Being a high noble however ensured that mediocrity bore few real repercussions, there was no shortage of positions of governance which he could fill. Meritocracy did exist to an extent in the Loptyrian nobility, but it was a gradual process, going from the lowest to the highest rank in one generation was impossible.

Therefore so high an elite, life for Thurd was perhaps too blissful. Life was boring, for although he had to manage his family estate, participate in politics, perform state ritual, carry out the orders from above and pass them down, nothing really challenged him. The various recreations of nobles he all participated in, from literature, to dueling, to other sports, to gambling, which he was poor at. He took a wife, had children, and copulated with prostitutes as was tacitly permitted to a man of his stature.


Thurd's Transition to War:


In 611, by sheer coincidence, mass rebellions broke out across Jugdral, throwing the continent into chaos which the Empire had to put down. Thurd was only eleven when this began, and his father was starting to become ill. The rebellion did not affect them anyhow, the Loptyr Empire underestimated the scope and potency of the rebellions initially, it was not until late into the third year that the Empire began to consider these revolts real threats. For the first few years, the Empire relied wholly on locally recruitable forces and officials in each province to handle each rebellion. In the fourth year, the Empire deployed new commanders, each with a handful of troops, to put down the rebellions. For this task, Thurd’s elder brother was chosen as a commander to one of these rebellions. Unable to stop their growth, Thurd’s brother died from injuries sustained in Silesse in 617.

Following his brother’s death, Thurd became the formal leader of his family at age 22, but his old mother kept the formal reigns of power, older than him, further propped up his place. But this was not to be. Thurd’s brother’s wife claimed her young son to be the rightful heir, and a succession dispute broke out. Thurd found allies in some of his cousins and friends, and with his mother argued in favor of his succession, yet his brother’s wife was persistent on her son’s right. Loptyrian inheritance laws permitted flexibility in the heirs of nobles, and this was done for the sake of the Empire. Thurd’s mother soon passed away, and he called for an inspection into the cause of death to ensure it wasn’t foul play, whilst taking a harder line against his sister-in-law. Yet without his mother’s authority, the balance of power shifted against him as his sister-in-law now became a dowager, and this doomed him. Willing to arbitrate the dispute, imperial officials sided against Thurd.

Thurd lost his succession dispute in 618, but was able to escape alive. A compromise was reached, given his nephew was merely eight years of age, he would be appointed as regent for the time being, sharing power with his sister-in-law. This was a farce, but it kept his family intact. In truth, Thurd was to be sent off to fight for the Loptyr Empire, while his sister-in-law remained in the future Grannvale. Here lay the promise for his future, win against the rebels, and he would receive a new fief to claim for his own family.

Thurd thus set out in 619 to replace his brother in Silesse. Given his noble rank, Thurd was given initially a good position in the military. As mentioned before, the Loptyr Empire built its military hierarchal selections on a combination of merit and birth. In peace, the structure fell to birth, but war forced a rearrangement of according to ability on the field, which could affect permanent adjustments when the war was over.

Thurd brought fresh troops with him, and got to combining them with the old ones once he arrived. He followed orders from above, and prepared according to the textbooks for battle. When his first battle came, Thurd was met with loss, and he was lightly reprimanded for this. This puzzled Thurd, loss, he had truly never known this before, nor was the intense atmosphere of battle anything like the tranquil world he had known. At first, did not bother him, like the criticisms of writings made back in the academy. When those were at he sharpest he did work to avoid such mistakes again, yet on the whole he displayed less sensitivity and responsiveness to failure.

But after a series losses and criticism amounting to a demotion, Thurd became frustrated. Still better off than a grunt, but lower than some of colleagues, his initial frustrations turned to something else, Thurd didn’t quite get why he lost this time, he had no instructor’s written criticisms to tell him what they where. Instead, he had to figure out his mistakes by himself, and he began to seriously consider what he was doing. He read his war texts and considered the elements of battle more carefully, more than just treating them as books to memorize for exams and implement in boring duties. He started with geography, and then moved on to troop formations, to logistics, and so forth. He started to learn the arts of war, and was thrilled this, the boredom of idyllic peace was gone.

Thurd’s field lessons took hold, and during his time fighting in Silesse he became a good tactician, and regained his lost ground. It appeared things were going well for him, as a compromise to keep the family feud from reigniting, Thurd had accepted his new fief would be in Silesse, a fine country as he saw it. In 621 however, things changed, although this was the year that began the beginning of the decade-long decline of the Liberation Army, it was not immediately clear everywhere. Thurd was tasked with what he believed would be a simple requisition mission- to requisite supplies from a village for the Loptyrian forces, he had done this before, but things were different this time. 


Thurd's Awakening Begins:


Normally, the matter of child hunts was left to a designated paramilitary force in the Loptyr Cult, but this time, it wasn’t. When the villagers hesitated to offer supplies, which Thurd had experienced before, he took what he came for anyhow. This time however, his superior and allied requisitioners took the hesitation to supply them as an act of resistance. Thurd was given the order to slaughter them with the young captured, and given his upbringing, he should not have hesitated to do so. He didn’t. 

Thurd went ahead and participated in the slaughter of the entire village, but it felt odd to him, effortless, meaningless, it in ways didn’t seem to be proper. Although taught to disregard the lives of wretched peasants, he had the bodies gathered for the sake of cleanliness and then burned on a funeral pyre. As they were incinerated, he offered a sincere prayer that Loptyr would punish them and then devour their souls, firmly believing union with Loptyr be it peaceful or violent was good. When he returned to camp, he weighed the deaths against the supplies obtained, it seemed paltry to his mind. 

After a ferocious clash with the Silessean resistance sometime later that year, the order was given to cleanse a village in the battle zone. Thurd spoke a statement against the orders and asked only for a thorough inspection of the populace for resistance members. His request was denied, and Thurd then explained the practical issues of wholesale slaughter, even in the proximity of a battlefield. There was no need to do this, it would hurt the Empire in the long term. Thurd’s superiors disagreed with him again, but chose to entertain it. About two dozen shirtless men were gathered in public for all to see, their arms were bound behind them and one by one, they were grisly executed, first their pants were dropped and the executors quickly castrated them, after which they were drawn and beheaded. About as many children were taken away. Once more, Thurd found issue in this, even though it shouldn’t have, there were still adult males and children in the community, and all the women were intact. As an intimidation tactic, it was reasonable.

Thurd did not know how to describe his feelings this time. Logically, it seemed a sound compromise, but he still felt was off about it all. In his past three years, he had interacted with commoners, be it his own soldiers, or the villagers he requisitioned from. There was a clear distrust and difference between him and the villagers, he ordered them and they, with open fear and underlying resentment carried them out. Nonetheless, these were interactions. And in his tactical learnings, he came to understand that in Silesse, the often ugly terrain, heavy snow and spring mud, plus mountains and forests, meant local knowledge would essential to victory. Silesse, as it would be during the era of Seliph, was never fully conquered, the furthest north like Verdane had always been too challenging and devoid of worth when it came to conquest. 

Furthermore, the Loptyr Empire had not learned the advantages of Pegasus Knights, not single Deadlord was one. Loptyr found pegasi too dainty, and like the wyverns, he paid no heed to integrating them into his forces. A bigger reason was complacency, the Loptyr Empire had risen to glory without pegasi, why did it need them now to fight mere rebels? Silesse had used Pegasus Knights before the Loptyr Empire, but the art had been largely lost during the Empire’s rule. The Liberation Army, like prior resistances, had revived the martial arts of Pegasus, and it was quite helpful.

Thurd decided to put his thoughts to paper, rather than just think it all in his head. He normally kept to meter in his literary writings, but time he did not, finding it restraining. When he had finished a crude deductive process, he retired for the night, and then went back on another night and reformed his deductions through several drafts into a metered composition. His conclusion was dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction with how the war was being carried out. Why was he dissatisfied? For that, he repeated the process of free-verse and meter. 

Following this pattern, although sometimes he did one or the other part, he step-by-step reached an ultimate conclusion. He was dissatisfied because the Empire was wrong in its treatment of Silesseans. Why was it wrong? Because the Empire was supposed to embrace all of Jugdral, to enable all to serve Loptyr in their fullest capacities. Hierarchy did assign people to different roles and capacities, but his interpretation of them was on the nicer side by Loptyrian standards. He then mustered the courage to do what to most was the unthinkable, he tendered a letter to a high Loptyrian official, outlining his arguments and listing some suggestions for improvement. He was aware of how bold this was, but he believed the Emperor and his highest servants would be on his side. Thurd was a bit naive.


Thurd's Epistolary Exchanges to Their End:


When the response came, Thurd was disappointed. His arguments had been rejected, although the official had provided point-by-point criticisms explaining all that was wrong. His proposal to establish Pegasus Knights would be looked into as well. Thurd decided to contemplate the response and its lessons, sending a thank you to the official for the corrective instructions, and resuming his normal service in the meanwhile. 

Nonetheless, wishing to investigate whether there were any ways of improving the Empire’s standings in Silesse, he began interrogating captured rebels and civilians. He had the rank to do this, and his inquiries were not those of the Loptyrian Cult, questions which if not answered correctly, resulted in torture. Thurd’s questions sought to collect empirical data, asking why someone joined the rebels, what their problems were, could they be amenable to Loptyrian rule if certain things changed? If the rebels were beyond conciliation and their reasons wholly unjustified, then the Empire did not need to change course. If they were flexible however, Thurd believed it was possible for the Empire to keep to its traditional beliefs, while introducing changes that could restore peace and which would supplement the use of force.

It was for love of the Empire, after having collected his interrogative data, that Thurd sent another letter refining his points, offering moderated suggestions where he may have gone too far in the first letter, and including new remarks based on his gathered testimony. Once more he received a reply, albeit less detailed than the first. Thurd issued another thank you, carried on with his duties, performed more empirical fieldwork, passing more time. He then did yet another correspondence, and now lightly on new reflections questioned the necessity of child hunts, would it not be possible to acquire the children another way? This had gone far enough for the Loptyr Cult, although Thurd had been a useful soldier, he was certainly replaceable. Deemed suspicious by the state, Thurd received an epistle demanding his repentance or risk the consequences. 

Thurd had not quite expected this, and sent a brief formal apology wherein he humbled himself as a servant of the Emperor. However, Thurd’s mind was not quite settled yet, and he intentionally quietly resisted the second part of his repentance order- that being visiting a Loptyrian priest of at least a certain rank and being contrite before them. Instead, Thurd threw himself into battle for the Empire, striking some successes. This excuse, of being busy in battle, worked for a time, and during it Thurd continued to work out his thoughts. Thurd was should have and wanted to make that formal repentance, but he instead chose to repent through labor. Why he could not wholly understand, his mind was developing a certain resistance to Loptyrian authority, and it was now reaching the limit it could go without becoming treasonous in his own eyes, and he could not fathom treason, leaving him confused. But this state of a body in the fog of war and a mind in another fog did not last long.


Thurd Under Duress and his Conversion


In 624, the Loptyr Cult sent a representative to make an inquest concerning Thurd’s beliefs. Thurd displayed both hesitancy and willingness in his approach to the inquisition. He stated when asked that he had written this or that, and corrected officials where he was being misunderstood, and admitted at times to being wrong. Nonetheless, he kept a certain defensiveness concerning his present beliefs which he did not quite understand in the moment. He emphasized his love for the Empire, his willing to risk life and limb for it, his successes as a soldier, and lastly his genealogy.

The inquisitor did not find Thurd’s statements and appeal to be assuring enough, and had his personal effects raided, which Thurd had not expected. Finding volumes of Thurd’s deductions, the inquisitor became convinced that he was not trustworthy, he was to be removed from his present military post and reassigned elsewhere for the time being, during which he could fully recant. The promise of a Silessean fief was also forsaken for the time being.

Thurd then watched as much of his treasured thoughts were burnt in a bonfire, deemed potentially dangerous. Thurd was willing to yield to arrest, but precisely because of his general loyalty despite the ill thoughts, he was not forcibly removed. He returned to his place of rest, with a guard on watch, and was to sleep here before being quietly departing the next day. Thurd thought to himself, his future in the Empire was not going to be a good one, clearly, his ideas weren’t going to go through. He would also have to put up with politics again once in Grannvale, he would have his defenders and his opponents arguing about his status. He had already received missives of stinging rebuke and mild console from old enemies and friends, and did not like the prospect of intrigue once more. He cried alone at the prospect of leaving wartime Silesse and returning to this stuffy old life.

It would be a sign of weakness if he groveled for the Emperor’s mercy and intervention, he was afraid a rebuke from such an appeal, daring and uppity if it failed, would only sanction his personal destruction. Thus he quashed this plan he had brewing in his head. And he did not wish to rely on old friends and fellow friendly officers for protection, the tumult of politics was not to his liking. And how could he really know, now branded with heresy, that all supposed allies would support him? He had seen soldiers and officers removed for suspected treason, and he too had distanced himself from some of those people, even if he had personal ties or reason to doubt their disobedience. 

Thurd knew there was only one course of action left, and he knew taking it would endanger his wife and children, but he took it anyhow. That course was to abandon the Empire, he had considered in his logic the possibility for months, but he never wrote it down and cast it out of hand as a dead end never to be followed. He had not cast judgement against the child hunts, since he had never gone to the capital nor could claim to understand the mind and needs of the glorious Emperor-Loptyr Incarnate. Nonetheless, he had formed enough criticisms of the Empire seeing Silesse that he had to consider the alternatives. He had out of loyalty done nothing to prepare for the alternatives, but he held enough confidence that in his current conditions, he could escape safely. 

Thus, Thurd collected his thoughts, what little remained to him, and set out for the Liberation Army in the quiet of the night. He knew the camp well, and he managed to steal his steed and few documents whilst not alerting the lowly and disinterested guard assigned to watch him. With his rank and dress, not yet stripped from him, he was able to deflect any common soldier he encountered in the darkness. Before the dawn came, he had arrived at the Liberation Army’s base, where he made himself known to guardsmen. Dropping his weapons, Thurd willingly surrendered himself to the Liberation Army.


Thurd in the Liberation:


Thurd was brought into captivity, and he was interrogated as he expected. Thurd explained his case, he was a noble warrior of the Loptyr Empire, circumstances turning against him in the Empire, he chose to defect. He was not expecting this, and so brought nothing with him save himself, his ride, and some records of Loptyrian logistics, in addition to all the information stored in his head. Thurd was met with suspicion from the Liberation Army, there had been plenty of Loptyrian defectors before, but they generally came from the lower ranks, none had come from so high, so secure within the imperial hierarchy. More suspicion was cast on his reasons for defection, they seemed selfish, did he truly understand the suffering of the people of Jugdral? Thurd said he saw it, he had participated in it, and whilst he never himself felt such suffering, he had come to see it as unjust. If the Empire was unwilling, perhaps unable, to reform itself, he would side with the alternative- Liberation. The details of the Liberation Army didn’t matter, what did was that he thought it to be better as a whole. He tried to come off as firm in his belief to betray, though in his mind, the decision caused some suffering, the habit from birth of revering the Emperor needed time to fully break.

Nonetheless, Thurd’s captors found him a questionable asset, what was to say this wasn’t a ruse? Traitors had been found before the ranks of the Liberation Army, this could be just another. They chose to keep Thurd imprisoned, while waiting for a superior in the Liberation Army to arrive and discern the validity of Thurd’s intel. Cross-referencing it, they determined it to be authentic, and Thurd’s name was cleared enough for him to be placed into the Liberation Army as a junior officer. He was higher than a grunt by virtue of his willingness to betray and seeming intellect, but they could not entrust this new enigma to a position of power and freedom, not yet. 

Thurd’s old noble rank mattered not here at, he would have work his way up the ladder again. He didn’t mind, he didn’t mind having much less plentiful and delicious food, much less comfortable sleeping conditions, having to do the occasional manual labor, he didn’t mind the general poverty of the Liberation Army at all. He had come from the top of the world, being told to be willing to die for the Empire a brutal death, but in reality his posh livings had been dreadful ennui. Fighting for the Empire truly gave him joy in life, questioning it gave him reflective insight, and now opposing it, he was finding meaning. He didn’t wholly abandon his old ways, he still liked to wax literary in his time off, but it always felt better alone at the end of an aching day than before a four-course lunch with friends. Delicate he was not, nor did he want to be that ever again, he laughed at his prior existence, to the point a few times it worried his new comrades that he was going insane.

For the next eight years, Thurd fought for the Liberation Army, and rose through the ranks as a tactician and logistician. His promotions made him more valuable an asset to the Liberation Army, hence the switch from a field officer- a practitioner of tactics, to a commander whose participation was more at the operational level, which removed him from direct participation in the foray itself. Thurd was not a bad soldier, he knew how to fight well, but his mind’s abilities were more important than that of his body. During his time in the Liberation Army, Thurd was faced with a dilemma, to use his betrayal as propaganda or not? Initially, he chose not to, he needed to earn the trust of the Liberation Army first. And later on, he did not because as the Liberation effort lost ground, it seemed futile. Furthermore, he did not want to endanger his old friends and family if it had no effect on the course of the war, which seemed to be the case.


Thurd Retreats to Yied:


And on this note, Thurd’s fine mind was not enough to affect the changing tides of war. He was forced to continually retreat, and had to decide whether to head north, or to head southeast. The north remained free, and seemingly invincible, perhaps the Loptyr Empire would abandon its efforts to take that frigid land. But what of continental Liberation? Although he knew only some of Grannvale and Silesse, he realized how much those parchment maps he scanned so often symbolized. Thurd ultimately chose to leave most of Silesse and head for Yied, where the continental Liberation Army was being concentrated as it met defeat elsewhere. His decision was made not as an individual, but as part of group discussion amongst his fellow Liberation commanders. Among them was Ced, who by the time of this decision in 630 had already encountered Forseti.

Ced chose to remain in Silesse, and led the Liberation forces there. Thurd’s withdrawal was costly, but in the mid-term it appeared to yield benefits, yet it was a passing gain, and the Liberation Army began to yield ground again. As it declined towards oblivion, Thurd remained unrepentant. He knew it was much too late to pull any strings and live, nor did he want to. His experience meant that in these last days of the old Liberation effort, he met Heim amongst others, with so few left, there was no difference in their stations. Both accepted death was at hand, but would march into the afterlife rather than grovel, everyone did despite whatever fear lay in their hearts, it made it all easier to bear. At Darna, he watched the final battle unfold, first riding out on horseback and commanding while the defense line held on the slope, once it broke and it was clearly lost, he ordered the retreat and pulled back, entering the Fort and dismounting as the  reserves left to stop the Loptyrian advance on the fort itself.

Returning to his room to process what he had seen before returning to his duties. Thurd wrote a few verses on death, something he had decided he would never do unless he felt the spectre in his bones. He did not want to dilute the significance of the ultimate end by composing a trite ballad every time he went to battle. It was authentic, beautiful poetry, but he never looked it over, as soon as it was done, he left it on the table and hurried out. He looked from up high on the outer gate, with hand and word he conducted the final clash to its demise, slinging a spell or two from afar between his commands. When it was clear the last assault was done for and the walls of Darna were destined to be overrun, he tried to bring order to the last retreat. He chose to remain atop his high place until he saw the last of his allies were vanquished or inside. This never happened, for as he stared into the depths of the desert horizon, though he faced southwest, he glimpsed in his mind a figure in the distance winged and over unseen seas, he perceived a word for it- dragon.


Thurd at the Moment of the Miracle: 37


Time came to cease at Darna. And from the radiance emerged Fulgur, one of the Divine Dragons, he was dressed in a white body wrap, which was part of the traditional garb of Manaketes, with accents of purple and green. His hair was long, and he formed it into a single braid which snaked down his neck and back. In age, he was like most dragons at this point, in at least their forties, more likely older, he had the appearance of a respected statesman, and bore few signs of physical overexertion. 

Thurd drew his sword as the inhuman human stepped towards him, in response, Fulgur silently pointed to the battlefield, the Loptyrian armies were paralyzed in place, many had fallen to the ground, others on their knees. Thurd understood right away he meant that he was responsible for this, there could be no other explanation it seemed to him. The questions which Thurd then followed with came not with hostility, but with a desire to know, what was he, how had he done this, and why? Fulgur responded he had come to end this war, to bring forth Grannvale’s liberation, and that to do so, it was necessary the two of them form a pact granting Thurd his power. Thurd then thought in his head, this person’s presence, it reminded him of Ced somehow. 

Thurd asked why was he chosen, and Fulgur responded his character was strong, and that he could sense it. Thurd then asked what made his character particularly strong and by what means could he, whom for some inexplicable reason he could tell was a dragon, could tell this from afar? Fulgur responded they could not suppress Loptyr’s legions forever, would Thurd take his power as his now? He swore this was no lie, genuine power for him, with no obligations tied to it other than the destruction of Loptyr and the creation of a new righteous order in Jugdral. Any questions Thurd had he promised he would answer later when the moment’s crisis was past.

Thurd understood the immediate needs of the moment, and from what had been said, seen, and felt, he followed Fulgur’s urgent question with a swift yes. Fulgur could tell Thurd had a sharp,  investigative mind, and he saw he carried a spellbook of no low caliber. He thus imagined what would be an ideal weapon for this warrior. Manifesting a dragonstone, and saying what it was aloud to Thurd, he channeled its power into the sky, which then fell on Thurd in a bolt, ripping open his jugular and dropping his spellbook to the ground. Fulgur continued step-by-step to explain this process. One of Fulgur’s fingers too was ripped open by the rampant electricity from the dragonstone, and his blood traveled into Thurd. Thurd collapsed, but within a half minute stood on his knees again. As he eyes opened wide once more, inches away Fulgur held the closed Mjolnir; the pages rewritten and inscribed by the dragon’s thoughts, the conduit that allowed it the dragonstone embedded in the cover. Thurd thanked Fulgur with a nod as he touched his new weapon, and Fulgur once more pointed to the battlefield, the luminosity was fading away, Thurd silently knew what was needed of him now, he needed to calculate the best course of action. 

Rather than run down the steps, when below he saw the gate below barged open by Neir, when he heard Heim echo through Darna, he defied his usual instincts and leaped to down below. An ordinary mortal would’ve sustained injury, or at least needed a few minutes to recoup, but he could feel he was no longer that, he was certain he could survive, and he did. Scanning the horizon, to protect his allies he opened the Mjolnir and eradicated an incoming regiment with a single lightning strike. When he saw six injured men overwhelmed by just two Loptyrians whom they desperately threw themselves against, Thurd shocked the two dead without as a much as a spark touching his comrades. Someone fetched Thurd a horse, and having the height to command once more, he began to shout, louder than ever before, his warnings and requests to the Liberation forces. These weren’t really needed, why would the Twelve Crusaders combined need strategy? But it was in his old duties, and nobody minded it. Rather than just command, Thurd more than he had in years threw himself into the melee of battle, dashing where needed and dropping strategic thunderbolts.


Thurd as the Duke of Freege:


With the Holy War’s end, the Crusaders now found it their duty to establish a new world order in Jugdral. Despite his fondness for Silesse, Thurd decided to resettle in Grannvale’s northwest, not far from his birthplace now in Agustria. He knew the area, and as Grannvale was the now-former center of the Loptyrian Empire, it had a large and dense population in need of governing. Convinced Ced was more than sufficient for Silesse, and persuaded by Hodr he could manage Agustria alone, Thurd placed his lot in Grannvale. 

As the Duke of Freege at the age of 53, Thurd was now a noble of the highest order, although it was more royalty in all but name and deference to Heim. He had enjoyed his life removed from decadent pageantry for the past couple decades, but now returned to it. To be fair, he was now in his fifties, even with a dragon’s blood, battle and struggle were getting old for him. This was a new phase in his life, suited to his aging body, and he would carry out the new tasks he could best perform and needed to perform in it. 

Coming from an old Loptyrian family, he was the most suited of the Crusaders by background for the role of a monarch. Nonetheless, he chose to emphasize his subservience to Heim, for he was by birth a noble, dedicated to nobilesse oblige, he was too selfless to make himself a liege. Heim was clearly superior to him, and thus given the option to avoid placing himself at the absolute top of a hierarchy, used Heim to lower himself. 

As for his lineage, he had taken a new wife after becoming a Crusader, he looked out of duty, but found real love that warmed his heart. Although he needed not to, he told her of his promiscuous past, and while stating it was common practice amongst Loptyrian nobles, accepted the fault as his. He swore to be faithful to her and he indeed was, siring a crop of sons with her, the eldest inheriting the Brand, and the Duchy when he passed on. In parenting, Thurd accepted children who weren’t the smartest nor most poetic, but did wish to make sure his boys had some form of direction and meaning in life which they displayed some skill in, even if not the greatest. 

Thurd was a capable administrator and ruler as expected. He aimed for an austere nobility, shunning outward excess, and he wished to avoid the political intrigue of old which had affected him. His plans were a well-defined rational division of labor and duties in society, wherein nobles fulfilled two roles. The first was government and the ready military elite, which through their fiefs and removal from manual labors would provide them with the time to do. The second was to make them the managers of lands which for various reasons peasant villagers could not render productive at a given time. He wanted full utilization of the realm’s capacities, and maximizing the fields were one way. 

Not all of his plans were met, he wished to actually do away with the nobility and have a non-noble civil service receive stipends from centrally-managed ducal lands themselves overseen by the civil service. This was deemed too radical though, and threatened to undermine the political-administrative system which Grannvale had been newly founded on. Although Grannvale, like all but Miletos (confederation) and Thracia (centralized monarchy) were federated kingdoms, with a strong element of decentralization, the center was far from powerless. During the formation of Grannvale, Thurd had yet to gather and flesh out his more radical thoughts, consenting to a hierarchy of nobility instead. When he began to implement his finalized radical ideas, the nobility was not sure how to react to it and what it did to their livelihoods. 

Believing the new old system worked well enough, they questioned why Thurd was rocking the boat after more than a century of Loptyrian rule had just been ended. They presented their grievances to Heim’s son, now the King of Grannvale, and asked him to think about how this would complicate the entire kingdom and the king’s relation to the Duke’s civil service subjects. The relation of nobles to the King was already ironed out, but these non-noble civil servants needed defined places and the powers of the king and the duke over them had to be agreed on. Another concern was what would become of the other dukedoms and the crown territories, would they be now be made subject to this wholly incongruent system? 

The King of Grannvale listened and asked for the advice of the Dukes and Duchesses, including Thurd himself. The six Crusaders all still alive offered verbal and written opinions, Thurd obviously supported the system, Baldr served as his main opposition, Neir found it complicated if workable, Fjalar leaned against it if the noble system remained open to new blood, and Ulir and Bragi were fairly unopinionated on the matter. With deadlock and the enormous effort a reworking of the present system would require, the King politely asked Thurd to abandon his ideas. Thurd was not so old he couldn’t put up an argument if he wanted to, but he ceded to the King’s request. He shelved his reform plans, tucking them away, trying to cultivate future leaders who could bring them to the fore successfully, and enacting more mild reforms.

In the cultural realm, Thurd did continue his liking for poetry, albeit confessing they were not necessarily the best, he was a god of war, not literature; and his dukedom became known for it cultural achievements in the literary realm. Rich words were cheap, they could be bountiful without an excessive drain on society’s resources, unlike lavish castles and foods. Thurd’s followers compiled their own lists of his writings, and Thurd composed his, which included many poems he had written, but he had since lost. He accompanied these with meditations, detailing the inner workings of his deductive mind. The performing arts were less reputable and not officially sanctioned, but portraiture did become a way of expressing cultural prominence for the upper classes.


The Death and Burial of Thurd:


As with the other Duchies and the Kingdom, a mausoleum was to be Thurd’s place of burial when he died at the age of 66 in 661. Thurd although trying to eat healthy and light, could not fully resist an old love for red meat, and had gained a few pounds over the standards he set for himself. His less than ideal health did not in itself kill him, but it did weaken his immune system enough that an outbreak of a particularly bad fever in Freege and other parts of Grannvale and Augustria, was able to infect him and leave him crippled. He died of complications from this within four months. Rumor had it though he drank poison and ended his own life prematurely. Too enfeebled to serve as Duke of Freege any more, he decided to pass on the title just as the duties had now left him since his infection- or so the rumors went. This was not cast in the tales as a dishonorable suicide.

Thurd chose years in advance the site for his burial, it was to the northwest of his castle, within two days’ journey. It was set into a hill as most Crusader mausoleums were, with firmness of the soil and the water table taken into account. He did provide for state grandeur here, using a fine white Grannvalian marble quarried from his fief. His use of engraved images was fairly sparse, and generally in low relief, but he did have etched deep into the marble significant quantities of writing, preferring again to express himself in the word over the image. These were paragraphs describing his past life and the principles he wished for Jugdral to hold firm now and forever, stored in a medium certain to endure for centuries to come. His failure here was the exclusive nature of the tomb. When only the guards and priests and his descendants ever laid eyes on it, what could stop the forgetting of these words when the Freeges returned to a family of Loptyrians?



And I'll add what little I've written of Baldr, who doesn't have so much to write about since he is the youngest at only 18. Though I did write a little on his post-Holy War life too, but not so much since I have less of his character formed to write about it.


Baldr's Family Background and the Basic Structure of His Upbringing:


Baldr was born near the modern Yied Shrine in 615, which at the time had no Loptyrian connections, since they harbored no interest in the desert when they ruled the world. Baldr was an army brat, born into the Liberation Army, and whose life would be nothing but fighting until the end of the Holy War. 

His mother was Phinoran, a distant cousin of the “Father of the Liberation Army” Kobar, and his father hailed from Grannvale. His father fought valiantly on the frontlines as a middle-rank officer, earning enough acclaim that combined with good looks and a fair personality, earned him the hand of Baldr’s mother, who as a relative of the charismatic Kobar had a little status. (Not that the Liberation Army had the luxury for social hierarchy- but clans and individuals stemming from meritorious service did rise and fall, and had some organizational use.) Baldur’s mother was active like many women in the continuous logistical challenges of the Liberation, herself in the organizational mid-high levels on this front. Despite having two living parents, neither of whom was bad, Baldr didn’t see them that much. As for his distant uncle, they briefly met a few times formally, but no actual relationship existed between them.

The Liberation Army across the continent established its own communities, and in the more wretched circumstances of the Liberation Army, the poor mothers had to follow their grunt husbands, doing their laundry and caring for their children dragged along the way. In the more stationary and better off Liberation forces, women would pool together their children and the responsibilities of traditional motherhood. Baldr was raised by a wide number of women despite his mother making several visits a week, and he was an only child, though loneliness he knew not from the communal circumstances, he was surrounded by other children. All infants were grouped together, but by age five, the boys and girls had separate sleeping areas and bathing times. 

By seven or eight, the boys transitioned away from the women towards the men, starting to learn the physical labors and arts of war which they would be required to take up. Their barracks would be ran by either old and injured men retired from battle, or the older boys who had not yet become warriors. Girls at the same age would go learn the traditional women’s tasks of cooking, sewing, laundry, nursing, and child care. Girls who displayed a strong willingness to fight would start later than boys on the war path, receiving separate training from a combination of other female fighters and some men starting around the age of ten and a half. Boys who lacked the physical martial and or laboring skills around the same age would attempt to be relocated to the limited magical and healing lessons available, which often came with priestly duties, or to the noncombat officers. In the case of boys with fathers in specialty occupations, the sons could be withdrawn at eight. Barring these, if a boy displayed sufficient interest and ability in something like cooking, they could be sent into that. 

At the ages of 12-14, puberty affecting when exactly this happened, the boys were initiated into young adulthood and a new barracks, the intensity of their combat lessons was increased, and now they could possibly be sent into battle. At 16, the young men became men, full official Liberation Army fighters who were relocated to the mens’ barracks. Marriage required they attain a minimum of 19 years though, and contact between husband and wife could be limited if the two were needed in different places. Girls were declared young women with first mensuration, and received an elevation in status comparable to that of males from their child rank. Young women became women at 18, and were also able to marry at this age. 


The Schooling System of Baldr:


How was Baldr within this setting? He had a gentle personality, something of an idealist, a strong believer in the ideals of liberation, with a chivalrous tone towards elderly, women and children. That was Baldr in peace, Baldr in battle was quite different. 

Specifically in the Yied Liberation Army, elsewhere it could be quite different, the all-male environment of the boys’ barracks were fairly unregulated. There weren’t any regulations originally since the idea of a families spending generations in military camps was not thought of, when they did, they had only limited resources to dedicated to it. And given the life ahead, the grown men who ultimately held control of boys age eight and up, did not try to enforce the tranquility of the women’s nurseries. 

A few deaths were bearable, men tried not to be too connected to their sons, and a rationale that it weeded out the weaklings who would’ve died in battle early anyhow developed. Roughhousing was a commonplace activity, and the younger and weaker boys could find them under the oppression of their seniors. There weren’t that many forms of recreation available, funds for this being unavailable. Swords and other weapons were banned in the boys’ barracks, but fisticuffs and kicks alone could do much harm. Reports of eyes being lost due to severe bruising or gouging, there were reports of boys starving because others stole their food, and outright deaths too did happen. Nonetheless, there would be crackdowns after deaths and severe instances to restore order and discipline, including switches on the back and rear, deaths did ultimately cut into the available fighting force, even if only in small numbers.

Combat training for all ages, and the entering of young manhood did not change things at all; if anything, the hyper-masculine atmosphere due to the rise of testosterone made things worse. The weapons were always blunted for safety, but death and injury was still very real; and now hazing entered the young mens’ lives. Lacking access to female companionship until age 19 and reprimanded if they tried to flirt and copulate with them, some young men resorted to each other. There were genuine gays, queers, transgenders, and bisexuals among the young men, but they could for their derivative gender and sexuality be sexually abused. The straight young men largely responsible for this were not gay, but they needed to assert themselves and or wanted sex, so they settled for their less masculine, inferior others. Or they would as they had been delegated control over the boys’ barracks, go and molest and abuse one of them. Female fighters had an element of hazing in their separate barracks, but the issues virulent amongst the males did not occur.

Full adulthood meant full entry into battle, and this ended the nightmare of the immature barracks. Now men unleashed their aggression on the battlefield, and they were a few years later granted access to heterosexual intercourse. This dulled them, but for the majority, they certainly didn’t regret their violent upbringings and any brutality they may have done. The men who had shifted out of the warriors group into laborers, scholars, early noncombat officership, and other roles still had to generally deal with some measure of hazing, and still had the wild boys’ barracks years and coming-of-age timings. Yet these men tended to be less aggressive. Migrants forces who joined the Liberation Army in Yied and brought young sons were better off keeping them out of it if they could, since without the upbringing, the boys as outsiders would fair little chance of escaping abuse with nobody to defend them.


Baldr- of Contradictions:


Where was Baldr in this system? He had suffered some of the abuse, but he wasn’t just a victim, he inflicted the pains too. He gained the moniker “the Untouchable” later due to his knack for leaping into tussles and emerging his pale-tan self while his rivals were left purple, black, and red. During his time in the barracks, he wasn’t critical of it at all, he actually defended it if others criticized it. 

This might seem a contradiction, Baldr’s gentility and this environment which was machismo manifested, a spectacle of aggression Loptyr would’ve adored to watch as the worst in Man. And in a sense, Baldr was of two personalities, towards the softer elements of society and in calm, he was a good boy, but when faced with training, battle or any form of competition, he became rash, rivalrous, and nasty. His attitudes towards laborers were generally fine, and he could respect mages and priests, as he did foreign warriors out of his idealism. When it came to his adult male superiors, he was disciplined, respecting as he did those in the barracks those whom he knew to be stronger than him. Yet on the battlefield, Baldr in his short year or so of adulthood was censured for disobedience of orders as he fought on in a rage.

The two sides blended when it came to Liberation, Baldr spoke of justice as ideals of protecting the weak, of freedom from avarice, wrath, envy and other sins. The other side of Liberation for him was beating in the skulls of every Loptyrian there was, he was hostile even to the Mairans he never saw (but the Liberation Army had its support and a few resided in Yied with it) but heard of, skeptical why they didn’t abandon their faith. He in the heat of his anger could approve of killing the innocent wives and children of Loptyrians, ignoring their humanity or considering them too tainted to be saved. Having Kobar as a distant uncle stepped up Baldr’s obsessions with the idealism, the machismo, and the sense of justice. 

(To speak of other men who went through the system, some were more brutish off the battlefield, but less on it, others were calm in both, yet others even more aggressive in both, there was no single outcome that resulted from the barracks of Yied Desert and the Liberation Army. And there were worse than Baldur.)


Baldr Just Before the Miracle:


This was the person whom was present at Darna, by which point both his parents had died. He had no real understanding nor care for the decline of the Liberation Army, since he was so young that he didn’t truly know the good days. Owing to the decline, at Darna, there was no freedom to choose who could be fielded, all available soldiers were put to battle, including the young men, the retired, the injured, and even the boys. Baldr was placed in the vanguard during the final assault against Loptyrian forces. He was an infantryman placed in the corner of lowlands southwest of Darna fort on the highlands. 

The last defense was to be a strong fortified line on the terrible slope south of the fort, using geography to halt the Loptyrians. To support it, a force was arranged in the lowlands where Baldr was stationed to hit the Loptyrians on their left flank. The great city and depot of Liberation on the nearby highlands had already fallen, and while it did not require an uphill fight to invade from there, the much narrower point made defending easier and the Loptyrians favored the uphill battle. A third force of Liberation fighters on the lowlands were to circle around the highlands and flank the right of the Loptyrians. Yet the Loptyrians knew well where the enemy might strike from, and had everything on their side other than terrain- they had numbers, morale, and quality in severe advantages, they were going to win.

Baldr when ordered ran out and struck at the Loptyrians from the left, he went in ferociously, killing many and keeping his old epithet the Untouchable alive on the real battlefield. Unfortunately, after several hours of fighting, the Loptyrians broke through the main defense line, and poured towards Darna fort itself. Baldr seeing this grabbed a hold of a wild horse whose rider had died and charged towards Darna, hoping to strike the Loptyrians’ backsides. As he approached up the slope, he readied his spear (he was trained with both sword and lance) and aimed to kill. 

The light burning bright overwhelmed him, the Loptyrians saw this lone knight approaching and pelted him with flames. He was sent reeling, his horse collapsed to the ground, fortunately for him he slipped off it. Then he rolled down the highlands, he became a spotted cake of blood, burns, and dirt by the time he hit rock bottom. He had broken a few bones, and he tried to reach for his dagger, but couldn’t move either arm, much less stand up. He could not see what was happening to Darna from his grounded position. He raged within, he hadn’t time for sorrow and despair, he was in incredible pain, but only wanted to move and fight, he wanted to bring justice!


Baldr and the Miracle:


When the numinous light came, Baldr’s thought was that he was being killed by another blast of magic. When he opened his eyes however, walking towards him was a hooded figure, clad in majestic Tyrian purple with an off-white accent. Baldr shouted, thinking they were a Loptyrian bishop, they cussed and threatened this evildoer in their still dying state. As they got closer, they asked Baldr, how does the air feel, Baldr then took a moment from his hate, and considered this, it was light, the chaos, it was gone, just what was this trickery? 

The figure lowered their hood, revealing an old woman with pure white short hair, she spoke she and her allies had done this. She did not look exactly human, Baldr thought she was a demon, Loptyr himself. She silently walked calmly right up to Baldr despite his continued hatred, she pierced her hand with her fingernails, and then as her blood poured out, it entered his wounds and she fully healed the bloodied boy, sealing each tear and puncture up, with her own hand then repairing itself afterwards. 

Baldr was now more aghast, with a shift in tone, still defensive and aggressive, wondering if she had just turned him into one of those rumored Deadlords. But he was healed, his body felt so invigorated, he could stand and fight again! Noticing he had not changed in demeanor, still set against her, she said she had come to bring hope, to bring him the power for salvation in Jugdral. She spoke her name, Frigg, of the Mage Dragons; Loptyr was her enemy too, and to he the warrior before her, she had just given her blood. Baldr didn’t know what a Mage Dragon was, but if Loptyr was her foe, then he would take whatever she had to give him. All of it!

Frigg responded she saw great potential, and a brilliant light seeking justice in him, but she too saw fury and bile, so much, that it concerned her. There is no justice in the heart of one consumed by vengeance and anger, by blind intolerance and unthinking devotion. She reached for a broken sword laying on the battlefield, holding its blade piece in her open left palm, and grasping the hilt piece in her right. She asked Baldr to take an oath on it against his present ways, to disavow all which contradicted his inner goodness. If he wished to be a truly just Holy Knight, then there was no room for his uncompromising ire, he must see flaws in the light, and the good in the darkness. He must no longer espouse chivalry when all is calm, and yet behave as though a feral beast otherwise. 

Baldr didn’t understand what was wrong with him, but her claims that he could only be a Holy Knight, such a lofty title to his ears, if he forsook his present state, was a challenge he could not ignore. He said he would then take the oath, he would vow before the whole world he would change and become a true Holy Knight- the scion of justice. Frigg responded that once he took the vow, if he broke it and returned to most troubling atavism, she would forsake her blessings upon him, he would be a mere mortal once more. Did Frigg mean this threat? She certainly had reason to utter it, but whether she was secretly absolutely confident Baldr would change, cannot be known. Baldr then took a deep swallow, knowing it would be hard to change, and stated he would abide by her word, under the penalty of condemnation. 

Frigg could tell he understood the terms and took them seriously, she then asked him to lay his hand where the sword had broken, and to recite her words, this was to be the taking of the oath. When he finished his solemn recitation, a light blue glow covered the broken blade, the flash blinded Baldr but his hand kept steady over the sword. A yellow white-silver glow then radiated over the newly reforged sword, which she now held with one hand, the other dropping a glimmering sphere with a dark orange tinge into the hilt. It was complete, the Tyrfing, the symbol of the oath, the faithful ally of the Holy Knight. Baldr instinctively clenched the blade with his right hand, now marked on the backside with a Brand, Frigg then let go of the hilt and he grabbed it with his left. The Brand on the right, the holy sword in the left, with a moral character, he was now safe from the darkest magic’s harm. Frigg bade him to go, the battle was to resume, and Baldr now the young Crusader dashed off into the coming Holy War.

When the battle of Darna was over, the Archanean dragons explained all they had to before they left back for their home world. Frigg told Baldr the oath would never be forgotten, although she would not be present, she would know if he ever broke his word. Baldr understood this. She said that he was reborn a Crusader based on potential, whereas others had already shown greater strength, be worthy not of their better, for such is a petty matter, but of their equal. Frigg said that there were Crusaders who would not always agree with him, and ordinary people he would have to lead who wouldn’t either. Tolerate it, accept others who have the good within, even those you might wish to hate (Fjalar and Thurd- former Loptyrian nobles, Bragi- raised by Mairan Loptyrists), this will grow you into a Holy Knight, their strength will be yours. That is the way of the truly just.


Just Two "Paragraphs" on Baldr's Chalphy:


Concluding the Holy War, Baldr became the Duke of Chalphy in Grannvale. Baldr wished to make his Dukedom capable of rivaling all the others, his youthful sense of competition drove him into doing this. He wanted to have the intellectuals of Velthomer and Freege, the craftsmanship of Jungby, the piety of Edda, and the agriculture of Dozel. He wished to make Chalphy a “southern Belhalla”, the capital of the Kingdom being itself a mix of all of its component Duchies. Though he was still rivalrous, no longer did it bear the mark of hate, he meant this all in good nature, even if debating legal doctrine could rile him somewhat.

In his efforts, Baldr had both successes and failures. He maintained a steady agricultural output, he managed to achieve a degree of excellence in some monumental crafts and a number of luxury and ordinary ones. His main failure lay in the intellectual sphere, he just failed to attract that much talent or organize it effectively. At most, he established his own legal school, a third in Grannvale rivaling Fjalar’s, the dominant one, and Thurd’s, a side product of his administrative desires. These three schools were not formally acknowledged, but they were debated in Belhalla, where officials mediated between them, Heim’s precedents, and Bragi’s religious writings.


Edited by Interdimensional Observer

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Well I'm finally playing Genealogy for the first time. I'm soon to start Silesse, no Finn with Brave Lance anymore is sad (better than the Silver Sword), but Return Staff spam + Paragon Band on Lachesis means I've just mustered enough EXP for her to Master Knight first thing. She bought the Paragon Band from Azelle, who also got the Magic Ring (yes, favoritism) and has subsequently promoted.


And speaking of Azelle, time at last for his holy ancestor, Fjalar.

Age at the Miracle: 31


Fjalar's Birth and Family Background:


Fjalar was born in southwest Issach in JC 601. She was one of five children who lived to adulthood, two sisters- one older and one younger, and two brothers, alongside some cousins. Fjalar’s family was 8th on the hierarchy of 11 noble ranks in the Grannvale Empire, a mixed position societally. It was a cadet branch of a higher noble family centered in Grannvale, which had migrated to Issach nearly a century ago and married within the ranks of the other Grannvale Loptyrian immigrant nobles. 

As a Loptyrian noblewoman, Fjalar was endowed with numerous privileges which the majority of Jugdralis were denied. She was allowed to carry weapons, she was by birth initiated into the Loptyr Cult and safe from child hunts, she had access to an education, and she avoided paying most taxes. Her family fief in Issach was of average productivity, with enough farmers and livestock breeders to sustain her family in good and normal years. Southern and western Issach were the centers of strong Loptyrian control in the province, as it lay directly over the border with loathed Yied and had a strong population. This meant Fjalar, while on the periphery of the Loptyr Empire, was in the center of a periphery, albeit not the greatest periphery- that would have been northern Thracia.

It was not all rosy however for Fjalar and her family, it was not wretched, but not great. The fief did not secure full safety from hunger, famine years did thin the family’s stomachs a little. Their house was not anything near beautiful, it held up and kept the rain out most of the time, but it could get a little crowded. The budget for nonessentials was nearly nonexistent in bad years, and they skirted the edge of taking on debt. Although families in the last three ranks had it worst, the 8th rank was certainly petty nobility, peons for the higher ranks who carried out their wills in practice. Whilst she was not a prestigious noble, being one at all placed her in state of societal superiority to all who were not. No matter it was if a merchant had twice the wealth than her, being a noble meant that even if the merchant adopted the Loptyrian faith, barring enfeoffment, doubtful as nobles were expected to tax mercantile wealth, but keep direct hands off business, she was better than him.

Fjalar’s hope in life was the same as that held by many of the nobles of the lower ranks, that being a “Loptyrian Dream”. Breaking into the highest crust of Loptyrian society, particularly in the Grannvalian center, was certainly impossible barring the most miraculous of circumstances. Yet as much as a movement up one rank, relocation to a better fief, or a little extra land and its inhabitants, was much desired and in ways possible for these low nobility. One of Fjalar’s brothers entered the Loptyrian priesthood, which tended in practice to preserve noble hierarchy institutionally, but had a little more leeway for egalitarianism and social mobility. By entering the priesthood however, although it did not ban the practice of having families, it did exclude him from the chain of succession. Her father and mother sought to use their children to improve the status of the family, as most did, but like most, found the actual opportunities slim, evasive, and bogged down by their present sometimes-poverty.


Fjalar's Career:


Fjalar emerged after the discovery of her other brother to be enfeebled as the one real chance her parents betted on to do well. Her education was far from being as luxurious as that of higher and more central nobles. From the local Loptyrian priests she was drilled in catechism starting at the age of six and lasting for five years, gaining literacy and some minimal literary talents. Fjalar could compose an ode to Loptyr, but nothing creative, and technically much inferior to those with superior educations. By eleven, Fjalar’s physical forcefulness was becoming apparent, she was tall and a bit fiery in her personal life. Her parents paid the fee to have her continue her education as a soldier, she was the only of her sisters to do so. She was sent to the regional military school for those in the lower noble ranks, which had separate facilities for the handful of females. Fjalar was in battle disciplined, she always obeyed orders without question, she was not particularly enthralled with the battlefield, but saw it as her way to success in life, she had to fight well and avoid disgrace, to serve Loptyr and to be rewarded rightfully for it.

Fjalar pursued her military education with gusto, she would sometimes falter, but she would always move on and rebound without excessive self-loathing. She was too poor for cavalry, and Issach’s horses were overwhelmingly better suited as draft and common transportation animals than war. Believing it could do more to bolster her status, she took the extra time to learn the magical arts in addition to the physical ones. At the age of 18 in 619, she was officially sworn in as an officer of Loptyr, having done enough to earn her a small but okay starting field command. 

She was placed into service immediately, as troops were needed in Issach ever since the 611 outbreak of the Liberation movement across Jugdral. Her home rested along the essential route into Issach for Liberation efforts, and was relatively close to Yied Desert the central region of Liberation. Fjalar fought to the north and east in against the guerrillas in Issach, she ventured through a lot of her birth country. She slew rebels with the Loptyrian disgust for them, and behaved as her superiors had indoctrinated her into doing. Her progress was slow, but she made it steadily, when her commanders failed her and not vice versa, she would seriously gripe, but kept it all to herself. Her fellow officers of roughly equal rank liked her, her zeal for Loptyr did not impede on her amicability. And while seeing death for Loptyr as highest virtue, she didn’t want to die if it ruined her chances of her betterment in the longer run, thus she understood much of the adversity her soldiers had towards risky orders, endearing her somewhat to them.

After four years of service, in 623, her father died and she was granted a temporary respite and returned home to visit. The household had passed to a male cousin she knew like a brother, which she did not mind given she was too busy with her career elsewhere, and being busy also delayed her marriage, which was typical for female soldiers compared to more traditional non-warrior women. Her older sister had married a good man, her beauty was enough that she had earned the attention of a bureaucrat in the region with solid-paying employment. Her younger sister was also taking a more traditional path in life, though she had not yet wed, she did intend to marry well the same and contribute to her family’s wellbeing. During Fjalar’s stay at home, she conversed heavily with her family and found it relaxing, her worries were gone for the moment. When she left, she continued to write monthly letters back home as she had before.


Treason Weighs on Fjalar:


Returning by the next year to service, Fjalar went back to fighting in more distant parts of Issach, going through the slugfest that now was leaning in favor of the Loptyr Empire. In this year, Fjalar participated in a surprise raid of a suspected Liberation holdout, and at the end surveyed the captured rebels before assisting in their execution. As she scanned the men and women captured, she interrogated them for their names and other information, willing to resort to a little torture with some lashes if needed. What she did not initially realize was that among them was her sister’s husband the bureaucrat, which she refused to believe, how dare he mistreat her sister with his treason! 

Fjalar wanted this to stay low for her own sake, fortunately she managed get him to conceal it by using his love for her sister and the promise of a merciful death. Unable to get a leave to return home, Fjalar wrote to her older sister, knowing the letter would be read over by the government first, in coded ordinary language about a fake miscarriage to hide the true topic. Fjalar lambasted her sister’s now dead husband for what he had done, and how this threatened all they were working towards. A response letter from her sister was stained with tears and it kept the secret hidden as well.

By early 625, Fjalar was working harder than ever as a warrior, and things seemed to be coming along well, she was certain the 7th rank was in sight, although she had been fairly optimistic for years about her long-term prospects. She was a fine field captain, her soldiers were loyal to her, and she was loyal to them. Then one day, a messenger came and told her to report to the high command immediately, the purpose of this meeting were not her’s to know. When she arrived, her widowed sister was present, with tears and bruises, given a chair, she was unable to sit. As it turns out, she had herself been aiding and abetting the Liberation effort, they found papers of communication with the Liberation, information she was going to leak to them, they found suspicious supplies, and they had extracted from her a number of Liberation names and other intel. 

Fjalar was aghast, her own blood sister had worked to undermine all she had done for them. Fjalar’s entire family was now under suspicion, it might as well be annihilated as she knew and the Loptyrian investigators hinted. Fjalar criticized her sister, how strong was her vile husband’s sway, why didn’t she speak of it to her? Her sister responded she had chosen to do this of her own free will for years, she sympathized with the masses not much worse off than them, and believed there was more to be gained in Liberation than in remaining with the Loptyr Empire. Having her younger sister doing so well in the service they believed meant that even if they failed, if they stayed sub rosia in failure, there would be nothing lost. Fjalar was only more angered, she shouted her catechism lessons one-by-one at her about why peasants were cattle and Loptyr was righteousness and all else, but bit her tongue and spoke little on her older sister’s daring bet. 

Fjalar then asked for permission to kill this traitor to the Empire, the investigators stated she could not be merciful if she were, the underlying meaning was obvious. To save herself from suspicion, to save anything of her family’s good name, to save its future, she had to eviscerate her very own sister she loved and do so without hesitation. She spoke she would execute the criminal as her superiors ordered. They then permitted her to do so, and moved her sister to an empty large stone room for this purpose, where she was unbound and placed on the floor. The executioner was then after after a silence fed a few orders, she had at her disposal a variety of grisly devices, but they were mostly for show. When the first few orders passed, she was told to do as she wished, and onto the dehumanized sack of condemned flesh, she flowed through a movement of more brutalities. Certain special nightmares were visited upon her, some of these involved the use of weak, but still painful magics. At the end of these deathly screams and furious yells, the last order was given, a fig leaf of pity, a beheading.


Fjalar's Betrayal:


Fjalar left this covered in blood, but presenting a face of strength, pretending to be unaffected. Over the next ten months, Fjalar resumed her military duties, she continued to fight without regrets, she did not endure any sort of demotion in status, she had managed to save herself. Her family continued to write to her, but she barely wrote back. Fjalar started to believe her former opportunities were gone, the albatross of possible treason now loomed over her too much. She had tried so hard to better her family, but now questioned whether her selflessness had become selfishness. It was still possible for the next generation to achieve social mobility, so she tried to placate herself with the notion of doing all she could to preserve the status quo for them. This did not satisfy her entirely though, her dreams were crushed.

And if her chances of advancement within the Loptyr Empire were now gone, and her socio-economic conditions were less than desired, then what reason did she have to remain it? Rather than be a dog to the Loptyr Empire, she could take the gamble her older sister and her husband had, and join the Liberation. It’d be a longshot, but better than no shot. With no disrespect to her parents or the rest of family who had told her to follow the path she has her entire life, the path she freely chose, she would now radically break from it all and forge her own path based on those taken by others. If she had to discard her old beliefs in Loptyr, in the wretched nature of the pathetic masses, then so be it, she would find new beliefs and a new justice, ones which promised betterment in life to her, nay, to all, to invoke what justice at its heart should mean to her.

Fjalar now had the will to betray, but she didn’t just want to join the Liberation Army by herself, she knew it was in decline and wanted to bolster it somehow. She couldn’t do too much, her letters were being read carefully and she was only a mid-level field officer. She had to do something though, and tried to further her friendship with fellow captains in person, who she could speak to with less fear of being caught. She also sought further instill the love and loyalty of the troops under her command to her. Fortunately, these were commoners forced into service and the lowest of the low ranks of nobility which had it worse than her. She realized her attempt to instill loyalty without a thinking choice in a way mirrored her own upbringing, which troubled her, but if she ultimately did wrong in this, she accepted the blame no excuse.

In 626, Fjalar took her time and waited until about halfway into the year, when the best chance came for betrayal. The Liberation Army in Issach was still not done for, it held well in the Sophara region, the great round center of Issach. Within this region, she was assigned to assail a Liberation base believed to be of some importance. Noticing her forces were placed at an essential point of this operation, she steeled herself for what she was about to do. The battle got underway, and at the right moment, when the Loptyrian forces needed her, she ordered her troops to attack their allies. Having drilled her command into them, although they were momentarily fazed, when she reiterated her call, they obeyed and attacked their own allies. This caught the Loptyrian forces off guard and the Liberation Army too obviously didn’t know this would happen. Fjalar had hoped some of her officer friends might betray, and with some of their own hesitation, a few did. The Loptyrian attack was thwarted and they were forced to withdraw. This was far from a major victory, and the Liberation Army didn’t gain that much in Fjalar’s betrayal, defections from the bottom noble ranks and grunts weren’t terribly uncommon.


Fjalar in the Liberation to Darna


Fjalar wasn’t readily welcomed by the Liberation Army, but she did convince them she meant to betray and that it wasn’t an Imperial trick. Her soldiers and fellow officers who betrayed did have choice words for her, but now they were stuck in the Liberation Army either as fighters or captives, and most chose to stay with Fjalar. She was relieved to hear this and admitted to the questionability of her actions, but did not apologize, believing what she had done she could not seriously apologize for. She did offer the meager comfort, but meant it seriously, that if they were all to be hanged, she would hang with them, she would never betray them even if something was dangled before her.

Now in the Liberation Army, Fjalar proved herself as competent as she had been before, establishing for herself a place in the Liberation effort. She became a regional leader, preferring as in her prior career fighting on the field and she knew tactics well. She was forced in the Liberation to learn more in operations and strategy, which she learned with promising ability. But being alongside the infantry guiding them was something meaningful to her, it was through care for her troops, showing them the way to victory while being as vulnerable as them, that she chose to express her selflessness. 

Fjalar’s rise lead her to meet the older leaders of the Issachan Liberation, including Odr, whom she sparred with on a couple occasions. Fjalar’s sword hand was efficient, and she could mend wounds with a healing staff or herbs, but magic was her strongest suit. Her education in magic wasn’t the greatest, but she was reflective in trying to determine what she did right with it, and where she was poor in its use. Trading tips with fellow soldiers was a thing too, and she was a stern, but likable and well-meaning officer.

Alas, talented leaders were not enough to stem the reconquest efforts of the Loptyr Empire, and as it terminated Liberation groups, it creeped further and further north and then west, the Sophara region was going to soon be lost in 629. The leadership chose to flee to northern Issac while there was still a chance, and Fjalar agreed to take it, but as the Liberation knew the Empire would try to stop them, she chose to defend her retreating allies over the course of more than a week. Odr on the other hand remained in Sophara, and would later retreat via a mountain pass into southern Issach to safety and then Darna. Eventually, northern Issach too would not prove to be enough, and from there, Fjalar retreated in Yied, and from here she traveled to Darna. 

On the battlefield, she stood just feet forward of the defense line atop the slope, issuing orders and slinging spells, when the enemies got close enough, she drew her sword. As the Loptyrians broke through, she pulled back and tried to seal the break, but could not. Arrows, steel, and magic passed by her, and some of it injured her, nothing terribly, but she kept a determined face and did not shirk from her duty. She was in the thick of Loptyrians, and in the distance she knew the fort itself was now under siege. If she was to die, she would have at least died her own person. She tossed her soul into her spells, she would go out in a final burst, a final flame! As she let go of her life, and her eyes began to close, heavy with exhaustion.


Fjalar and the Miracle:


A light brighter than that emitted by the hottest fire, it pierced even her shut eyes. Fjalar opened to a battlefield changed, the raging war had stopped. Was this her final moments? What was the afterlife that awaited her? She began to feel woozy, and had to use her sword to stay standing, she really had depleted herself, not her Quintessence, but another vital essence. She tried to look, had she done enough? Yet her vision was getting blurry, and he walked into it.

Fjalar could not resist their approach, they could barely see them at all. He opened his right human hand and placed the palm over her ribcage, he pressed, cracking some of the bones, the fragments tearing into those fingers of his which had pierced her flesh between them. Fjalar couldn’t tell what this was, but she began to feel her pulse, and the pace and intensity of the beating grew, she too could feel the pulse in his fingers now logged in her. The weight of her eyelids began to fade, her lightness beset by her sacrifice was being replaced by great and heavy awareness. She soon saw exactly what stood before her. He was a man of middle age, his hair a receding, thinned blonde, he wore a carnelian necklace and matching earrings, his tanned, bulky chest was exposed with his great, muscular arms, and he wore bright red pants with blueish-purple shoes. He was ignis vitae.

When he took his hand off her, Fjalar was now alert enough to react. Just who was he and what had he just done to her?! She took a battle stance. He stated he was Salamand, leader of the Fire Dragons, he had come with Queen Naga to save this land from Loptyr, one of their ill-minded kin. Kin to Loptyr? Fjalar wanted so many answers and now. Salamand said he had just given her his blood, from death he had saved, he had restored her will. Fjalar then realized indeed that he had, from weariness of life, she was now burning hot, she was too alive, this was not normal. The injury he had just inflicted, no marks of it existed either as she ran her hand over it.

Seeing on her face this realization, Salamand stated if she wanted to harness her restored spirit to its greatest, then throw him a weapon, whichever she favored. Fjalar threw him a tome, to which Salamand replied he preferred solid steel or his chitin claws, but to each to their fangs. Salamand then took dragon form, he swallowed the tome whole, and took a deep breath, in his lungs and stomach, a great fire churned. Releasing the excess heat into the air above, igniting it in spectacular fashion, Salamand let out a deep roar from his gut. He then dropped onto the ground before Fjalar, who flinched to the roar, but felt nothing from the heat, a new spellbook, with a dragonstone embedded in the cover. Churned in a dragon’s inner inferno, Valflame had been forged. 

Salamand shifted back to Manakete form, he lifted up his gift and presented it to Fjalar. He said the battle was soon to resume, with this, her drive could always be matched with might. The Miracle’s stunning light faded, and the battle indeed began anew, the Loptyrians recovering from the daze. But before they could strike again, the Liberation no more began its revolutionary counterattack. Leaving Salamand alone, she decided to turn back towards Darna, to help save the fort. As she did, she saw the gates blown outwards, the Loptyrians being pushed back, she could sense it, fellows blessed. They could see her, for she incinerated everything that had gotten in her way, and the flicker was not dull. 


Fjalar's Family Life:


Regarding family affairs, Fjalar was aware that she had to wed and continue her lineage. She was already over 30 at the Miracle, yet she had intentionally delayed marriage as stated before for the sake of her military career. As the Liberation faltered and she felt it, she further resisted the desire for a husband and children when she was committed to dying for Liberation. Nor did she wish to bring children into her wretched life as a freedom fighter. Later, when peace came, then she would start her family, and if she could not conceive, she was aware of her elder sister’s infertility issues, she would then adopt, she was open to that, she had already severed her own family ties after all.

Becoming a Crusader, certain of victory she could feel it in her blood, Fjalar gradually relaxed her guard against marriage. Not right away, she delayed until the Yied was secure enough and so were toeholds elsewhere in Jugdral. Once this was accomplished in a year or two in Issach, Fjalar chose to begin considering the menfolk around her. She ruled out any potential Crusader, all of them did, not to mention Heim and Odr were too old, while her relationship with the younger Baldr was contentious at first and he was too young for her. 

In her Loptyrian past Fjalar took social mobility into account when she would marry, being willing to forsake love and settle with respect in the relationship- the most important thing of all. But now she was at the pinnacle of what would become sometime in the future a new world order, therefore she could go no higher, and any man who wed her would be marrying up the social ladder. Thus, she wanted a husband who was worthy of such elevation to what would be in more than a decade consort Mr. Velthomer. She couldn’t wait until the Holy War was over though and then assess merit of all possible bachelors, even with Holy Blood, her years of healthy fruitfulness had a limit, and she wasn’t that patient. So she had to take a gamble, and she was with her power willing to contemplate divorce if she found she had chosen wrong about worthiness- no man who did not offer her human decency was not worthy.

Fjalar’s final choice for a man was found five years after the Miracle. He was slightly older than her, 38 to her 36 to be precise. He had come from easternmost Silesse, from the estate of a petty Loptyr noble. He was a muscular man who became a knight of the spear, a bit like Neir, but he was a bit less soft, on the surface at least. He had joined the Liberation after a series of crop failures left him with few options, only to see it quashed and then he returned a landless tenant, failing to join in the treat to Darna. When word of the Holy War spread, he left his life in squalor again for the Holy War one and a half years after the Miracle. There, he was sorted into the ranks of Fjalar in Issach and fought under her command. 

He worked hard and personally met Fjalar, the two started as commander and subordinate, but he piqued Fjalar’s interest and she began to consider him as a candidate among many. She took moments from her daily life to gleam more about him as she did with others male and female alike for reasons of establishing connections to the soldiers. He took notice of her ambivalent interest, which too was motivated by her search for a spouse. He rarely drank, which Fjalar took to be a good thing, even though she partook in a former noble’s moderation. He kept his temper from getting too out of hand, he was rural and not wise, but not a stupid brute either. He bore with her sometimes stringent personality and her coolness, which could to critics speak of arrogance and selfishness.

With time he survived, proved his worth, and Fjalar’s candidates narrowed, with her proposing in private they become a couple those five years after the Miracle. He himself did find Fjalar attractive, and of course worthy of being loved, and he accepted her offer. Fjalar chose however to keep their working relationship apart from their romantic life, which came and went in brief moments, their lives quite busy as is. 

They married after two more years, in a ceremony lacking for fanciful dress or celebrations. Fjalar wore a fine if not regal gown she had been given by a civilian girl, and to whom she returned it afterwards. Her husband wore finery bought in eastern Silesse to reflect his origins. Neither of the betrothed wanted a grand wedding, there was still good food and drink, but it was distasteful to be ostentatious in the midst of a Holy War. This was the usual for a Crusader, most chose to wait until coronation after Loptyr’s destruction for a great celebratory occasion. Not to say Fjalar did not appreciate it, for however “man-ish” her vigor and determination was, and despite the austerity of a war, she did keep practical but classy appearances when she could escape long hours and bloodshed. 

Afterwards, the now intimate couple found intimacy was lacking in their relationship Fjalar was uncertain why this was. Within a year of marriage however, her husband admitted his lord from his childhood had been a pedophile who under the pretense of a child hunt had taken him and then molested him. Fortunately he was spared being of hunted, and was then forced to work at his lord’s manor in a servant capacity. He later left and returned peacefully to his family, but the trauma endured in the back of his mind. 

Fjalar became infuriated at him for hiding this for so long, she would have helped, and perhaps Bragi would listen. When he confessed no desire to speak with the Tranquil One, as Bragi had earned as an epithet, Fjalar insisted he could be open to her. She then admitted that her father had physically abused her a few times as a child. The abuse had begun before her eldest brother was discovered to be feebleminded and she then became the family hope, but it actually increased afterwards, due to her father demanding she do well. Fjalar despite these instances loved her father for supporting her drive in life, but now in the company of her beloved, she admitted it made her cry.

Fjalar’s sympathy eased her husband’s underlying suffering, and the two continued as a loving couple. Blessed with pregnancy in her 40th year, Fjalar temporarily retired from the battlefield as the physical effects became noticeable. She gave birth in the same, and whilst waiting for her body’s recovery nursed her newborn son, in time she would see that he bore her Brand. Once her vitality was restored, Fjalar gave her son to wet nurses and returned to the battlefield as she did before. Her husband for his part continued to fight besides her as a subordinate and serving as a messenger of her word, but not an advisor in himself due to his lack of expertise. Later, Fjalar bore a second child, also a son. 

As a Crusader, Fjalar had only so much time to spend with her children, leaving them in the care of a growing retinue of servants. She like the rest tried to maintain personal connections to her children, paying particular attention to their education, advising and carefully selecting her boys’ teachers and sometimes visiting them during a lesson. She wished to be loving as any parent would, and when Holy War did not demand her presence (which was often), tried to set aside the evening hours to relax and spend time with her children. Daytime hours were rarer, but looking over the calendar, she worked on establishing routine dates on each month for family daytime. Her husband had more time with the boys and she entrusted him with keeping her up to date with them and establish a deeper bond in her place, at least one parent should be fairly present.

As her children grew Fjalar kept alive her old family’s demanding but well meant calls for betterment of the familial unit over oneself. But this did not mean heeding the family leader was always correct, do as one thinks is best in the long term, whatever it is, even if it may create suffering now, and follow it without regrets. 

Those were her life lessons, and they held something of a contradiction in them. Fjalar emphasized community rights and improvement, but she placed agency in individuals. Perhaps she meant less individualism against collective decision-making than she seemed to stress, her legalism writings suggested this, but other statements she spoke and wrote apart from that favored the individual. Having individuals decide the best for the whole emerged as a messy if well-meant idea.


Fjalar and the Duchy of Velthomer:


With the end of the Holy War, peace came to Jugdral and it was necessary to establish a new world order, led of course by the Crusaders. Fjalar was born, raised, and spent all of the Liberation and much of the Holy War in Issach, yet she chose not to settle herself here. She liked Issach, but having been raised a Loptyrian, she felt a disconnect from Issachans, she had lived in the class which had dominated them, keenly aware of her differences, she was a foreigner. To be Loptyrian meant affiliation with the Empire’s center, which was in Grannvale where Loptyr generally stayed, barring some vacations, typically in northern Thracia, although southern Silesse was cool in the summer. She saw herself as a pioneering branch of the core elite on the edge of civilization, it was her duty to subjugate the backwater and make it suitable for the Dark Lord’s presence. 

Thus, Fjalar, now age 46, chose to leave Issach to Odr, and joined in the project that was to be Grannvale. As her fiefdom, she willingly accepted the northeast, bordering the Yied and not too far beyond it Silesse. The nearby presence of desert did not upset her, and although the sands could be harsh, she would sometimes pay the dunes and the lands overlooking them a visit, to take in their natural greatness. 

The Duchy of Velthomer was on the agriculturally poorer side of Grannvale’s seven regions, there were good lands, and Fjalar of course had a personal cut of them, but Velthomer on the whole had a smaller population due to lower soil fertility. Fjalar was not disappointed by this reality, she was more than content with her place in life. Her goal in life had been the advancement of a single rank in Loptyr’s empire, optimistically two, three would be a miracle; she had overthrown that system and became one of the twelve greatest individuals on the continent. The overland Silesse trade, as well as that from the small handful of oases organized as petty polities in the desert, provided Velthomer with a supplemental source of revenue.

Where Fjalar made Velthomer famed was in academics. Being a practitioner of magic, Fjalar established proper schools for this, much as was done in Belhalla, Freege, and Edda. Fjalar also expressed a devotion to the law and jurisprudence, derived from her particular obsession with defining what justice is and how best to implement it. Fjalar underwrote much of the universal legal foundations of Grannvale, with Heim providing his oversight and correctives, Bragi examined Fjalar’s points from a religious perspective, contributing his own interpretations. Each Duchy and the crown territories had the right to make their own laws however they saw fit within certain boundaries, and all the Crusaders contributed in some way to the legal glue which held Grannvale together in federation, yet it bore a distinctly Fjalarian tint if examined most closely.


Fjalar's Death:


Fjalar lived to be 73, her’s was a long life, but she passed away due to bone cancer in the year 676. Her mausoleum was like the rest of the Grannvalian Crusaders’ made primarily of white marble. Being the demigod of fire amongst the Crusaders, she chose to play this up in her mausoleum, having an eternal flame placed near her sarcophagus, and prominent braziers lighting the way throughout the family complex. She was not cremated in the whole, but asked that a good organ be removed, the liver was chosen after death, and incinerated when the wind blew east, towards Issach, her childhood homeland, so that its ashes could travel there. 

Placed prominently upon Fjalar’s coffin, and displayed frequently throughout the mausoleum was the image of her family’s new symbol, the Fire Emblem. Fjalar had a love-hate liking for heraldry and similar things, it was useless, elaborate junk, but she sometimes found it an intellectual challenge she could redirect her mind towards. She had to balance reality and fantasy, straightforward meaning with nuanced understandings, simplicity with detail. The Fire Emblem became something of her masterpiece in this regard, exceeding what she had settled with for the actual coat of arms for Velthomer, which she kept simplistic for the understanding of all. The Fire Emblem was not intended to be so commonplace a sight, thus it needn’t cater to the lowest denominator. 


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