[CANON] [RP Episode] Chronicles of Valkoria: Part I


#1

Cyprian’s pen stopped moving, its pointed head resting on the paper whilst he stared out the window, lost in thought. His desk was littered with stacks of books and scrolls in various stages of decay, and an empty decanter with melting ice in it stood on a small table nearby. Hundreds of books and dozens more scrolls lay on shelves about the messy room. The sunlight was spilling throug a windowin the corner of the room, its golden gleamed barely illuminating the tired face of the writer within.

The pen began moving once again. Black and brown, well worn, its visage was that off a weathered and beloved tool.

…the history of the nation of Kaveh is a long and convoluted one. One might almost think that they were being replaced by identical versions of themselves every few years. But underneath the grim, sand-begrimed faces of the people, is a rich and deep culture with a history as sad as it is violent.

Cyprian placed a period at the end of the sentence, and rose, stretching. He looked at the water clock.

”11 already…” he murmured to himself.

He began to clean the room, rearranging the scattered parchements, and seizing a broom, sweeping away a good deal of dust which had fallen from the ancient texts he had just been consulting. He picked up each volume with care, the pages crackling and crumbling at his touch, and replaced them in their wrappings, designed to prevent more erosion. Placing a pile of newer books upon a trolley, he wheeled it out of the room.

Cyprian was in one of the many rooms which made up the Great Library of Valkora. While the city had been destroyed, the Library had mercifully been untouched, and after the end of the Civil War, the Emperor had ordered the held therein to be copied, and a new library built elsewhere in a better place, less wracked by ruin.

And so 3 cohorts had moved back into the city, along with a legion of scribes and writers of all levels of skill, who sought to drink of this veritable fountain of knowledge. Life returned to the dead streets, as the soldiers cleaned up the Library and a few of the blocks around it, after which they departed, returning to their stations elsewhere in the Empire. The scholars remained, with their pens.
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Cyprian moved out of the now habitable room, and into the central hub of the Library. It was quiet except for the soft shuffling of old and young feet, learned men walking about. Hundreds, if not thousands of books and scrolls were stacked upon the towering shelves, dust covering the higher up portions of the bookcases, but the lower regions were rapidly emptying, as the writers copied and transcribed the knowledge held on the books.

Passing through the wondrous sight, Cyprian dropped off his trolley at a area, where several younger legionaries were gently placing the books in trunks and boxes, to be shipped to the new Library, now under construction. Leaving the cart of new books with them, he returned to the Library-proper, and taking a few other books from a section titled: “THE NORTH” in fading letters, he returned to his little writing room.

After refilling the decanter of wine from some caskets elsewhere in the vast network of hallways and endless rooms, Cyprian settled down to write. Placing a very thin novel whose name had been so worn down to the point of it being illegible, on the little stand on his desk, he seized a fresh new book, with pages as of yet un-besmirched by words and sentences. Failing to decipher the name, he opened the novel, and began to read.

The lands of the north are cold, harsh, and cruel. Freezing winters, and humid summers wage an endless attempt to reject those beings who have dared to dwell therein. When those peoples who have been unfortunate in their planting of crops, or have been ravaged by some war, are greeted by the welcoming hands of the snowy winter, famine and disease take hold, laying the small and the great low without mercy. It is a rugged, unwelcoming place to dwell.

Beyond Maruba, only one nation is not continually scrabbling to wage war or to harvest enough wheat to survive. That nation is Kleriel, called the Imperium by the inhabitants, the Keelish. Why their word for their own nation is so similar to Latin I do not know, but these people are ancient in the extreme. Perhaps some ancestor of theirs met a Valkorian in ages past, and from him the word passed into their tongue. It matters not.

The Keelish are learned, wise, and devious in the extreme. They deal coldly with foreigners, treating them with the respect demanded by the occasion, but with a ruthlessness at first surprising when not prepared. Their businesses are uncompromisingly harsh, and a system of indentured labor functions as a form of slave labor.

The people resemble avian creatures, their facial and bodily appearance perhaps startling to the unprepared human. The addition of talons and a body evolved to move rapidly only adds to the bird-like comparison. Their lifespan is perhaps around one hundred years, but as all Keelish practice magic, which is unfamiliar to me, this would need to be learned from the people themselves.

Their soldiers fight with honor, adhering to strict codes and laws governing themselves with a discipline most admirable, unlike the other Northern kingdoms, who from what I can tell fight with varying levels of control. But I digress.

Their armies are bond by honor and loyalty, fighting with grim courage and steadfast skill. I have not seen them in full battle, but I have seen several small skirmishes, from which I can deduce that they are a formidable opponent, if a bit weak to underhanded tactics. I have not been in contact with the upper echelons of Keelish leadership however, the Emperor must discover their skills in strategy for himself.

Cyprian snapped himself up. He had been so absorbed in reading, that he had forgotten to copy the words! Grumbling under his breath, he reached for his pen and paper, and began to write. Nothing filled the room but the relaxing sounds of a light scritch-scratch on the paper, as the scribe fulfilled his duty. The ink fell on the parchment, solidifying and drying, leaving black-marks on the hitherto unblemished whiteness.

As he wrote, the waterclock continued dripping, marking the hours. Several passed, and he drew close to the end of the short book, and looked forward to finishing. His hand was tired, and it was with relief when he reached the final page. After copying it, he was in the act of closing the book when he noticed the Author’s Note, which he had somehow missed. It was on the front page.

I hope this book will give some insight into the Keelish and their kingdom, their ways and habits. Perhaps it may prevent conflict in the future. I hope so. I left someone behind when I returned home from the Imperium, and I miss them dearly. I pray we meet again.
-Marcus

Cyprian felt sad. The book had been somewhat melancholy to read, and he was glad it was over, but the brief note had ‘despair’ written all over it. He closed the novel with a snap, placed it in a small cover, and laid it in his desk for him to deduce the title later. He re-cleaned his desk, and went to bed.


#2

It’s morning already?

The light passing through his windows in the sleeping quarters made a patchwork pattern on the floor, auburn and gold colors forming a pleasant but blinding view to the sleepy scribe. The old man shuffled to his feet, and stepped into some slippers. The flagstones of the floor had a few rugs scattered about, but his feet felt cold nonetheless. Stretching gently, Cyprian dressed, as birds sang their morning chorus to the skies.

After throughly waking up, and finishing his morning routine, Cyprian slowly and steadily marched his weary bones to the breakfast room, and after gathering some bread and olive oil, and a mug of coffee, he headed to his study to begin work. As he carefully walked down the hallways to commence copying more books, the writer looked down into the great Library itself.

It was not yet 6 am, but already there legionaries who had been left behind had finished moving a great deal of finished copies of books out. The once-swollen bookcases, stacked with rank upon rank of histories and stories, now were far fewer, their contents shipped to vaults and the copies sent to the new library in Amarianum. Cyprian was taking in one last glance, when a young soldier below him called out a greeting.

”Salve, Senam! Quid agis?”

Cyprian smiled.

”Ego bonus est.”

”Et tandem in tempore surrexit!” The legionaries laughed. Cyprian was good friends with them.

”Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus vntosissimis exponebantur ad necem! Have you finished that book I lent you?”

One of the other men below laughed again. ”He’s been busy dreaming of that sweet lass he has at home, no time to read of queens and kings, Cyprian.”

”Ohhh, so that’s the way of it, eh? You’d forsake knowledge for a pretty face?” Cyprian joined in the laughter. ”Take care my friends, or the Centurion will tan your hides.” From behind some crates, a barked order rang out.

”Damnit Sextus, get back to work! Lazy, good for nothing scrubs with no combat ex…” Cyprian chuckled, and entered his study.

He found a stack of books waiting for him, new pens with ink, and paper. A note was left for him.

The northern history books are being moved wholesale in their original copies to the new library. I found the title of that last volume you translated. ‘Kleriel’ it was called. Quite an interesting, yet brief read. I digress. Here are the next set of books.

The supervisor, Caius, had left his brief signature. A stack of incredibly ancient rolls of parchement with gutted binding in even older cases was piled next to the note. Cyprian took a sip of coffee, a bite of bread, and went to work.


#3

An hour of slow, but persistent work later, Cyprian had barely made a dent in the first scroll. Its ragged edges and ruinous bindings prevented quick reading of the treasure of knowledge locked within, so for fear of destroying the manuscript altogether, Cyprian was forced to carefully use gloves and patient steadiness to unroll each page, set it in the holder, and then decipher the fading words of days gone by.

He finished one page, and began another, the paper rustling slightly. Cyprian cracked his neck, and continued reading, preliminary to writing it down once again.

Campus Maritus, Station of the 4th Legion
Journal of one Quintus, a soldier in the 4th
Reign of the Emperor Catharnianus, 2nd Year of his Rule, March 3rd.

The Centurion says that there was a great battle north of us, and that the barbarians are over the border. We will probably be marching up to meet them. I hope we do. It has been long since the legion tasted battle. Remember to give Sextus back his whetstone!

Cyprian adjusted his reading spectacles, and scribbled down an author’s note whilst copying the long dead legionary’s words. He was reading a book from before the Fall of Valkoria, as the Great War was just beginning. It contained bits and pieces of salvaged literature found in the ruins of the once proud forts and cities of Old Valkoria, and this journal had been one of them. He finished writing the first entry, and continued.

Campus Maritus, Station of the 4th Legion.
Journal of one Quintus, a soldier in the 4th.
Reign of the Emperor Catharnianus, 2nd Year of his Rule, March 7th.

It is true. They broke the 2nd Legion after taking them by surprise, and are marching south. The Emperor is mustering the army, and it is said he will lead us himself. We march out tomorrow. The other men seem unhappy at events, but I don’t know why. Sextus was very pleased that I ‘hadn’t forgotten what was and wasn’t mine’. I told him to go $%^#$ ^#%$#.

The reading scribe laughed aloud. That was an insult he had forgotten even existed, so old was the saying. He jotted down another note about the Emperor Catharninianus.

Editor’s note: The Emperor Catharninianus forged the treaty that would supposedly end warfare and the expansion of the Empire. The moment he left the border however, celebrating along the way, the barbarians swept up behind him and invaded. He gathered the legions, and marched out to doom.

He refilled his pen with ink, and took a sip of his drink, a bite from his bread. The olive oil made it all the more tasty.

Campus Maritus, Station of the 4th Legion
Journal of one Quintus, a soldier in the 4th
Reign of the Emperor Catharnianus (but not anymore), 2nd Year of his Rule, March 15th.

The Emperor is dead, and 5 legions with him. We fought on the right flank, and held them like heroes, but the new recruits in the center crumbled. The Centurion is dead, Sextus is gone too, and most of the cohort with them. We’re trying to get back to the rally point. It is said that a man called Caesarius has reformed what is left of the army at Megdolinum. Even as I write, we march, carrying our wounded. I had no idea there were so many men beyond our borders.

Campus Maritus, Station of the 4th Legion
Journal of one Quintus, a soldier in the 4th
Reign of the Emperor Catharnianus (Or would be anyway), 2nd Year of his Rule, April 3rd.

We didn’t reach the rally point. We’re trapped in the ruins of our marching camp from 8 days ago. Almost out of water, food is gone. This is the last of the ink, I don’t think we’ll be heard from again. Legate is dying but still strong enough to hold a sword. Even as I jot down words, they are hitting the walls again. I love you, Mom and Dad. Ave Caesare, Morituri te salutant!

“Poor man.” murmured Cyprian, as he ceased his scribbling, having finished the entry. Deciding to get a little bit of blood flowing through his weary limbs, he hoisted himself up, and took a walk around the Library. He could almost feel his joints creak. They certainly ached. Cyprian sought out some more coffee.


#4

Upon returning to his workplace, steaming mug of odoriferous liquid in hand, Cyprian opened up the next book, and began to read. The pages rustled when he warily turned them, and one crumbled into ruin altogether. He frowned. He prided himself on his care in transcribing the ancient writ, and until now have managed to preserve intact every book, novel, volume, and scroll that he had copied.

He opened another book, of even more archaic wording and from a time long since past. It appeared to be an exert from a collection of children’s stories, called “Stories for the Young”, written in a older variant of Latin with a much grander style. Cyprian smiled as he read through the book. It was quite familiar to him, the stories all the same but in different settings. The quaint stories and moral lessons were in harsh contrast to the sorrowful report he had just finished, but it was a good change, and a welcome one. It brought back memories, of his wife, and daughters, and his young son. But before his mind wandered down that dreadful path, he turned himself back to the task at hand, and continued reading. It was quite different than the other children’s stories, and Cyprian thought it must have been placed in the collection by mistake.

At a crossroads of men, dwarves, and elves, there stood a castle. A towering fortress, carved from rock and seemingly built by the hands of giants. Its towering buttresses and turrets, the high walls and stalwart ramparts, all built to protect the realms of men from invasion by unfriendly neighbors. Inside dwelt the lord of the castle, a good man, just and strong. His name was Brondel, Lord of Stone, and under his watchful eye, no foreign foe could pass the roads and hills for many leagues, north south, east or west.

But our story focuses on a different man, one named Calamarn. He was the head ranger for Lord Brondel, his eyes and ears. While often far afield, defending the borders of the province, Calamarn found a ready welcome at every hearth, most of all on the rare occasions of him being home. . Quick to laugh, slow to anger, quick to forgive, long to forget, Calamarn was the ideal lieutenant for the noble lord of Castle Ondo. Between the lord and the ranger, the land was safe, within that province at least. Carrying his bow, Calamarn was wont to go far and with stealth, leaving behind his family sword, so that if he did not return, some remembrance of the ranger would remain.

The leaves of autumn were falling, and Calamarn was once again preparing to depart for the last patrol before the campaigning season was over. The red and gold decorations drifted down, scattering themselves across the castle yard. Calamarn was gathering up his bow, provisions, and some saddle equipment for his horse. Walking across the auburn carpet now covering the yard, he entered the blacksmith shop, home and workplace of his friend Bronn.

He opened the door, and walked in. Hammers and tools of all shapes and sizes lined the walls of the shop, swords, axes and spears lay in neat arrangements on display. Bronn was eating, resting from his neverending grind of metalworking.

“Greetings my friend.”

The blacksmith turned around from his lunch of bread and cheese. “Ah, good day Calamarn. You here for the saddle I assume?”

The ranger nodded.

“Well then, give me half a minute, and I’ll have your saddle for you!” The smith disappeared behind some stacks of wood and iron, reappearing with his calloused, muscled hands holding a refurbished saddle. “There you are ranger, good travels to you!”

Calamarn bowed his head in appreciation, and left him, eating bread and cheese in his humble home.

Calamarn traveled north over the rapidly chillier wastes, seeking foes and unusual sightings. For days and weeks he journeyed, always looking but never finding. His beard grew long, unshaven and unkempt, and his clothes bore witness to his travels. After several weeks, the tired ranger started home. He backtracked, following the old hewn path through the hills and dells. Despite his grizzled appearance, Calamarn was happy to be homeward bound.

*Suddenly what did he see, but a campfire, flames dancing in the night! Tucked away in the corner of the path, it was almost unnoticable, to all but the sharp eyed ranger. Tethering his horse out of sight, he snuck closer, a dark shadow creeping from tree to tree. Sheltering behind the cover of a tree, Calamarn gazed upon the fire-lit scene. *

Elves, creatures of myth and legend, rulers of a far off forest kingdom, sang in the dark! Their long pale hair fell in shimmering locks, their proud faces lifted towards the moon, their praises drifting into the night sky. The green and brown garments of finely worked leather and silver plates with which the elves covered themselves betrayed their craftsmanship, wrought by metalwrights of ancient lineage. Their cloaks which danced in the forest, shimmering with a unholy aura, would have made them impossible to see, but for the firelight illuminating the hollow campground.

“Hail and well met stranger, what brings you to our merry camp?”

Calamarn was startled, and tripped over a tree branch. He had forgotten the uncanny eyesight of the eldar kind.

“Come now, don’t be shy, join our happy throng!” The elf who spoke stood up, and peered into the woods. Calamarn straightened, and walked out, cautiously.

“Ah there we are, welcome friend!” As Calamarn gazed in wonder, he noticed that the elf who spoke was in fact a fair elven maiden.

“Thank you indeed, fair ones.” The ranger said, carefully sitting down by the fire.

“Here, drink.” One of the other elves handed him a cup of frothy, spicy liquid, which Calamarn drank slowly, savoring the taste.

Time seemed to vanish, and Calamarn spent the night with the group, singing and talking. The drink given him was something from faraway Faerie land, not made for mortal men, and it had quite an effect on Calamarn. It seemed as though that night would never end, and all sense of urgency or haste was lost to the man. In the dreamlands of the Elven kind, Calamarn strayed, not knowing reality, and fell in love with the elven maid.

He awoke, to find the elves gone. The trees were much changed, the path withered, overgrown by the woods. Rubbing his eyes, Calamarn walked about, calling the elves. With no response, he trotted down the path, seeking his horse. He found nothing, only a low mound with scattered bones. Walking further, he found a lump shape of leather, deformed and scarred. “Has a bear or wolf come and eaten my horse?” he wondered. He searched for hours, but no sign could be seen. Finally, giving up the hunt, he started heading for home, reaching the end of the woods and trees in a few days of brisk walking.

The land, once filled with green and auburn colors, now was a barren wasteland. Burnt fields full of skelatons, and burnt hedges with prickly thorns littered the plains and low, rolling hills. The land had been torn by war, and Calamarn had been none the wiser.

Picking his way through the desolation, he found the old road. Following it, it led to the once proud fortress of lord Brondel. He found a ruin.

The shattered hull of the once great citadel lay smashed and broken, gates destroyed and towers fallen. Calamarn’s grief was unspeakable, his cries of “Bronn? My lord?” echoing off the husk of a city.

Searching amongst the wreckage, Calamarn found the mess that had been the blacksmith’s shop. Nothing of value remained, but the great anvil with a shattered side. A pile of bones lay in the corner. Calamarn did not investigate further.

Continuing his hunt, inside the former great hall, an inscription was carved into the wall.

SO PERISH ALL HUMANS

The dwarves had come at last. While Calamarn had been frolicking with the elves, the unwatched borders had been invaded. Lord Brondel had had fought with all his might, but surprised and alone, the castle had fallen.

Calamarn fell, distraught over the loss of his home and friends. Over the next few days, spent restlessly moving about the land, he learned from far away villagers that the war had happened 3 years ago. In his grief and anguish at his failure, the ranger lost his way, and vanished back into the wild, never to be seen again.

The storyteller finish, his tale concluded. The watching villagers sat back, disappointed at the grim ending. Taking a sip of his beer, and seeing their dissatisfaction, he went on.

“And so you see, if we humans try and dwell in the elven lands, we can go astray, and lose our friends, way, and home. Best to leave the angel-kind alone, and concentrate on our own worries and problems.” One of the listeners asked a question. The storyteller responded. “Some say that Calamarn found the elven girl, and was cured of his sorrow. But other say he wandered, cursing the day he followed their fire.” The listeners were satisfied, all of them quite content with the ale, story, and warm fire blazing before them.

Cyprian was taken aback. Unlike the other, more cheerful stories, this was a grim warning to avoid other races out of fear. He searched for the author of the particular story, but found only a long since faded editor’s note, some man leaving his own thoughts for the next scribe to read: *'Found in a sack in a old fort in the mountains. It appears to be a warning of treading outside, and is connected to the first Valkorians. Another fragment, makes mention of the ‘Sea Striders’, and a oncoming doom.

Sitting back in his chair, Cyprian thought.
“A oncoming doom…I wonder if this fragment could be found? But where? This is the only such library in Valkoria…‘Sea Striders’? What does that mean? There must be…Caius, Caius would know.” His mumbling caught the attention of a passing legionary, his arms heavy with boxes of books.

“You alright there Cyprian?”

The scribe shook himself out of his reverie, and waved his hand dismissively.

"Yes, I’m fine, thank you."
The footsteps of the soldier faded down the hallway. Cyprian made up his mind.

After finishing making the copy, he placed the book in a special chest with careful packaging inside to prevent damaging goods held therein. Returning to his room, he dressed in more appropriate clothes, and sought out Caius, his old friend, and an expert in ancient Valkorian history, and mythology.


#5

He found Caius knee deep in boxes of books, directing a team of soldiers who were grumblingly stacking them under his direction. A strained expression was plastered on his face, while he hurled instructions at the younger men.

“Put those volumes there, they still need to be checked! Don’t put the History of the Common Tongue books beneath heavy boxes! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! Don’t stand there like an ass! Get moving!” He looked exasperated. Caius lifted his gaze and saw Cyprian.

“Oh hello Cyprian, didn’t expect to see you he-PUT THOSE BACK DOWN THEY ARE NOT FINISHED YET.” he yelled at a man carrying a boxes without the top secured down.

Cyprian looked at him. “Caius, we must talk. Do you mind?”

Caius nodded, and threw his hands up in the air. “It appears I don’t make a difference, come into my study.”

The two men sat down to talk, over some wine.

“I found a note, in a story from before the Valkorian Conquest.” said Cyprian. “About a fragment mentioning a great doom to come, and something about the Sea Striders. You know of what I speak?”

Caius nodded, and sipped his wine. "“The Sea Striders were said to be a race of great power, with magical capabilities, and immense control over water. Their name came from that fragment you heard of, which mentions them ‘stepping upon the sea, their leader bearing a trident.’ It is nothing, merely a spin off of the stories surrounding Neptune.”

Cyprian frowned. “And the ‘doom’?”

The scribe dismissed the idea with a wave of his hand. “A doom? Kaveh can traverse the air, and Keelish can go invisible. If this fate can be met by men, Caesar will throw it back by means of sword, rifle, and ship. If it cannot be stopped, then we have nothing to worry about, and Neptune will take us into his army.” Caius was religious.

Cyprian frowned again. “I guess it is nothing, then…thank you, Caius.” His compatriot inclined his head. “You are welcome.”

Cyprian returned to his study, but could not stop thinking about the words he had read, dangers and perils, fire and sword and all manner of chaos filling his head. Gradually, he forgot about it, as the weeks turned into months. Cyprian returned to his copying of books from Valkorian history.

@staff this is done now too, thanks.


#6