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Never compromise. Not even in the face of Armageddon.
In the socially stimulated town of Hearthstone, they escorted Den the regicide towards his execution on the Shrine of Alesia, down the Arathor road, followed by the red priestesses singing echoes. Standing straight in his cage in an attempt to be perceived as kingly, the false sindo’rei saddened the fugitive known as Voris, who walked among the crowd being perfectly aware that nobody but his starving jailers knew of his whereabouts. Voris’ hood covered his bulky face, with his attention, increased because of the High Magic he snatched while meditating into the Fog, focused on the Fiery Guards. He had assassinated three of the Order’s children, and their brothers and sisters would come after him as soon news of his escape spreads.
Worse, his magic was fading. After touching the dragon’s power, I felt truly almighty.
Readjusting, Voris felt under his sandals the sand wind had blown, as the Arathor road carved the Rock as a snake smothering its prey, with the ocean roaring below. Sniffing the air, Voris smelled the sea, as the sun cast a bright and peaceful light upon the cliffs. For almost two decades, Voris hadn’t tasted air other than the Fog’s. Breathing purity itself in the afternoon reminded Voris of the joy of freedom. A freedom that was wasted by these idiotic citizens who were choose to worship an imperial machine instead of adding their part to Creation. Mankind is supposed to create or, at the very least, preserve. Anything else is madness, ignorance and destruction. Voris judged the hearthstonian weak rather than purely evil, but didn’t forgive them anyway.
Such artificial joyousness angered Voris, whom knew better than falling for these mazes of the mind. Looking back at the false sindo’rei, Voris concentrated on his task, which was entering the Red Country without being noticed by the Imperial forces. Disguised under a hooded cape, he wasn’t distinguishable from his fellow drifters of comrades. He had joined a Peddler’s crew assuming the identity of the sellsword Bjors. He wouldn’t be too complicated to mimic the Nords, for he belonged to their race. Of course, he had previously been enlightened by the Marquis, and he realised that they weren’t any races at all.
Focusing on his newfound freedom, Voris almost forgot of his wrath and was close to forgive the hearthstonians for their ignorance. If the Marquis hadn’t opened his eyes, Voris would have remained a Nord Chieftain among other bloodthirsty beasts. Designing a better future, the man hiding under the name Bjors had heard of a way to surpass the Marquis.
Bjors, that we shall name Voris for now, was confident, for his own vision would best his fallen master’s original plan. On the other hand, as every coin had two sides, his freedom would soon fade away. If I follow through my plans and find the Rose, I will leave anonymity, and work towards rebellion again… At the very least, Godefroy de Lubac had been a Temerian highborne, a legendary fighter and a trained battle mage. Voris was a Nord, hunted down up and down the frontiers of the Corners of Civilization. And Voris knew… There was no turning back and he wouldn’t bet his future on Lost Lands or Unclaimed Territories. Only one choice seemed logical, winning the war for the Empire’ soul or die trying.
Loosing interest in Avalan Den and his martyrdom, Voris acknowledged his upcoming few days as difficult, but belonging to a certain fatality awaiting the dim-witted in this world. Walking away from the mob, Voris decided to head towards the higher cliffs. It was common knowledge around Thyria that there wasn’t better summer retreat than Hearthstone. As a result, a few educated men knew of the irony behind the living conditions of the higher cliffs. Tradionnally, most civilized lords preferred castles dominating the most landscape as possible while enjoying a certain comfort. Built on a cliff facing the ocean, Hearthstone could be potentially endangered by typhoons and high winds. As a result, only the poorest lived on the higher cliffs, considering how hard it was to maintain wooden habitations considering building anything more complex required too much time with frequent storms lurking away. And the Fog of course. Every village and every city carried its weight of legends, and since the Fog appeared in 1464, many magical events occasionally occurred across the Great Civilized Nations. Hearhtstone’s higher cliffs were therefore known for their awful living conditions and their mysterious giant in the fog down the bay, a recurring apparition committing suicide every night ever since, with ships having tried to establish contact with it to no aveil. Voris didn’t have any particular opinion on the matter, believing superstitions to be a natural symptom of mankind’s active participation in its own destruction.
His next move being finding a short-term residence, Voris believed the higher cliffs would provide him everything needed for his doings. Part of his plan implied finding a rare flower only growing in this principality and Voris believed in his own tracking skills to afford a hut in the higher cliffs before the next typhoon, expected between three to five weeks. I will find the flower before one month for sure, the rest is a gamble. Hopefully, Voris was ready to die.
A strong five minutes after beginning his search for a hut, he had crossed a handful of miles in the rocky and sandy landscape, a fresh smell of sea carried by the howling wind. Oak trees waved their welcome to travelers on the Elric Road, a strong amount of greens accompanied the orange taints of the sun upon the cliff, thus making the landscape essentially beautiful, even to former Dark Lord Voris.
Farmers gathered in commendable ranches, which seemed less and less formidable the higher Voris climbed. Eventually, he crossed paths with local Sherrifs, who guided a Fiery Tunic. The sheriffs wore the white cloak of the Daylight Watch while Prince Imrik of Rubaron’s sigil of a ‘red tarasque on golden hill’ shone on their chest. As for the Fiery Tunic, he didn’t brag with any Amulet of his order, thus establishing his inability to use magic. The poor man must carry a lot of insecurities, Voris thought. A skilled swordsman no doubt, the knight would never rise above the Fourth Kyai, for upper circles members of the military orders followed the old codes of magic.
Slightly worried, Voris relaxed his shoulders and decided to seem as casual as possible. Hopefully, they seemed in a hurry and walked passed him. It was bad luck that Avalan Den had been branded one of so many Kingslayer suspects. Voris had hoped Hearthstone quiet as it had always been instead of passionnate about a public massacre. In a twisted sort of way, Voris wished for the young man to be offered a longer trial, not to ensure his survival but to focus the attention of everyone else on him. If the Fiery Order got bored after killing the false regicide, they could shift their attention to the Voris-looking Nordling right after Voris Grunswolf escaped imprisonment.
Finally, Voris arrived at the top, when winds blew with such power that his hood fell back, revealing his shaved head to the world. Villagers looked worried to see a stranger covered in scars, but eventually smiled, welcoming. Voris felt sadness for their good hearts were clouded by ignorance.
But again, that is why he chose Hearthstone, the house of the dim-witted, when he sent his followers hide the Vial Rose, a weapon so powerful it could take down an empire.