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When Kryo Goes to War (Read Only) Dragon10

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Post by Svadilfare Sun May 07, 2023 9:11 am

When War Comes to Kryo

The list was few of things a Kryoan man truly loved. A strong drink; a fiery Gynaikes woman; and a good fight. If the day went as planned, the unwed men would know all three joys. But it was the experience of the Chieftain that things didn't often go as planned. Svadilfare smiled to himself at that thought. If things had gone as planned 19 years ago, he would still be a widower with two children and three stepchildren. Instead, he had found love again in someone he never expected, and with her created something that would one day either rebuild their worlds or tear them asunder. True, he had once shared his kind's dislike of hers and, because of that, had wanted to be rid of her company as quickly as possible. But then... he learned. As eager as she was to learn about humanity, she was just as willing to teach about dragonkind. To this day, Svadilfare could not pinpoint the day he started asking Astral questions out of genuine curiosity rather than quid pro quo, nor the moment the concept of loving her--loving a dragon--had crept into his subconscious enough to eventually act on the very emotions that were being suppressed by his previous grief. It no longer mattered. If time itself reversed, he would change nothing... except that he would allow himself to accept the idea of Astral from the start.

Svadilfare's contemplation of past plans came to an end as he turned to face his war party. "I hope everyone left their good weapons at home. The people of Daarsen aren't good enough for our steel."

"They aren't even good enough for our practice swords!" a man called out from somewhere in the crowd, earning a laugh.

Svad chuckled, "Not even close. But this is a bit bigger than a tavern brawl, so we can't use our fists alone. They'll be coming at us with everything they can muster; to meet them unarmed would be an insult. And what are the two things we Kryoans don't let pass?"

"Insults and easy fights!" every man, woman, and even a few children, shouted.

Svad smiled. "Right! So, we won't insult our guests by treating their declaration of war like a common brawl. We'll give them as good a fight as we expect to get from a proper enemy."

A woman inquired, "But we can still leave our good weapons at home, aye?"

"Aye. We're teaching our trade, not selling the tools. If we can't send them back home with our worst, we don't deserve to use our best." A few chuckles sounded, including from Svad. But his tone quickly turned serious. "Besides, if there's a chance I'm underestimating Daarsen, our elders and eldest will need a way to defend themselves." He walked into the crowd, the people parting for him to get by. When he reached the center of them, he began drawing in the thin layer of snow with the end of his scabbard. Everyone moved in around him as best they could, though more to hear his words--after all, they were standing before their own homes, not interloping. "It all depends on how they attack, but I should like to keep the brunt of the fighting in the center."

"But if we fight in the center, where do we fall back to?" a young man, who sounded perhaps a couple years older than Svad's own sons, asked. Several of the older men around him laughed.

"Nowhere, boy. We're Kryoans. We don't fall back. We just fall, down to the last. To the strongest. And our Pride will win the day or see us all to the gates of Val." The village joined their Chieftain in reciting their creed, the only true law of Kryo. "We will be good hosts and show them the way to our training ground, if need be. But only a few of us are needed for that. The rest shall stand ready and waiting to show the Daarsen why Kryoan women are made with ice; how Kryoan children can hunt with knives; and why Kryoan men are sought for sword and sire." Svad waited for the cheers to die down before he continued, now drawing lines over his previous work. "If they won't be steered toward the grounds, then we'll simply push them back out while blocking off their means of escape." The elderly and young children were sent to Svadilfare's own home, as it was the furthest removed from the rest of the village. A group of 10 went with them, to serve as their last line of defense. Once they had departed, Svad created two small groups that would serve to corral Daarsen's forces into the village center, or to prevent their escape. But the majority of Kryo would be waiting in and around the training grounds, waiting for what they hoped would be good fight... Or at least a skirmish worthy of mention.

"We're ready, Lady." a fur-clad man muttered to a similarly clothed woman.

The woman, the Chiefess of Daarsen, held an expression of anticipation in spite of her tone, which suggested boredom. "Good. I don't care what you do with the people; their Chief is mine alone."

"What's our plan of attack?"

The Chiefess scoffed. "Do you really think it'll be that hard? Kryo may have a reputation for breeding good warriors, but I have it on good authority that their Chief hasn't touched a blade in years, let alone partaken in battle."

"But what about him--"

"--Being an assassin? I would grant you that if we were attacking in the dead of night. Obviously, however..." she trailed off, waving her hand dismissively as she gestured toward the sun. "You shouldn't be worried about him anyway. He's mine, remember? Your focus is his people. Yes, there are some decent warriors among them, but they can't touch him even on a bad day. If you must have some direction, use their strength against them. They think being strong is the answer to everything. Show them it isn't."

"Understood." The man turned around in his saddle to look at the men behind him. "Let's go!"

Svad spotted the banner announcing the arrival of the Daarsen. He lit a torch then hurled it up onto the roof of the house he stood beside. Kryo was accustomed to rebuilding: a casualty of war was a refreshing break from a certain daughter of the Chief randomly flinging flaming space rocks into houses because no one had taught her that the shiny coins she loved to hoard could be used to have a messenger deliver messages... As the flames spread across the roof, the ensuing smoke a signal to the everyone that the Daarsen were nearly here, Svad made his final preparations. With relative calm, he sharpened his twin swords. After that, he reached into his shirt to retrieve his Moonstone. It glinted in the warm sunlight. Svad closed his eyes briefly as he kissed it. "You are all the strength I need today," he murmured softly as he returned it to its place beneath his shirt and furs, "but a little magic wouldn't hurt, either." Next, he turned his attention back to his people. "We are Kryoans! We don't fall back. We just fall, down to the last. To the strongest. And our Pride will win the day or see us all to the gates of Val!" Svad looked out over the gathered villagers, as if he knew which might fall today. "I am your Pride. But if the gods favor me at all, I'll see myself alone with my wife again before I see you lot to Val. One lifetime with some of you is enough; I'd go mad being stuck with you for eternity. Still, if I'm meant for Val today, I'm glad to have you with me. Now, let's get this over with."

Last edited by Svadilfare on Fri May 12, 2023 2:41 pm; edited 1 time in total


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Post by Svadilfare Thu May 11, 2023 9:36 pm

The second-in-command of Daarsen, Bjorn, led the thunderous horse charge toward Kryo. He could see a dark plume of smoke rising over the small hill that covered the west side of the village. Bjorn chuckled to himself. "Maybe Kryo isn't all the world claims, eh? Looks like they're planning to burn their roots and tuck tail. We'll be hunting instead of fighting today!" The men closest to him cheered. The people of Daarsen loved hunting, perhaps more than fighting. Give them a weapon, anybody could fight, even badly. It took real skill to hunt.

What greater skill was there, really, than knowing how to fight? To hunt? No. Give a boy a knife or even a rock, he could end up supping, even by accident. But it took years and training to be even a decent fighter. To reach the caliber of Kryo? Kryoans themselves claimed their skill was granted directly by the gods. "And since we know our gods so well, we know how to harness their gift."

Snow and ice as a natural barrier was nothing short of perfect--especially when it never melted. Its only flaw was that it worked too well. If a Kryoan wanted to sate his hunger for war, he had to leave home to do it. The rest of the world was too soft for the frozen lands. Only the two other perpetual-winter dwelling peoples and the women of Gynaikes ever came to Kryo. Aside from the odd trader or messenger. But today, for once, a Kryoan looking for battle need only step outside his house.

The two groups designated to meet the Daarsen and--possibly--to guide them toward the main force, came charging from around either side of the hill. "Try not to hurt the horses, we could use new stock after that last raid." one of the men said.

"Do we need them that badly?" a woman asked. "Look at those Daarsen dogs. They're so round they're probably born in the saddle. Those poor horses look ready to give out." She was partly serious, but everyone laughed.

"True enough, but a year with us, they'll be as lively as foals. Besides, if any of these Daarsen survive, they'll have to walk home. We'd be doing them an extra favor: helping them get into fighting shape!" The group laughed more.

"All right! Save yer jests for the feast tonight. Now is the time for war!"

The usually quiet winter landscape became a noisy battlefield. Horseback Daarsen and on-foot Kryoans met between the small hill and the forest. Daarsen spears and swords met Kryoan swords and axes. Some riders were tossed from their saddles by frightened horses, some were pulled out by the enemy. Others still managed to avoid both fates, riding around and engaging where they could. Untouched snow became trampled by boots and hooves. The pristine white was ruined by red; blood spattered the snow as if it had been paint flung onto a canvas. At the tree line, the Chiefess of Daarsen watched the altercation with very mild interest. There was only one thing she wanted to see, and she had yet to see it. She was a little impressed with Bjorn, though. He was her finest man--not quite fine enough to be her husband, apparently--and rarely failed in her tasks for him. If she had let anyone else lead her men into battle, they would already be marching back home. The Chiefess shifted a bit in her saddle and continued turning her spear lazily. She was the first leader of her tribe to embrace battle, but she limited herself to fighting the other side's leader. If she had to prove herself, there was no need to bother with subordinates; the path to glory lied solely in leaders. So, she waited for the Pride of Kryo to show himself; or for the Kryoans to retreat back to their village, whichever came first.

Unnoticed at the top of the small hill, the Pride of Kryo watched the fighting. He counted how many of his warriors had fallen already... 6. Daarsen had lost 7. So, they weren't quite as incapable as he thought, but it was early. Kryoans could fight all day, their only match in stamina found in Gynaikes. An all-day fight with Gynaikes would be glorious, Svad thought with a slight chuckle. Not the friendly spars they had during the annual festival, but a full-on battle for eternal greatness to settle once and for all who was mightier: the hot-blooded seductive assassin women of Gynaikes, or the cold-hearted war-mongering strongmen of Kryo. Of course, for Kryo, the question had been answered about 25 years ago. But no one from either village would turn down the chance for a formal answer. For now, though, the annual friendly spars between the two Chiefs would have to be enough.

The plan to corral the Daarsen to the training ground would have a little change to it. Since the Daarsen chose to fight on horseback, Svad was going to spook the horses--at least the ones that had yet to be separated from their riders. After a moment of concentration, the Pride of Kryo used his shapeshifting ability. He affectionately referred to it as Blended Family. He became a 3'6" tall dragon, the male version of his wife's natural form. Just with blue eyes. He could stay in this form for an hour but if he were being honest, it simply wasn't long enough. Astral had allowed him to fly on her back once--actually, given his skepticism over whether she could, given her size, it was more accurate to say she forced him to let her--and he had been enthralled by the idea of flight ever since. With her instruction, he learned to utilize magic with the intention of shapeshifting. Once he could finally hold the form long enough for her to teach him "how to think like a dragon", he learned to fly. When he could finally hold his new form for half an hour, Astral taught him more advanced flying. And when the threshold for his new ability finally reached an hour, he and Astral would explore his world as only a pair of dragons could. When their children were old enough to fly, they would all go flying at night as a family. Svad would have to pry Astral away from her duties for an hour so they could go flying again, even if he had to kidnap her to do it. Perhaps he could get Aurora to help him when he did. She wanted to follow in his footsteps, to be the next Pride of Kryo; how better to set her on that path than provide her with her first great story? But all of that would have to wait. There was still room for a few more stories written by the current holder of that title. One of them was unfolding now.

Leaping off the hill, Svad unfurled his wings and circled above his village. He could see the battle and where the Chiefess of Daarsen sat waiting. He knew of her refusal to fight unless it was against the enemy leader. Fortunately, that was Kryo's favorite way to end a war. But first, the Daarsen hunters had to be put in their place and utterly demoralized. So, Svad dove down toward the field, aiming for the horses. Naturally, they weren't the only ones spooked. "Dragon!" Bjorn yelled just before being thrown from his saddle. The Daarsen panicked as they now had to divide their attention between a dragon and the Kryoans--who were strangely unphased by its appearance--though the dragon seemed more interested in the horses than the humans riding them. Once the remaining riders had been tossed and the horses all fled, the dragon vanished into the forest. Someone near him had inquired on their next move, to which Bjorn replied, "Idiot, we keep fighting! It was after the horses. Besides, do you hear the horn? If the Chiefess doesn't take your head for retreat without orders, I will!" And so the fight continued, but with the Daarsen a little out of their element. Close fighting really wasn't their thing. A few minutes later, three 6ft diameter fireballs pelted the battlefield; they came from out of the forest. This time, the Kryoans joined in the panic and fell back toward their village.

The Daarsen followed them over the small hill and down into the village.

[Author's Note: The urge to write "Night Fury!" was strong.]


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Post by Svadilfare Fri May 12, 2023 2:37 pm

The Chiefess of Daarsen followed her men into Kryo. She'd felt a moment of genuine excitement when the dragon appeared, and again when the fireballs came flying out of the forest. It certainly wasn't something one saw every day. She was, however, also annoyed by the loss of her horses. Instead of being able to go back home right away, they would have to find them all. As she crested the hill, she hoped that dragon hadn't picked off her prize.

With the Daarsen successfully driven into the village, all of Kryo--minus those inside the Chief's home and the 10 men guarding it--got a taste of battle. The sweet sound of Kryoan steel hitting... lesser steel; the sour smell of sweat and blood; the satisfying sight of fear in the Daarsen's eyes. However, the warriors had been instructed by their Chief not to kill everyone. "We need a few alive for my duel with their Chiefess. And they should carry their own dead home." Svad had said. So, with their greater numbers, the warriors of Kryo surrounded the remaining Daarsen until Bjorn finally laid down his spear. By then, the Chiefess had finally made her way down to the training grounds.

"Where's Svadilfare?" she asked no one in particular as she checked the sharpness of her spear.

"You don't want a go with us, lass?" one of the women asked, sounding a bit hurt. "We'll give you a good warmup before your duel. You'll need it, too. The Chieftain--"

The Chiefess swung her spear, silencing the woman. "--Hmm, it is sharp enough. Now, I believe I asked a question."

The sound of a horse approaching caught the attention of the opposing forces. The Pride of Kryo had returned, and he was not happy with what he'd just seen. He dismounted, walking through the space that was made for him, and up to the Chiefess. He kneeled at the feet of her horse, to the woman she'd just cut down. It was Mae, the village's best baker and Kryo-born warrioress. She had often sent Svad home with a basket of treats for his children or slipped them treats on their way to "terrorize" the village with their antics. She was still breathing, her gaze settled on the cloudless sky. Svadilfare took her hand and used his other to gently stroke her cheek as she looked at him. He began speaking in Old Kryoan, a dialect reserved for funerals and the ascendancy of a new Chieftain. His people joined him and for a moment, the battle forgotten about. Svad's words trailed off into silence as he raised his hand for the benefit of the others; their silence followed. After closing Mae's eyes and gently laying her hand down, Svad dipped two of his fingertips in her blood and used it to paint a symbol on his forehead.

Standing, he turned and walked to where his twin swords awaited him, leaning against one of the four posts that served to mark the training grounds. He smeared what was left of the blood on his fingers against the flat of each blade, then turned to look at the Chiefess of Daarsen. She would have died then, if looks could kill. There's was always the possibility of his eerily calm demeanor doing the trick. The Kryoans knew it was merely a flash of lightning seconds ahead of a thunderous roar that would shake the very earth. "Get off that horse and face me."

Where the glorious sounds of battle had once rang, the was now a heavy silence. It was broken only by a high wind, and the clashing of weapons between the two leaders surrounded by their respective people. The Daarsen thought, all things considered, the fight was going well. Despite the ferocity of Svadilfare's attacks, the Chiefess had yet to receive a mark. They would think that. The Kryoans knew better. A fight--indeed, a warrior's stature--was judged by marks. A fight that ended with a Kryoan unscathed was a fight that had not gone on long enough. Or else his opponent was terribly unskilled. The Pride of Kryo had not been named so because he won fights, but because he had survived them. He had countless scars to tell his story, to provide proof he'd faced worthy enemies and felled them. That he had yet to land a mark on the Chiefess was nothing to do with her choice of weapon, nor his inaccuracy, however. Svadilfare was toying with her. They knew this because Mae's blood adorned his forehead and blades. It was Kryoan belief that a warrior denied a proper death would not be accepted into Val. However, fellow warriors had witnessed her shameful demise at the hands of an unworthy foe. And so, as she journeyed to the ancestral plane, her people pleaded with the gods to allow her a chance to redeem herself. As her Chieftain, as Kryo's Champion, Svadilfare had offered himself as Mae's vessel. He hadn't ended the Daarsen Chiefess immediately because he was waiting for Mae to return.

"Your attacks are strong, I'll give you that," the Chiefess was saying, "but is this all?" It had gone to her head that she was still standing. Perhaps, she thought, Svadilfare had been embellished by his own people, perhaps he was even no better than her own best. It certainly seemed that way to her now. She thought for a moment that she should have Bjorn finish this for her. But then she remembered he, along with the rest of her men, had gone and gotten themselves captured. She would have a talk with Bjorn later about that.

Svadilfare responded, but in Old Kryoan. He had stepped several lengths away from her. Now he raised his blades and struck the flat of one against the other in an even rhythm. He was joined by spear ends stamping into the hard, snow-covered ground. Axes and blades striking shields. Lone weapons striking one of their neighbors. The metallic ring was swept over the village center by the winds, rolled over the small hill to the west and ran through the trees of the forest that surrounded the north and east. Svadilfare shrugged off his fur cloak then said something else in Old Kryoan--to which his people responded--before running at the Chiefess.

The Daarsen woman's spear finally broke in half when Svad's left sword came down on the deep notch it had been carving since the duel started. He truly had been toying with the Chiefess, playing at rage, biding time for this moment. Now that Mae's spirit had been allowed to return, he would help her exact vengeance and secure her deserved place in Val. The Chiefess held her spear halves like blades, determined not to let this stop her. Svadilfare scoffed darkly before swinging his right blade toward her side. Wood and steel clashed, though the sound was drowned out by the rhythmic striking and stamping of weapons still being produced by the Kryoans. The Chiefess managed to push him back and land a couple, albeit harmless swings, but he was done playing with his food. Almost in time with the "music" his people were making, Svadilfare began attacking with everything he was known for.

Svadilfare Leonidas Sarik Twilight-Avedon, Chieftain of Kryo, Pride of Kryo, was an ungodly storm given human form. He fought with a ferocity the Kryoans had thought only possible when he clashed with his father, or when he found out his oldest children had been kidnapped. But they saw it now, his rage, as he dueled the Daarsen Chiefess. The whole of Val and Hel could descend upon Pyrria and still it would not be enough to stop him.  

Her right arm was the first to go. It wasn't severed but rendered useless with a precise cut. Next was her left shoulder and a gash to the right hip. Then her right leg with a slash to the back of the knee. Finally, he drove one sword into her left side and the other into her right foot. He left the Chiefess like that, picking up his cloak as he walked over to Mae's body. Carefully, he laid the cloak over her; only then did the Kryoans cease their striking. Svad picked up Mae's axe and walked back toward the Daarsen woman, testing the sharpness of the blade. It was sharpened perfectly. Of course, it was. It was an axe made of Kryoan steel, treasured and wielded by a Kryoan woman. Reaching the Daarsen Chiefess, Svad used his foot to push her onto the ground and turn her over onto her back. "ValHel, embrace the warrior Mae and accept this new servant!" the Chieftain and his tribe said in Old Kryoan, before the axe came down.

Bjorn and his surviving people were given a single horse with which to transport their Chiefess' body. They would have to carry the rest of their dead themselves and recapture their horses--if they were still in the area. Someone left to fetch the children and elders at Svad's house, while the rest of the village began the cleanup and recovery of their own dead. Svad retrieved his swords, picked up Mae's axe, then made his way home. By the time he reached it, everyone was gone--he had passed them on the way--and he was glad for it. He settled immediately into the process of cleaning Mae's axe. Once it was, he resharpened the blade, carved the date into the handle, then waxed it. After, he cleaned and resharpened his own blades before going to bathe.

[Three days later...]

His cloak had been returned. He put it on as he walked to the village, his bow in one hand and Mae's axe in the other. The village was waiting when he arrived. Mae, and the other 6 Kryoans that had fallen, were prepared, resting on pyres. Having required vengeance and being the oldest of the fallen, Mae's pyre was the biggest. The pyres were carried from the village--with Svad helping to carry Mae's--to the field below the small hill. The pyres were placed together with Mae's at the center, then each person's favorite food, weapon, and their family's crest was placed with them. Music was played and the rhythmic striking of weapons accompanied it. Svad stood before his people, facing the pyres, and led them in a funerary prayer in Old Kryoan. When they finished, his horse was brought to him. Mounted, he rode up to the crest of the small hill and removed his bow from his back. Using his fire magic, he lit the tip of his arrow before knocking it and pulling back on the string. A few moments later, he loosed the arrow. It sailed down to the pyres, striking Mae's. Soon, a fire took hold and spread. A few other archers standing at the back of the crowd lit--the traditional, non-magical-and-therefore-kind-of-boring way--their arrows and loosed them as well.

When the funeral was over, as everyone dispersed to the meeting hall for drinks and stories, Svadilfare sat to watch over the pyres. When the fire died, he buried the remains and marked the gravesite with the weapons. Only then did he take a handful of snow and washed Mae's blood from his forehead. He murmured something softly to the winds before returning to his village.



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