2nd Day of the 3rd Month, 2498 Age of Kingdoms Two years before Unification Arden Dūnon The Kingdom of Diwāna
The Dafydd of Diwāna, Llywelyn, sat in his high back chair at the head of the table. A large topographical map of Erebica was carved into the table in front of him which he stared at unblinking for several minutes. He sighed heavily and shook his head at nobody. He was facing a choice he would rather not make, to seal the fates of his people to the path of others, or to potentially have them all be dead by the middle of the next year.
He slammed his hand on the table, sending the carved models representing various armies and units flying across the room Damn the Siladorians, and damn the Therasicians and damn the rest of them too! He thought, They just want power and their political games will be the death of us all.
The Dafydd, or the first Prince of Diwāna, had to make the choice. His father was dying, the king’s age was advanced enough not even the Goddess could save him now, all things must die, it was her first lesson, and now it was the king’s turn and Llywelyn had to make the choice for the future, for he would be the next king and everyone was looking to him to lead now. His eyes drifted over to the north western edge of the map. The rampaging savages of lands collectively known as Grenosia. Animals Llywelyn could understand, he had been taught to hunt with the wolf, to speak with the bear, to roam with the deer. Grenosians were not animals, animals were loyal, animals had patterns.
The so-called War of Kingdoms had been dragging on for thirty years now and it threatened to spill over into the surrounding nations everyday, and if it didn’t end soon the nations of the east would be too weak to defend themselves from the barbarous hordes to the west.
Silador, Llywelyn almost hated the word, in his mind the Siladorians were prideful people, full of their own boisterous self-importance. Listening to their diplomats talk was about as useful as listening to them flatulate, their double-speak and half kept promises were enough to drive Llywelyn mad. They were still better than the Therasicians or any of the smaller petty kingdoms, or worse having to talk to Cormerians.
He strolled out of his war room and out onto a balcony overlooking what could be compared to a courtyard in otherlands. Really the border fort of Arden Dūnon would have been nearly invisible to the eyes of an outsider as it was built into three giant trees, galleries and sleeping rooms were in trunks of the trees themselves, in the center of the three trees was an empty clearing the size of a parade ground where men trained. The Cult of Creirwenite did not rely on large armies, or metal armor, or large weapons, for them warfare was conducted to frustrate, confuse and sap strength of arm and will of mind from the enemy. Their goddess had taught them how to move unseen between the sunbeams, to disappear into background, they struck supply lines, harangued stragglers, until an army was cut off and surrounded with little supplies, and then the Creirwenites would dismantle their prey like a pack of wolves taking down a deer.
The Dafydd stood on a beautifully carved balcony, the carved details made it look like it was still bark and was a natural formation of the tree itself. He watched his men train in stealth and combat. His people were strong, but everyday war threatened to spill into their forests, all sides were looking at the lush green forests of his kingdom for resources.
Llywelyn sighed, “Yes Albrec, what is it?”
“Sorry for intruding Dafydd,” the man seemed to detach himself from the tree trunk behind Llywelyn, “We’ve just received word, Cormerians have crossed into no-mans land, they are on the border between us and Calmörk, it seems like it’s almost half their army, we have to assume they are there to occupy the area.”
Llywelyn nodded, the choice was thrust on him now, there would be no more avoiding the war. If he allowed the Cormerians to set up in his forests he would draw the ire of the Silador and Therasicia, and the Cormerians wouldn’t just stop on the border they would want more and more. The Sons of Calder would also not allow such an army to sit on their border like that for long. But fighting Cormir wasn’t a good option either, they were well organized, well trained and would be able to do a lot of damage to the forests of Lleuaran before they could be driven out, and Cormir had her own allies.
“How soon can we mobilize?”
“We can have two hundred men ready in a few days, the fifty in this fortress day. By the end of the week, maybe seven hundred.”
“Let’s try and make it faster, split the men into ten packs and send them out, might as well get a lay of their intentions and where they make mistakes for us to exploit, but strict orders, purely recon, nobody is to take action or even be seen until further orders are given. Let’s not let tell the Cormerians if we’re at war yet, let’s be ready, also get some more scouts out on the western borders, the Siladorians and Therasicians will be aware of this move soon and we’ll want to make sure they don’t come through our forests when they mobilize a response.”
Albrec nodded and melted back into the foliage to see to his Dafydd’s orders. The air was cool, the frost was just beginning to permanently melt from the ground, winter was ending and the Cormerians were trying to take advantage of time when most armies wouldn’t be mobilized and the Sons of Calder would still be mostly held up in their winterholds. Llywelyn could see his breath on the air as he breathed out, and he leaned on the balcony railing and his head hung down wearily, his eyes closed.
“Creirwen, why have you allowed this? Must we fight in their meaningless wars which will only end when one of them has the power over the others? Must we be shackled to their fates? Do we not deserve a fate of our own, free of the influences of outsiders?”
The air shifted around him, ever so subtly but he started to feel warmer and comforted despite himself, the Dafydd caught himself humming a tune of a song he could not remember or place but still felt familiar to him, and he realized the music was softly in the air around him.
He opened his eyes and noticed the railing was no longer the carved wood of the woodland mansion, but was gold and silver veined. His head came up and he looked around, it was still a balcony but it was round and gold, not a rectangle or made of wood. The floor there were intrigued silver veins running through forming pictures of heroes and monsters that Llewelyn was not familiar with. He blinked but the strange vision stayed, and he shook his head and tried to convince himself he had not gone insane.
There were two large double doors, white and carved into beautiful moldings of leaves and ivory, they swung opened and through the door a tall figure glided out, slender and graceful, robed in soft green that flowed in a way that made it seem like this being was floating above the floor. The figure had no face but instead was hidden behind a porcelain colored mask with a laughing face painted on.
The masked head tilted sideways for a moment considering Llewelyn, then a voice drifted in the air, mingling with the soft music, and it felt to the Dafydd that he was enveloped by the voice more than he was hearing it with his ears.
“I’m a bit ashamed of you Dafydd of Diwāna, you are the heir to my religion and the ruler of my chosen people. I task you with defending my people and my realms because you must learn and grow, if I did everything for you you would remain children forever.”
Llewelyn swallowed hard and realization of his reality set in, regaining his composure he sank to one knee before the goddess and bowed his torso in respect. “Goddess Creirwen, my apologies I didn't mean to disturb you with my ill chosen words.”
Silver laughter surrounded him and the smile on the mask seemed to have deepened. “You speak the words like a true courtesan, but be careful of giving yourself too much credit, I was already watching you when you said your prayer, I don’t listen to all of my disciples all the time, and it is only human to lash out and complain to the gods when something goes slightly wrong. We usually don’t listen or we’d do nothing but find lost spoons and dolls all the time.”
Llewelyn felt his face flush and felt embarrassed, “You mock me and the pain our people will suffer?”
Laughter again, “Oh get up, and no I don’t mock your pain,you should know better than anyone I care for my people, but I do find your manners to be of some amusement, I don’t need more people gravaling, besides we have to talk so shut down your pride Llewelyn, you do have a choice and I need you to come to terms with the choice that is correct.”
The tall goddess touched his arm with silk gloved fingers and the two of them floated from the balcony down to the ground and landed softly on gentle green grass. They walked together in a gentle meadow. It was warm and pleasant for Llewlyn after the long winter months.
“Llewelyn, you have to fight, and you have to win this fight. If you fail to do so it won’t just be your people dead and your land destroyed, it will be all land everywhere that could be destroyed, and your people will be in chains, all people will be enslaved, this war isn’t just a war of kingdoms but of gods, and we are at a turning point of the world.” “If this is a war of gods then why are the followers of Lerubece, Crum Balceel, Banucyrewe and Wulisbrecil fighting each other? They worship and follow the teachings of those four gods; they should not be divided and warring.”
There was the gentle laugh again, “My followers have fought each other in the past, they have fought my husband’s people in the past, why should it be any different for them? Mortals will always fight over things beyond religion, but when the gods are involved it makes everything worse, and you can’t stay on the sidelines anymore, the war is at your door but behind that door are pieces moving that even your eyes can’t see. The Cormerians are no longer servants of the sons of Ruceb they have secretly thrown in with another god, a darker god. Let me show you.”
Creirwen threw her arms wide towards the sky and in the eyes of Llewlyn it changed from blue to darkness like he was seeing a tapestry or painting in front of him. The image was that of a dark stone castle, Lleywen recognized the grey and orange coat of arms of Cormir on two of the men standing in a room in front of them was a tall dark robed figure, taller than the goddess who stood next to Llewlyn. He could hear voices, though they seemed distant and he had to focus to hear. “With my help you will win this war in five years time, you have the numbers, you have the position and your enemies are weak and surrounded. But you need materials to win a war, and you have a large forest on your eastern border ripe for use. Take it and you can fuel your armies.”
“How will we deal with the accursed Creirwenites who hide in the shadows and strike only in the dark? The Sons of Calder won’t sit idle by either.”
The large figure hissed, “Do not speak the name of my accursed brother again. I have a surprise for them, something that will keep them distracted and unable to frustrate our plans. As for the kingdom of Diwāna, they die like any other man, they might hit and run, but they will only be able to run further into their shrinking woods and die tired in the end.”
The tall figure turned suddenly and lifted an arm and there was a bright light and Llewlyn fell back onto the ground shielding his eyes with his arms.
“It’s okay, you are not harmed, that was merely a memory you saw.”
Llewelyn opened his eyes and realized he could still see, the sky was blue again. He breathed slowly, “What was that?”
“As I said a memory, one of my ravens watched this exchange three days ago, the poor dear was nearly killed but managed to get back to me in time. Now we know somewhat of what our enemies are planning.”
“Yes, that figure, he called Calder his brother, Bolverkr is controlling Cormir now?”
The goddess’s voice shook and cracked, “Yes, Bolverkr has turned his back on his family and friends, he seeks the destruction of all lands, the enslavement of all people.”
“So we’ll fight the Cormerians, they are opening up another exposed front for them, we can focus against them and drive them back.”
“It won’t be that simple and you know it Dafydd, Bolverkr will have a plan to cause discord in the other nations, and we know he plots against Calmörk. We must counter him, if he gains a foothold the world of mortals there are greater cosmic implications. If he should find a way to cut off the world of man from the world of the gods it would be ill for both. Just as the Gods need mortals and the mortals need Gods, you will need allies, those who face the same challenges and potential fate as your own.”
Llewelyn stared out towards the distant forests that encircled the meadow and the tower from which they had come. “You mean Silador.”
“Silador, Therasicia, and the Sons of Calder, as many of the smaller kingdoms and principalities as you can muster. You’ll need everyone for this fight.”
“But the Siladorians, they’re so...arrogant.” The mask smiled deeply, “Maybe so, but you can also teach them some of our ways, the ways of the pack and the forest, the ways of honest animals and show them how it is better than the duplicitous nature of man. You’ll also find in their new Console, Justinian, a noble true soul, he is one you can trust, if you can get him to trust you.”
Llewelyn started to sigh but remembered whose presence he was in and stopped himself, there was a chill around him and he looked up and saw he was back on the balcony in Arden Dūnon. He shook himself, feeling stiff from the position of the sun and activities below he knew that it had only been a few minutes but he felt like he had been standing against the railing for hours. Stretching his arms and pushing in his back till it cracked a bit he strolled back into the galleries of the inner hold.
“Albrec, Albrec get in here.” Llewelyn yelled sharply.
A moment later his attaché appeared, “Yes Dafydd, how my I serve?”
Llewelyn paused, unable to believe what he was about to say, he sighed in full and then shook himself, it had to be done no use wasting more time on his feelings, “Albrect, arrange a meeting with the Siladorian ambassador, we have business that needs to be conducted.”