Knightober 2021 – honour

“Stay on his back! Hold on, let Swift do the rest!”

Of course — of course — the ambush came after days of quiet pleasantries and glass-arts tours and trading gentle verbal duels with Ranai notables. Of course it came when Liamath and his new charge were following yet another dizzying shell-strewn forestgarden trail, one attached to Mairah’s own manor no less.

Oh, they planned it well. But not well enough to mark Liamath’s skill —

And they, wretches all, were also learning all too quickly that no moonstag fared well against the famed flesh-eating steeds of Kauvr.

Of course Swift had the run of House Reinan’s enclosed groves; Liamath would accept no less.

The knot of assailants — sleek creatures in unmarked buff coats, save for their leader in linen and lace and silvered shell-maille — swarmed them. Liamath barked a single warning — “Fall back and be spared” — before he drew his sword, tossed back his head, and howled.

Swift thundered through the trees heartbeats later, fangs bared and hooves lashing. In one fluid motion Liamath scooped the ghost-pale Mairah bodily from the ground and heaved him onto the gelding’s broad grey back, even as Swift laid open a stag’s throat and stove its ribs in.

Then it was time for a culling, and Liamath’s blade was every bit as swift as his companion.

He paid in blood — a gash, two gashes, on his blind side from darting assailants that escaped Swift’s teeth — but two corpses lay at his feet and three others took to their heels. Two corpses, and a kneeling figure in bloodied silvered finery who clutched a shattered blade as Liamath closed, sword high.

Then he grounded it, point to earth.

“You’ve lost your bid to founder the new accord. GIve me your allies’ names and come along in peace, and I will spare your life and render you unto the Rainlord’s court.”

The fallen cavalier gulped air, spit bloodily, tossed back her head in disbelief. Behind Liamath, Swift rumbled warningly, snaking his head low and closer; Liamath clicked his tongue, but kept his attention on the swordmaster before him.

“Stand, Swift. Stand.”

The gelding drew back, snorting; Liamath tried not to chuckle, struck by the ludicrousness of it all. Still he didn’t turn.

“Lord Mairah? Are you well?”

The response was quick, and shaken —

“A — It’s a close thing, Wolf, but I’m alright …”

“Good. Stay where you are, if you please?”

— not that Liamath expected him to actually attempt to dismount at the moment —

“And so here we are, oh would-be righteous one. Will you surrender?”

He saw the nerves, the doubt, in her amber eyes. Well, perhaps understandable. Still —

“You killed –“

“The poor fools, and their beasts, that you set upon us before you dared to close in yourself, yes. I regret, but they could have made another choice — as several of them chose to do.
“Will you surrender your blade, milady?”

“And you’ll do what?”

Liamath shifted his stance slightly, his own maille chimed softly, muffled by wool.

“Remand you to Ranai justice. I have stilled your hand, as was my charge to do so.”

He shifted his hands on his sword-pommel, ready to change grip and bring the blade to bear if necessary. The cavalier watched him for several breaths, listening to the soft chime, eyeing his bloodied furs.

“… You’re some Kauvra wolflord.”

“I am.”

Her blade clattered to his boots.

He offered her his hand.

-*-

Kauvra crystal maille: Perishingly patience-devouring to carve — and not at all silent unless well muffled with wool and fur (often not even then) or enchanted — maille hauberks carved from the toughest, least brittle of Kauvr’s crystal are a signature of the wolflords from the March Of The Grey. Some grow so accustomed to the tiny glittering links and their soft chime that they meditate to the sound.

Knightober 2021 – paladin

As it turned out, the fair young man in question — one Mairah by name, scion of a long line of glassweaver nobility — possessed a certain paleness of eye and angle to face that suggested ties to Cor-cael’s lord. This explained a good deal to Liamath, though he kept his observations to himself as he paced silently alongside the chattering Mairah.

Discretion, always discretion …

He was learning a good deal about the state of affairs in Ranah, to be sure, and the glances he kept receiving from pale-coated, patchwork-embroidered locals were — did the newly-gifted blade at his hip look so terribly mismatched with the rest of him, then? Did the shining thing not suit? Or was it something else ~?

“– So you see, Wolf Corvan, Lord Kaerna frankly dispatched you here ahead of expected, mm, disruptions. I’m not unskilled with a blade, but against …”

Liamath shook his head, dark mane swinging in its formal braid.

“There’s no reason for you to cross swords with dissenters and the lawless. It’s a different sort of fight, that one, all the more when it’s unavoidable.”

He cocked his head to fix Mairah with his hale eye, a thin smile creeping out for a moment. Oh, the lad looked puzzled; very well, then.

“I’m just as pleased that you recognize the difference between a duel, or a skirmish, and what we’re waiting for, young lord. But, rest assured that I have no intention to draw unnecessary blood. That’d be no better than the wretches I’m watching for.
“We protect those needing protecting, and cull when culling’s called for; nothing more, nothing less.”

-*-

Hundred-silver: A tradition still held by many older Ranai families of presenting a gift — a new knife or sword, philtre or pen-set, brooch or buckler — to one who has proven faithful, joined them in an oath, or become new kin. Whatever the object, it is at least partially surfaced in mosiac-work of tiny mirrored tesserae, as a reminder that the whole is made up of its parts.

Knightober 2021 – chivalry

Of course Liamath agreed to make the trek his liege requested; it would never have occured to him to refuse. Though off-balance from his earlier exploits, he’d sworn his oath and would not break it, certainly not for so petty a thing as being out on the road once more. Lord Kaerna did not command his loyalty — and for that, she possessed it until his dying breath.

What he hadn’t expected was what he — and the grumbling Swift — rode to the Mirror Of The Mirror for.

Or, for that matter, how Lord Kaerna planned to have them present themselves.

Oh, milord, you are a clever one. But I know very well that you have more than the favour of loaning out a fancy honour-guard in mind, else you would’ve chosen most any of the youngsters.

Well, I’ll do my best, and hope that a one-eyed swordhand doesn’t put off the fair young man.

Compared to their backlands travels, the road to Ranah was an easy one of waystops and pocket-villages and Swift earning treats from cheerful travellers; when Ranah’s bleached-silver walls loomed ahead before Liamath’s eyes he almost felt that it should’ve taken at least few days longer. And on that fine evening, Liamath drew Swift towards the side of the broad road to brush away the dust and settle their unaccustomed finery of shining dark furs and falls of tiny sparkling beads cascading from caparison and trailing coattails.

Swift stamped one hoof, tossing his head, as Liamath remounted, earning a chuckle and a scratch in his thick ruffed mane.

“Yes, we both look quite fancy, I’m sure. Let us present ourselves and our pledges to the gatekeepers, eh?”

-*-

Heart’s-pledge: One of several oaths and similar promises common to the northern reaches of the Edge, similar to the wolflord’s oath, the blood-binding oath and the guardian’s sword oath (and the Alabaster Blades have a similar tradition). Frequently represented by a special series of glyphs, with or without an inscribed copy of the oath itself; the specific form of the physical pledge varies, from illuminated documents to inscribed crystal prisms, precious-metal pendants or stone tablets. Many carry the physical representation of their pledge as a ward or charm.

Knightober 2021 – leaves

“You’ve had an eventful ride, Liamath. I regret needing to cut it short.”

Liamath couldn’t tell whether Lord Kaerna was joking or not. His liege was hard to read at times, with a cool professionalism forged in the fires of political war, and he admired her steel even as it made him occasionally second-guess himself —

“But do breathe, wolflord, you’re looking a little peaked. It won’t suit to have one of my finest wilting like a snipped flower.”

— like right this moment. He winced, and she chuckled, icy eyes sparkling. The sound echoed through the hall’s cedar ceiling beams, muffling into the tapestries that lined the walls. Liamath covered his moment of discomfit with a carefully contemplative sip from the pearly cup, blossom-like, he cradled. It wasn’t like him to act so much the callow squire, truly, but his nerves felt a touch raw after the gift, and the lost stranger, and the chase afterward, and …

I never thought I’d see the time I preferred to sit in Cor-cael and sip from fancy service. But …

But the warmth of the hearthfires, the smoky cedar beams, the brilliant tapestries and the glittering pillars, the soft dark pelts strewn across benches and chairs …

Maybe I’m getting old. Maybe …

“Liamath.”

Lord Kaerna set down her own cup. Her circlet gleamed in the lantern-light, thorns in grizzled silver.

“Will you ride to Ranah?”

-*-

Fernsilk: A creeping, delicate fern, tiny in the wilds of the forest but growing to luxuriance indoors, whose trailing curlicues of feathery leaves lend a cool, minty, earthy savour to Kauvri teas, meads, and raw dishes.

Knightober 2021 – key


A summons back to Cor-cael was not something Liamath expected, but — he’d learned long before — fate did not give a clipped wedge for his expectations.  If Lord Kaerna wished his presence, then her will would be done.

If it’s hostilities or calamity, I’m sure there would have been some hint in the code; but, nothing.  So, vital enough to call me back, not vital enough to inform me.

Or, it’s secrecy that’s needed.  No way of knowing who or what might be about when I received the summons …

As with the firebird, and the children.

His musings kept Liamath gnawing at possibilities — and his growing relief at returning to his liege’s lands — for nearly the entire return trip.  Distractions came when hunting with Swift or, once, offering aid to a stranded forest-gleaner desperate to reach his village and too thorn-riddled to make it back without that help; but no firebird appeared to chide him along, so Liamath deemed the detour more than worthwhile.  They’d make it up.

By the time he trotted through the cobbled lanes of Larell towards Cor-cael’s walls, Swift was growling and snappish and Liamath didn’t blame the gelding one bit.  The last few days turned into hard riding …

“Don’t you worry, my big lad, a warm stable and proper grooming and good feed are waiting for you on the other side of the gate — just tilt me there, now.”

Swift never paused, only sidling at the last moment for Liamath to hold his hand out to the veins of crystal threading through the massive nightcedar gates that loomed above them.  Beneath his palm, pale light flared, ghostly runes flickered, an echo of the light seeping through his glove; and the great Horizon Gate of Cor-Cael yawned open.

-*-

Portal Emblem:  Another example of Kauvri crystalwork, usually a finger-ring, pendant, or cloak-brooch, carved from a crystal spall mounted in metal or especially dense wood.  The emblem responds to the presence of of the core-crystal it was spalled from and is tuned to the life-pattern of its bearer, who can use the emblem to instruct the core to unlock or unbolt access to anything from jewelry boxes to buildings.

Knightober 2021 – skeleton


May this be the last.

Fate is a capricious, fickle thing, and Liamath seldom felt that so keenly as he did this storm-clouded evening, some hours away from the pleasant hub-village and its market filled with cheer.

How fitting, truly, to have his beloved’s final token delivered on bright wings in time for such a wretched discovery.

Whoever the poor soul had been, what scraps remained of their belongings bore no resemblance to the villagers’ colourful woolens, nor to Urulayan or Ranai fashions, or the descriptions of further lands.  The metal of the thin dagger — a strange violet washed with gold — also utterly foreign.  None of it resembled anything Liamath recognized, or had heard of, so where had the lost hailed from? A newworld, perhaps, beyond the Edge …

The pale bones were far too real to only be some primordia fever dream.

Not that it mattered.

In the end the poor creature went down — trampled under Swift’s hooves, its skull shattered like a broken moon-melon between stout sharp fangs, while Liamath swung a prayerlight overhead like a festival lantern, free hand clamped onto the saddlehorn.

The lamp’s pale-gold light flickered fitfully now, the lacy crystal guttering in its greenivory egg, but that was alright.  The work was finished.  Brushing earth and moss from his breeches, Liamath rose slowly to his feet.

I didn’t know your rites, but I did what I could for you.  I hope that our traditions bring some peace.

May you now find your rest, stranger.

And it was time to move on.

-*-

Prayerlight: A delicate crystal carving of interlocking, lacy curlicues, often stylized ferns, fitted into a protective shell much like a lantern frame.  Once activated, such a lamp will cast soothing light out to 60′, in which mindless undead creatures are slow and sluggish, ghosts may not possess the living, and the dead will not rise.  A prayerlight will last for six hours, which need not be continuous.

Knightober 2021 – braids


Children shouting excitedly alerted Liamath before he saw anything — cries of “firebird” and “sunhawk” pulled his attention like a puppet on its strings, to the great amusement of the merchant-crofter whose produce he’d been contently mulling over.  The redmint and spicy-sweet black plums would have to wait —

— Or, there could be no need to wait long at all. 

Before Liamath more than turned away from the lean elder’s stall the bird — a flickering sihouette of moon-pale wisps, far more solid than it looked, was swooping on him.  The wychling thing dropped a leather pouch into his upstretched hands, then whirled away and dipped low to flutter over the laughing knot of children before fading from the world.

Liamath was painfully aware of the curious stares he was getting from the entire village market, and didn’t blame them one bit.

I suppose it was quite a show.

“Come on now, lad, show us what you got there, eh?  So long’s it’s not anything secret, of course.  A special report from your noble?  New mission?  Love token, mayhap ~?”

The plum-seller’s eyes danced merrily beneath his battered felt hat, and Liamath did chuckle before shaking his head slowly in denial of all three.  What he drew from the pouch was something very different: a braided cord of quilted twists of silk, tri-coloured, and long enough to settle around his neck.

“No, goodsir, none of those.”

Liamath’s voice was soft, withdrawn.

“My lord has returned my lost one to me.”

The elder nodded silently.  No more needed to be said.

-*-

Mourner’s Devotions: A braid of twisted cords, wool or silk or linen, carried by many in Kauvr — at least one cord is filled with a core made of plaited hair or similar mementos of the dearly departed.  More ornate devotions may have strands of tiny beads threaded through the braid, or be bound at intervals with metal- or jewelwork.

Knightober 2021 – breastplate

“I like to be able to move more freely, and that strikes me as adding extra weight for Swift …”

Liamath’s companion for the evening, a lean wanderer from Neshin’s great plainslands to the south who gave her name as Rekhi — gazed contemplatively at the plate of gleaming steel-lacquer she was cleaning, looked across the fire to Liamath, then shook her head with a chuckle. Her dark eyes gleamed with an amusement that Liamath found infectious —

“If I rode a toothy beast like yours through twisty trees and around glittering growths like yours, I’d no doubt think the same thing! It’s worth it, though, even with the maintenance, having a bit more between me and whatever barbs get flung my way. Tamma doesn’t seem to mind.”

Tethered a respectable distance from campfire and Swift both, the sturdy bay mare in question looked up at the mention of her name, then quieted. For his own part, Swift had settled into a comfortable loafing kneel and was dozing away.

All in all, it was a pleasant evening, with unexpected but welcome company, and Liamath welcome the chance to chat and talk shop a little with a fellow knight. In the morning they would part ways — he back on his wandering circuit, she to make her way east towards Urulaya — but for now, time enough for a brace of partridges over the flames and a bit of rose-mead to share between them.

-*-

Neshi Plating: Not actually a solid breastplate — and not solid steel, either, despite its appearance. Cunningly linked smaller, articulated plates composed of multiple layers of steelsilk lacquered together and shaped to conform to upper torso, shoulders, abdomen and back are attached by stitches and riveting to a normal steelsilk base. The plating offers more protection than plain steelsilk, but requires near-daily maintenance of its lacquer.

Knightober 2021 – star sign

Liamath — much to his chagrin — had lost the path, and it galled him to admit it. Of course, he meant ‘lost the path’ quite literally; what was missing was the literal path. Or, rather, the road he’d been riding along, thin overgrown cart-track that it was.

I suppose this is what happens when you haven’t been on an actual road in a good span of days, but I don’t have to enjoy it. There should still be a track.

— But track there was not, and as Swift picked cautiously along the growing strange pale twistings of the trees — the metallic call of creatures hidden in undergrowth now beginning to shimmer darkly — too many strangenesses told Liamath just what he and his steed were faced with:

There was a primordial cyst. And it was rupturing. This stretch of land was not safe.

Sensing his rider’s growing unease, Swift tossed his head and bared his fangs, pawing the mossy, clinging ground with a forehoof until Liamath leaned, maille chiming, to pat the gelding’s smoky neck.

“Shh. Shh, now, we’ll make our way out. Shh.”

Swift snorted, pawed once more, and stilled; Liamath took the opportunity to pull a long necklace of stoutly twined leather cord from under mantle, maille and tunic, rubbing the twisted hide between his fingers in a nervous fidget that belied his soothing words before lifting its pendant up to the wavering light of chaos-touched day.

Tiny stars drifted in the cerulean depths. Good.

Liamath clasped the rough prism in one hand, nicking flesh on its sharp edges. Watching the stars whirl with sudden purpose, he nudged Swift to turn sharply about and forge a new trail.

He’d lead them towards home.

-*-

Wayfinder: A rough, ragged oblong or prism of specially-selected crystal, which must be touched to a prominent local marker and anointed in one’s own blood under a starry sky in order to awaken its power. At any time afterwards, another touch of blood will call the lights inside the crystal to a flurry of activity as the crystal guides its owner back to that one chosen location. Some wayfinders may be attuned to a specific individual instead, or to call a specific individual to the crystal’s owner.

Knightober 2021 – marigold

Yes, here we are — I did say there was a third one ;3

Knightober (which is using prompts from rayleearts @ Twitter) is working a little differently, with a prompt every three days instead of daily. I’m also using a different format, or at least posting more words (lol), so these will be independent posts.

Speaking of the posts they’re a hybrid sort of subject: each one gets a wee bit of writing about one Liamath Corvan, a roaming knight of Kauvr (and his wolfish horse, Swift) and a bit of kit or magic or what-have for rpg-land that references the writing. Let’s see how long I can do this, lol.

-*-


“It’s not what I wished for, but we seldom get what we want, eh, Swift?”

Swift — being far too interested in his meal to bother with pointless noises from his master — barely deigned to swivel an ear before returning to his repast.  Well, Liamath was just as happy to let the gelding finish off the deer, ‘rude’ as being ignored was; he’d already claimed his own portion and delivered a haunch to the crofters in the vale to the east.  Let Swift have the remainder, a well-deserved reward for racing down the wretches who were so recently a plague.  He’d not taken too many chunks from the damned brigands’ hides, after all.

Liamath was more interested in said brigands, alive or dead.  If he hadn’t been on circuit …

I have no doubt at least half their number were Urulayan.  But that means nothing; it’s as easy to take to raiding in Urulaya as here in the Grey, and what do bandits care for sovereign land?

Pah.  Time enough in the morning to chew on it.

Sighing, Liamath scratched next to his empty eye.  Lord Kaerna would be eager to hear about the incident, but alas her vassal’s wanderings were far from over. 

May I find a messenger the next time I cross a town.  Starfang’s eyes, what a mess.

— But that could also wait.  For now, Liamath wanted to wash dirt and brigand blood from wolf-mantle, glittering maille and his well-tangled dark hair, get his venison cooked over his wee fire, and — most of all — deal with that glancing blow the wretched brigand leader fetched him.  With a wince and another sigh, he dug through a saddlepack to find a crystal teardrop that nestled in his palm, liquid fire to tend to his own bloodied hide — a bit much, perhaps, but better used than to risk infection or chaos.

“And come the morning we move on, eh Swift –?”

-*-

Flowerflame:  A distinctively deep flame-orange elixir, spicy and peppery, distilled from marigold and magic and other, more secret things, and normally contained in small crystal phials the size of one’s thumb or smaller containing 1 to 6 doses.

A single dose may have many uses, depending on how it is applied — in oil or fat or milk as a magically healing balm (1d4+1), in honey or milk as a panacea against cursed illnesses, drawn like ink on anything from beads to corpses to ward away unclean forces …