"If you had never seen the ice melting, you would not know where the water came from. If you had never seen History being made, you would never know where you came from."
—Chronicler Janlaniel Kuchaker
There are many legends about the ancient age of our culture. Most of those are almost complete myth, created by people just to entertain themselves. But some of them are largely based in real facts and real people. In this chronicle I intend, using a plethora of information not available to our great bards of old (Like the journal of Marin Treggor, and the logs of the "Cherry Woods' Knights"), to separate fact from myth, as an alchemist separates gold from rock, using mercury.
The most logical place to start a chronicle is the beginning. But one of the hardest parts of writing a successful chronicle, is to discover exactly where the beginning is. For the purposes of this chronicle, the beginning will be Geresmes fourteenth, 524 years after the reign of King Arthis, the first. So, done with the digression, I shall begin the chronicle.
Geresmes fourteenth was a dark stormy night. King Rikerd VI was wide-awake on his bed, unable to sleep, unable to wake up. He was tired, tired of all the problems, tired from royalty. Another rebellion had broke up on the northeastern provinces, and he was sure the Lukavians were, as always, responsible.
The last thing he needed was another war though. The economy was in shambles after the last one, and that was because he had won. He glanced at his wife, beside him. They were married for twenty seven years but he still loved her as much as the first year. And his daughter was sleeping, with no worries at all on her little bed.
He did this for her, of course. At forty nine he had lived more than most peasants already, it was not like he would be able to reap the benefits of his work…but she would, and that was what mattered.
Suddenly, Rikerd heard a sound, or at least he thought he did, the storm was too noisy to be sure…but it seemed that the old rusty hinges of the antechamber’s door screeched, for a second or so. He got up from the bed, grabbed his sword (“Hm, heavier than I remember.”) and slowly peeked around a corner…Suddenly, a bright, blue…something grabbed his head, and a moment later, it had exploded, making little to no sound.
The queen, however, (either because of the sound, or because of the mystical connection they say exists between husband and wife) woke up. Before her was the masked and cloaked form of a man, wearing a seemingly heavy metallic gauntlet on his right hand and with a bright, blue…something, where his left arm should be. And if this was not enough to put fear in queen Eljabé, she saw the headless body of a man wearing royal clothes lying on the ground.
Astonished, the queen asked “Wh-what have you done!?”, The man answered in a thick accent that Eljabé couldn’t identify: “I think I killed your husband.” And laughed.
“Pl-please, d-do what you want with me, just don’t hurt my daughter!”, she glanced at the baby, still sleeping peacefully.
“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt her, in fact, I’ll even adopt her after you marry me.”
“Marry you?”, the queen was confused, but before he answered, she already knew why. According to the old Ruivocan traditions, when one member of the “royal couple” died, and the surviving member married again, his or her spouse would automatically become king or queen.
“Who…who are you?”. She couldn’t see his face behind the mask, but somehow she knew he was smiling when he answered: “You can call me king.”
Chapter 1 Edit
"In the darkest of times, in the bloodiest of battles, in the saddest of funerals, one thing is certain: People will always find a reason to commemorate."
Dark days followed that dark night, for the new king of the Ruivocan kingdom started a massive expansionist campaign, taking lands from many of the city states of the continent. And even some from Lukavia.
In order to fund his military campaigns, he raised the taxes over the peasants of the kingdom, which caused much poverty, hunger and unrest. He was forced to divert soldiers to quell the rebellions, and that was the only thing that stopped the expansion of Ruivoca, for a time.
Twenty four years had passed, since that dark night. The king expressly prohibited his daughter to leave the palace, according to him, for her own safety, as there were many assassins and kidnappers that would love to get her.
Princess Marin however, was not stupid, and knew her father simply didn’t wish to allow her to see the suffering his policies were causing. The princess wasn’t concerned about the suffering, though, but she believed, and rightly so, that there was a great chance that, when her father died, a revolution would break out to take the throne from her.
But at the moment, those worries were off the princess’ mind, replaced by more immediate worries like: “How can so many boring people be in the same place at the same time and not bore themselves to death?”, because, at the moment, she was attending to a ball, that her father allowed her to go because only high class people from over the continent attended to it.
Marin was walking around the hall, holding a glass of wine she had drunk nothing of yet and searching for a conversation that didn’t sound stupid or tedious. But was unsuccessful until now. The extravagant, blue and white dress the royal tailors had made for her didn’t make walking around any easier, though, so she was about to give up when the count of Simen stepped on a chair and hit his glass with a spoon.
The count of Simen, that had come late to the party (He wasn't even there to see the princess’ entrance), that no guest had ever seen before this ball, and that minutes earlier was talking about how the king personally invited him to the ball, as his province was the most loyal, most productive and most beautiful in the entire continent, started to make a speech:
“People! People! Ahem. For those that don’t know me, I am the count of Simen. It’s a province northwest of here, and belongs to the Yuak kingdom. Anyway, this is the first ball I attend to, and this is also my first time at this beautiful city, meeting so many interesting and…” he turned to a brunette he had been speaking with earlier “beautiful people. I do not enjoy making so many turns and twists while I speak, but I thought I should thank you guys. Anyway, I’ll go straight to the point.”
At about this point the princess decided she was better off locked in the palace, but it was also about this point that the count of Simen got out of the chair and stood in front of the door, continuing the speech: “unfortunately, I have to go. Yes, I know, it is sad. But important matters arose that need my personal attention. In the meantime…I thank you all very much for everything you have done to me, and specially for allowing my men to take all that gold that was in your chests so easily. Regards!”
Saying this, the “Count of Simen” left, closing the door behind him, mounted a mier that was waiting for him, loaded with gold and silver, and rode as fast as he could into the Cherry Woods. Unfortunately for him, though, at the moment he had said the word “gold”, the princess, without thinking twice, ran towards him, tearing her dress apart, in order to run faster.
When he closed the door, she jumped through a window nearby and mounted the first mier she saw. Thus she was able to follow him, barely not losing sight of him as he went deeper and deeper into the forest. The forest itself was ghostly and eerie; she could hear strange sounds, very unlike wind or wild animals. There were scratches that seemed to have been made by claws on the trees, but they were near the cope of the trees, higher than a human being. And, the scariest of all were strange blue balls of light that floated near the copes of the trees.
But, nevertheless, Marin pressed on, she sometimes lost sight of the bandit but quickly found him again. She was not sure if the man had noticed her following, nor did she care, at the moment, all she thought about was getting the things he stole back. She didn’t notice that with all the twists and turns they were making, if she ever managed to get the things back, she would have a hard time going back, not that that mattered, because little after this, she lost sight of him for good.
Chapter 2 Edit
"Behind every great man, there's a woman...but that's just because he needed a back rub."
—King Ük, the red
Marin’s mier wandered around in the woods, apparently trying to help, but it also didn’t know where the man had gone to. After some time thinking, Marin decided to keep going the same general direction he was going until she found him, or reached the other side of the forest. She didn’t want to go back with nothing.
After some time, she reached a clearing, in what seemed to be the center of the forest. It was visible that the clearing was not always there, as various tree stumps were recently cut to make space for some kind of encampment. She dismounted the mier, tripping and falling into a mud pool nearby, but quickly recovered, took a dagger that was, for some reason, on the mier and slowly moved in towards the encampment. She planned to steal part of the gold back and tell everyone about the bandits’ encampment, but…
“Hey! Will you put your hands where I can see them? Thanks. Who are you? I wasn’t expecting a girl in underwear…tonight, that is.”. The man she was following had been waiting for her, and apparently she had ripped a little to much of her dress in order to follow him. “Oh, if it’s not a problem, can you drop the dagger? You could poke someone’s eye with that.”. She thought about turning around quickly and stabbing him, but then she felt something cold on her back, ‘’cold as steel’’. So she hesitantly dropped her dagger.
“Good. Now, would you mind telling me what you came to do here?”. But she remained silent. They would either kill or kidnap her anyway; she wouldn’t give him ‘’that’’ pleasure. “Oh, you hurt my feelings. All right, you can go back.”.
Confused, Marin asked: “What?”
“You can go back. You know, get on that mier, and go back to the place you came from.”
“You won’t kill me?”. The bandit assumed a mock-thoughtful expression for a moment and answered: “Hmm…nah. Nice meeting you, by the way.”. Then he took her dagger, sheathed his sword and waved his hand while he walked towards the encampment.
But Marin couldn’t leave it at that. “Wait! What…why…?”. And the bandit, visibly upset, turned around and answered “How are we supposed to get support if we start killing people for no reason?”, which made Marin even more confused: “Support?”. And that made the bandit even more upset “Yes! For our movement!”.
But Marin still did not understand. “What movement?”. And the bandit finally gave up and gave the whole answer. “By Sallund’s holy light, girl! I spared your life, aren’t you satisfied? But, okay: I am the leader of a group of people that want to overthrow the king and put someone else in power. We’re not official yet. But as soon as we gather more forces we intend to make a big rebellion and take him out of the throne…now git.”
But only two things in his speech interested Marin. The first one is that the man didn’t know she was the princess, and the second being that he planned to overthrow her father…so… “Wait! I want to help.”. The man sighed and said: “Were you listening when I talked about us being a revolutionary movement? This is dangerous stuff, so go back to your husband or something.”.
Marin decided to tackle the problem another way: “Alright, I’m going. And when I get there, I’ll tell ‘’everyone’’ about your little hideout in the woods.”
“Fine by me. We have traps around the camp, our camp is very well hidden and with all the twists and turns I doubt you know where we are. Besides, we have well trained people here, if anyone manages to reach us.”
“Look: let me help. I…I know how to handle swords.”, the man assumed a mock admired expression and said: “Oh wow! Are you serious!? Didja hear that Gilbert? She knows how to handle swords!”.
Another man, that was hidden behind a tent, answered: “Yes sir. But I believe you should give her a chance, she could not be that bad.”. The one that seemed to be the leader smiled and said: “Alright. Bring me two of those wood training swords. Girl, we’ll play a little game.” He took a hourglass that was on a nearby barrel and, showing it to her, said
“Seeing this sand? I’ll turn this thing around, and it’ll take about five minutes for it to fall back down. If I don’t manage to take that sword out of your hands three times before the sand falls back down, you’re in. Otherwise, goodbye. Got it? Oh, there’s Gilbert with the swords.”
Each of them took one sword. They were simple wooden replicas of real swords, only less sharp, that the soldiers used for melee combat training. Before he turned the hourglass though, the man asked: “Oh, almost forgot. What’s your name?”
“Pri…scilla. Priscilla Hennel.”
“Okay then Priss, I’m Hobenrûd.”
“Hobenrûd!? ‘’The’’ Hobenrûd? The one that single-handedly won the battle at mount Kaghorn!?”
“Well, there were five other guys with me, but since they died after the first three minutes or so…yeah. But let’s talk about that after you win, right? To make it easier for you, I’ll tell you the direction my attacks will come from, and if I tell it wrong, I’ll lose. Oh, and I’ll also lose if you take my sword out of my hands at least once.” he said, smirking.
And then, he quickly turned the hourglass over, put it on a nearby barrel and started calling his strikes:
“Up! Up! Right! Left! Right! Left! Up…wow! Already? Come on! Give me a challenge! Here’s a hint: You need a stance. You can’t just hold the sword. I personally prefer one foot forward and the other back, so I can shift the weight in attack and defense.”
She took her sword again, and stood her ground, and held the sword with one hand, this time with one foot forward and the other back. And Hoben started again:
“Before we start, another hint: “This is a double handed sword. So use both hands to hold it. Now…Left! Up! Right! Left! Up! Left! Hahah! I could’ve killed you right there! Lucky for you, I only need your sword. Hint number three: sometimes, a good attack is the best defense. Try to attack me and make me lose balance.”
She quickly got her sword up and held it tighter. “Come on girl, last chance. Left! Left! Left! Right! U…”, but this time, something strange happened, instead of trying to block his attack, Marin evaded it, went behind him before he could recover his equilibrium and kicked the back of his right knee, making his legs bend and him fall on his knees. Then she tackled him, making he fall to the ground and drop his sword. Then, before he knew what was happening, she took the sword and crossed both of them near his neck.
“I got a hint for you: Keep your mind focused. I could have killed you right here, lucky for you, I only need to get your sword.”. For about three seconds, he kept silent, not yet sure of what had happened, then he understood and exclaimed, slowly: “You…you were…pretending!”.
“Glad you noticed.”. But he didn’t appear to hear, he just smiled and exclaimed again laughing: “Did you see that Gilbert!? She was pretending!”.
Chapter 3 Edit
"A knight shall live by his word. A knight shall not lie. A knight shall not change his mind after giving his word. A knight shall not act as if the promises he made by impulse are less important than those he had time to think, for the impulses are acts of Gods."
---Ruivokan code of chivalry, article 23
Hoben slowly stood up, wiped the dust off his cape, turned towards Marin and said: "You wouldn't have won if I had my guard up, but a deal's a deal. So you're with us now. You'll be my...Gilbert, what's your title?" The other man, that was until now leaning on a tree, and silently watching the fight, said: "Subheadmaster, sir."
"Okay, so you're gonna be my vice subheadmaster." Hoben concluded. Somewhat indignant that her title was decided just like that, the princess asked: "Your what?" Hoben sighed and stated: "I'm the headmaster, Gilbert's the subheadmaster and you're gonna be my vice subheadmaster. We're a small organization so I didn't go around trying to find nice titles yet. Now, Gilbert, come here..."
Hoben lowered his voice to a whisper, so that Marin was unable to hear him when he said "I don't know if I trust her yet. She was trying to sneak in the camp, she knows how to fight and she's not dumb. Maybe she's a spy. Take her to the river, give her some clean clothes and then take her to that unoccupied tent in the west side. I'll stand guard in front of it. If she tries to escape, that's because she's a spy." and completed, raising his voice again: "Gilbert here will take you to the river, to take all that mud from your body, and then he'll accompany you to your...quarters."
But before she went, she remembered to ask "Wait! Could you at least tell me how did you go from best soldier in the kingdom to revolutionary? The king said you died," to which Hoben, smirking again answered: "The king says a lot of things, some of them are true...And my reasons are my own, for now."
While following Gilbert to the nearby stream, Marin noticed he limped a little. "Shouldn't you get a crutch for that?" Gilbert turned around and, smiling, told her "It's nothing really. Just an old war wound that comes back to haunt me sometimes. Most of the time I don't even feel it. But come now, it's almost past midnight."
After she cleaned herself and got some ill fitting clothes, made from some uncomfortable fabric that made her want to scratch herself from Gilbert (Whom also didn't want to discuss Hobenrûd's motives), Marin found herself in a small tent (that at least wasn't communitary like most others) where she had some animal's pelt to sleep on and an iron pot full of water, which she assumed (or maybe hoped) was for drinking.
It was about then that the princess finally stopped to reflect on what she just done. Do not get me wrong though, dear reader, I know the job of a chronicler is to recount the important facts and characters from our history, and not the motives that those characters had to cause those facts. But I am in a more privileged position than most chroniclers, because, as I said, I have access to a plethora of previously unknown information.
Thus, the princess finally reflected on her actions until now. And was not sure if joining these people was an intelligent move. She carefully considered her options while she lied down on the pelt...her father and her mother had married a little before she was born, and she was twenty three now. Her father must've been at least twenty when he married her mother. So her father should have about forty five years. And yet, he didn't seem as if he was any closer to death than her.
That had probably something to do with his habit of staying locked in his room, full of magical artifacts she barely understood, but it didn't matter, with so much stress being put on the lower classes, chances were that they would revolt against her when her father died. And since she would probably be still establishing her power base, she wouldn't be able to do anything. Now, if she helped those rebels, not only she would become the queen much faster, but the people would love her for that.
She was not sure how much of a help she would be to those people, she knew very little of her father's plans, or any other useful information, but just by being with them would be enough for all those peasants to think she would be a good queen for them, so "Yes," she must've thought, "That's the best choice." and slept peacefully until the sun arose again.
I must apologize to whoever is reading this, for I shall make another interruption in the narrative, but it is for a very good reason, believe me. It seems that it's only now, the morning of the second day, that I remember to characterize the...well...characters. The reasons I did not do so until now, is that I intended this book to be read by those with some knowledge of the ancient legends, but it is only now that I contemplate other possibilities.
Maybe you, my dear reader, believes that this book is the prime source of information about the old legends, and never even heard of princess Marin. It is also possible that you are from an even farther future than that I can possibly imagine, and your access to ancient information is limited. Whatever your reasons are, I believe it is my solemn duty as a chronicler, to satisfy all of your information needs.
Therefore, I shall give you a brief description of the important characters, as they appear in the next day. Marin, for example, as you probably imagined, had a normally bright blond hair (I say normally because there was still a bit of mud on it) and bright blue eyes, that could only compared to the most rare blue tourmalines, had just finished waking up and preparing herself to face another day.
When she left her tent, however, she found Hobenrûd, a dark-haired green-eyed man that was not taller, nor more muscular than most soldiers of our time, but whose extreme ability with the sword made more dangerous and well-known than any of them, sitting on the ground, leaning towards some crates of food and apparently sleeping.
She walked towards him, softly slapped his cheek and not-as-softly exclaimed "What in heavens are you doing there?" Hobenrûd groaned, stretched his limbs, slowly opened his eyes, closed them again because of the light and said, matter-of-factly: "Why, waiting for you." Marin however, quickly noticed the holes in his excuse and stated, in a indignant tone: "Waiting for me? You were sleeping in front of my tent. You were trying to see if I would escape, weren't you? Don't you tru..."
"My! Priss, I just thought that it would be nice if I escorted you to our meeting, since you're such a important member of the crew. Yes, I dozed off there, but that's because you were taking so long to wake up." Hoben clarified while rubbing his eyes. "Besides, what's the matter if I didn't trust you after you coming here, in an indecent attire, if I may add, in the middle of the night, with a dagger? Not that I didn't trust you, of course."
"Well, I-I wouldn't have done that if you didn't-If I didn't see you escaping with tons of gold from...that party near my house. What did you take the gold for anyway?" Marin had finally realized she never asked that. Hoben seemed surprised she didn't realize that for herself when he said "Well, we need to buy food, we need to buy clothes and it's not like people will donate us money...or did you think a revolution is made with great men and great ideas? Besides, we only steal from the nobles, and it's not like they need it or anything."
Marin decided to stay silent for the rest of the short trip towards a wooden pavilion in the middle of the encampment. She was not sure if there was any house near Lord Montmer estate, which was where the party was held, but if she told him that she was in the party, he might have recognized her.
When they reached the pavilion, she immediately noticed two badly made portraits of a masked man and a woman on the wall, and a large wooden table surrounded by wooden chairs with a seemingly old map stretched on it. Four weights were on each corner of the map, presumably to keep it in place and a slim and tall dark-haired man, called Gilbert was sitting on one of the chairs, with his good leg extended.
When Gilbert saw Marin looking at the portraits, he said to her: "Like it? We found at some lord's house, a week or so ago." This made Hoben notice it too, and he completed: "Whenever I forget why I'm doing this, I look at those and remember how I hate them. It's the king and his...spawn. Her royal highness, princess Marin." It was about then that Marin realized it might not have been an intelligent move to join those people.
Chapter 4 Edit
"As a rule, plans never work in the long run, for in the long run, all things thought as certain will have changed and all people thought as loyal will not be."
---Frenciano Rochell, Gran-mayor of Ginalía
Marin tried to think in a way to escape. They had known about her all along, she was in the middle of the enemy's ground, she had nowhere to run and was unable to go back home, they had her at their mercy. "So, back to what really matters: Priss, you joined us in a horrible time. But I'll let Gilbert explain it. He's the brains behind this operation, you know?"
It didn't make any sense. Didn't they know who she was? She gave another look at the portraits and realized that not even herself would recognize her there, and silently thanked her father for not allowing her to leave the palace. Her thoughts were interrupted by Gilbert's voice, that suddenly had changed to a formal, practical and...cold tone.
"Well, as you probably know, no one would love if we overthrew the king more than Lukavia. The king's expansionism is being a stress on that kingdom for a long time now. The messenger we sent came back three days ago. King Hollen is willing to send the entire Lukavian military to help our movement...if, after we win, we become vassals..."
"Which, we cannot do." interrupted Hobenrûd. Gilbert glanced quickly at him with a stern look and continued "Because if we do, not only we'll lose our little independence, but the people will surely revolt again. Ruivoca and Lukavia have been rivals for ages already. Therefore, we'll ask for a smaller help, in exchange of an end for hostilities. But that leaves us with a severe problem."
"We don't have enough troops." interrupted Hoben again. Gilbert sighed and kept on "Yes. That is right, we don't. We have considered our options but they are not very good. None of the other unaligned kingdoms can spare any troops, specially because they would need to traverse enemy lands to get to us. And, worst of all, the king has support from Sardina and the Holy Order."
Marin remembered something her father had said, "Why don't we get help from Jyptia?" her father had said that he couldn't get the Jyptians to help him. Hoben exclaimed, smiling: "Hah! Didn't I tell you the girl was smart? That was exactly what Gilbert suggested. Only he forgot that the Jyptians allow no foreigner into their kingdom...well, at least no living foreigner."
This time it was Gilbert whom interrupted: "Actually, that's not true. They allow wizards there." Which prompted Marin to ask: "So why don't we get a wizard to help us?" Which prompted Hoben to, smirking, say: "Nice idea! Do you know any wizard?"
Marin had no choice but to answer: "No..." And Hoben, triumphally said: "Aw shucks. What're we gonna do now? I propos..." "Wait! I know one." interrupted Marin, this time. "One what?" asked a disbelieving Gilbert. "A wizard! There's a city that revolted a short while ago. They are lead by a wizard. Derfel, Dremel...or something like that."
"Drindell, the arcane? He's possibly the most known wizard of all! He helped us...I mean, the Ruivocan army at the forty days' war. He summoned a golem with some rocks and sparkling water from the Girdwell mounts...Are you sure?" asked a even more disbelieving Gilbert. "I am sure I heard it somewhere." she had heard it from her father, in a meeting she shouldn't be eavesdropping, but she couldn't tell them that.
"Oh, now that I know you've heard it somewhere, I believe you." said Hobenrûd, in a ironical tone. "It was from one of the king's soldiers that gone through the city...Lamark I think." she explained, hoping they couldn't verify this kind of information. Gilbert and Hobenrûd glanced one another. "Suppose we believe this Lamark guy. If he knew about it, it is because he was going to quell the rebellion. So Drindell is probably dead."
"No. He said he was just going to siege the city until they give up. The king lost many soldiers with rebellions, he doesn't want to lose anymore...but he also said the Sardinians would be there too." this made Gilbert contract his bad leg suddenly. He asked "The Sardinians? How many?"
The princess hesitated before answering, truthfully, this time: "I...I don't know." They all kept silent.
Hobenrûd shrugged it off and said "Well, it doesn't matter anyway, any Sardinan army can defeat an army twice their size. Even if we managed to get all of our people there without anyone suspecting where our camp is, we wouldn't have a chance."
After some more silence, Marin decided to ask "Why don't we...why don't we ask Lukavia to help us?" After a brief silence, Gilbert looked at her again, as if it was the first time. "...That's...a great idea! Okay. We have a plan now. We'll send some people to Lukavia, ask for reinforcements, come back to Ruivoca, help them sally the siege, get the wizard, go to Sumdo, get help from the dragon riders and...tada! A revolution in seven easy steps."
"This'll take months! And what you mean by seven easy steps? If we manage to get any help from Lukavia, if we manage to sally the siege and if we manage to get the wizard to take us to Sumdo, we'd still have to convince the dragon riders to help us, and no one ever did that." said Hobenrûd.
Gilbert sighed "Aren't you always telling me to be optimistic? And besides, we'll surely get help from Lukavia, because we aren't going to send a messenger this time. You'll go personally." "Hey, hey! When did we decide that?"
"Right about now. I'm the brains behind this operation remember? You should take the girl though, she won't stand being around doing nothing until you come back." added Gilbert. Hoben glanced at Marin. "Oh well, it sounds like a good plan. But we should bring some people, in case we get into trouble. Give me five men and two carts, so I can disguise as a trader, and I'll come back with your wizard."
"That's the plan." said Gilbert, smiling and getting up from his chair.