The Price of Honor (Post-Battle)

Agea’s Drake Hunt (Dweghom) vs. Campaign Albion (Hundred Kingdoms)


Post-Battle Narrative.

Artur opens his eyes. Above him, angry, dark clouds deliver a torrent of dust and water, the sedimentary seeping into the Wasteland. The drops are cold, harsh, chilling him to the bone. He kneels atop a deep altar made of steel and flesh, the pieces of those who paid the price for his honor. And paid until the last drop of blood so their King wouldn’t lie there with them.But a small part of him will forever rest here with their noble sacrifice.
Artur takes his favored poleaxe, removing the tip but keeping the blade, and begins to dull the edge by striking it upon the savannah earth. Deeper and wider, with progress made primarily due to the rain softening the soil, Artur prepares the burial for these young men and women – his peers, some even he recognizes from his time in the War College – who will never see their home again.
A deep voice grumbles at him. The Prince thinks it was a man, at first, until he turns to glance at the speaker – a Dweghom with brown hair and a relatively smooth complexion compared to the males he had met on occasion. ”It will be Remembered,” starts the female Elder, her eyes grim yet focused on the survivor before her as she speaks in an older dialect of the human tongue, “that a team of humans refused to remove themselves from the path of War. It will be Remembered that, for their insolence, many were slain, the rest scattered, and Aghm claimed from the weak in the form of rare ivory. One human lives to bear witness and Memory for the defeated.”
  ”Where is your Aghm, human?”
  “…My weight is in the crest over my heart: the emblem of Albion Hold, shield of Clan Drakequill. I am a Thane.”
Her eyes ignite with blue flame for a moment at the mention of the word, before then scoffing.
“A Thane? Is that all that will be Remembered of you? Hah! Hiding behind trinkets and Clan – how little Aghm your name holds, that you should claim the strong title Thane yet shame yourself, manling!”

Artur grips his makeshift shovel and furiously glares at the Sorceress. ”What do I care about your Memories?! You want a name to ‘Remember’? Fine! Artur Drakequill!”
”A name that bears with it so little weight, it might as well be helium. But, at least, some Aghm is better than none. And so it will be Remembered, Artur Drakequill, the naive manling Thane.”
Artur clenches his teeth, pulling back his arm, and striking the earth once more. Unfortunately, in the time that he had taken to converse with his enemy, the hole had mostly been inundated with muddy water and more sedimentary.
At this point, his rage-fueled energy has expired, and the exhausted Prince sinks to his knees, head lowered, wallowing. After a moment, he feels a warmth somewhere behind him. He turns, wondering how there can be warmth while the rain had yet to relent its downpour, and cries out in dismay. The bodies are burning. Flesh and steel becoming ash by the second as a pyre of blue-white flames consume the bodies. The rain only causes the hungry fire-beast to hiss in annoyance, for nothing will stop it from its purpose while fuel is nearby to feed it.
Artur watches as the remains of the Drakenguard – heirlooms, banners, and all – are erased. For a moment, a dark thought entertained his mind: what if he brought their families to the Conclave, and held them accountable for their son or daughter’s cowardice in the expedition? Sixteen different families, all sued for the price of honor, would surely sustain Albion in her darkest hour…
  ”No! Artur screams, pounding the muddy ground, ”No! No, Theos damn you! How could you think that way?! Your peers, your comrades, your friends? Is it really that much easier to make their families suffer, rather than tell them the truth?!”
The rain slowly ceases, and the fire dies without fuel. The Tempered Sorceress is long gone, taking with her a map to what would have been his next expedition to a rumored dragon’s cove by the southern coast.

The surviving troops will eventually regroup that night and find their Prince back at the camp securing the remaining loot – mostly salts, W’adrhun crafts, and a big, hidden chest full of cinnamon from a thieving soldier. When asked about the events that transpired, or the fate of the Drakengard, the usually serious young man was unusually quiet and uncharacteristically detached. All he would say was, “The expedition’s time has expired. Let’s go home”.
Something had changed in him. The court whispers that the Prince is now a King, having lost his naivety in the expedition. But those from the expedition claim something else, that Artur had faced down Death itself, and no longer feared. The truth is only know to the man himself, who no longer wore his crests openly, and would rather that everyone know him as Artur before his own lineage is said.
Thus starts the next chapter of Artur’s life as The Lion of Cammuravi, having tasted sweet victory and bitter defeat, in equal measure, in the alma mater of his career.

The Price of Honor (Pre-Battle)

Agea’s Drake Hunt (Dweghom) vs. Campaign Albion (Hundred Kingdoms)


Pre-Battle Narrative.

Artur opens his eyes. Above him, soft, white clouds, laden with water from the southwestern sea, float slowly over the Wasteland. They promise rain, and shelter from the oppressive heat surrounding him. He’s kneeling before a small altar made of stone, praying before it, refocusing the imperfect man. The same man that had given in to his inner demons.

It’s been a month since he had captured the rival sovereign of the nomadic hill-tribe. And what a profitable month it has been. Just the first week saw the initial investment repaid, from the travel to the supplies, and even the third-party sponsors of the expedition. The Mint was paid with the second week’s tributes, and the third and fourth week were almost all directly sent to Albion. Some of the men were sent back to make sure the money was filling the coffers correctly, and Gravin was assigned to lead the changers in this endeavor.

It’s all going surprisingly well. Maybe he can finally relax for once…

A loud crash shakes him from his ennui. The Prince stands quickly, rushing out of his personal tent, one that was fashioned in the way of the W’adrhun (but fit for a human, rather than their prodigious bulk). The crash comes again. Before him is a decently sized clay prison. It was originally made of wood and tied together by dried fibers with an open ceiling above, but taking compassion for the sweating Queen the Prince had ordered his men to put plaster over the wood, and even form a makeshift roof. For his efforts, Artur was met with silence. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, this sudden vitriol against her prison.

  “Stop! Cease and desist!” Artur shouts, drawing his side-blade, and eyeing the growing bulge of a soon-to-be hole on the side of the prison. “I had thought that we reached an understanding, that you would be a compliant prisoner of war until your ransom was paid, Matriarch! Are you turning back on your word? Are you turning back on your honor?!”

  “Peace, please! Peace!” Artur feels a strong pull on his desert scarf around his neck, the motion nearly choking him, but spinning him around well enough until he faced a W’adrhun girl whose height reaches his chin. She has bright, brown eyes, similar to that of the Queen, but where the Matriarch would merely gaze at you with a presence that simply deserved respect, this girl’s eyes were ones that gleamed with curiosity first and regal steel second. Apparently, she was only nine-years old.

  “Can you not hear it, Chief Drakequill?” the nameless girl whispers in fear, her hands cupping the sides of the Prince’s head, her fingers pulling on his ears as if trying to open them further. “That rhythm, that awful rhythm… of War’s Disciples?” Her lips purse and her face scrunches as she tries to imitate whatever sound she heard, without using the strange but sometimes beautiful intonations that come from deep within their throats. Her sound, instead, comes from the stomach.

…It beats. Like a heart, it beats. But at a rhythm which quickens the blood, incites action. Artur once asked his mentor if he had ever lost a battle. Colonel Ector nodded slowly, then, and uttered only one word, the same that echoed with the maddening rhythm.


And then, the sound doesn’t just come from the W’adrhun girl. The sandy ground holds a beat, and it seems to grow ever stronger. Artur shouts for his men to ready themselves, everyone scrambling to equip for the coming battle beneath the roiling storm-clouds, heralding terrible omens as streaks of fury and light ripple between heaven and earth.

The Dweghom crest the dunes. Their purpose, an enigma for now… but perhaps seeking to settle a Memory with his prisoner. Or with his lineage for some forgotten slight.

In the chaos, the Prince places a dagger to the girl’s palm. He looks into her eyes, saying, “Go! Take your Queen! We’ll meet the foe here. Tell her to pay the price of honor… when we meet again.”

The Predator and the Prey (Post-Battle)

The Silent Foe (W’adrhun) vs. Campaign: Albion (Hundred Kingdoms)


Post-Battle Narrative.

Regal. Unbowed. Unbroken. The Prince of Albion stands atop the fallen monster which was the Matriarch Queen’s chosen steed, his glaive pointing at her throat while she gazed back, measured and unafraid, even though her leg is trapped under the wounded beast. He notes the lack of perspiration from his foe; in contrast, his armor itched from chaffing against his body, the applied oils already evaporated in the midday sun. His face is moist, his breath ragged, as he fights the urge to commit regicide.
Fall. So this is a true battle.
  “So you must be the Matriarch of the tribe beyond the hill,” Artur says, swallowing his saliva first and managing to control his shaky voice. “Let’s get straight to business. You’re a Queen, and me? I’m a King. You’re my prison as of this moment. And by right of conquest, I will demand of your people everything that I see fit to own.”
She opens her mouth. For a brief moment, Artur feels somewhat relieved: finally, some diplomacy with these people! His hopes are dashed – she spits at his boot, soiling it with mucus.
The next moments blur for the young, hot-blooded prince. He recalls his fists and boot whirling about, his heartbeat pumping loudly in his ears, trying to feel petty vindication at inflicting pain but only hurting himself in the process. And feeling a dark seed fester like a parasite inside his heart.
When Artur finally returns to himself, Gilead has him grappled on the ground while Gravin is shouting at the Shield Templar to release him or, “So help me, Theos, I will-!” The Prince taps at Gilead’s arm and shakes the other at Gravin, calling for appeasement from both of his agent and his Armsmaster. Gently, Gilead releases him and Gravin shoves the templar aside to check on Artur.
  “I-I’m alright…” Artur coughs. He smiles weakly at his guard before looking around in alarm for the Matriarch Queen. “T-the prisoner, where is she? Did I… Did I kill her…?”
  “No, milord,” the Armsmaster shakes his head, partly in disappointment, “Were it any other woman or man, surely your righteous strikes would have slain the fool. She is beaten badly, but otherwise still alive, by Theos.”
Artur nods. He looks around the battlefield, noting his veteran guard already fulfilling their task by taking charge, commanding the volunteers to care first for the wounded and the fallen heroes while they capture those who accepted surrender, and gave a merciful end to those who won’t. One man, in particular, managed to stand and began running for the hill, screeching something horrible. Three longbows put an arrow in his eye, throat, and heart almost in one shot.
So. This is true battle…
Artur rises and immediately takes command. First, he calls upon his men and praises them for their service. To the survivors, he promised an increased twelve-percentage of the spoils of war to be divvied up among them all – this causes a great cheer throughout the small expedition. Second, he calls upon the prisoners, explaining to them their situation as prisoners of war and the conditions for their release. To one of their uninjured javelin-throwers, he gives the simple task of returning to their tribe to relay the circumstance, along with a single cart for which he was to return bearing the first of many tributes of cinnamon barks, unrefined salts, and especially fine ivories.
Thirdly, he has the Matriarch bound like a boar on his own, unbladed polearm, to parade and keep her immobilized while the ransom is paid over time. Her own size alone almost makes the task impossible, but they make do. Had there been other ways to carry a royal prisoner, Drakequill would undoubtedly be using it; however, the expedition hadn’t planned on earning a Queen’s Ransom in the first place.
But a Queen he did defeat. And a prize, he will receive. He meets the defiant Matriarch’s gaze with his own, unflinching as he relishes in his first sovereign victory.

The Predator and the Prey (Pre-Battle)

The Silent Foe (W’adrhun) vs. Campaign: Albion (Hundred Kingdoms)


Pre-Battle Narrative.

  “Artur, my sixth sense has been ringing alarms for a while. It’s getting really strong now – can I suggest we just head for the hills and fight another day?”
  The prince of Albion continues looking at the leather village tents not too far away from the strategic mound his scouts had suggested he view the W’adrhun from. They reported seeing them harvest cinnamon bark, saltpeter, and even ivory from the various random bounties of this Theos-forsaken Wasteland. An industrious folk, to be sure, though strangely silent.
  Perhaps they’re keeping a tradition where they mourn in silence for their dead matriarch? The Prince admittedly has almost no experiences with the savages, but even he knows they’re uncharacteristically quiet for a musically-blessed people. Still, he hasn’t seen signs of the prodigious female anywhere.
  Artur lowers his spyglass and turns to the Shield Templar beside him. He keeps his face stoic, but his tone firm. “Time is of the essence, Gilead. Albion’s already invested a small fortune to sanction this expedition with the Mint, and I’ve cashed in many favors so we can pass through the Russ and the Orders. We’ve got to come back with something to show for it. We have to.”
  He walks down the hill, the light desert clothing billowing from a cool, north wind. He passes by his warriors who are resting by the shade of a few craggy bluffs, dreading the hour when the sun hits its zenith and comes down in force. They look miserable – sweating, bored, and anxious for action to distract them from the heat.
  The Prince squints in the distance, spotting another mound. Wasn’t this the only hill in the area? Where did that come from?
  “Gravin, I need your spyglass,” Artur urges the Armsmaster of his personal retainers, the Drakengard, a force loyal only to the Drakequill House.
Receiving the object in question, the Prince glances through the tube only to put it down ten seconds after.
  “Rally, men!”

Campaign: Albion (Introduction)

A narrative-introduction for a Hundred Kingdoms army in the 2023 Slow-Growth Narrative League.


  Artur paces about his office, the oil lamp burning brightly. Four times already, he replaced the fuel for the light, each time glancing passively out the window. The sun is already beginning to rise, a new day bringing with it new problems. And another sleepless night for a tired, worried prince.
  He knew that royal duties would be difficult. But, oh, how the pressures of boring Academic studies pale in comparison to the suffocating collar he wears now. The Nord raiding season, the grudge of three neighboring kingdoms, and the endless internal issues what with his predecessor and father, Uthor the Usurper, having centralized the kingdom’s powers so tightly… if the “energy-boosting” medicines his dubious physician keeps giving him would cease their miracles, Artur was certain he might just die the moment he finally sets his head down to rest.
  Money. That’s his biggest concern right now. Tyrant though the previous king might have been, the projects he had moved forward and personally financed were surprisingly reasonable and logically sound. But they were expensive to initiate, and even more expensive to sustain. The White Walls of Albion, for one, would be near impossible to cease funding now. No, he wouldn’t be able to justify removing them – not to the pompous nobles of his court, not to the commoners who stood by him during the royal civil war, and most definitely not to his own stubborn pride.
  The easy way to solve this is to tax the land. But what ruler would do something so unpopular not long after reclaiming the throne? Artur recalls a kingdom or two which were no longer run by “kings” per se because of an unpopular tax increase. He would not add Albion to that list. There had to be another way…
  A campaign. A military campaign. Of course. If the treasury lacks funding… Albion must survive, engorging herself in blood and loot. Artur’s eyes meets the mirror, the Prince staring at a future King.

The Traveling Spire

Most Spires are stationary, gargantuan constructs seen all over the land stretching towards the sky as if trying to grasp the stars. Though there are rumours of something which can only be described as the Travelling Spire. Most of it sounds like folk tales which should not be trusted but now and then some of them seem to strangely align and thus they may hold some truth to it. Still it all sounds too much like fantasy or stories from an old, mad man. Given how many arguments we have against it and what we know about this matter it seems unlikely to truly exist.
~ Markus Stormlichter


It is now the sixth time this strange construct was spotted in Galania and once again once we reached the place of the sighting we did find nothing but dead tree trunks and this strange hole in the ground. Its size fits perfectly with the other sightings, being a perfectly round hole with a diameter of 23 feet. One man got too close to it while measuring its size and fell into it shortly before we experienced the quake and the hole collapsed. The silence when we arrived at the sighting was unbearable and it still gives me the creeps. Not even a fly or an ant was to be seen in the area. This all lets me conclude that it is the work of the strangers from the Spires but for now we do not have evidence for it.
~ Inspector Auston


We experienced something very strange, sir. The tall, masked man who offered his help before the battle came from the mountains with a small army of bug-man. They looked similar to the warriors who live in the Spires but we know the area and there is no Spire in this direction. We did win the battle and as promised left the battlefield immediately carrying away our wounded. Whilst our commander was preparing for the following negotiations with our enemy I assigned three scouts to see what these strangers are up to and where they go. Only one came back with a truly disturbing story. He witnessed them taking the bodies of their fallen but also those of our men and our enemies. Earth was moved to look as if graves were dug but he saw them empty. They dragged the corpses back to the mountains where they walked into a massive mouth emerging from the ground. Once all entered the mouth closed and retreated back into the ground shaking the earth whilst moving. Before reporting back he measured the hole to have a diameter of 23 feet. It collapsed some time after he left the area as we couldn’t find any evidence for it being there. I will resign my post for the words I heard shiver me to my bones and I mourn whilst thinking about which atrocities the dead bodies of our commands are used for. This letter is used to describe to you, sir, the reason for my resignation.
~ August Marteau


From what we were able to discover the Spires aren’t buildings but in fact they are massive organisms. Being somehow similar to trees but indeed very different at the same time. It is said that long before our times the Dragons had a war with those who live in the Spires, though it is not common knowledge. These rumors also mention that it was in early times where most of the Spires were still growing and some of the smaller ones were destroyed leaving nothing behind. But we know that this is not the truth as we found on several occasions the leftovers of root systems of something which was very similar to a Spire-tree. Though most of them were long dead some still had fought for survival. Strange creatures seen nowhere else could be encountered at such places but it seems the people of the Spires were not interested in them. This does not exclude the possibility of some of these cut off roots to have survived and somehow allured the glare of the eyes of these strange people. Just one more of their secrets. Would it now be possible that one of these roots is now inhabited by a group of them? Maybe they even managed to use their blasphemous magic to make such a root move on its own. This could explain the strange sightings we had heard about.
~ Versula, Chapter Mage and Elder Librarian


I had a strange encounter yesterday and wanted you to know about it, my prince. On our way to Acheron we encountered a group of bandits outnumbering us by far so we had to retreat. Before it came to the battle a stranger came to our camp. I could swear we were one of these strange people from the Spires. He was tall and had this strange demeanor to him. But he was not like others I had encountered. Instead of painted skin and bone he was clad in porcelain and armor looking like a bugs certain. He did say he is the Mask-Maker and he came with a deal as he saw we are in need. The bandits, he said, are no good for us like they are for you. He offered me to join our forces. We would have our path cleared and he would gain something out of it which he made seem an obvious gain but now it seems my mind lacks any detail of what it might be. Today we had our battle and men who looked like clad in the armors of giant bugs fought by our side. We won and left to be on our way as quickly as possible as the everlasting silence of these strangers made us more nervous than the presence of the bandits nearby.
~ Commander Sytrik Skalkonski

Church of Saint Agobard

Established shortly after the discovery of Duchess Deveaux, the Holy Church of Saint Agobard is a fanatical sect of Theism that has taken over as the primary faith within the lands controlled by House Deveaux. The first of the devout followers and the founder of the sect was a man called Artoirel saint Flourel, a minor noble within the Hundred Kingdoms who had ties to the ancient nobility that surrounded House Deveaux.

When Artoirel first found Lady Marchesa, an overwhelming warmth and light swallowed him and entered his heart. Awakening a deep passion and devoutness towards a winged being with a chalice in one hand and a spear with a flag wrapped into it in the other. When his vision cleared, it was Lady Marchesa before him.This was a sign, a message from the great Saint Agobard, a long forgotten patron saint of the Theist faith.Artoirel took this as a command, a holy calling to spread the word of Agobard’s second coming.and rally people to Marchesa’s divinity.

At first Marchesa detested the idea of being considered a deity but as time went on the daily prodding at her mind of the idea grew and soon she fully took on the mantle of Agobard’s vessel, changing her normally shy demeanor to one of benevolence and grace. 

A great tale was made to bring people to the cause of Lady Marchesa and Saint Agobard, one of strife and reclamation. Artoirel devised the tale of Agobard’s will entering Marchesa’s body and guiding her on a holy pilgrimage to her ancestral homeland to retake and rebuild the name of Deveaux. On her travels she came across five noble hedge knights who pledged themselves to her righteous cause. These knights soon became known as the Divine Guardians.
Soon this tale spread thanks to Artoirel’s connections in many city states and with the Theist church and many of the poor, lost and disenfranchised  from the lands around flocked to follow the holy pilgrimage of Agobard’s Vessel. Their devotion was proven time and time again protecting the Vessel and building the new capital of House Deveaux. Becoming the first settlers of Pays du Saint, an old term from Marchesa’s ancestors meaning Land of the Saint.

Nov 1 2021 Update

As some may know, Conquest Eternal started in February 2021 as a simple site to house and share updates about the custom ruleset we were making for map campaigns for Conquest, and for updates on our first Crisis in Russ campaign. A simple site, with a simple purpose.

Over the course of this year, many things have changed. The existing primary community site shut down. The original community Tabletop Simulator mod was discontinued. A new faction was released. Official campaign rules were released. These changes and many others meant the site had to adapt or wither, and we chose to adapt. Today I am outlining all our ongoing and completed projects as a mark of how far we have come, and offering a summary of where we see ourselves headed.

  • This website has evolved into a central resource for the community, offering ready access to community directories for a number of content categories, links to the TTS mod page, fan stories, community scenarios, faction summaries of the released factions, and much more.
  • We introduced a TLAoK rules wiki inspired by the Infinity community rules wiki to make the core rules more accessible and searchable, and covered a major update to the rules (the move from 1.03 to 1.5).
  • We have taken over management of the Unofficial Conquest TTS mod. It has been augmented by additional resources and integration of rules and placeholders for newly released and prerelease units.
  • We held contests for both custom scenarios and for fan lore, with great turnout and reception by the community.

Looking to the future, we hope to introduce the following in the near future.

  • A tournament bracket mobile app for both tracking scores and programmatically building round pairings using Conquest’s Swiss method.
  • A rules wiki containing the First Blood ruleset.
  • A month-long tournament leveraging TTS to connect players from around the world and pit varying local metas against each other.
  • Expansion of our existing TLAoK rules wiki to include FAQs that have been answered by Para Bellum but are not yet released in an official Errata.
  • Expansion of the rules wiki to include faction-specific information as well.
  • A “Getting Started” package of documents to help new players orient themselves within the rules and the lore.
  • A lore wiki, providing for cross-references and a traceable timeline within Ea.
  • Resuming scanning of models into the TTS Core mod to include new releases.
  • Opening up scanning of community models into the TTS Community mod, complete with instructions.
  • Updating the community directories on this website to make it easier to add new resources.
  • An army-building mobile app to allow for easier list building independent of a formal computer.

It has a busy 2021 with a lot of change, and we have more in store. Are you as excited as we are?

Short story: The Market price: Coin like Blood Part I

Gerald the younger sat at the highest table in the grand ballroom of Corngrad, the room filled with swaying silks and velvets of the army of courtesans. The sounds of a ten man accompaniment playing the newest songs throughout all of the hundred kingdoms. The ten musicians being instructed by a singular white haired figure gesticulating for them. His brother truly spared no expense in greeting his return to the city. Though the letters outlining Gerald’s intent and reason for such a ball and tournament no doubt helped.

The nobleman felt a strange emptiness in the chair to his right, where his wife would’ve sat years ago. Now it seemed to forever sit empty no matter where he went ready for her return. The weight of her passing bore down on him despite the long years since then, like an anchor on his shoulders.

The glint of metal caught Gerald’s glance. Another chair down his son Gerald the third sat, giving his father a small gesture behind the table so that none but those near could see. His gold signet ring reflected the light against it’s polished surface. Issuing a slight sigh Gerald brushed his short beard with his hand and said. “What is it boy? If you need to relieve yourself, simply excuse yourself and go.”

The younger man blushed and stammered out. “No, father. I- I wish to go speak to the conductor for a few moments during their next intermission. According to Aunt Alexa they’ve been to distant Lantony, Argem and even Leona.”

“I’m not raising some courtesan or middling nobleman’s son. You’re to be a lord of men, a warrior. Act like it with your whims and desires, boy.” 

The young nobleman frowned momentarily, then leaned back and returned to smiling down at the gathered party. Gerald felt a thudding in his head start, blasted child ‘why doesn’t he act like a man, he’s seventeen already. Or was he sixteen?’ Reaching up a hand to rub at his aching temple he would look over the party. Drawing him from his observations was a muttering at his left, a soft velvet voice that teased at having iron beneath it.

“Let the boy talk to the conductor, dear Cadmael, it will do him no good to constantly be thinking of war. If you want him to be a leader of men you should let him follow the courtly traditions. Music, art, culture, poetry and maybe even romance? Hmmm Little Alexander?”

Gerald Cadmael Vandas turned fully to his sister-in-law and asked. “Tell me, does that make a good leader? Learning to make scribbles, to say soft flowery words… Does your son Chadrick say that when he trains with your men at arms? What do they call the young Prince of Corngrad? What moniker did they give him?”

Lady Alexa would give a small strained smile and flip her fan open waving beneath her face. “He is called ‘The Flower Prince’ for he has been well schooled in both war, love and courtly affairs. Somethings that your own Alexander has yet to be taught. Did you not see him blushing so easily earlier when talking to dear Greta? The poor lad will never win a lady like that.”

“Who is this Greta? A lady of my brother’s court, or one of your ladies in waiting perhaps?” Gerald spoke softly, keeping his voice level. “I’ve never seen the boy flirt or speak to a woman before, frankly I was starting to suspect-”

“Ha, perhaps it’s because you spend every moment you look at the poor child scolding him for his failings and flaws that only you see.” Lady Alexa would lean back and look at him then his son.

“I do not scold him, I instruct him.” 

“Ah yes, Gerald, you instruct your son like I would instruct a horse or hound. You expect him to be seen as marriageable material with those whip marks on his hands and neck? Bwah! for someone who calls himself his father you treat the poor child more like property.”

“Mark me and my words, woman. I instructed and raised him by myself. In the way of my father and his father. I did so alone. Pardon me if I choose to not spare the rod when I’m saddled with such a whimpering weak-”

The soft snap of the soft ivory ribbing of Lady Alexa’s fan silenced the table. Gerald felt a pit form in his stomach as the woman’s furious eyes returned back to him. The emotional mask she had held on for so long was broken, her eyebrow twitching and smile straining as she whispered to him. “If my sister still breathed- gods bless her. She would’ve put a hot iron to your jewels for how you’ve treated her only child. Now, you’re going to get up and ready him for his joust later this evening.”

Restraining a gulp Gerald adjusted his gloves and vest standing. In a harsh whisper he said. “This will be a discussion for another time ‘Bloody Rose’. Boy! Come, we must prepare you for your bout in the tourney.”

Gerald Alphonse Alexander Vandas the Third stood quickly to catch up to his father as Gerald the younger started to walk through the crowd, his shoes clicking against the marble in time with the music.

Gerald the younger shoved the servant aside. “Be out of my way, fool. Boy! What is taking you so long? It has been ten minutes, you should’ve had your armor on by now.”

Following in wake was the elderly Sergeant Erick and Gerald’s bodyguard Sir Yerrkin. Gerald could hear the Sergeant offer the Servant a respectful apology as he followed in the wake of his lord, Sir Yerrkin lifted a hand to stop someone from moving into Gerald’s wrathful path. 

A fist soon found the right door to pound on. Only a few heavy strokes however Gerald forces his fist to stop it’s movement as it soon opens. Shoving it open Gerald the younger saw a strange sight, three Thiest priests praying. Searching the room from the doorway Gerald would call out respectfully. “Forgive me- I am looking for my- I’m looking for Sir Vandas. A young knight, strawberry blond hair, meek of build, should come to my shoulder, about seventeen-”

“Behind the door- Father please, you’re squishing me.”

Removing his foot that had jammed the door open Gerald would allow the young man to come out from behind it. He hadn’t even donned his chest plate, only the greeves. Inhaling he would mutter, “Sloppy ill bred boy… You shame yourself, What if we were under attack or you were in the field.” 

Alexander would shrink back slightly, rubbing the back of his now bruised head. “S- s- sorry father I-”

“Do not call me father, you’re wearing the armor of a knight not the sleeping gown of a still teething babe. Stand up straight, you’re in the presence of a Lord, Knight now!” 

“Ah you must be Lord Gerald Cadmael Vandas, Yes? I am called Theogin by my brothers, but you may call me father, brother whatever you wish.” One of the Thiests priests stood and dipping his hands into his sleeves.

Gerald looked over the man, he wore the robes of the Thiest Church, a deep crimson with a black wolf’s belt slung over his shoulders and a metal helm dangling at his hip opposite from a longsword and dagger. “I am Lord Gerald Cadmael Vandas, I didn’t know that this room was to be used as a chapel. I would’ve sent Sir Vandas to equip himself in the stables.”

The priest gave Gerald a small smile, his bright white teeth showing that they’re missing along one side. Lifting a hand he would say. “There is no need to apologize, We simply felt an urging from the gods to speak with the young knight before his joust and lost track of time. He is quite adept at Theological debate and discussion. He knows many prayers from the heart quite in pressive for a boy of his age, yes? Most are interested in the pleasures of the flesh, either the belly or well below that.”

“Ah yes, He has had the finest instructors that our house could provide him. Begins every day with prayer and ends it the same. Nothing strengthens a knight’s resolve more than training and the gods. Right, Boy?” Puffing his chest out. 

“Y-yes, Your Lordship. After every meal, My drill instructor Erick taught me the legionaire’s battle prayers as well.”

“Did he now? Though I would think that your back doesn’t strengthen your resolve much? Perhaps I should speak with the Drill Instructor Erick, he seems to have forgotten a few prayers for the Mother and Father to teach you.” The priest positioned his arm on the young man’s shoulders and add. “If you would allow me and my brothers to assist the young knight in his final preparations he’ll be on the field in a matter of minutes, yes?”

Sir Yerrkin spoke, “Sir Vandas hasn’t earned the right to have a squire yet, it wouldn’t be proper-”

“Oh you assume me to be a squire then Sir knight- What was your name? Ah It doesn’t matter. No, I’m not going to squire for the boy, simply finish our prayers and rites while assisting him in donning his armor. Agreeable?”
Working his Jaw Gerald bit out, “Vary well, Sir Vandas. I expect you to conduct yourself like a knight of our house ought to. Remember what I said about fighting other men.”

“Fight with valor till the last drop.”

Nodding Gerald turned on his heel in one smooth motion Sir Yerrkin followed after. The Sargeant stayed a moment longer, Gerald faintly hearing him say. “Make ‘em eat the fecking dirt lad, then roll them under then beat the little princeling’s arse.”

After rounding a corner into the covered way of the courtyard Gerald felt Sir Yerrkin’s hand on his shoulder, jerking his arm away he rounded on the knight hissing out. “What is it, you stiff necked baboon? What questions rattle around your saddle bag shaped head.”

“I- Sire, Sir Vandas needs a squire, yes? Or he won’t be able to joust, he hasn’t earned it yet but he still needs one. Who-”

“Are you volunteering? Do you truly wish to belittle yourself with such a lowly position as to be Sir Vandas’ squire for the day?” After a moment of the Knight’s silent contemplation he’d continue. “Or would you rather sit in the noble’s box with me where you could perhaps play at your political play you so enjoy? Talking in the ear of this noble and that.”

Stiffening his shoulders he’d say. “If you were to command-”

“Do not speak those words unless you want their full repercussions to fall about your neck Yerrkin. Link a vise gripping about your honor should the boy lose. My House’s honor.”

Sir Yerrkin would give a firm nod. “Sire, he is your heir. I am sworn to you and your house, he deserves to be given the chance to gain the honor and privilege of a squire. This bout of jousts I hope that you will grant him it.”

Gerald turned from his guard pacing slightly. “Why would you risk this for me Yerrkin? Twelve years you’ve served me, and my father five years before that. Do you- You want him to replace me. Sir Yerrkin, is this perhaps the truth.”

“Sire No!” Stepping closer the Knight would kneel. “Let the Gods forsake me should I ever prove untrue Sire. I simply believe that if you where to allow your heir a squire and perhaps a group of men to lead then you could resent him less your ire for his murder of his mother might be eased. I offer my honor on the line this day for you my lord.”

“You- You’ve been true all these years, I- I trust you Sir Yerrkin. Stand and be free of my doubts. Should you wish to Squire for Sir Vandas I shall not attest it.” 

“The prancing Laddy won’t be needing a Square like Sir Yerrkin to be doing his doing. I’ll be about it. Been training the lad since he could pick up a stick, might as well see him fight with a bigger one for the first time.” Sergeant Erick interjected walking down the hall to join them, his cane tapping along the ground. Giving Sir Yerrkin a small smirk looking down at the kneeling knight.

“What is so funny, you up jumped peasant?”

“Oh nothing, tell ya in a minute. Sire, let me Squire for the boy.” The older man took a step forward. “As your father had me first squire for you before you earned a noble brat to do yer doing.”

“I’m- I’ll allow it.” Gerald would soon turn and start to walk down the cobbled corridor of the keep’s courtyard he heard an amused voice of Sergeant Erick say. “Oh by the way Sir yur-kin, Yer kneelin in horse shit.”

The Market Price: The Cure

Sir Thomas Valek paced back and forth, from one side of the long hallway to the other. His agitation grew more and more justified, the spire creatures standing at the doorway to his lord’s quarters had not allowed him entry to watch over his sire as the “Merchant” worked. They had actually said nothing, not a sound. Perhaps it was even worse than that and the things hadn’t even moved or twitched. There was a horrible smell coming from the room which those in the manor found quite alarming. The smell of ammonia and copper filled the halls of the manor, hanging in the air and coating the tongue. 

Perhaps Sir Valek should’ve thrown in with the eldest son of his sire and left to seek aid from the temples for whatever heresy against all decent and holy things was going on beyond that doorway. Gerald the younger must’ve understood his father’s desire to live for a while longer however not to the reason of turning to the spire’s tonics and brews. Those however stopped working quite sometime ago, Lord Gerald had requested something more extensive be done. His “Merchant” whom he spoke so highly of acquiesced to the man’s request and agreed to slow or reverse the process of the nobleman’s aging. The “Merchant” however negotiated such a steep price for it that many of the house’s courtiers questioned the Lord’s sanity. Lord Gerald however simply dismissed them all. 

Now the whole house would be stuck with the tithe that the Merchant’s treatments would cost. All of the trees, plants and animals from the Frog woods. Fifty square miles of woodlands spread across the hills of the family’s estate. Half of it was being felled and processed now, scant days after the agreement was signed. 

Pausing, Sir Valek shuddered at the memories of the things that now stalked those hills. Great lumbering monsters with mouths more akin to saw blades then mouths, simply tubes of teeth undulating within gaping caverns. They weren’t harvesting the plants in the Frog woods. The things were eating them. The trees down to the roots, the ponds down to their scummy bottoms. The creatures had seemed to be gaunt with hunger when they arrived but when he had left they had fattened themselves on everything but still glutted themselves more and more. 

Suppressing a shiver he would return to his pacing, back and forth, back and forth. Finding his agitations reaching its limits he would say loud enough for the quibbling scribe Daniel to hear him. “When did that blasted merchant say this would be over? It has been days it feels like.”

Daniels would pale at the knight’s sudden questioning. “We- well, T- the Lord said it would take a few days and this Merchant fellow nodded his head in agreement with him. So I suppo-”
“Listen Daniels, how many days ago did he say that? It has been four since I excorted that ‘Yellow Harvester’ fellow to the Frog Hills and explained where the extent of the lands ended, what was the boundry line of their fucking agreement with the Lord.” Sir Valek work his jaw biting out his discontent while fighting to keep any amount of respect in his voice.

Fumbling the scribe would flip through the sheets of paper. “Thee- uh, ah here it is. The contract states that the lord will be of full health in… One hundred and eighteen hours, uh however it does say that the ‘treatments’ must continue for a second round next year at which time another sub-text say they’ll collect the remaining payment. So uh Sir Valek only a few more hours and we may forget about this whole arrangement for yet another year.”

Sir Valek perked at the mention of them coming next year, with a deep breath he would mutter to himself. “I’ve given up my honor and stretched the limits of my faith and tolerance to ensure my oath of loyalty to my lord remains fulfilled. Hold the line, old tom, Hold the line.” 

Daniel would tilt his head and ask. “Pardon? Did you say somethi-”

The scribe became silent as the lock on the master bedroom clicked unlocked. The spire guards stepped aside without words or command, their yellow coral arms and armor rattling slightly. Before Daniel and Sir Valek could move towards the doorway, it opened releasing both a figure and a steamy vapor from it. The vapor stank of sweat, ammonia and blood. The Figure was dressed in ivory and burgundy robes with yellow coral mask and jewelry adorning their form. Unlike the guards the figure was far too human for the knight’s personal liking. It inclined it’s head to the pair and waved them to step towards it. Sir Valek needed no beckoning like a spire dog, he strode towards it not stepping. Daniel meekly followed afterwards clutching at his precious parchments. The thing spoke saying. “We believe when your lord wakes he will find our arrangement satisfactory. As such our end of the contract is fulfilled, we will expect your end to be upheld.”

Sir Valek’s jaw started to tick and his agitation returned. The thing spoke as if it was many which the knight found annoying. “Very well, you will see it is fulfilled.”

The thing dipped it’s head down and to the side, the knight might assume a mocking of a bow if the thing had been human. Daniel would ask. “Are you and your uh men- troops, to be leaving tonight or on the lord’s waking?”

The figure would turn to the short scribe and do another head tilt dipping it more forward. “Sadly no, we’re to remain till your master is no longer resting, a few hours should do.”

Crossing his arms Valek would say. “Then your guards won’t need to remain in his quarters or have your guards at his door?”

The figure would look to Valek and stare at him, Valek had wanted to phrase it as a command however he didn’t want his lord to feel he had offended his guests. The moment would be drawn longer and longer till the figure responded. “If it would please our dear Patron’s courtiers we will allow them to guard him so long as we are allowed to continue to observe the progress of their recovery.”

Daniel responded first. “That is agreeable, so long as we may first view our lord to ensure that he is well after your- uh ‘Process’ is that Agreeable?”

The figure would turn their head to the short scribe again then state. “Agreed. Please enter but do not touch anything as we’re still in the process of the treatment.” 

“Very well…” Sir Valek would grate out. 

An all too unnaturally graceful turn and the figure returned to the insides of the room. 

The pair of humans followed the spire into the expansive room that once held the vivid tapestries and finely detailed paintings, the vaulted windows and richly worked rose and ebony furniture, the velvet curtains and silken sheets and pillows. All that was now gone except the bed it’s expected emptiness suspiciously filled with vines and roots. Sir Valek let his eyes trail across the expansive growths, their pathways criss crossing leading to-

“That must be the largest goose egg I’ve ever seen…” Daniel said as he looked at the large oblong shape resting in the center of the room. 

More figures attend to it, placing their hands against it’s surface. As the pair drew closer they could see that it wasn’t as smooth as they had thought, it had many bumps and dimples in it. Along with the long slit at its crown which Thomas surmised was it’s entrance. The thing however did look like a goose egg, one sitting in a nest of fleshy roots and vines that spread out along nearly every surface of the master bedroom. 

Breathlessly Valek spoke aloud to the figure they had followed in. “H- W- how much longer before he is ready to emerge.”

The thing tilted it’s head at him then would look to the others, each of them looking back to the figure and then back to the egg. The moments stretched and Valek was opening his mouth to restate his question when the figure spoke. “Roughly three minutes and forty seconds. Please stand back.” 

Daniel grasping at Valek’s arm and whispers to him. “This is wrong of me to ask Sir Valek but what if his lordship- What is changed by this ‘treatment’ of these things…”

Sir Valek didn’t answer but stared at the small scribe with a worried look. Then the pair stepped back as they had been urged to. As they watched the group of figures tended to the large pod. After a few moments there was a soft sound that rose and repeated from within the pod. Like stirring oat porridge the sound repeated four or five times. From the seam at the crown of the pod a hand reached out. It’s fingers grasping and reaching out of the pod, smeared in an orange honey that began to drip and drizzle out of the edge of the pod’s seam. 

Taking a step forward to look more closely, Valek could see it better. “That can’t be the Lord’s hand, it isn’t wrinkled or fragile. It’s strong and healthy. Muscles are strong and the joints unbent or swollen.” 

Daniel would step forward as well, both men watching in fascination as a strong powerfully muscled arm tore it’s way from the seam reaching our blindly to it pulled back to grasp at the pod opening. Another arm soon fights it’s way free of the syrup, both grasp at the edge of the pod and push. The seam cracks wide, the shell of the pod splintering with spiderweb cracks all about it. For a few moments it seems to hold it’s shape till the form within begins to kick and struggle against the syrupy confines of the pods’ now shattered interior. 

The robed figures all around the pods stepped back and allowed the man to continue to struggle. After a few moments Sir Valek demanded in a combative tone but controlling his anger. “Why won’t you assist him with leaving your- instrument.” 

All of the figures glances to the knight in casual fluid unison and tilting their heads in their strange bows would motion at once towards the pod. The knight would hesitate for a moment before stepping forward and dipping his fingers into the goopy mass he’d begin to yank chunks of the shell’s pod free from around his lord. 

With in a few moments of sticky work he found his master beneath it all. The elderly man was no longer so frail and elderly. The “Merchant” had done his work to the letter of the contract, Lord Gerald had his youth returned. No longer did he look shriveled by his seventy winters of biting cold or seventy summers of crushing conflict. He was young, bright strawberry locks of hair now adorning his head thick and full. No longer a thin patchy gathering of white cobwebs. His body was now toned, fit and muscular as if back in his glory days of old. 

With a gasp Valek stole air back into his lungs. Looking at one of the figures, the other figures, now slicing goblets of the root like flesh off the walls. “Ha- H- How have you been able to do this thing?” 

The figure would tilt bow it’s head and place its hands in it’s lap. “Nothing is beyond the Spire’s ability to achieve with enough time.”

Valek opened his mouth to speak, hands seized him about his collar, with spittle and orange honey dribbling from his mouth Lord Gerald asked. “Where is the traitorous son of mine?!”