Waves as far as the eye could see. Small waves swelling and dropping. Large waves slowly swelling and rolling towards the shore, breaking upon the cliffs. Waves, not of the sea but of light, slowly breaking upon the cliffs of crystal.
Shadows drifting within the planes of crystal. Places and people.
Between an aisle of fighters, a man in blouse and pants, striding next to a man with a blouse, under a chainmail shirt, and skirt strides toward a rock outcropping ...
On a level plain two horde forces come to a stop facing one another. Four riders peel off one force and gallop towards the center between the two forces. Five riders peel off the other force and race to meet the first four riders. The nine riders meet and a brief conference takes place. Eight of them pair up and ride toward points between the two forces. The ninth rider unfurls a white banner ...
A Regal man, wearing the Crown of Caid, stands up and decrees that the Horde Chief will be a “Guest” of the Kingdom for the duration of the emergency.
Eight ladies in a circle holding their crystals to the sky. Two purple, two green, two yellow and two blue. At the command of a lady holding a blue crystal, the man in the center stabs his crystal topped staff into the ground; a bolt of lightning streaks from the crystal skyward, a ring of light and wind flashes outwards from the crystal knocking the Ladies to the ground ...
A man, gray haired, a scar. Standing and searching the evening sky.
A young Lady, her court dress torn and bloody, stands with a sword in her hands, a tree at her back.
“Ah, this is what I wanted to study closer.”
Running, fourteen Brothers left from the ambush. Who were these men that were dressed as Hahn Brothers? Fighting up ahead. Why were these impostors fighting the Knights of the West? Continue running, follow the main path and group. A gesture and a Brother diverges to help a Knight fighting three other impostors. More fighting ahead.
A gesture and two Brothers diverge to help a knight. Continue down the path. Pass a clearing with many impostors fighting a small group of armed men, a gesture and four Brothers diverge.
Going around the corner of some boulders. Stopping and then gesturing the rest of his Brothers forward. They run to attack the impostors before him, who must be guarding some action ahead. Waiting, he slips around the battle and continues on into another clearing.
Slowing only a moment to see what is before him. A young Lady, her court dress torn and bloody, stands with a sword in her hands, a tree to her back. Before her is a dying Knight who is fending off two impostors. Even as he approaches the Knight kills an impostor but goes down himself.
The impostor spots him and pauses with a puzzled expression. Good, that gives him time to grab the sword of the dead Knight and ...
Block ... Swing ... Swing ... Swing ... The impostor is no more. The Lady keeps her sword between him and herself.
He gently puts the sword back with the Knight. He turns towards the Lady and with one hand gestures ...
Looking at the shadows drifting across the planes of the crystal. The light fades, the crystal is now just a crystal; the gray haired man holding it pauses, thinking.
“Thank you my Lady."
Carefully putting the crystal down, he pulls forward a new sheet of parchment and a pen. Dipping the pen in the ink he starts to write ...
A man, gray haired, a scar under his eye, looking into the sky, knowing something cosmic just happened. Shaking himself he turns and starts for the fire and his audience. Walking through the crowd of people, laughing, saying hello, shaking hands, trading jokes, he approaches a barrel with water and stops and stares for a minute.
Sitting and waiting he looks out over the crowd. He has at least twice the number than the night before. As he waits he is noting once again a number of special visitors to the story circle.
With a rustle of wings a large Hawk lands on the log next to him and his audience quiets. Standing he takes a deep breath and starts ...
“Looking out over the battle towards the Horde Chief, Archer sends up a silent prayer, pulls the bow back, closes his eyes, and releases ...”
Looking out over the battle towards the Horde Chief, Archer utters his standard prayer upon losing an arrow. “May you fly straight and true,” and then adds “to your destiny.”
Running after her prey, Diana on the Hunt, mutters “That’s different” and turning, watches the arrow as Archer releases.
Smoke drifts by …
As the Arrow floats over the battlefield, a number of warriors of both armies, while pausing and stretching, notice the Arrow and wonder where this lone arrow is going.
Captured, Honoré is politely escorted down to the Horde's Chief. Sitting on a rock the Chief motions for Honoré to sit on a sack of grain opposite. Sipping water together the two of them discuss Honoré ‘s reasons for attempting to fulfill his brother's mission.
Suddenly leaning forwards the Chief pushes Honoré off of the Sack. An Arrow flashes through the spot Honoré had been sitting, cutting the Chief on the cheek. Standing, the Horde Chief helps Honoré up, motions to his guards as a hawk lands on his shoulder. A word and a runner heads for the drums.
Archer notes a brief stirring at the end of the arrows flight.
A heavy roll of drums, a staccato beat, and the Horde saluting steps back from the battle and the fighting grinds to a stop.
The moon, large, full, and bright, lights up a special place.
In the center of a ring of benches, firewood is stacked.
A ring of torches encircles a pile of firewood that is ready to light.
Two parallel rows of torches make a path from the benches toward the fire ring, between them lays a large log.
On one side of the circle sits a great stone bench, intricately carved with dragons, lightning bolts, trees, and ravens.
Behind this bench is the moon.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Western nobles are very displeased. They are not happy that the Crown of the West is making peace with the Horde. While some of the noble houses use Horde members for manual labor around their estates, most are keeping their distance from the Horde and its members.
More and more of the Nobles are making their displeasure about the peace accord known with negative votes in Council.
In Atenveldt a great council meets to study a scroll listing the new working relationships the Horde has with the Western kingdoms and how their population is starting to work with the Western kingdoms’ citizens. Discussion breaks out over whether the addition of the Horde is a good or bad thing.
Back in Caid, Archer went looking for a special place. He found it in a small tower on the 3rd floor of the Royal Castle. A small room, with a window he could look out. Once he dragged in some pillows, he sat. Thinking all the time about whether or not he had lost his archery skill. Was he not able to kill another human, or had the shot been too great for his skills? How could he be “Archer” if he couldn’t shoot? He was conflicted.
He started a mantra and slowly slipped into a meditative trance ...
Suddenly there were little static discharges all around the circle of torches. With a blaze of light a man is standing within the circle of torches. He is holding a staff with a brilliant white crystal on the top; the crystal is lit from within.
With the light of his staff glinting off his white hair he steps forward, voices a command and points the staff at the pile of firewood, which causes the bonfire to light.
The man pauses and stares into the fire. He then turns and carefully places his staff upright in brackets by the large stone bench. Facing the bench he raises his hands to the Moon. A ring of light explodes outwards from the staff.
The meeting has been called.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Kingdom of the West is having more and more problems because most of the nobles are not in a forgiving mood. Several small coups against minor nobles and ministers have been averted. The Kingdom Councils are having problems with split votes and lack of quorum. Kingdom business is coming to a halt.
Within the Kingdom of An Tir the Horde was working very hard to repair towns, roads, and in several cases, social structure. A Kingdom that might have dropped into anarchy was going to continue to function.
A number of the Horde Clans realized that in Caid their system of Clans and Households would fit in very nicely.
Honoré very much disliked the fact that the Kingdoms were treating the Horde not like an enemy, but as special guests.
The Freehold was finding that many of the Clans and Holds of the Horde were very well suited to the Freehold and some of the Horde Clans were looking into joining the Freehold.
In a flash of light a man wearing the Freehold symbol and a woman with a glowing blue crystal appear in the center of the circle of unlit torches.
The woman nods to the central bench and vanishes.
The man walks around the fire and steps up to the log. Picking up a stick he nods to the central bench, and to the Focuser who called the meeting, then he brings the stick down on the log ...
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
About two days' ride from the castle, the royal family is picnicking. As the Queen looks out over her family she is startled as one of the crystals she is wearing starts vibrating. She looks out over her family once again and notes that her youngest daughter has stopped moving and seems to be listening to something. The girl suddenly starts moving to the woods and disappears into them. The queen sadly smiles in understanding, glad that her daughter has a chance for safety and retaliation, when a large group of Horde fighters emerge from the trees. As the King and his family are attacked and killed, he notices that the attackers are actually Westerners dressed as Horde fighters.
The day after the royal family’s funeral, two Dukes and a Count file into a council chamber. A number of runners and heralds file in after them. With the death of the whole royal family, no one was sure how to proceed. The majority of nobles disputed this council’s authority, but something needed to be done to confirm that all the various ministries continued to run.
In the days that followed, a rumor circulated that a member of the royal family had survived the massacre. The council was forced to open an official investigation into the rumor. But over the next several months the problems in the Kingdom slowly take precedence and the rumor, and so the investigation, fades away.
After that first council, all council meetings and courtly activities take place in the castle’s outdoor plaza, giving the impression these are royal functions. During the next several months of meetings, various laws are passed to keep the Kingdom functioning; regulations are put into place to restrict the Horde activities; and much time is spent discussing creating a replacement government vs. creating a new royal family.
BOOooommmmm ... “Why is there thunder with a sunny and cloudless sky?”
The large silvery moon highlights the kilt worn by the Focuser who stands next to the upright staff with his arms outstretched toward that moon.
The man in front of the log now uses two sticks for a double drum beat.
Ladies of the Crystal start farrying in the Freehold Chiefs who are attending the meeting. Each Chief lights a torch from the bonfire before finding their seat.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
Reining to a stop on a hilltop, Honoré and a Freehold patrol see:
The Horde Chief grabbing the sword from a fallen knight.
A young Lady, her court dress torn and bloody, backed against a tree with a sword in her hands.
Another Horde member advancing on the Lady.
Honoré gives instructions to the patrol to protect the Lady and capture the attackers.
The Horde member charges the Lady with raised sword, and the Horde Chief steps between the two, blocking the blow. He kills the “Horde member” with three very swift swings, the last a solid blow.
While the Lady keeps her sword pointed at the Horde Chief, he puts the blade back in the borrowed sword back into the hands of the dead knight.
At the same time Honoré and the Freehold mounted patrol sweep down and surround the Horde Chief and the Lady.
Ba-booomm-ooom! Everyone looks at the sky with puzzlement.
The Freehold High Chieftain arrives, his black crystal symbol of office glowing slightly.
Walking to the great stone bench he turns and, with his hands on the carved dragon head, says:
“I hereby declare this conclave open. We shall look at the world from outside of time so close the circle and bind it.”
The Focuser, still standing with arms outstretched: bows to the full moon, positions his hands above the moon, then pushes his hands toward the ground.
A ring of light flashes from the horizon streaking toward the origin of its power -- the staff.
Putting a hand out, the Focuser causes the ring of light to slow and then stop just outside of the seats at the edge of the circle.
At each cardinal point around the circle stands a Lady of the Crystal, one of each color. They bring their crystals in tune with the Focuser’s crystal and, with a flash of color ...
A hemisphere of light springs from the ring of light … and the meeting site vanishes from sight.
The moon now overlooks an empty plain.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
Several thousand people are lining the streets leading to the packed Royal Square. The square is noisy and colorful as people converse, yell, brawl, and play.
The Horde Chief, in a formal but muted tunic of light black and red, is riding a black horse and making signs of respect to various people that he passes in the crowd. His captors made up the rest of the mounted contingent: with four lightly armored Royal militiamen leading and six armored Caidian knights following.
The lead rider stops thirty feet from the stairway to the royal stage. Pages run out to deal with the horses as the men dismount. The knights station themselves below the front of the stage while the militia takes the Horde Chief up the stairs as the Herald announces the captive’s arrival.
King Guilliume is thin but muscular, of average height. He has hawk-like features, but a ready smile. Queen Felinah, is taller than the King, graceful with a fighter's body. She has long brown hair, a ready smile, and a necklace of different colored crystals.
Off to the side, behind the thrones each monarch’s armor is sitting ready on a stand. Behind the armor, four Crystal Ladies, one of each color, also stand ready.
The Princess stands between the King and Queen wearing a small coronet, and a blue crystal pendant.
The Chief drops to one knee in respect of the three royals. He is surprised when the King and Queen stand, raise him from his knees, and embrace him.
In the city of the Chalice, a Crystal Lady strides along, her yellow crystal twinkling in the sun. She has been informed that a new potential Focuser will be arriving soon, and she is tasked to meet him.
She walks past a very large domed and round granite building, the Chalice’s major governing building, which makes the surrounding three story buildings look small.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Caidan Crown’s investigation of the Princess’ claims are ongoing, and has raised questions about what they thought they knew about the Western Crown’s demise. If her claims are true then this child is the Heir to the Throne of the West.
As she exits an interview with the King and Queen she is met by a Militia Sergeant and eight men-at-arms. The Sergeant tells her they are her new protection detail and that they will escort her to her new, safer quarters. They lead her deep into the castle, out of the main flow of traffic, to a section that could be well protected against attempts on her life. The unit is quartered next door to her chambers and there will be two men stationed outside her door at all times. Members of the unit will accompany her whenever she leaves her rooms.
Inside her chambers she finds a very nice sitting room, a little library, a small work room, a bedroom, and a grated window that looks down into a small interior courtyard.
The Horde Chief, and his guard detail, takes to dropping by and visiting the young Lady. They would visit, play games, and sometimes work together on her class assignments. During one of those moments he somehow caused her white crystal to glow for a moment, this was promptly brought to the attention of his “captors”.
Having learned more about the circumstances of the Western Royal family’s slaughter, Honoré decides he may be wrong about the Horde. So he heads north to find work as a mercenary in the Kingdom of the West, hoping to find evidence of what the Princess has said.
Heading for the center of the town the Lady of the yellow crystal crosses a large street, turning left she notes that the military barracks seem to be getting a new coat of paint, and that several new militia units are training outside the barracks.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
The report of the Horde Chief activating the white crystal has quick results. Anyone who can access Crystal Magic comes under the regulation of the Chalice. Caidian Crystal Ladies introduce him to all five crystals, giving the basics of the rules and theory of the crystals and their magic.
The Crystal Ladies are also quietly investigating the Princess. Although she hasn’t made any crystals glow, several of their crystals have vibrated in her presence. In any other circumstance she would receive training, but for the last thousand years women have been excluded from roles in government if they have crystal magic. If she is to step up to the Western throne her abilities must not be publicly known.
As Caid’s investigations conclude, the Princess’ version of the massacre is pretty much verified. There is still much to figure out. But at this point, Caid at least acknowledges her as Heir to the Western throne. The Kingdom of the West is still involved in their own investigations which keep being stymied and obstructed.
The Princess’ classes now include information she will use if she steps up to The West throne. She usually has lunch with the Horde Chief as they discuss politics and their different studies.
At a cooking demo held by the Dragon Sword Chefs, the Princess is amazed by the seeming chaos. Knives and tools tossed every which way are suddenly caught by a chef or land right next to the ingredient they are needed for. The prep work looked almost like magic.
Suddenly ten fighters enter the kitchen, three of them run toward the small dais where the Princess stands with her two guards, the other fighters heading for the chefs.
The six Chefs hold off the assassins with pot lids and kitchen knives, but are not able to come to the Princess’ aid.
Hearing the noise, five lady fighters rush into the room heading toward the Princess. Her two guards have kept her safe at the price of their lives, and the lady fighters arrive just in time to defeat the three assassins on the dais and whisk her to safety.
They go to the aid of the chefs and the assassins all die rather than be taken captive.
She turns right at the next large street, on her left is a farmhouse, with fields and workers.
Intersecting a smaller street she passes a general store, a tavern, and an armory.
Turning left at the next large street she passes through a large number of small huts, apartments, barracks, and houses.
She is always amazed at how much the Chalice has grown over the thousand years of its existence. From the few founding women teaching new magic users and experimenting with crystal powers; to a large, thriving city of thousands working to use Crystal Magic for the good of society.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
The West kingdom Regency Council’s investigation into what actually happened to the Royal family has been declared a failure and they turn to an outside agency. An investigator from the city’s constabulary has been made a Regency Investigator. His papers allow him to choose his own team and proceed as he sees fit.
Quite rapidly his team turns up evidence that the attackers were only disguised as Horde members, although they don’t yet know who they really were.
The attack is now looking less like an attack by an outside influence and more like a coup. The Regency Council is now under suspicion of being responsible for seizing power. This causes a large tug of war for control of the investigation as several Dukes and Counts vie to see that the facts come out and the guilty are punished.
The Council’s investigation into the legitimacy of the “Princess” and why she is in Caid under protection is also now suspect. Are there members of the council working against her?
As a result of the kitchen attack, the Freehold sends three 27 man fighting units to protect her as an addition to her personal guard.
The Horde Chief’s Crystal abilities are proving to be quite strong. Since he has very little training and no calibration the Ladies decide it is best to send him to the Chalice for more advanced training as a Focuser.
Turning right at the next large street she sees classrooms and apartments to her left. This street brings her to the center of the city of the Chalice.
Before her are the various gates that allow transit throughout the world.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
Over the past few weeks the Western Regency Council has seen much turmoil and has been completely restructured. It now consists of the four Military leaders of the Kingdom, the top six business owners, and a Count. This group is working hard to keep the kingdom in order and functional. Their work is imperiled when four of the Regency Investigator’s team are assassinated.
Over the three years that the Horde invaders have settled into their Western lands, they slowly moved into non-agricultural areas as they became contributing and accepted members of The West’s society.
The Caid Crown spend more time talking to representatives of the Horde and decide to release the Horde Chief.
While spending time in Caid and talking with members of the Freehold guard units, the Horde members realize that a number of the Freehold’s groups are descendants of Horde groups.
During the court where the Horde Chief is released from custody, another assassination attempt on the Princess occurs.
The Chief moves between the Princess and the knife wielding assassins.The Freehold bodyguards jump in quickly and between them and the Chief the assassins are dispatched.
The Chief declares that the Horde is now part of the Princesses' guard contingent and over the next seven days 243 Horde fighters arrive to become part of her bodyguard.
She meets up with a second Crystal Lady and a Master Fighter standing ready to welcome the new student.
Small flashes of light from two of the doors precede incoming visitors. They nod to the waiting trio as they leave the gate area.
Finally one of the large gates goes mercuric and a man wearing the attire of a Horde leader steps through.
Then a young Lady with a coronet and crystal pendant steps through.
Then twenty five armored men wearing Horde or Freehold devices follow.
The two Crystal Ladies and the Master Fighter realize that things have changed for the worse. The Master Fighter assigns guards to watch the gates for uninvited visitors.
• - - - - - - - - - - - -
While studying at the Chalice, the Horde Chief has three daily runners sending updates between him, Caid, and the Horde. With his release and with the recent happenings in The West, he has much work to do and many decisions to make.
The events in The West are worrying and cause the Chief to task several of his Horde members with helping the investigation team and relaying information to him.
Sending the Princess to the Chalice was unorthodox, but it was decided that it could be done under the guise of protecting her from assassin attacks. It would then allow her to train in Crystal Magic in secret.
She is set a number of classes that allows her to sample the different Crystal Art forms. Of course, there are many courses on politics, how to be a sovereign, and how to rule a nation. By her request, she is also being trained in sword and shield, and rapier combat.
On her breaks, she visits the Horde Chief, helping with his crystal training. The two of them sometimes explore the Chalice together; often visiting Twin Castle Inn for ale, wine, and stew or visiting the Salamander Armory.