Tales from Asendavia

Outskirts of Skoggrund, Kingdom of Tungrad
Dawn, July 13th, 1381 AA (357 BC)

King Viktor III of Stromharad sat tall on top of his courser as the sun began to rise. He glanced impatiently to the left and saw his guard outlined against the rising sun. A glance to his right revealed the rest of his guard. A horse whickered nervously behind him and he sighed. He stared at the army of Tungrad from across the battlefield. While they were more numerous than his army, they were severely lacking in equipment. The archers he had placed on the hill to his left last night stood tall. His cavalry stood stock still, and the infantry behind him stood as still as stone. A lone horn blared across the battlefield and the enemy cavalry began to charge. Viktor calmed his courser and observed as the enemy cavalry approached. “Charge!” Viktor blared as he dug his heels into the courser’s flank. He lowered his war lance as the courser galloped down the hill. Viktor’s lance snapped as it went through the throat of a cavalryman as the armies collided.

Dropping his broken lance, Viktor drew his sword and slashed at the surrounding cavalry as the battle became a blur. Minutes passed like seconds as the battle brought him new enemies to face. He suddenly found himself on foot with his courser screaming behind him. He took his shield from his back and rejoined the battle. He found himself facing a charging cavalryman. Viktor rolled as the cavalryman swung his axe. Cursing, the cavalryman, reared. As the destrier reared, Viktor charged the cavalryman. Viktor slashed at the destrier’s underside and watched as it’s intestines spilled to the ground beneath it. Trapped beneath his dying horse, the cavalryman began to scream. Stomping on the cavalryman’s throat, Viktor flicked open the visor, shouted “DIE!” and thrust his sword through. Pulling his sword back out, he whirled around and blocked a blow from a sword. The impact jarred his arm and he staggered. He blocked another blow just in time and rushed into his opponent. He tussled on the ground with him and pinned him down. Viktor flipped open the visor. It was the King of Tungrad, Torgeir Halvorsen. “I yield!” he shouted over the din of the battle.

“No. You die.” Viktor took his dagger and drove it through Torgeir’s eye. Torgeir jerked and went still. Sheathing his dagger, Viktor stood up and observed the battle around him. The battle still raged on with blood and guts everywhere. A lone knight started staggering towards him. Viktor pointed his sword at him, “Yield now and I won’t kill you.” “Never! You killed my father!” the swordsman screamed as he rushed towards Viktor. Viktor side-stepped the charge, kicked him in the back of his knees, and thrust his sword through his throat. As he cleaned his sword, a lone rider galloped towards him. The rider vaulted off of his horse, “Your majesty! Victory is ours! The enemy army has been annihilated!”

Viktor nodded wearily, “Now we march for Tungrad!” Viktor blared.

[edit_reason]Fixed topic title[/edit_reason]

Stromharad, Asendavia
0600 Hours, May 6th, 3754 AA (2017 AD)

Terje woke up as his alarm clock began to blare in his ear. Groaning, Terje shut his alarm clock off and sat up. Getting out of bed, he shrugged into his clothes. Glancing behind him, Terje saw his wife Kristina still sleeping. Walking over to the bed, he shook her by the shoulder. “Kristy, it’s time to get up.”

Kristina groaned. “Five more minutes,” she murmured.

Terje couldn’t resist smiling. “If you don’t get up, you’ll miss going to the kyrka.”

Kristina laughed, “I hear you. Give me a few minutes.”

Terje nodded and made his way to the kitchen. He took four pieces of bread and put them into the toaster. Next, he got the milk from the fridge and poured two glasses. The toast had finished by the time that Kristina had made her way into the kitchen. She grabbed the butter and began to butter her toast while Terje drank his milk and ate his toast. After drinking her own milk and eating her toast, Kristina cleaned the two glasses. Terje stood up as she put the glasses away. “Ready to go, my love?”

“Of course I am,” Kristina teased.

Terje took her hand and opened the front door. “What a lovely day,” he remarked.

“It’s always a fine day when I’m with you,” she said. Terje locked the front door behind them and they set off towards the nearest kyrka. Kristina gazed at the various buildings as they passed by while Terje kept his eyes ahead. Halfway there, Terje saw a car drift too close to the other side of the road and watched in horror as another car collided into it. Hearing the calamity, Kristina whipped her head towards the road. More cars smashed into the ones who had originally crashed as they couldn’t slow down in time. Kristina heard as a woman began to shriek. Terje began to walk faster and practically began to drag Kristina from the sight. With the wreck out of sight, Terje slowed down. “You didn’t have to walk so fast, you know,” Kristina commented.

Terje sighed, “I know, I know.” Just to show that she wasn’t mad at him, Kristina embraced Terje and lightly kissed him.

“Let’s move on, we don’t want to be late.” Kristina said. Kristina took his hand again and began to walk. As they approached the kyrka, shouting could be heard in the distance.

“Sounds like a pretty large argument,” Terje commented.

“Let’s just ignore it,” Kristina replied. Near the front steps of the kyrka, a man approached them.

“Get ready to say goodbye,” the main said.

Puzzled, Terje began to reply but was cut short when the man shot him. Terje, slumped to his knees and fell over. “No! Noo! NOOOOOOOO!” Kristina screamed as she began to rapidly shake Terje. The man turned the gun on her, and the last thing she heard was the scream of a woman.

A hill outside of Stromharad, Asendavia
2000 Hours, September 13th, 3726 AA (1989 AD)

Outside of Stromharad, the stars burned brightly in the night sky. On the hill laid Agnar Kaas and Amanda Rinde. “Don’t you just love the stars?” Agnar asked.

“Of course, I do, they’re just so beautiful. They shine and they shine, and they do nothing else. For us at least,” Amanda replied.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could reach out and just touch the stars?” Agnar turned his head towards Amanda.

She nodded. “Imagine all of the stars in the sky. Somewhere out there, there has to be intelligent life. Even if there is life though, I doubt we’ll be able to meet them in our lifetimes. It makes me feel sad.”

“Yeah. In the grand scheme of things, we’re just so small and useless.” Agnar said.

“I agree that we may be small, but I don’t think we’re useless. Sure, it may take hundreds, thousands, or even millions of years, but we’ll be important one day. One day…” Amanda’s voice trailed off.

Agnar took her hand in his. “Don’t worry. Sure, it may be all out of our reach, but let’s enjoy what we have in life now.”

Amanda nodded. “Good point. As long as we enjoy what we have in life now, we can live a good life. We should probably go home now. I want to be well rested for work tomorrow.” Amanda and Agnar stood up. Agnar took her hand and led her down the hill. At the bottom, Agnar opened the passenger side car door for Amanda and got into the driver’s seat.

Upon reaching Amanda’s house, Agnar pulled into her driveway and stopped the car. Getting out, he helped Amanda out of the car and walked her to her front door. “I had a really fun night,” Amanda sighed.

Agnar grinned. “I’m glad you had a good night.” Amanda turned to open her door. “Before you go in,” Agnar got something out of his coat. He dropped to one knee and opened the small box. “Amanda Rinde, will you be my wife?”

She gasped and hid her mouth behind her hands. Beneath it, she was grinning. “Of course I will!” she managed. She dragged Agnar to his feet and drew him in for a long kiss.

Agnar was flushed when she let go. “We’ll have to get everything ready! I’ll call my family in Yoria. You should call your’s too.”

Amanda hushed him. “Shhhhh. We can deal with all of that later. Right now, let’s live life to the fullest and enjoy ourselves.” Amanda dragged him inside and locked the door.

Stromharad, Asendavia
1251 Hours, May 12th, 3754 (2017 AD)

At the front of a history classroom in Stromharad Middle School stood Sakarias Marklund. “Now, who remembers which King united Asendavia and in which year?”

A little girl rose her hand. “King Jon Harstad II in 1434?”

Sakarias wrote King Jon Harstad II on the whiteboard. “You’re close, but you’re off by a few years. Does anyone else remember what year?”

A boy raised his hand. “1432 AA?”

“Very good!” Sakarias wrote 1432 AA on the board. "If you can tell me what year that is in BC or AD then you’ll get bonus points.

The boy pondered for a few moments. “305 BC?”

Sakarias shook his head. “You’re off by just a year. Since you were so close though, I’ll still give you the bonus points. If anyone doesn’t remember how to convert between AA or BA to AD or BC I’ll show you how to,” He began to write on the board. “You take the year, 3754 AA for example, and subtract it by 1737. When you do this, you get 2017, which is the current year in the countries that use the AD/BC system,” Sakarias paused. “When it comes to BC however, you have to add an extra step. Let’s use the bonus problem from earlier. 1432 minus 1737 would normally equal -305. However, 1737 AA minus 1737 equals 1 BC instead of 0 because there was no year zero. Therefore, 1736 minus 1737 actually equals 2 BC. In order to get the correct answer, you have to add one. 1432 minus 1737 equals -305. Then, you add -1 to the answer and remove the negative sign. That equals 306 BC, which is the correct answer. Now, onto the next question. Who remembers which King split Tungrad between himself and the King of Zhelelovka?”

Another girl raised her hand. “King Viktor Harstad III of Stromharad.”

“Good!” Sakarias erased the answers from earlier and wrote King Viktor Harstad III of Stromharad on the board. “Do you remember which battle didn’t officially end the war but effectively ended it?”

“The Battle of Skoggrund!” the girl grinned from ear to ear.

Sakarias chuckled. “Smart girl,” He checked his watch. “Alright kids! Look’s like it’s time to go. Class dismissed!”

Stromharad, Asendavia
1438 Hours, May 8th, 1432 AA (306 BC)

In the throne room in Castle Stromharad stood King Jon Harstad II. Below him, stood a crowd of nobles so large that moving around became difficult. As the doors opened, the crowd began to quiet. As the High Patriarch of Ademarite entered the throne room, people cleared a path and knelt. With a clear path to walk towards the throne, High Patriarch Agnar III began to walk towards Jon Harstad II. As the High Patriarch stopped in front of him, Jon knelt. “Do you, King Jon Harstad II, swear to protect your vassals?”

“I do.” Jon replied

“Do you swear to protect your kingdom for as long as you live?”

“I do.”

“Do you swear to protect the Church of Ademar?”

“I do.”

“Do you swear to uphold the honor of your people, your family, and your kingdom?”

“I do.”

“Then you shall be crowned,” the High Patriarch placed the crowns of the Kingdom of Stromharad, Tungrad, and Zhelelovka on King Jon Harstad II’s head. Jon stood and firmly clasped the High Patriarch’s hand. Letting go of his hand, he walked up the steps and sat on his throne. Suddenly, the crowd began to cheer. Looking at the crowd, Jon began to smile. He relaxed in his seat and let the applause wash over him.

Yoria, Asendavia
1517 Hours, October 27th, 2684 AA (947 AD)

Outside of the kyrka, a plague was ravaging the island of Yoria. Inside of the kyrka, the air was heavy with smoke as hundreds of candles burned. Further within the building, a covey of monks were being overseen by a patriarch as they circled an altar while chanting. Strapped to the altar was a thin man of a middling height. Fear could be seen in his bright blue eyes as he thrashed around wildly, his screams muffled by a gag.

The patriarch nodded with approval as the monks chanted, ignoring the man strapped to the altar. After chanting for an indeterminate amount of time, the patriarch signaled for the monks to stop. As the monks came to a stop, the patriarch stepped toward the altar. After stripping down to his smallclothes, he was handed an ornate dagger by one of the monks. The patriarch accepted the dagger with a nod and prepared to speak. “We beseech thee o great Ademar, king of kings, heir of the God-On-Urth, to accept this sacrifice. We beg thee that this accursed pestilence be lifted from the land. We, your humble servants on Urth, present thee with this sacrifice. This man has done many terrible things, so we beseech thee that this man be judged justly and be sent to Iphelaris or Rekiru, whatever thou desires.”

As soon as he finished speaking, the patriarch plunged the dagger into the man’s chest and began to cut his heart out. The man’s screams grew even louder, though still muffled by the gag. The man began thrashing so wildly that one of the monks had to knock him unconscious. With the man no longer thrashing wildly, the patriarch continued cutting his heart out. Handing the bloody dagger to one of the monks, the patriarch plunged his hand into the man’s chest and ripped his heart out. He held the faintly beating heart above his head for a few moments, before proceeding to cast it into the fire that the monks had prepared earlier. Two of the monks untied the corpse from the altar and took him into another room, where a pyre was waiting to be lit.

Satisfied with how the sacrifice went, the patriarch nodded to the remaining monks and strode from the room.

???, ???
??? Hours, December 31st, 3754 AA (2017 AD)

Jon opened his eyes to a sky of grey. Confused, he sat up. All around him was a field of grey. Grey clouds, grey grass, grey everything. Bringing his hand to his face, he noticed his clothing. He was wearing a simple grey robe with nothing underneath. As he stood up, a cruel wind began to blow from the west, causing him to face the east so that the wind wouldn’t be blowing in his face. That was when he noticed the mountain.

Far off in the distance the lone mountain stood. How far, Jon couldn’t tell. For some reason though, he felt drawn to the mountain, so he began the long walk there. As he drew closer to the mountain, the cruel wind began to blow even stronger, causing him to stagger more than a few times, and even causing him to fall over once. As he stood back up, he noticed that the mountain was suddenly closer than it was before. “How…?” he began to ask, but stopped short. It was then that he noticed the castle.

The castle stood at the base of the mountain, and like everything else, it was grey. Drawing his robe closer to him, he continued walking. Strangely, the cruel wind that had been blowing the whole time had now stopped. As he looked behind him, he noticed strange figures in the distance that were drawing closer. Turning his head back to the castle, he began to quicken his pace. After what seemed like an eternity, he reached the gates of the castle, but they were closed. As he looked back towards the figures, he noticed that they were much closer than they were before. Too close. He could now hear the terrible sounds that they were making. It seemed to him that the screams sounded strangely human. This worried him so much that he began to pound on the gates.

“Let me in!” he screamed. “Let me in, let me in, LET ME IN!” he began to panic. Looking back, the figures were even closer than before. “Please! I beg you, let me in! I am the Kaiser of Asendavia! I am Jon VII of the House of Harstad and I demand that you let me in!”

The world went silent. He looked behind him and the figures weren’t there anymore. He looked back at the gates and noticed that they were slowly opening, but they weren’t making any noise. Hesitantly, as the gates opened wide to let him through, he entered the castle. As he went in, the door closed behind him just as quietly and slowly as they opened. In front of him was a scene that frightened him just as much as it filled him with awe. A statue of every single ruler of the city-state of Stromharad, the Kingdom of Stromharad, the Kingdom of Asendavia, and the Empire of Asendavia were to his left. To his right was every single ruler of Gliat Shea, from where the Asendavians originally came. At the very end of the long hall stood two statues. The smaller of the two, but still larger than any of the other statues to his left or right, was a statue of Ademar himself. The one behind the statue of Ademar and the larger of the two was a statue of the God-on-Urth.

Slowly, he began to walk forward. As Jon walked forward, he admired the statues to his left and to his right, but as he went forward though, he couldn’t help but feel as if the statues were following him with their eyes, and when he approached the front of the hall, he started seeing people he recognized. He saw his grandfather, Ademar XII, Jon’s uncle, Adelar XVI, who was the older brother of his father but had no children to succeed him, and his father himself, Ademar XIII. He stopped when he reached the statue of his father. His father had died when he was only 14, but Jon, now 48, still remembered his father’s face. His father’s faced looked too young though. He didn’t look how he did when he died. “These statues must be how they looked when they were coronated,” he decided. He took one last look at his father’s statue and then tore himself away.

The next statue was of himself. He was young when he became King, only 14. He walked up to the statue of himself and slowly raised his arm. He hesitantly walked close to his statue, close enough to touch it. He took his outstretched arm, and touched his statue’s cheek. It was warm, warmer than any statue had a right to be. He backed off and ran. He ran as far away from his statue he could get. What frightened him, he could not say. As he ran though, he drew closer and closer to the statues of Ademar and the God-on-Urth. Finally, he stopped running and fell to his knees as he came close to the statue of Ademar. He was sobbing at this point, only a small thread still connected him to his sanity.

As his tears began to dissipate, he looked up at Ademar’s statue. Ademar’s face was stern, but it frightened him less than his own statue did. In fact, it almost comforted him. Jon allowed himself a small smile. The statue behind Ademar, however, had no face. The God-on-Urth’s lack of a face always discomforted Jon. Why he had no face, Jon couldn’t quite remember, but he was sure that the holy men knew. Ever so slowly, Jon stood back up. As he looked back towards the gates, he chuckled. The statues were just that, statues. They had no reason to scare him, they could do him no harm. It was then that the fatigue from his journey hit him like a truck. He nearly collapsed then and there, but he held himself up by leaning on Ademar’s statue. As his legs grew steady again, he stopped leaning on the statue and offered up a quick prayer to apologize for leaning on him. Looking at the ground, he decided that he needed to sleep, and that the stone floor inside the castle was better than sleeping outside. As soon as he laid down on the ground, the world went black.

Steinkjer, Asendavia
0400 Hours, January 8th, 2571 AA (834 AD)

The night was alive with the screams of men who were about to die. Of course, they weren’t really men, not truly. They were Vulpines, and the King had ordered their deaths. Ademar IX was not a kind man. He was quite the opposite. Whenever someone displeased him or rebelled, he loved to flay and torture them himself. In the case of these Vulpines, they were rumored to not be faithful to Ademar, so the King wanted them dead. He would have gone himself, but the King, quite reluctantly, listened to his advisors and decided not to go.

The small group of soldiers that had come with Adelar, the King’s brother, had managed to reach the village completely unnoticed in the pre-dawn darkness. Their orders were to round up every single Vulpine and anyone who had a Vulpine in their home. While many went meekly, many tried resisting the soldiers and were killed as a result. As the soldiers herded all of the Vulpines and a few humans that had been found harboring a Vulpine in their home, Adelar saw many crying children quieted by their mothers. The thought that he would have to kill all of them, men, women, and children, sickened him. However, the Patriarch next to him looked almost pleased.

The Patriarch, whose name was Terje, told the soldiers to move so that the group of Vulpines and Humans would be able to see him. He cleared his throat and began to speak. “All of you have betrayed the trust of Ademar and the God-on-Urth. By practicing false faiths, you hurt Ademar and the God-on-Urth. What is the punishment for hurting them, you may ask? Death is the punishment. May Ademar and the God-on-Urth be merciful to you in the afterlife, for we will not. Your punishment will be death by hanging. Ready the trees.”

Wordlessly, the group of soldiers took the nooses from the cart that they had brought with them and attached them to branches high off the ground. After the nooses were attached, the soldiers herded the group of Vulpines towards the trees, much to the dismay of the Vulpines. Adelar saw fully grown men breaking down and weeping. He turned away and let the Patriarch oversee the hangings. By the time the sun began peeking over the horizon, the last of the Vulpines were being hanged.

When the last of the Vulpines stopped struggling, the Patriarch approached Adelar. “We have pleased Ademar and the God-on-Urth. Just look at the sun and see how brilliantly it shines! It pleases me to see that these filthy heathens are dead. I understand why the King wanted them dead now. These creatures are nothing more than filthy animals, and men were made to hunt these animals,” Terje spat in the direction of the hanging Vulpines. Adelar nodded reluctantly. Taking one last look at the swinging corpses, he then ordered everyone to start marching back to Stromharad.

Stromharad, Asendavia
0800 Hours, March 16th, 2897 AA (1160 AD)

King Hjalmar X sat on his throne as he awaited the representatives of many of the Princedoms along Asendavia’s western border. A few weeks ago he had letters sent out requesting that the Princedoms send representatives to Stromharad to discuss political matters that would surely interest them. He expected that some of the Princedoms that were more friendly towards Asendavia would send their rulers, while some of the ones that had less than favorable relations with Asendavia wouldn’t attend at all. That didn’t concern him though. What he was wondering was how they would react to his proposal.

Some of them might be fine with his proposal, but he expected the majority of them, even the ones friendly with Asendavia, to respond negatively. They were also expected to arrive very soon. Hjalmar had sent soldiers to escort the representatives once they crossed the Ademars. That was one of the reasons that the Princedoms hadn’t been conquered much earlier by Asendavia. While there were passes that could let armies go through them, it wasn’t worth the trouble. Another reason was Asendavia’s instability. For the last few centuries, Asendavia had been plagued with rebellions lead by nobles, revolts led by peasants, and outside raids from the north, south, and even from the west sometimes.

However, much of Asendavia’s previous instability from centuries before had disappeared in the current century, which Hjalmar was grateful for. Hjalmar was snapped back to the present when Archmagister Terje, Hjalmar’s youngest brother, tapped him on the arm. “What is it Terje?” Hjalmar asked, slightly annoyed. It was a rainy day and he hated rainy days.

Terje, ignoring Hjalmar’s annoyance, said “The first group of representatives have arrived in the city and will be here soon.”

“Good, good. Who specifically?” Hjalmar asked.

“The Prince of Ibrintis, Adelar, the Prince of Khekantis, Hauksteinn, and representatives from Khesal, Krimaesha, Ikelon, Galomakor, amd Halitha. I expect that more will also be arriving soon.”

"Good, see to it that they won’t want for food or drink when they arrive, and make sure that their chambers are ready. I don’t want anything going wrong.

Terje nodded and quickly scurried off. After he scurried off, Hjalmar sighed. “This is going to be a long couple of weeks.”

Stromharad, Asendavia
0230 Hours, February 9th, 2574 AA (837 AD)

King Ademar IX of Asendavia was standing in a cell in one of the lower levels of the dungeons underneath the castle. He was examining the most recent specimen that had been brought to him. His specimen was a Vulpine of the northern variety, completely white in all regards. The specimen was strapped to a wooden frame that rendered him completely immobile, save his head. A gag had also been placed in the vulpine’s mouth to lessen the noise that he would make.

Ademar IX closely observed his specimen for some time while standing still, occasionally moving to get a better look at his toy from different angles. The King, wearing only a pair of simple trousers, smirked to himself as he watched his plaything, who was nude, turn their head to look at him as he walked around the vulpine. Finally, Ademar IX came to a standstill in front of his specimen.

“I think that I’m going to enjoy playing with you quite a bit,” the King announced to the vulpine, who made no attempt to respond.

Ademar IX made his way to a table in the corner of the cell. On the table was a wide variety of tools that the King enjoyed using. After a few moments in thought, Ademar IX chose one of his favorite tools, a flaying knife. As the King turned around, his plaything instantly saw the knife in his hand. The vulpine’s eyes widened and he began to thrash his head around wildly. Ademar quickly ended his toy’s thrashing with a quick and hard slap to the face.

“I want no struggling from you. The last time one of my specimens struggled as fiercely as you did there, well… it didn’t go well for them. Let’s keep it at that,” Ademar scolded.

The vulpine quickly ceased its thrashing, but its eyes were still wide open. Ademar idly tossed the knife from hand to hand, trying to decide what to do. After a minute of this, Ademar sheathed his knife.

“I think that I want a good feel of you first before I ruin you,” the King said quite nonchalantly.

Ademar quickly moved to the back of the vulpine, with the vulpine trying to crane its head to see what Ademar would do. The King put his hands on his toy’s shoulders and gently began running his hands up and down the vulpine’s arms. Ademar chuckled as he saw his specimen’s ears prick up in surprise.

“What luxurious fur you have. It is just so soft and long. Yes, I think you are my best specimen yet. I must prolong my enjoyment for as long as I can before I have to destroy you,” the King’s hands kept moving his hands up and down the vulpine’s arms as he stated this. After a few moments of silence, Ademar continued “I know that I said this earlier, but you really just are so magnificent. You are the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. You. Are. Perfect,” Ademar whispered.

Suddenly, the King drew away from his plaything and grabbed its tail. The fur on its tail was even longer and even softer than the fur on the rest of its body. The King started stroking his toy’s tail and smirked.

“I so badly want to play with you, but I just can’t bring myself to ruin you, not like that at least. No, you must die pure.”

Ademar let go of his toy’s tail and stood there for a few moments, watching it sway idly back and forth. Finally, Ademar made his way back to the front of his specimen. In one fluid motion, the King drew a hammer from his belt and smashed the vulpine’s right hand with it. He laughed as he heard a satisfying crunch and the specimen’s muffled screams of pain.

“The things that happened earlier were only a warmup. Now the game has truly begun.”

Tossing the hammer to his other hand, he quickly smashed the vulpine’s other hand. Tossing his hammer away and drawing his flaying knife, he kept his toy’s right hand completely still with his left hand as he began to flay his plaything’s fingers, first its pinky, then its ring finger, and then finally its fore finger.

After he flayed those three fingers, he took a step back and admired his work. He had removed all skin from the three fingers and he also managed to remove the claws from those fingers too. Satisfied with his work, he repeated the same process on the vulpine’s left hand.

“Now that both of your hands have been flayed, I believe it’s time to begin the true process of flaying you. Hold still, this won’t hurt much,” Ademar laughed “I lied, this will hurt like hell, but scum like you doesn’t belong in Asendavia, no matter how magnificent you are.”

Before beginning to properly flay the specimen, Ademar slapped the vulpine again. The vulpine’s ears drooped low as it seemed to accept its fate, and a trickle of blood ran from its nose, slightly ruining the vulpine’s beautiful white fur.

Ademar laughed as he saw the vulpine seemingly accept its fate and quickly began cutting its skin open, starting from the wrist of the right hand and working his way down the middle of the arm. By the time the skin of the right arm was fully removed, the Vulpine was thrashing around wildly again. When Ademar began the process all over again on the left arm, the specimen passed out.

After several hours of torture, flaying, and then medical attention, the vulpine was struggling to stay alive. Both arms were gone and the stumps bandaged, both feet were gone with the stumps bandaged, and various other parts of the body had skin removed and were bandaged as a result. However, Ademar IX was still not satisfied.

A few days later, after the vulpine had recovered some minimal amounts of strength and was able to stay conscious consistently, Ademar IX had his favorite specimen brought down to the wolf pit.

“You see, this will be your end, my furry friend. Guard, release the wolves so that the specimen can see them.”

The guard quickly complied and pulled a lever which opened a door. Not a moment later, the wolves began bounding out of the door into the pit. The guard that had been carrying the ruined vulpine quickly handed him to Ademar IX, who smiled sadly at his favorite specimen.

“It was fun while it lasted, old friend, but we all eventually must grow up and stop playing with our toys. Good bye.”

With that, he heaved the vulpine into the pit. In an instant after hitting the ground, the wolves were upon him, quickly tearing into his flesh and ripping chunks of flesh off of the vulpine, who was now uttering a final loud scream of pain. As the wolves tore into the vulpine while he was screaming, Ademar IX was watching from above with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face.

Stromharad, Asendavia
0348 Hours, May 27th, 3756 AA (2019 AD)

Jon VII sat slumped next to his father’s resting place in the family catacombs. His father had been on his mind a lot recently, and this was the first time in over three years that he went down to visit his father. His father, Ademar XXI, had died on the 9th of November, 1983. Officially, the cause of his death was from pneumonia, and it’s not unlikely that it helped contribute to his death, but what was kept hidden from the public at large was that his father had lung cancer. Why it was kept hidden, Jon didn’t know. Perhaps he didn’t want people to see him weak, a man that had once been so strong. Ademar XXI had been an avid smoker, having two to three cigars nearly every day. Looking back at it now, he was amazed that his father hadn’t died earlier, but no, his father continued on until the age of 63, when he died from the lung cancer. His father had likely been suffering from lung cancer for a few years before it was actually detected, but it wasn’t until about a year before his death when the doctors detected it. By that point, the cancer had developed too far where it could be easily treated. While only given 7 months to live by the doctors, his father had managed to live another year before the disease took him.

His most prominent memories of the last year of his father’s life were not of his father, but of his mother. After he was diagnosed with lung cancer, Ademar had withdrawn from public life and even his own family. He had sent Jon, Ivan, and their mother Mathilde to stay with her brother, Aslak Solheim, the Duke of Zhelelovka. While Jon had a vague grasp of the situation at hand, his brother Ivan, who was 12 at the time, had no idea what was happening. Though typically not one to cry, he remembered how Ivan cried for the first two days in Zhelelovka. Ivan had been much more sheltered than Jon was, and had never even left Stromharad before. Jon meanwhile, had been around the country before once or twice. If mentioned now, Ivan would likely laugh it off and comment on how stupid he was back then. Jon was rather relieved that Ivan had grown up to be normal, despite his sheltered youth. However, his mother was what had truly concerned him.

His mother was 35 when she and his father were married, a full 13 years behind his father, who was 48 at the time of the marriage. Despite their age difference, his father and mother deeply loved one another, which is why it was no shock that his father’s diagnosis and death a year later impacted their mother the hardest. For days after their arrival in Zheleloka she would stay in her room and weep. It wasn’t until a week after they arrived when he and Ivan saw their mother again. After the initial week she was so somber, which scared Jon, as she who was usually so boisterous and upbeat was now sullen and silent.

Finally, a little over a year after the initial diagnosis, Ademar XXI had died. When the news came to them, everyone, including Jon himself, and even their uncle Aslak were devastated. There was a hole in all of their hearts that would never be filled again. That hole however, was soon filled with rage in Jon’s heart.

Why, he had cried, why couldn’t we be there? Why did he not want us there? I wanted to see my father one last time before he was taken. Why, Ademar and the God-on-Urth, why did you have to take him? None of his inner turmoil was vocalized however, he kept it bottled within himself and set his main task to making sure his brother and mother were alright.

Three days after his father’s death, they arrived back in Stromharad to a bleak and sullen city. The funeral was two days later. Though he remembered the ceremony as a long and surprisingly pompous affair, he couldn’t remember anything else of the funeral itself. As he was not legally an adult yet, his mother served as his regent until his 16th birthday. During his regency, his mother’s old personality gradually reappeared, although it was never the same as it was before his father’s death. 3 weeks after his 16th birthday was his official coronation, and though a coronation should be a momentous and happy occasion for a monarch, he hated it all. Suddenly, Jon was snapped out of his thoughts by the sound of approaching footsteps. Out of the darkness of the family catacombs came his brother, Ivan Harstad.

“I thought I’d find you here,” Ivan commented as he extended his hand to Jon.

Jon grabbed his brother’s hand, pulled himself up, and without another word, the two brothers walked out of the catacombs.

???, ???
??? Hours, June 1st, 3756 AA (2019 AD)

Jon VII woke up to the noise of something screaming. The screaming surrounded him, and it was a distorted, low-pitch sort of scream. Where it was coming from, he had no idea, but it surrounded him. Just as the screaming surrounded him, so did the eternal darkness. For several eternities, Jon floated through the darkness of the void, with the screaming never coming to an end. The screaming ate at his very being as it continued, never ceasing to take even a single breath, it just continued on and on until he felt as if he was going to lose his sanity.

Without cue, the screaming suddenly stopped. As the screaming stopped, the darkness did too, ever so gradually becoming lighter and lighter until he could see. He was in a large stone hall, lit only by the torches which lined its walls. Struggling to his feet, Jon peered towards both ends of the hall, but they continued farther than he could see. Above him it was much the same, the ceiling, if there even was one, was obscured by the darkness of the room, as no torch reached high enough to reveal its secrets. For the brief few seconds it took for him to adjust to his new surroundings, he was at peace. A few heartbeats later however, the whispering began. The whispering was low enough to where he could only hear the occasional word, and just as with the screaming, the whispering also surrounded him. That was also when he noticed the faces. The faces lined both walls and likely continued as far as the hall did. Whether the whispering came from the faces or not, Jon could not tell, but as he peered at them, awe and fear filled his being. Each stone face was masterfully carved, with not a blemish to be seen, and each face was unique too, with not one being the same as another. Even stranger, each face was exactly 14.62 centimeters apart. How he knew each one was that far apart even he didn’t know.

With much hesitation, Jon began walking down the hall. For the first few minutes, nothing out of the ordinary occurred, but the whispering continued. After having walked down the hall for 10 minutes, he stopped.

“What in Ademar’s name is going on here?” he muttered to himself, which caused the whispering to suddenly come to a sharp stop.

Glancing behind him, he noticed the hall slowly becoming darker and darker.

“The torches are going out!” he exclaimed.

Striving to stay in the light, he began walking down the hall again. Five heartbeats after he began walking again, the scream came. This one was different from the one he had heard earlier. While distorted like the last one, this was a higher-pitched scream, likely a female’s scream, and it was definitely behind him. Not wanting to meet whatever had made the scream, he quickened his pace, now desperate to stay in the light. While the scream was still far away, it sounded as if it was getting closer, and as it got closer, the torches behind him also began going out quicker. Now in a sprint, Jon made his way down the endless hall. Though he did not normally have the energy to maintain a sprint for long distances, he somehow had it here. For miles and miles he ran, and for miles and miles the scream chased him. The scream was much closer now, likely only 10 yards away, and even more ominously, the whispering began yet again, this time louder, and he could make out what they were saying.

Some begged for help, others for mercy, and others still for the sweet release of death. Tears began streaming down Jon’s face now, the sheer strain on his mind becoming almost too much to handle now. With the muscles in his legs burning and begging for him to stop, Jon barely had the physical strength left to continue, yet he pushed on. The scream was even closer now, only 5 feet behind him. As suddenly as it began though, it stopped, leaving Jon with just the whispering. Utterly confused, Jon looked behind himself, and there was nothing. The torches were no longer going out either, the ones that remained lit continued on just as strong. Turning back around, Jon was suddenly startled to find a wall with a human-shaped hole in it only a few feet in front of him. How it was there was before there was just an endless hall he dared not question. The hole, he noticed, was exactly his size and shape, and for an unknown reason, he was drawn to it. He wanted to walk into it and see what laid on the other side.

With going through the hole now his only option, he stripped down and slowly began walking into it. For 50 feet the hole stayed his exact size and shape, but past that, the tunnel slowly grew longer and narrower. As he continued through the hole, his form grew ever thinner, yet so much longer. His form was no longer that of a man, but of something indescribable. He felt no pain as this happened to him. In fact, he felt pleasure as the stone squeezed in on him, distorting his form ever so slowly. Despite a single thought in the back of his mind protesting everything that was going on, he continued, determined to find out what laid at the end of the tunnel.

Stromharad, Asendavia
0419 Hours, November 3rd, 2579 AA (842 AD)

His face was awash with blood from the cut above his eyes. For three days he had endured this hell. The Inquisitor stood before him, a mask obscuring his face. To his right was one of the dungeon’s many guards. To his left was a table with all sorts of devices piled onto it.

“I’ve told you that all of this, all of it, can and will end, if you just confess. Of course, if you dont, we can keep this going for as long as we want it to. A week, a month, a year, how long the remainder of your stay is all depends on you, my dear friend,” The Inquisitor sighed.

“But I already told you,” he moaned, his voice barely above a whisper, “I’m not a traitor, I’m no–” he was cut off abruptly by a harsh slap from the inquisitor.

Both tears and blood streamed down his face as he sobbed and cringed away, only to be stopped by the chains which kept him hung up on the wall, his feet only inches from the ground. The Inquistor cupped his face in his hands and gently dabbed away the blood from the prisoner’s split lip with a soft linen rag. “You know that’s not what we want to hear,” the Inquisitor implored in a soft and soothing voice, “If you admit all of your wrongdoings, Ademar will forgive you in this life and the next. For your own sake, confess.”

The prisoner raised his eyes and met the Inquisitor’s piercing crimson eyes. “Please, I’m no traitor. Just let me go,” he sobbed, letting his head fall to his chest as he broke down.

The Inquisitor stood up abruptly. “Runar, get me the pliers,” he ordered, all hints of warmth were gone from his voice. The guard strode over to the table on the other side of the cramped room and grabbed a blood-stained pair of pliers which he handed over to the Inquisitor. “For your insolence, I think I’ll remove four of your teeth. Runar, open his mouth,” the guard hastily obliged and forced the prisoner’s mouth open with his hands before taking a metal gag and attaching it to his head to keep the mouth from being closed.

Without a word, the Inquisitor closed the pliers around one of the prisoner’s canines and vigorously shook it back and forth until yanking it out of his mouth, with the prisoner screaming the whole time. This was repeated three more times for his remaining canines, and by the time it was done, the prisoner had fallen unconscious from the pain. This sweet relief would be short lived however, as the prisoner was splashed with ice cold water and slapped for good measure. “We’re nowhere near being done with you, my boy. Nowhere near done at all,” the Inquisitor grinned malevolently as he pulled a flaying knife from his pocket and descended upon the man.

Ljusterö, Duchy of Yoria, Asendavia
0917 Hours, March 29th, 3118 AA (1381 AD)

The rowboat rocked gently in the calm waves of the Pacific ocean as it was lowered from . At the bow stood Sakarias, personal cartographer of the Duke of Yoria, Gunnar VI of the House of Zharkov. In front of him laid the first of three islands called the Lonely Lights. All three islands had been uninhabited for as long as Sakarias could remember, but they had been under the nominal control of the Dukes of Yoria for hundreds of years. Sakarias was snapped out of his thoughts as one of his companions got up and stood next to him.

“Any clue why the Duke sent us to map the islands here?” his companion asked. Magnar was his name, and he was a surveyor that Gunnar VI had sent along with Sakarias to map out the Lonely Lights.

“The Duke said that he wanted an up-to-date map of the islands in order to determine the best place to send some settlers,” Sakarias responded.

“So he finally wants to settle the Lonely Lights, eh? It’s about damn time. The islands seem perfectly fine for habitation from what I’ve heard of them, why haven’t they been settled earlier?” Magnar questioned.

“They were settled at one point a few hundred years back. All three islands were inhabited, but due to both a plague and drought hitting them back to back, all of the inhabitants either fled the islands or died. There weren’t even that many people living on the islands to begin with, a few thousand people at most. All that’s left now are some meager ruins,” Sakarias lectured.

Magnar nodded. “I see.”

Both men were once again silent, and minutes later, the rowboat gently came to rest upon the western beaches of Ljusterö, the northernmost island of the three. Sakarias hopped off the rowboat and helped Magnar to unload some of the chests they had brought along with them. Inside the chests were stacks of parchment to make the maps, surveyors compasses, and other tools to help map out the island as well as determine the best spots for settlement. Besides Magnar and Sakarias, there were a total of 148 other men who would help them to survey and make maps of the island. As the project was expected to take many months, they were sent out with farming supplies to create a steady food source and building supplies to create basic shelters while they mapped and surveyed the island.

After Ljusterö was done being mapped and surveyed, the expedition’s orders were to map Aspö and Tärnö, the smallest and largest islands of the Lonely Lights respectively. When all three islands were mapped and surveyed, the expedition was to head back to Yoria and give their official report. After that, Sakarias wasn’t exactly sure what would happen. The Duke had mentioned to him that he might send settlers to the islands, but nothing was certain as of yet. Either way, the expedition had a long time on the Lonely Lights ahead of them.

Stromharad, Asendavia
0943 Hours, May 3rd, 3644 AA (1907 AD)

Crown Prince Ademar stood in quiet contemplation on a large hill outside of Stromharad. About 15 feet away from him stood Ingvald Bondevik, heir to the Margraviate of Ikelon, chatting to his younger brother Aleksander, who was also acting as his second. Ademar closed his eyes and reflected on the events that had brought them to this point. It was only a few days ago when all of this had begun. He had been courting Kristina Oldervik discreetly for a few weeks when Ingvald had caught wind of it. Ingvald also had designs on Kristinia, and when he heard of the news, he was outraged. The day after, Ingvald happened upon Ademar. Spitting at the Crown Prince’s feet, Ingvald challenged him to a duel to the death on the grounds that Ingvald’s honor had been besmirched.

Though he was hesitant to accept the duel, Ademar knew that Ingvald needed to be put back in his place, and so accepted the duel. Ademar opened his eyes and glanced at his friend and second, Aslak Solheim. Aslak wore a cocky smile as he looked over at Ingvald and his brother. Turning his head, he caught Ademar’s gaze and gave a quick nod, the duel was ready to begin. Aslak briskly walked to the spot where the shashkas and kindjals had been placed a few hours earlier. Noticing Aslak’s movements, Aleksander quickly caught on and scurried over to the spot. The two men exchanged a few words which Ademar couldn’t hear and they separated, each heading back to their respective side with the shashkas and kindjals in hand.

Aslak placed his free hand on Ademar’s shoulder and spoke quietly to him. “This will likely only last a few minutes at most, go get him.”

“I don’t even truly want to kill him. I just believe that he needs to be taught a severe lesson,” Ademar whispered. “If it comes to it, I will kill him, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.”

“Either way, do what you must. Remember, this is about your honor too, not just his,” Aslak handed Ademar his shashka and kindjal, both in their sheaths, which Ademar attached to his belt.

The shashka had been his grandfather’s sword also, and it was as ornately decorated as the sheath was. Unlike most traditional swords used for fencing and combat in general, the shashka was a backsword. It had no guard and was slightly curved. Unlike most sabres, the shashka was used for both slashing and thrusting. The kindjal had also belonged to Ademar’s grandfather, and it was as ornately decorated as the shashka was. While the shashka was the Asendavian sword of choice, the kindjal was the Asendavian dagger of choice, having been used since ancient times. Though kindjals were not traditionally used in dueling, they were often supplied nonetheless.

Taking the shashka from its sheath, Ademar slashed the air twice before returning it to the sheath. Satisfied, he nodded to Aslak, signalling that he was ready to begin. Aslak looked over and nodded at Aleksander, who nodded back moments later, signalling that Ingvald was also ready to begin. The two seconds took their designated places at the side of the dueling field and exchanged more words which were too quiet for either Ademar or Ingvald to hear. Finally, Aslak took out a pistol loaded with blanks

“Upon the firing of this gun, the duel shall begin. Three,” Aslak raised the pistol. “Two,” he cocked the pistol. “One,” and he fired the pistol.

Both men drew their shashkas and quickly closed the distance. Ingvald lunged towards Ademar and thrusted, but Ademar managed to knock aside the blade and pushed Ingvald away with his free hand, throwing him off balance. Ademar was both larger and stronger than Ingvald, Ademar being approximately 6 and a half feet tall while Ingvald was only a few inches shorter but also slightly faster. Both men were also 23, their stamina unlikely to waver anytime soon. Quickly following up on the push, Ademar slashed at Ingvald, who managed to just barely jerk out of the way, only being lightly grazed by the shashka just shy of his shoulder. Ingvald managed to regain his stance and quickly backed up. Both men circled each other for a few second before Ademar closed in, thrusting his shashka at Ingvald’s stomach. Ingvald wasn’t as successful dodging the strike this time, a shallow cut forming in his side with the blood already beginning to well. Furious, Ingvald charged at Ademar and slashed at the arm holding his shashka. Spinning to avoid the slash, Ademar brought his own sword down hard, which bit deep into Ingvald’s thigh.

Ingvald let out a scream of pain and unsheathed his kindjal with his free hand, stabbing it into Ademar’s side and quickly staggering backwards. Ademar fell back too, and the two men eyed each other, both heavily bleeding, Ademar from the deep stab in his side, and Ingvald from the graze by his shoulder and the deep cut in his upper thigh, where the bleeding seemed unusually heavy. Whether Ingvald’s femoral artery had been cut or not, Ademar wasn’t sure, but both men closed in on each other after a tense minute of circling each other, looking for any opening. Ademar took out his kindjal and lunged at Ingvald, thrusting his shashka at his torso. Ingvald, who was hobbling and unable to effectively dodge, attempted to slash away Ademar’s blade, but Ademar used his kindjal to block the parry and quickly stabbed Ingvald between the ribs, puncturing a lung. Ingvald attempted to stab Ademar again with his kindjal, but Ademar just barely avoided the dagger’s blade and used that momentum to bring his own kindjal up which he slashed wildly at Ingvald. Ademar fell back again to circle his opponent, but Ingvald did not. Instead, he fell backwards, gasping for air and heavily bleeding from his neck.

Ademar’s wild slash with his kindjal had managed to cut Ingvald’s jugular, his death would likely occur in a minute or two now. Respectfully, Ademar fell further back as Aleksander rushed to his brother’s side. Aslak wordlessly came to Ademar’s side and watched with him as Ingvald’s last moments were spent with his brother Aleksander. Less than a minute later, Ingvald was gone, and Aleksander broke down next to the corpse of his older brother.

“The deed is done,” Aslak whispered.

Ademar nodded and abruptly turned around as he began limping back to the city, a hand to the stab wound in his side and a bitter taste in his mouth. Aslak glanced back at Aleksander and Ingvald mournfully before catching up to Ademar, leaving Aleksander alone on the hill with his brother’s body.

Stromharad, Asendavia
1130 Hours, October 29th, 3756 AA (2019 AD)

"How does one define a man? The ancient scholars of Gliat Shea defined man most simply as featherless bipeds with the capability of thought and reason. It was the belief of these ancient scholars that other species such as Vulpines were not capable of thought and reasoning to the same degree that man was, but these beliefs have long since been proven false with further advances in the sciences and philosophy. The Vulpines are just as capable as we are. What they lack in physical strength is made up for in both their mental and physical deftness. Ursines fall more in line with what the ancient scholars believed, but that is not to say they lack sapience or are less intelligent than any other species. The environment in which they evolved in required physical strength over mental acuity, so they evolved to fit their environment.

"Man, however, is adaptable. We are both physically strong and deft of mind. We are capable of great violence, but also of reasoning and compassion. Our adaptability is why humanity has spread across the globe and is the most populous sapient race by far. We have evolved to fill any role, any environment, anything that may be required of us. Perhaps there is no best definition for humanity, for humanity is too diverse to be easily categorized and defined.

"On that matter, what is the nature of humanity? Are we innately evil, good, perfect, imperfect, or are we blank slates to be molded by our environments just as the environment molded our ancestors into a species capable of taking over the world? Christian teachings say that with the fall of Adam and Eve, sin became inherent within all of humanity and that we are innately corrupt but with the chance to atone ourselves. Ademarist teachings say that the God-on-Urth created humanity and all other species with a dual good and evil nature, and that we were created to be imperfect. Other religions within Asendavia largely follow the Ademarist teachings in this. On the other hand, some contemporary philosophers completely disagree with the concept of human nature altogether. Even more argue that the concept of human nature is still relevant, given our lack of complete understanding of neuroscience. I am more inclined to agree with the idea that we are simply blank slates to be molded by our societies as we grow up and eventually develop our own ideas. Humanity is not innately good nor evil, but our capacity for both kindness and cruelty is infinite.

“Moving on, free will. Though the majority of people believe that our lives are not predestined by some higher power, some hidden force in the universe, or even the code of a simulation, there are those who believe that from the moment we are born, our lives have already been decided for us. These people tend to…”

Jon VII stopped typing. For weeks he had been thinking about humanity’s place in the world and the nature of man. Ever since he had another one of his dreams, these thoughts had been nagging him. Jon did not dream often anymore, but when he did, they probed the deepest parts of his conscience and played them on repeat, over and over again as if his mind was trying to tell him something. He had hoped that writing down his thoughts would help, but now that he had begun, he wasn’t so sure of it anymore.

He slumped back in his chair and stared blankly at his computer screen. The bright white screen flickered ever so subtly in the darkness of his study.

“Do I continue?” he slowly asked himself. “Should I? Dare I expose my thoughts like this? A Kaiser should be strong, there should be no room for weakness, yet here I am, sitting in fear of my own thoughts.”

Jon VII sat in silence again, contemplating his thoughts. Slowly, he rightened his posture and began typing once more.

“These people tend to adhere to strict schools of thought or religion, such as the Sixers of Asendavia, who believe that every single event in the universe has already been pre-ordained before its inception and that causality cannot be avoided. There are others who believe that our universe is a simulation, just code on some computer. Frankly, those who believe this to be the case are a bunch of…”

Jalosund, Asendavia
0148 Hours, October 1st, 3757 AA (2020 AD)

Eirik pulled his coat tighter to his body as he walked the streets of Jalosund. The days had gotten much windier recently, and with the arrival of Autumn, colder temperatures were brought along with it. Ever since his girlfriend had left him a few days ago, Eirik had taken to walking the streets of the small city at night without aim. They hadn’t been together long, Eirik and his now ex-girlfriend, only a few months, but he thought that she was the one, until he found her with some Ursine pimp in his own apartment. The whole situation brought back unpleasant memories, so Eirik pushed them back further in his mind and hastened his pace. His friend Vidar had heard about the incident yesterday and invited him to some sleazy back-alley nightclub that he owned in the inner city to bring his spirits back up. Although Eirik declined the invitation, he felt drawn nonetheless, and as he glanced up to see what street he was on, he noticed that he was close to the street Vidar said his club was on. He sighed and rubbed his temples, he still wasn’t sure if he wanted to go, but then again… what harm would be done if he did decide to go?

Standing in silence for a few moments, Eirik made up his mind and turned to make his way to the nightclub. Checking his phone’s GPS as he went, Eirik came to the address of the club after a few minutes of walking. Looking around though, Eirik didn’t see an entrance to the club, or the evidence that there was even a club there. Checking his phone again, he confirmed that he was at the right address. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed a door down the alley which had some colored lights peeking through. Cautiously, he approached the doorway and timidly knocked on the door. A slot which Eirik hadn’t noticed opened up and a pair of bright blue eyes glared out at him.

“Name?” the man inquired harshly.

“Eirik Asplund,” he responded.

“Vidar’s been expecting ya, come in. He wants to see ya at the bar,” the slot closed abruptly and the door swung inward, and the man who had asked his name motioned for him to come in quickly.

The music, which he had heard only faintly from behind the closed door, suddenly blared in his ears now. Momentarily surprised, Eirik took a quick breath of the cool night air before finally stepping in. Taking a few seconds to look around the club, he spotted the bar and started weaving his way through the crowd to it. On his walk to the bar, he was accosted by a short Vulpine prostitute whose services he courteously refused before hurrying off to get to the bar. Thankfully, no one else accosted him in the club and Eirik finally was able to sit down.

“What’ll you be havin?” the bartender, a short but sturdy female Ursine, asked.

“A dry stout and some akevitt,” Eirik requested, glancing around, looking for Vidar.

The bartender nodded and moved off to get him his drinks, and as he waited, someone clapped him on the shoulder. Tensing up, Eirik turned around, and relaxed once he saw that it was just Vidar.

“How have you been doing, Eirik?” Vidar asked, smiling and taking a seat next to him.

“Not good, not bad. Overall, things could be much worse,” Eirik shrugged and quietly thanked the bartender, who had just arrived with his drinks.

“Good to hear. How about that fiery redhead Kaja? You two always look so great together,” Vidar teased.

Eirik took a swig of his stout and then his akevitt before responding. “I found her with some Ursine pimp in my own fucking apartment a few days ago.”

Vidar grimaced. “Shame, I thought she had better sense than that. You two were great together. Why the hell would anyone want to get with an Ursine anyway? Not that I have anything against 'em, look at my bartender after all, but we should just stick with our own species when it comes to that.”

“It doesn’t really matter either way now, those two’ll be sleeping together forever now,” Eirik took another swig of his stout.

Vidar frowned slightly, his eyes boring into Eirik. “Eirik, in the name of Ademar and the God-on-Urth, what the fuck did you do,” his voice rumbled lowly.

“I took matters into my own hands. Seeing those two together in my own bed… I had to act! Just two simple shots is all it took. No one would think anything of a few random gunshots, you know what the area of the city I live in is like!” Eirik’s voice descended into a harsh whisper.

“I thought you had just broken up with her is all, what you did is beyond idiotic. What the hell did you even do with the bodies? I’ve seen your apartment, you can’t hide anything larger than a few stacks of Jade Nudos anywhere there!”

Eirik made a few chopping motions with his hands. "Then I scattered them throughout a few different trash bags and put them in some dumpsters around town.

“You’re fucking crazy, Eirik,” Vidar took Eirik’s stout and had a few sips. “I may do some crazy shit here and there, cocaine, theft, but I ain’t ever murdered someone. I didn’t think you’d ever be capable of that, you were always the better behaved of us two. I just swear to Ademar that you don’t get fucking caught. They’ll either put you to death or send you to one of those mining camps up in Finlanda, probably for the rest of your life.”

“I don’t really care if I get found out at this point, life has lost its luster for me anyway,” Eirik said gloomily.

“Now you’re just being melodramatic,” Vidar rolled his eyes. “Even with the situation you’re in now, you can still go out and live your life. Sure, you’re hung up about Kaja, but you’ll get over her eventually. I know a few people that I could hook you up with, and I could probably get you a better job than that shitty convenience store you’re working at right now. All you need to do is just have some faith in old Vidar, I haven’t ever done anything bad for you once.”

“Well, you got a point there I guess. Just give me a few more days though, I need a bit more time to think things over in general.”

“Fair enough. In the meantime though, let’s live a little and party the rest of the night away,” Vidar raised the stout in a mock toast and took a large gulp of beer.

Eirik mimicked the toast and drank from his akevitt. “Aye,” he responded. “Let’s get this night started!”

???, ???
??? Hours, March 1st, 3758 AA (2021 AD)

Jon stood in the middle of a clearing in a forest, trees surrounding him on all sides. The sky above him was a deep purple canvas, with no clouds, no sun, and no moon. A deathly silence pervaded the air, everything was perfectly still. Gently at first, the ground began to rumble, and the rumbling slowly began to increase in intensity. The increase began slowly, but the rumbling soon began to pick up speed, and it became louder and louder. The rumbling around Jon was so loud and intense it was if both his eardrums and the ground around him were going to shatter into a million pieces. And then it stopped.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jon noticed a face among the trees at the edge of the clearing. He instantly could tell that it was much taller than he was, for the face was level with many of the tree branches. It began to approach him, and it was then that he saw the rest of the body. It was completely black and had no defined edge, like that of a shadow. Jon estimated that the creature was a good 10 feet tall at least, although the creature’s back was horrendously hunched over, so its true height was likely far greater. Though it had legs, it did not seem to use them to walk, as it effortlessly glided toward Jon without taking any steps. Its horrible and gangly arms reached all the way down to the grass. It stopped when it was five feet away from Jon, and it stared at him.

Jon’s throat closed up and he could think of nothing to say to the monstrosity before him, as if he had forgotten how to speak. The two continued to stare at each other until the creature finally began to speak, the deepness of the voice shaking Jon.

“I have seen past the farthest star, and I have gone to the edges of the Urth and this plane of existence. If you so choose, I can take you there. I can give you all of the things you never knew you wanted. Dine at the largest halls, taste from the tallest chalice. All I ask in return is all that you are. A chance at a life without misery, without pain, without heartache. All of this, and more, I can give you, for your soul,” The creature curled around Jon as it spoke, caressing his head and body with its malformed fingers, and it retracted from him as it finished speaking, awaiting his response.

“What of life after death? What of the God-on-Urth above, who awaits us all, so that we may become one with him again after we die, and of Ademar, he who restored the paradise Iphelaris to the God-on-Urth so that we need not suffer in the afterlife at the hands of the angels as we suffered on Urth at the hands of our fellow men?” Jon asked the creature.

The creature stood silent, observing Jon further before responding. “Your god has abandoned you. Ashamed of his creations, he left this plane of existence long ago and returned to his primordial form, so humiliated by his playthings, he was. Your god has turned his back on you, and that is why I roam these wilds.”

The creature glided past Jon, exiting the clearing and disappearing from view. Jon’s body was racked with fear, as was his mind. If what the creature said was true, what awaited him, what awaited everyone, after death? Would it be the creature that awaited them all, or would there simply be nothing? Both options horrified him. But most importantly, what was that creature? The closest thing Ademarism had to devils or demons were the angels, but they were all killed when Ademar restored Iphelaris to the God-on-Urth after his ascension, so what was that thing? Jon simply had no answer for it, and all of the possible implications truly terrified him.

Kursankorva, Ademarkorvu, Asendavia
1952 Hours, December 26th, 3758 AA (2021 AD)

Sakari sat on the slopes of Kursankorva, plucking at the small darkele which sat in his lap, his bushy tail moving slowly as he played and the fire crackling and radiating heat nearby. Towering over him even when sitting, Miko sat next to his Ailurine companion,  slowly dragging his bow along the strings of his cello. Though they made a strange sight to behold together, with Miko being well over four feet taller than Sakari, they had been playing music together since they were both seventeen, over twenty years ago. They’d both grown up in the same small village high on the western side of the Ademarkorvu. Like many other villages in the mountains, theirs was a quiet one, relatively isolated from the outside world. Though the closest city of any notable size, Uusikauntio, was only 37 miles to the southeast, it was on the other side of the Ademarkorvu, and the single road that led into their village had to head north to cross the mountains instead of taking a closer mountain pass to the south because it would require crossing the border into Kelssek. Nonetheless, their village survived, and by the time Sakari and Miko were teenagers, their village was just beginning to get the internet, truly connecting them to the wider world.

The more tech savvy of the two, Miko had gotten a video recorder with money from his father in order to record him and Sakari playing together. With video sharing platforms not having reached mainstream appeal yet, the videos were only shared with their fellow villagers initially. Sakari’s instrument of choice was the darkele, a traditional Asendavian instrument which was held in the lap and its 5 strings plucked at with one’s fingers. Though there were other instruments that had been adapted to fit the size of Ailurines, the darkele was perhaps the instrument that best scaled down, still sounding good despite its reduced size to account for Sakari. Miko on the other hand played a cello that accounted for his size as an Ursine, an instrument that paired well with the darkele despite being of foreign origin. Over the years since they’d began playing, the two had traveled around Asendavia, making some decent money here and there, never truly becoming famous but still making enough to survive. Though making money was never their goal anyway, Sakari and Miko just loved to play music for others.

Today though, they were alone. Yesterday had been Ademar’s Mass, so they’d come back to their home town to celebrate with their families, and with Ademar’s Mass now come and gone, Sakari and Miko ventured up the same mountain slopes that they’d gone up as kids to play music and camp together. Early in the morning they had set up their camp and brought along some camera equipment to record them as they played. For hours they sat together, going gracefully from one song to the next. Though neither one of them sang very well, Miko sang along to a few of the songs they played that had lyrics, his inhibitions forgotten as he played music with Sakari.

Snow began to fall from the sky, gently falling onto the ground around them, which gave Sakari pause as he looked up at the sky. “If I had to guess, snow’s probably going to start falling hard soon, knowing how the weather is around here. Always starts off gentle like this at first and gets worse real quick.”

Miko nodded. “Shall we stop playing then?”

“Yeah, don’t want the instruments getting wet from the snow or anything.  I’ll start packing 'em up, you should get the camera equipment packed while I do the instruments.”

The two went about packing their things and putting them in the tent they’d brought along. The weather said it was supposed to snow half a foot, so it wouldn’t have been good leaving their stuff outside the tent, even packed away. After spending a few minutes putting everything away, they sat down next to each other in front of the fire, just enjoying the warmth of the flames as the snow fell. Occasionally Miko would throw a few more sticks into the fire, but eventually the snow began to come down hard, beating at the flames with its cold hands.

Sakari stood up and rubbed his legs. “I think it’s about time we turn in for the night, we should probably head back down to the village in the morning. Come on, let’s get into the tent,” he grabbed Miko’s hand and walked into the tent, zipping up the flap behind Miko. Two lamps were lit, and their flames burned bright for the rest of the night.

Asendavian poem about the First Asendavian Succession War, written in 3648 AA (1911 AD) by Tamjari Kalskunas

Princes Adelar and Gunnar, two sides of a coin.
For the throne, they fought their brothers old and young.
For the unlucky dead, no tales would be sung.
The twins though, in battle they’d join.

2076, what an unlucky year.
Terje IX, that sot of a king, would die in his sleep.
And for his death, none would weep.
But very quickly after, the people of the land would soon know fear.

Viktor V, 4th son of the king, would rest himself upon the throne, outraging his brothers.
Hjalmar and Askr and others would all raise their armies to seize what they saw as their right.
By might, Hjalmar, eldest of Terje’s sons, would capture the throne and execute Viktor, taking the throne by might.
Truly, the war had begun now, and no one could stop it, not even their mothers.

Three years was Hjalmar’s reign, all spent on the field of battle.
Til one lonesome day, he collapsed to the ground, for his heart had burst.
And with Hjalmar’s death, things would soon come to be the worst.
Fields would be burnt, and slaughtered would be the cattle.

For six brutal years, the throne would be naught.
In the fighting, the proud city of Stromharad was reduced to rubble.
None sought the city, for it only brought trouble.
And yet trouble was what the warring princes brought to this land, the whole lot.

However, to this war with seemingly no end, one would finally soon come.
2084, at the battle of Haldal, Gunnar and Adelar would crush two of their brothers, removing them from the game.
From here on out, the twin princes’ power would only grow, securing their fame.
For it was only a year it took, to deal with their last four brothers, pounding their armies numb.

Crowned as Co-Kings they were, and for many years after they would rule.
Some years peaceful, others bloody.
But for Gunnar, living with the guilt, he’d drink himself ruddy.
Having slaughtered his kith and kin, he could bear it no longer, and so threw himself off a tower like a fool.

A bloody piece of history, the first succession war.
No one should have to face the decision of killing one’s kin.
For as we are taught, the murder of family’s a sin.
Let us just pray that these wars will be no more.