For the King, to Valhalla

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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OOC: Please read this OOC thread for a track listing as well as some background information on what I plan on doing here. Thanks for reading!


2 September 2002
1:02 pm
On a Monday
Beaconsviði, Prydania


Caleb Stahl made his way to the office of Jannik Leiftur, passing workers who were tirelessly chipping away at reliefs of stags etched into the stone of the walls of the halls of the Alþingi Building. He paid them no mind, occasionally tipping his head and offering a respectable "comrade" if they offered him one first. It wasn't that he purposefully ignored them. It was just that when the Secretary of Internal Affairs rang, you answered as quickly as possible.

"Comrade" Stahl said briskly, finally reaching the Internal Affairs office.
"The Comrade Secretary is expecting you" the guard replied matter-of-factly. Stahl merely smiled and nodded, hoping the guard's reaction wasn't a sign that Leiftur found him running late. Those fears, however, were dashed when the Internal Affairs Secretary rose from his desk as Stahl entered, smiling.

"Caleb, so good to see you! Come in, come in! Sit!"
"Comrade Secretary" Stahl responded, somewhat relived as he took his seat.

"Don't worry about revolutionary formalities" Leiftur insisted with a jolly grin. "No need to stand on them when there's business to attend to."
Stahl nodded "yes, the summons I received was seemed quite urgent. I trust things are..." he asked, not wanting to say what was on his mind. Still, an unsure look from Leiftur forced it out of him.
"I trust that the new government isn't in danger."

"No" Leiftur replied assuredly. "The incident with the Stormhaven was regrettable, but we've managed to overcome any overt threat to our control of the country. The government isn't in danger. Not yet anyway."

"Oh?" Stahl replied, shifting in his seat.

"What do you know of the Revolutionary Guard's storming of Absalon's Palace?" Leiftur asked, his tone becoming deadly serious.

"I know that Prince Tobias escaped the roundup of the Royal family. Aided by Royalist sympathizers. That's about all."

"Royalist sympathizers...more like sympathizer" Leiftur remarked, with more than a hint of disgust on his lips.
"You're in Military Intelligence. Does the name Axle Skov mean anything to you?"

"His name and reputation" Stahl replied, sinking back into his chair at the mention of Skov's name. Last he'd heard he was retired. Hell, he could have been dead for all he knew.

"Axle Skov was at Absalon's Palace. He incapacitated seven Revolutionary Guards and absconded with the Prince. We've been searching all over the capital for weeks, and we've found nothing. Whereabouts of either the Prince or Skov are unknown."
Stahl nodded as Leiftur spoke, feeling a sense of dread wash over him.

"We have most of the Royal family in our custody. By Wednesday they'll all be dead. It's the collective and unanimous decision of the Syndicalist Presidium that the continued freedom of the Prince will undermine our right to govern" Leiftur continued.

"But we govern on behalf of the workers. The common man. That's all the right we need" Stahl replied as he continued to adjust in his chair.

"That may be Caleb, but there are certain wrong-thinking peoples in this country still, pockets of reactionary and frankly medieval thought, that will view this child's existence as a sign of the Crown's continued preeminence. Tobias Loðbrók may only be seven years old, but he will be the heir to the Crown of Prydania following Wednesday's executions. He'll be the last of the direct line. If we are truly going to kill off that wretched institution? The child needs to die."

Stahl knew exactly what this meant, but he was loathed to accept it. Instead he would rather have Leiftur come out with it.
"The Presidium's agreed to this, unanimously, you've said?" he asked despite knowing the answer.

"Yes" Leiftur replied coldly. "And we want you to do it. Track down the Prince. Kill him. By any means necessary."

"Forgive me" Stahl said, breathing deep, "but he's only a child. Not even ten. He's done nothing wrong."

"I know that the prospect of hunting down and killing a child is bothersome" Leiftur replied, "but he's guilty by proxy every time a Royalist terrorist kills in his name. Every time our attempts to bring equality and economic justice to this country are undermined, the child is guilty because he inspires those acts. This hasn't happened yet Caleb, but Skov and the Prince aren't the only two who have gone missing. William Aubyn has vanished as well. A war is coming, and we need you to cut the head off of the Loðbrók snake if we're going to survive. Otherwise all of our struggle is for nothing." Leiftur's voice grew tired and cracked, almost as if the thought of what he was saying was too much.

"I'll need access. All of it. I'll need to be able to commandeer Military Intelligence, the Political Officers, units that I may deem useful. I'll need to be able to move freely if I'm going to do this."

"You'll have the full backing the Presidium" Leiftur replied with a warm smile and a nod. "And you're authorized to do anything, absolutely anything, you need to do to end this."

"Thank you Comrade Secretary" Stahl replied, standing with a salute.
"Of course, Comrade Captain" Leiftur replied, referencing Stahl's recently obtained rank.

Stahl turned, leaving as quickly as he could while still seeming professional. Was he loyal? Of course he was loyal! Children though...what had he gotten himself into?
Whatever it was, it would have to wait. He needed a drink.

.....................

Radioactive by Imagine Dragons, 3:07
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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15 September 2010
7:02 pm
On a Wednesday
Somewhere around Darrow, Prydania


"You've spoken to him?"

"No, not yet. Thought it best to give him some time. I'm not sure he wants to speak with me anyway."

Skov shook his head, finding Aubyn's explanation unacceptable.
"It's time to be a father William," he said as he pat him on the shoulder. "Leave that bullshit about politics at the door. Remember. He needs a father right now. I'm going to go talk to Toke and Lilly. See how they're holding up."

William nodded, watching Axle leave. He felt a knot in his throat. His own daughter was young when she passed. He was utterly lost when dealing with the normal rigours of adolescence. And this...this was that but so much more intense. War amplified everything like that.

He hesitated as he was about to knock, before he just opened the door.
Tobias' sobbing had settled. He just lay there, looking up at the ceiling of the safehouse, clutching a pillow to his chest. His eyes were bloodshot."

"Leave" he said, his throat obviously tasked from having bawled his eyes out.

"You don't look like you need me to leave" William replied, making his way to a chair by Tobias' bed.
"You look like you need to talk."

"I don't want to talk about it. Not with you" he said, again his voice not registering above a whisper.
"You're probably happy about what happened anyway."

William clenched his jaw and always yelled at the boy, but his common sense won out at the last moment. He didn't need another shouting match with Tobias. Not over this.

"Toke and Lilly Brink are loyal friends" he said, trying to hold himself together.
"Whatever you think of me, don't for a moment think I'd ever wish this on them or Krista."

Tobias turned to him, blushing a bit, and nodded.
"I'm sorry" he whimpered.

William leaned back in the chair somewhat.
"I'm sorry too. She was an innocent. And I know how much she meant to you."

Tobias sat up in bed, clutching the pillow as if he were hugging it.
"I loved her" he said with a whimper, on the verge of tears again.

William nodded. He'd more than once told Tobias that he wasn't happy about him and Krista carrying on a relationship. That for someone of his position? Marriage could be powerful political tool. It never went over well. Telling a fifteen year old not to be madly in love was an exercise in frustration.
"I know you did...and I know she felt the same way about you" William replied softly as he leaned in.

Tobias broke down again, crying. Not hysterically, just quietly sobbing as he let his head hang.
William nodded, getting up from the chair to sit next to the boy, wrapping his arms around him.
"I know it hurts, believe me" he said as he held the Prince. "I know. It'll never stop hurting, but it'll get better."

Tobias' reservations about William being there melted away and he rest his head against him as he sobbed.
"They all die" he whimpered.

William just looked at the boy, unsure of what to say. He didn't need to though. Tobias continued.
"Mom, dad...Krista. Everyone I love..." he said as he rested his head against William. "Everyone dies..."

William felt a pit in his stomach open up. He didn't have to imagine what Tobias was going through. His own wife and daughter...
"I felt that way when Alvilda and Claire passed" he said softly as he held the Prince.
"Everyone's gone...but they're not. I have you. You're still here. And I know Alvi and Claire..."he began to choke up himself. He paused, breathing deep as he desperately fought back the urge to join Tobias in breaking down.

"...they would want me to look after the people I love who are still here. Like you."

Tobias looked up as he adjusted, sitting next to William.
"You...mean that..."

William chuckled.
"You can think whatever you want of me, Tobias, but I've protected you for eight years. Maybe...maybe I've not done a good enough job letting you know I only want what's best for you. You're far more than a political pawn though. Far more."

He held him, letting Tobias cry as long as he needed to.
"I've cared for you since Axle brought you to me. I never thought I'd get a chance to be a father again, but I've seen you grow into a kind and caring young man. I love you. And you make me proud." William himself was on the verge of breaking out into tears again.

Tobias had stopped crying as he listened, clutching William as he spoke.
"And I know your mother and father would be proud of you too. And I know Krista will be with you, always. Just like she'll be with her parents, always."

Tobias nodded, feeling better for the first time since hearing Krista died by stepping on a landmine.
He didn't feel better, really. The wound was still fresh and raw. He did feel less hopeless though. William hadn't told him anything he didn't know. Not really.
He often felt like a pawn or political symbol, but deep down? He knew William loved him. And he loved him back. He just...it made him happy to hear it.
He leaned against the FNU resistance leader's shoulder.

"I love you too William" he said softly.

William wanted to tell him that he was brave. Just to be able to persist day in and day out during this war, and all of the death and suffering that came with it. Still, he said nothing. He just draped an arm over the Prince's shoulder.

"Over the hills and back, Tobias. We'll get there" he said, almost in a whisper, referring to an old Prydanian bedtime story for children that described an idealistic paradise.

Tobias' body went loose, finally comforted enough to relax. And a day's worth of grief and stress had caught up to him.
"I'll leave you to get some rest" William said softly.
"I'll just be in the common room. Don't hesitate if you need anything, ok?"

The Prince nodded, thanking William again with another hug before the FNU leader made his leave, finding Axle Skov sitting at the main table in the common room of the safe house.

"You're an asshole William. Never forget that. You're also a good father. Don't forget that either" he said, breaking open a bottle of brennivin and pouring two glasses.

"Thanks Axle" William said with a sigh, as the two men toasted to staying alive for one more day.

.....................

Slow Marching Band by Jethro Tull, 3:42
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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4 September 2002
7:46 pm
On a Wednesday
Jórvík, Prydania


William stared at the blank television. The buzzing of the recently turned off device still hummed through the room.

"Well that's that" Skov replied, arms crossed.
"They're all dead. Toft, the King. All of them."

William didn't say anything. He just sat there, staring at the screen.

"If it makes you feel any better? Toft was a tosser anyway. And the King? Well...best to think on what comes next anyway."

William didn't respond, still sitting there, looking at the television screen.

"King Andrew wasn't a good man" he finally said, softly. "I had to keep saying he was...for all of those years. He wasn't a good man...but it didn't have to end like this..."

"Nielsen didn't waste much time, that's for sure" Skov replied.

"Robert and Hanna though. They deserved much better..."

"We all deserve better William, but that's besides the point. Robert and Hanna...are you going to tell Tobias?"

"How do you tell a seven year old child that they'll never see their parents again?" William asked, still staring at the blank screen.

"I don't know" Skov replied dryly. "But that's not why I'm here" he pat William on the shoulder.

"You're not going..."

"No" Skov interrupted. "I'm not. I'm not the sort you want doing that anyway" he said, patting his shoulder.
"Besides, you're the father."

William sighed. Alvilda...he removed his glasses, to wipe away the tears...it almost made him happy to see Stephen Toft's kicking body hanging there.
He gathered his strength though, as Axle left the room. He hated the thought. How do you even tell a child that? He rubbed his temple, about to get up to make his way to the room they were keeping Tobias in, when he heard something. It was unmistakably something moving.
The safe house they were in was old and cluttered. He slowly made his way to the corner of the room, pulling aside an old chair, to find Tobias kneeling there. His eyes were wide and seemed to be on the verge of tears...

William steeled himself, as his heart had jumped into his throat. How Tobias got here wasn't the issue. Children get everywhere. He suddenly had to deal with this, now. He dropped to one knee, and smiled as best he could given the circumstances.

"Hey, what's going on?" he asked the child softly.

"I..." Tobias looked down for a moment and then back up.
"Where's my mommy and daddy?"

William felt a crushing weight on his heart in that moment. It felt as if it took physical effort just to speak. There's a very good chance he saw what happened, if he was here while he and Axle were watching the television.
"Tobias, your father and mother..." he began to tear up a bit himself, knowing what he was about to do.

"Some very wicked people have taken them from us" he managed to say, his own lips quivering.

"They're...they're gone Tobias, those wicked people, they killed them..."
He didn't know what else to say. He could only say it as it was.

The boy's wide green eyes, which had looked like they were full of tears, suddenly burst as he began to wail, crying uncontrollably. William just let his own head hang in defeat for a moment. He'd done all he could have reasonably done in saving Tobias from the Syndicalist hit squad that had seized Absalon's Palace. And yet...here was a scared, sad child he had just told had lost his parents. How could he feel anything but failure in that moment?

"Tobias" he said softly, reaching out to comfort the boy. Instead Tobias hugged him. William, shocked at first, smiled as he comforted the child.
"I'm sorry Tobias, I really am" he said softly as the boy cried into him. He just embraced him, holding him and letting him cry as much as he wanted and needed to. He lost track of time when his crying finally began to taper off...

"Tobias," he said softly, "My daughter was killed, a few years ago. Like your mother and father..." he placed a hand on each of Tobias' shoulders, as he looked at the distraught child.

"She was sweet, and innocent, like you, and some very bad people took her from me. You and I, we have to stick together, because the world is a very dark place right now."

"Mommy, Daddy..." Tobias whimpered, eyes closing again, crying softly.

"I know, I know" William replied, "but you need to be strong, because they're still with you, in your heart" he tapped Tobias' chest.
"And you need to know they want you to be strong and brave, because together we're going to make the world not so dark."

Tobias nodded, embracing William again, burying his face in his shoulder.
"Axle's going to make sure you're nice, and safe, ok?" he said as he stood up, taking the boy by his hand.
"But now you need to get some sleep."

"William will you...read something for me?" the boy asked.
He nodded as he set the boy in bed, looking for something to read.
"I'm afraid I can't find a bedtime story" he said with a soft smile as he sat in a chair next to the Prince's bed.
"But there is this..."
He showed the boy a small book, with an old and worn brown cover, showing an embossed stag with a cross in its antlers.
"It's an old history book. From years, and years ago. It's meant for kids a few years older than you, but you're smart, aren't you?"

Tobias, for the first time that day, smiled with a nod.
"Well you see" William began to read, "there was a mighty king named Hróarr and he..."

William began to read the story of Hróarr Loðbrók and, before he knew it, Tobias was sleeping. Even in sleep he looked sad. William sighed, setting the book down on the night table before leaving.

"That went as well as can be expected" Skov replied as he sat himself down on a chair in the hallway just outside the prince's room.
"No thanks to you" William retorted.
Axle just chuckled.
"You don't want me to be the one who comforts children" he said as he shook his head.
"I suppose not" William answered, sounding exhausted as he walked off.

"Where are you off too?"
"I'm doing what needs to be done" William replied.

.....................

4 September 2002
8:00 pm
On a Wednesday
Jórvík, Prydania


"To all free Prydanians, and friendly nations who receive this broadcast. I, William Aubyn, dully elected member of the Alþingi of the Prydanian Realm, pledge myself to the Front of National Unity. We stand united to declare our intention to resist and rebel against the criminal Syndicalist regime that has seized power in our nation.

We believe in democracy and the consent of the governed, not the dictatorship of the Syndicalist Party.

We believe in an organic society, not one of endless class struggle and bloodshed.

We believe that the Syndicalist regime has willfully and malignantly usurped the rights of all free Prydanians by illegally dissolving the Realm's Alþingi.

We believe the Syndicalist regime has engaged in political repression by murdering, in cold blood, members of the Alþingi, members of the Royal family, and all else who stand in the way of their ideological goals.

We believe in the restoration of the Gömulríki* of the Realm, including the re-establishment of a fully representative and democratically elected Alþingi under the Loðbrók crown. To this end we recognize Prince Tobias Scylfing Loðbrók as the heir to the Prydanian Throne and rightful King of Prydania.

We, the Front of National Unity, declare our intentions to fight and oppose the Syndicalist regime and their forced, by any and all means at our disposal, to refuse any Syndicalist law contrary to the rights of free peoples, to bring about the destruction of this illegal Syndicalist regime, and to make forever free the people of Prydania.

For the King, to Valhalla."

.....................

Fear Not This Night by Asja Kadric, 5:01
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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30 October 2012
10:03 pm
On a Tuesday
Stormurholmr, Prydania


"I can't believe that sword's still safe! William's going to be ecstatic!" Tobias remarked, holding Veiðiblað. One hand gripping the wood finish of the hilt, the other ever so carefully balancing the blade. The blade itself was mesmerizing. The metal looked to be liquid, and in the low, soft light of the cellars of Tempest Keep? He swore he could see it actually flow along the length of the blade.

"I'm sure Mr. Aubyn will be happy to see it safe and in one piece Tobias" Jørn Stöðuvatn chuckled as he observed the boy examining the heirloom.
"But what I'm curious about is what do you think of it?"

"What...what do you mean?" Tobias asked, holding the blade at arm's length, as he tried to imitate how he thought fencers were trained to stand.

"It's a sword that's been in your family for...oh who knows how long? To Aubyn it's surely something important, but I would think it would mean so much more to you."

"I mean..." Tobias looked at the sword, studying it some more.
"It's a sword. Of course I'm happy it's still around. We all thought the Syndicalists would have destroyed it by now, along with the Crown Jewels. But it's still just a sword. I don't even know how to use it."

Stöðuvatn chuckled, loosening the faded golden scarf around his neck, letting himself relax a bit.
"The funny thing about things as old as that sword is that they have a way of...letting you know how you're doing. So I wouldn't worry about it so much."

"What do you mean?" Tobias replied, sitting down casually in the corner, still studying the blade.

"I mean that sword has seen an awful lot. So much so it probably has stories to tell. And seeing as you're the last one alive from the bloodline whose very blood was added to that steal? I suppose it will speak to you before anyone else."

"How do you know so much about it?" Tobias asked as he looked up.

"The same way anyone knows anything" Stöðuvatn replied. "Someone told someone else, they told someone else, then they told someone else until, eventually, someone told me."

"How much of it is true?" Tobias asked. "About the sword, I mean. I've heard stories. Pretty incredible stories."

"You want to know if the story of Æschere Loðbrók is true" Stöðuvatn replied with a mischievous smile. Tobias just nodded, eyes wide.

"Well Æschere..." Stöðuvatn replied, removing his tan frock coat and setting it down before sitting on the steps opposite Tobias, "wandered with his clan and their followers in what is now Andrenne, but what was at the time merely wilderness. The Wendol, who claimed the wilderness began to feast on Æschere's host. Then Jägdar, god of the hunt and nature, heard Æschere's prayers. He had Försma, blacksmith of the gods, forge a sword with drops of Æschere's blood in quenching of the steel. Jägdar blessed the blade, Veiðiblað, and bestowed it on your ancestor. With it he vanquished the Wendol and made the wilderness safe for his people."

Tobias leaned his head back against the stone wall. "Yeah, but is there any truth to it?"

Stöðuvatn shrugged. "What do you mean by truth?"

"I mean, like...ok. The Wendol, the pagan gods...that stuff wasn't real. But was there a real Æschere? Did he win a war against...someone?"

"You want to know if this legend has perhaps a kernel of truth to it" Stöðuvatn replied. Tobias nodded, eagerly. Stöðuvatn chuckled.

"I could tell you that the Wendol were some native group living on what is now Gothis, and that Æschere, or someone we based Æschere off of, killed them. I could tell you that sword is just a sword. A well-made sword, but a sword none the less. And maybe I would be telling you the truth. Really though? The legend you felt the need to roll your eyes at is just a good a story as any other."

"But it's not true."

"Maybe. Maybe it is. Who are we to know?"

"So the old pagan gods, beastly Wendol? They're real?"

"I know that according to legend Æschere Loðbrók hated the Wendol so much that when the rest of what would become Andrenne began to incorporate their language in their own Æschere demanded his clan and their followers continue to speak the old Makari. I know that this sword was deemed important enough for some of your ancestors to die to protect. I know Æschere's descendent and your ancestor Hróarr only felt he could flee Heorot because he had that sword to guide him through the storms that hammer this blasted chunk of land. Maybe they did these things because of a true story or merely some fable. In the end? The fable's as good as any other story if it inspires great people to alter the flow of history. After all, what do you expect people to say about you a thousand years after you're dead?"

"Me?" Tobias asked, blushing a bit.
"Hopefully that I got to be a good King..." his voice trailed off.
"And that I ended a lot of suffering."

"Noble" Stöðuvatn replied. "Though I will tell you right now that should the FNU win this war? What happens during your reign will likely pale in comparison to the songs they'll sing about this moment in history."

"What do you mean? This moment? Today? Now? We've captured Tempest Holm and the Austurlands, but we haven't won the war."

Stöðuvatn chuckled again, loosening the scarf around his neck some more and unbuttoning the top button of his white undershirt.
"No. This moment in time. Not today, or this month. Or even this year. This moment. Where history is flowing between two points, back and forth." He pointed at the prince.

"Me...and Stahl?" Tobias asked. Stöðuvatn shook his head.
"Stahl is caught in the flow of history, he doesn't direct it. He's pushed towards you, by the other axis who determines the flow of history in this moment. Thomas Nielsen."

Tobias just stared forward, into the middle distance, at the mention of Nielsen. He didn't say a word.

"Thomas Nielsen is a great man. A horrible man, don't misunderstand me, but a great one. Everything he knew was the working class. His father, his brothers, his friends. His whole town, and his whole life, was that mining pit. He had a burning desire to make things better for them, and in his passion he turned to the path of absolutes. That didn't dull his force of will though, and he bent history to his designs. And then there is you..."

Tobias looked up, pulling himself from the minor panic attack Nielsen's name brought on.

"You, the last prince of Loðbrók. Born after Nielsen's turn to totalitarianism was irreversible, and before he seized power. God, gods... it doesn't matter. The universe abhors a vacuum. You are here, to influence the flow of history away from Thomas Nielsen."

"You're saying..." Tobias replied flatly, "that I was born to go through all of this?"

"History is on the march Tobias. In ten, fifty, a hundred, even a thousand years from now. They'll look at this moment in time. And they'll see the cycle of Thomas Nielsen and Tobias Loðbrók. Two figures who dictated the flow of history."

"So what do you want me to do?" Tobias asked.

"Well you can appreciate the sword" Stöðuvatn replied. "And understand its place in your family's history. And understand that with it Loðbróks have shaped history just as much as Thomas Nielsen has."

Tobias felt his stomach turn.
"I don't think a sword's going to win anyone a war" he replied. "But maybe I can give it a few more stories to tell."

"You'll have to listen first."

"I'll try."

"That's all anyone can ask."

.....................


Élan by Nightwish, 4: 52
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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30 October 2012
11:14 pm
On a Tuesday
Stormurholmr, Prydania

Jørn Stöðuvatn had retired for the night, but Tobias remained in the cellars of Tempest Keep. He told himself he felt comfortable here. This was his family's traditional seat of power after all. Built by his own ancestors. And now, ten years after Nielsen's coup, it was in loyalist hands once more. He told himself that's why he felt comfortable.
He didn't truly believe that though. A creeping thought in the back of his mind told him why. It was a large, stone building. That was all. It was safe in ways he hadn't been in a very long time. That was all. He got up from the corner of the primary cellar he was sitting in, the soft lighting meaning his tired eyes weren't that strained. He grabbed the sword Veiðiblað and removed the scabbard again. The way the pattern on the blade made it look like liquid metal. It was almost hypnotic.

.........

Ten long years. Ten years. Stahl almost felt giddy. Aubyn had tossed up an impressive counter-intelligence network to secure the movements of FNU leadership, but now he knew where they were. Tempest Keep, on Tempest Holm. The FNU's capture of the island and the Austurlands was a black eye for the Syndicalist Republic. He was sure examples were being made, retaliation against distrustful reactionary elements carried out back west. Maybe a purge of the Committee of State Security.

That didn't concern him. It gave him focus, of course, but it wasn't at the forefront of his mind. Right now he was ready to kill Tobias Loðbrók. He'd come close, but now it was imperative. Kill him, leave the FNU without their rallying symbol. Pave the way for the Syndicalist Republic to re-conquer the east and end this destructive conflict.

The western shore of Tempest Holm was rocky, but he had to climb the cliff to the old castle. FNU militia were patrolling the island, and nothing short than scaling the cliffs directly under the castle would do. Stahl gritted his teeth as he made his way up until his foot attempted to land on a smooth, weathered rock.

He gasped as his body nearly tumbled, managing to hang on for dear life as the side of his body crashed into the cliff wall. It was even through the darkness of the night that he saw it...his pistol lodged loose, tumbling to the rocks below. He gripped the cliff face, hoping that the gun wouldn't go off, eyes clenched and heart beating....until the fainted clank echoed up. No discharge. He breathed a sigh of relief, even when cursing his luck.

Ten years, and now he knew exactly where his target was. And he'd lost his gun. No worries though.
"There are plenty of ways to kill someone" he thought as he scaled the cliff face to the castle above.

.........

Tobias was lost in thought as he stared at the sword. Stöðuvatn had said he had to listen.
"You have stories to tell" he muttered, almost to himself. "I believe it," he added, "but no one wins wars with swords anymore."

"Turn." He wasn't sure if he was hearing someone say something outloud, or if it were merely the faintest of whispers in his mind. Less a full word and more an inkling that come to him out of nowhere. Still, it compelled him. He turned, and out of nowhere the sound of metal blade clanging against metal blade echoed through the cellar.

He'd deflected the strike! Stahl's strike! Tobias' face went white as he stared at a panting, angry Stahl, holding a sword swiped by a suit of armour nearby, who struggled to comprehend how the boy had managed to know exactly when to deflect the blow away.

"You" Tobias growled, just before Stahl lunged at him again.
"To your side" Tobias turned on the balls of his feet, clumsily dodging Stahl as he stumbled back. It was the faintest thing. An idea floated to the back of his head. He looked up at the angry Stahl gripped Veiðiblað tight.

"This is going to be over by morning" Stahl growled, lunging again.

"Up and block" Tobias raised the sword, gripping it with all his strength, managing to block Stahl's attack, gritting his teeth as he tried to hold the man's weight back.
"Roll, right" Tobias moved low and two the right, turning, forcing Stahl to stumble forward.

"You've run from me for too damn long" Stahl yelled, swinging with all of his might.
"Perry" the Prince parried, deflecting Stahl's blow, and the one he attempted afterwards.
"But Skov can't hide you forever, you little shit" Stahl continued, lunging again. And again Tobias matched his blow, though his hands were shaking. He wasn't sure how long he could hang onto this sword. He looked up at the staircase leading into the main cellar. He could hear the clatter of boots frantically running down stone hallways.

"They're going to be too late" Stahl said through grit teeth as he lunged at Tobias again, only for the Prince to turn, running, rolling along a column as a second strike from Stahl's blade hit the stone.
He was quick though, and managed to get out ahead of the Prince. He held his blade straight as he backed Tobias up towards the back of the cellar.
The prince was shaking. He was sure the next blow would knock Veiðiblað from his grasp. Stahl could sense his fear.

"Come on. Say something. Something I can tell President Nielsen about before I skewer you."

Tobias held the sword as tight as he could muster. Nothing but the though "wait" came to him. Suddenly he looked over Stahl's shoulder. The door to the cellar burst open, and he stared directly into the Syndicalist operative's soul. Caleb Stahl had been chasing Tobias for ten years. He'd been within spitting distance of him more than once. And this...this was the first time he'd ever spoken to him.
"Tell Thomas Nielsen he can go to hell."

"Run"
the Prince ran and ducked to the side to dodge Stahl's strike, the bang of a pistol and clang of a bullet on steel reverberating through the heavy stone of the castle's foundation as Axle Skov, at the top of the staircase, emptied his pistol in the direction of the man he'd been playing cat and mouse with for ten years.

Stahl ducked, throwing himself against the wall, in the opposite direction as the Prince. He cursed under his breath. The enemy had the high ground and firearms. He didn't have time to curse though, diving into the cellar reservoir.
Skov ran down the stairs as if he were twenty years younger, grabbing Tobias as he pulled him back, emptying his remaining rounds into the reservoir.

"Come on, he's long gone. We need to get to where there's a signal. Tell the patrols" he dragged the prince, still clutching the sword, after him.

.........

"No luck?"

"None, William" Skov replied, shaking his hand. Tobias just sat in the corner of the room, a blanket over his shoulders as he continued to hold the sword. Not saying a word.

Aubyn seethed, but quickly knelt before Tobias.
"You're ok?"

The shaking Prince nodded, dropping the sword for the first time in a long time to hug William, nodding.
"I am yeah..."

"Ok. Stay out of the cellars tonight. We're moving out tomorrow."

The idea of another safe house or bunker wasn't the most appealing prospect, but the shocked Tobias could only nod.
"Yeah...ok" he said softly.

William reached down, picking up the sword before turning to Jørn Stöðuvatn.
"How did you get this Jørn?"

"There were some very brave people who were not going to let that sword fall into the wrong hands ten years ago. I wish I could say I had more company keeping it safe all of these years."

William just nodded, holding the blade for a moment.
"You better make sure you keep this damn thing in the scabbard" he said, shooting Tobias a smile. The Prince could do nothing but return it in kind.

.....................

Cruel Angel's Thesis by AmaLee, 4:16
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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27 December 2015
1:26 am
On a Sunday
Eiderwig, Prydania

Caleb Stahl tried to relax, his hands handcuffed behind the chair. It was a comfortable chair, he had to give it that. The snow fell softly outside. It was a peaceful scene, from what he could see from the window. A low hill not too far off in the distance, a lone tree shorn of its foliage, and snow covered fences against the dark blue midnight sky. The normality of it all struck him, as to the north? Hadden. The battle was surely underway. And yet staring out of this window? You could be forgiven for mistaking the scene as an idealistic painting.

"You're not going to ask me if I'm comfortable, are you?" Stahl asked with a bit of a smirk as Tobias entered the room.

Tobias gave him a bit a look, a bit of a "fuck you for stealing my thunder" look, before grabbing a chair and dragging it in front of Stahl, the back facing the former Syndicalist operative. Tobias straddled the chair, sitting in it backwards, crossing his hands over the top of it, as he stared into the eyes of the man who had been trying to kill him for thirteen years. He wanted to ask him why....but he also wanted to ask him so much more...the words log jammed in his throat, and he couldn't figure out what to say.

"Is there something you'd like to say?" Stahl asked after a few uncomfortable moments.

"Why..." Tobias began before the words disappeared from his lips, unable to finish what he was trying to ask as he tried to hold himself together.

"Why what?" Stahl answered."I've done a lot of things in my life that I'm sure someone would demand an explanation from. My parents, my priest, Jannik Leiftur, you."

"Then you know what I'm asking you about because I'm not Jannik Leiftur or anyone else" Tobias replied, as it took every bit of his own self-control to keep his composure.

Stahl looked at the prince for a moment, then out the window again, and back to the prince. Not saying anything.

"You were a member of the soldiers' committees...you helped paralyze the army back when..." he took a moment to breath..."back when Nielsen staged his coup. It could have been stopped..."

"It probably would have been stopped" Stahl nodded, "had we not done what we did."

"Then why!?" Tobias yelled, nearly standing before he forced himself to sit back down.
"I had to watch my parents die because of people like you..." his voice shook, and Stahl, a bit uncomfortable, looked away for a moment before returning his attention to the prince.
"I had to see my mother and father die when I was just a child, because of what you did. I lost my family because of everything you did!"

Stahl's jaw clenched his jaw...
"I don't know what to say to that other than the truth" he replied.

"Then what's the truth?"

"I didn't care" Stahl said firmly but plainly. He could see Tobias' eyes full of anger, and yet he continued.
"I didn't care, about you. Truth be told I barely knew anything about you at the time."

Tobias found his anger tempered by the shock of it all. Most of his life had been defined by people knowing who he was. Whether they wanted him dead or alive was another matter of course...

"You weren't the Loðbrók I was thinking about when I and my comrades did what we did" Stahl continued.
"Your uncle, King Anders, and his fascist puppets were ruining this country. And God knows we tried to do what we could do to change things peacefully, but you were seven when the coup happened. So don't question why I did what I did, because you have no idea how hopeless things were back then!"

"How can I not?" Tobias replied, "my family's gone. My parents are gone. I had to watch them..." he fumed a bit, before forcing himself to stay calm.

"You couldn't help it" Stahl replied, "could you? Where's William? Probably taking point in the fighting at Hadden. Which you're welcome for, by the way. But I'm sure he told you not to talk to me. I'd have told you that if I were him. But you couldn't help yourself, could you?"

Tobias was starring daggers at the man..."after thirteen fucking years I'm owed answers."

"I already told you. I didn't care!" Stahl replied adamantly.
"Things weren't getting better! I couldn't...I couldn't..." now it was Stahl who was fuming, as the events of 2002 rushed back to him. He looked at Tobias, seeing his anger, and he forced himself to remain calm.
"It's bad enough when you can't marry who you love, let alone be with them. Not without living a double life" he said, softly, breathing deep.

Tobias was dumbfounded..."you're...you're gay?"

"Your uncle and his fascist government...they didn't care about a lot of people Tobias" he continued, feeling his anger melt away. "And a lot of us thought we could change things peacefully, but...but....we couldn't. It was bad enough that police were allowed to harass us, even if we held hands. But I was in the army. If anyone found out who I was in love with..."

"You'd be discharged..."

"No I would have been thrown in jail for ten years, minimum" Stahl replied, correcting the prince.
"The Syndicalists promised an equal society. A better Prydania. What happened to some child prince I barely knew anything about didn't matter to me" he said plainly.
"And I did what I did. So I could live with my husband, and kiss him goodbye in the morning on the way to work."

"Then why did you turn yourself over to us?" Tobias asked, his early raged drained from his voice.

"Because of the Harrying of Hadden" Stahl replied bluntly.
"I say I didn't care Tobias, and I didn't. You weren't on my mind when I did what I did with the soldiers' committees. But when Jannik Leiftur assigned me to track you down and kill you? I didn't want to do it. A child shouldn't have to die because of the sins of his family. But...if it was for the greater good, to safeguard that better Prydania? What is one dead child, really?" Stahl sighed.

"You thought the ends justified the means, because if I died things would be better?"

"I didn't really, but that's why the ends justifying the means is such an insidious idea. When Leiftur told me to hunt you down and kill you? He never once mentioned a plan to burn every farm in the vicinity of Hadden to punish Royalist rebels. He never once said he'd kill ten people for every Syndicalist soldier killed by guerrilla fighters."
"But he did tell me to kill one child. Just one child. And over the next thirteen years it was more compromises. Until I suddenly saw all of those farms on fire. I saw hell on eras, and I had to accept it was the side I picked that made it happen."
Stahl looked down as he breathed deep, and collected his thoughts.
"If the information I provided helps your soldiers capture Jannik Leiftur then some good may come out of my involvement in all of that."

"Is your husband safe?" Tobias asked, unsure what else to say to a man who had unburdened his soul before him.

Stahl looked up, a bit shocked that Tobias would ask him that.

"He is, William saw to it" he answered.

"That's good" Tobias replied. "I hope you can see him again" he said, feeling a sense of guilt over his earlier anger, standing up to leave. "I'll leave you be for the evening."

"Tobias" Stahl replied, "I have something to ask you."

Tobias sat down again.
"Yes?"

"When you're king..."

"If I'm king" Tobias corrected him.

"No, when. The FNU will win this war."

"How do you know?"

"Because of what Nielsen and Leiftur did at Hadden. The government's support is going to crumble. It's already begun. And it'll speed up after you take Hadden. And believe me, you will with the intel I provided."

"So what about when I'm king?"

"The people who support you now will celebrate. But there will be people like me, people who will be apprehensive. Scared. Angry even. Please, Tobias. Be a King for them too. A good one, and prove to them that they were wrong to assume the worst about you."

"I...I don't know if I can be everything everyone wants me to be" Tobias replied softly.
"But I want a fair, and better Prydania too, Caleb."

"Then that's all I can ask of you. Your Highness."

Tobias chuckled awkwardly. "Please don't call me that" he said, getting up again to leave.
"I know it's not easy because of the chair and cuffs, but I hope you have good night."

"It's better than it was an hour ago" Stahl replied with a smile, breathing deep as he closed his eyes, letting his mind empty as he tried to find some semblance of sleep.

.....................

The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel, 3:05
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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15 September 2017
6:04 pm
On a Friday
Somewhere around Darrow, Prydania

The war was over. Syndicalist insurgents were being hounded. The PGU, the Mosordians, they were here. They were helping Prydania rebuild. And some day the War would be forgotten. Tobias wouldn't though.
He'd shaken hands with foreign admirals, corresponded for foreign leaders. He'd begun to understand just what it meant to be a King. And yet he wouldn't forget this day.

The sky was grey, the wind blowing gently across the grassy field, the treeline in the distance swaying. The leaves were falling. And no one was here to bother him. To talk to him. Axel knew. He kept his security at a distance. Let him have his privacy. He sat down, his back against an old fence post.

"Hey Krista" he said softly, producing a piece of paper from his pocket, sighing, his eyes heavy.
"I miss you" he said, breathing deep, wrapping his arms around his knees.
"Every day they need me to sign something, or talk to someone, or shake someone's hand...it's not so bad I guess. I mean...I knew this stuff would happen, once we won. I can't say I didn't expect it" he chuckled a bit, imgaining Krista's smile, the smile she'd have when she'd call him a dummy all of those years ago.

"But I wish you were here. To do it with me, because you should be here. You should be" he had to hold back the urge to cry. Why? He wasn't sure. He didn't need to save face.
"Like we talked about. When we both used to dream about the war being over. We'd be together...."

He broke down, burying his face in his knees as he wept softly, not even trying to hold back now as he sobbed. He missed her. He always missed her, but the onset of the fall and the grey skies of September made it worse.

He finally composed himself.
"You'd have liked the coronation" he said softly.
"It was small, intimate. I know they did it because who wants to invite foreign dignitaries to a bombed out city right? But it was nice, I think. Just the people who mattered."
He sniffed a bit, resting his head against the fence post and looked up. "You'd be there, and you'd be queen. I know, I know, it's kind of greedy to think of it like that, right?" he chuckled.
"But we'd be together..."

He opened up the folded piece of paper he'd been clutching. It was a poem he'd written her back when they were fifteen year olds in love. Only seeing each other when the situation of civil war would allow it. He'd been given the poem back when she died. Died, in this field, after stepping on a land mine. He'd wanted to come back here for years, but they'd never let him. The Goyaneans though, they'd cleared the field. And additional tests indicated that it was safe...and so here he was. Seven years after Krista Brink died, finally able to visit the spot where she died. And pay his respects in full.

"God this poem is awful" he chuckled, reading the prose of his teenage self.
"But I guess it didn't have to be good" he said, looking up again.
"You kept it" he whispered, "and you should have it again."

He folded the paper up once more, digging into the dirt below him, and setting the note down into it before covering it back up.
"I know it's silly, you'd tell me as much, I know it" he smiled softly.
"But I don't care. I wrote it for you. Let it be part of Eras, the last place you stood on" he fought back the urge to cry again.

"I'm always going to love you Krista" he said as he stood, wiping the dirt from his hand. He sighed and looked to the horizon. Back in the direction he knew Axle was waiting. He smiled a bit, having finally found closure. Part of him thought it was silly. Why should he need to come here, to this exact spot, to bury some paper in the ground? He'd already said his goodbyes to Krista seven years ago.
That part of him though? He ignored it. He felt a weight removed from his soul now that he had done this. For the first time he could think of Krista and not worry that there was something unsaid or undone.

He stood there for a bit longer before taking his flip phone from his pocket, dialing Axle.
"Yeah, I'm ready. Thank you. For taking me out here" he said with a slight smile. He knew his bodyguard would be here in no time to take him back to Beaconsviði. And he could enjoy the trip back knowing he'd done all he could ever do for the first girl he ever loved.

.....................

Wake Me Up When September Ends by Green Day, 4:47
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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31 December 2015
11:43 pm
On a Thursday
Beaconsviði, Prydania


Snow lightly powdered Beaconsviði as 2016 drew closer. Everything seemed peaceful. Sublime. Even the armed Syndicalist soldiers and the bodies hanging from the marketplace's terraces seemed tranquil.
The office of the Chairman of the Syndicalist Presidium- formally the Prime Minister's office- was mostly dark, save for a single desk light. Thomas Nielsen relaxed in the chair, holding up a glass of brennivín, watching the light dance in the sparkles of the clear liquid.

"Less than a half an hour until the new year and you're all alone."

Nielsen didn't even panic. He recognized Jørn Stöðuvatn's voice when he heard it. And he wasn't even shocked anymore. Nor was he upset. They were close once. No reason they couldn't still have a cordial conversation.

"Take a seat" Nielsen said gruffly. "Pour yourself a drink."

Stöðuvatn sat, but didn't reach for the brennivín.
"Can I have yours? You don't seem to be drinking it."

Nielsen chuckled and sipped.
"I have a lot on my mind."

"Like the FNU capturing Hadden. And Jannik Leiftur?"

Nielsen grunted. "So you're already starting with that, are you?"

"You've outlawed Christmas, so we can't very well start with small talk about this year's gift exchange, can we?"

Nielsen smirked. "I suppose we can't."

"So is that why this place seems deader than a morgue? Hadden has your lot in a funk? It has to be that. I refuse to believe that Jannik Leiftur was the life of the party."

"Jannik Leiftur is a good man" Nielsen growled, sitting up straighter in his chair.

"He's a war criminal. You better be right about God being a lie Thomas. If you're wrong? Your good friend will be burning in hell sooner or later. Probably sooner now that Aubyn has him."

"Did you come here to lecture me on your old morality Jørn?" Nielsen asked, the tempo of his voice rising.
"If you did then you better get out, because I'm not interested in hearing it."

"No, you only want to talk to me, like it was the good old days."

"And why can't we?"

"Because you're burning this country to the ground. Literally in some cases."

"For someone like you, with your skills? Your vision is remarkably limited" Nielsen shot back.
"Everything done, is done for the good of the people. Sometimes a child must be forced to study their lessons, after all."

"You honestly believe that, don't you?"

"You've known that. You've known that for a long time, Jørn."

"Since the 14th of April, 1995" Stöðuvatn replied, his eyes studying Nielsen's features. He looked older. That was to be expected. It had been a while. Still, it was more than time. Stress. It was stress.
"I told you, you had a chance to stop all of this. I told you then and there that what happened was in your hands. And rather than listen to peace and sanity? You went right back to your conspiracies."

"I did what I did FOR this country, Jørn! And if I knew what I know right now? I'd still do it. Because it was the right thing to do."

"It was the right thing to drag people from their homes and murder them in the streets?"

"Class traitors and oppressors don't deserve the people's mercy."

"It was the right thing to do to hang priests and churchgoers in their own churches?"

Nielsen remained silent.

"Was it the right thing to do when you slaughtered Shaddaists in the stree..."

"YES! YES IT WAS!"

Even Stöðuvatn was taken aback by Thomas' own fury.

"It was! It was..." Nielsen forced himself to relax.
"You think I lose sleep over any of those people? I would end my life right now if I knew that it would mean a peaceful society, governed by principals of equality and fraternity among all of Prydania. Why do you think I care for any of those people if I would be willing to do that to myself if I thought it would help?"

"The sad thing is that you think that by doing all of this you're make your vision a reality."

"Get out. I don't want to be lectured by a man who can't stomach the blood necessary to move the wheel of history."

"No."

"What?"

"I'm not done here. I won't be leaving."

"What do you want from me Jørn? What more could you possibly lecture me on?"

"I'm not here to lecture you. I'm here to ask you to surrender."

Nielsen chuckled. "I think your extracurriculars have scrambled your brain, my friend."

"Hadden's in FNU hands. And people there, in the heart of one of the great industrial centres of Prydania, are cheering in the streets. I thought these were your people."

Nielsen scoffed.

"You burnt every farm around Hadden to the ground. Killing Shaddaists shook a lot of people out of fear-induced apathy. Burning Hadden's farms woke everyone else up. And now you've lost half the country. How long do you think it'll be before everyone else smells blood in the water and joins William Aubyn? You're going to lose this war, Thomas. Surrender now, before more people die."

"Ye of little faith" Nielsen mused.

"I have no faith in a sinking ship, that's true. I have even less faith in a sinking ship that was poorly constructed. Which is funny, because I thought the ship builders were some of your loyal followers."

"They are. We'll fight in the streets of Keris if we have to, but I won't surrender. Not now, or ever. I won't let the Syndicalist dream die. I won't the bastards who held us in wage slavery for decades, centuries...I won't let them win."

"If you're still fighting by the time the war gets to Keris? You're truly delusional."

"No, I have a cause. You just can't fathom I believe in it as much as I do."

"I never questioned your devotion to your beliefs, Thomas. I just object when innocents die over them." Stöðuvatn sighed.
"Thomas, I warned you twenty years ago. You have another chance at peace now. Don't waste it."

"Twenty years ago" Nielsen chuckled.
"You're sitting here, telling me about destiny. About the path of history. Lording over us all like some sort of god. If this was always destined to end this way? Why bother? Let us all kill each other until everyone's dead."

"Your lot never learns" Stöðuvatn chuckled.
"And before you get upset? I don't mean Syndicalists. I mean tyrants. It doesn't matter what cause you wrap yourselves up in. Your lot is all the same, and you never learn. Toft didn't. Andrew III didn't. You didn't."

"Don't you dare say my name in the company of those pigs."

"You're the same Thomas. You always have been. And you never learn. 14th of April. 1995. I told you on that day that history abhorred a vacuum and that whatever you did after that would be balanced. You think I'm talking about destiny. I'm not. A war was only inevitable, Thomas, because you made it that way. Not fate. And who won that war wasn't in fate's hands either. It was in yours. And William Aybuyn's. And hundreds and thousands of other people. You're not losing because fate decreed it. I only said that there would be a counter to you. Not that you wouldn't win. Your failings are your own, Thomas. And that wouldn't be so bad, but you had to take so many people down with you."

"Then kill me" Nielsen barked as he stood.
"If I'm the monster you think I am? Kill me. Right here and now."

It was that command, that he kill, that washed the look of intellectual curiosity off of Stöðuvatn's face. He stood, leaning forward, his hands on the desk, looking Thomas in the eyes.

"When the people who made me what I am did so? They made me make a promise. To never kill, unless I had to. I happily made it. I also made myself a promise. That I wouldn't kill. At all. I thought I was clever enough to get out of any situation. I never thought I would be at a point where I had to kill. I managed that for a long time. Until I retrieved that sword your men wanted to destroy so desperately. And your soldiers, they killed my brothers."

Stöðuvatn's heart raced, his muscles tensed up.
"And I realized that I had no choice. There was no way out. So I killed your soldiers. All of them. It..." he began to chuckle in a particularly unnerving way, "...it wasn't even hard, Thomas. I...I just did it. And they died. I did it because I had to. And I killed, still keeping one of my promises. But not the most important promise."

He looked directly into Nielsen's eyes.
"I broke that promise because of you. I have blood on my hands, because of you. I won't spill anymore on your account."

Stöðuvatn straightened himself up, and turned to leave.
"Besides Thomas. Your death wouldn't mean anything in the end anyway. Not now."

Stöðuvatn left the office of the Chairman of the Syndicalist Presidium, leaving the Chairman himself to fall back into his seat. He fumed silently before tossing his mostly full glass against the wall. The sound of shattered glass barely having time to echo before the sound of the clock in the House of Parliament struck midnight.

2016 was here.




Chop Suey! by System of a Down, 3:26
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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26 December 2015
11:19 pm
On a Saturday
Somewhere near Hadden, Prydania


Private Erik Beck seemed tense as he leaned back on the back legs of his chair, his feet resting on his stacked gear. He looked around at the rest of his squad. Their "barracks" consisted of an old barn, the farm only recently reclaimed from Syndicalist Peoples' Militia. The hanged corpse of the nearby church's pastor had been moved out and given a proper burial. Usually the Syndicalists liked to hang clergy in their own churches, but the church in nearby Jórvík was burnt to the ground. Erik thought what this pastor could have possibly done to warrant that, but he quickly tried to move on. Their Sergeant, Laurids Hummel, remained as stoic as he could, ordering his squad to make due in the old barn.

It was strange, Erik thought. It was as if they were living on the edge of the world. The burnt out, bombed out husks of a world that once was. Everything was familiar. A barn. A farmhouse in the distance. A small country town. A church. A pastor's white and purple vestments.
Everything was dead, though. The farm they were bunking in was creaky, the farmhouse abandoned, the town only recently liberated and dealing with the after-effect of Syndicalist rule and civil war. The church a burnt out shell, and the pastor's vestments adorning a corpse.
And here he was, he and his squad, trying to settle in for a night's rest in the shell of this broken world. Where very recently a holy man had hung from a noose.

"Who's up for a drink?" Sergeant Hummel said as he entered the barn, holding a glass bottle of red wine, his cheeks still red from the wind and snow outside.

"A drink?" Private Mogens Riss asked.
"Where'd you get wine?"

"Never mind where I got it. It's a gift, and Central's decided to spread it around. Luckily for you, your Sergeant's likeable enough to score a bottle."

"So you mean they're giving them out to the dead men walking they're sending into Hadden tomorrow" Riis smirked.

Hummel just rolled his eyes, sitting down as he opened the bottle of wine with his knife and pouring a bit into his canteen.
"Your loss Riss" he said, sipping the wine.
"Anyone else alive enough to join me?"

The nine other soldiers looked around at each other. They'd had to march through snow and forests, fighting the Syndicalist Army and Peoples' Militia the entire way, just to drive them out of Jórvík. Many were ready to collapse. Then Erik raised his hand.
"I'll join ya sir, but I don't have a canteen. Hope ya don't mind sharing" he said with a nervous smile.

"Not at all Beck" Hummel replied, grinning ear to ear. "Get over here."

The rest of the soldiers, Morgens included, followed Erik. Some had their own canteens. Most did not. Hummel looked them over. They were young. 18, 19. He suspected some were 17. Brøndum could be 16 easy. Still, it was hard to tell these days. Records were burnt by Syndicalists, or just bombed to hell. They all claimed to be at least 18 though. Hummel sighed. He was only 21. Not that much older. Still? That was enough to make you a leader of men this day and age.
He poured more wine into his canteen, passing it to Erik, before passing the bottle around to the rest of his men.

"The label's in Umbrial" Janus Brøndum exclaimed, looking at it. "From the IA, Sarge?"

Hummel nodded. "The Boss has connections I think. I didn't hear anything directly, but rumour has it Caesar himself sent a case. Boss is sending all the bottles down the chain of command."

"But like...because they think we're gonna....well not gonna make it, right?" Riss repeated, not so cocky this time as the weight of what awaited him in a day's time began to become apparent.

Hummel couldn't help what happened next, but he began to tear up a bit. It was cold enough he hoped it wouldn't be immediately noticeable, taking a deep breath.

"You're from Hamarsa, right Riss?" Morgens nodded.
"Beck? Where are you from?"

Erik handed the empty canteen back to his sergeant.
"Sigluvik, Sarge."

Hummel nodded. "Brøndum? Lonland, right?"
Brøndum nodded "yea...ch" he coughed on the wine. "yes Sergeant."

Hummel looked around at his squad.
"Pihl, Dall, Lauritzen you're from Jórvík. I know ya all from home. Hjort and Ipsen, Markarfljot right? Fisherman's kids? Thought so. Elad, Beaconsviði right?"

"Yes Sergeant."

Hummel nodded.
"Most of you all are from around here. You saw your homes go up in flames when Jannik Leiftur ordered your towns set aflame. It's ok. I was there too. I saw the same thing. And like most of you? It's why I'm here...." he hung his head.
"It's why I'm here."

"And Elad, you're from Beaconsviði. That's a Yihuddi name isn't it?"
Adin Elad blushed, saying nothing as he nodded.

"You a Shaddaist, Private?"
Adin stayed quiet, just nodding.

"So you're not from around here, but you know damn well what Jannik Leiftur's guilty of. He's done you wrong like he's done us wrong."

"Besides" Hummel added, with a faint smile. "I hear Unicorn Company's gonna be in the thick of it."

"That's William Aub-I mean that's the Boss' company" Adin said, shocked.

"That's right, Private Elad. It is. And I know none of you are going to let the Boss have Leiftur all to himself."

He took the bottle of wine and poured more into his canteen before drinking.
"We've all seen fire. We've all seen a hell of a lot worse than fire..."

Hummel looked down again, fighting the urge to cry, as the flames of the farms of Jórvík filled his mind. And he knew he'd put similar memories in the minds of all of his men. But he couldn't crack. He had to be strong.

"We're not supposed to be here, ya know" he said.
"You think kids your age, guys my age, you think they bunk down in run down barns waiting to fight block to block? No. We're supposed to be learning a trade, working on a farm, going to school. Falling in love...Anything but killing and risking being killed..." he poured more wine.
"But those Syndie bastards took our futures from all of us."

"So we're all going to do our part. We're going to go into Hadden tomorrow because we all deserve a chance to get to that son of a bitch. And if we all die tomorrow night? We're all gonna die together. As brothers. Fighting for what he...they...took from us..."

He raised his canteen of wine up.
"One last time, for each of us. Remember your brothers. Whatever happens."




I See Fire by Ed Sheeran, 4:54
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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4 November 2012
10:02 pm
On a Sunday
somewhere near Alaterva, Prydania/Beaconsviði, Prydania


Tobias fell asleep, holding Veiðiblað just above the crossguard. The sheathed sword hung from his grasp at an angle, the feeling of the leather scabbard with designs of oak leaves worked into it the last thing the young prince felt before he drifted into a calm sleep. Far calmer than he usually had sleeping in small-ish bunkers like this. The sound of the wind even seemed more comforting than anything.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d slept in blissful oblivion when he saw a vision...a man, a rough looking man in furs, pulling Veiðiblað out of the trunk of a tree...he didn’t even have time to process what he’d seen before he saw a face- a very familiar face. It had been two years but it was etched into his memory.

“Krista!” he called out before she vanished in a calming purple light...




An empty cup of tea sat next to recently removed reading glasses on the nightstand closest to Thomas as he drifted asleep. Lisa was already asleep beside him, and he prepared himself for a quiet night on the onset of winter.

He couldn’t tell how long it had been, but suddenly he saw someone’s face be hadn’t seen in years.
“Robert?” he asked as the image of Prince Robert Loðbrók vanished as soon as he’d appeared.

Thomas found himself in a white space, standing across from someone. A young man it seemed, wearing a black shirt and flack jacket, and khaki combat pants with boots. He suddenly looked down. He wasn’t in his pyjamas. He was in a suit and tie, and his trusted tweed overcoat.

Thomas looked up again, and began to approach the other figure. He couldn’t tell who he was at first.
“Hello!” he called out.

The other person, however, seemed to know who he was.

“You!” Tobias shouted as he fumbled for his sword, only to notice it was...gone. He didn’t have it with him! Panic began to overwhelm him.

“Tobias” Thomas said, now confident in who he was seeing. He didn’t understand how or where though...it felt like a dream but also, strangely, like he was awake.

“Tobias” he repeated now sure of who he was seeing. He wasn’t sure what to say, but then that image of Prince Robert he saw....
“You’ve grown into looking quite like your father.”

Tobias felt his jaw lock in anger, a ball forming in his throat.
“You killed him” he managed to say, feeling strangely asleep and awake all at once.

“We all do unpleasant things for the greater good” Thomas grunted.

He was now only a few feet from the boy his agents had been trying to kill for ten years.

“Greater good? I had to watch them die!” Tobias yelled, swinging a fist, only for his hand to pass through Nielsen.

“Fascinating” Thomas mused.
“One of Stöðuvatn‘s tricks perhaps.”

“He gave me the sword” Tobias replied, his voice dripping with frustration.

“Oh did he?” Thomas replied angrily, turning to face Tobias again before attempting to grip the boy’s flack jacket only for his grasp to pass through him.
Thomas was flustered a bit before grinning and regaining his composure.

“It makes sense if this is his doing” Thomas mused.
“He’d dangle you right in front of me and then make you untouchable.”

“Go to hell” Tobias grunted.
“I don’t know what’s going on, but you can go straight to hell.”

Thomas laughed “after all this time and that’s all you have to say to me? Well boy, let me tell you something. Hell isn’t real, and we all have to spill blood if we’re going to make this world a better place. But if that pitiful insult is all you have for me? Then our mutual friend has wasted his time on this exercise.”

“What more do you expect me to say” Tobias sneered.
“I watched my parents die because of you. I don’t know if hell’s real, but if it isn’t then people like you are the reason man invented the idea.”

Thomas cocked his head and smiled “From Under Winter Trees. I see William’s educating you in the classics. How proper of him” he said, his voice dipping in disgust at the word “proper.”

“I killed your father boy, and your mother, and the whole lot of them” Thomas said as he closed the gap between himself and Tobias.
“And you should know something. Yes it furthered my goals. Yes it had a political purpose. I did it though, above all else, because I wanted to. I enjoyed it.”

Tobias’ jaw clenched, eyes full of rage but...even as his mind raced in anger? A single truth shined through the mental tempest. Something he knew...something he’d been told. Something that...that sprung to mind right here and now. When he should be at his angriest.

“Stormurhöfn 1996” he said calmly.

Thomas felt his earlier confidence in his attempt to elicit a hateful reaction from the boy melt as what Tobias said hit home.

“You said you enjoyed killing my parents...but you were his friend. Stormurhöfn 1994, where the monument to Vortgyn I used to stand. You met him there...you were friends. What did you talk about? Did he know what you were planning? Or were you all smiles before you went back to planning his murder?”

Now it was Thomas’ jaw that locked in anger before lashing out.
“I wanted him to do what was right!” he bellowed.
“Your father knew his cousin and Toft were killing this country but when I said there could be a better way he said no! He chose his class over his country, and that’s why I enjoyed signing the order to kill him. Because he wasn’t willing to help me do what was necessary to save this country!”

“Maybe he didn’t want to trade one tyrant for another” Tobias replied.
“Maybe he didn’t like seeing what a friend of his had turned into.”

“You are so incredibly self-righteous” Thomas chuckled.
“The flame of youth I suppose, but your father didn’t do what needed to be done. So I killed him because he was an obstacle to true justice. And I’ll kill you when I have to.”

“Then why haven’t you?” Tobias replied bluntly. Thomas was struck with the directness of it. And just when he was about to respond? His surroundings faded and scrambled, waking up in bed, in his pyjamas. The empty cup of tea on his nightstand.




Tobias jerked awake, dropping his seethed sword on the floor, looking around panicking.

“What are you doing up?” Skov asked, drinking a glass of brennivín and reading a newspaper in the other corner of the small bunker.

“I uh...bad dream. What are you doing up?”

Skov shrugged.
“I’m having a drink and reading a newspaper. Get back to bed. We move out in a few hours.”

Tobias nodded, leaving the old sword on the floor by his makeshift cot as he drifted back asleep.




The Humbling River by Puscifer, 5:04
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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7 May 2014
10:06 am
On a Wednesday
Alaterva, Prydania

The sky was crisp and the air was just chilly enough with a breeze to remind one of winter, even if the snow was well on its way to melting. Hell, that was problem.

FNU soldiers worked tirelessly in the bombed-out streets of Alaterva, clearing the rubble and garbage that clogged sewers and back alleys. Snow at the top of the hills and in the upper levels of the city was now melted, flooding the lower streets. The FNU personnel, having just captured the city from the Syndicalists a few weeks prior, worked tirelessly to clean out the rubble in the hopes that it would relieve the flooding.

William Aubyn looked over the maps of the city from the makeshift command centre that had been established just outside of the city as General Krummedike looked over maps of the region. The General couldn't help but smile. With Alaterva the Syndicalists were pushed out of the Austurlands. Not only that, but the FNU now had a straight shot to the General's old home where he'd reigned as Duke. It wouldn't be easy to recapture Krummedike but for the first time? The Syndicalists were on the backtrack.

William, however, wasn't as ecstatic. His men were busy handing out rations to the city's populace. A populace that was more underfed then he thought. He had no idea Syndicalist rationing had gotten this severe. Especially considering the quota-busting output the Syndicaist government was reporting from the collectivized farms up north.
And truth be told? His men were reduced to handing out field rations in some cases. He hoped Magnus found success with foreign powers. Everyone was hesitant to get involved in the fighting directly but maybe Magnus could secure food imports at the very least, now that the FNU had secured the Austurland coast. He briefly looked south across Kings' Lake. No help there. Just more death.
The Stan Yeran Navy in Korova was always a problem, of course, but he wondered if they'd be so callous as to blockade FNU-controlled Prydania to keep humanitarian aid out...

William let the thought pass. There were more pressing concerns.
"Where's Tobias?" he asked.

"Down there, bottom of the hill" Krummedike replied, motioning out towards the city before going back to his maps.

Tobias knelt on one knee, holding Veiðiblað in one hand and balancing the blade on the other as a group of children, no older than 10 or so, surrounded him.

"Wow, it looks like water" a young boy remarked, tentatively reaching out to touch the blade, patterns of banding and mottling of the steel resembling water.
"Yeah, it's pretty cool, isn't it?" Tobias remarked. "You can touch it if you like, just stay away from the edges of the blade, ok?"

The boy nodded and slowly ran his finger over the blade...
"Where'd you get the sword?" he asked.

"I got it..." Tobias paused, "well a friend gave it to me. It used to belong to my family and then it got lost. But my friend found it. It used to be held by Prydanian kings!"

"But there aren't anymore kings" a young girl replied. Tobias took stock of the kids and their ages. These kids had lived their entire lives during this war.

"Well..." he replied, "one day I'm going to try to be King. And hopefully all the fighting will end" he said with a smile. He felt his nerves shake. Even saying that to children filled him with a sense of dread. A promise that he knew was fundamentally out of his control to keep.
Still, he tried to keep spirits up. "I'm sure your parents or brothers or sisters are looking for you" he said as he stood and sheathed the sword in the scabbard across his back.
"Before you go though..." he opened the pouch resting against his hip and gave the group of kids a few ration packs.

The children happily took the packs before running off, leaving Tobias to watch the crews of soldiers working in the city, doing what they could to direct the flow of melted snow down to the port. He felt a twinge of uselessness and began to make his way into the city. He wasn't sure what he could do exactly, or what they'd even let him do.

He made his way down to the dock, getting a few respectful nods from various soldiers. There weren't very many civilians around, as he poked around, until he heard a voice off in the distance. Just around a corner, past the stacks of crates and the blown out remains of what was once a customs house....he saw a barricade. FNU soldiers manned it as a girl, or a young woman, in ragged clothing argued with them.

He found himself smiling as he took the sight in before he brushed the dirt off of his flak jacket and made his way the barricade.
"What's up?" he asked before blushing at the very stupid thing he'd just sad, the two soldiers and the girl looking at him more confused then anything.

"Um, I mean, what's going on? Can I help?"
One of the soldiers began to speak up only to get cut off by the girl.

"Yeah, these soldiers aren't letting my through to the ration distribution station!"

"Like I said," one of the soldiers began gruffly, "we're running critically low. We need to take the soldiers into account."

"Soldiers? I have two brothers and two sisters back home and..."
Tobias sighed opening his pouch and taking out two more packs of field rations.

"I'm...I'm not sure it'll help but..." he walked between the two soldiers and handed the girl the packets.

The girl took the packets, looking at them before looking back up at Tobias.
"Aren't you a Prince?" she asked.

"I mean...yeah. I guess. I mean I am" he stammered despite keeping a smile on his face.
"Did the sword give it away?"

"No, your face is everywhere" she remarked. "The Syndies plastered wanted signs up all over for you. You can probably still find a few before your soldiers take them all down."

"I'll, um, I'll have to see if I can find one."

The girl smirked.
"But if you're a Prince, you could tell these guys to distribute more rations, right?"

Tobias had a bit of an epiphany, turning to one of the soldiers.
"You think you could let her have just a few more ration packs?"

"Sorry, Your Highness. Boss' orders."

"Huh" Tobias replied, sounding a bit dissapointed.
"I tried" he said with a shrug.

"Well thanks, I guess" the girl replied, turning to go before turning again to face the Prince.
"You want to see something cool, I could take you to those Wanted signs. Not every day you get to see 'DEAD OR ALIVE' plastered across your face, right?"

"The Boss wants you under Skov's watch at all times, Your Highness" the other soldier said, clutching his weapon.

Tobias' hopes had been raised at the girl's suggestion, but dashed at the solider's response. Only for the disappointment of the fact that he couldn't actually wield his authority to turn into a rebellious streak. He hopped over the barricade, turning to walk backward facing the soldiers as he bid them farewell.
"Skov's a super spy right? He shouldn't have a problem!" before turning back again to walk with the girl.

"Super spy?" she asked.
"It's kinda a long story" Tobias replied with a chuckle as they made their way up a staircase by a blown out Syndicalist machinegun encampment.

"There you are, Your Highness" she said with a jokey grin, handing him a piece of paper from a sparse community bulletin board. It was a picture of him, a bit younger. 15 or so, with "DEAD OR ALIVE" plastered above and below it, with the Syndicalist coat of arms in the corner.

He took the paper from her, looking it over.
"Huh" he said. It was unnerving, but he kept his smile.
"Well since the good people at the Committee for Syndicalist State Security have damn well made sure you know my name...can I get yours?"

"A prince wants to know my name?" she replied with a giggle.
"Please, don't call me that. It's...kind of embarrassing."

He smiled, extending her hand.
"Nora Hald."

He took her hand, dirty as it was, and held it delicately. He had half a mind to kiss it. That's what you did, right? He felt his throat tie up a bit though, and he only scraped some of the dirt off of it.
"An honour to meet you Nora. I'm truly sorry we don't have more food but..."

"You're feeding us. That's more then those bastards did" she remarked.
"Thank you. Again."

Tobias nodded.
"I really don't know what to say Nora. But I hope things get better."

"I do too Tobias" she replied, winking as she used his name instead of any honorifics.
"If you're ever in Alaterva? Look me up. I'll be the one trying to corral four siblings" she said with a grin as she walked away, waving to him.

Tobias just stood there, waving back his mind lost in the moment before he felt a hand land down on his shoulder.
"There you are."

"Axle!" he proclaimed, startled.
"I was just...."

"Yeah, you were just doing what you were doing" he sighed.
"Come on. William wants to talk."

Tobias looked after Nora just a moment longer, nodding before eventually turning to follow Axel back.




Extraordinary Girl by Green Day, 3: 35
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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31 March 2011
12:27 pm
On a Thursday
Somewhere outside of Haland, Prydania

"I didn't take you for a musician" William remarked as he entered Tobias' room. Well as much as anyone in their outfit had a "room." Even with the southeastern coast and Tempest Holm liberated? Keeping FNU leadership on the move was still a priority.

"Huh?" Tobias asked, half-paying attention to William as he absentmindedly tapped his right hand's fingers on the nightstand to a piece of music the Prince had heard on Goyanes' Free Prydania radio.

William pointed to his fingers, but Tobias was reading a book, in truth a book he'd read at least five times by now. Still? He didn't see William pointing.
Or maybe he did, and he was just ignoring him. It was getting harder to tell.

"Are you going to talk to me about this, or are you going to read that same blasted novel you've got to know my heart by now?"

Tobias' jaw clenched, lowering the book and looking up with an intense glare.
"There's nothing to talk about, I'm not doing it."

"I don't need to remind you how...."

"Then don't" Tobias replied sharply.

"You don't care..." William began before he stopped himself. Asking him if cared about his family's legacy may not be the best course of action. So he amended himself mid sentence.
"...about this being the first Easter since Tempest Holm was liberated?"

"I'm not a Messianist, I don't want to give a speech" the Prince grumbled.

William sighed. He didn't want to have this conversation again, but the planned Easter celebration at Tempest Holm- a clear rebuke of the militant atheism of the Syndicalist Republic- was being planned.

"You're the Crown Prince of Prydania. You're going to be King one day and you're going to be the head of the Church here..."

Tobias got red, tossing his book against the wall. The poor thing broke apart in an explosion of weathered, yellow pages and book dust. William, shocked, tried to speak, but Tobias cut him off.

"I'm not a Prince, for fuck's sake!" he yelled. William was caught off guard as Tobias fumed, his chest rising and falling as his heart raced.
"Give a speech? For what? What am I going to be a king of?" he asked angrily.

"I'm not a king or prince of anything William" he added as he calmed down, ever so slightly.
"Whatever I'm supposed to be 'king' of? You can have" he growled, pushing past William as he stormed out of the room.

"Tobias, get back here" William bellowed, fists clenched, as he followed him out of the safe house.
"You have a job to do here, just like the rest of us do. People are dying for you, you're aware of that right? They're dying because you, yes you, represent something better. Whether you want to or not. So get out of your own head, and pay everyone who does care some Goddman respect!"

Tobias' eyes widened as the cool air of a retreating winter blew between them.
"Don't talk to me about people dying William" he said, his voice shaking as he barely held himself together.
"And don't tell me what my duty is..." he breathed deep, trying to keep from breaking down completely.
"You're not my father."

He turned, storming off, his boots crunching in the snow. William stood there, the bitter wind biting his skin for a moment as he collected himself. He didn't need to go after him. The FNU had the area on lockdown and Skov would intervene if he had to, and bring him back. He just made his way back to the safe house, removing his winter coat and dejectedly tossed it aside, dropping into an old chair, holding his hand to his temple as he sobbed quietly. He wasn't sure for how long...before his handheld transceiver crackled.

"I've got him, don't worry."
It was Skov. William sighed. He was...glad. But his guts still felt like they'd been ripped out.




"I can't go up there and talk about Easter and the war" Tobias sighed as he sat in the snow against a tree.

Skov just nodded, sensing he needed to talk.

"But what does William want? To pretend? No, fuck that" the Prince growled.
"He wanted to tell me about people dying! He doesn't even fucking care" he sighed, leaning his head back against the tree branch.

"I think you know that's not true" Skov replied.

"He doesn't though" Tobias' voice cracked.
"Mom, Dad...Krista...if God is real, why does he seem to fucking hate me?"

"I won't tell you that you have to start believing in God Tobias" Axel sat down next to him.
"Personally?" he added, "I never had the luxury of believing in him, given what I did for a living" he mused. "But if you don't think William cares about your mother and father or Krista?" he gave Tobias an unimpressed look.
"I think you know that's not true..."

"I just...I don't know what he wants me to be...King, of what?"

"I don't know" Axel replied.
"That's something I suspect you'll need to figure out. But William, as much as he cares about you...he's also got to consider all of this. He's fighting a war, Tobias. And he's got to think beyond just himself. Or you. He's got to think of everyone who believes in him."

"You believe in him" Tobias muttered.

"I do" Axel chuckled. "I risked my life, saving you, because I believed in him" he ruffled the Prince's hair.
"And you should too."

"He's not my father" Tobias muttered...

"No he's not" Axel replied quickly, "but he's as damn close as he can be without actually being it."

Tobias just stared ahead, into the snow. The pristine powder seeming shiny...it was melting. What was once soft now crunched...the season was changing, even if it seemed like it was taking its sweet time.

"William introduced me to your father, you know" Axel remarked.
"I won't pretend to know what Robert would think of all of this..." he said solemnly, "but I know that William cares for you and he's done his damnedest given the circumstances."

He took out his flask, taking a swig of brennivín before offering it to the Prince.
Tobias just chuckled, taking the flask and taking a sip as he desperately tried to hide the disgusted face of someone not yet used to the taste of alcohol.
Axel kindly ignored that, taking the flak back, letting Tobias think back...the times William would read to him, talk to him. Celebrate birthdays with him. He sighed.

"I don't think I can be what he wants me to be" he whimpered.

Axel sighed.
"You're not the first person to have to grapple with parental expectations" he pat the Prince's shoulder.
"But people are dying for you, in your name. I don't think William wants you to dwell on that...but like I said. He has to think beyond himself. Or you. And you've got to do that too, because have you seen the state this country is in? For Messiah's sake, people need something to believe in."

Tobias sat silently for a moment before Axel pulled at his arm.
"Come on. Let's get out of this cold."




Tobias re-entered the safe house, a bit sheepish. William looked up from the chair he'd yet to move from. Axel, quietly, took a seat at the bare kitchen table.

"I...we'll talk about the speech" Tobias replied softly.

"Alright" William nodded.
"Tobias we nee..."

Tobias just replied "William, I love you" softly, eyes downcast, before retreating to his room, closing the door.

William looked at Skov, and back to the closed door.

"Youth" Skov replied with a shrug.

William ignored that, just saying "thank you" softly, before getting up, and making his way to his room, hoping to get some sleep.

Axel just pulled his flask out, taking another swig as he placed his pistol on the table.
"Here's to another night over the hills" he remarked with a chuckle as he used his flask to toast the sky.




Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, 5:00
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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3 October 2012
9:27 pm
On a Wednesday
Sarum, Prydania


"Ah Veiðiblað, it's been too long friend" Jørn Stöðuvatn remarked as Ailre handed him the old sword. He removed the blade from the scabbard just a bit to study the blade. Yes, the flowing liquid pattern on the metal was visible, even in the limited light. It felt good for Jørn to hold the sword again. All those years ago...

"We need to go now!" Selphie called out, interrupting Jørn's reminiscing. He attached the scabbard to a strap, tossing the sword over his should.
"Right, let's go" he said to Ailre, his brother in arms nodding in agreement.

The night was dark, the sky so vast and clear out here away from Beaconsviði. The small crypt in the corner of a small cemetery wasn't particularly notable. So good it managed to be a successful hiding place for Veiðiblað. Too good. Not even Jørn had been able to find it, in the ten years since the Syndicalist coup. He knew it still existed though. He could tell. That, and the Syndicalists hadn't made a show of destroying it. They would too. It was one of the preeminent symbols of Prydanian kingship.

"How'd they find us?" Jørn asked as he approached Selphie midway up the stairs leading from the crypt.
"I don't know, but Wyn says they're in jeeps. Heading this way from town, in full force. At least fifteen Syndicalist Army soldiers."

"Well it seems we've graduated" Ailre chuckled. "Usually they only send those Peoples' Militia sorts to deal with us."

Selphie shot him an annoyed look, promoting her brother to give her a "what?" look before a panicked Wyn practically stumbled into them.

"They're here. Edge of the cemetery" he panted, nearly out of breath. "They cut across the hills...thought we'd have more time."

Jørn felt the hair on the back of his neck stand up. This lot was good...cocky too, and young. They were also the first of their kind to know real combat in these parts in a very long time. But this...it wouldn't take long for the soldiers to figure out where to look. The crypt was the only structure in the entire graveyard.

"Listen, the three of you, Wyn, I want you to..."

Gunshots rattled the air, muzzle flash disorienting everyone for a moment...just a brief moment, not even a second. And before he knew it Wyn's bullet-ridden body fell into him.

There was chaos. Ailre looked at Jørn in a panic as Selphie stood to face the soldiers. She reached for her gun, but got gunned down too. Airle screamed for his sister as Jørn pulled him and dived down the flight of stairs, yanking him to the side at the bottom of the crypt. The sound of bullets deafened everything else as the last of the soldiers' gunfire emptied into the stone around them.

An eerie silence descended on the crypt as Jørn looked into the terrified eyes of Ailre. They'd come out of nowhere. They hadn't had time to draw their weapons or call on...anything else. They were descended upon like helpless pray. Pray that knew it was pray but couldn't help it.
Jørn saw fear in the young man's eyes. The terrified realization that professional soldiers were not the Peoples' Militia. And he didn't know what to do...well he did. But he'd avoided it up until now. And he winced as the dread that it had to happen dawned on him. He tried one last thing, one last attempt to avoid it and breaking his promise to himself.

"Stop!" he called out.
"Stop right there! Leave, right now. Let me collect my comrades' bodies and we'll leave. You can tell your commanding officers you lost us, but you need to stop right now. All of you. For your own sakes. Stop."

There was silence for a moment.
"Please listen" Jørn said softly to himself...but it wasn't to be.

"Jørn Stöðuvatn? In the name of the people of Prydania, you are under arrest for treason against the State. You and your accomplice are to surrender, immediately."

Jørn turned to Ailre and shook his head.
"No Ailre" he whispered, "don't!"
It was too late though. Ailre had drawn his own gun. The damn fool...he'd get one shot off...and not nearly....

He was gunned down as soon as he made it into the view of the soldiers making their way down the staircase.

Jørn was in shock, his hand over his mouth to keep himself from saying anything he shouldn't....eyes wide...the three of them. All dead...he looked around, and called out once more.

"Whoever's in charge...what's your name?"

""Jørn Stöðuvatn? In the name of the people of Prydania..."

"What's your bloody name!?" Jørn called out in anger. Once again an eerie silence fell over the entire crypt.

"Lieutenant Erling Høj."

"Lieutenant Høj..." Jørn replied, "I...I...hope you know...this never had to happen...I'm sorry."

He closed his eyes...and it was remarkably easy. He'd never done it before, but it happened so seamlessly. Like this skill...long neglected for so long was just waiting there within arm's reach the entire time.

And once it was over...once the light had faded, they were dead. Every single once. He felt a pit in his stomach as he whimpered, making his way to the stairs. The lead man, he leaned down. His dog tags.
"Lt. E. Høj."

He began to tear up.
"I hope, wherever you are, you forgive me for that..." he gently said, before he began to pull his comrades from the crypt.




The forest on the edge of Sarum was quiet.
"From eras you came, and to eras you'll return" he whispered as he lined the three up. Ailre, Selphie, Wyn...

He finally let it out, crying softly.
"I'm sorry..." he managed to say, kneeling by their side.
"I...I'm so sorry..." he looked up. A few patches of stars were visible through the thick tree cover.
"Onvyr...Aelynthi..." he looked back to the three dead comrades..."I promised you I would keep them safe..."

His hands trembled as he lit the match, letting it fall. First Ailre, then Selphie, then Wyn...all went up in flames. He was sure the Syndicalist authorities would find the remains. That was fine. They'd be ash by then...back to eras. Too late to be desecrated.

He steeled himself, as much as he could as he still cried softly. He had to get to Tempest Holm. The liberated island once again severed as the home of a Loðbrók prince. He had to deliver the sword, complete the mission. So his charges could find peace in the next life.




In the End by Jung Youth and Fleurie, 3:54
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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1 January 2013
3:46 pm
On a Wednesday
Markarfljot, Prydania


Ash fell from the sky as the sound of the bombs echoed in Tobias' ears. He grabbed Veiðiblað from the ground, and saw it again. That man he saw when he fell asleep holding the sword, and dreamt he had met Thomas Nielsen. He saw his eyes, as he pulled this very sword from a tree trunk. They were green. Like his. Like his father's. He knew he was related to this man...Æschere. And though he recognized his family's traits in him? This man...he was different. He was war weary. Hard. He wore leathers treated and made into hard armour. A man who could march to hell and back. And in a moment, as soon as he appeared, he had vanished.

Tobias picked himself up, sitting against the wall of the building as the sound of bombs still echoed in his ears and the ash still darkening the sky. He looked at the sword as he held it in front of his face. Back in October? It had spoken to him. He could have sworn it spoke to him as Stahl tried to kill him. He, who had never picked up a sword before in his life, had managed to fight off a trained assassin because of what he could swear this sword whispered to him.

And now, as Markarfljot burned, he looked at it. What could it say? Tell him? He slid the sword into the scabbard he had strapped across his back. His communicator buzzed "hostiles contained" he heard General Eiderwig report.
He pulled himself up to his feet, exiting the building. The town itself was on fire.

He emerged, as people turned to look at him. He was getting used to that. People knew who he was. That was just how it was going to be.
The sight he saw though...he dropped to his knees as he felt ash fall into his hair. His lips quivered as he took in the sight that greeted him...

31 December 2012
8:02 pm
On a Tuesday
Markarfljot, Prydania


New Years was alive in Markarfljot. The fishing town lay far enough behind FNU lines that the citizens could forget the war. And what an occasion, for the town was was host to the future King of Prydania. Or so he would be if the FNU prevailed in this war...

The King's New Years' address to the nation had been a tradition in Prydania going back hundreds of years. And while Thomas Nielsen's attempt to replace it consisted of a droning on about production numbers and the need for discipline so national education could be completed? Today the people of Markarfljot gathered in a tavern as Tobias stammered for words.

"I don't think I know what to say" the seventeen year old Prince said as he stood at a table near the back.
"I don't think anyone could expect any of us would be here. Not even a few years ago...but we are. And I don't know if it's fate or god or luck, but we are. I wish I had more to say" he chuckled slightly embarrassed.
"But to all those fighting for us, and our friends from our ancient home...stay safe. And may god preserve Prydania."
He raised a glass of mead, drinking it with the tavern, who clapped for his short speech and drank too.
"How generous of them" Tobias thought to himself about his lacklustre rhetoric as he sat down next to William.

Rhetoric is was though.
"May god preserve Prydania." It meant one thing to these people, two things to Tobias.
To most everyone listening? It was a rejection of Syndicalist tyranny. That what they did, and were doing, it was antithetical to Prydania. To the spirit of the nation. That what the FNU was fighting for...that was the struggle. To preserve Prydania.
To Tobias? It was a grand compromise. One known only to William, Axle, and himself. That if people needed to hear the Crown Prince of Prydania extol god, he would extol god. Even as his own atheism remained staunchly in place. It was, among other things, a lesson he'd finally taken to heart. That he, like William, needed to think beyond just himself.

The tavern itself was was a mixture of conversations and occasional singing. Old folk songs and sea shanties. Tobias made small talk where he could, but soon excused himself, sighing with relief as the calm air of the town's streets greeted him. It was festive of course. Some people insisted on shaking his hand. Others just looked at him from afar, but he put it out of his mind. He could enjoy the quietness of the evening even with eyes following him.

"I think I have...x4 and some Andrennian food vouchers" he said as he came up to a cart selling kransekage, a buttery ring shaped cake, and a New Years tradition.

"Your Highness!" the man remarked nervously.
"No, no, you can have one, on us!" he said as his daughter, a girl of no more then seven, waved to him, going
"hi Your Highness!" in an excited voice.

"No" Tobias replied with a grin.
"I'm not taking your food from you like that" he added with a chuckle, "I'm no Syndie."

The man couldn't help but chuckle as Tobias placed a mixture of Syndicalist kross coins and pre-2002 coins, and dropping two vouchers for Andrennian aid trucks.
"Don't worry about me" he said to the man. "They won't let me starve. You get some food." He knew that they must have wasted some rations and stockpiles to make these cakes.

"Thank you Your Highness" the man replied smiling.

"And you don't need to call me that" Tobias added as he took the cake.
"Just Tobias."

"Well, Tobias" the man replied, holding out his hand. "My name's Knud Buch...and it's an honour to meet you."

Tobias blushed a bit, but happily shook his hand before sitting down at a bench by the man's cart.
"I understand..." he said, "but really, you don't have to say that. I'm..." he sighed.
"...I mean there are people out there doing a hell of lot more than me" he said as the girl took up a seat on the bench next to him.

"Yeah no doubt" the man chuckled.
"I mean I bet they never let you near the fighting do they?"

Tobias chuckled with a mouth full of cake, only answering after he'd swallowed.
"I mean" he chuckled some more, "they made sure I can defend myself yeah. But fighting? No. I think William...and a lot of other people...would have a collective stroke!"

"Why?" the girl asked curiously.
"Because Catherine, he's very important. He's going to be King one day!" Knud answered. "And you don't need to do any fighting. You have no idea how much it meant to people around here, to hear that you were still alive."

Tobias looked down at his partially eaten cake.
"So people tell me" he sighed.

"I mean it" Knud said.
"You know, they say my great...well very great grandfather, he marched with the Thane of Eiderwig under Vortgyn I's banners at Stormhaven" he mused as he prepared more cakes for customers passing by.
"We've been here for a long time. Loðbrók...the name means something to us. Has since the days of Andrenne."

"I know" Tobias said softly..."but I think the name Buch means something too..."
He stuck out his hand to the girl.
"Catherine?" he asked. She nodded.
"Tobias" he said, "a pleasure to meet you."

She shook his hand..."thank you sir" she said in as polite a manner as she could.
"So tell me Catherine" Tobias asked, "what does the name Loðbrók mean to you?"

"Mommy said you'd be King. And you'd stop the Synd...Synd..." she struggled, "Syndlists from taking our food."

Tobias signed, but managed to smile at the girl. "I've got to get to Beaconsviði first, and it's a long way. I'm going to get there, but I hope it's fast enough for your mom."

The girl went quiet...
"Mommy died..."
Tobias felt his stomach turn into a knot "I'm...I'm so sorry..."

"She was a medic" Knud replied, his voice heavy. "For a FNU militia. They got pinned down, from what they tell me." He tried to hide the urge to let his voice crack, but Tobias could hear it.

"I don't...I don't know what to say..." he replied.
"I'm truly sorry..."

"You don't need to be" Knud replied, sitting on the opposite side of him from his daughter.
"I can think of fewer worthy things a person can give their life for."

"I'm not that worthy...not worthy enough for you to lose your wife, and Catherine a mother..."

Knud chuckled.
"Not you, Tobias" he said with a soft smile. "The name Loðbrók means a lot around here, but she didn't give her life for your name or ours. She gave her life opposing evil."

Tobias looked down, contemplating that, his thoughts only interrupted by Catherine.

"Mommy's in heaven, so it's ok..." she said softly, looking down at her feet.

Tobias winced. He wasn't going to tell a small child heaven wasn't real. Instead he just nodded.
"They took my mom too. So I really need to get to Beaconsviði. So they can't hurt anyone else." His throat tightened up, the image of his mother being shot in the head on the television screen vivid in his mind.

He wiped away a tear and stood.
"Mr. Buch, Catherine? Thank you for the company" he said shaking both their hands.
"But I need to to get to sleep. It's a long way to Beaconsviði and I need my rest."

"Of course Tobias, happy new year."

"And a happy new year to you too!"

Snow began to fall as Tobias made his way back to the tavern. He needed the sleep.

1 January 2013
3:52 pm
On a Wednesday
Markarfljot, Prydania


...the ash-stained snow fell as he saw Knud Buch cradling the body of Catherine.

"My sweet girl, my sweet, sweet girl" he managed to say as he cried, rocking her form back and forth. Tobias just stared...he pulled himself to his feet, and placed a hand on Knud's shoulder...
"I'm sorry he gasped, unable to keep from breaking out into tears even as he restrained the urge to cry.

He made his way through the crowd as FNU relief teams put out the fires across the city. He walked through crowds of children and adults alike, teenagers his own age. All stepping aside as he, in a trance-like state, made his way to FNU soldiers barricading a section of the town's main street.

"Your Highness" a soldier replied.
"I can't let you pass. Enemy combatants are being detained."

Tobias looked up with tear-stained eyes and shoved his way past him. The soldier turned, "Your Highness!" he called out once, only to be ignored. Truth was, he didn't even know if he had the authority to stop him.

The olive-clad People's Militia soldiers- local militia loyal to the Syndicalist government- who survived the FNU defensive surge of the city were on their knees. Disarmed, hands tied behind their backs.

"Tobias!"
It was his cousin. Thane of Eiderwig, FNU commander in this sector.
"You don't need to be here. My men can process these...soldiers."

"I know" Tobias replied softly before stepping past him.

As he did he was greeted by a wad of saliva landing at his feet. One of the People's Militia soldiers had spit at him.

"You think that because you have some old sword you're a king? Fuck off."

Tobias breathed heavily before grabbing the man by the red bandana he wore around his neck.
"I won't turn a blind eye to good, and I won't stand by anymore. Evil must be opposed."

He tossed the man on his ass and turned to walk away, back towards Knud.
"Tobias" his cousin asked. "Where are you going?"

"To church. To pray."




Day of Fate, Spirit vs Spirit by Paolo Cuevas & Ani Djirdjirian, 4:27
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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14 June 2018
2:45 pm
On a Thursday
Adonai-Jireh, Iraelia

Taneli Gadi sat patiently. It was almost amusing, actually. She was in the seat of power of Shaddaist religious authority and yet here she was. Sitting as if she were in a waiting room at a doctor's office. Still, the Civic Democratic Union MK* made the most of her time, studying the intricate patters on the walls. How much time and energy must have been devoted to this place...it was humbling.

"The Dayyan wishes to have you informed that he will see you now."
The statement caught Taneli off guard as the attendant made his presence known.

"Thank you" she said softly, making her way past him into the office of the Dayyan. The chief spiritual authority of the Shaddaist faith.

"Taneli!" Midbar Gadi, Dayyan of Shaddai, exclaimed happily in start contrast with the dour seriousness of his attendant.
"Come, come" the elder man exclaimed as he stood at his desk, adorned in the holy black robes of his station, motioning for her to come closer.
"Come, sit, it's been far too long!"

"It has uncle, it really has" she replied happily as they both took their seats.

"And yet you live in the city now, I see you in the papers all time! Making life interesting for the Prime Minister!"

Taneli chuckled. "The Prime Minister brings it on himself, I assure you."

The Dayyan waved it off with a jovial smile.
"And yet you never have time to visit your uncle. All that politicing and you rarely call."

Taneli blushed a bit, stammering "I know...I know, but things in the Knesset move quickly. I'll try to be in touch more often."

Midbar just chuckled though.
"You'll call when you can, I'm sure. Oh!"
He moved to grab a glass bowl on the far corner of his desk, holding it to his niece.
"Caramel?"

Taneli politely shook her head.
"No thank you, I ate before I arrived."

"All of you young people, so concerned with your images. No one wants a caramel" Midbar mumbled as he set the bowl down.
"Regardless niece," he said with a smile. "What can I do for you?"

"Yes, right" Taneli replied, shook back to the cause that brought her here.
"I've been in contact with Ari Bohr, Gadol of the Prydanian Shaddaist community" she explained, so caught up in what she was here to ask she didn't notice her uncle's souring expression.

"The trial of Jannik Leiftur has begun in Prydania" she continued.
"He was responsible for organizing the Syndicalist government's pogroms against the Prydanian Shaddaist community..."

"I'm aware" Midbar replied courtly.

"Yes, well Gadol Bohr has asked me to relay a request to you. That you address the Shaddaist community in Prydania. After all they've been through your words of consolation would mean so much" she stated with a smile.

Midbar looked at his niece for a moment before calmly replying.
"No."

"Pardon?" Taneli replied, caught off guard. She was sure her uncle would be willing to do this. His curt refusal caught her off guard, unable to process it right away.

"I have to decline. My apologies to Gadol Bohr, but I do not feel it's appropriate."

"Uncle, I'm afraid I don't..."

"No, you don't, because you don't remember" Midbar replied firmly.

"Remember? I remember hearing about the Syndicalist pogroms. We all do! The temple even issued a statement!"

"I was there" Midbar remarked dryly.
"What you don't remember, though? It's that this didn't start with Syndicalists. You? You're young. I can forgive your ignorance. Gadol Bohr though? He, above all, should remember."

"Uncle, if you're talking about..."

"I'm talking about Robert IV Loðbrók." he said the royal name of Prydania with a hint of disdain.
"The one who converted Prydania to Lutheranism. You know what he did? He forcibly shut down all but one Shaddaist temple in Prydania. The cost of religious homogeneity I suppose" he replied calmly, though his tone carried a rumble of anger beneath it.

"Uncle, you can't tell me you won't do this because of something that happened over five-hundred years ago."

"No, I am not" Midbar replied.
"I am refusing to do this because of over five-hundred years of sustained harassment of our people and spiritual brothers and sisters. It did not end with Robert IV. Richard VI, who established the first fascist government in that country, suppressed Shaddaism in the name of national unity. He called it 'subversive' I believe. And then his grandson, Andrew III. Who re-instated the fascists. He did the same thing. Do not mistake a lake of active pogroms with a lack of oppression Taneli. The interned Shaddaists of both fascist eras won't appreciate the distinction."

Taneli sat back in her chair.
"Uncle" she began, "I've spoken to Gadol Bohr. I have spoken to our representatives in Beaconsviði. The new government holds no desire to strike out against Shaddaists in Prydania. Many of them even fought for them during the Civil War. For Shaddai's sake Uncle, they're trying the man who killed Shaddaists in the streets!"

"Yes, they are" Midbar agreed, "but do you not see what you're asking of me? If I do what you and Ari are asking I would be condoning this new King. Tobias III. Tobias III Loðbrók. I do not have the privilege of being ignorant of history, and I will not condone a man whose family has so much of our blood on their hands. This Tobias III may even be sincere in his desire to not harm our brothers and sisters in Prydania, but his grandfather Robert VII was sincere in that regard too. And he was followed by Andrew III. Do you see what I am saying? It is rotten, and I won't condone an occasional good man in a line of monsters. I won't do that. If I did? I would be lying to Shaddaist Prydanians."

Taneli shook her head.
"Uncle you wouldn't be lying you'd..." but her uncle was clearly interested in saying more.

"Yes. Yes I would! If I told them the darkness was over, what guarantee do any of us have that the newly re-established Loðbrók dynasty will not return to old, poisonous ways? I have none, and history does not trend towards assuming one exists, niece. The whole country is rotten, and I shall not play a role in the international circus celebrating its supposed renewal."

"Rotten" Taneli replied, "you're speaking of the home of over 300,000 Shaddaists. How can you..."

"That right there is the problem. The Loðbróks persecuted us, the Syndicalists were worse. That land is dangerous. It's a land of darkness and moral bankruptcy. Our brothers and sisters there would do well to return to Iraelia. There is no good that will come from them remaining there."

Taneli looked at her uncle for a moment, before saying anything.
"I thought you were supposed to be the historically minded one between the two of us."

"What do you mean?"

"For all your bluster, uncle, you've overlooked something important. What year did Shaddaists first arrive in Prydania?"

Midbar shrugged.
"The 12th century I believe? Maybe earlier?"

"Then uncle, realize that they are our brothers and sisters, but they are not Iraelians. Prydania is their home, and they need to hear you, so they can be reassured in their home."

Midbar didn't say anything, having suppressed his immediate response, knowing it would be a gross failing on his own part. He looked to his niece before looking up, as if he resigned to be lost in thought.

"I'll be in touch uncle" she said softly getting up to leave.

"May Shaddai bless you and guard you Taneli" he said as she left his office.

"May Shaddai lift up His face unto you, and give to you peace" she replied. It wasn't the standard response to that. In fact she'd skipped a few lines in the traditional prayer that statement was from. She had chosen it because it was what she felt her uncle needed to hear.




"Hello, Taneli Gadi speaking" she said as she answered the phone in a bit of a panic as she was attempting to prepare dinner.

"Ms. Gadi, it's Gadol Bohr. I wanted to thank you so much!"

Taneli's quick pace of stirring noodles slowed.
"Um, Gadol Bohr...pardon?" she asked. She had told Ari Bohr that she would speak to her uncle but she hadn't told him it would have been today. And she felt awful having to say to him that her uncle had declined.

"Your uncle, the Dayyan!" Bohr replied.

"Oh Mr. Bohr I'm af..."

"I just finished speaking to his attendant. He said he would be happy to speak to the Shaddaist community. You have no idea how much this will mean up here."

"Oh...." Taneli trailed for a moment before replying.
"I'm happy to have helped, Gadol. Please pass along my well wishes."

"Of course Ms. Gadi" Ari replied.
"Have a pleasant evening."

"You as well, Gadol."

Taneli immediately closed the call window to scroll for her uncle's private number.
"Of all the bull-headed things...won't even listen to me and then he doesn't even tell me when he changes his mind...typical" she fumed before finally finding it in her address book. She was going to give him a peace of her mind!

And then he picked up.

"Taneli! You called! It's a pleasure to hear you!"

And Taneli's rage just sort of...faded. He'd been bull-headed and argumentative...but what did that matter to do the right thing?

"Uncle" she said softly..."thank you."

Midbar just chuckled softly.

"It's nothing, it's fine. Thank you for calling though. So how are things?"

She just chuckled softly to herself...
"Oh you know...father's trying a new diet so mother won't stop badgering me about it."

"Let me tell you a story about your father..."

Teneli smiled as her uncle went on. She should call more often.




*MK= Member of the Knesset, Iraelia's national legislator.




Ashira by Zevi Kaufman, 5:00
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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8 February 2010
9:27 am
On a Monday
Somewhere in the Eastern Prydanian forests

The cold cut through Tobias’ winter clothing, the army coat he’d grabbed still not enough, despite it being just noticeably too big for him. The extra material didn’t help. Prydanian winters were brutal. Eastern Prydanian winters were worse.

“Focus”
Axel’s order startled him but he obeyed, gripping his rifle with fingerless glove-clad hands. The wind was gentle, but that’s all it had to be.
Tobias looked down the sight of the old rifle. He couldn’t even feel his fingers even as he gripped the weapon.

“Now relax”
Tobias nodded, breathing deep as he tried to loosen his muscles from the snow bank he and Axel were hiding in.

“Now, you want to focus on your weapon” the fourteen year old outlaw Prince’s bodyguard said softly.
“Breath deep, calmly. Let yourself get used to how the rifle feels and reacts to your breathing. It’s second nature just follow where it goes...”

Tobias tried to focus, tried to shut out his frozen fingers or the wind cutting through his coat, or his feet feeling like blocks of ice, boots not doing much to keep the cold out as he knelt in the snow.
He followed Axel’s advice. He got used to how the rifle shifted ever so slightly as he breathed. His target, among the sheered trees of the eastern Skógurland, seemed almost removed from its surroundings. Existing. Alone save for him and the gun...

“When you’re calm...when the gun moves with you...and you have a shot...take it...”

Tobias waited. He didn’t know long. The cold...his focus on the target...but eventually his heart stopped racing and his breathing calmed...and the target was in his sight...he pulled the trigger.

The lone gunshot from
the old rifle echoed through the empty woods, striking the stag in the neck. The beast flailed for a split second before collapsing.

“I think I got it!” Tobias exclaimed as he popped up from behind the snowbank, only to be yanked back onto his butt as Axel grabbed the back of his coat.

“We don’t know if anyone heard that! Stay down before someone sees you!”

“But the FNU controls this area...”

“No one controls much of anything during an insurgency” Axel grunted as he pulled out his pistol, looking over the snowbank.
He scanned the area for a few minutes as Tobias pulled himself to a kneeling position, warming his frozen fingers with his breath.

“Seems safe” Axel remarked as he returned his pistol to its holster. He got up and pulled out a hunting knife.
“Come on.”

“That looked like a good shot, didn’t it Axel?” Tobias asked as he followed his bodyguard.

“Yes, it was” Axel replied as they marched through the snow, the soft powder collapsing with each step.
“Your target practice has been paying off.”

Tobias grinned ear to ear. He’d learnt now to never question Axel about his past, but he knew enough to feel proud when he said his shooting was getting better.

“But it’s different when it’s a living target” Axel added as he dropped to a knee by the dead stag, preparing to field dress it.
“This was the first time you’ve killed anything, yeah?”

Tobias nodded but shrugged.
“I’ve seen lots of people die” he said matter of factly and quietly.
“I guess a deer’s no different” he added as Axel began to make an incision on the stag’s flesh.

“But like...a stag...I thought that was my family’s symbol. Why’d you have me kill one?”

“Jórn’s probably the better person to ask” Axel replied as his knife began to separate the dead animal’s flesh from its body.

“Yeah but he’s not here so...”

“Patience is a virtue” Axel grunted, but the Prince was insistent.

“Come on. He’s not here. You are.”

Axel rolled his eyes and gave in.
“Know who Jadgar is!”

“No...wait! Some pagan god right?”

“Yeah some pagan god. Our ancestors, before they left Andrenne, venerated him. He was god of the hunt. And his symbol was a stag. That’s why your family’s symbol is a stag.”

“Oh! So...hunting deer is ok...even if one is my family’s symbol.”

“You think you’re the first Loðbrók to hunt deer?” Axel asked with a laugh.
“Now come on. I need you to see what I’m doing so you know how to do it without me.”

Tobias nodded as he crouched down, watching Axel go to work.




The truck was from the 1980s. Not as old as the rifle, but old. Still, the heat worked. Tobias pressed his hands against the vent sighing in relief as the vehicle trudged its way back to the safehouse, the deer in the truck bead.

“You think you’re going to be able to keep practicing your shooting?” Axel asked.

Tobias nodded eagerly.
“Whenever I can.”

“Good” Axel replied.
“William teaching you how to be King won’t help if you have to defend yourself.”

“But...”
Tobias replied.
“I have you...”

Axel smiled meekly.
“Yes you do, but one day I may not be there. I want to know you can fend for yourself. A lot of people want to kill you, Toby.”

Tobias gulped, looking down.
“Yeah I know...”

“I just want you to be safe is all” Axel replied.
“So make sure you keep your skills sharp.”

Tobias just nodded, finally leaning back in his seat.
“Can I at least get a newer gun. That’s from the 19th century or something.”

“The 1930s” Axel shout back.
“It was my father’s. It’s not that old.”

Tobias just chuckled.
“Well thank you for it”
he replied with a grin.

Axel shot the boy back a smile, continuing down the icy, isolated country road...




If I Had a Heart by Fever Ray, 4:06
 
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Xentherida

TNPer
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16th March 2016
2:51 pm
On a Wednesday
Above Forsvollr, central Prydania.


Zooming high at the speed of sound, far above the forest below, Else sat within her Örn, the clear skies ahead of her being given barely any thought with all the attention she had solely focused on her communications.

'Binder 2, status report over,' came a deep voice from within her helmet.

'Loud and clear.' she responded. 'I’m about five clicks away from Training Camp 7, attempting to acquire visual.'

As she looked to her right, however, she spied a concrete building barely peeking through the dense leafy treetops that made up much of the surrounding landscape.

'I have a visual on the syndicalist camp, requesting permission to engage, over.'

'Permission granted' came the reply. She had her confirmation.

She began her preparation for an attack run, just as she had trained for so many times. But this would be her first actual run. On an actual target. No room for errors here at all she thought, entering her turn. She checked her weapons - all operational, nothing faulty.

'Bird affirm.' she said, turning back around to face her target. She started a target lock; a quiet beeping began, slowly increasing in both frequency and volume. Sweat started to bead on her forehead. Why now? She had practised and perfected it so many times before. So many hours against the wooden targets on the training fields. She had destroyed them all with barely a shot misplaced. So why now was she suddenly so anxious?

Her internal dialogue was rudely interrupted by a sudden, loud, continuous beep. She had her target lock. 'Bird' she managed to sputter out, before squeezing the fire button.

The missing sprang forth from its hardpoint beneath the delta wing and quickly ignited its rocket motor, whizzing away at supersonic speeds towards the great grey concrete complex far below.

It seemed to take the longest time for the missile to hit - the flash of light followed by the thunderclap of an explosion barely registered on her. Why had the shot felt so wrong? Everything had gone correctly. She put it down to her first-mission nerves; she had heard plenty of stories about something that must’ve been similar. A foreboding sense of dread post-strike, but for them it had given way to nothing other than a perfect strike on target. She’d be fine too, definitely. Absolutely.

'Hit confirmed; target neutralised.' she said, before beginning to return back to base. Time would surely tell she had completed her mission successfully… right?




Shoot to Thrill by AC/DC, 5:14
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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5 October 2000
9:27 am
On a Thursday
Beaconsviði, Prydania


Robert kissed Hannah deep as he returned home to the Royal apartments in downtown Beaconsviði.

“How was your trip, love?” Hannah asked after embracing her husband.

Robert, however, chuckled nervously.
“Thomas is a stubborn one. He didn’t like that I was talking to William and Gætir” he explained as he tossed his sports jacket aside on a chair before he beginning to loosen his tie.

“He’s not that stupid, is he?” Hannah asked.
“He has to realize we need all of the opposition parties onboard for this to work?”

“Heh” Robert replied, tossing his tie after his jacket.
“He thinks the Syndicalist Party can manage it alone. He tried to recruit me. Painted a picture of a ‘reformed crown and Syndicalism working together.’ I told him we weren’t going to trade one one-party dictatorship for another...”

“Daddy!”
Robert’s recap of the past day’s events were interrupted as his five-year old son Tobias ran into the front hallway, latching himself to his father’s leg.

“Hey buddy” Robert replied with a grin, getting down to one knee.
“How’s today been?”

“We talked about dinosaurs! Rylond said a...a tyrano could beat a allo but I told him a allo was faster!”
Robert just laughed and ruffled his son’s hair.

“You’re going to be a paleontologist one day?”

“Maybe!” Tobias replied with a grin.

“Well start studying” he said in a mock serious voice and a silly face that prompted Tobias to laugh. Robert stood kissing his wife once more.
“Thomas will come around, trust me” he said to Hannah as Tobias impatiently waited for them, knowing full well his father’s arrival meant it was time for dinner, and he hadn’t eaten since kindergarten earlier that day.

“Come on...” he begged, his parents’ conversation not even registering with him.

“Tobias, it’s not polite to rush people” Hannah chided, taking her son by the hand.
“Now come on, and be patient for mommy and daddy.”

Robert followed his wife and son into the apartment’s dining room, the short yet elegant table filling the space sufficiently. Paintings and tapestries showing hunting or nature scenes adorned the walls. Tobias looked longingly at the empty plate in front of him, sighing. Yet his mother’s recent instruction was still with him, so he waited patiently as the servants brought in the first portion of the evening’s dinner. He bowed his head as his father began to say grace.

“Come, Lord Messiah, be our Guest, and let Thy gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”

“Amen” Hannah replied, followed by their son.

“We need to talk about the next stage” Robert said as Tobias began to dig into his food.

“Is that smart? If Thomas isn’t on board...”

Robert sighed in frustration. He’d moved forward with the Bandalag and Free Democrats assuming he could deliver the Syndicalists. He and Thomas were always on good terms. He didn’t expect it to be that hard to convince him. Instead Thomas had gone on and on glowingly about a dictatorship under a new name.
“I know Hannah, but...” he rubbed his temples before eating.
“We’re moving forward with William and Gætir and we have to. To keep Toft and the SoComms off of our backs.”

Hannah gave him an skeptical look.
“It won’t work without the Syndicalists on board...”

Robert just nodded.
“I’ve known Thomas a long time. Once he sees what we have in motion? He’ll come along. He’s off in his own world now, but he’ll see soon enough.” Hannah looked worried, but Robert pressed the issue.
“We’re moving at too fast a rate. We need to appear to show solidarity with my brother if we’re going to keep the SoComms off guard long enough to make our move.”

Tobias, for his part, just continued to pick at the salad, avoiding the tomatoes wherever he could manage. His concentration broken by his mother.
“Toby, you’d like Absalonhöll” she said with a pleasant smile.
“It’ll be fun to move in, right? See uncle Anders and Astrid?”

“Astrid’s mean, she knocked over me and Rylond’s Go-Formers” the young prince remarked in reference to his cousin, the Crown Princess.

“Rylond and I” Robert replied, correcting his son’s grammar, much to his son’s annoyance.

“I guess...”

“Say it properly, young man” Robert said, unable to hide his smile even as he tried to teach his son a lesson.

“Ryon and I” Tobias said, his voice strained.

“Good” Robert replied. “You’ll be a paleontologist in no time.” Tobias just smiled, returning to his food.

“So we’re moving into Absalonhöll...” Hannah remarked.
“Had to happen sooner or later.”

Robert nodded. “Axle’s been running interference for us, but given what we’re going to plan out? We can’t keep the ÖSU away from here forever. If we go to the Royal Court it’ll convince Anders nothing’s amiss.”

“So radio silence from here on out?”

Robert offered a sly smile and nodded, not saying a word.




5 November 2012
10:02 pm
On a Sunday
somewhere near Alaterva, Prydania


Tobias jolted awake, looking around. Skov was up in the bunker, the dim lights illuminating the space. He was sitting in a chair, his pistol trained on the only entrance way in or out.

“Dreams again?” he asked the Prince, not evening taking his eyes off the door.

Tobias looked down. The sword. It was laying next to his cot. Unlike that the previous night, he hadn't had a vision...just a memory.

“Yeah...about my mom and dad” he said softly.
“Not really a dream” he continued. “I was just...remembering something.”

“Huh” Axle replied, never once looking away from his target as he leaned back, his chair’s front legs raised from the floor.

“Did you...you knew them right?”

Axle shrugged.
“That was a long time ago, Toby. We were all different people back then.”

“Well...” Tobias bit his lower lip.
“I didn’t really get a chance to know them, you know?”

Axle sighed, yet setting his handgun next to the liquor bottle on the table next to him.
“Your parents were...good people. Not perfect people, but they were good. They loved you a great deal, if that’s what you’re wondering.”

“I mean I know that” Tobias replied.
“But I guess...what did they want for me?”

“Same thing all good parents want for their children, for them to be happy.”

“Well...” Tobias laid down on his cot.
“I guess I can’t blame them for being hopeful.”

“You’re a good kid, but you’re a moody little fuck, you know that?” Skov replied with a chuckle. Tobias only looked at him shocked.

“Look, your parents? They’d want you to do your best. Given...all of this? They’d want you to do your best. Trust me. You’ve been through a lot, but so have millions of other people. So do what you can given the circumstances. It’s what they’d have wanted from you.”

Tobias could only look at the dull concrete ceiling above him as he lay in his cot.
“Heh.”

“Now” Axel replied, “it’s late. Get some
sleep.”




Carry On My Wayward Son
by Kansas, 5:23
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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5 October 2015
4:31 pm
On a Monday
Reykjadalr, Prydania

The sun was on its way down as People's Militia, dressed in olive green military garb with red bandanas tied around their necks, kept order. The small-ish town was just the latest over the past day or so to be visited by government troops. Men were separated from women and children in the town, primarily a farming community.

Syndicalist Republic soldiers had constructed a makeshift stage with scarlet and purple flags draped off of it as Jannik Leiftur, the Secretary of the Interior got up to address the town's populace. He was flanked by a number of Syndicalist Party functionaries from the city of Hadden itself. Already word was spreading of the executions there. And elsewhere.

"The government has taken a patient stance towards petty bourgeoisie communities such as this one" he said in his usually dower tone.
"That, with time, the counter-revolutionary and anti-popular will mentality of the rural landowner could be curbed and integrated into the society we are creating for all Prydanians to prosper. The Syndicalist Presidium continues to believe in this noble and idealistic goal, though events of the past few months have proven that more direct approach is needed to accomplish this goal. Reactionary royalist rebels continue to harass not just our soldiers, but our very society. They attempt to undermine the bright future of Prydania where people, and not Kings or Lords or priests or bourgeoisie, rule. And they do so with the aid of you. Of your neighbours. Who shelter these reactionary terrorists from the people's justice."

"This is not surprising. For too long this country was ruled by the greed of the businessman, by the power hungry nobility, and by you. You, and more like you, kept Prydania tethered to a pastoral past it could not escape. And now that you have lost your privilege in that decadent and broken society you have reacted by aiding those criminals who would seek to return it to you. It is not surprising..."

Leiftur was interrupted as a man attempted to protest, only for a Militia soldier to bash his head in with the butt of a rifle before dragging him away. Leiftur continued on as if nothing had happened.

"...it is not surprising, as I said. And so a harsh hand must be dealt to make it clear that the centres of petty bourgeoisie agitation against our democratic and equal society will not be tolerated. You will know peace if you accept your place as part of a larger, collectivized Prydania. If not, the people's justice will be harsh."

"By order of the Syndicalist Presidium and approved by the unanimous support of the People's Alþingi all agricultural yields of the Hadden Administrative Department will be collectivized and redistributed at the government's discretion..."

More men began to yell at the stage, shoving soldiers only for the Militia members to respond brutally before aiming to fire, quelling the protest.
"Your communities will be provided with rations the Central Economic Committee deems appropriate. Secondly....suspected reactionary sympathizers will executed in the name of the people of Prydania."

More militia members appeared from the town, leading a gang of twenty men and women, all dishevelled, to the open space between the makeshift stand Leiftur was on and the crowd.




Dan Mølgaard, Reykjadalr's town mechanic, watched helplessly from the crowd as Militia members marched the doomed souls out. His heart began to race when he saw Vera Degn. He wanted to call out to his girlfriend, but he knew he couldn't. He just looked at her from the crowd, wide eyed as he prayed she'd see him, to allow them to see each other one last time. His heart raced...he still couldn't believe they'd come for her. Vera didn't have a political bone in her body. If she had aided Royalist rebels he sure as shit didn't know about it. And she didn't have the appearance of a martyr either. Some of the men and women did, looking as stoically as they could. Others were in tears....Vera was among the latter group.

And then....the guns went off.
No further declaration from Leiftur. No countdown. The guns just...went off. And suddenly the twenty people forced to their knees in front of the entire town were no longer with them....the suddenness...Dan barely had time to register what happened and, without even realizing what he was doing he called out.
"VERA!" only to get a rifle butt on the back of his neck. He crumpled to the ground as men around him tried to fight back against the Militia soldiers.
Dan writhed in pain on the ground, but he heard it. More gun shots. More bodies dropping. Screams. And Leiftur's voice echoing above it all thanks to his microphone.

"Disloyalty to the people's cause will no longer be permitted. Reykjadalr will know what it's like to want, like so many did under the previous aristocratic regime."

Dan was pulled to his feet by a militia member. No doubt he was going to be interrogated now. Probably shot. As he stood, however, he saw the flames in the middle distance, beyond the town. They were burning the farmlands. The orange flame against the coming night sky danced in his eyes, Leiftur's silhouette against the backdrop of the fire the last thing he saw before a People's Militia soldier forced a black bag over his head, dragging him away.




Boadicea by Enya, 3:26
 

Xentherida

TNPer
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18th March 2016
11:02 am
On a Monday
In Savattenstad, Xentherida.


"...and earlier this morning the Minister of Defence Nora Windersten officially apologised in a press release for the airstrike on a rural Prydanian school."

"...massive error in our collection of intel led to the deaths of 17 and wounding of 43 innocent school children. To this, Xentherida has decided to give a voluntary humanitarian payment of ₭1,000,000 to each of the families of the killed or wounded. Additionally, we have discharged the pilot, although we are choosing not to prosecute. Xentherida deeply regrets the unfortunate loss of life, and apologises profusely for the incident. There was absolutely no intention to airstrike a rural school, as our intelligence indicated that it was a syndicalist training camp; we would like to express our sincerest remorse to the Prydanian people from this tragic mistake."

"The nation of Prydania is still embroiled in a fierce civil war, to which Xentherida began its intervention in 2015 after the Syndicalists’ Harrying of Hadden. This incident represents a severe blow to the international community’s confidence in the ability for the Xentheridan military to deliver precision targets, although the Ministry of Defence has avowed to ensure that in future its intelligence is gathered more accurately and frequently. And now onto the weather..."




4th April 2016
11:00 am
On a Monday
In Savattenstad, Xentherida.


She checked over her uniform again - a perfect fake, exactly like the ones worn down by the harbour. She made a mental note to pay that smuggler extra when she would get back. But how long would that be? How long would the war in Prydania go on? Hopefully nobody would recognise her there. Maybe she’d be active for less time, but a shorter war would be for the best, especially if she was to remain undetected.

Stringing her fake ID around her neck, and doing a final check of all her possessions, she strode out of the door, making her way swiftly to the docks. As she broke into a jog, she thought about all the effort involved in this; her smuggler had even gone to the lengths of hand-sewing an exact replica of the uniform, precisely copying an ID card for Else’s details, even going to the lengths to send a fake letter to who Else was replacing, informing them that they had been let go from their job after an "administration error". Of course, there had been no error and they would still be able to work, but after Else would slip off in Prydania then there’d certainly be a ruined career. Not that Else particularly cared, however; her job was far far more important in her eyes than the career of some nobody. Else had been ruined, had been wronged, blamed for a fault that wasn’t hers; but she would right those wrongs, and deliver swift, strong strikes for the Royalist Forces, and then sneak back away before they could figure out who she was, and try to blame her for actions that weren’t her fault.

She finally reached the docks, and quickly watched as the other aid workers stacked boxes around her, oblivious to her presence. It was easy for her to fit in with the rest of the workers simply by following their lead.

But as she began to start lifting a particularly heavy box, she heard someone approach from behind. "Hey." said their voice. She could not have her disguise blown now, not after all this work.

'Yeah, you," the voice said, and Else turned around to see its owner; a young woman, early twenties, her short brown hair barely peeking out from her helmet.

"Y-yeah?" Else replies shakily, as the aid worker looked at her questioningly.

"Lift with your legs, not with your back. You’ll hurt yourself real quickly otherwise." she said. "Did they not teach you this stuff?"

"Um, y-yes, they did."

"Were you just not listening then or something? You’ll be kicking yourself when you pull your back and you’re still out in the field for months."

The aid worker shook her head and muttered something like "amateurs" under her breath, leaving Else there stood somewhat speechless. She shook it off quickly, and got back to work, making sure to lift with her knees this time, lest she attract the ire of her new colleagues.

But she was in, and now all she had to do was make it to her destination and sneak off quickly. Then she could finally help out where she was properly needed.




Hearshot Kid Disaster by Coheed and Cambria, 5:40
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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27 December 2015
2:29 am
On a Sunday
Hadden, Prydania

Laurids Hummel led his men as they trudged through the snow, the sky ablaze as eras shook around them. Mortar fire exploded around them as they took their positions in the blown out remnants of a strip mall in the outskirts of Hadden.

"Sarge, Beck's hit!" Elad called out, dragging Erik Beck in as the sound of gunfire filled the air around them.

"Set him here" Hummel ordered as he cleared a countertop in an old diner of debris.
"Riss, see what you can do."

Morgens Riss nodded frantically as he fumbled open his first aid kit. Beck writhed even as he lay down, the bullet lodged in his thigh.
"Hang tight" Morgens muttered as he prepared to extract the bullet just as Hummel pulled Elad away.

"Elad, get on the radio. We need to get on the wire to command."

"Yes Sir" the radio tech replied, setting his gear down as the rest of the squad took defensive positions inside the diner. The sound of bullets or mortar fire only interrupted by Beck's screams as Riss managed to yank the bullet from his body.

"Command is waiting Sir!" Elad called out as Hummel brought a frustrated hand down on his GPS before checking the coordinates of the Syndicalist position down the road, fortified by what was once a community centre with armoured backup. He quickly crossed referenced it with the coded list of coordinates given in his sector.

"Private, you tell command that Target B-824 is confirmed."

Elad nodded, relying the information.
"Andrennians incoming" he replied.

"Glorious fucking Andrensk" Beck replied, the pain killers kicking in as Riss did his best to wrap up the bullet wound.

Suddenly the sound of thunder erupted from behind them, the Syndicalist position erupting in flames. The FNU soldiers could barely react before the radio cracked.

"Allies inbound, lower weapons."

Hummel's men looked at him, and he confirmed, getting them to lower their guns. A few moments later the door to the diner opened, and men in Andrennian-esque uniforms-devoid of any flags or other official patches- entered, "Commie Killer" scrawled on the barrels of a few of their guns.

"You boys alright?" one asked, before Hummel replied in accented Andrennian.
"Better now that you're here" he replied, helping a few Andrennians lift Beck's prone body off the diner.

The sight outside was a far cry from only a few moments back when they had taken up position in the diner as part of a forward scouting party. Tanks and tank destroyers baring FNU insignia- old Royal Army emblems- and stylized eagles meant to imply Andrenne without being official, rolled by escorted by Andrennian volunteers and FNU soldiers.

"Pershing and Eiderwig are coming up from the south" the Andrennian told Hummel after Beck had been loaded into an ambulance.
"So we have to get moving. Let's pin these bastards down."

Hummel nodded.
"Let's get going!" he ordered his men as they continued to move eastward towards Hadden.




27 December 2015
5:40 am
On a Sunday
Hadden, Prydania


"Nielsen said not to surrender the city!" Commander Jacob Lange of the Hadden Administrative District Peoples' Militia protested as Jannik Leiftur and Syndicalist Army General Ejvind Borg began to evacuate Hadden City Hall.

"The Chairman and the rest of the Presidium will appreciate the retreat when we explain how much of the Army we saved" Borg replied, barely paying Lange any mind. Leiftur just kept his focus straight ahead. Gunfire and explosions rocked the city again, louder this time. They were getting closer. The FNU and their allies had trapped the Syndicalist Army and their militia allies against the coast. They could retreat up the coast going west, but they'd have to leave now before the two-pronged attack pinched them tight.

"Then we stay and fight! Bleed their forces dry. To the last man if we have to" Lange protested. Borg just scoffed as they made their way down the stairwell. No time to risk getting trapped in an elevator with enemy forces baring down on you. Borg wasn't interested in arguing. The militia were useful, but they were fanatical. And when it came to survival vs a disastrous last stand? Pseudo-soldiers didn't deserve a place at the table. Leiftur, however, was less restrained.

"The Chairman doesn't appreciate the real-time necessities on the field of battle, commander" he growled.
"When I was busting heads for him in the Union, when we were saving the Party from the decadence of compromise and social democracy, he trusted me. To do what I had to do. Stay and die if you want, but we're going to ensure there's an Army left after today to carry on this war."

Borg nodded. He thanked his lucky stars Leiftur agreed with his assessment of the situation. Had he ordered a retreat without his blessing? Nielsen likely would have had him shot. Hell, even suggesting it to Leiftur could have gotten him shot. Thankfully he saw reason.
"If you'd like to be of use to our cause in the future" Leiftur added, "you and your men will retreat long the coast with the General and the Army. I'll be taking off by boat, to get to Beaconsviði as soon as possible. And to inform the Chairman of the situation in person."

Lange grunted but nodded with a "yes Comrade" before leaving. The dark sky of the early morning was illuminated with mortar and gunfire. The city centre had yet to fall, but the defenders were being ordered into an organized retreat. Hadden would fall. That much was clear when the Syndicalist Army's armoured divisions had been taken out with pinpoint accuracy around the city. So much so that he suspected an intel leak. With less tanks now to stem the FNU/Andrnneian/Dax ground advance? The city would fall.

Leiftur cursed it all, but he had to stay focused. The General and Commander departed in a jeep while a separate one took him in the opposite direction, towards the docks. There was enough time to get out by boat. He was sure of that enough to allow himself to relax. His peace of mind didn't even last two blocks, however, as a far closer series of explosions rocked the city, nearly causing the driver of the jeep to tip it.

The noise was almost deafening as Leiftur forced himself to stand. The road to the docks was ablaze. He looked on in horror, the sound of aircraft streaking across the sky. The destruction of the docks mortified Leiftur, who had to be restrained by the solider in the jeep's driver's seat.

"I need to get over there!"

"There's nothing there sir, there's nothing there! The dock's gone!"

"My ship! My ship could still be there!"

"It's gone sir!"

Jannik Leiftur scowled at the sight.
"Turn west. We'll follow the Army and militia out."

"Yes sir" the driver replied, turning the jeep down a side street to meet up with the convey trying to squeeze out along the coast the eastward FNU advance.

"Radio says Goyanean naval fighters sir" the soldier in the front passenger replied.

"Bloody imperialist dogs" he muttered to himself, fuming. Now anxious, hoping Borg's assertion that the Army could escape was as correct as he assumed. All the while fuming at the loss of his escape. How did the Goyaneans even know to bomb that part of the waterfront?




27 December 2015
6:02 am
On a Sunday
Hadden, Prydania

Hummel and his men ducked behind rubble as they lay down suppressive fire on a Syndicalist convoy. They were moving out, and they'd caught them off guard. His whole body rattled.

"LIGHT IT UP!" Hummel yelled as his men prepared mortar fire, their assault joined by Andrennians and FNU soldiers.
"Given 'em one for Morgens!" he yelled. Morgens Riss had been taken out by a lone People's Militia squad ambush not long after they entered the city proper.

The radio crackled, Elad holding it to his ear.
"Unicorn Company's coming in! Advancing on that convoy from the front!"

"That's the boss' unit!" Hummel yelled.
"You all gonna let Aubyn have Jannik Leiftur all to himself?" he yelled, before leading his men onward.




27 December 2015
9:54 am
On a Sunday
Hadden, Prydania


There hadn't been a gunshot heard in hours, those and the sounds of mortar and tank fire replaced with something of a celebration. Civilians poured our of their homes and hiding spots to yell Makari obscenities at the captured Syndicalist Army and People's Militia soldiers marched through the ruined streets of the city. A group of firefighters had already yanked down the Syndicalist Republic flag from City Hall, replaced with the barbed cross of the old Kingdom of Prydania.

Tobias found himself somewhat overwhelmed. He'd been told Hadden was a centre of Syndicalist support as one of the great manufacturing centres of the country. And yet...he was overwhelmed by the sheer joy the people of this city seemed to have now despite the devastation wrought on them. He'd been in Eiderwig during the battle. And now that it was over? He'd insisted on something useful to do.
So here he was, with a contingent of soldiers handing out rations.

"You're the King" one woman remarked as she approached the front of the line.

"Not a king of anything yet" he replied as he handed her a few packets of food and a few water bottles.

"Well you're as good as one now" she replied, taking the food and drink.




"What's it been, thirteen years?"
Jannik Leiftur didn't reply as William Aubyn entered the office where the Secretary of the Interior of the Syndicalist Republic was being kept.

"You know" Aubyn replied as he took a seat, "back then I used to think 'gee, Jannik's the smart one. Surely he's going to convince Thomas to listen to Robert.' Imagine where we'd be if I'd been right."

"A gutless neo-liberal wasteland I imagine" Leiftur replied quietly.

"Yes, and what we have now is so much better, thank you Jannik, for all of your forward thinking."

"I...we didn't do this! You did!"

"I'm standing up for what's right! I wasn't the one dragging innocent people out of their homes and shooting them in the streets! I wasn't the one sending trained soldiers to kill a child!"

"We did what we had to do! You wouldn't understand, don't you dare presume you can lecture me!"

"You did what you had to do? All of those dead people. All of that death. Where's your utopia, Jannik?"
Leiftur didn't respond, and Aubyn brought his fist down on the table.

"WHERE IS IT? THAT'S THE POINT RIGHT? You kill all of these people and a world of equality's magically around the corner? You've killed a lot of people Jannik. If that's not enough your utopia's not worth it."

"I don't expect some blue blooded bourgeoisie to under..."

"Oh shut the fuck up, you pretentious prick. Your mine pit philosophy's got its head so far up it's ass no wonder the whole country's gone to shit. I've got half a mind to kill you right here. Or hell. Let the Prince do it. Fuck, Pershing thought the joke was hilarious. I don't think he realized I wasn't joking. Or if he even cares. Thankfully for you? The Andrennians and Goyaneans wouldn't take it as well, even if most of the people out there are calling for it. So you can spend the rest of this war locked up. You'll answer for your crimes when the war's over."

"Victor's justice. How civilized," Leiftur scoffed.

"No, civilization's justice. It's about time someone in this country acted the part" Aubyn replied as he left the room, leaving Leiftur alone with his thoughts.




The Battle of Evermore by Led Zeppelin, 5:51
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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2 January 2016
4:29 pm
On a Saturday
just outside of Hadden, Prydania


"Are you excited as I am?" Jørn Stöðuvatn asked as he lead Tobias down a well-worn path just southwest of Hadden. The two were starting to enter the forest, the thick brush slowing their movements. Well it slowed Tobias. Jørn seemed to move freely, even in his formal wear.

"Yeah...a trek through a snow-covered forest, what's not to be excited about?" Tobias remarked as he threw up his arms to push some barren branches aside.
"And aren't you cold? That jacket can't be enough."

"I'm fine" Jørn remarked, "and you need to work on your attitude."

Tobias rolled his eyes, his march through the woods made worse by the fact that Jørn had insisted he bring Veiðiblað, the sword sheathed and strapped across his back. It made it kind of hard to move through the forest in the snow, however.

"We couldn't risk coming here. Not while Hadden was in Syndicalist hands" Jørn said as they moved deeper into the woods.
"Now though...now it's free. We can make use of it."

"Wherever and whatever we're going...to...how do we know the Syndicalists didn't wreck it? Like they did Tempest Keep? They were in control here for like..." he counted the years down in his head.
"Fourteen years."

"Eh" Jørn shrugged.
"I doubt they even knew this place existed. It's very old."

"How old?" Tobias asked.

"Hróarr, your ancestor, heard stories of it when he arrived in this land. And it was old to the Bayardi and Aed-Kaene."

"So...what is it? A shrine?" Tobias asked with a gulp.

"Something like that" Jørn remarked.
"As I said though, you should be excited. I don't think a Loðbrók has been here since Vortgyn I."

Tobias wondered what the hell this place could be as he followed Jørn. He knew he liked to be evasive and indirect with answers at times, but he held off on his urge to ask more questions. Wherever Jørn was taking him couldn't be that far. He'd see it for himself soon enough.

"Here we are" Jørn replied with a smile.

Tobias looked up and nearly froze in place.
"Jørn, we need to go. There could be a bear in that cave!"

Jørn, however, just laughed.
"No. I can promise you. There's no bear, or even wolf, in that cave. Not even a fox. Come on" he waved for Tobias to follow him in. Tobias obliged, glancing down at his left boot as he crossed the cave's threshold. The mouth of the cave, in the side of a hill, was covered in snow. At yet a sturdy grey stone the height of his ankle poked out from the white powder. Tobias knelt down to get a good look of it.

"It's got runes" he remarked.
"But not old Andrennian runes."

"No, something older. Like I said" Jørn replied.
"Come."

Tobias stared at the stone for a moment, feeling an ominous tinge ripple through him before getting up to his feet and following Jørn into the cave. The path curved downward and suddenly...a step! And another one!
"Jørn, where are we?" Tobias asked again, sounding concerned. "This isn't a cave."

"Well it's meant to look like one" Jørn replied looking back.
"But no. You're standing in an old Aed-Kaene...well 'temple' wouldn't be the word for it. More like...'place of communion.'"

"The Aed-Kaene...I found one of their skulls back at Tempest Keep" Tobias replied nervously.

"Yes, Hróarr Loðbrók slaughtered them when he and his followers settled in eastern Prydania many, many years ago. Tempest Holm, his seat of power, would have a few trophies."

"Then why am I here?" Tobias asked, his voice defensive and his body taught with nerves. That skull he'd found...it had unnerved him. He wasn't sure why. His family's legacy to be sure but...there was more. The skull itself shook him on an instinctual level.

"There are no Aed-Kaene here" Jørn chuckled. "We're just using the shrine at the bottom of these stairs. Now come on."

"Why would I use an Aed-Kaene shrine?" Tobias asked as he began to follow Jørn down the steps.

"You don't need to worship as the Aed-Kaene did" Jørn replied.
"They were, however, excellent at forging something of a connection to the spiritual realm" he added as he got to the bottom of the earthen staircase, looking around. There was a soft blue glow this deep down, keeping the space somewhat well lit despite the light from the opening of the cave barely being visible. It was the pool of water. It glowed. Ever so faintly. And it was, for a second at least, the most beautiful sight Tobias had seen.

"What is that?" he asked awed.

"It's...something of a natural energy?" Jørn replied, his face twisted into a confused look.
"It's kind of hard to explain if you haven't, ahem, studied it. So...it's sort of like...a pulse?"

"Do...I get in it?"

"No" Jørn replied, sounding a bit shocked.
"It's still water! You'd get wet! And we still have to walk back to Hadden through that snow!"

"Oh well I thought..."

"Yes, and you were wrong. That's ok though. Here" he pointed to a spot at the centre of the circular chamber at the bottom of the staircase, a few feet from the edge of the glowing blue water.

Tobias unstrapped Veiðiblað and removed the old Royal Prydanian Army coat he'd become fond of, setting it aside before walking towards Jørn.

"No, bring Veiðiblað" Jørn insisted. Tobias was going to ask him why, but Jørn had insisted he bring the sword in the first place. Whatever it was for, this was it.
"Now" Jørn continued, "kneel here. Whatever you do, keep your hands gripped on the sword's hilt. And listen."

"To what?"

"To whoever talks to you."
aae
Tobias shot him a look but...the night he got this sword. Stahl would have run him through if he didn't hear...whispers...telling him how to fight. Whatever Jørn was going on about? He sighed and nodded, kneeling on the soft stone. Jørn stepped back, taking a sit on the staircase carved into eras and stone, watching. He knelt, holding the sword tightly by his side as he closed his eyes.

"Nothing's happening."

"Relax" Jørn replied.
"Breath deep, loosen your body."

Tobias nodded and tried. He let his muscles loosen to the point where he was barely holding onto the sword, his heart rate slowed. He tried to empty his mind...and then a whisper. Not so much to startle him, but enough to be perceptible in his mind. Was it the same voice who had whispered him instructions on how to fight? No that voice was female. This one...was male.

"Someone has my blade? It's been a long time. The son of Vortgyn has come to see me as his father did?"

"I...I'm not the son of Vortgyn...my father was Robert Loðbrók, Prince of Prydania and..."

"Heh" the voice remarked.
"It has been a long time. Though you...and your father....are sons of Vortgyn. As he was a son of Hróarr who was a son of Æschere in the end."

"Who...who are you?"

"I've known your line for a long time...though your line seems to have forgotten me. And now you return to me only when your new realm is in flames?"

"I don't even know who you are..." Tobias protested, eyes remaining closed and hand around the sword's hilt.

"Yyornelvan does. He's brought you here I see..."

"Jørn?"

"If that's how you know him."

"Who are you?"

"Your line's known me a long time as I have said...it's my essence that runs through that blade along with Æschere Loðbróki's blood. I am master of the hunt, god of the forest, I am Jägdar, the one who appointed your line forest-kings of Heorot, who guided your people to this land and appointed them Stormlords. I am forgotten and old, yet I remember. So why then do you come to me now, so long after Vortgyn reached out to me?"

"I...I don't know...my realm, you said it war burning."

"It does burn. My people forget me and the crops burn. The forests will be next."

"We can stop them though, the Syndicalists..."

"And you have come to me for help?"

"I...I don't know. Jørn brought me here. I'm not sure. But if you could help..."

"You're King of your people, you know the enemy. You need an old god to point the way forward?"

"I'm not a King...I..."

"You are the last of your direct line. Are you not a King?"

"No I'm..."

"If you're not King who is?"

"No one is..."

"Nonsense! You wield my blade, you bare my stag on your banners! I am old, but I am not blind. I see all things, Tobias son of Æschere. Reclaim the realm Hróarr found and Vortgyn forged!"

"I...our forces...we're trying we just took..."

"Be what your people need. When Hróarr sailed west they looked to him. When Vorgtyn declared war on the Bayardi they looked to him. You are the last direct descendent of Æschere Loðbróki! Your blood is that of Forest Kings and Stormlords! Cry thunder and lead your people!"

Tobias felt himself jerk forward, and his mind was clear.
"Hello?" he asked.

"Hmm?" Jørn replied.

Tobias' eyes shot open and he looked around.
"I heard...I talked...to Jägdar. I think I did anyway..."

"Did you? You've been kneeling in silence for...oh I don't know. A few minutes at least? I don't know. You lose track of time when you have so much of it."

"But I..."

"Yes, I know" Jørn replied.
"Did you hear anything interesting?"

"I need...to lead. But William is leading us."

"Leadership can be different things, and rarely is one person equipped to be all of them" Jørn replied before offering Tobias a hand.
"Come on, let's get back to Hadden."




2 January 2016
6:41 pm
On a Saturday
Hadden, Prydania


Tobias was lost in thought as Veiðiblað sat on the table in the Hadden City Hall conference room, a plate that once contained his dinner empty and off to the side. The light danced on the pattern of liquid metal on the sword's blade, and he had to occasionally touch it to confirm it was solid metal.

"Why so down?" Rylond Jórvik asked as he made his way into the room, tossing himself into a chair.
"We took Hadden! You should be out celebrating!"

"I’m not down" Tobias said with a smile.
"I’m just thinking. About...stuff."

"Must be deep 'stuff'" Rylond replied with a smirk.
"You could be out there. Lots of girls who wouldn’t mind meeting the future King of Prydania."

Tobias shot his friend an exacerbated look.

"It’s been five years Toby..."

"I don’t want to talk about it" the Prince replied firmly.

"Ok buddy, you’ve got it" Rylond replied, sensing that nerve wasn’t ready to be touched again just yet.
"Wanna listen to the radio chatter?" he asked. They had done it all the time as kids. Tobias had insisted he wasn’t sad, but Rylond felt the need to raise his spirits anyway. He thought this might be what his friend needed. Tobias seemed to agree, chuckling softly.

"Sure let’s see what everyone out there’s saying."

Rylond nodded, taking a hand-held radio from his belt.
"Let’s do it to it" he said, flipping the radio on. Tobias just sat there, leaning to one side in his chair.

"Static..." Rylond mumbled switching frequencies, "more static...oh wait, what’s this?"

"I think it’s just some fishermen..."

"Nah fishermen don’t fish this late."

"Why?" Tobias asked.
"You think the fish take the night off?"

"Let’s just listen ok?"

"Fine."

"...wind calm up north?"
"yeah, FNU patrols scaring most of the fish away though..."

"Fishermen don’t fish this late eh?" Tobias asked raising his eyebrow.

Rylond just rolled his eyes and switched frequencies.

"wanna meat up at the hockey rink?"
"rink’s blown up dude"
"yeah exactly we get some tunes and weed, and rock out..."

"They sound like they’re having fun" Rylond chuckled.

"Yeah we should just stroll up. 'I'm a Prince, this guy's nobility. Can we get some weed?"

"I’ve heard worse ideas" Rylond said encouragingly before switching frequencies.

"...Syndicalist Command, 1GY8B in Fellstrond. Behind enemy lines. Out of ammunition. Request extraction...."

Tobias and Rylond each looked at each other in shock before the message repeated.

"...Syndicalist Command, 1GY8B in Fellstrond. Behind enemy lines. Out of ammunition. Request extraction...."

"Toby?"

"Yeah...?" Tobias replied, unsure what he was hearing.

"That list Stahl gave you with the codes..."

"...Syndicalist Command, 1GY8B in Fellstrond. Behind enemy..."
Rylond shut the radio off.

"You have it?"

Tobias nodded, yanking an old pocket sized notebook from one of the many pockets lining his cargo pants.
He flipped past the cringey poetry and found the list.
"What numb..."

"1GY8B" Rylond replied immediately.

"Filip Fuglsang" Tobias replied.

"The guy who..."

"Who burnt down the farms, yeah..." Tobias replied.




"Filip Fuglsang's trapped in Fellsstrond, eh?" Rylond remarked.
"Filip Fuglsang’s in Fellstrond. Try saying that five times fast" he added as he walked out of Hadden city hall as Tobias walked after him.

"Yeah, but that doesn't mean we have to go after him" Tobias remarked.
"We need to tell Command what we heard!"

Rylond just rolled his eyes.
"Come on man. Fellstrond's well behind the lines. Not only that, but the signal barely reached us. It probably didn't even reach Syndie forward command. There won't be any of them there to get him. He's trapped. And you and I? We can make up for the fact that they wouldn't let us fight at Hadden. Come on. Don't be a gunga*. We'll nab the bastard, fuck him up a bit, and drag his ass back here."
Rylond hopped into the jeep's driver seat, keys in hand, holding them enticingly.

Tobias sighed. Rylond was right, they didn't let him anywhere near the fighting at Hadden. And he knew why. It made sense. Yet...he couldn't help but feel useless. He was told "be a symbol," but next to the actual soldiers? He felt somewhat useless. He bit his lip before looking at Rylond again.

"Alright" he said, adjusting the strap that held Veiðiblað in its sheath across his back.

Rylond smiled, putting on a pair of aviator sunglasses.
"Well cowabunga it is" he said with a smirk.

Tobias just rolled his eyes.
"It's pitch black out. Take off the glasses or I'm driving."




The jeep roared through the countryside south of Hadden. It had been months since these farms were burnt to the ground, but Tobias and Rylond swore they could still smell the ash.

"He lead the fire teams..." Rylond said as they approached the outskirts of Fellstrond, the abandoned farm town eerily quiet despite the quiet breeze.
"You ready for this?"

"No" Tobias replied.
"But we’re here anyway so let’s do it. You know how to use that thing?"

"Yeah" Rylond replied, readying his assault rifle.
"Let’s go."
Tobias nodded, pulling out his sidearm.

The two made their way through the streets of Fellstrond. Tobias looked over at Rylond, wanting to say something, even as his heart felt like it was beating in his throat. He was...they were actually doing something meaningful.

Their steps on the bricked streets echoed through the night, with Rylond clutching his rifle. If anyone was here they’d know they were here too. He turned to face Tobias when the shattering of glass caused him to swing to the other side. He couldn’t even fire off a shot as the figure held him him with a knife to his throat.
Tobias had already pulled his handgun, but it was too late. He wouldn’t have a clear shot in daylight. Much less in the middle of the night.

"Holy shit...Rylond Jórvik and Prince Tobias" Fuglsang chuckled.
"No fucking way."

Tobias tried to make out the Syndicalist agent’s face. He had cuts over himself. Likely from jumping through that glass storefront to ambush them. The prince tried to stay focused though, gripping his handgun.

"You’re the one who burnt..."

"Shut the fuck up!" Fuglsang growled.
"Your pal here’s giving me his gun or I’ll slit his throat. And you’re going to put down yours. And the three of us will get nice and cozy. Thomas Nielsen will make me a fucking Hero of the Republic for bringing you two to him."

"You’re not taking us anywhere" Tobias growled, holding up his pistol.

"Yeah, tell 'em Toby" Rylond growled before feeling the knife press into his neck.

"You do anything I’ll kill him" Fuglsang growled.

"Yeah? And if the only way he lives means you capture me? I’ll shoot both of you!" he yelled back. He was a Stormlord...that’s what that voice had said to him.
Rylond looked back at Fuglsang, then back to Tobias.
"You don’t think I’ll do it? Fucking try me, you Syndie shithead!"

Fuglsang’s grip on the knife tightened. He weighed his options. The moment seemed like an eternity, with the air and trees and snow seemingly still. And then Rylond flew towards Tobias, Fuglsang having pushed him forward. The Prince dodged frantically to get out of the way of any errant machine gun fire. He fired wildly after the Syndicalist, his shots missing in the dark as Rylond slipped on ice, his knee crashing into the brick road.

"Fucking hell!"

"Rylond! Are you ok?"

The son of the Thane of Jórvik tried to stand, only to collapse.

"My knee's fucked" he gasped.
"Go find him, take this."

Tobias tried to remain steady as he grabbed the assault rifle before chasing after Fuglsang. He was mindful that he had a knife, and tried to keep to the middle of the street, where he couldn’t be immediately ambushed from another storefront or an alleyway. He clutched the rifle tight, but it was to no avail. A firm wooden pole swung down from a farmer’s market stand, whacking him across the wrist, causing him to drop the weapon.

Filip Fuglsang leapt out with the scythe, bringing it down hard again, causing Tobias to jump away. His heart raced, looking around. The gun was between the two of them. Fuglsang saw it too, and contemplated moving for it, but the scythe, impractical as it was, was his only means to keep the prince at bay for now.

"Stormlord" the word echoed in Tobias’ mind as he slowly reached back, unsheathing Veiðiblað, clutching it with both hands.

"You're going to use your fucking sword? A sword? Come on, mate. Do better."

"Pretty big talk coming from a guy with a scythe" Tobias replied before swinging his sword forward.

"dodge" the feminine voice from before when he fought Stahl echoed. He dodged the awkward swing of the scythe.

Filip saw the Prince charge him and he did the only thing he could do, his weapon of desperation not giving him
much of a chance. He dropped the scythe and dodged low, hoping to miss the prince’s swing and get the rifle.
He felt the rush of adrenaline as he dived forward, the world slowing down around him. Dodging the blade he hit the ground and reached for the rifle before crying out in pain.

"AHHHHGGG!" he cried out. The blade of Tobias’ sword drove into his back, his hand limply dropping to the ground short of the rifle. He coughed, feeling the cold of the winter creeping into his body as he lay on the cool stone road.

Tobias grunted, driving the blade deeper, eliciting another deep scream. Filip tried to kick but...the feeling in his legs was already going. The prince pulled the blade out, pulling Flilip back away from the gun before turning him over. The Syndicalist agent coughed, blood starting to drip from his mouth.

"I'd fucking do it again...for my people" he gasped.

"So would I" Tobias replied softly, closing his eyes as he drove his sword into the man's gut, his screams echoing through the ghost town.




Tobias walked back to find Rylond on the ground, aching in pain.
"You get him?" he managed to ask, seeing Tobias return with the rifle and a brown burlap bag.

"Yeah" Tobias replied softly, holding up the bag.

"Is that...did you actually...?" Rylond asked in disbelief.

"Yeah..." Tobias replied again in the same tone.

"Fucking hell..."

"Yeah...let’s just get back to Hadden, alright?"

He helped his friend to his feet, letting him lean on him as they made their way back to the jeep.




Cry Thunder by Dragonforce, 5:14




*"coward" in Prydanian Makari
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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7 October 1029
7:03 am
On a Wednesday
Stormurhöfn, border of Austurland and the Bayardi Kingdom


"Fifteen years!" Vortgyn Loðbrók, King of Heorot Across the Sea and Lord of Stormurholmr cried out.
"I've fought this war for fifteen years. Some of you have followed me in accordance with ancient traditions of fealty from our homeland. And others of you, who have followed me because of my conquests in our Austurland! No more! I won't bow to Hróarr nor will I bow to Bram. I won't bend the knee to any man, dead or alive. I answer only to God above, and he has guided me to this destiny. Today it is not Andrenne that is our home, it is Prydansk. Do not follow me because of the traditions of the old lands. Or because honour dictates it. Follow me, because my will shall be done here as it was commanded in heaven, because I am King. Rightfully of this land, above all others! And today, after fifteen years, we will crush the Bayardi and win my throne!"
He stopped as the assembled Thanes and higher bannermen gathered around him, before raising Veiðiblað.

"Only Bakenveld stands beyond the fields of Stormurhöfn before us. We will crush the Bayardi King Bram and his allies, and we will drive them into eras before us. And only then will we march on Bakenveld and claim my crown. Follow me, and let us forge our destiny, as Prydanians!"




20 May 2017
9:40 pm
On a Saturday

somewhere outside of Beaconsviði, Prydania

"To the soldiers, airmen, and sailors of the FNU armed forces and our allies from across the seas.
Fifteen years ago the tyranny of Syndicalism embedded itself in the heart of the Prydanian Realm. Today, after a great crusade of many years, we find ourselves on the outskirts of our beloved capital, on the verge of regaining our freedom and our country. Already General Krummedike's Fifth Army has engaged the Syndicalist enemy in the outskirts of Keris to the west. There will be no salvation for the criminals who now occupy Beaconsviði, who have refused the prospect for peace and who now force us to see the war to its logical end."

"We will all embark upon one last fight for the future of our country, against an enemy that grew from within and nearly destroyed us. The tide had turned, however. From the heart of Austurland to Alaterva, to Hadden and Krummedike, our forces, along with our closest friends and kin from afar, have thrown the Syndicalist tyranny back and liberated many of our realm from Syndicalist oppression."

"We have a rendezvous with destiny. Not all people are called for such a fate, but fate rarely calls upon us at a time of our choosing. It is our duty now, to fight one final time for the Prydanian Realm and the country we all believe in. We will fight in the streets of Beaconsviði until the very end to put the criminal regime of Thomas Nielsen in the ground and ensure the victory of civilization over the forces of oppression. Your task will not be an easy one, but in the name of Prydania, our future King, and our soon to be won freedom, in the name of God Almighty, I ask you all. Won't you come with me and take this city?"

Tobias turned off the radio following his cousin's speech and sighed leaning back in his chair, the two front legs off the floor, his foot balancing him against the table. He sipped from his can of Äjdel beer, wanting to relax. Their forces would move on Beaconsviði tomorrow. Who knew how long the battle would last but...the Syndicalists would be broken eventually. It was inevitable. And yet? He felt restless.

"Hmm" he mused, getting up and grabbing Veiðiblað. For no reason in particular. It had become something of a safety blanket for him, though. He crushed the empty can, tossing it aside in the bunker. It just helped him feel comfortable.

He smiled leaving the bunker and breathing in the clear spring air. The night sky seemed especially clear. He sat down, sword by his side, as he rested his back against a concrete pillar that formed part of the bunker's external structure before pulling another beer can from his cargo pants pocket. He examined it, the dull gold label, the condensation on the can. He didn't feel quite like ripping into another one quite yet.

"God, if you can hear me..." he said softly.
"I know what I have to do when the fighting is over but...give me the strength to do it. For everyone who's left."

"You'll be fine" Tobias looked up a bit shocked, but smiled as Rylond Jórvík sat down next to him, a beer in hand himself.
"I mean it" Rylond said as he popped his beer can. "Fifteen years man...after fifteen years, you'll be ready" he added as he pat his friend and the future King of Prydania on his shoulder.

"I'll have William, Axle, your dad..." Tobias replied with a smile. "The whole FNU. I'm just..."

"Scared?"

"Kind of. But...kind of sad. That it's happening like this."

"That's not your fault."

"No, after all of this...I always pictured what it would be like if I ever got to be King. Now...it's going to happen. And I'm not sure what to make of it."

"It was different in your head?"

"Yeah...Krista was there for a while..."

Rylond nodded, patting his friend's shoulder.
"I know buddy" he said softly. Tobias was starting to move on from all of that but...he guessed it was unavoidable. Old wounds were going to be reopened now that the war was almost over.
"And she was the smart one. If she were here you'd just listen to her! Easiest Kingship ever!" Tobias just chuckled and playfully punched his friend's arm.

"Yeah probably" he replied, looking down at his beer can again.

"Well...she was supposed to be here" Rylond said, holding up his can.
"This war's almost over man. So what do you say? A drink to Krista?"

"Yeah" Tobias chuckled, popping his own can.
"To Krista. And peace."

"Ralte!" Tobias exclaimed happily as he knocked his beer can against his friend's.

"Ralte!" Rylond responded before they both drank, ruminating on a life to come.




4 June 2017
3:29 pm
On a Sunday

Beaconsviði, Prydania

The shells rocked the Alþingi building, and it was chaos outside. The FNU and allied forces were pushing hard, and the last Syndicalist Army and Peoples' Militia lines had cracked. Thomas Nielsen pushed back panicked soldiers running through the halls as Party bureaucrats frantically burned or shredded documents. A few soldiers managed to salute him haphazardly as they rushed down to the first floor of the building to mount a last stand.

Nielsen passed through the chambers of the Syndicalist Alþingi, his heart racing as feelings of anger and resignation swirled through his head. The red Syndicalist banner that hung behind the speaker's podium...he grit his teeth knowing it would be triumphantly pulled down. Still, he soldiered through the abandoned chamber to the Presidium Chairman's Office- what was once the Prime Minister's Office. He slammed the door shut. The old wooden door muffled the noise of the outside world at least.

He steeled himself as he peaked once more out the curtains of the office window. Smoke, panicked Syndicalist soldiers fleeing. It was a matter of time. They'd be here soon. Within half an hour.

That's all he needed though. He didn't intend to die a prisoner. Or wait for the mob to tear him to bits. For these last few minutes? He was still Chairman of the Presidium. This office, this building was still his territory. Syndicalist Republic territory. He was going to die on that land. He wouldn't give the counter-revolution the pleasure of seeing him a broken man.
"It'll be a cold day in hell I see another Loðbrók on the throne of this country" be growled as he dusted off the old record player and placing the record of the song You'll Never Leave Rakjandi Alive. He smiled. It was a folk song, about his hometown. It talked about the hardships of living and working in the mining town. He got it playing as he poured a glass of brennivín.

In the deep dark hills of western Prydania
That's the place where I trace my bloodline

He sat down at his desk, sipping his drink.

And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
'You will never leave Rakjandi alive'

"Heh...I thought I made it out. I guess not..."

When my granddad's dad walked down Ash Mountain
And he asked Elna Høyer to be his bride
He said, won't you walk with me out of the mouth of this valley?
Or we'll never leave Rakjandi alive

"That's the trick though, what you're always too young and dumb to understand until it's too late" he thought.
"You may leave the shafts, but does your mind?"

Where the sun comes up about ten in the morning
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin'
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away


"A Union Man for the Alþingi" he chuckled. That was the slogan he used when he first ran for Rakjandi's seat on the Syndicalist ticket back in the late 1970s. He'd spent his entire life as a politician acting like the hard-nosed Union boss. And no matter what...he'd be a common man and a Union man from Rakjandi who commanded a nation. For better or worse. No compromises. Lest the bastards get you. He was still In Rakjandi in many ways...

Well no one ever knew there was coal in them mountains
'Til a man from Beaconsviði arrived
Waving hundred kross bills
He said, I'll pay you for your minerals

That was enough, enough for comfort him. Nielsen opened a desk drawer and produced a handgun, readying the weapon before taking one last sip.

But he never left Rakjandi alive

A gunshot echoed through the office, and the chamber. Not that it was noticeable, as the centre of Syndicalist Republic authority crumbled. The body of Thomas Nielsen one more testament to the war.




Carolus Rex by Sabaton, 4:58
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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4 February 2016
7:10 pm
On a Thursday
Keris, Prydania


"I heard he beheaded the Syndie who burnt all of those farms by Hadden. The Prince I mean" Callum Goff remarked as he sipped a bottle of beer as he and his friend Warren Tristard kicked back for the night.

Warren fidgeted a bit.
"You shouldn't be talking about that. The NRÖ might find out."

Callum, however, was a bit too brash.
"The NRÖ? Whatever man. Besides we've been showin' up to work. They've got no reason to check up on us. Who are we to 'em?"

"That's the thing though. They check on everyone."

"Maybe, but the Syndie pricks can't check everyone all the time. So who's to say they're even listenin' right now?"

"You wanna take that bet?" Warren asked with a chuckle.

"Well if any fucken' NRÖ Syndie wants to arrest for sayin' 'God Save Tobias Loðbrók' they can! But I don't think they're listenin' tonight."

"Well at least you'll get yourself killed along with me if you're wrong" Warren mused as he sipped his own beer.
"You really think he killed Filip Fuglsang?"

"Beheaded. Medieval style" Callum replied making a slashing motion with his finger across his neck.
"Heard it was brutal."

"Serves the bastards right after what they did to those farms in Hadden I guess" Warren chuckled.
"I mean I heard what he did in Markarfljot. Three years ago. Faced down an entire contingent of People's Militia in the middle of a battle."

"Badass" Callum replied as the two continued to nurse their beers.

"You think there's any truth to it all?" Warren asked.

"He's got that fucken' sword" Callum replied.
"Who the hell knows if it's true. Can't believe any of the shit the Syndies tell ya anyway" he grumbled.
"But if there's some truth to any of it...if the Prince they keep talkin' about is even a bit of what they say? Good on 'em. Someone needs to punch the Syndies in the jaw."

"Heh" Warren remarked.
"Think anyone will punch 'em hard enough you and I can head back home?"

"Ha!" Callum remarked.
"They're not lettin' us go anywhere until they run us ragged buildin' a new navy."

"Probably right" Warren remarked before perking up.
"You and I don't have old swords.

"No, we don't."

"And we can't just head home."

"They'll track us. Hang us as 'counter-revolutionary traitors.'"

"Right but what can we do?"

"What do you mean, Warren?"

"Look man. I gotta do somethin'. I'm goin' in every day. Every single fuckin' day welding on those damn ships. Worked until I'm about to collapse. And I can't even call my mom back home. I need to do somethin'."

"Like what?"

"You said it yourself. The Prince has a sword, he beheaded a fucker. We don't have that. But I got some spray paint in the tool box. And we got the whole night as cover" Warren remarked with a devilish grin. One Callum returned.




5 February 2016
6:56 am
On a Friday
Keris, Prydania


Hans Feld, Syndicalist Party functionary, local Keris Party board member, and a sub-foreman of the Keris shipyards made his way to his way to work as dawn began to break. He liked to get in early to plan things out before the workers arrived en masse. Gave him time to plan out the subsection of the project he was assigned to. Efficiency began at the ground level the Party slogan said. And come hell or high water he'd have the most efficient team on the docks. If there were going to be delays? It wouldn't land on him.

He tucked his briefcase under his arm as he folded up his newspaper to hold in his mouth as he fumbled for the keys to the yard. Only to drop all of it when he saw the phrase "Teymi Tobias" spray-painted over a mural depicting workers' unity, and a makeshift Royalist cross underneath it.

He quickly pulled out his phone to call the local NRÖ desk, his heart racing.

"We have a problem."




All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix, 4:01
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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22 May 2010
8:02 pm
On a Saturday
Somewhere around Darrow, Prydania

Krista Brink made her way through camp, a set of keys ever so softly jingling in her jacket pocket. Her eyes darted from side to side as she tried to seem inconspicuous. She made sure she wasn't keeping her head too low, but then again she couldn't risk a soldier catching her eyeing them. She had to appear ordinary. That plan, however, came crashing down as she bumped into someone. Turns out trying to appear absent minded worked better than intended.

"Axle!" she said startled as the FNU intelligence officer grunted, more annoyed than anything else.

"Ms. Brink" he replied, readjusting his own bulletproof vest.
"And where are you heading?"

"Um" she replied, blushing a bit.
"Dad and I finished dinner so I thought I'd take a walk. I like the twilight. Kind of beautiful you know?" she said, her cadence picking up, an obvious sign she was nervous about something.

"A walk, eh?" Axle shrugged. The area was mostly clear. The Syndies didn't come this far into the Austurlands. The locals were too much for them. Much less the FNU.

"Yeah, you know, see the sunset." She wasn't exactly lying. And Axle picked up on that, taking note of which direction she was heading in. William and Tobias' quarters were just ahead. He could stop her, that would be easy enough. Send her back to her father. But...fuck it. He didn't get into this to police teenagers.

"Yeah, sunset's lovely. Anyway Ms, you'll have to excuse me. I need to get going. Meeting with Mr. Aubyn" he remarked, walking away from her. That was true. He was meeting William. And he decided to let her know that, that Tobias was alone at the moment. Krista picked up on that, nodding and yelling "goodnight Axle!" as she turned around walking backwards. Axle didn't bother replying to turning around, just tossing a hand up in a half-hearted wave.



Tobias kicked the football against the wall of the barracks that made up his and William's quarters, catching the ball as it came back at him with the inside of his foot, trying to practice dribbling. The textbooks William had left him sitting on a table on the far end of the room.
He took the ball on the tip of his toes, flipping it up and trying to catch it on his foot, only for it to fall a bit forward and miss his foot.

"Fuck" he grumbled, half-heartily kicking the ball against the wall again, only to lose the ball entirely when he heard the door open.
"I was just takin' a break from the books Willi..." he insisted before turning and seeing Krista, smiling wide as she slipped in and quickly closed the door.

"Hey Toby" she replied with a sly smile. He quickly hopped over the football, quickly embracing her as the two shared a kiss.

"You made it" he said happily.

"Yeah, Dad's gone to bed early" she said between kisses.
"So I'm yours all night" she added.

"Yeah, but William won't be meetings forever" Tobias replied.

"All the reason to make the most of it" Krista replied.
"Here, look what I've got" she slipped her hand into her jacket pocket and pulled out a set of keys.

"Is that..." Tobias began to ask before an excited Krista nodded eagerly.

"Yeah it's the keys to one of the jeeps. Come on. We could head out to the lake and back, watch the sunset, and get back before anyone notices we're gone."

"Is it, you know...safe?" Tobias asked a bit nervously.

"Yes" Krista replied confidently, kissing him again before motioning him to follow her to the door.
"The Syndies don't come this far, and besides. You know how to drive, right?"

"I mean...yeah. Yeah I can" Tobias replied with a blush. He'd had a month's worth of lessons- a "gift" of sorts for his fifteenth birthday. It was enough, he was sure of it!

"Awesome, come on" she replied, taking his hand and leading him out. The camp was mostly empty now, only a few FNU soldiers patrolling. Most were guarding leadership at the meeting William was holding.

"Give me the keys" Tobias said as they sneaked out back around the barracks. Krista returned his mischievous smile and handed him the keys to the jeeps.
"Ok" he added, "follow me."

He led her through the outskirts of camp, towards a line of trees before turning around and kissing her again, leaning her back against the trunk of a nearby oak. She kissed him back before pulling back a bit.
"You're stalling. Afraid to take me driving?" she asked with a smirk.

"What?" Tobias replied with a chuckle.
"I just wanna hold you. William's had me locked up reading all day."

"You call practising football reading?" she replied playfully.

"Hey, don't judge!" Tobias shot back with a bit of a smirk.
"Come on, I promised you a ride."

He took her hand and led her down to a row of armoured jeeps. A few had hastily removed Syndicalist Army emblems.
"Any idea which one these belong to?" Tobias asked, holding the keys up.

"Number 3...or 9..." Krista replied.
"One of those."

Tobias hopped into the jeep with a 9 spray painted on the driver's side front wheel well. He hoped it was going to work, because 3 was one of the ones where you could still make out the Syndicalist markings.
"Woo!" he cried out victoriously as it started up, before realizing they were supposed to be sneaking around.
"Quick! Jump up!" he held out a hand. Krista hopped up as Tobias took her by the hand, helping her over his lap to the passenger seat as he slammed the door and took off before anyone could stop them.

"You know where we're going?" Krista asked as they pulled away from the camp.

"Yeah, King's Lake" he replied, heading off over the bumpy off-road terrain. He was a bit terrified. He'd been taught how to handle a jeep in a situation like this, but he didn't have someone with him. He wanted to focus, but he also didn't want to neglect Krista.

"I didn't think you liked the lake" Krista asked, curiously.
"So why so eager?"

"Well you know" Tobias answered nervously.
"I don't, like, mind it really. I've never been there with you, but I think it would be nice. If it were you, or whatever."

"You're a dork" she replied, kissing him on the cheek as they drove. Tobias' nerves loosened a bit as they made their way through the countryside. It was away from towns and cities that you really got a sense of peace. Like maybe, just maybe, there wasn't a war. Tobias turned to look at Krista, who herself was looking over the horizon at the rolling hills and mountains the jutted north from Norsia to frame the lake. He felt his heart flutter a bit as he smiled. For just this moment and whoever knew how long they had, he could pretend nothing else mattered. Just the two of them. He was nervous, of course, and that feeling only intensified as they drew closer to the lake. What would happen? It didn't matter of course. Whatever happened would happen.

Krista, for her part, shot sideways glances Tobias' way as they approached the lake. She too wondered what lay ahead when they'd finally get the shores of the lake, oblivious to Tobias' own insecurities. She wondered was just happy to have been able to get away with him, a few moments alone when she could shut out all the chaos and regimentation and enjoy some quiet with the boy she'd grown to love.
The jeep slowed to a crawl before stopping, and Krista slowly, shaking somewhat, laid her hand on Tobias' as he clutched the shift, putting the jeep in park.

"See, I got us here in one piece" he said with a wide grin.

"Yeah, it wasn't too bad. We should run away more often" Krista replied as the two got out.
"Hey, what are you doing?" she asked as Tobias made his way to the back of the jeep.

"If this thing is stocked then..." he said as he rummaged through the trunk.
"Yep!" he pulled out a rolled up blanket, excitedly bringing it to the front of the vehicle to toss it over the hood before crawling up and offering Krista a hand.
It was her turn to feel her heart flutter, but she took his hand and climbed up with him, lying next to him on the hood of the jeep as the sun began to set over the horizon over the lake.

"We really should, you know" Tobias said softly.
"Run off like this."

"Axle would KILL you" Krista chuckled.
"Me too probably."

"He won't kill me" Tobias replied.
"They need me to be king if they win." Krista just made a face and punched his arm playfully. Still, he played along.
"Owe! What was that for?" he asked chuckling.

"You being King, yeah. Saves you from the Wrath Of Skov, Toby, but what about me?"

"Well..." Tobias said softly, feeling his heart rate speed up a bit.
"If Axle can't do anything to the future King of Prydania then he can't do anything to the future Queen of Prydania either."

It was a brave statement. The two had exchanged puppy-eyed admissions of love before, and Tobias had kept up his promise to write her as much poetry as she could read. Still...marriage. A royal marriage at that. That was something else.

"I don't know..." Krista answered nervously.
"...if William..."

"Will let us?" Tobias asked.

"Yeah..." Krista replied.

"I don't care. I'm not going to be used as some bargaining chip for him to toss around at foreign ministers as a marriage prospect for some princess somewhere else" he said, his voice shaking a bit.
"I wasn't supposed to survive. And I'm not supposed to be King. If it happens..." he sighed and clutched her hands in his own as they faced each other on their sides.
"...it'll be a miracle if either of us survive" he said softly. "If we do? I want to be your husband, to be yours forever."

Krista was breathless.
"Toby I..." she raised their interlocked hands to her mouth to kiss them before kissing him on the lips as the sun began to set.
"I'll be there, for you, always."

Tobias felt the knots in his stomach as he kissed her once more. This time neither stopped, simply enjoying each other under the setting sun.




Brave Shine by AmaLee, 4:07
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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28 October 2004
11:29 pm
On a Thursday
Auburn Strait, between Mainland Prydania and Tempest Holm

The night sky was glowing from the fire and the flashes of gunfire. The Syndicalist Destroyer SPS Einleikar was already beginning to sway after running the mine. Henning Borup and Allan Leth strapped on their life vests as the rest of their servicemen following suit. The sky was lit again as more explosions rocked the prone vessel.

"They're not letting up, we need to jump now" Allan said in a grave tone.

"Yeah, but who's they?"

"Royalist terrorists" Allan replied, gritting his teeth.

They both jumped overboard into the water, the cold instantly cutting them to the bone before their bodies acclimated as best they could. Water splashed into their eyes as they did their best to remain afloat, the chaos of the attack still disorienting them.

What they could see, however, were the smaller vessels that had ambushed them after they had run into the mine. The flames of the damaged Einleikar illuminated the white cross on the red field, a stag in a diamond in the centre. FNU Raiders. And they were quick, getting the sailors out of the water on the largest craft and forcing them to their knees. And there was the Captain, Erland Lund, his uniform's jacket overtop of his pyjamas. Henning and Allan could see him, likewise on his knees, talking to a man standing before him. Wearing a black hooded jacket. They couldn't tell what was being said, but it hardly mattered. The man in the black hooded jacket pulled a handgun from his belt and put a bullet between the Syndicalist captain's head. He hardly seemed put off as his own men ruffed up a Syndicalist sailor who protested. Two more Raiders tossed the body of the shot Captain Lund over the side of the boat.

The man, who seemed in charge, pulled the hood down. The fire illuminating it enough to see that his visage was weathered, a black moustache over his upper lip.

"Ronnie Frost" Allan remarked, almost in disbelief. Ronnie the Royalist Raider, an officer said to have survived the scuttling of the Royalist carrier the KPS Stormurathvarf. The only sailor to survive, it was said. The utterance earned him the butt of the rifle of one of the FNU raiders, and this seemed to catch Frost's attention.

"And what do we have here?" he asked as he made his way to the group of Syndicalist soldiers. The way he moved...the confidence of which he moved...was almost intimidating itself. He didn't seem scared to walk into a crowd of enemy soldiers. Sure, his men had guns but any number of them could have jumped him before anyone had time to react. And Ronnie Frost moved with a swagger that almost dared any of them to try. None did.

"This guy seems to be a fan boss" the soldiers who hit Allan Leth remarked.

"Is that so?" Frost asked with a slight smile.
"Well if that's the case, I hope you and your friends will be honoured to be my guests. Always nice to have some Syndies on board" he chuckled.

"You...you kill people" Henning managed to stutter. Frost, however, took it in stride.

"I do" he said in a matter of fact manner.
"And you're lucky you weren't the captain. But don't push your luck" he said with a self-confident smirk.

"Lock 'em up" he remarked to his men.
"We'll take 'em to one of the bases. See what good any of 'em are to us. Provided any are smart enough to stay alive between here and there."

Henning, Allan, and the rest of the captured officers and sailors were pulled to their feet and marched below deck as Frost watched the Syndicalist destroyer slowly succumb to its wounds.
"No peace" he remarked, before returning to duty. The raiding party had to get out of sight soon. And there would be no sleep until they were safe.



The Autumn Wind by Steve Sabol and John Facenda, 2: 38
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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3 April 2016
6:53 pm
On a Sunday
Stormurholmr, Prydania


The castle of Stormurkastala and the island of Stormurholmr had been secured since the SRFD, Andrennian, and Goyanean navies had pushed the rest of the Syndicalist Navy out of the Auburn Straits. The secured Loðbrók castle had afforded the Crown Prince of Prydania a degree of freedom to explore.
Tobias was indeed eager to take advantage of such opportunities. His own family's history was something he'd wanted to understand. His own direct link to it- his parents- had been taken from him when he was still a young child. And so anything that helped him understand what his family was and meant was like a gleaming curiosity to be obsessed over.
It also helped him understand why so many people he didn't know were willing to die for him. The name "Loðbrók" meant something to them. He needed to understand why it should mean something to him. Especially now. Especially after Hadden, now that they stood a real chance at victory.

It was during these adventures searching Stormurkastala and the land around it that he had found an area off of the beaten path along the shore, tucked between the castle and the island. Interlocking basalt columns seemed to explode out from the land, imposing surfaces of powerful rock serving as natural auditorium for a large stone alter of sorts.
Tobias had wanted to explore when he found it, but the sensation that burned in his belly when he thought he spoke to Jägdar had resurfaced. His nerves, previously adventurous, shook. He'd returned to the FNU camp, restless. The war continued though, and before long the the FNU and their allies were pushing in western Prydania. William had informed him that they would be departing the next day back to the mainland. And it was in that moment that Tobias knew he had to explore that place hidden against the rocky shores of the island his family had claimed so many centuries ago.

It was late and the grey skies were just windy enough to be heard. Spurts of rain spattered on the Prince's face as he stood there, his feet planted in the rock and dirt. He wiped away some rain from his eyes, Veiðiblað strapped across his back. He brought it because it had shown him glimpses of things...and like with Jägdar? Maybe he needed it for...whatever this place was.

He began to walk towards the natural rock structure, the wind blowing and the rain falling on him. He couldn't explain how, but it felt as if his steps dug a bit deeper into the dirt than before, and that the rain fell maybe a bit harder. As if approaching this place brought him closer to the elements themselves.

"Craviter is an interesting place. The elements are alive. The rain is a bit heavier, fire burns brighter, and the shadows seem deeper. Even Eras...the dirt and rock feels vibrant and powerful."
That's what Jørn had told him. And he'd also told him that his people, Andrennian Nords, were not native here. The land would test them. Always. Like how Hróarr Loðbrók only settled Stormurholmr after surviving a raging tempest.
Tobias stood before the alter as the wind blew through his hair, his heart racing. He had no idea why, but his anxiety was on the rise. Had he talked himself into feeling nervous? Had he let the atmosphere cloud his judgment? He bit his lower lip as he looked up to where the grey skies touched the tips of the rock columns. He drew Veiðiblað from its sheath over his shoulder and proceeded the large stone at the centre of the natural columns. He noticed a grey stone amongst the basalt, standing out by its paler colour and the runes upon it. He didn't stop, though his heart did jump as he walked by it, approaching the stone that served as a natural alter. He placed his sword on it, unsure what he should do...he didn't have Jørn here.

"So..." Tobias mumbled. He stood in the centre of the ring of rock columns, the wind blowing between and around them, the sound of the surf behind them echoing in the shadow of the castle his ancestor had built.
"I hope I didn't come out here to stand in the rain for nothing..." he looked around. The grey sky was getting darker. What had brought on that moment with Jägdar? He'd gripped his sword where Jørn told him to stay and it had...come to him. If this alter, in a ring of stone, wasn't where he should be standing than he didn't know where was. Maybe there was nothing to this place? He'd worked himself up over nothing? He placed the sword down on the stone that resembled an alter and placed his hands on it as he leaned into it, closing his eyes...and it was in that darkness that the sounds of the wind and the surf vanished.
"Toby?"

He opened his eyes, blackness all around him, save for the stone alter. He grabbed the sword, heart racing.
"Fuck" he muttered. True...he'd wanted to induce something, if anything was here. And now that he had? He immediately began to regret it.

"Toby?"

He looked around, not seeing anything but remembering the voice.
"Krista!"

He moved into the direction of the voice, realizing that he wasn't in a black void. No...there was rock and dirt and leaves under his feet, and if he squinted he could see the makings of a rocky and foreboding forest in the dead of night. He looked up...the stars were gone.

"Toby?"

"Krista!" he called out again, sure it was her this time. It had been years but...he'd never forget her voice. The woods he found himself in were unnaturally quiet. Every step he took, every twig his boots snapped in half, seemed to echo.

Finally he thought he saw some light.

"Toby?"

He rushed to it, running through the woods as fast as he could.
"Krista! I'm coming!" his mind was racing. He knew she was dead. He knew it! And he knew damn well that whatever...this...was he wasn't seeing his own reality but...he missed her. And if she needed him, here or anywhere else....

He hacked through dense dead tree branches with Veiðiblað to get to the clearing where he thought he saw her, only she was gone.

"Krista!" he called out, breathing deep as his heartbeat raced.

"Toby?"

He turned. She was right there!
"Oh my God....Krista" he could hardly believe it, chocking up as he reached for her and....nothing. She'd scattered into the darkness in what seemed like hundreds of dead leaves.

"KRISTA!" he called out, sheathing his sword as he looked around, now frantic to find her.
"Where are you?" It's alright" he called out, forcing himself up a nearby risen ridge of rock to maybe get a better look around in the darkness.

"Krista!" he called out again before falling to a sitting position atop the stone, his frustration mounting.
"Krista! Where are you?" he called out again as he began to tear up.
"I'm sorry I didn't say goodbye...I didn't know....I didn't know...I miss you so much..." he tossed his head back as he gasped.

"I miss you too" he heard her once more and looked around panicked until he saw a soft green light. It was different from the one that had drawn him to Krista but he quickly got to his feet, chasing after it. It didn't take long. The light began to take form, a figure in a green clock, and holding a bow. Tobias could tell, even in the darkness, that the figure had stag antlers protruding from its head.

"Who's there?" he called out. The figure remained silent.
"Where's Krista?" he called out. The figure remained silent. Tobias' jaw tightened as he grit his teeth, drawing the sword again and marching towards the figure.
"Where is she?" he bellowed.

"Safe" the voice was deeper than before, darker...but it was still Jägdar's.

"Where?"

"Safe."

"That's not what I asked!"

"It's what you need to know."

Tobias chuckled in frustration, his grip on the sword's hilt tightening.
"Yeah? And what else do I need to know?"

Jägdar raised bow and aimed it to his right, firing off a glowing green arrow into the distance.
"You'll find out there" he said, pointing.

Tobias wasn't fuming...no it was something else. Frustration mixed with adrenaline mixed with curiosity.
"Go find what you need to know, what you've needed to know" Jägdar said. Tobias only grunted and took off in the direction of the deity's arrow, hacking at the dead branches that got in the way. He marched with a sort of defiant determination, trudging through the dark forest. Only the faintest glow of green in the distance alerting him to his destination. He was sure he was getting closer, but at times he had to stop, to take measure of the distance. Each time he re-assured himself that he was getting closer.

Eventually he reached it, the arrow glowing a soft green, stuck in the dirt. He reached down to grab it only to see something in the corner of his eye.

"Dad!" he was sure of it. The memories from his childhood had faded, but no. That was his father.
"Dad!" he nearly tripped over himself making his way to where he saw his father between the trees, only for the figure of Robert vanish into leaves.
Tobias didn't even have time to respond in frustration. A fierce, angry hound that seemed to twitch with energy jumped from where his father had vanished, knocking him down.

He kicked at the beast's stomach as he held his hands up, shielding himself from it's mashing jaws, finally landing a kick to drive the animal off of him. He quickly grabbed his sword from the forest floor and charged the hound, hacking at it, before it turned to dust...
The Prince stood there, panting as he held the sword in midair, as if he were bracing to hack at flesh and bone. But nothing....

"You don't die easy, but I have plenty of hungry dogs."

He looked to his left, and charged with a furious rage at the form of Thomas Nielsen, hacking the dogs that emerged from the darkness behind him with Veiðiblað.
"They're base creatures, but they're loyal. And they're vicious" Nielsen remarked as Tobias hacked at the beasts, trying to keep them away.
"And they're pack hunters. You can kill one..." Tobias drove his sword into the side of one of the dogs..."but you won't kill all of them." He twisted his body, grunting as he tried to toss off another dog that had leapt for his torso.
"Swing away...eventually they'll overwhelm you. All for a little meat and blood I've promised."

Tobias glared at Nielsen before driving the sword into one of the beasts and quickly slicing the blade through it and up, into Nielsen's stomach...
He looked into his eyes.
"Fucking die" he muttered as the body of Thomas Nielsen disintegrated into ash, Tobias falling through it, to his knees. He continued to grip the sword, gasping as he looked around, seething before letting out a loud yell.

"WHAT WAS THAT? HUH? JUST SHOW ME WHAT YOU WANT TO SHOW ME!" he yelled as he gripped the sword.

"That was my greatest failure."

Tobias looked up before frantically standing before his own father.
"Dad I..." he began to cry.

"I know..." Robert replied, placing a hand on his shoulder.
"I love you too...and I'm proud of you. Tell William I'm glad he raised my boy."

"Dad, I love you and I just...I want to talk" Tobias gasped, panicked that his father would be gone as soon as he came.

"We did" Robert replied with a soft smile before vanishing into leaves. Tobias reached out though the foliage, only to suddenly be standing among the basalt columns on the beach of Stormurholmr once more. The sound of the wind and surf returned, and the sky was still grey, not yet evening. As if no almost no time had passed.

Tobias stood there, trembling as he slid his sword into its sheath flung over his back before he collapsed to the ground, sitting as he leaned into the alter. He breathed deep as he smiled softly, nodding to himself.




There's a Hero in You by Lauren Strahm, Tommee Profitt, and Fleurie, 3:16
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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20 April 2007
6:42 pm
On a Friday
Somewhere near Kings' Lake, Prydania

Jørn Stöðuvatn strolled by the shore of Kings' Lake enjoying the way the sunset reflected off the water. He sighed as he buried both hands in his trouser pockets.
Prydansk. It was beautiful. Truly beautiful. And yet the natural beauty was crushed under the Syndicalist heel. Indeed, turning on a radio in these parts could get you the RÙV reporting on the latest round of public executions from the major cities. Five years in and the Syndicalist purges were still happening.

Yet here...he appreciated the beauty. This was a truly special place. Deep enough into Austurland that Syndicalists dared not tread. And out of the reach of the chaos in Norsia. The Crownlands burnt, but here? There was beauty.
That's exactly why his friend had set up his home here. Out of the way. In a little corner of the world untouched by madness. Jørn was excited to see him too, it's why he was here. He didn't have exact directions. That would be risky. He had a knack for knowing things he should know when he saw it though. So he strolled down the lake, calmly, appreciating the beauty. He whistled an old Prydanian folk song as he did. It was about the journey easy to this land, when the ancestors of modern Prydanians sailed in their longboats and arrived on these shores. How brave they were. To sail for a new life and destiny, into the unknown.
"What must they think of the state of things now?" he asked himself.
"Don't worry Hróarr" he added, "I do plenty of crying for the both of us."

It was then that he caught sight of a figure just up along the shoreline. Not a soldier, no need to be alarmed. It was a child- a boy to be exact, and he was holding a fishing rod, a cottage not too far in the distance.

"Hello!" Jørn called out, waving in a friendly manner. The boy looked up started but relied upon seeing it wasn't a soldier and waved back to him.

"Sorry" Jørn called out again as he approached.
"You're the first person I've seen all day! You're quite a sight for sore eyes."

The boy looked at him before returning to his fishing.
"Yeah not a lot of people around" he said softly.

"No I don't suppose so" Jørn replied as he got closer. The boy was sitting on a smooth rock that jutted out just close though to the lake's shore to make an ideal fishing spot.
"Can I join you?" Jørn asked, motioning to the empty space on the rock next to him.

The boy shrugged again.
"Yeah, go for it."

"Why thank you" Jørn replied as he sat.
"I've been traveling all day and you're the first soul I've seen since I started. It's good to talk to someone."

"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers" the boy replied nervously.

Jørn nodded.
"Well neither am I, young man. But seeing as we're both starved for conversation? I think we should both make exceptions."

"I'm not starved for conversation" the boy protested, only for Jørn to chuckle.

"You're fishing. Alone. Trust me, you're starved for conversation."

The boy just stayed silent for a few moments before speaking again.
"I can't catch anything."

"Well that's why they call it fishing. If it were easy they'd just call it catching."

The boy chuckled at that and Jørn smiled.
"An old friend told me that. An old Shaddaist Cohen. He was very wise. And witty."

"You know Shaddaists?" the boy asked.
"I thought they were all getting killed."

Jørn sighed.
"Yes" he said. "They are. A lot of people are."

"My parents were" the boy said quietly, looking down at his crossed legs as he sat.

Jørn just sighed again.
"I'm truly sorry to hear that, my young friend" he said softly.

"Yeah..." the boy replied, his mood shifting into one of quiet trauma. Jørn shook his head. A generation of traumatized victims- that's what Nielsen's glorious Syndicalist future looked like.

"You're young" Jørn said firmly.
"And I know the world seems like it's just...well...harsh. It didn't used to be though. I truly hope you and others your age can see the Prydania I remember return."

"I just wish the people killing other people would stop" the boy replied. Jørn smiled meekly.

"Me too, lad." He paused for a moment before continuing.
"I hope you have someone to take care of you." He wasn't eager to have to take a companion. He didn't do that anymore.

"Yeah" the boy nodded, motioning with his head up to the cottage.
"I live there with my uncle."

"Can you introduce me to him?" Jørn asked.
"I'm looking for my friend who lives around here. He's supposed to be nearby, but I haven't found him. I've been travelling all day and I would greatly appreciate a place to stay the night.

"Yeah I guess" the boy answered, as he just half-heartedly stared at the water as he continued to fail to get any nibbles.
"You're not a Syndie. Uncle Will's going to be ok with that."

Jørn's mind suddenly snapped alert.
"You're uncle's named Will?"

"Yeah" the boy replied, disinterested.

"Will Aubyn?"

"Yeah." More disinterest.

"You're uncle! He's my friend! I've been looking for his home all day!"

"Oh? That's pretty cool" the boy replied, reeling in his empty line, his voice laced with disappointment at his lack of a catch.

"Wait" Jørn muttered to himself.
"William Aubyn..." he thought back...no. He was sure of it. William Aubyn was an only child. He didn't have any nieces or nephews.

"My name's Jørn" he said slyly.

"Mine's Toby" the boy replied, gathering his fishing pole up.
"Come on. Let's get back before it gets dark."

Jørn just chuckled, further amused by his the boy's complete lack of awareness of just what he'd revealed to him.

"What's so funny?" Toby asked as he led Jørn to the cabin.

"Nothing, nothing. But also everything."

"What do you mean?"

"It's just funny how history can work sometimes. I'll explain it to you later."

Toby just shrugged, humming the same tune Jørn had been humming earlier, and Jørn just looked up at the stars starting to emerge in the twilight sky.

"You never cease to amaze me" he thought to himself.




Andrew's Song by End of Silence, 3:48
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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4 April 2008
1:00 pm
On a Friday
Beaconsviði, Prydania


Vestgeir Sloth made his way through the Ströget neighbourhood of Beaconsviði. He could remember when the streets here were full of stalls and stands, a market that brought in farmers, craftsmen, and merchants from all over. The stalls and stands were gone, replaced by storefronts run by the Syndicalist Party apparatus. They called them "SamTakFir Shops," which meant community takeover. That was the line, you see. That the bourgeoisie market owners had "abandoned" the economy when the Syndicalist Revolution occurred. The new proprietors were "community-run," taking charge after this "market abandonment."
Of course the Peoples' Militia, baring the emblem of the Syndicalist Party, patrolling the space between the shops indicated who was really in charge.
Vestgeir- Vest to his friends- hated the Peoples' Militia. Wannabe soldiers, the lot of them. They carried themselves with so much arrogance because they had the government and party's backing. Yet here they were. Patrolling the markets to ensure Syndicalist Council-approved storefronts adhered strictly to party-mandated prices.
"Yes, truly these brave Militia were the first line of defence against the collapse of the Syndicalist state" he thought as he rolled his eyes.

And wouldn't you know it...that was what the lecture stand was going on about. The group had been a fixture since the Syndicalist Revolution. A series of tables erected outside of the Markaðurbygging- the new name of the old Hveiti Department Store- manned by students wearing red armbands, flanked by banners bearing revolutionary slogans. They always had some person or another giving a speech via loudspeaker. Today it was a young woman, no older than twenty-five, going on about the dangers of being a "backslider."

"Our enemies probe at our new society in every direction!" she proclaimed.
"Both within and without! Ask yourselves, comrades, who is more to blame? The foreign capitalist agitator from Kalgary, Gojannesstad, or Mitta, or the enemy within, taken in by their lies? The Prydanian who lets themselves backslide into reactionary thought, to turn against the morally superior and progressive future we are building, harms his kin. His friends. His neighbours! Be alert! Not just amongst your fellow comrades, but within your mind! Resist being a backslider! Seek out your local socialist discussion groups! Stay vigilant and help us keep the Revolution alive!"

Vest just kept walking with the crowd as he passed. They were protected by the Militia, but dammit, some days he'd appreciate some peace and quiet. Though he noticed Bergum was missing for the list of foreign capitals. Sometimes Bergum was an enemy, sometimes they just weren't mentioned. Probably the whims of the Syndicalist Presidium's Foreign Ministry.
Still, he kept his expression neutral. He didn't want to risk the wrath of the Militia. The fact that some of the lecture stand's early student roster seemed to have vanished over the last few years, replaced with people who looked like hard-nosed Syndicalist Party enforcers, wasn't lost on him.

Finally, he got to the shop, unlocking it and switching the "Be Back Later" sign with "Open." It wasn't his shop, very few people owned stores these days. You merely paid rent to the local Syndicalist Council, who kept the bookstore open. And he worked for Ms. Torp. Her father used to the own the store, if Vest could recall. He vanished around the time of the Revolution. Ms. Torp, however, wasn't in today. Sick. The winter had been brutal. And still wasn't entirely gone, even in April.

He set his coat down across the back of his chair before heading off to make some coffee. He'd hear the bell ring if anyone came in.
The packet of coffee grinds was in Cogorian. He couldn't read it himself. He peered out of the window as the coffee machine worked. The same brick wall with "SYNDIKALISMI- FRELSI LAUNAFÓLKS"* painted across. He was twenty-six when the Revolution occurred, six years prior. He'd been an a-political sort, but the local Syndicalist Council had found him this job after a few years of aimlessness. He couldn't complain. Or more like wouldn't. If you just kept your head down....

BANG BANG BANG!

...you ended up like that. The sound of gunfire echoing through the shop and the alleyways. He'd read about the executions. More reactionaries caught. He had no interest in seeing the executions live himself. Only the most dedicated Party loyalists and fanatics went to them.

He returned to the shop's front desk and took his seat, sipping his coffee lightly he unfurled the newspaper, skipping to sports. The hockey playoffs were scheduled to start soon...
Suddenly the bell run. A young man, maybe twenty years old, entered, a side bag slung around his shoulder.

"Hello" Vest replied, a bit startled but otherwise pleasant.
"How can I help you?"

"Greetings comrade!" the young man replied. You didn't need to greet people as "comrade," that was just a Syndicalist Party thing, but more and more younger people were doing it in their day to day routine.
"I was told that..." he said as he approached the desk, fumbling his side bag open as he pulled out a folder of papers, "...this shop would have what I'm looking for. Copies of Modern Economies and Trade by Alexander Luttenberg and The Exchange by Jayesh Bhakta."

Vest lowered his glasses and looked up him. Two of the texts that could be considered the foundations of capitalist economic theory. Not the sort of books you found much of these days, after the massive public burnings. He re-adjusted his glasses and pulled out a ledger from under the desk, going through it.
"Yes, we have one copy of each," that being all the store was allowed to carry, "for rent only. In the Controlled Literature section. But there are a number of processes to go through to get access and..."

The young man, however, wasn't bothered.
"I think I have everything, comrade." He set the folder down on the desk and produced a number of documents.
"I'm writing a paper on the follies of social evolutionary thought, and I need them as sources of reactionary thought..here."
He handed Vest a stack of papers.
"That has my academic proposal, my professor's statement of support for the project, the school's Party head who's verified the project is in-line with ideological orthodoxy and finally...." he produced a paper with the Syndicalist Party emblem.
"The local council's Academic chair has signed off on it too."

Vest sighed. Mostly because if, all of these documents were in order, he'd have to follow procedure. And that was always a pain. Unfortunately everything seemed to be in place.
"Ok. I'll need to phone the Council. They need to send over someone to oversee the collection and transfer for the books."

"Of course comrade!" the young man said eagerly as Vest picked up the phone and dialed.

"Yes, hello. Vestgeir Sloth. Assistant Manager, Attic Books. Yes. I have a student here, with all the relevant paperwork to check out items in our Controlled Literature room and...yes. Yes, if you could send someone over. Thank you, comrade." He didn't use "comrade" himself much, but it paid to do so with the Council. They liked it.
"They're sending someone over now" he said as he pushed the student's papers back towards him and returned to his newspaper.
"Used to be, you didn't need to go through this hassle to get a book, but I suppose they have their reasons..."

"Of course!" the student replied.
"Imagine if that literature were floating around. We have enough trouble with backsliders as it is!"

Vest only looked up for a moment. He hated the youth these days. He had no innate desire to challenge the party or the government, but the blind, total obedience the younger crowd showed was bloody infuriating at times. And threatening. A pit opened in his stomach, but he didn't let it show. If this kid mentioned he was less than eager...
"Quite right" he added in agreement. The student seemed satisfied though.
"So what are you studying?" he asked.

"Social-economic theory, before the Revolution. It's a fascinating field."

An entire field of study for something not even a decade old...Vest chuckled.
"Well that sounds interesting. I take it we'll be seeing you as a party head in the future?"

"Oh I don't know about that. I hope to enter the Economic Ministry. We can best plan our future when we are fully aware of the past's follies."

"That does makes sense" Vest replied, trying to sound interested. Just then the bell to the door rang. A People's Militia soldier entered.

"Council sent me" he said gruffly.

"Yes" Vest replied.
"This young man is checking out books in our Controlled Literature section. He's got the proper authorization. I just need you to sign off on the transfer?"

"Where's the Controlled Literature section?"

"Just back there" Vest pointed to the hallway leading to the store's back.

"Lead the way. You, follow" the solider said to both Vest and the student.

Vest led them to a room in the back, the old wooden frame causing the touch pad to stand out. He swiped his ID card from the Council and entered the passcode.
"Stay here, comrade" the soldier said to the student, who nodded agreeably. He entered the room with Vest, about as big as a large pantry, stocked with books. Vest found the two and removed them. Old dusty covers and that old book smell to go along with the yellowed pages.
"Those are them?"

"Yes."

The soldier nodded and motioned Vest to leave. He handed the books over to the student. He didn't have to pay. Controlled Literature rentals were free with the right authorizations.
"You have a week with them before they're due back" Vest said.

"Or else we'll have to pay a visit" the soldier added. The student nodded.

"Of course comrades. Thank you for your time!" he stuffed his papers and the books into his side bag and left.

"Did you make a note of the professor who authorized his project?" the solider asked, once the student had departed. Vest was shocked he'd ask but he nodded.
"We do for all of these sorts of requests. A Professor Linda Schou, University of Beaconsviði. Her evaluation was signed off by the University's Party head."

"Sometimes people approve things they shouldn't. We need to stay vigilant against backsliders." That word again. Must be the Party's new bugbear. "You took the student's name?"

Vest looked at the soldier. He didn't have to do that. It was a weird omission from the Council's rulebook, but all he had to do was record the professor's name. Still...he nodded nervously. If that student reported him for being less than enthusiastic about the Controlled Literature process...

"Kalf Loth, student# 297-B1794W96."

"Backsliders would be interested in these books. Thank you for the information comrade" the soldier remarked, scribbling names down in a notebook. "You've been most helpful."

Vest nodded nervously, signing with relief as the soldier left. He fidgeted a bit. At what he had just done. He frantically clutched the newspaper to check the hockey scores. Hockey and a good cup of coffee...all he needed to get his mind off of what had just happened. At least for a little while.



*SYNDIKALISMI- FRELSI LAUNAFÓLKS = SYNDICALISM- WORKERS' LIBERTY



Greetings From a Dead Man by Eurythmics, 6:12
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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5 June 2017
12:07 pm
On a Monday

Beaconsviði, Prydania

Beaconsviði...capital of the Prydanian Realm. Seat of Kings and Queens, and then the heart of Syndicalist government, for nearly one thousand years.
Victory. The Syndicalists were defeated. It was finally over. FNU soldiers and assorted Royalist militia cheered as they tore down Syndicalist emblems and posters, Syndicalist flags yanked down and replaced by the spiked cross. To cheering crowds.

Tobias had seen scenes like this play out before but the scale of which he saw in the capital was still a shock to him. Crowds of people pelted Syndicalist soldiers and Peoples' Militia members as they were paraded through the streets by FNU guards. He felt an urge to join them...and yet...he sat back down in the chair of the conference room in the Alþingi building he was staying in. No one was keeping him here. Except himself. Then he heard it...

"The land of God and Forests..." rang out through the streets. The old Royal anthem of Prydania. Reborn. He bit his lower lip, his finger tapping the conference table eagerly before he took off. He didn't know where he was going. Out? To the crowd? No...he stopped himself. He couldn't. He...he couldn't be what the people of this city needed right now. Still, he couldn't stay holed up. He took off in the other direction, to the stairwell, and eagerly ran up, to the top of the building, eagerly running out into the fresh air. He walked to the edge of the building. No one was looking up...he could see everything. Not much different from where he had been, but it felt different. Better, that he was outside and active. He sighed.

He was home. Yet the realm suffered. It was old, it was weak. And now...now that they had won, could he be the king these people needed. He breathed deep and looked around. He could see the ruined landscape of Beaconsviði... the coloured houses, the old buildings, scarred by smoke, fire, rubble. And yet... the city was alive. People danced in the streets...some might consider the victory in the capital- the end of the war- dampened because of the damage. Right now at least? People seemed ecstatic. Priests, Pastors, and Cohen, once more allowed to wear their vestments in public, did so with large crowds of their respective faithful as those hung by the Syndicalists during the last days of the battle were lowered and blessed in preparation for proper burials. Fireworks and drink were had. Tobias wished he could join them.
Instead he sat down, his back against the thick brick towers that rose from the roof of the Alþingi building. He let his eyes wander up to the bright blue sky. He didn't know how long he had let his mind wander- the sound from the street down below didn't change. He just stared at the clouds until a voice snapped him out of it.

"What are you thinking about?"

Tobias looked up, smiling as he saw William approaching.

"A lot...I guess" he mused.

"I would have thought you'd be down there. We've secured the city...it's safe. You should enjoy yourself. People want to see you."

"They want to see...someone. The King of Prydania. Do you think I'm ready?"

William just chuckled as he sat down next to the Prince.

"You always told me what was expected of me and Jörn always said..."

"Toby?" William interrupted.
"Jörn is a good man. But right now? You need to forget everything he said. Hell, forget everything I ever taught you. "

"What do you mean?" Tobias replied, Jörn's lessons on the flows of history and the role he played in it racing through his head against a backdrop of William's lessons on politics and history.

"Come on" William stood, beckoning Tobias to follow back to the edge of the roof so they could both see the celebrations down in the streets.

"Do you know why they're celebrating?"

"The defeat of the Syndicalists?"

"Yes, but why?"

"Freedom?"

William chuckled.
"Sort of. Sort of but...no. They're celebrating the freedom they have now...because you're going to be King."

"I haven't done anything though! You're the head of the provisional government, you're the one who..."

"It doesn't matter. They're celebrating that you're King. And the war you won against the Syndicalists."

Tobias stayed quiet, blushing a bit at the last one.
"I...that's all just..." he felt his tongue get tied, but he managed to get the words right in his mind.
"I'm just one person. You, Stig, our soldiers..."

William shook his head chuckling.
"Toby, you're the lone survivor of the main branch of the Loðbrók family. The last true son of Heorot. Wielder of Veiðiblað, avenger of Markarfljot. You killed Filip Fuglsang, the man who burned Hadden. Your name encouraged the Storm of Keris, and some say" William chuckled, "that Jägdar spoke to you."

"Toby" William continued, "soldiers win wars...but people also need symbols to inspire them. I know you've never felt ready. I did my best but you can never be ready for something like this. But these people, they believe in a better Prydania because of you. This country that's been been through civil war, political purges, persecutions... people believe in a future because of you. What you represent. A better Prydania. Because of what you are, and what you've done."

Tobias stared at the people in the street for another moment before nodding, giving William a soft smile before he turned to head down.

"And remember one more thing" William remarked.

"Yeah?"

William just smirked for a moment before he pulled out a cigarette.
"I'm proud of you."

Tobias returned William, his heart racing a bit. He already had so much trouble processing the fact that...that the war was over. And now this. He just hugged him tight...William embraced him back.
"Don't worry about anything, but being yourself. You're a good person. That's why people look to you."

Tobias nodded, looking at William. He didn't say anything. He just forced his doubts to the back of his mind, steeling himself.




Tobias emerged from the Alþingi building...the old Syndicalist barricades reinforced, now manned by Royalist militia. FNU troops kept the people in the street under control, but none they none the less drank and danced to impromptu music.
The Prince didn't do much to draw attention to himself, even as the guards both turned and offered him a salute. Soon though, one man in his late thirties, noticed him.

"It's the fucking King!" he proclaimed, causing Tobias to blush a bit. He slowly walked up to the barricades, and then past it to join the crown.

"Let me shake your hand" the man added, "if I may, Your Majesty."

"Of course you can" he replied, shaking his hand firmly as more people began to congregate, someone shoving a can of beer into his hands. There were groups of people just passing them out. The Syndicalist Party stores must have been raided by the mob.

The guards got a bit nervous. Tobias thought he should calm their nerves, but something happened. That instinct took a life of its own. He waved down the guards and hopped on the barricade, holding up his beer as he popped it up.
"To Prydania, rålte!"

The crowd erupted in cheers, and another rendition of The Land of Gods and Forests erupted. Soon though, before it was even over, a new song began to emerge. One Tobias was familiar with. A folk song that had emerged from FNU controlled territory during the war. One that now radiated through the streets of the capital.

Tobias breathed deep and felt a strange calm wash over him. The first time he'd felt this calm in fifteen years. A smiled crawled across his face as, without any prompting, the crowd before him sang For the King, to Valhalla*.




Farewell Apollo by Bear McCreary, 3:00

*
When a humble bard
Graced a ride along
With Tobias Loðbrók
Along came this song

From when the true Prince fought
A silver-tongued scoundrel
His army of thugs
At his command did they revel

They came after me
With masterful deceit
Broke down my door
And they kicked in my teeth

While the devil’s horns
Minced our tender meat
And so cried the Prince
He can’t be bleat

For the King, to Valhalla
O’ Valley of Plenty
O’ Valley of Plenty
O’
For the King, to Valhalla
O’ Valley of Plenty

At our edge of the world
Fight the Syndie horde
That bashes and breaks you
And brings you to mourn

He thrust every thug
Far back on the shelf
To the pits in the mountain
From whence it came

He wiped out your pest
Got kicked in his chest
He’s a friend of the realm
So give him the rest

That’s my epic tale
Our champion prevailed
Defeated the Syndies
Now pour him some ale

For the King, to Valhalla
O’ Valley of Plenty
O’ Valley of Plenty
O’
For the King, to Valhalla
And friend of the realm
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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4 September 2002
7:40 pm
On a Wednesday
Beaconsviði, Prydania

Hannah Loðbrók stared daggers at Thomas Nielsen. The screaming, angry crowds before them seemed to fade into a blur, static noise. It was shock, perhaps, in the wake of Astrid's execution that had just concluded to the frenzied cheering of the Syndicalist Party's most ardent supporters.

"Any last words, Princess?" Nielsen asked, approaching Hannah, the contempt dripping from his lips as he said her title.

"You get the fuck away from her" Robert growled, only to get a rifle but to his gut, keeling him over as the crowd cheered.
Hannah felt her blood go cold watcher her husband's assaults from the stone-faced Peoples' Militia soldiers, only to glare back at a smirking Thomas Nielsen.

"We were your friends, Thomas" she seethed.

"You and your husband" the Syndicalist leader retorted, "could have joined us in our glorious future. Now you die like the rest of the garbage."

"When you've won" Hannah replied, "and you've crisscrossed the country with your gang of thugs and thieves, what will you do then?"

Thomas Walked over to Robert, yanking him up by the hair.
"Goodbye old friend" he growled.

"Go fu..." was all Robert could say before Nielsen personally put a bullet in his head.

"Robert!" Hannah cried out only for Thomas to smack her down to more frenzied reactions from the crowd.

"Pull her up!" he yelled as the guards forced her to her feet once more.
"To answer your question" he replied, leaning in to whisper.
"I'm going to create desolation, and call it peace. And I will find your son. And he will join you in the trash-heap of history."

"You'll never find him" she said calmly.

"And how do you know that?"

"Because I'm confident in ever-lasting life, and the human spirit. You will lose."

"If you and your husband" Nielsen hissed, leaning in, "are humans, then you are the last of your kind. A new Prydania, led by new kinds of men, begins today."

Hannah closed her eyes, her body in a tense sort of calm. The inevitable was upon her.
"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will..." she began, to the confusion of the guards.

"What's the bitch saying?" one asked.

"...shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children."

"Ezekiel 25:17" Nielsen replied.
"Just some reliegous nonsense" he added before turning from Hannah.
"Shoot her."

"And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers, and you will know My name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee" Hannah finished, glaring at the guard who was tasked with executing her. Everything was cold. Her blood. The blood of the man tasked with shooting her. Time seemed to stand still. The roaring of the partisan crowd drowned everything out as Nielsen walked down the steps of the platform erected for the public execution of the Royal family.
And then a gun shot. And Hannah Loðbrók fell to join her husband.




Für Elise by Ludwig van Beethoven, 2:55
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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4 June 2017
2:50 pm
On a Sunday

Beaconsviði, Prydania

"Prydania is bleeding. I suppose I should be grateful it's one last bloodletting. One more pound of flesh to extract. You owe me that much, don't you? You took everything from me. My mother and father, my cousins, uncles...I watched you do it. I watched you and your rabid dogs tear into my family like scraps of meet tossed from a dinner table. How can I not want to see my soldiers drain you of everything you have left?"




"I'm alone in this miserable place, my final stand. Memories haunt me, of the dead, of the men, women, and children I sacrificed. I regret nothing though. You could never understand. I had to do what I did. I faced the unknown. The glorious future that awaited us, if only someone was willing to grab it! And I did...I planned, I plotted. I saw my moment in history. And I knew, I couldn't let it pass. Good or bad, I would do what I had to do for my people. The working people of this country. You, oh child of privilege, would have never known hardship without me. If I am to die today? If the Syndicalist dream vanishes? Then you can thank me. As your most important teacher. It's me you will thank if you do indeed prove a capable ruler."




"I wasn't even ten years old, and I was torn from my home, my family. I watched everyone I had ever known die. Well after fifteen years, I'm coming home. Finally, I'm returning to the city of my birth. With soldiers marching in my name. You left me with nothing, and now I return with an army. Thank you? No, don't delude yourself. I am here in spite of you, not because of you. I travelled all over this country. I met people, people who were nearly in tears to see me still alive. People who I never knew who were willing to risk their lives for me. If my uncle is all their was, if SoCom was all my family's legacy amounted to, then what does that say about you?"




"I'm a man treading water at sea, you know that. I'll be dead soon. Put any thoughts of vengeance out of your mind, I will not let your lot take me. I won't stand for William Aubyn and Stig Eiderwig's victor's justice. My death will be the last great tragedy. The last defiant scream of the Syndicalist movement. I will live forever as man out of time, a sentinel to a movement's legacy. The only common man to lead this country. You'll never take that away from me or my memory."




"You led this country, but you never understood it. How could you? At first I only knew what a Syndicalist was in terms of hate. I hated you, and what you were, what you believed, meant nothing to me. But then...then I learnt. I discovered. I know more about you than you think. And that's why you failed. Prydania sits atop Craviter. The elements are alive. The rain is a bit heavier, fire burns brighter, and the shadows seem deeper. Even Eras itself...the soil feels vibrant and powerful. And our land, where the old gods and the new one meet. I've seen war and death. You've made sure of it. I've seen more than that though. I've seen this realm's spiritual face. The deep, divine secrets that flow through it. This world is sacred. And your materialist outlook...you could never understand that."




"Is that what you have to say? That you found an old sword, that you dug deep into the ancestral memories of our people to inspire them? I sought to teach the common man how to stand for himself, to see that he needed not the trappings of tradition and culture. These are merely the traditions and culture of your class anyway. I tried to show them a better way, to embrace the inert sense of class identity. That you robbed them of that with bedtime stories, that's truly unforgivable."




"You're a lunatic if you deny the truth that it wasn't me who robbed you of the nation. It's you who lost it. The people of Prydania saw your madness, your devotion to utopia at the expense of the lives of your own countrymen. I will not fail these people, I can't let myself fail these people. We'll stand as one. When you're long gone, merely a name in a history book, when your movement is but ash and dust. People will credit you not as a liberator, but as a tyrant who was tossed aside. A cautionary tale for all would-be despots the world over. Your name will mean nothing but death. Enjoy infamy."




Sacred Worlds by Blind Guardian, 9:19
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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letter addressed to Prime Minister Wilhelm Gyerhaardt of Andrenne, 20/5/2012

correspondence:
Right Honourable Prime Minister,

Your government's report from the previous month highlighted the efforts being made by the Kingdom of Andrenne to combat the acquisition of new military assets by the incumbent regime of the Syndicalist Republic of Prydania, and focused on the threat of yet more economic sanctions by the nations of the former UKAG empire. Efforts over the last ten years to return Prydania to its place in our family of nations have failed miserably, and I believe that military force is becoming the only option to unseat the regime in Beaconsviði.

Following nearly two decades of Social Commonwealth fascism the Prydanian people needed drastic change. The agreement in principal between the Conservative-Agrarian Alliance and Free Democratic Party to form a unified front to oppose the fascist establishment led to my first portfolio in the Alþingi, and I believe that I am well placed to comment upon what occurred in Prydanian society at that time. Economic stagnation caused by nearly two decades of Social Commonwealth protectionism and a greater awareness of social change that the fascist government was unable or unwilling to address led to great upheaval. The mood in the spring of 2002 was electric, as we felt we were on the verge of forcing the Social Commonwealth fascists out of power and perhaps even the peaceful abdication of King Anders III.

Instead it was the Syndicalist Party and Thomas Nielsen who exploited the mood of the country and violently overthrew not just the fascists in the Alþingi, but the entire structure of government that had, up to that point, existed in some form since 1029. I fled Prydania after the purges began. The Syndicalist-dominated unions had too much power and this led to the rise of Nielsen's regime. It is crucial to remember that Syndicalist-controlled Prydania publicly executed a child in the name of their cause, in a brazen disregard for the sanctity of human life and the standards of moral decency.

Prydania today is a country under siege from itself. The people are starving, locked in daily drudgery, toil, and suffering under gross economic mismanagement, as their Syndicalist masters use the masses they claim to serve to prop up what is a crumbling nation-state. For all the talk of the solidarity among the UKAG nations it is sad to say that military action still appears to be a dream.

Perhaps the recent discoveries of further gas and oil reserves in the Auburn Channel between the mainland and Stormurholmr will lead to a proactive international response to the inhumane treatment of the people of Prydania, but I am growing older and sick of hearing broken promises.

For ten years the regime has waged war and dictatorship in the names of syndicalism and socialism upon its own people with little international condemnation. The time to act is now and I believe a dedicated and concentrated military effort would bring the regime rapidly to its knees. The continued efforts of my good friend William Aubyn and the Front of National Unity prove that there is a dedicated effort that would rise up if only they knew it was not destined to lead to a spot in a Syndicalist labour camp. The regime knows they have lost the confidence of the people following the litany of flagrant human rights abuses. Their continued demonization of the old UKAG powers shows how much they fear military interference from Gothis. The arrival of the old flags to Prydanian shores will surely rally the people to the causes of our future King and freedom.

The UKAG nations must act to save the people of Prydania.

Yours faithfully,



Magnus Brandt
Former Free Democratic ÞM, Ambassador of the Front of National Unity of the Prydanian Realm
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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21 June 2006
11:03 pm
On a Wednesday
Somewhere near Kings' Lake, Prydania


It was a warm summer night, the occasional breeze blowing through the thick forests of eastern Prydania. The moon danced off of treetops as stag ran through the trees.
Tobias had slept peacefully for most of the night, but the boy tossed and turned as the hours slowly ticked by. First the peaceful void in his mind began to take shape. Then the room they were in four years ago...he was under the table...and finally the pictures on the tv screen. He saw his cousin Astrid, his uncle Anders, his aunt Vera...and then his father get shot. He tossed in bed, curling up under the blankets as he clutched the sheets, yet not yet waking up. There was a chance for it be different this time. The memory played in his dream...there was always a pause before his mother was shot but maybe...maybe this time...it wouldn't happen....but it did. It always did. He saw it. His mother shot, dropping to the ground and he jerked awake with a frightened "No!"
He stayed put for a moment, sitting up like that as he breathed. His eyes wide and his lips trembling for a moment before he collapsed forward, curling himself up again as he began to sob softly, clutching his own chest as he tried to excise the memory from his mind. He cried helplessly as the moonlight filtered in through the window. He wanted so much to cry out to his mother and father but he...he couldn't....he just bashed a fist in rage against the mattress, only to look up with tear-soaked eyes at the sight of William Aubyn in the door frame.
"Uncle Bill..." he gasped, sniffling.

William sighed, but smiled. It had been four years. Tobias was getting better, but he still struggled with the memories.
"Hey" he said softly as he sat by him.
"More bad dreams"? he asked as Tobias pulled himself up to sit next to William, he didn't want to be seen balled up and crying. He just nodded as he wiped the tears away from his eyes.
"I miss my daughter" William continued.
"I think you would have liked her. She was a nice..." he choked up a bit himself, but focused.
"She was a good kid. Like you."

Tobias just looked down, whimpering softly. William wrapped an arm around his shoulder.
"I miss her, Toby. Every day. But I think you're helping me get through it" he smiled softly. Tobias looked up, through bloodshot eyes.

"I am?" he asked, his voice a bit horse.

"Yeah, you are...you help me by reminding me that there's still hope for this world. That there are good people left. Like you. And me. I hope. I want to help you, Tobias. Like you help me."

Tobias looked up again.
"I'm scared" he said softly.
"And I...I want to stop seeing them die..."

William sighed, holding him close.
"I know you don't believe me when I say it but..."

"...it gets easier" Tobias said softly, finishing William's sentence. William just chuckled.

"Yeah. It does...you don't realize it now, but it does" William chuckled, eliciting a small smile from Tobias.
"Now come on, you need to get to bed. It's late."

Tobias nodded, and climbed under the covers, smiling softly as William pat his head. He said goodnight to his adoptive uncle, closing his eyes as he was once again left alone. The visions didn't come back, but his mind raced none the less. The stags still ran in the forest, guided by the old spirits that always had. And the last son of Heorot thought of ways he could one day extract revenge on those who killed his family.




4 August 2008
2:17 pm
On a Friday
Somewhere in Austrurland, Prydania


"Come onnnn" Tobias whined as he followed Axle through the camp.
"Rylond can shoot."

"Then Rylond can teach you" Axle remarked without hesitation as he loaded supplies into the back of his truck.

"His dad won't let him take the gun out by himself."

"Well I'm glad someone has some sense, or else the next King of Prydania and the next Thane of Jórvík might end up doing the Syndicalists' jobs for them."

"Whatever" Tobias said as he rolled his eyes, hopping up to sit in the back of Axle's truck.
"Come on. Teach me how to shoot."

Axle looked at the boy. He remained unimpressed.
"You're going to have to convince me" he said dryly.
"Why do you want me to teach you how to shoot?"

Tobias looked dumbfounded. He hadn't anticipated such a simple question.
"Well uh, to defend myself I guess..." Axle just chuckled.

"I've kept you save for six years. I can manage without putting a gun in your hands. Probably safer for me too."

"Yeah, you kept me safe when I was a kid."

"You're still a kid."

"No, I'm thirteen. I should know how to defend myself."

Axle had to stifle a laugh.
"Yes, that's exactly what I should be doing. Teaching a thirteen year old how to handle a bloody gun."

"Kids learn how to shoot when they're younger in the country and..."

"No" Axle said firmly, pointing to the Prince.
"They did. Things are different now. Have been for six years. For you, and everyone else. I'm not teaching the last direct heir to the throne of Prydania how to handle a gun just well enough to get himself killed."

"What you think I'm going to go fight Syndies?" Tobias asked, chuckling at the idea, only to be cut off by Axle.

"Yes. That's exactly what I think. So no. I won't teach you to shoot. Not yet."
He turned to walk away only for Tobias to shout after him.

"And what if I did?" Axle turned around. The young Prince's irreverent attitude had evaporated, and instead he looked....raw. Calm, but with an anger just below.
"Would it be so bad if I did?"

Axle made his way back to the Prince and cocked his head.
"Tell me Toby, what are you going to do if I gave you a gun and set you off, eh?" he asked. The very notion of a kid trying to go commando on trained Syndicalist Army troops or even Peoples' Militia was dumb enough, but no. Axle had heard enough. He was ending this. And he knew how. Tobias, for his part, tried to seem brave in only the way children really have to.

"I'd shoot as many fucking Syndies as I could."

Axle nodded. That was what he expected.
"And that's why I'm not going to teach you how to shoot. Yet. Killing indiscriminately. That's what they do. Not us. Not you. You have to be better than that."

"I don't want to be though" Tobias said softly.
"Being better won't make me feel better about...my family."

"Neither will killing people indiscriminately."

"How do you know?"

"Because that's what I was. That's all I was, once. And I want you to be better, for your own sake. Don't end up like me."

Tobias breathed deeply as his heart raced, looking into Axle's eyes. Those ice blue eyes...they felt like they could cut through anything. He tried to speak, but it felt like he had a lump in his throat.

"William's lessons can't be too exciting" Axle continued.
"But listen to him. When you're ready, when you understand what I've told you, I'll teach you to hunt with a gun."

He pat the boy on the shoulder as he motioned him down from his truck, sending him off. He shook his head slightly. No one remained innocent in war, but sometimes it seemed noble to hold back the inevitable tide.




Adagio for Tron by Daft Punk, 4:11
 

Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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22 July 2005
9:12 pm
On a Friday
Somewhere near Kings' Lake, Prydania


The fire flicked against the dark summer sky, the smoke flickering against the starlight. Tobias was playing his harmonica. It was simple, one William had given him a few months earlier on his birthday. He was finally getting the hang of Ólafur Liljurós*, but stumbled a bit near the middle where Olaf refuses to dance with the elf.
"Come on" the ten year old Prince grumbled to himself.

"Don't worry about it, you'll get there" Stig replied, patting his younger cousin on the back.
"It was a good go at it, that part's always tricky, right?" he asked looking at his comrades in arms.

"Yeah give it another go in a bit" Felix Ravn, Stig's chief of staff, said as he tossed Tobias a pack of jerky. Which the Prince eagerly began to tear into. It was far better than the rations he'd been eating.
"You'll need that, you're a growing boy" Ravn added before returning to his own dinner.

Stig smiled watching his younger cousin enjoy the food. He'd never been one for children. Even his own kids, teenagers the both of them. He'd been a military man most of his life, and sadly didn't have much of a home life. Still, William had been insistent. Stig was among the few family Tobias had left in Prydania. It would be good for the lad to get to know his older cousin.

"Hey Stig" Tobias asked.

"Yes?"

"You think Laurits and Klara will make it tonight?"

Stig smiled for a moment. As much as William thought he needed to spend time with Tobias? The Prince seemed taken by his own kids.
"I'm afraid not" he replied, "they don't want the whole royal family knocked out in one blow...they're off in hiding elsewhere."

"Oh, right" Tobias said, his voice a bit forlorn as he looked down.

"But I bet they miss you" Stig added, trying to raise the kid's spirits.
"We just have to do what we can to survive, you know." He shifted a bit. He wasn't known for being a comforting man, but he was trying.

Tobias nodded and began to play his harmonica again, picking up where he left off in Ólafur Liljurós. Fact was, he didn't like thinking about what he'd seen three years ago. It still came to him in dreams. Playing forced him to think of something else, and eventually he finished the ballad.

"Hey, that's pretty good" Julius Nörgaard said as the gang of soldiers clapped for him finishing the song. Tobias' face lit up with a smile before looking up at Stig.

"It was good?"

"Yeah, I think so. Julius is quite the music snob though, so it must have been something to impress him" Stig replied with a chuckle.

"It's a sad song though" Tobias remarked.
"Poor Ólafur just wants to get to his wife. Why does the elf hurt him?"

Stig shrugged.
"The world is full of dangers. We teach each other to make sure we all stay safe. Ólafur stopped when he saw elves in the woods. So if you ever see elves in the woods, what will you do?"

"Not stop?"

"That's my lad" Stig chuckled.
"See, he's got a good head on his shoulders. He'll make a fine King some day."

"You think I'll be King?" Tobias asked nervously.

"We'll make sure if it, won't we?" Stig replied, getting a resounding "rålte!" from the soldiers around the fire.
"It's like this, Tobias. Prydania is a very dangerous place right now, but we help each other. Old Ólafur didn't head warnings about elves, but now you will because you know his song. So we all take the warnings from the past, and try to survive and fight."

"Warnings, yeah" Felix replied, "like who to fu..." he caught himself. He didn't want to swear in front of a ten year old. Much less the potential future King of Prydania.
"Like who to trust."

Stig sighed. That much was true. If Tobias' father Robert hadn't been so trusting of Nielsen...if the military hadn't been so cautious with the SoComs...

"I'll tell you who the worst of them were" Julius replied.
"Ugria. The whole country's full of cowards."

"I don't think..." Stig tried to interject, before his younger cousin interrupted him with the headstrong curiosity children often had.

"What do you mean Ugria?" Tobias had asked eagerly. Stig shook his head. He knew one thing his cousin didn't need was a reminder of what had happened three years ago. He shot Julius a look, but Julius had just enough drink in him to make him daring in a stupid sort of way.

"Well I'll tell you what I mean, Your Highness" Julius said.
"When the Syndies took control of the country, those cowards in Ugria supported them. Recognized their government. They didn't recant, they didn't admit they'd made a mistake, until Thomas Nielsen..."

"Julius" Stig barked. Julius looked up, seeing his commander's anger, before returning his gaze to Tobias.
"Until the Syndicalists did what they did to your family" he said, deciding to avoid the more graphic descriptor he was going to go with.

"Yeah...and that's that" Stig replied, trying to end the discussion.

"It's not even that" Julius replied, holding a hand up to protest Stig's insistence that he stop.
"They didn't even come to the decision themselves you know. The Syrixians had to force them to do the right thing. How the hell do you need convincing after they shoot a twelve year old girl..."

"JULIUS" Stig bellowed, standing up.
"Get some water in you, and get to bed. Before you ramble some more."

Julius looked down before setting his cup down and looking up.
"My apologies, General. Your Highness, lads" he said, trying to save face as he made his way back to his tent.

Tobias, for his part, had wrapped his arms around his head, trying to block out the yelling, and trying not to think of his twelve year old cousin Astrid, Crown Princess of Prydania, getting shot. His eyes closed tight but then he felt a gentle hand on his back. He looked up, seeing Stig, and slowly relaxed, lowering his arms.

"You're ok?"

"Yeah..." Tobias replied.

Stig looked around at the remaining soldiers around the campfire and then back to his younger cousin.
"Julius talks too much...but he's right about one thing."

"What?" Tobias asked, looking up, his voice shaking a bit.

"The song. It teaches us to learn from someone else's mistake so we don't make the same mistake. It's a good lesson. Especially for a King" he said, patting the boy on the shoulder.
"Ugria...Julius wasn't wrong. And some day, when you're King, you need to remember what Ugria did. Remember it, learn from it. Like you learnt to avoid elves thanks to Old Ólafur's song. You'll have a duty to hold those who destroyed our country responsible when you're King. Remember the past mistakes."

Tobias nodded, only vaguely understanding what Stig was saying, but understanding enough of it. Stig, sensing his younger cousin's sombreness, smiled a bit.
"But that's for when you're King. Right now? Let's see if you can complete Ólafur's song all the way through."

Tobias smiled a bit and nodded, picking up the harmonica to try from the beginning once again...



*Ólafur Liljurós= Ólafur Lillyrose




Burn the Witch by Radiohead, 3:40
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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29 July 2017
12:01 am
On a Saturday
Beaconsviði, Prydania


Tobias slept, finally. It was passed midnight, but he had only recently passed out. He was going to be King. In less than twenty-four hours, he would be crowned king. The Crown restored...it had always been a distant possibility as a child, but it was here. So many feelings, from joy to relief to sadness as he reflected on his parents and Krista...but he'd finally fallen asleep.

And it was with grogginess that he came to. Not in his bed...no. He'd been here before, panicked slightly at his surroundings before he realized...in that hazy way one realizes that they've been somewhere before in a dream...it was a dark forest. Thick, wind blowing gently. It was here, the second place he had met Jägdar. That night on the banks of Tempest Holm where he had found his way here through the alter...

"Hello!?" he called out, his heart racing. He felt confident in confronting the old god now...not like before. Though why he was here...what more was there to be done? The war had been won. And it was confidence from that victory that added to Tobias' lack of fear.
"Hello?!" he called out again.

"Hello"

The voice startled Tobias. It was close, right up against his ear. He turned around in a panic, his earlier confidence shattered as he came face to face with the god of the hunt once again. He trembled before he managed to pull himself up again, staring at...whatever it was. He stood like a man, but was covered in a green cloak, obscuring his face. Leaving only a black void and sharp, green eyes, antlers emerging from the cloak's hood. The two just looked at each other for a moment before Jägdar spoke in the somewhat eerily tone he spoke in.

"Are you ready for your crown, Son of Æschere?"

Tobias bit his lower lip but nodded.

"yes...Yes. Yes I am."

Jägdar managed to smirk. How he managed it without a visible mouth was hard for Tobias to explain, but he could swear he was smirking.

"Good...then you are ready to prove yourself as my Champion."

Tobias cocked his head a bit.
"The war's over. I thought..."

"You thought you presumed to know what a god expected?"

Tobias felt flustered but shook his head.
"You told me to lead my people. To accept my family's legacy. I did. I fought."

"Did you fight because I told you to fight? Or because it was the right thing to do?"

Tobias wasn't intimated though, he knew the answer.
"It was the right thing to do."

"Good...then know this Son of Æschere...men fight at times, for thrones, wealth, even gods. They fight for selfless and selfish reasons, often at the same time. You did your ancestors well, boy. I am happy with you, if my words helped spur you on. But fighting for a crown, that is not what makes you my Champion. That is yet to come."

"What then?"

"You are not yet twenty-three boy. Your life and Kingship lay out before you. Be my champion. And rule. Well. For our people."
Jägdar turned to leave into the thick of the forest, but stopped as Tobias called out.

"Will I see you again?"

"Æschere" Jägdar replied, not turning around, "asked me that same question a long time ago. Æschere, your ancestor. He had a fascinating name for a human. Ashes to ashes, King Tobias."

The forest began to fade around Tobias as he called out.
"Jägdar! Will I see you again?!" but it was no use. The god...his forest was gone. And soon...Tobias' consciousness faded. Back into a peaceful sleep.




I Walk the Line by Halsey, 2:43
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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16 September 2010
6:47 pm
On a Thursday
Somewhere around Darrow, Prydania


"You made life just a bit better every time you were around" Tobias said, mustering every ounce of will he had to avoid breaking down. He managed though. He owed it to Toke and Lilly. He was able to see that, even as he was trapped in his own grief. He had lost the girl he loved, yes, but they had lost a daughter. The worst fate parents could suffer- burying their own child. And so Tobias forced himself to be as strong as he was capable of, delivering only a few brief words as they buried the container containing Krista's ashes in the dirt.
"I'll miss you...forever" he said, lowering his head as he stepped aside, William placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

Toke Brink held his wife Lilly close as a soft breeze blew across the small gathering. Lilly was crying softly, unable to hold back the sorrow. She managed to calm herself though, as her husband prepared to speak.
"Krista, my little girl..."
He choked up, but steeled himself.
"I'll always remember the day you came into our lives. Before any of this, before the war that...that took you" he was barely holding on...
"Your infectious joy, even in the darkest times...the way you'd tease your mother and I...we'll miss you sweetie..." Toke broke down himself, held by his wife as he struggled to regain his composure, but it was no use.
"It's too soon" he managed to say before breaking down again. William quietly embraced him and then Lilly, leading them both to the side of the small hole in the dirt. He knew what it was like to lose a daughter.

Tobias looked across the way, and then down as Lilly lowered Krista's ashes into the dirt. He felt angry, sad...he understood why he had to compose himself...but he loved her. He loved her with all of his heart and he couldn't...no...she was gone. Gone....he winced and bit his inner lip to keep himself from breaking down. He wanted her to show up, like it had all been a mistake...he wanted to see her again. Be with her again. Even be called an idiot by her again. He swore he could feel her hand in his, even as it was lightly battered by the winds of the overcast September skies.

The Laurenist Priest said the final rites as Tobias watched the small container in the dirt.
"I don't know what I'm going to do without you Kris" he thought. He was spent, emotionally. His fists were no longer balls...his arms and hands limp by his sides.
"I don't know what I'm going to do...I feel like I want to crawl into that hole...just die with you" he thought as the dirt was shovelled ontop, only a single small cross serving as a grave marker.

He limply shook Toke's hand and accepted a hug from Lilly before William approached him.
"Come on, let's get going."

"I want to stay here."

"You can come back whenever you like, but come on. Toke and Lilly need us."

Tobias felt the urge to unload on William. Bark angrily about how he was going to stay here, be with Krista one last time...but he didn't. He managed to understand, and he nodded, following William back.




It was nearly nine o'clock at night, and the winds had picked up. The grey skies replaced with the black of night. Tobias was relatively warm though, in an Army coat that seemed just a bit too big on his adolescent frame.
He knelt next to the small cross that served as Kirsta's grave marker. It didn't even have her name. It couldn't have her name. For security reasons. That fact alone...he broke down in tears.
Why? Why couldn't she at least get a proper burial? Of course he knew why. The war. Syndicalists couldn't know she was here...it would alert everyone to their presence but....he cried loudly as he slammed his fist into the fresh dirt.

"Why you.....why you....anyone else....why you...." he sobbed against the wind.
"Anyone but you...mom, dad...you....everyone...." he unloaded all of the pent up anger and sorrow he held back from the funeral.
"We were going to be together forever..." tears ran down his cheeks, feeling harsh and cold thanks to the autumn wind.
"Kris please...please...come back" his head hung.
"I could....please....please don't..." he whimpered....the last time he saw her played through his mind. If he had just insisted she stay with him...maybe she would have listened. She wouldn't have gone and....he leaned onto all fours and began to cry uncontrollably.

"I love you...I love you so much don't leave....don't leave me please...." everything faded to dust, to dirt. They were going to be married, Tobias was sure of it...maybe her being Queen by his side was a faint dream...maybe...but it was a dream...and now it was breaking apart in the September winds. He wouldn't even have a distant dream...

"Please don't leave me" he whimpered once more before falling to his side in the grace, his face next to to patch of fresh dirt.
"Please don't leave me" he said again, softly as he devolved into soft crying....letting himself be consumed by the darkness of the fall night.




In the Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLachlan, 4:30
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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5 September 2002
3:34 pm
On a Thursday
Beaconsviði, Prydania


Jannik Leiftur screamed in sheer frustration, tossing aside the empty boxes that lined the shelves of the Bank of Prydania. The entire vault was empty! Ever single brick of Loðbrók gold gone! The Peoples' Militia soldiers with him just looked on nervously. They knew not to cross the Chairman's right hand man in the best of times.

Leiftur made his way deeper into an empty vault. Something had caught his eye. It was a square piece of paper, left in the middle of the room. It looked conspicuously out of place. He picked it up, reading it before he angrily crumpled it up and tossed it aside. He stormed out, past his armed guards as he attempted to calm himself in the bank lobby.
One of the Militia members picked up the paper and unfurled it, shrugging before tossing it back down to the floor.

"What did it say?" the other soldier asked.

"It just said 'Nuts'" the first one answered.

Jannik paced in the lobby, one hand in his hair. The Peoples' Milita commander who had been tasked with securing the bank in the initial stages of the coup tried to keep his composure.

"Comrade, if I may..."

"DID HE STEAL ALL OF THIS TOO?" Jannik barked.

"Pardon Comrade?"

"Axle Skov! He stole Robert Loðbrók's child out from under Thorup! So tell me Birch" Lieftur growled, leaning in just a bit, "did he steal all of that gold too?"

"I...I wouldn't know Comrade..."

Jannik didn't hesitate. He pulled his sidearm and shot the man in the face. He dropped onto the marble tile.
"It's your fucking job to know" he growled, before closing his eyes from sheer frustration.
"What?" he asked. He'd sensed another Militia member entering the building.

"Comrade, the Comrade Chairman requests your presence immediately."

"Fucking hell" Lieftur replied, shaking his head as he left.
"Tell the two in the vault to secure the building. And clean up this mess."

"Ye...yes Comrade."




"Jannik, we had plans for that gold" Thomas Nielsen said, his voice sounding grave. He was sitting in what was once the Prime Minister's office. The same chair too, though Jannik wondered if his long-time friend and confidant had managed to get Stephen Toft's stench out of it completely.

"I know Tom" Jannik replied, his jaw locked.
"I'm going to find it, as soon as we're done here."

"Like you're going to find the missing Prince?" Nielsen asked, an eyebrow raised.

"I have a man on that" Jannik replied, his patience tested, but under control for a man he considered a very close friend. As much as he was frustrated? He'd follow Tom Nielsen to the ends of Eras. Nielsen, however, seemed just as frustrated.

"When your man brings me the corpse of Robert's brat, then I'll feel far more confident about the state of that lost gold."

"We have control of the country Tom. Complete success was never likely. You knew that. That's why I have these contingencies."

"Yes, well the two things to go the most wrong just so happen to be pretty bloody important. The Loðbrók gold's somewhere. We can't use it to leverage our own currency and..." he breathed deep. He'd met Prince Tobias once. When the lad was a toddler. Back when he and Robert were close. How could you not grow at least somewhat attached to an innocent child? What had to be done though...
"And there's still an heir to the throne out there too...if leveraged properly? It could undo everything. So Jannik. I need you to fix this."

"I've fixed every problem we've had, haven't I? Going back to the pits?"

Nielsen laughed softly.
"I wouldn't say every problem."

"Well enough that we're here now. In charge of the country" Jannik smiled proudly. Two working stiffs from Rakjandi. They say you never left alive, but here they were.

"True enough Jannik...enough."

"Look, Tom. My man will kill the boy, and I'll find that gold. You need to trust me, like the good old days. But that won't clean up the mess. You're right. We let some assets slip through our fingers. It's obvious now that we didn't secure the capital as well as we thought."

Nielsen leaned back in the chair, head tilted to one side.
"What would you suggest?"

"General Bjerre, 'our' man in the Army who locked the capital down...we can't trust him."

"Bjerre formed the Soldier's Committees" Nielsen replied, not exactly convinced.
"We couldn't do what we did without him."

"Aye" Lieftur replied.
"The Committees are run by good men. Loyal men, good working class boys."
It made sense for Lieftur to praise the committees. He'd already made use of many of their standout officers.
"But that's not Bjerre. He's minor nobility."

"He's been a party member for close to twenty years" Nielsen responded, but Jannik wasn't sated.

"He's a snake. Knows how to survive. He's also a Courantist. Who do you think he's going to stay loyal to? Us, or Pope Solomon? He 'locked down' the city and we lose a Prince and every brick of Royal gold in the treasury. Come on now Tom. Let me take care of him. My Militia can take over the Committees and keep the peace. But the Army...lots of people who happily worked for the old regime. We need to act now, secure what we won."

Thomas Nielsen had known Hjalmar Bjerre for years. He'd been at the upper levels of the conspiracy they'd orchestrated. The word "no" hung on his tongue but...so much gold...how does it just vanish? Whoever took it, they must have had inside help...and if there were traitors and backsliders in their midst...he winced but nodded.
"Take care of Bjerre and his inner circle. But make sure Hjalmar's death is quick. He deserves that much."

Jannik just nodded, finally with a task he felt comfortable with.
"Right away" he said, leaving the Chairman alone with his thoughts.




5 September 2002
9:56 pm
On a Thursday
Hvalsey, Prydania


Ronnie Frost felt the cold fall rain hit his face, over his hood. The patch over his eye still itched...it still hurt. It was ok. It fuelled him. The anger, the drive. He was almost lost in his own brooding when his companion spoke up.

"You speak Saintonian, right?" Carsten Friis asked.

"Why the fuck would that matter?" Ronnie replied, shaking his head.
"Some fuckin' people..."

"We're meeting some people from Saitonge right?"

Ronnie shook his head.
"We aren't meetin' anyone from Saintonge."

"But you said..."

"Yeah, you knew what you needed to know. We're meetin' someone. That's what matters."

Friis just sighed, hands in his jacket pockets.
"Shit's going sideways..."

"Yeah..." Ronnie replied, letting the rain patter his face.

"You think it's going to be ok?"

"No...not with the current lot in control. Tell you what kid. After we're done here? Come with me."

"Where're you going?"

"Out east. Stormurholm. The Syndies still haven't taken the whole island."

"So what, you're going to fight?"

"Been sailin' since I was a kid. Had to scuttle the ole' Stormurathvarf, lost an eye doin' it, but I bet I could sail around these Committee-run Syndie boats with a proper crew. You're not the brightest, but you'd make a good hand."

"No one knows I'm here" Friis replied.
"I don't know...I could just...go back home. Try to make ends meet. My family could use me."

"Your family's dead" Ronnie replied.

"What they hell are you talking about?"

"If they ain't now, they will be" Ronnie answered.
"Your uncle...he's a Courantist Priest, ya?" Carsten nodded.

"There ya go. He's dead. Your family's dead by association. If not now, soon."

"They say they're going to work with the Churches..."

"About ten years ago, I was on leave. In Keris. The whole place was crawlin' with Syndies. All the shipworkers' unions were affiliated. Illegally yeah, but still. Anyway, I'm in a bar. Plain clothes, no one knows I'm in the Navy. And this fellow...Jannik Lieftur. He was there, makin' a show of himself. Probably had a few too many beers in him. He was rantin', talkin' about how all the Churches were goin' to get it. Now that motherfucker's the second most powerful man in the country. So sure. They'll work with the Churches. A year. Maybe two. But eventually...when they feel secure, the Syndie snake's gonna strike. Courantist...Laurenist....anyone in God's flock. Come with me though, you might live."

Carsten was about to respond, when a light peaked up over the horizon, across the stormy waters.
"That the contact?" he asked.

"If it's not, then we're dead" Ronnie muttered. The ship, almost if on cue signalled.
"We ain't dead yet" Ronnie chuckled, holding up his own flashlight and returning the agreed-upon signal.

The ship docked, and a man almost as rough looking as Ronnie Frost got out.
"You have the cargo?"

"Yes" Ronnie replied.

"He's Prydanian. Ok. Why'd everyone tell me we'd be meeting a Saintonian?"

"Torben here's been granted asylum in Saintonge. He's gettin' the goods out" Ronnie replied. Torben just nodded. He seemed nervous.
"I hope you ain't planning on hauling all of this Royal gold back to Saintonge in that thing" Ronnie added. Torben's boat seemed large enough to carry the goods, but not so large as to survive a crossing to Meterra. He shook his head.

"No... but it's best if you don't know what happens once I take off."

"Aye, good thing if I don't" Ronnie replied. The Royal gold in Saintonge. The other funds in Goyanes. But speculating wasn't going to get things moving along. He ordered Carsten to help with loading the boxes of gold, stamped with the Loðbrók stag, onto the boat. They worked through the surf, wind, and rain, eventually completing their task as the sound of thunder echoed off in the distance.

"Good timing" Torben replied, extending his hand. Ronnie took it well enough.
"God's speed. Don't be surprised if they start looking for this Norsos' way."

Ronnie chuckled.
"You too mate" he replied, shaking the man's hand before turning.
"Safe travels."




Fighting Gold by Jonathon Young, 4:14
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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9 July 1984
8:05 pm
On a Monday
Beaconsviði, Prydania


Anders moved briskly past the Knights of the Storm, not even looking back to make sure his younger brother was following. He was King now. He expected to be followed. Robert, for his part, did try to keep up with his older brother, their feet moving along the old stone that made up the hallways of the crypt. He could tell Anders wanted to show him something. He tried to keep himself from being awed at the underground mausoleum of St. Ro's Chruch.

The two brothers finally reached an impressive stone archway, leading into a spacious room. Anders led the way, flicking a switch that was suitably camouflaged into the wall. Rows of recently-installed lights overhead flickered on. Robert had to wince for a moment as his eyes adjusted to the light. A sarcophagus with a stone relief dominated the middle of the room, looked over by an impressive sculpture of a stag.

"Vortgyn's tomb" Anders muttered. Robert had never seen his brother like this before. He'd always had a solemn look to him, his gaunt face and blonde beard that seemed flow into the point of his chin. Here though, he seemed alive. His green eyes, which were usually a dark olive, seemed to come alive in the presence of the tomb. Robert nodded along, but he wasn't nearly as excited as his brother.
"It's very impressive" he said. He'd seen it once before. As had Anders. And their older brother Baldr. Their father had taken them to see it once when the three of them were boys. Robert barely remembered it, and hadn't thought much of it until now. And it filled him with sorrow. Father and Baldr were both gone.

"How can you look so dour in a place like this?" Anders said, snapping Robert out of his funk.

"I mean...it's a tomb, right?" Robert replied.
"It's supposed to be sad."
Anders rolled his his eyes. Robert was too much like their older brother. Not enough of an appreciation for legacy. Of history. It only reinforced Anders' conviction in what he'd covertly done. Robert wasn't entirely hopeless though. He was young enough to mould.

"It's not just a tomb. It's Vortgyn I's tomb. Our ancestor, and the first King of this country. My penultimate predecessor."
"And father's..." Robert said softly, though loud enough for Anders to hear. Anders bit his lower lip. Being young enough to mould also meant being young enough to not know when to shut his mouth. Still, he had a part to play.

"Yes, and father's" Anders replied.
"Come, this is important" he added, approaching the sarcophagus. Robert followed, standing across the stone container from his brother and King, looking the relief over. It was still in remarkable shape, despite being over nine-hundred years old.

"Look, Anders" Robert replied, feeling a bit intimidated by the look his brother gave before he decided to solider on.
"I get it, it's important, but it's just a dead guy. He's nothing but bones by now. If that." Anders raised an eyebrow.

"Of course, Vortgyn's long gone, for the most part. You need to appreciate what I'm going to do though, Rob. You're my heir now. Next in line to the throne. God forbid something happens to me like it did to father and Baldr..." he nodded reassuringly seeing the pain in Robert's eyes, "you need to understand what you are inheriting. What we are inheriting. You're not yet sixteen, but you need to grasp the importance of this." His hand moved from the stone relief atop the sarcophagus to what the relief was holding in its hands. It was a relief of a scabbard. Anders ran his hand along the length of it, to the hilt of the relief of the sword...only it wasn't a relief. Robert hadn't noticed it before, but the cross-guard and handle of the blade weren't stone.

"Veiðiblað" Anders whispered. The word hung on his lips, like a prize finally claimed.
"My namesake, Anders II, placed the sword here in Vortgyn's tomb after the Jarl's Rebellion" Anders remarked.
"Since then it has only been removed for the coronation of Kings....and by Richard III. Who rode with it into battle against the Calliseans. He returned it after his victory. Do you know who planned on removing it again, Rob?"

Robert shook his head.
"No...how long have you known the sword's been here?" he asked, sounding amazed. The blade Veiðiblað had been a family legend.

"Since we were children, and father brought us down here. I was old enough to remember...and it's stuck in my mind since. See...grandfather was going to be the one to remove the sword from this crypt permanently. Like Richard III placed it back, Richard VI would claim it. But grandfather, as wise as he was...well he was too cautious. He wanted to wait until we were victorious over the Cogorian dogs, but sadly that never came."

Robert shuffled uneasily. Their father had spoken in length about their grandfather. He'd always spoken of him in sad terms, like a son who had been profoundly disappointment in a parent, but who couldn't bring himself to hate them. Still, he knew all about his grandfather's legacy. He was a tyrant, a reactionary. A war monger, a bigot. And here was Anders, praising a man who'd brought nothing but death, defeat, and shame to Prydania. Still, Robert knew Anders well enough. Speaking of this sort of thing gave him a gleam in his eye. A wild, almost dangerous look. He was too unnerved of his brother to protest his glowing depiction of their grandfather.

"I, however, won't be so cautious" Anders declared.
"It's for the best. The last king to carry this sword with him was Anders II. It is only fitting that I be the one to take it back..." he reached for the hilt, gripping. Anders could feel himself grow giddy at the prospect of finally claiming this sword for himself. Just as he was about to pull...

"Wait!" Robert insisted. Anders looked up, more than a little annoyed.

"What?" he said, his voice overlaying a hint of a growl.
Robert winced. He didn't know what to say. He'd only had a panicked notion that Anders not take that sword.

"I...look. Anders...I don't know. We're in a special place. Maybe...maybe you ought to leave things alone."

Anders smirked.
"You care about history now? Well better late than never I suppose. This sword though...I don't think you realize just how old it is. What it is. I do. I've read everything about it I could. From that moment as children when father brought us here. I knew...I knew I had to have it..."

Robert felt a wave of unease rush through him. All the way back then? Baldr was the oldest. Everyone thought he'd be the one crowned with that blade. Anders continued though.

"I felt it, what it was, at my coronation. Any hesitancy was gone. I know more about this sword than anyone in the Realm, Rob. It's our legacy..." and with that he pulled the blade from the stone casing in one motion.
"...and it's mine." Anders felt it, felt the importance of the object as he held it up, tilting it to watch the light dance off of the liquid metal effect on the blade. Not even Robert could deny being impressed, briefly being entranced by it.

"It's no longer going to stay here, buried under the ground" Anders said, lowering the sword by his side.
"I'm doing what grandfather had the vision, but not the courage for. What father, God rest his soul, couldn't understand. I'm taking this symbol of our family out of the dark, and into the light. The Crown's power won't hide anymore. With the full weight of my force of will, and my new government, we're going resurrect proper authority in this country. Do what needs to be done to make things right. Robert, look at me."
The fifteen year old Prince looked at his older brother, feeling his nerves tense up. Anders had always been a dour and moody sort, but he was scaring him right now.
"Rob, we're going to make opportunity out of this crisis. And we're going to re-assert our family's legacy. Are you with me?"

Robert's mind raced, and hidden in his brother's way with words was the truth. He wanted to re-assert what he saw as the Royal family's legacy. He wanted to undo all the good their father had done. And he felt terrified to the core. The terror an adolescent feels when the severity of something is realized for the first time, when adult fears first grip them- Anders was deliberately championing their grandfather's wicked cause. And now that he was King...who could stop him? He was too overcome with terror to defy him. He just gulped nervously and nodded.

"Of course Anders" he said, his voice shaking. Anders just smiled, thinking the boy was merely nervous due to the magnitude of his request.

"You have nothing to worry about Rob" Anders said with a smile that looked unnerving in some indescribable way.
"I'm going to make Prydania great again."




Where Evil Grows by The Poppy Family, 2:51
 
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Prydania

Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði
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1 September 2082
6:39 pm
On a Tuesday
Krossavik, Prydania


"Bastían!" Thorkild called out as the sun was setting.

"Yeah, father?"

"I need you to go gather your siblings. It's almost dark, and mother's almost finished dinner."

"I think Felix took Mary to the barn to tell her ghost stories" the ten year old told his father.

"Well go on, grab your brother and sister."
Bastían just looked up sheepishly. Of course he told his older brother and younger sister he didn't believe in the ghosts that were said to haunt the barn, but he wasn't going to go there and confront Felix by himself at dusk. Thorkild just sighed but smiled.
"I'll come with you, and we'll save your sister from whatever ghouls Felix has conjured up." Bastían just nodded enthusiastically, feeling braver to be with his father.

"Do you have any stories, father?" Bastían asked as they made their way out to the barn.

"Nothing quite as scary as a ghost story" Thorkild remarked.
"But your old man has a few."

"Like what?" the boy asked curiously. Thorkild just looked into the distance for a moment. King Tobias was dead. He'd passed away in his sleep the previous night. Maybe that's why the first story that came to his mind was...he smiled.

"I'll tell you when we gather your brother and sister and sit down for dinner."




Sarína kissed her husband as he returned with all three kids. Felix and Bastían were fighting the way eleven and ten year olds fight, while Mary screamed at them to stop. Thorkild just shrugged as Sarína shot him a look before scolding the children.
"Behave yourselves, and get ready for dinner. That's no way to behave in the house."

"Yeah" Thorkild added.
"Behave yourselves or you all won't get the story."
That got their attention, and the three peacefully made their way to the bathroom to wash up.

"Story, eh?" Sarína asked as Thorkild helped her set the table.

"Felix was telling Mary ghost stories. I promised them something less terrifying."

"What did you have in mind?"

"Well with the King dying..."

"Thorkild! They don't want to hear about that!"Thorkild, however, just chuckled.

"No...not like that. I was going to tell them about the Interregnum Saga." Sarína shrugged.

"You think they're old enough?"

"Felix is about the age I was, when my father told me. Besides, it beats the story of the Headless Cavalier he was telling Mary."

The children returned, prompting Sarína to gather them about and sit them down as she served them dinner.

"Pork patties!" Bastían remarked excitedly.

"Yeah, cool" Felix replied far less enthusiastically.

"Too cool to enjoy your mother's pork patties?" Sarína remarked, her older son looking down for a moment.

"No mom, I'm sorry." She ruffled his hair as the other two children thanked her, partially to shame their older brother. The sibling one-upmanship ended though, as Thorkild led the family in saying grace. He barely got time to thank the Messiah for the bounty he'd provided- both the dinner and the excellent crop yield- before all three children were begging him about the story he'd promised. Sarína chuckled, giving her husband the look of "well you better own up now."

"So you want to hear a story, eh?" he asked, eliciting the collective "yes!" of the three kids. Thorkild nodded.
"So you all know the King died, yes?" The three kids nodded. "Well, believe it or not, he wasn't always so old."

"He's older than grandpa" Bastían remarked.

"Yeah, he is" Thorkild remarked.
"But here's the story. And it happens a very long time ago. When Prydania was very different." He tried to make himself sound mysterious and dramatic. The three pairs of eyes locked on him indicated he'd succeeded.
"So long ago, in fact, that it was before your mother or I were born!"

"Wooooh" Felix remarked under his breath.

"Yeah. And back then...Prydania was a very dangerous place. The previous King, he'd been foolish with his power. And he lost it, to a group calling themselves Syndicalists."

"What's a Synd...liks?" Mary asked. Sarína raised an eyebrow, daring her husband to explain that to a five year old.

"Well..." Thorkild replied.
"Violent people. They terrorized the countryside, burning farms, taking what belonged to others and hording it for themselves. They were greedy and only cared about power. Prydania was suffering, and starving because the Syndicalists would take everything and burn the rest. And there was one...he was their leader. A charismatic man, who was evil and almost unstoppable." Thorkild's lips curved up into a smile as he noticed he had his kids attention.
"Everyone in the country was starving and suffering, like I said, but no one knew what to do. Luckily, there were a few people. Brave and fearless, who fought them when they could. Liberators, they were called. And among them, was a Prince. The last Prince of Prydania. At first, he was scared. Like everyone was. Like I would be, or you would be, because what could you do? The Syndicalists owned everything. They controlled everything. But he was brave, and he had Veiðiblað, the Royal sword. Unlike the previous King, who was foolish, the Prince could make the sword glow with power. The same power that led our ancestors here from Andrenne, after all! And eventually, the suffering of the people convinced the Prince he couldn't be scared. He had to fight."

"How did he fight?" Bastían asked.

Thorkild tilted his head with a soft smile.
"He fought the Syndicalists who starved the people and burnt the farmland, and he inspired more people to join the Liberators. More and more saw him fight, and more and more wanted to fight by his side. Soon there was an army, and the Syndicalists...well they were beaten after fifteen long years. Fifteen years of hardship, hunger, and suffering, but it wasn't enough. The Prince proved to all Prydanians they were stronger than the scared people the Syndicalists had made them. And when the last Syndicalist surrendered? The Prince became King Tobias III. And he reigned for sixty-five years...until just the other night."
Thorkild's voice got quieter...he was thirty-six years old. King Tobias had been on the throne his whole life. Elections and Prime Ministers had come and gone, but the King...he was always there. The nation's rock. Until last night. A constant in not just Thorkild's life, but the life of the nation, gone. Just like that. The King was dead...it sounded as wrong as saying the sky had vanished.

"What...what's going to happen now then?" Bastían asked, worriedly.
"Will the Syndicalists come back?"

"No" Thorkild chuckled. He wanted to add that the boy's grandfather would claim the People's Party were just Syndies in sheep's clothing, but he'd give the children a few more years before he exposed them to their grandfather's opinionated political "observations."
"The Syndicalists are gone, forever. And Prydania is much stronger now then it was then. King Tobias passed away peacefully. And now...now his son will be king, Baldr, Fourth of his name."

"Will he be as good a King as Tobias?" Felix asked.

"Well" Thorkild began, "King Tobias had to do some extraordinary things. And he did them so all Prydanians, his sons included, wouldn't have to suffer again. So King Baldr will have a much easier time, I think. We must be fair and not judge him too harshly" he said to his children with a wink, eliciting a few chuckles.
"That's the story" he concluded, "of how the King freed our country from suffering, and elicited calls of 'For the King, to Valhalla' across the valleys, hills, fields, and forests of Prydania."

"Yes, and they sang the song through the Valley of Plenty. And some of them sang it for so long their dinner got cold. So eat up" Sarína added, prompting all the kids to begin eating.
"You too Mr. Storyteller" she said, shooting a playfully stern look at her husband.

Thorkild smiled and began to eat dinner. The King was dead, yes, but stories lived forever.




Back to the Earth by Two Steps from Hell, 4:24
 
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