Wildlands (Closed RP)

Discussion in 'National RolePlay' started by North Timistania, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. North Timistania

    North Timistania Registered

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    Wind both natural and man-made shrieked across the concrete field, Neuanfang international airport was such in name only, the public terminals were months away from being in any way completed and the recent Hessunland debacle had stalled work even further.

    What was operational were the dozen or so concrete military landing strips, a long dreary line of prefabs and radio towers, thousands of military and diplomatic personnel disembarked from this zone every month, the constant deafening sound of propeller blades made an unpleasant first impression of Essalanea with most of the arriving troops.

    Gaiseric gritted his teeth, between the sound of aeroplane turbines and his brother munching on a kebab his head felt like it might explode. Their jeep sat next to airstrip one, a fenced-off zone reserved for high ranking diplomats, Gaiseric had departed from it countless times on diplomatic business, it seemed only appropriate to meet his guests here.

    'How in Ziu's name did you even get a marmot kebab!?' Gaiseric said eyeing Alric irritably as the latter continued gnawing on a long strip of grilled meat, oblivious to his annoyance

    'Old lady sells them a few strips back, Norsian's love them!' Alric said with a full mouth

    Gaiseric rolled his eyes and raised his binoculars, it was an overcast day but he could just make out the distant blur of an approaching plane.

    'The first delegation should be arriving in twenty minutes, my lord!' The radio tower informed Gaiseric, the message filled with the buzz of static

    'Almost time' Gaiseric thought suddenly anxious, he had met diplomats before but seldom in his homeland, first impressions would leave lasting ones.

    'So this Toby, you think he can actually bring down a wolf?' Alric said tossing aside the greasy stick of his kebab

    'That would be Tobias Lothbrok III, King of Prydania' Gaiseric corrected with a raised eyebrow

    'Yeah, you think he can do it?' Alric said ignoring his brother's irritation

    'Hard to tell, he's spent most of his youth among hunters and soldiers, I'm sure he's dealt with beasts before' Gaiseric said thoughtfully

    Gaiseric had met the young king twice before, once in Pataliputra at the Gala and again at the founding of the Luscova Pact, he came across as a genuine and honourable man. Gaiseric had heard bits and pieces of Tobias's story, a prince forced to fight for his life and his crown, but he knew only very little of the man himself, this hunt more then anything was a chance to change that.

    'Not our beasts' Alric said grimly

    'No, not our beasts' Gaiseric replied affirmatively

    The king had eagerly expressed his desire to hunt on the steppe, to kill a wolf with his grandfather's rifle, it was a rite of passage every clanborn knew well, Gaiseric had happily invited him to the steppe to fulfil that desire. The King had clapped him on the shoulder and proclaimed his intent to gain a pelt to wear to his wedding with Alycia, the wolf queen of Norsia herself.

    Gaiseric had not thought much of his offer at the time, truth be told he had been surprised when Tobias had actually informed him of his acceptance, now the practicalities of the affair began to worry the High chief. Essalanean wolves were big, wickedly smart and they always travelled in packs, he had no desire to see a man maimed or killed while under his protection.

    'And what about that Princess...Claidie? no that's not right' Alric said interrupting his train of thought

    'Madeline' He corrected again 'Did you actually read the briefing I sent?' Gaiseric said prodding Alric accusingly

    Alric batted his hand away and gave him a mischievous grin 'I may have skim read' he said with a chuckle

    Gaiseric rolled his eyes 'Madeline, and she's a prime minister, not a princess' Gaiseric said with a sigh

    'Eh, some unhorsed noble then, you think she will handle things well?' Alric asked

    Gaiseric had to think about that, he had read that Sil Dorsettian youths were trained in survival during their formative years...but this was Essalanea, nothing save the Essalanean way could truly prepare someone for the harsh land of the clans. He knew she was a powerful figure in her homeland, a woman used to being busy and Helbrandt Karg had been gushing over her love of firearms since their meeting at the Gala in Syrixia.

    'She knows her guns I know that much' Gaiseric said

    'No wonder Helbrandt all but begged you invite her, I think the Karg is going soft' Alric chuckled mischievously

    'It didn't really require any great convincing on her part, she sounded eager to be here like she had something to prove' Gaiseric said letting the last word trail off

    Both men sat in silence for a moment, they both knew that the Steppe had a way of drawing seekers to her great plains, Essalanea was a proving ground for the worthy and a destroyer of the weak, Gaiseric did not think his guests were weak...but how would they handle the hunt? the steppe was home to terrible creatures, he would have to ensure the security for both parties were briefed again before they began.

    The blur on the horizon had begun to grow larger and more clear, the first plane's arrival was imminent, Gaiseric breathed in deeply and set down his binoculars.

    'Alric I want you to do something for me' Gaiseric asked his tone suddenly soft

    'Anything Brother' Alric said absently, he was lounging on the back seat of the jeep as though he was on some Ceretian beach

    'Like a lion between meals,' Gaiseric thought with an amused smile

    'I need you to keep our guests safe' Gaiseric said in a serious voice

    'Anything gets too dicey I intervene, don't worry brother, they are my guests too' Alric said meeting his gaze with a sincere look

    'That they are' Gaiseric thought with a frown 'Time to go meet them and take their measure, may they not be found wanting'

    In the sky above the plane began its descent like a great bird coming to roost.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
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  2. Sil Dorsett

    Sil Dorsett I'm a lot of things. - - - - - -

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    Norvalle, a couple weeks prior...

    "I won't allow it."

    "Not yours to decide, Your Highness. We're equals, remember? Plus, it was an invitation."

    Madeline was locked in a heated debate with the senior Princess over the value of her taking even more time off for something personal. She wanted a week to herself, willingly yielding to the Speaker and stepping away from her family, including her newborn. She wanted to challenge herself, to step away from the political scene for just a little while and step back into her not-so-distant militiawoman mentality. She wanted to be sure she was on top of her skills and ready to defend her family and country, political benefits and assurances of safety aside.

    Essalanea was, to her, the ultimate test, and being invited there was a conveniently placed opportunity. Although it was on the move to modernity, the challenges of the steppe were still enticing.

    Princess Claidie was having none of it, failing to understand why her Prime Minister wanted to take the risks. She couldn't comprehend why a national leader and a mother of four needed to risk her own life for some personal affirmation. But, in the end, Madeline's usage of the law, a law Claidie herself created, ensured the princess was powerless to stop her.

    "You need to have a bit more faith in what we preach, Claidie," Madeline said to her royal counterpart. "We talk about preparedness, but out of the three of us, I'm the only one listening and keeping up. And, if I'm going to get you and your sister up to speed soon, I need to make sure I'm on top of my game. That's why I'm doing this. I need to know that what we're teaching works."

    "You have family to raise! You have a newborn! You don't need to do this, Madeline," Claidie pleaded.

    "I'm leaving in a couple weeks, so you'll have plenty of time to prepare. Jean[1] will take care of anything you need for the week. My husband will be just fine taking care of my children. Are we clear?"

    "Fine," Claidie said, relenting. "You have the time, use it. I just wish I wasn't for something dangerous. You make sure you come back."

    "If I don't come back, then everything every Silien learned in school is a lie. Fix it if that's the case. Besides, I'll be in good hands."

    Madeline headed back home to prepare, and over a few days she went over every piece of equipment in her backpack and cleaning the two rifles she wanted to take with her as well as her sidearm. She seemed ready for war, but it was only a war against herself.

    * * *​

    Neuanfang Intl., present day...

    Being shipped out on a private plane afforded Madeline a modicum of leeway when it came to the regulations on what she could take with her. Two gun cases, a holstered pistol, and a backpack of camping gear accompanied her, and the cases were secured with thick plastic seals with serial numbers tracked in a tiny black notebook. Others thought she was crazy for this kind of attention, but nothing got by the Prime Minister.

    She brought her favorite bolt-action rifle, chambered in .50 Berenice[2], the largest round Sil Dorsettians produced and was legal to buy, but it was more of a show weapon she wanted to bring to let the clans know she wasn't soft. Her .308 Sprekker[3] was her actual hunting weapon and the one she brought the most ammo for.

    After stepping off the plane and unloading her equipment, she noticed her hosts in the distance. Setting down the .50 she held in her right, she waved to greet them and made her way over, trying not to show any sign of struggle given the weight she was carrying.

    The true test would now begin.



    Notes:
    [1] Jean-Baptiste Chastain, the Speaker of the Chamber of Law
    [2] RL Equivalent: .50 BMG
    [3] RL Equivalent: .308 Winchester
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  3. Prydania

    Prydania Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði - - - -

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    "Nervous Lord General?" Tobias asked as the plane made its way to Neuanfang International.

    Laurids Hummel nodded.
    "Essalanea is a wild place, Your Majesty" the recently Knighted Lord General of the Knights of the Storm replied, looking out of the window.

    "Is Prydania that much less wild? I mean was it? The Civil War turned a lot of it into a war zone. We both managed to survive that" the King said, smiling.

    "You could have taken a weekend at Skógurheorot, and hunted wolves there, Your Majesty."

    "Lord General?"

    "Yes, Your Majesty?"

    "You can just call me Tobias. When we're alone...if you'd like."

    "Well Tobias..." Hummel replied, "I'd be happy to if you promise to do one thing for me."

    Tobias nodded. He had an idea what it was. A lot of people had died to make him King, to make it so people had to refer to him as Your Majesty. Laurids Hummel was one of those people. He expected to hear him ask to keep up the formalities in public, which Tobias was already eager to do.

    "Call me Laurids" the Lord General smiled, "when we're alone."

    "Heh" Tobias chuckled, a bit nervous but more surprised.
    "I can manage that" he added.

    "Still, Tobias?"

    "Yes?"

    "You could have hunted a wolf in Prydania if you wanted a pelt so badly. Why go to Essalanea?"

    Tobias bit his lower lip for a moment, a habit of his when he was nervous. There were practical reasons for it, ones he was happy to share to anyone who asked. There were also other reasons. Personal reasons. For as much as he could legitimately say the exercise will help with Prydanian-Essalanean relations? As much as he could say it would help inter-Luscova Pact dialogue? And as much as the steppes offered him a challenge? The fact was that the Essalaneans felt something of a fealty to Alycia as Queen of Norsia. And he was marrying her. Part of him, as much as he would never admit it, wanted to prove to these Essalaneans that he was, indeed, worthy of Alycia's hand in marriage.

    "We're in an alliance with the Essalaneans, Laurids. I could shoot a wolf in Prydania, but if I hunt one in Essalanea I'll be able to build bridges" he said with a soft smile.
    "Besides, I know the forests of the Austurlands like the back of my hand at this point. Essalanea provides a bit of a challenge."

    "Too much for Rylond Jórvík?" Laurids asked curiously, prompting the King to chuckle.

    "Get Rylond to Essalanea? I love the guy, I really do but I don't need to hear him whining about how boring hunting is. If I could even pry him away from the E-Series for a few days anyway. Besides, I don't need you guys stressing out..." Tobias looked out the window as the plan began to descend.
    "...running after him hitting on every girl he comes across and also trying to keep me safe."

    "We'd probably just let him fend for himself if he made a habit of getting out of our line of sight" Laurids chuckled, though a bit nervously. Rylond Jórvík was the son of both a Thane and a war hero. And a personal friend of the King. He thought he had a handle on Tobias enough to know he could make a joke like that, but he wasn't entirely sure. Thankfully his tension was relieved when he smirked.

    "Rylond finding himself at the mercy of Essalanean women? Makes me wish I'd made more of an effort to get him to come."




    The plane landed, the cabin lit by the sun of the Essalanean countryside. Tobias grabbed his pack and his rifle case. He was dressed rather informally. Just khaki cotton pants and a white cotton shirt and a pair of boots. He saw no need to dress up for the occasion. The Knights of the Storm, however, wore their striking navy uniforms trimmed in stark white, their cross emblem emblazoned on the left shoulder.

    The door opened and Laurids led two other Knights of the Storm out. It was bright, but the wind blowing across the runway kept it reasonably cool.

    "It's clear Your Majesty" Laurids called up as they noticed their hosts a bit in the distance.
    Tobias emerged shortly thereafter, his rifle case flung over his shoulder.

    "Let's get to it gents" he replied happily, leading the way over the Essalanean delegation.
     
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  4. North Timistania

    North Timistania Registered

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    At the arriving delegations approach the honour guard marched into position and formed two lines creating a corridor of saluting warriors. Both lines had two rows, in the front, the Ehrengarde stood in the traditional cloaks and fur caps of the clans with their swords raised in salute, behind them stood the soldiers of the modern clan army their Norsian style blue uniforms and silver helms striking in the morning light. The symbolism could not have been clearer, tradition and modernity united for the betterment of the clans.

    Gaiseric stepped down from the jeep, Alric following closely, he straightened his cloak and signalled with a raised hand for the banners of each nation to be raised, three bondsmen bearing the standards of Sil Dorsett, Essalanea and Prydania stood to attention, their flags flowing gently in the morning air.

    'Do you see the rifle she's carrying?! must be a Sprekker! she has good taste ill give her that' Alric said in an excitable tone as he saw Madeline approach

    'Its the one in the case that will do the most talking' Gaiseric said noting that she carried another weapon as he watched the Dorsettian PM approach

    Gaiseric had always been adept at reading people, a life spent on the Cimmerian border had necessitated the ability to read the often veiled intentions of foreign traders, to a trained eye Madeline was making some very clear statements. She carried her own bags and weapons, she dressed plainly and her body language betrayed no arrogance or pretension, she moved like a young clanswoman about to undertake the trials of passage, purposeful but cautious.

    'Good' Gaiseric thought approvingly, she had come with the right mindset

    The Prydanian delegation was no less curious, in particular, Gaiseric noted that the king was dressed more like a hunter than a monarch, his simple clothing made for a curious contrast with the stark formality of his bodyguard.

    'They look like they mean business' Alric said as the King approached, the guards moved in perfect time with their royal charge

    Gaiseric knew a little of the recent history of Prydania, there had been a war against a tribe of fanatics called 'Syndicalists' and the king had won, that victory had been gained through the support of countless loyal bondsmen. These knights were veterans, they might have been dressed for a parade, but he knew battle-hardened men when he saw them. Gaiseric approved, the steppe was no place for the untested.

    'The knights of the storm' Gaiseric said in reply

    'They move like soldiers should, Didn't they fight that Manzerkalist clan a few years back?' Alric asked as they watched the foreigners approach with guarded fascination

    'Syndicalist brother, Manzerkalists belong to those Astragonese Fops in Iteria' Gaiseric said with a wicked grin, both men chuckled mischievously

    Finally, the Delegations stood in front of them, Madeline and Tobias exchanged greetings as Gaiseric stepped forward. He raised a fist and his honour guard saluted the delegates in one practised motion before standing at ease. Alric stood next to him, he was holding a fur bundle containing gifts for the guests, Gaiseric hoped Alric hadn't dirtied it with skewer grease.

    'Your Majesty! Your Excellency! I trust your flight was a pleasant one, I am honoured that you would accept my invitation to join us on the steppe, while you are here in our lands you shall be as our own kin, together we shall hunt the wolf, drink to friendship and cement ties stronger even then blood!' Gaiseric said his voice Ebullient as he addressed his guests

    Gaiseric inclined his head and Alric stepped forward fur bundle in hand, he opened it and revealed two long knives in glittering sheathes within. The first was a golden sheathed blade whose hilt was fashioned into the form of deer antlers, the scabbard was lined with engraved runes with staggeringly expensive mother of pearl inlay, where the Kimbri had sourced such a precious item from they would not say. The Antlered blade bore a stylised image of a wolf and stag upon its pommel, this blade was intended for Tobias.

    'Tobias of house Lothbrok, King of Prydania, I welcome you with the gift of a sheathed blade, may this weapon never be raised in anger against you' he said solemnly as a knight stepped forward to take the knife with both hands from Alric

    The second blade was of a different style, more subtle but no less of a masterwork, the blade sat in a scarlet leather scabbard which was overlaid with silver vines, at its centre a ruby shaped to resemble the Dorsettian rose had been fitted and was flanked by two unicorns in the style of the principalities arms. with these decorations alone the blade would have been a priceless work of art but there was another, more subtle, detail, the pommel was shaped in the form of a bird and no ordinary creature at that.

    An Essalanean seeker bird stood at the top of the blade with its wings outstretched as though it was ready to take flight. The Seeker bird was an ancient symbol representing the search for growth and change, its flights west in search of food and mates held spiritual significance for the clans, this blade had clearly been intended for Madeline rather than as a gift to the princesses.

    'Madeline of Sil Dorsett, I welcome you with the gift of a sheathed blade, may this weapon never be raised in anger against you' Gaiseric said, Alric held out the beautiful weapon and Madeline took it in both hands.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  5. Sil Dorsett

    Sil Dorsett I'm a lot of things. - - - - - -

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    The full honors on display caught Madeline-off guard once she had squared away her equipment and took notice of it. It wasn't on her list of things to expect when landing in Clan territory, let alone for a hunting trip. But, she took it in stride, maintaining her stoic composure as she met with Gaiseric and his people.

    The first introduction by Gaiseric proved promising, and she was pleased that she was being welcomed as an equal. It was what she hoped for, and was happy that her expectations became reality. Amid the pleasantries, she quickly glanced over at Tobias, wondering for a second if he would be ready for the trial ahead, before realizing that he was probably more prepared than her, having survived a war that was meant to kill him.

    The presentation of the blade nearly broke the Prime Minister. While the decorations of the scabbard weren't an exact coat of arms, it might have well have been, given its intricacy and craftsmanship. The hilt of the blade, though, with the Seeker bird, nearly brought her to tears. In the weeks that preceded her arrival, and with the help of the foreign ministry, much research was done into Essalanean culture. From that research, the Seeker bird stuck out in her mind. She recognized the symbolism and matched it with her own motherly traits. A mother of four, she knew this gift was hers, and not that of the two princesses, both mothers of none.

    Maintaining her composure, she accepted the blade in her hands, curtsied, and addressed Gaiseric. "You honor me," she said to Gaiseric and his delegation, "and I hope to honor you and the clans of your nation by proving myself in the wilderness. Let us have a glorious hunt!"

    She then turned towards Tobias, acknowledging him and making her intentions clear. "Your Majesty, over the course of this trip, you'll see a side of me you've never seen before. I hope you're not surprised by it."
     
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  6. Prydania

    Prydania Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði - - - -

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    Tobias smiled seeing the Essalanean honour guard, with their Norsian-esque uniforms. He was happy to see Alycia's efforts regarding Essalanea pay off. It also spoke well of Gaiseric. You can lead a horse to water, the saying went. And like a horse who knew how to drink? Gaiseric seemed to know what to do with the resources he'd been given in his quest to modernize the steppes. It was a true partnership between Norsia and Essalanea, and Gaiseric was seeing to it that Essalanea did its part. Tobias could relate, with Prydania being on the receiving end of not insubstantial aid packages.

    He'd only met Gaiseric a few times. Once at the Luscovo Pact's founding. The other in Syrixia during the Two Thousand Years celebration. Still, he felt good about him. A man who was in a precarious position but who seemed to find his balance within the chaotic world of clan politics. And he seemed friendly enough!

    He noticed Prime Minister Madeline Ellison as he approached the Essalanean delegation. Her weaponry caught him by surprise! He knew she had hunted recreationally, and of course the survivalist culture of her home region in the Principality was well-known enough in Prydania. Still...those guns! He chuckled a bit to himself and instinctively clutched the strap of his rifle case flung over his shoulder. His SV-Íþróttamaður L/42 .30-.30 was trusty, but the lever-action didn't seem to stand up to PM Ellison's arsenal.

    "Everything ok Your Majesty?" Laurids asked, keeping up formality now that they were in public.

    "Yes, Lord General" the King replied with a slight smile.
    "If you get the chance though? Ask Prime Minister Ellison about that arsenal. I'd think I'd feel safer if we had a few of those around."

    "Of course Your Majesty" Laurids replied with a chuckle.
    Shortly thereafter they and Madeline converged, approaching the Essalanean delegation.

    "Gaiseric" Tobias replied, amazed and nearly speechless for a moment as he studied the knife's hilt and scabbard.
    "I cannot thank you enough for this gift."
    The antler hilt was beautifully crafted, but it was the runes along the scabbard that caught his attention. The pearl inlay, and what he recognized as old Andrensk runes. The same sort that adorned his coronation robes and dotted the marble and wood of his throne room. He wasn't expecting anything that...nice!
    "Thank you again," he replied. "I'm looking forward to a good hunt, and better food amongst friends!" he added.

    He looked over Madeline again now that they were closer and he could get a better view of her. He'd read up on Silean survivalist culture in the western Principality as part of the preparation for the meeting that birthed the trade deal that existed between their countries. As someone who himself had to often live off the land growing up? It was fascinating stuff to read about. Still...he had developed the idea that most politicians or leaders from nations didn't really engage in that sort of activity. Madeline's presence- and her apparent level of preparedness- challenged that notion directly.

    Your Majesty, over the course of this trip, you'll see a side of me you've never seen before. I hope you're not surprised by it
    she had said to him. He grinned in response.

    "Surprises can be enlightening, Madam Prime Minister" he replied. "And not always bad. The steppes should be pretty intense for all of us, I think."
     
  7. North Timistania

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    Gaiseric surveyed the assembled with a trained eye, the mood of the delegations was one of excitement and anticipation in equal measure, the air had an electric quality about it. In near two millennia, precious few foreigners were afforded safe passage upon the step, and the occasions where an unhorsed had been granted the right to hunt wolves was a rarer figure still, and yet here they were, two foreign leaders, bearing the blessed blade and standing as embraced kin of the clans.

    There was a whiff of destiny about this moment Gaiseric decided, he could feel the guiding hand of Ziu in this occasion and he knew then that opening the steppe had indeed been the will of his god. breathing in deeply he spoke with practiced joviality.

    'Well, friends enough ceremony for one day, onward to Neuanfang! we shall feast in my ancestor's hall tonight' he said raising his hands for dramatic effect

    The Journey from the airport to Neuanfang would once have been long and beset by bumps and dust, now the concrete motorway that had been built by Norsian troops ensured it was a smooth thirty minutes drive. Gaiseric drove down the long snaking road, the chill breeze flowing through the open-topped vehicle

    'Well, that went well!' Alric said yelling over the wind

    'Hmmm, that's just the beginning, we still have a feast to get through' Gaiseric replied never taking his eyes off the road

    Alric smirked 'Anegrette's pessimism is rubbing off on you brother, they loved the gifts, a bit of ale and smoked meat and they will be right at home!' Alric said as he lounged in the back seat with his botts resting on the door

    'Let's hope they aren't vegetarian' Gaiseric said before pressing down on the accelerator

    Behind them a convoy followed, trucks filled with soldiers and a full squadron of Ehrengarde mounted on iron horses, the guest's vehicles were in the center of the convoy, an intentional gesture to show that the clans would protect their visitors. Gaiseric led from the front in the jeep and he was the first to see Neuanfang begin to emerge from the hill strewn horizon.

    The great walls of the city were bathed in the golden hue of a sunset, the tall towers seemed to glow like spear points in the evening light. they entered the city via the main gate, it had only recently been replaced, the old one having been destroyed during the Karg siege some two years prior. They passed the vast iron doors the shadows of vehicles dancing across the carvings of wolves and horses that flowed across them.

    Neuanfang was an old city by Essalanean standards, founded one hundred years ago it was home to over 300,000 people. The city was a vast sea of stone dwellings and narrow streets, at face value it mirrored a medieval town similar to countless others in Eras, more careful inspection revealed hints of modernity springing up everywhere. The insides of houses were lit by the glow of bulbs, streetlamps dotted the long cobblestone processionals and music, announcements and static all blared from the speakers that seemed to be present at every major intersection.

    The city bustled with life, communal meal halls packed and spilled out onto the street, traders from Cimmeria hawked their wares from shop windows and stalls and everywhere the steady march of shift workers going to or from their assigned tasks in disciplined packs of men and women. The city had clearly been wounded however, bullet holes and burn marks scarred countless buildings and scaffolding seemed to indicate rebuilding rather than expansion.

    Bondsmen watched with curiosity and suspicion as the convoy passed, citizens looked up from their arm wrestling and tankards to watch the strangers pass, children ran after the trucks begging the clan soldiers within for sweets, the men obliging by tossing Norsian and Predicean confections onto the streets.

    Finally, the convoy came to an open square, flower gardens surrounded a single mounted statue, that of a warlord bearing a winged helm and pointing a sword southwards, Essalan, the demi-god and culture hero of the steppe watched over his people even now nearly two millennia after his death. Behind the statue their destination beckoned, the hall of Valk sat upon a tall hill from which it surveyed the rest of Neuanfang, encircled by a second ring of stone the hall was a fortress within a larger city.

    The gates opened to allow the convoy to enter, once inside the occupants began to disembark, the hall of Valk towered over the people below, wolves and horses similar to the ones adorning the gate danced and fought along the length of its wooden rafters, the hall had been made at great expense from the most precious resource on the steppe, timber. The doorway was shaped like the maw of a great wolf, opening and ready to swallow all who drew close enough.
     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2019
  8. North Timistania

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    The great hall of Valk was at face value yet another testament to the enduring backwardness of the clans, it certainly had all the hallmarks of a tribal meeting hall at first glance, shields and weapons were mounted upon walls covered in ancient carvings and benches were draped in furs to keep the seated warm.

    A closer inspection, however, revealed the fallacy of that initial assumption, the weapons on the walls were more often than not automatic rifles, alongside the carvings of horses and wolves were the unmistakable images of motorcycle and plane, if one were to study the furs draped on every seat the machined stitching upon their edges would be evident and all of this was lit by the illumination of electric lights.

    A strange synthesis of ancient and modern was occurring in the clan realms and as night darkened the steppe the guests were given a full display of clan hospitality. Gaiseric had afforded his guests the traditional honor of being seated with their backs to the wall, a traditional gesture meant to prevent surprise assassination, the high chief and his guests sat upon a raised table that observed the entire hall.

    The table was like a tranquil island amidst wild seas, below a raucous celebration unfolded, bards filled the feast hall with fierce melodies as they strummed four strings and pounded drums. Around the bard's countless men and women danced in wild abandon their forms twisting and leaping, it appeared more like a display of physical strength than a form of recreational amusement.

    In the center of the hall a vast oaken table heaved with countless trays of meat, cheese, bread and fruit and huge kegs of ale were constantly being brought out, as soon as one was drained another would emerge from to take its place. A goat roasted on a spit nearby, bondsmen casually hacked pieces of it off with long knives.

    There seemed to be little of the hierarchy so often seen in the rest of Eras, bondsmen of all sexes, age and occupation mingled freely and children weaved through the crowds of adults with unsupervised glee. occasionally the revels would be interrupted by a drunken dispute, in such instances, a crowd would encircle both individuals and cheer as they fought barehanded, once they had finished the circle would disperse as though nothing had happened.

    Gaiseric regarded the entire hall impassively, he was a son of the clans and such events held little surprise for him, his guests however would likely be seeing clan culture for the first time and that made him curious.

    'what do they think of us? are we the noble savages of their romanticized tales or the demonic raiders of cautionary ones? hmmm.... maybe neither...maybe both' he wondered his hand resting on his chin

    His contemplation was interrupted as a large shadow slinked under the table, he caught a brief flicker of fur as he looked down in time to see his tamed wolf accost the king of Prydania, Egica sniffed at Tobias's knees and attempted to gain scraps from his plate with puppy-like eyes that seemed wholly out of place on such a large animal.

    'Egica' Gaiseric said locking eyes with the wolf, his tone suggested this was not an isolated event

    The wolf came to heel at the sound of his master's voice before leaping off comically after the lamb bone Gaiseric hurled in his direction.

    "My apologies, wolves are sacred here your majesty....though I'm starting to think they know it too," he said as the Wolf gnawed contentedly on the lamb bone

    The Volkmann revered wolves as their sacred totem animal tamed packs were common in their halls, but the sight of a vast predator weaving between the legs of his guests did not bode well if Gaiseric intended to introduce his guests to the clan ways in a gentle fashion. On his left, Madeline was busy discussing firearms with his brother Alric

    'Is that a Sprekker!? beautiful weapons, I use a type 44 myself...' Alric chatted away like an excitable child

    'At least we all have that in common' Gaiseric thought, grinning in amusement at the idea of guns bringing them all together

    He reached for his wine glass and took a long swig if nothing else this night would not be dull.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019
  9. Prydania

    Prydania Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði - - - -

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    The sights and sounds of the hall had hit Tobias like a wave, but he'd found himself relaxing once the initial sensations had faded. He'd grown up around soldiers after all, rowdiness didn't phase him so much. That the food and drink was good helped too! The ale was more bitter than either mead or beer back home, but it had more kick than the Syrixian stuff. And the meat was some of the best he'd ever had!
    Really though, the whole hall reminded him of Oktoberfest. The Gotic festival was of great importance in Prydania. He'd lead two from the temporary halls erected in the capital since becoming King. Essalanea and Prydania diverged paths a long time ago, but it wasn't hard to see the common strands of culture that bound them in this clan hall.
    His relaxation was interrupted slightly by the wolf. He gasped in shock for a moment a smirk grew across his face. Wolf or not? It was hard to be terrified at the face of a canine begging for food.

    My apologies, wolves are sacred here your majesty....though I'm starting to think they know it too Gaiseric remarked as he tossed the bone for the wolf to chase after.

    "I spent a lot of time in the Skóglendi as a child" he replied, referring to the heavily forested eastern and central regions of Prydania.
    "You get used to wolves" he added with a chuckle. "What about you, Lord General?" he asked Laurids.

    The Lord General just shook his head with a chuckle.
    "I'm sorry Your Majesty, I'm afraid not. I spent most of the War in the Midlands. More farms than forests. Or steppes."
    He looked around the hall himself. He saw a few of his Knights talking to, or even flirting with, Essalanean locals. He wasn't upset- he'd allowed them the night to revel. He was, in fact, just a bit envious. Still, someone had to ensure the King's safety. And since he was the highest rank? That feel to him. Still, he couldn't shake the sense that Essalaneans were watching him. He didn't expect his sort to be a common sight, even with Norsians being a regular fixture around these parts these days. A Royal guard was something different. He wondered how many were sizing him up?

    Tobias drank a bit more ale.
    "I've never seen a wolf that tame though" he remarked to Gaiseric.
    "Was it born tame or was it domesticated?"
     
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  10. Sil Dorsett

    Sil Dorsett I'm a lot of things. - - - - - -

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    Everything that was happening reminded Madeline of even-younger years with her trips to local fantasy faires and her live-action roleplaying groups from university. The traditional music and the dancing put a smile on her face as she was entertained and provided the opportunity to reminisce on the fun times before responsibility caught up with her.

    While clansmen squared off in intoxication-induced combat, she even considered starting something at random herself. But, she thought better of it, not wanting to stain her reputation or that of her government. She'd settle for taking mental bets on who would win each round and cheering for her favored fighter.

    The feast itself was more glorious than any pretentious show the princely family or the families of the nobility ever put on. No longer did she have to worry about whether the flavor profiles of each dish were in perfect synchronization; she only needed to worry about not putting back on the weight she was trying to lose after giving birth to Melissa, her fourth.

    Alric seemed especially enthusiastic about discussing Madeline's weaponry after seeing it on the tarmac. Madeline knew that she had accomplished one of her goals already, letting the clans know of her seriousness. But, it wasn't the .50 Berenice that had Alric's attention; it was the .308 Sprekker, which was quite a surprise to her. Perhaps it was because she never actually revealed the weapon, she thought. Regardless, it made for good conversation, both as small talk but also being as informative as possible.

    "It is!" she exclaimed to Alric. "The Andrennians do make quality weapons, and a lot of people in the militias swear by them. I brought two different ammo loads with me, a normal 147-grain supersonic, commercially bought, and a 225-grain subsonic hand-loaded by yours truly. Combine that with my suppressor, and you'll be amazed how quiet the 225-grain is."

    The discussion went on for quite a while with Madeline looking to impress and gain the favor of clans, boasting about all she learned in her formative years and testifying to the survivalist program the Sil Dorsettian government endorsed.
     
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  11. North Timistania

    North Timistania Registered

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    "Was it born tame or was it domesticated?" Tobias asked

    Gaiseric paused for a moment, scratching his chin in thought, the memories flooded his mind with images as he answered

    'When I was a boy we suffered a particularly brutal winter, birds froze and fell from the sky and those who could not find shelter at night were found like statues in the dawn' Gaiseric could almost feel the chill of that winter as he spoke

    He pointed to Egica who lolled around the floor with his bone, the wolfs ears perked up slightly as he realized his master was looking at him

    'Worse than the cold, however' Gaiseric said eyes still locked on the lounging canine 'Were the wolves, they hounded our herds and even started to kill unsuspecting bondsmen, I think they were suffering as much as we were' Gaiseric said grimly, he could still see the gory patches of red staining the formerly pristine white snows

    He took a sip of wine from his cup and stared into the ruby depths of his cup before continuing 'Eventually the attacks grew too frequent to ignore, my father Hunneric took a hunting party to the wildlands to cull the feral packs' Gaiseric said now deep in memory

    He could still remember the Stoney faced men leaving to hunt, furs wrapped tight around shivering bodies and hands gripping spears, rifles and nets as they left Neuanfang for the Arrandi border. They had looked like men condemned, many of them did not return. The wildlands that bordered the mountains of Arrandal were like that, the clans avoided them fearful of the beasts that called it their home, the cull was an act of desperation on their part.

    'My father lost a dozen men on that hunt, frostbite and the wolves themselves took their toll, but he returned later bearing enough skins to clothe an entire company and a set of wolf cubs' Gaiseric said letting the last sentence trail off

    He remembered the day of his fathers return well, Hunneric had ridden through the gates of Neuanfang and been greeted with cheers and roars of approval, the furs he claimed had saved countless bondsmen from the cold and the reprieve from wolf attacks had kept their herds alive and able to continue feeding the clan.

    'My father shot Egica's monstrous she-wolf of an ancestor, but thought it a cruel and ignoble thing to harm pups and so he scooped them up and brought them back to be raised amongst us, that oversized mischief-maker there, he is the result' Gaiseric said with a grin, Egica barked as if to answer his masters attention, the High Chief threw the wolf another scrap in response.

    ************************************************************
    'Is that a Sprekker!? beautiful weapons, I use a type 44 myself...' Alric said chatting away like an excitable child

    "It is!" she exclaimed to Alric. "The Andrennians do make quality weapons, and a lot of people in the militias swear by them. I brought two different ammo loads with me, a normal 147-grain supersonic, commercially bought, and a 225-grain subsonic hand-loaded by yours truly. Combine that with my suppressor, and you'll be amazed how quiet the 225-grain is."

    Alric thought about that for a moment before nodding approvingly 'Silence is an often underappreciated quality in a firearm here on the steppe' he said excitement replaced by a more considered tone

    It was an irksome cultural quirk that the clans had never really been able to shake, most clans liked guns that packed a punch, automatic rifles were prized both for they're rapid-fire and for the satisfying shriek they made as they tore through anything in their path. Alric was a rare breed, a warrior who killed in shadow and preferably silence.

    'Most of my kinsfolk prefer the noise of open battle, our culture is unsubtle in that regard, my position as my brother's problem solver though...makes me more appreciative of a quiet kill' he said respectfully

    He liked this Madeline of Sil Dorsett, she was not the pampered princess he had feared she would be and she seemed to be comfortable amongst the children of Essalan, honestly, it surprised him how much she seemed to be enjoying the feast. Most unhorsed had one of two reactions to the clans, horror or pity, they either seemed horrified by what they did not understand or piteous of what they looked down upon, this Madeline, however, had a refreshing lack of pretension.

    'that said' he began after a pause 'The kimbri are more...appreciative... of modern subtleties, pity ana isn't here, she knows guns better then I do!' he said with an amused grin

    Anegrette would indeed have liked Madeline he thought, she was driven, self-sufficient and honest, all qualities the queen with a thousand eyes appreciated. Alric began to wonder who this stranger really was, he took a sip of ale and thought about it, she seemed less and less like an unhorsed the more he spoke with her. This hunt was going to be an eventful one.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019
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  12. Prydania

    Prydania Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði - - - -

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    Tobias smiled at the wolf and chuckled as he sipped his beer.
    "Most winters in Prydania are brutal. The snow falls at first, powdery and easy to walk through, but once the true cold comes and the days are as short as a few hours? The snow gets hard. Packed in tight. And the wind..." he shivered just thinking of it.

    "You really get to know how to respect the winter, natural in general really, when you live in it. You learn very quickly it can kill you if you're not careful" he chuckled, as he recounted his time living in the more forested areas of Prydania for most of his life, until his early 20s when the war was in such a state as to make him leaving the FNU-controlled forests a safe bet.

    "It's why Essalanea fascinates me actually, beyond my fiance's interest anyway" he added with a smile.
    "People can use the term 'modernization if they want, but we blew our country up. And now we need to rebuild, like you're doing. And I want Prydania to focus on what it has, what it can be proud of. We're a rural country, and I think that means we have a lot in common, and a lot we can learn from you" he said as he leaned back comfortably in his chair.

    Hummel chuckled.
    "His Majesty also wants a challenge" he added, leaning closer to Gaiseric.
    "Hunt something on land he doesn't know inside and out."

    "It's true" Tobias added with a smile as he drank more beer."
    "Our people, we used to venerate the Andrennian god of the hunt, before Messianism came and Vort...no...no, it was Sigegar..."

    "Kaldor, Your Majesty, Lord Kaldor Loðbrók" Hummel replied.

    "Yes, that's it. Kaldor was the one who converted. Along with Absalon with the Bayardi!" Tobias exclaimed.
    "Regardless, before him we venerated the hunting god Jägdar. It's been something that's been a part of us all, for generations. And Alycia, well she's introduced me to the Norsian faith. It's made me think more about the gods of our own ancestors. And how there's still value in old traditions."

    He took another sip of beer, smiling as he watched the dancing and fighting play out before him.
     
  13. North Timistania

    North Timistania Registered

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    When the king had finished speaking the two men sat in companionable silence as Tobias watched the dancing and brawling in the floor below and Gaiseric ruminated upon what he had just heard. It was an entertaining feast even by normal clan standards, the dancing had become increasingly more vibrant and physical as men and women leaped and twisted to increasingly wild tunes from the bards four strings.

    The fights too had become rhythmic duels of fists and amused shouts as crowds formed the traditional chanting circle. Outsiders often called such social mores barbaric, they failed to understand the purpose of such activities, men and women fought these duels in order to air grievances and vent them before they became feuds. Fighters would brawl fiercely only to emerge laughing and patting one another on the back, the cause forgotten and order restored.

    The dancing too was a form of social theatre, the physicality of steppe dancing was purposeful, many a famous clan pairing had found its genesis in the raw athleticism of the leaping throngs of dancers. Tobias surprised Gaiseric, not only did the Prydanian king watch, he did so with a smile rather than the usual looks of horror and disgust that flowed across foreign faces.

    Gaiseric thought about the king's story, his life within rebel-held forests, his respect for the dangers posed by winters icy reign. The King struck Gaiseric as being utterly different from the usual pretentious royalty that the high chief had encountered, most unhorsed grew up spoilt by their soft lives, they had no appreciation for the clothes on their backs, the food in their bellies or the land and people that provided both. Tobias though had lived in scarcity before becoming king, and it reflected well, he carried himself with a nobility that seemed to stem from his character rather then any title.

    'Here is a man that understands' Gaiseric thought grinning as he took a sip of wine

    'It may surprise your majesty to know that we consider the steppe a paradise, not because it is an easy land but because of the hardship and scarcity of this place. Such things shape a person into something stronger and endow them with an appreciation for what truly matters in life' Gaiseric said breaking the silence that had descended upon the table

    He motioned with his hand to the revels in the hall below 'Just like you I seek to preserve the soul of my culture without languishing in the past, modernity, as you say, is about more than roads and shining towers, it is the struggle to reconcile one's self with a changing world, perhaps this is why the pact is so important, because our struggles are cut from the same cloth' Gaiseric said with passion in his voice

    He looked down into the wild sea of feasting bondsmen they were alive, free and spirited and they were loving every moment of this occasion, to dine with a king and a head of state was one thing, to hunt with them was a step further still, the air was electric as though everyone could sense the momentous nature of the times they now lived in, change was indeed here upon the steppe.

    'I cannot speak for your Jägdar, but if he wishes for you to hunt, then I can offer you the most challenging place on earth to seek your quarry' Gaiseric said respectfully
     
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2019
  14. Prydania

    Prydania Það er alltaf sólríkt í Beaconsviði - - - -

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    Tobias laughed.
    "Jägdar..." he repeated softly before taking a sip of beer. He wasn't going to tell a foreign dignitary that he thought he'd actually spoken to Jägdar. He still didn't know how to make sense of that experience. Still...a hunting god ran in his people's past.
    "Jägdar was a very respected god in my people's distant homeland of Andrenne. Our ancestors, before we fled to what is now Prydania, revered him above all else. The hunt provides. More than just food or skins or furs though. Hunting has long been a right of passage for my people. And so" he raised his mug of beer.
    "If the steppe is the most challenging place to hunt? I'm excited! What good is a hunting god if he doesn't prepare you for the worst challenge, eh?" he asked as he sipped more beer.

    He felt relaxed. This was diplomacy. He didn't have to wear a stiff military uniform or rehearse protocol or have himself grilled on every facet of what was or wasn't acceptable. The War had been hard, but the atmosphere in the hall reminded him of some of the better times. When he'd watch, as a child, soldiers and spies trade stories at FNU encampments. Hell, the fights he saw in Essalanea before him didn't even phase him. Back in the day? It wouldn't be uncommon for a drunken soldier to get into a spat with another necessitating a more level headed party to break them up. Or even a friendly rivalry settled with a round of arm wrestling. Or five.
    What he saw here wasn't that distant from that. He almost wished William was here. Or maybe not. William had led the FNU for fifteen years. If he was tired of soldiers competing against each other at this point? He was perhaps served a break. Still, it brought Tobias back to some pleasant memories.

    "Tall buildings" he chuckled to Gaiseric.
    "You know from the 1960s until just after the war the tallest building in Prydania was a hospital. Outside of the capital of Beaconsviði in a town called Rytagnupr. It survived the war and it's only 120 meters. It doesn't even qualify as a skyscraper! But then after the war Thomas, a telecommunications company, came in to help with the infrastructure. And they built an impressive tower in Alaterva. Which is nice, but I wish they had kept it shorter. Still, you don't need to build upwards. I'm very proud that Beaconsviði's skyline isn't a monstrosity of metal shards. You can see the city as it existed for hundreds of years, growing as it always has. So don't let anyone tell you what the cost of progress is. Progress and tradition can be retained if everyone cares enough."
    Tobias chuckled. He didn't think he'd get a chance to wax poetically about his architectural interests on this trip, but here he was.

    "Regardless, I'm looking forward to being tested by the wolves on your steppe. It's always an invigorating feeling when man and beast test wits."
     
  15. Sil Dorsett

    Sil Dorsett I'm a lot of things. - - - - - -

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    Alric's description of Essalanea combat preferences was enlightening to the minister, and was a difference to discuss. While the clans seemed to embrace the no-holds barred way of battle, the Sil Dorsettians were much more limited in what they were even allowed to do.

    "You might actually tolerate Sil Dorsett's firearm limitations, but it seems like most clansmen probably wouldn't. I'm not even allowed to own a machine gun," Madeline explained. "Only active duty military can. The militias are stuck with semi-automatics. Part of the reason why we have to be good marksmen. We can't just lob a ton of lead down range real fast and hope something hits. We make every shot count."

    Anegrette seemed interesting to Madeline. She had read the reports and the stories of the Kimbri Chieftain, and everything about her and her clan resonated with the minister. Alric talking up Anegrette's credentials made some sort of encounter with her even more enticing.

    "I hope I get a chance to meet up with Anegrette at some point. With the way you're talking about her, I have a feeling there's a lot I could learn from her."

    Madeline looked over at Alric's mug as he took his sip of ale. A bit tipsy already and wanting to show off, she took her own mug, downed the whole thing, and motioned to have it refilled. Not expecting another child had some advantages.