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Tyler

A Crowning Achievement [Artifact]

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In the days after the disastrous eruption of Mount Egon, the nobles of Ursa Madeum, under the guidance and approval of the Veluriyam Empire, successfully drafted for themselves a new government to rule their lands. This new body was a hybrid of a republic and constitutional monarchy, proposed by Duchess Abigail Karradeen as an attempt to compromise between the desires of the Republic-supporting Houses Dali and Kholin, and the monarchy-supporting houses of Uldwar, Mythal and Hildebrand. 

In the end, Hildebrand became independent, rather than accept anything less than absolute monarchy. Mythal’s leader was appointed to the title of king, though his power was notably limited. But most dramatically, Godric Uldwar, the recently returned eldest child of the disgraced Lord Oscar Uldwar, poised his entire family and himself, completely annihilating his entire family save for his imprisoned and doomed father.

The sudden absence of House Uldwar left a massive void of power on the island of Misral, which had been largely guided by Uldwar over the past couple of years. As a result of Uldwar’s destruction, combined with the already backlash of Egon’s destruction, the entire city of Port Mars was thrown into anarchy. Bugbear tribes, their homes in the jungle having been destroyed by lava, began raiding human settlements in retaliation for the loss of their homes and the death of their god. At the same time, desperate citizens had taken to looting and banditry, while pirates were now moving in like sharks who smelled blood in the water.

With the other houses busied with their own obligations and problems, it was House Karradeen that saw the opportunity, and the threat, presented by Uldwar’s demise. House Uldwar had a great deal of hidden weapons and wealth that now risked falling into the hands of pirates or other degenerates, and that would never do…

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June 19th, 598…

“It has been a pleasure to host you again, Grand Executor,” Abigail said to her friend, Joseph Tynes, “I hope you have a more pleasant stay next time.”

“Yes, I hope so as well. I’m sure this glitch in my arm is just a minor issue that can be repaired back home,” Joseph responded, flexing his mechanical arm, which had been rather glitchy since he arrived here in Ursa Madeum some days before.

“Let us hope,” Abigail nodded.

Little did either know that it was actually a sign of the rapidly expanding Taen loci, which was both consuming and reinforcing the existing Ursa Madeum loci, and consequently causing technology to malfunction and fail. Indeed, this would be Joseph Tynes’s last visit to Ursa Madeum, for the loci’s power would only grow more prominent in the coming months, rendering all Norkotian devices non-functional. Even if it weren’t for this, affairs back in Norkotia would soon keep Joseph quite busy anyway.

As for Abigail, she escorted the man to his plane, which was idling on the runway of the recently constructed Gold Harbor airfield. It was a facility that was not long for the world, given that the aircraft it was built to house would soon be non-functional on the islands. Indeed, it would become useless before Karradeen would ever acquire any planes of their own. 

For now though, Abigail offered a parting curtsy to the Grand Executor, as he boarded the aircraft with his advisers and staff. The boarding ramp was soon rolled away, and the craft began to taxi down the runway in order to take-off. As Abigail watched it depart, her ever more trusted adjutant, Squire John Dicken, who had all but taken over retired Squire Geb Josanne’s role as Abigail’s advisor, took a few steps up closer behind her.

“M’lady, I have news that bears your attention,” he drawled in his accented voice.

“Go on,” she bid him proceed.

“It seems there has been a tragedy among the nobility,” he reported, his voice holding no hint of sorrow, but almost a sense of grim satisfaction instead, “It seems the entire Uldwar family has been poisoned to death over dinner a few nights ago. There were no survivors.”

“None?”

“None.”

Abigail did not turn around, though the revelation shook her. House Uldwar was not a well-loved house, and Abigail would be lying if she said she truly cared about them. But just a few weeks ago, she was hosting young Mia Uldwar under her own roof, attempting to be a mentor to the emotionally-unstable girl. Then Mia went and blew up Misral, which likely sealed her House’s fate regardless of what happened at the nobility conference a few days later. But now she was dead, along with her brothers and sisters, leaving only their much-maligned father as the sole survivor of a once powerful family.

However, after a moment or two of reflection, a thought occurred to Abigail. With the Uldwar family deceased, Port Mars was leaderless, and it there were certain treasures that the house was known to possess that no longer had an owner. This meant they were at risk of falling into the wrong hands. Perhaps things would transition to a new ruler quickly, but Abigail did not wish to wait and see. She needed to act now, not just as a preventative measure, but also because she believed in seizing opportunities as they presented themselves. 

“Then let us return home. Preparations need to be made,” she finally turned toward Dicken, who just faintly grinned and nodded in response.

Edited by Tyler

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June 20th, 598...

It was late at night when a lone rider came tearing down the road that led to the House Sheathe estate. The courier bore a message for Holly Sheathe, bearing the mark and seal of Duchess Abigail Karradeen. The message was a formal request, promising compensation and favor in exchange for the use of House Sheathe's vaunted airship. If they were willing to accept the offer, Holly and whatever servants she wished to bring, were to fly immediately to Gold Harbor and pick up a delegation of Karradeen forces, then bring them to Misral with all haste. Notably, Abigail had requested that this affair be kept quiet, and that the Lady Sheathe speak to no one besides only those in her house that were to be involved.

When the airship arrived in Gold Harbor airfield, it would find a force of about two dozen Karradeen marines waiting for it, along with Abigail and Dicken. As they boarded, Abigail approached the Lady Sheathe, a woman she had little regard for given her peasant roots and highly questionable choice of crops, but who was now needed. Or rather, her airship was needed.

"Lady Sheathe, my humblest apologies for the sudden intrusion upon your time. A situation has arisen in Port Mars, and I wish to respond to it before things have the potential to get out of hand there. It seems that the entire Uldwar family has been killed, and this could mean a power vacuum that will soon invite undesirables. As promised, I will compensate you handsomely for your trouble, but we must be off to Port Mars at once."

@Thotification

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A strange note visitor at night, an alarming message and the interrupted midnight coffee time. As a reluctant noblewoman, there is only so much that the kind Lady Sheathe can take. There ism't much to prepare for such an unwelcome trip. There's no one left in her household as her only remaining relatives are all busy with the farm. She was all alone now. 

The ship was already prepared for her when she exited her humble shack. Her secretary Vintovka has always been proactive with these alarming occasions. Still, the Lady Sheathe decided that she cannot let her farmers partake in this. The task is too secretive, too dangerous for these poorly trained soldiers. She might have to outsource.

As she wheeled towards her ship, she can see a number of familiar figures waving at her. The Lady Sheathe smiled. It seems that the gods are favoring her tonight.


After a hasty travel, Lady Sheathe's airship would finally land on Gold Harbor. There she would be greeting the Abby and her friend Dicken.

"Hello, Abby," the Lady Sheathe started, "A pleasure to meet you again despite this dire circumstance." The Lady gestured to her nearby attendant to prepare for an early flight. "With the Uldwars gone I presumed you would be interesres in one of their treasures? Or perhaps capitize on their loss? Whatever it is, we can discuss everything on our way to port Mars."

"Come," the kind Lady gestured, "Let your men climb aboard and the we'll leave with haste"

Edited by Thotification

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The Lady Sheathe was both presumptuous and perceptive, that much was made clear to Abigail right away. It was true that the Duchess of House Karradeen had little interest Port Mars as far as humanitarian aid went; she was most interested in the Uldwar treasures that risked falling into the hands of criminals or even rival nobles. But the way in which Holly Sheathe presented her speculations felt almost insulting, though not half as much as her over familiarity in referring to "Abigail" as "Abby". Only her family members were permitted to call her that, and that was within the privacy of the family manor.

"You are not wrong in your assumptions about our goal, Lady Sheathe, but let me first say that it will be preferred it if in the future you address me by proper title from here on," she spoke, a hardness evident in her tone, though it softened again afterward, "The Uldwars made for themselves many allies and enemies of ill-disposition, and I have no doubt they will move in like Vulture's now that a power vacuum has been opened."

The marines filed in and the airship took off, Abigail choosing a place where she could stand in the cool night breeze and feel the wind in her hair. She continued to speak to Holly as they glided through the night.

"There is, in particular, an item that the Uldwars possess that mustn't fall into the hands of... undesirable folk. Perhaps you have heard of what they call the True Crown, a magic-imbued item believed to have belonged to the queen before the rise of Damien and his ilk. The Uldwars came to possess it not long ago, but what they have done with it, I cannot say. It is no use hiding it from you, as you will find out one way or another, but I wish to keep this affair discreet, if you take my meaning."

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Holly shrugged in response. "Very well. I shall adress as such, Duchess Abby. But do forgive me if I come a bit too insolent. They might call me a noblewoman or a lady but I never saw myself as such." She had to chuckle at that. "Unfortunately, I've seen too much of this world that titles and such mean very little to me."

Her lips pursed as she regarded this talk of the Uldwars. Steepling her fingers, Holly could not help but look away from Abby before speaking. "I might have been physically present but I have seen the Uldwars albeit through the eyes of another. I have high regard for Oscar and I view Ilyana as a dear friend thus I am saddened at the thought of their plight. Sadly, death holds little meaning after one has suffered it a couple of times."

The wheels of her mechanical contraptions squeaked as she followed Abby to stand, or sit in Holly's circumstance, beside the ship's railings. "I have heard of the crown. In fact, I have been in contact with it through another person's senses. If you wish to know more, such knowledge would endanger us both." Then she turned to face Abby.  "Other than that, the crown is just a mere magical relic, one which holds more weight in a political sense rather than with the supernatural."

The cool wind blew against her hair, revealing the disfigured and scarred flesh that was her face. "I leave most of the mundane problems in the hands of the nobility. My only concern here is the dangers of the supernatural. But I would not mind offering my services and the services of my 'friends' which have been instrumental in helping the Uldwars acquire the crown."

Edited by Thotification

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"Refer to me as Duchess Abigail or Duchess Karradeen. Abby is not a name I allow mere acquaintances to call me," Abigail hissed, before quickly moving on, hoping Holly got the message, "In any case though, it is still better the crown be in the hands of the nobility than in the hands of brigands or primitives. It is a part of our kingdom's history, after all."

She listened as Holly mentioned her "friends" a couple times, and though she could probably put two-and-two together with a little more prompting, she didn't initially know who Holly was referring to.

"I appreciate the offer, but I believe we should be able to handle this affair ourselves. If circumstances change, however; you may keep that offer open."

The more people involved though, the more likely it was that something could get leaked. She supposed the secrecy was unnecessary, but at the same time, she did not want to deal with annoying questions about why she had slipped off to Port Mars without informing the new king or any members of the government. Better she snatch the crown and leave before anyone else interfered.

Edited by Tyler

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House-Sheathe.png

"Very well, Duchess Abbi-" Holly had to blink twice before continuing, "-gail." She would have pressed further more but seeing this noblewoman stress over such a trivial was more than enough entertainment for this crippled lady. Somehow, this irked her the most as it greatly reminded her of someone else, someone who would take pleasure over such a wrong.

"I do find it amusing how people put such importance over a trinket. I admire your pursuit of power but politics were never my mug of coffee but you do you friend. I might have lost my strive for ambition but it pleases me to see that in others."

A heavily scarred woman wearing Sheathe's crest and colors approached the two. Scratching the ugly looking scar on her neck, she bent over to whisper in Holly's ear. 

Nodding her assent, Holly dismissed the woman and addressed the Duchess. "We'll be arriving in Port Mars soon. Would you mind if I accompany you when you disembark? The crown is still a magical trinket and I am very particular when it comes to the Vel Empire's supernatural world."

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"Very well," Abigail agreed, though she had no intention of letting Holly slow her and her mission down, "So long as you are aware that we don't know what to expect when we arrive..."

They eventually did arrive in Port Mars some hours later, and though the land was still covered in the darkness of night, the city seemed ablaze with light. Unfortunately, as they drew nearer, they realized many of those lights were great fires, rather than oil lamps or torches. The airship was forced to set-down on the outskirts of the city, but it was already clear that something was going or, or at least, had gone on recently.

Abigail and her men, with Holly in tow, filed out and began to head into the city, intending to make for the Uldwar keep. Along the way they found signs of battle; ruined or looted buildings, corpses, and wounded civilians hiding in corners or lying on the ground coughing and moaning. 

"You!" Abigail pointed at a man who was actually able to stand, "What happened here?"

"The bugbears... the Gaia-damned bugbears..." the man mumbled, clearly shell-shocked, "Those savages..."

"The castle! Did they reach the Uldwar Castle!" Abigail demanded.

"Damn them... damn them to hell..." the man continued to sputter.

"It would seem we just missed a raid," Dicken noted.

"Yes, but the greater question is whether or not the raiders got what we came here for," Abigail grit her teeth, "To the castle! Move!"

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A sigh escaped the Lady Sheathe's charred lips. "I guess we'll just have to follow them."

The reluctant noblewoman was simply trailing after the Duchess' wake. While her wheeled contraption could easily traverse Port Mars' grounds but the machine was not built for speed. Instead, she went for the less technologically advance idea.

"Hurry up, Sera! The Duchess is leaving!" the Lady Sheathe cried as she slapped the arm of her ride. Yes, her ride. Apparently, she found it funny to repurpose one of her airship crew as her personal mount. This leaves her piggybacking her the poor Sheathe woman named Sera.

"FUCKING CHILL!" Sera retorted as she lumbered after the Karradeen soldiers. Flanking the mount are two more crew members of the Sheathe's airship. One names Khakina could not help snicker at their antics and the other one, Teddy, could only shake her head.

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There were a few looks of disdain from Abigail and the officers among her cadre, who were none-to-impressed with the language that Lady Sheathe allowed her servants to spew in her presence. Some of the regular marines were amused though, particularly at the way Holly mounted the larger Sera like she was a little kid on her daddy's back. 

Alas, time was of the essence, and they all had to get on the move again. The castle was reached after a jog through town, and while it appeared to be intact, the gate was wide open and there were a handful of corpses belonging to city guardsmen littered around the entrance. Abigail signaled for her men to slow their pace and approach cautiously, though that proved a useless gesture. There was nothing left alive enough to threaten them here. An investigation of the castle itself found it ransacked, with many valuables missing, but others spewed about or desecrated. Guards and knights lie dead or dying intermittently through the stone halls and about the courtyards, though they eventually found a few squirming survivors. 

"How long ago was the castle raided?" Abigail demanded of them, hoping at least one was coherent enough to respond.

"They... they attacked at dusk. Hundreds of bugbears... we couldn't hold them off... they killed everyone they could find," one of the servants mumbled.

"That much is clear," Abigail noted, "What of the valuables? How much treasure did they carry off?" 

"I-I-I... I wasn't watching... that wasn't what I was worried about!" the servant sputtered.

"Is that why you're here?" a wounded guard snapped, "Like vultures to feast on the corpse of our dying city?" 

"Watch your tongue, peasant!" Abigail retorted, "House Uldwar is deceased, and that gives you even less leeway to talk back to your betters. We're here because we learned the fate of your masters, and wished to ensure what has happened would not. We merely arrived too late to keep order."

As she finished speaking, a couple of marines returned from investigating the lower levels. One was shaking his head.

"We found the treasure chamber; but it looks like everything of value has been taken or scattered. No sign of--" one of the marines began to say.

"Enough!" Abigail cut him off before he could speak word of the crown, "It is clear then that the bugbears have escaped with much of the House's wealth."

She turned and crouched down in front of the wounded guard, looking him straight in the eye. Her own eyes glowing slightly with a fierce intensity.

"Which way did they go? Where did they come from? Such deeds as were wrought here will not go unpunished, of that I assure you."

The guard glared back, but finally he wilted before Abigail and exhaled in exhaustion. He had not to the energy nor willpower to remain defiant against her, and likely to no gain. House Uldwar was gone, as was the source of their pride and honor. 

"They came from the north. Some of the jungles there survived the eruption, so that is where they have been gathering. We never thought they'd attempt something like this though... I guess they sensed our weakness when news of the family's death got out. But I warn you, your men won't stand a chance. You'd need an army in the hundreds if you intended to invade their camp!"

"We will see," Abigail answered that, then stood up and looked back at Dicken and Holly.

 

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Everything that transpired before her only made her shake her head. The bugbear attack, the loss of the Uldwar treasury and the discrimination against peasants. It was s day of losses.

"Fucking bugbears!" Sera cursed as she heard the news. "We should have massacred them back in the old legion days."

"Hush, Sera," Teddy spoked, "Let the lady process all these. One of these days, I'll cut off your insolent little tongue. You should treat nobility with more respect and act with more humilty."

"Why don't I shove that nobility up your ass, bitch?" Sera spat, barely hiding the venom in her voice.

"You can most certainly try." Teddy retorted, her face scrunching up in disgust. "I've had my fair share of savages back in the day. One more won't hurt."

Before the two could start clawing at each other's faces, Holly had to do something. She cleared her throat a bit forcefully than usual. "Down, girls."

And just like that, the two girls settled down and lost their will to fight. Holly expected as much. The vel empire is her jurisdiction. Her word is law here.

With the two pacified, Holly eyed the approaching Duchess. "Duchess Abby...gail. You ready to fight a bugbear horde?"

 

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"It appears that is what we shall have to do if we are to find the crown. But if there are as many of them as they suggest, we may need to send word back to Gold Harbor for reinforcements," Abigail shook her head, "And that will take time, time we may not have."

She motioned for her men to form up again.

"I'll have word sent anyway for more marines to be brought into the city here, to attempt to re-establish order. The king and the council will have to be informed as well, if they have not yet been. But the damage has already been done here, it is the crown that concerns me now."

She began to head toward the castle gate, intending to return to the airship.

"How soon can we be back in Gold Harbor?" she inquired, wanting to weigh her options and determine how much time would be lost if they returned for reinforcements.

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"I don't think we would need to go back," the Lady Sheathe spoke, her eyes peering into the darkness of the forest. "I think we have enough men here to take on the bugbears."

"One thing I have learned from my past life, is that numbers are just one side of the battle. We could still use careful planning against them. Plus," she paused to point at the general direction of her airship, "We have that. Technology in our side."

"I suggest we hit them at night. If your soldiers can handle a gun, then we cam use the airship's cannons to cause a distraction. Once the airship got their attention, those onboard the ship can start picking off more bugbears while a seperate group could enter the bugbear camp from a different direction. As for the crown, Khaki and Sera here have been in contact with it in the past. They can sense the crown if they are within twenty or so meters from it."

The Lady Sheathe frowned at that. "We are running agaimst time here. The more seconds that passes, the higher the chances that the crown's location may have been moved to a different place."

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Abigail thought about it, then nodded after a moment.

"That could work. We may even catch them in the midst of a feast or drunken revelry, which should aid our element of surprise. Very well, we shall follow your suggestion. However, how do you propose we track them if we are in the air? It will be difficult to spot their tracks a high place, particularly at night," the duchess questioned.

She suspected Holly might already have an answer, as the woman was proving resourceful even if she wasn't particularly refined. Deciding to allow Holly to explain while on the move, she continued through the town and toward the parked airship. Some of her men were a little restless, either from boredom on one hand, or from abandoning a town clearly in need of help. But they weren't getting paid to complain about it either way, so none of them spoke a word about it. 

"As much as I feel your servant is correct, that we ought to exterminate the bugbears, I believe that will not be possible tonight," she continued once Holly had answered her inquiry, "Our focus will remain on securing the crown, then we will have the goblins dealt with later."

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