Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Eagle and the Egg

The second short story from Behind the Throne...

The Eagle and the Egg
Five men faced each other across the oak table, their faces shrouded in deep shadow so that no man saw the other fully. The darkness was a little too theatrical for Zandral, one of the men, as they all wore their formal masks over their faces, as always. Zandral expected the darkness was merely a ploy by the Master of the North to set the others on edge. Let him have his silly parlour tricks, he thought, only a fool would fall for them. Another thought occurred to him then, perhaps the ploy was not so foolish after all – any here who were perceived as being affected by this would show a weakness that can be exploited later. He smiled under his porcelain mask and he could not help but let a short ‘harrumph’ escape his lips.

     “Do you find the destruction of an entire culture funny, Master of the West?” queried the Master of the East.

     “Not at all, Alephand,” he apologised, “I hold the destruction of the Noi in the most serious of lights, my mind was merely on other matters. Please, forgive my interruption and continue.”

    “As I was saying, the Arch Mage Singrefel was successfully motivated to lead the Academy’s contingent into the Noi homeland, their defences utterly useless against their Sorcery. The Emperor’s Arm is expected to send the report within the month of the city’s destruction. As hoped, the surviving Noi will galvanise in their desire to hunt the Academia Alchemica and will be one more thorn in the Sorcerer’s side for many years to come.”

    “Excellent work,” praised the Master of the Eye, a man known only as Tens of the Foe, “Now we turn our gaze upon the Hunters of the Empire, the Ordos Venatori.”

    “For too long have they acted without our guidance.” Agreed one of the others.

   “They are too spread out, too independent, their leaders have too little power over their members.” spoke another.

    “And what of this Aguila Magnus, The Great Eagle? From all accounts he is incorruptible, scrupulous and honourable. A great man, indeed. How does one manipulate a man such as he?”
Zandral stood, it was time to reveal his plan.

     “We do not. We kill him.”

    “No easy feat, Zandral, many assassins have met their end on his blade. As memory serves, Grand Master Grendal has forbidden any contracts on the man at any rate.”
Tens of the Foe turned his full attention to Zandral. A gaze that can bring Emperor’s low.

    “And how would removing the only man with the power to direct the entire Order allow us to direct them more easily? This is foolishness!” The Master of the North was also standing now.

   “The Ordos Venatori are driven by their pledge to destroy the monsters that plague the Empire. Aguila Magnus Tieth has proven that he is more than willing to lead from the front of his Great Hunts. I say we give him a foe that he can neither ignore, nor hope to defeat. When his death at the hands of such a mighty foe reaches the rest of the Hunters, it will unite them in a way that no other has in generations.”

    “Yes…and controlling such a beast is a far easier task…we relocate it, or at least spread rumours of its presence where we want the Hunters to gather…a good plan, Master of the West, a worthy plan.” Approval from the Master of the Eye was a good sign.
    “But where do we find such a monster? They don’t simply advertise their presence, they are not so easy to locate as you would think, Zandral!”
Zandral smiled, he had taken authority of the meeting from the Master of the North, by showing that his information was far more pertinent to the group.

    “I suspect that Master Zandral already has a candidate in mind, am I right?”
The Master of the Eye sees many things, Zandral mused. He reached around behind him to a chest, and placed an ovular object on the table before them all.

    “An egg, captured from the nest of the Great Wyrm Vermilloximunda…”

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Short Stories from Behind the Throne

With writing and editing nearly finished for our up and coming Sourcebook - Behind the Throne - we've decided to treat you all to a sampling of some fiction presented as flavour within the book. The short stories are intended to highlight the shadowy new faction The Oculus. They are mostly presented as stand alone flash fiction tales, but a couple do follow on from each other. Test your knowledge of Karthi history and see if you can determine from what time the tales are each told.

Without further ado, this week’s flash fiction:

A Fine Season to be King

The sun beat down on King Harlgrif’s brow, his face lifted to receive the warm glow. He took comfort in the heat, having lead his people through a terrible winter not 2 moons ago. He took pride in his decisions and leadership, knowing that without the deal he brokered with the foreigners his people would have starved. Dried and salted meats, preserved fruits, hard breads and barrels of grains were bartered for with many of the Clan Hold’s possessions.

They were not a rich Clan, but they had sole access to a mountain pass, a few miles west of the Clan Hold itself. They could demand tribute from any who needed to use the pass, such as when there was a Great Moot in the valley to the south east. Every few years one was called, and these years were the most prosperous for Harlgrif’s clan. The trade with the foreigners meant his people were strong so soon after the winter, and able to police the pass as strong warriors, rather than hungry beggars, a far more intimidating threat to travellers who would seek free passage. A rider had arrived this morning, informing him that the signal fires had been lit, a Moot will be called this season.

King Harlgrif turned from the sun, and began to pack his pipe with the pungent herbs given to him by Finix, the merchant from across the sea. His kin had always smoked the flowers that grew on the mountain side for generations, so when the foreigner showed an interest the King was only too happy to oblige. They had spent many nights negotiating, filling the room with a melange of smoke, the merchant puffing on dried mountain flowers and the King on the delightfully new dried bark and herb mixture carried by the foreigners. It was not long before the King had demanded that Finix sweeten the deal by trading all the merchant carried of the herbs for an equal measure of the local smoke. Finix had wholeheartedly agreed. Already the King’s closest advisors and favoured warriors were taking to the new mixture. This was going to be a fine season to be King.


Finix cracked the seal on the missive just now handed to him. It bore the mark of his master, Lord Argos Vanhanen II. By the lantern light he read, a smile slowly beginning to play out on his weathered face.

“My colleagues and I commend you on your machinations in the barbarian lands. Securing the pass east of the clan you mentioned in particular was ingenious. I am proud that the drug that we prepared for you was used wisely; the barbarian king will not even suspect he has been given an extremely addictive herb until it is too late. He will bow to our demands for passage without resorting to violence, and when the invasion fleet lands in a month’s time the Commanders will be informed of the king’s addiction. We have seen to it they have ample herb to bribe this Harlgrif and his men. Report to Lieutenant Horten in the 3rd Company, Emperor’s Arm when they arrive, he is one of us and shall see you rewarded.

Argos V. II”

Below the signature was a symbol, a stylized eye encircled by an arcing line on an angle. Curious, Finix mused, never seen the master use that glyph before…