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Thaiis

The Giant of Orisia Returns

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Shunk!

The shore buckled, gravel spreading and shifting upon the impact of a wind-borne vessel.  The small rowing boat, while settled on land, still buckled and swayed a short while until its cargo slowly emptied itself.  A lone sail stood just proud enough to be considered seafaring, and the once proud red and gold coloring had faded over time.  Likely the age of it numbered just short of two years, the brine having stripped it of vibrancy and reducing it to something of a reminder of brand of a former soldier; perhaps a knight of some sort.  The frayed wood hardly stood to the cold morning air, and with the frigid morning air, it was a wonder the boat didn't buckle underneath the weight of its passenger.

A heavy boot came down, then a second, and both seemed to have more impact than the boat itself.  The large man stood beyond six feet tall, and the mass of thick, granite sinew spoke volumes of his profession.  A Knight, to be sure, and one of great pride and Humility.  His armor remained unchanged, still tattered and scarred from battles that filled the very pages of history themselves.  His face, now not only a tale of scars and weathering, but the thick patch of black and silver that covered his chin and above his lip was an indicator of his absence.  With a roll of his shoulder, his red cape shifted in the bare breeze of the sea, only just barely obscuring the Order of the Blackheart's emblem across the face.  A large thumb and forefinger reset the polished, fine pin of his former Order.  He could not imagine who had been set to replace him, and he didn't dare think to wrest them from control.  Despite the time beyond the reaches of Orisia, it was clear his fealty remained to his Queen.  And to his dearest Friend.

Gripping hold of the heavy pommel, he shifted his unwieldy axe, heavy enough to be considered a giant's weapon, and set it upon a broad shoulder.  Nothing else remained on his person, save his armor, his weapon, and the reminder of his loyalties.  The first few steps on his home turf reminded him of the legacy he had built here.  The foes he had slain in the name of his Queen.  And further the flag he had risen in the name of his Kingdom.  Those steps carried him to the crest of a short hill that overlooked a small fishing hamlet.  From here, he would get in contact with old friends.  Perhaps reset himself into the military.  Maybe one day see his Friend and his Queen once more.  He did not know how much had happened in the time he had been gone, but the distance had put things in perspective.

Yes, he had been gone for a long while, and he did not expect to be welcomed home with open arms.  But this was the land he was born in.

Doherty Rommel has returned.

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There was an air of hope in Orisia. It was a sensation that was well known, and famous for its infectious quality. People from all over Valucre could sense it the moment they stepped onto the golden sands of the small, island kingdom, or while they walked below the shaded canopy of the high, tree forests. There were very few who could resist the call of happiness that was almost instantly manifested in the blood and spirit of those who breathed in Orisia’s fresh air, which was often perfumed by the fruit orchids that were grown and tended to all over the island. Often times, the island had been called a paradise or a land of entertain summer. The citizens of the isle knew this and most were glad and grateful for the opportunity to live there, while also vividly remembering what life had been like before the Black Queen’s arrival. It hadn’t even been a generation’s time since those dark and ugly days. Doherty Rommel probably remembered it himself, the time of chaos, of lawlessness, of violence and misery…

 

The air was somber in the small hamlet. There was a gathering of people, perhaps most of the population of the small settlement, and they were all standing along the edge of the lake some distance from the only short wooden deck. It was a smooth clearing with a clean white, sand beach. They were all dressed in black, even the small children who stood by their parents, and the smaller infants that were held within their mother’s arms. There were also quite a few wet eyes and saddened expressions.

 

It seemed that Rommel, the legendary giant of Orisia -- the modest but well known and well loved knight, had come upon a small funeral service. In all of the small group, there was one man who stood waist deep in the waters of the Atitlan Lake. He was speaking quietly to the group, and holding a small floating vessel. It was quite a beautiful thing, a miniature ship that had been carved from a single piece of wood. It was overflowing with fresh flowers, bundles and bundles of tiny white orange blossoms that perfumed the air, and a central flame of burning oil that lit up the growing darkness of the looming afternoon.


“Finding the right words during a time of great loss can be difficult. I struggled to come up with the right thing to say to you all. Today, our small country is unified in a way it’s never been before -- from Drakiss to Versilla and from Izabal to Urbem, even here in our little village -- we mourn together the loss of our monarch, the death of our Queen…”

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It was good to be home, if just for the sobering feel of the Orisian Tradwinds on his face.  It was a foreign feeling to have it dance over his heavy beard, and even more strange to not know just where he was right away.  The fishing hamlet provided no knowledge of where he was, nor did the edge of the coast he stood upon.  Every time he looked, it all felt so alien and unlike what he remembered.  Had he really been gone so long?  Or had his land changed in his absence.  He laughed coarsely, finding it a ridiculous notion to consider a cataclysm of epic proportions would shift the land itself in his absence.  The internal ravings of a crazy, old man if he had ever heard them.

The service did not go unheard as he arrived upon the hamlet.  His smile waned to the thin line of grim countenance that was very unlike him.  Always smiling, and yet he couldn't help but hold a somber tone for the dead.  It was the very thing that brought him to the realization no one was immortal.  That every being would one day perish and decay.  All would fade into the wheel of time, even should one refuse to believe in such a thing.

He spoke no words as he approached, setting the heavy axe carefully and quietly upon the coast of the lake.  The lone pack on his hip joined it, resting in the damp soil for the time being.  Though he held a keen interest in the memorial service for a fallen countryman, he stood far in the back, perhaps bringing more attention to his titanic form, but he did not desire to push through the masses, as easy as it might be.

For the first lines, he was a blank slate, merely paying his respect until his own fated woes fell upon him.  Were he the sort, his jaw would have dropped, and his eyes bulged in fear, but he held his composure.  A Knight did not falter, even in the face of a beloved's death.  The love he shared for his Queen was not romantic, nor familial, but perfectly out of love of country.  She was the figurehead he all but worshiped.  All but wished he could stand next to in protection over her.  And yet this service spoke of her death, of a long-since seen idol in his mind.  It was all he could do to buckle under his own weight and drop to his knees.

But he did not wish to dawdle, as much as the pain struck his heart, wrenching and pulling to cramp around his chest.  He did not know such a pain existed in his body anymore, not with the amount of spearheads and arrows he had pierce his flesh.  This pain could not stop him now.

Quietly, he stood by till the service was over, bowing his head and forming a powerful salute over his broad chest shortly after.  It was a sign of respect and love, one he shared with those close to him.  And when it was over, he approached the vigil master.  His head was low at first, what one might mistake for hesitance, but instead held a similar respect.  This man paid his dues to the Queen as much as he had, and he did not wish any disrespect.  Raising the gargantuan head high, he did his best to smile, but even his usually bright gaze was rusted with grief.

"A wonderful service, sir.  Please, I have need to know how our beloved Queen passed.  You see, I have been away for a long while, and am ashamed I was not about to help Her Majesty."

His Knight's Crest might speak for him on some level, but he did not wish for it to be the only thing, and instead motioned towards the lake.

"I am friends with Prince Lucis of Orisia.  Where might I find him?"

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“A wonderful service, sir. Please, I have need to know how our beloved Queen passed. You see, I have been away for a long while, and am ashamed I was not about to help Her Majesty.”

 

The older gentleman was just now wading his way through the water and stepping up onto the sandy shore. He was soaking wet from the waist down, and so the heavy and dark materials of his robes hung heavy around his small frame, pulling him down toward the deep indentations he was leaving on the sand. The man regarded the giant and narrowed his cloudy blue eyes. There were only a handful of legends in Orisia, and Sir Doherty Rommel was certainly one of them -- if not for his sheer size alone, then certainly for the size of his bravery and loyalty. There were stories about the way he had single-handedly saved the Queen from the devil, Roen, and the Lord of War, Malice. But those stories seemed forgotten or ignored in light of the shaky alliances that were forged.

 

That all seemed a very long time ago now.

 

“Well,” said the old man, after gathering some of his robes and exposing his skinny white legs. He was wringing out bits and pieces of his garments, which wasn’t doing him any good at all. Really, he was just trying to distract himself, or hide the fact that his eyes were full of tears. “She passed away doing what she loved, but it was a tragic accident. Or at the very least, that’s what they’ve told us all.”

 

He didn’t like the way he made that sound. There was an air of suspicion to his voice that he simply did not feel in his heart. So, he cleared his throat and tried again.

 

“The Queen was out for a hunt. It appears she suffered a devastating wound and lost too much blood to seek out shelter when the sun came out the next day. All they found of her were the burnt remains.”

 

He looked around -- oh how troubled he looked. Everyone knew how the queen had died, but there was something utterly unsavory about saying it outloud and more so, out in the open. It made him cringe.

 

“It was an absolute tragedy. A really senseless loss.”

 

“I am friends with Prince Lucis of Orisia. Where might I find him.”

 

The old man’s suspicions were confirmed. Not many men walked around in the proper guise of a giant, and fewer still among those would dare to name himself friend of the prince. This was Rommel, a knight of the Black Heart, a member of the Noble Seven.

 

“Our Prince is in the capital. His mother will be laid to rest in a two days, after that I suspect he will be preparing for his coronation. The Queen is dead, long live the King!” There was no joy in his heart or voice, but still he called out and a few others answered, “Long live the King!”

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The space between his heart and his throat shot with a dull pain, like doing his best to hold in a massive amount of water, and hardly succeeding in doing so.  Each time he took a breath, it was painful, and he knew it wasn't any normal malediction or distress.  This was an emotional pain that was mostly foreign to the massive knight.  He shed tears for his sister, the one who raised him when his parents could not.  And he shed tears for his fallen comrades in the privacy of his own quarters.  But for the Queen, it was like there were no tears respectful enough to shed for her.  Instead, he took to swallowing his grief and nodding to the elderly man as he went over the Queen's demise.

Even though the death seemed an accident, or something close to it, Rommel still felt guilt for not being there to protect her.  He had given his love and loyalty to the woman, something he didn't do without the truest form of affection in his heart.  To know she was dead, or presumed dead felt like a true fault of his own.

"I see."

There was little hope in his voice.  A keener man would see the Queen's end as not an end at all.  But Rommel was not the smartest man in Orisia.  In fact, despite his military training, strategic mind, and a track record of near flawless academia, it was all based around war.  Even his vocational schooling was designed around war.  Because war was one of the purview of his homeland, and he wished only to serve his country properly.  Rommel did not see the news as optimistic, nor something he wished to pry further into, at least not with this man.  Instead, he moved to his axe and pack, hoisting them up to once more place them safely on his person.  With another forced smile, he bowed his head to the elder.

"Thank you, good sir.  It appears I have a trip to make in two days, then."

The cheer for Long Live the King was met with one of his own.  While it seemed disrespectful, Lucis was the only person he would choose to act in his mother's stead.  As a dear friend and ally, he represented Orisia just as much as his mother.  Rommel only hoped his friend had not changed, not been tainted by this loss, or something else in his absence.  It was only a matter of seeing him that would inform the Knight of who his friend had become.  With a final nod of thanks, he turned towards the edge of town, this one facing the Capital more closely.  His stop was the stables, to purchase a horse, a strong warhorse that could hold his heavy weight.  The time away had not lightened him, after all.  With a horse in his care, he took the reins and gave them a whip, starting his journey to the Capital once more.

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