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A Day in Selhomarr:by Geoff Gander
1:00 am: At last! After long hours of searching through the collected records of thousands of years' worth of cases, Brell, son of Amoris, had found the precedent that best fit the case currently before the Prince of Annurios. With a sigh of relief he carefully pulled the mouldering scroll from its nook in the cellar wall of the Great Library - he would have to speak with the Chief Librarian, many of these older scrolls would have to be recopied soon - and proceeded up the stairs. This morning's case would go smoothly now that the Prince had an example to follow.
That'll teach that lousy priest to mess with tradition, thought Derdan as the flames he had set began to greedily consume the Temple of Diulanna in Olathis. He didn't tolerate "foreign" Immortals being worshipped in Selhomarr, and he didn't like anything that wasn't traditional being practiced within his home town. The sooner people learned that Selhomarr had no interest in other people's ways, the better, as far as he was concerned. Remaining for a few minutes longer, he decided to leave before anyone noticed him, and he vanished into the night.
2:00 am: In the eternal light of the sun, an imperial patrol boat skimmed the Sea of Rax, 30 miles from Sepirolos. Seaman Brathis, son of Domaris, was on watch while most of the crew slept down below. Like a hawk, he swept his gaze across the horizon, aided by his pocket telescope. Wait! On the northern horizon something bobbed slightly, very tiny, but slowly growing larger even as he watched. As minutes passed, the shape resolved itself into five separate shapes, narrow ones, with square sails flying above - Antalian ships, come to raid the coasts no doubt! Without wasting a second, he rang the large bell hanging next to him in the crow's nest, and shouted "Antalians to the north!" Clearly outnumbered, the captain ordered the ship to head for Sepirolos, so that reinforcements could be had.
3:00 am: The journey had been long so far, and it gave no indication that it would be over anytime soon. Atlania, daughter of Lorii, had driven her wagon train, loaded with uncut gems and unrefined metals, from Nevora for over a day now. It did not look as though Heressina was getting any closer. So much for shortcuts, she reflected ruefully. She decided that it would not upset her schedule too much if she were to stop to rest for a few hours - the other drivers could probably use a break by this time - they were all exhausted. Wheeling in her team of oxen, she called for the other to do the same, and prepare to make camp for a few hours. They were in the midst of an open grassland, with scattered copses of trees dotting the landscape. This seemed as good a place as any to rest.
It was no use. Despite their best efforts, the Selhomarrian ship could not increase the distance between itself and the Antalian raiders - for that was what they were. It was also clear that their course had changed - they were no longer heading towards the coast; they now sailed for the ship itself. With a curse, the captain explained to the crew of 30 men that it was only a matter of time before they were caught, and that they should prepare themselves for battle. Brathis felt as though he had been winded - he had never seen a battle before, and now he would have to fight in one?
4:00 am: Scarcely moments after the camp had been set up, it seemed, there was movement in the surrounding thickets. Atlania gripped her short sword nervously, just as the others gripped theirs. Terlis attempted to twirl his staff expertly, but in his nervousness only managed to fumble with it and drop it. There was no time for amusement, though. No time for anything, anymore, it seemed. Suddenly a low groan came from off to one side, and as one the caravan members turned to see what was approaching them. Shuffling towards them, in the stark red light of the sun, was a man, or, what had once been a man. His flesh hung in ragged strips from his body, and a stench of decay wafted towards them. Terlis emptied his stomach, as more such creatures approached them from other directions...
With a loud thudding and splintering noise the Antalian ship smashed its prow into the side of the Selhomarrian ship. Within seconds grappling hooks clattered over the side rails, and tall Antalian warriors leaped climbed onto the deck, which was scarcely higher than their own, and the crew met them where boarded. Brathis gasped as a heavily scarred Antalian bellowed at him, and waved his hand axe as he approached. Desperately he parried the other's thunderous blows with his short sword, hearing only the clash of metal, and the screams of the dying around him. In a corner of his mind, he was aware that the other Antalian longships were drawing closer, too.
Arlinia, daughter of Carlina, had awoken from a bad dream. She saw a Selhomarrian ship being attacked by ferocious Antalian longships, and knew that there was no way they could possibly hold them off. Quickly donning her clerical vestments, she left her cabin on the warship Mistflyer, where she was serving as both a healer and an auxiliary. Seeing the other clerics of Xeron milling about, she knew that this was no ordinary dream. She quickly sought out the captain, and asked her to consult the ship's wizard to plot a course to the battle.
5:00 am: Atlania wiped the sweat from her brow, exhausted. She did not know where those beasts had come from, but they had taken their toll. Terlis and Amaris, both young men barely out of their Wandering, lay dead before her. Scattered about lay the remains of the undead creatures who had attacked them - seven in all. There would be questions, many of them, once they reached Heressina. Realising that more such creatures could come, Atlania decided to break camp and head straight for the next town or village, where their fallen comrades could be put to rest properly. Grimly, she and the others loaded the two bodies into her wagon, after wrapping them carefully in makeshift shrouds. They left without looking back.
Watching the last of the patrol ship disappear into the depths, Brathis hung on to a piece of driftwood for dear life. Nearby, he saw some other crewmates, some alive, some not. He had survived his first battle, and had even managed to kill two Antalians, but it had not been enough. Though they lost one of their own ships in the fight, the Antalians had gone on to Selhomarr in search of easy plunder. The sea was warm, but the survivors could not last forever.
6:00 am: Throughout the city of Calimnis, capital of Selhomarr, bells rang with the beginning of a new day. Clerics of Xeron, dressed in their best robes, trailed into the streets to sing the praises to their patron Immortal. Although the spectacle was the same every morning, people still turned to watch the clerics as they passed by, their robes a riot of reds, yellows, whites, and greens. As one, the grand procession entered the Imperial Market, where High Priestess Thessia and her entourage awaited. The great mass of clerics halted, and the leader of that group exchanged prayers with the High Priestess, as had been done for uncounted centuries. Then, without another word, Thessia took the lead, and proceeded to guide the long lines of clerics into the Great Temple of Xeron, where the morning's services could begin.
"A ship!", exclaimed a man next to him. Brathis roused himself to look in the direction the other was pointing. True enough, there was indeed a ship heading north towards them. A ragged cheer broke out among the survivors. It seemed this day would not be his last.
In the village of Prallis, in the far north of Selhomarr, Rathol, son of Arnith, woke up. Getting out of bed, he strode to a cabinet that had seen better days, and struggled into his clothes. He definitely should not have spent all that time at the inn last night, he though ruefully as his headache throbbed with a vengeance. Oh well, nothing to be done for it now, but to pick up and keep doing what must be done. He had some scythes to repair today.
7:00 am: Arlinia surveyed the sailors as they hauled the last of the survivors on board the ship. How had she known?, she wondered. Was it the will of Xeron? There were only six men who could be saved, and one of them turned out to be Antalian - but he deserved to survive, regardless. One of them, a young man, was mumbling something about more ships at sea. No one understood what this meant. Best to bring them all below deck where they could recover.
8:00 am: Another morning, and more choices, thought Disania. She had been on her Wandering for over a month now, and did not know where she should go. She could recall the memories easily enough - the sumptuous breakfast with her family, and then, before noon, she was ushered out - told to find herself over the next year, and then return to her home to share with her family what she had learned, and to prove that she was no longer a child. Life had not been too bad since then - she had run across some other youths on their Wandering, and she managed to scrape together some coins now and then to have enough to eat, when there was nothing to hunt. Her reverie was broken, however, when she heard the sounds of cautious footsteps up ahead...
"...and by the power vested in me, in the name of all who have come before us, I hereby pronounce you guilty as charged! Let the records show that the precedent for this crime has been consulted, and deemed sufficient for this verdict to be valid.", pronounced Prince Balathor to the defendant in this case. Brell beamed inwardly, knowing that justice had been served by his dutiful research in the Great Library of Annurios.
9:00 am: This was an experience Disania would not ever forget! The sources of the footsteps she had heard turned out to be foreigners! They dressed so strangely, and they must have come from far away, because they could not understand a word she said, ever when she was speaking Neathar slowly. She had to resort to hand gestures, and pointing to objects, to figure out what these people were doing here. One was clearly a warrior, another seemed so as well, but she was not like any other person Disania had ever seen! Her ears were pointed - she looked so odd. The third foreigner looked like a Kogolor dwarf - Disania had heard them described once. It seemed these people were wanderers, too, though they did so by choice. They were adventurers!
Panic flooded the streets of Sepirolos! The Antalians had returned for loot, and they were taking no prisoners this time, it seemed. Four ships had glided into the harbour, and had emptied themselves of their warriors minutes ago. Already some of the warehouses on the docks were in flames, and the scattered bodies of town guards and raiders littered the paved streets. Minutes stretched into hours, it seemed, as the Antalians went up and down the streets, looting and burning, and cutting down those who stood in their way. Suddenly, a loud trumpet sounded! A cheer rose among the town guard, for they knew the army had come!
10:00 am: The odd party walked along the country road through the woods, Disania leading the way, excitedly telling her newfound travelling companions about her homeland and her people. All the while the three strangers looked confused, and smiled and nodded occasionally. The strange-looking woman seemed to appreciate the forest's beauty, though. Disania had managed to teach these people some basic Neathar words, which was a simpler language than her native Lhomarrian, and had even learned their names, which were totally alien to her. Perhaps these people would show her what an adventure really was!
The town guard of Sepirolos rounded up the last of the Antalian raiders who had not escaped to their ships with what plunder they could carry. It had been a quick and decisive battle, once the army came. Battle mages had cast spells that gave the most powerful swordsmen armour made of fire, and these men plunged into the fray, scattering their opponents like leaves in the wind. Some mages ever rode above the town in blazing chariots that flew at great speed, harrying the enemy wherever they stood. It was a fantastic sight, and many townsfolk were glad they did not have to think about what could have happened if the army had not come...
11:00 am: Wearily, Atlania led her caravan into the town of Arstina, which lay on the road to Heressina. This place would have to do for a final resting place for her fallen companions. Grimly she approached the town hall, and asked to speak with the mayor. This would not be pleasant.
12:00 am: In Calimnis, and in all other cities throughout Selhomarr, the middle bells rang. The massive bronze doors of the Great Temple of Xeron swung open silently, and High Priestess Thessia led a grand procession of high ranking clerics of Xeron into the Temple Square to lead a prayer of thanks to Xeron for providing the people of Selhomarr with another fine day in which to live. Though the citizens had seen this many times, few could pass by the spectacle of so many powerful representatives of Xeron standing in one place.
With a satisfying clink, Rathol placed his hammer on the nearby table. It had been quite a day so far! Fixing those scythes had given him more problems than he cared to remember, and the hours ahead held more of the same. Leaving his forge, he went into his house to grab something to eat. The children would be back from their daily lessons at school within a few hours, he reflected. Perhaps he ought to finish early today, so that he could spend more time with them. Meridis, his eldest son, would be turning 18 in a week - it would not be long before he would have to go on his Wandering, though he was no longer in school - he spent much of his time with the clerics in town. It had been such a long time since the entire family had been together, it seemed.
1:00 pm: "Imaris, you lizard! You inith! You have spoken ill of me for the last time in wizardly circles, and you will no longer threaten me! I know that you are in league with dark powers, and so I challenge you to a duel with sun swords in one hour!", spat Arnathis. He did not care who heard his challenge; one's honour, and one's loved ones, could only be sullied so much. He had searched for the foul wizard for weeks, and finally found him in the city of Rethnaris. He would teach this evil man a lesson he would not soon forget.
As the flames burned higher, Atlania turned to go, leading her remaining companions. The mayor would not allow them to have their fallen companions buried here, saying that those slain by undead become cursed souls, doomed to wander the lands in which they are buried. She fought to restrain the anger that welled within her once again. There was no choice but to burn the bodies - at least in the purifying flames the souls of the dead would begin their journey to Xeron's paradise. She owed that much to them, at least.
2:00 pm: A hush settled around the crowd, who kept a respectful distance from the two combatants. A cleric of Xeron read out the nature of the grievance borne by Arnathis against Imaris, and then shouted, "Let the duel begin!". Both wizards stepped into a ring engraved in the paving stones - engraved for this very purpose so long ago. The two robed men circled each other for several minutes, and suddenly Imaris uttered a command word, creating a bright sword in his hand - a sun sword! Arnathis sneered and did the same. The two darted and parried, creating bright flashes whenever their swords touched. Imaris was good, very good. This fight might take a while, Arnathis thought
3:00 pm: The sounds of stomping feet and laughter told Rathol that his children had come home. He had decided that, as it was a nice day, it would be the perfect time to take them all to the town market. They had all been asking him for a week now, and as his wife, Tisania, remained ill, the task fell to him, this time. Ah well, he thought, it would be good to get away from the forge for a while.
The two wizards wearily circled each other. They were too evenly matched; neither could gain the upper hand. Both had numerous burns on their bodies, and every step had become painful for them. Suddenly, both of their sun swords fizzled away - their duration had expired. Before he could begin uttering another spell, Imaris uttered another command word, and a sickly green ray burst from his outstretched fist - an acidic blast! Arnathis screamed as the acid ate away at his flesh, and the crowd shouted "Inith!". Only a truly evil person would dare use such a spell against another. Before any clerics or city guards could close in on Imaris, he had already disappeared into the crowd. The clerics managed to save Arnathis, though he would not duel for some time to come.
4:00 pm: The large warrior uttered a shout of warning, and Disania whirled to see what was the source of his alarm. She screamed at the sight of a ferocious owlbear as it thundered out of the dense trees by the side of the road! Before she even realised what had happened, her staff found itself in her hands. The strange woman uttered a few phrases and gestured with one of her hands, and the owlbear suddenly froze, as shimmering chains materialised about its body. The man and the dwarf then plunged into battle, smashing and slashing at the beast, but not before Disania herself managed to hit the creature a few times herself. After what seemed like an eternity, the owlbear's head lolled to the side, and the chains vanished at another word from the woman, letting the beast crash to the ground with a loud thud. She had used magic - Disania was sure of it! The other two were clearly mighty warriors themselves. This was truly a powerful group of foreigners she had found.
5:00 pm: After what seemed like a never-ending nightmare of sinking to the depths of the sea, Brathis awoke with a start. He appeared to be onboard a ship, lying in a makeshift bed. Some fellow crewmates from his ship were lying nearby, and suddenly the memories of what had happened flooded back to him. His ship had been attacked by Antalians, and had sunk. It was only by pure chance that another Selhomarrian ship was nearby, he thought. Quietly, he thanked Xeron for protecting him, and slowly fell into a troubled sleep once again.
In Calimnis, and in other great cities on the empire, bells rang. The end of the working day was nigh, and clerics of Xeron throughout the empire gathered in the temples to lead prayers of thanks to Xeron for providing them with another fruitful day. In the capital, after the end of the ceremony, High Priestess Thessia led a grand procession from the Great Temple into the streets. The long line wound like a sinuous snake along the streets, as citizens going about their business made way for the spiritual leaders of the empire. Once more people were treated to a riot of colour as the clerics made their way to the Holy Hall, where most of the clergy of Calimnis lived.
6:00 pm: Well, it had been a fine time at the market, thought Rathol, as he made his way into the kitchen of his home. The children had had a good time at the town market, and he had managed to pick up some vegetables that would be needed for dinner. He called for his sister, Malinnia, to help him prepare the meal that was to come, and was surprised to find that his mother, Jiarra, was willing to help, too. By all appearances, Xeron was smiling upon him, to have this kind of help; normally they put up a fuss and told him to do it himself. Things had been harder since Tisania fell ill. Maybe Xeron would smile on him a while longer, he hoped.
7:00 pm: The crowd surged through the streets of Rethnaris. A cry went up, that the inith, the cursed one known as Imaris, had been captured! Today's duel was proof that Imaris knew the secrets of the Outer Beings, or at least those of evil Immortals, to have used a spell such as acidic blast. No spellcaster of good intent would dare use such a blasphemous spell against another citizen of Selhomarr - it had been forbidden by Selhomarr's Council of Mages untold ages ago. A high- ranking cleric of Xeron had been found, and the trial began immediately in the city market. After hearing the evidence, and the testimonies of ten witnesses, the priest declared Imaris guilty, and sentenced him to death by hanging within the hour. Imaris was viewed silently by the crowd; he knew for certain that he was a dead man.
8:00 pm: Rathol smoked his pipe as he sat in a chair in front of his house. It had been a fine day, he thought, a day in which he had accomplished a fair amount, and spent time with his family as well. Opportunities for that would fade soon enough, he knew, as his children would soon grow up and begin lives of their own. Best to enjoy what he had now.
"This place looks safe enough, Atlania," said Jerolis, one of the wagon drivers. True enough, Atlania thought, her caravan would find safety tonight. They had found a natural rise, upon which many oaks and maples grew, providing some cover. From their vantage point they could see a long distance across the surrounding plains. Nothing could approach them unseen tonight. Anything to avoid the horrors that happened today, she thought.
9:00 pm: Arlinia was pleased to find that the young sailor that had attracted her attention - Brathis was his name, she found out - was once again awake. Sipping at a cup of Ilarnnian herbal tea, Brathis related the events of the attack as he remembered them to Arlinia, who recorded them in a notebook. After Brathis recounted all he knew, Arlinia told him to relax once more, for Sepirolos would be reached soon, and there would be many questions there, too. As Brathis drifted off to sleep, Arlinia gazed at his reclining form. Perhaps there will be some free time in Sepirolos, she thought, to get to know this man a little better...
The priestess, Illaria, had told him that it would likely be a difficult birth, but Marithis had no idea that it would be this long! For over seven hours his wife, Ilyenia, had been in labour, while he had been left to pace outside the room in which she lay. Each second seemed to take forever to pass, each hour added its weight to the others, until he was certain he would be crushed under them. He hoped it would not be like this every time.
10:00 pm: Such an interesting day, thought Disania. She leaned back against a nearby tree and watched her newfound companions try to sleep. Clearly they were from another land- did not everyone know that the sun shone eternally, thanks to the Will of Xeron? She giggled softly at their efforts, and silently showed them how to make sunshades for their eyes out of some loose fabric that she had been carrying. An amazing day, she mused afterwards, and surely there would be many more to come! She settled down comfortably with her back to a wide tree trunk, and kept watch over the group while they slept, for she had offered to take the first watch.
11:00 pm: Thessia knelt next to her bed in silent prayer. She gave her personal thanks to Xeron for His guidance during the day, and for ensuring that Selhomarr remained safe. A feeling of contentment washed over her - He had been pleased, she was sure of it! Perhaps there would be a visitation as she slept, an audience with Xeron Himself in her dreams, for she new that there was something afoot in the world, and that the time would soon come for Xeron to call upon all His faithful to act. When that call came, Thessia would act without hesitation.
12:00 am: A loud cry broke the silence in the room. Marithis jumped at the sound, and the door opened slowly to reveal Illaria, her clerical robes dotted with blood. In her arms rested a tiny swaddled form. "I present to you, Marithis, your daughter" she said, "Xeron has brought her to you to love and to cherish. Do not fail this trust He gives to you, nor must you fail in your duty to your young one." With that Illaria uttered the Chant of Beginning, officially welcoming to writhing form to the world of mortals, during which the priestess took a tiny vial of holy water and anointed the infant on her forehead. With the chant finished, Illaria gently gave the newborn to Marithis, who then slowly carried her into the next room, where Ilyenia waited. "And what shall we name her?", asked Marithis. "She's beautiful, like the great Dillianoras of Marinir, so delicate, so precious, yet so strong," said Ilyenia. "Let us name her Diliana....Diliana of Calimnis, daughter of Ilyenia." And with that the Illaria intoned, "Let it be written that Xeron has welcomed Diliana of Calimnis, daughter of Ilyenia to His fold. Welcome my child," said the priestess, "welcome to Selhomarr." Outside the room, beyond the city of Calimnis and its many quays and canals, beyond even the fertile southern plains, the great Empire of Selhomarr slept peacefully, waiting for the coming of a new day.