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Skal'dajan Diplomacy

At the Battle of Pieros in the Saffron Chain, House Pravus scored a decisive victory over Eurusi forces from the Dune Kingdom of Skal'daja, known as the City of Chains. The huge city-state has decided to reply, by dispatching a powerful fleet towards the city of Sungreet at Farmorn Point, the seat of House Helianthus in the Mourning Isles.

They are coming to seek 'redress for violation of their rightful territorial claims' and a 'refusal for Arvani to respect the Church of the Lash and Eurusi religious freedom'. It is, many Arvani feel, a prelude to war and Eurusi invasion.

There's a surprisingly large uptick of Eurusi ships arriving throughout Arvum, even before the news of the Battle of Pieros arrives. There's never been very many Eurusi at all, and they've always been a rare sight throughout the Compact, with travel between the two continents considered extremely perilous. Following the Battle of Pieros, there's a large uptick in arrivals with many fleeing the fighting in the Dune Kingdoms, and some of the tales of Skal'daja are a source of alarm throughout Arx.

Word of the Battle of Pieros reached Skal'daja some time before it reached Arx, surprisingly, and the reaction in the City of Chains was extreme. Over a hundred thousand freeman, nobles and slaves were gathered in the Plaza of Fetters to hear the words of Grand Vizier Rayik'uhl'daja, who addressed the massive throngs gathered in that city of well over a million. Wearing the Golden Chain of Rule, the Grand Vizier declared that the 'Arvani will be chastened', and with the permission of the Dune Emperor, he was dispatching a fleet towards 'the savages of the West who dare meddle with the Church of the Lash'. The eurusi refugees report that Prince Damik'uhl'daja was given the command and immediately impressed thousands of sailors into service, and had already started sailing west with a fleet of 30 caravels and several hundred smaller classes of ships.

The fleet is said to be sailing towards Sungreet at Farmorn point, the holding of House Helianthus. Ostensibly, the purpose of the Skal'dajan fleet is diplomatic to 'demand redress', and the Duke of Sungreet has already announced he would allow the Eurusi to arrive.

Seraph Waldo Bellerive of Sungreet was said to be encouraging this meeting to 'give peace a chance', to the horror of many in the Faith.

The Faith of the Pantheon had long since declared that the Eurusi were hopelessly corrupt, a place of slavery and toil. Skal'daja was clearly waging war to allow their slavery operations to go impeded, and one of the few universal laws of the Compact was its prohibition on slavery, even if thralldom as the punishment for a crime was permissible. One of the ducal houses sworn to House Thrax called House Helianthus had offered safe harbor to the approaching Eurusi fleet for their diplomatic efforts. This was in the eyes of the Faith a clear provocation, as the slavers of the Dune Kingdoms could be allowed no toe hold in the Compact, and the Faith would not allow a duchy to undermine its efforts against Eurus. The Grandmaster of the Templars, Sir Preston, declared this a grave crisis of the Faith, and for the first time in generations took the title of Carnifex of the Faith- the Faith's executioner and enforcer. The Faith began to rally its forces, and the templars would sail for Sungreet in the ships of the Crownlands, Lyceum, Mourning Isles and Northlands.

Knowing that war could well be inevitable, most of the Great Houses took precautionary measures. House Velenosa, House Grayson, House Redrain, House Thrax saw to their banners. Fleets were assembled to sail from ports throughout the Compact to ferry the templars and deliver them to the shores of Sungreet. The Faith talked of taking the war to Eurus, and freeing the enslaved peoples there, though much of the Compact initially reacted dubiously to the notion. The highlord of the Crownlands, Princess Liara Grayson, took a great deal of time rallying her vassals through the Crownlands and winning them over to the notion. While many held out hope for a peaceful resolution with the Eurusi, voices calling for war grew louder.

Action by Rukhnis for Skal'dajan Diplomacy

(Public Action, OOC Date: Feb. 12, 2020, 5:59 p.m.)

The Battle of Pieros is like a giant rock that's been hurled into the already not very placid pond of Arvum. First it was just -- "just" -- several thousand freed slaves, most of them scandalously of Arvani origins. Now it's unprecedented waves of Eurusi refugees fleeing their native shores for ones that they hope will be friendlier. Rukhnis's experiences have given her a deeply empathetic understanding of the plight faced by both these groups, and she's particularly sensitive to the challenges that a lot of unwelcome foreigners are likely to face upon their arrival. At the same time, she knows just how badly the duchy of Stormwall is in need of more people to carry out the work of the domain and secure what may be a very precarious foothold upon the always dangerously shifting ground of Arvum's current events. The Crovane Minister of Medicine is determined to address both these problems by bringing these refugees into the fealty as peasants, miners, tradesmen, men-at-arms -- whatever best suits their skills and interests while giving the duchy what it needs.

House Crovane, as a matter of fact, is uniquely positioned to take advantage of an influx of ex-slaves and Eurusi refugees. It's already welcomed a number of Eurusi into the domain, not least among them Rukhnis herself, and as a result the people of the duchy are probably a little less likely to fear the people of the Dune Kingdoms -- or to straight up view them as evil incarnate. Rukhnis is also bound to seem like a more familiar and reassuring face to these latest Eurusi arriving friendless upon Arvani shores, besides being able to communicate with them effortlessly in their native tongue. And then there's Lady Mikani, herself a former thrall, Duke Kaldur who hails from a family liberated from bondage only a few generations ago, and all the various other members and friends of the family with their love of freedom and independence, all of them together in possession of a wide range of skills that Rukhnis plans to draw upon to help plan out the details of this initiative and make it successful in every way.

For her own part, besides heading up the project Rukhnis will use her diverse connections around Arx, particularly those from her work at the Commons Clinic in the Lowers, to help her make contact with as many freed slaves and Eurusi refugees as she can so that she can meet with them and get a feel for their abilities and disposition while assessing their suitability for resettlement in the duchy. Just as importantly, she'll be working to convince all these whom she deems trustworthy to swear their allegiance to the House and cast in their lot with the Northlands. Rukhnis may not be exactly charming, but she has an air of quiet command and sincere compassion that tend to earn the confidence and trust of others, particularly the most vulnerable and desperate, and she'll be putting these traits to the best possible use to recruit new settlers. She's also willing to use these same skills within the communities where the refugees might be settling, working to smooth over any possible problems before they can even start.

Since she can't do everything by herself, she'll also have the assistance of her trusted physician's apprentice Ayallah and others from the Eurusi shipwreck who came to serve at the Black Hall (Event #3166) to help her speak with the refugees to obtain basic information about their background and skills, arrange medical care, and also to personally vouch for the welcome they themselves have received from the Crovanes. And to serve as a staging area and waystation for refugees preparing to embark for the North, Rukhnis will be opening the doors of her newly-renovated but not yet open for business pub and medicinary, the Stormbird's Roost, for the refugees' use.

Altogether it's an ambitious mission, but one that Rukhnis and the house itself are determined to see succeed.

As the Duchess of Stormwall, Fianna shows her support of this grand effort by offering hands-on assistance as much as possible. She travels alongside Duke Kaldur whenever she can and speaks to refugees alongside Lord Rysen as a top priority to show the refugees that she is invested in their future. She assists Lady Lenne with the paperwork and digging through reports and sending letters to Stormwall's vassals to keep clear lines of communication open. Fianna is outgoing and invested in this project, giving silver and economic resources to fund the endeavor.

Fianna shows up in person to meetings and speaks to refugees that have an interest in Mistress Petal's vast knowledge of agriculture and the land. She offers to help teach animal husbandry and also gives riding lessons to help those refugees that may have an interest in the farming culture of the territory. Working alongside her Minister of Agriculture, Fianna will do her very best to thread her skill for teaching animal ken skills to help sustain a growing population.

Every free moment that Fianna has will be spent on this mission. It is an important endeavor that she takes very seriously and one that she is very passionate about.

For his entire tenure as Duke-consort, Kaldur has been patrolling the roadways of Stormwall, both Great and small, as a Knight of Solace and Duke of the realm, seeing personally to the province's safety and has come to know the land and its people as well as anyone might in this short time. Kaldur supports Rukhnis' message to the Eurusi settlers that his own stock were thralls in generations past, who threw off shackles and made a home on Arvani soil as free men and women. An offer extended likewise to those who will honor Arvani gods, and the spirits of the land and Oaths to Crovane.

An offer extended where Eurusi are known because of Rukhnis' near-miraculous interventions: Twilight Dale. A village that suffered under corrupt leadership, which fell under the sway of practitioner of dark lore who angered the spirits. A village where one Eurusi woman made an unforgettable impact.

Where Rukhnis is not charming, Kaldur is. He is a man of the people, they've likely seen him patrolling, in shining steel on a gold warhorse, sincere and devout and wholly convinced of a path forward for everyone, Northerner and Eurusi alike. He will likewise be working to allay any fears of interlopers by speaking with leaders in villages and towns, seeing that the sentiments against these Eurusi fleeing for their lives (contrasted to the ones coming for blood) don't take root in Stormwall.

Rysen speaks with those Eurusi refugees whom Rukhnis has deemed fit to emigrate into the Duchy of Stormwall. He will take note of their skills and desired vocations, and then travel to Stormwall to meet with tradesfolk, farmers, artisans, sailors, miners and outdoorsmen in order to find the best places for the refugees to settle and join a community.

Rysen also asks those Eurusi who have settled in Stormwall after arriving on the burning ship so many seasons ago, to help aid the newcomers in the transition to a life in the Duchy. Finally, Rysen will seek out a gregarious and charismatic member of the Faith to travel with the refugees and their guards to the Northlands, so that the arriving people might have rudimentary instruction and the most positive possible view of religious tenants and customs.

Mikani had learned to watch the books. It isn't glamorous, it isn't something that usually gets your name in the history books. Yet it is something that makes sure someone doesn't swindle you out of a lot of money. Behind the scenes, Mika does her work in securing materials needed and overlooking finances to make sure that the project lives up to Ruhknis' vision and makes best use of the money the have received for the project. That's what good connections are for, right?

Having seen the troubles that can come from just cramming people into the Lowers, Lenne has set forward all of her savings to be used to secure passage, shelter and supplies for the ex-slaves. More than that, she does what she does best, to assist. Paperwork! (Disclaimer: May or may not be what Lenne does best). She turns her skill for digging through piles of information on current reports on the state of Crovane lands, and sends letters to administrators in the city to gather more information still. She looks for lands owned by the family that may be suitable for farming. For jobs and projects in need of labour or skilled tradesmen. For open lodging and homes that can be bought on the cheap. Anything to ease the transition for the greatest number of the refugees, so they may find a home and employment as quickly as is feasible.

Likewise, that information, and any other tasked for her to gather, will be distributed to others working on the project, to be acted upon, where her own skills are lacking.

While Breidaia is no healer, or great diplomat, she is a seasoned and experienced ship captain. Using her knowledge of sailing, as well as her understanding of the sea, the weather, and the tides. Working to help coordinate, as well as sail the various ships that will be needed to help move the refugees to Stormwall and any other places they will be going to. In addition, she will help with any sort of protection that is needed for the endeavor.

Perhaps even find some refugees that are looking for work as sailors, or would like to join a ships crew and learn to be one.

Petal plans to help with the refuges, largely by tryin gto make sure that they enough food, crops and plants to feed them. She also will help by contributing some of her economic resources to help provide the food and to help provide basic common clothing in wool and basic shoes with common pelt leather soles to help clothe the refuges. She will get the plants in Crovane producing as much as she can. She will take care of any harvested food, storing it to help it last long and she will pay attention to distrubuting food so that Crovane has enough for them and yet still shares with the refuges.

After hearing about how many refugees there are, Rosalind came up with a great idea! After talking to her sister/Countess of course. How about bringing some of them to Stormheart! Not like tons, but some!

Rosalind is quite charming and empathetic to the refugees. She understands what it's like to be the outsider. She will talk to them, giving them all the perks about her home and of course it's Countess. Rosa will tell them about the jobs offered, such as farming, mining, and the mills. Not to mention the new shipyard.

Rhue will be assisting in her capacity as a healer and apothecary. She knows the challenges that will come with an enormous influx of freed slaves and refugees and is eager to help. Her main focus will be on the health of those who arrive, treating illness and malnutrition as well as tending to chronic ailments and any wounds or injuries that may be present. With a solid understanding of healing methodologies as well as a strong dose of empathy, she will exhibit a kind and caring bedside manner.

Rhue also brings her experience as an apothecary, providing knowledge of medicinal plants and herbs. She will find the necessary herbs and ingredients, prepare and serve medicinal teas and salves, and offer consult to those who may require medicinal cures for their ailments.

On the slummy streets of the Lowers, Ras keeps an eye out for Eurusi refugees of all kinds. He has learned a certain Eurusi phrase in order to communicate with them, though in an awkwardly mispronounced manner.

Families who may be struggling to afford the dubious offerings at the Knock, or begging at the Soup Kitchen, will be encouraged to go speak to Rukhnis at the Commons Clinic. Orphans who might have been incorporated into the Tragedy while unable to speak the language or understand Arvani culture will be pointed out to Rukhnis in case she is able to re-connect them with Eurusi relatives or more familiar guardians who would take them on as wards.

Would-be Eurusi criminals, being taken advantage of by gangs or black market rings, will be informed that there might be better options for them in the north - and told to speak to Rukhnis at the Commons Clinic.

Ras will determinedly check for refugees in all the haunts he knows - the warehouses near the river and along the Bay where homeless people often sleep, the cheapest ramshackle tenements with dangerous living conditions, the emptier ships at the dockyards, the most sheltered alleyways and abandoned broken buildings. Bribes in the Lowers aren't extremely expensive, and he devotes his coinpouch where necessary to help refugees get in contact with Rukhnis.

Suffice to say, there might be a lot of Eurusi swamping the Commons Clinic in the following weeks, and not all of them requiring medical aid - just asking after someone they've heard of called 'the bird of storms' who has 'offered them shade'.

The journey to Stormwall from Arx, whether by land or sea, is a long one, and often beset by difficulties. Geralt, let's face it, doesn't exactly have a silvered tongue, or really any social skills much at all. He does have quite a lot of imposing bulk, however, and a decent knowledge of the wilds, so he sets himself to head north for a bit, and keep the roads clear for the impending deluge of refugees, or at least those that don't come by sail, or those who are making their way to holdings further inland, once they make port at Stormwall. Because really, the less direct interaction the boorish mammoth of a man has with these new vassals, likely the better it is for everyone.

Mirk is there as a shaman and representative of the Spirit Walkers, tasked with teachings the refugees about the spiritual beliefs of their new home. He meets with refugees to discuss shamanism, sharing his own beliefs and experiences and comparing them to Eurusi religions as he understands them, highlighting the similarities (such as the Great Mirror and spirits and the land being reflections of one another [Lore Theology 4]) and the differences (taboos against blood sacrifice in all forms).

Then he escorts groups of refugees to sacred places throughout the Stormwall, accompanied by what guards he deems necessary. There, he leads them in small rituals to make offerings to the spirits and give thanks for their blessings, with the goal of making them feel like a part of these beliefs rather than outsiders looking in.

He also reaches out to local shamans to ask for their support, including Lykka and Tookral, who he met at Westwind Point (NPCs from Plot 553). He inquires with them about sacred places, taking care that none of them are too secretive or too dangerous, and attempts to arrange opportunities for those shamans to speak to refugees so that they can get a variety of perspectives, rather than doing everything himself.

Cillian will be there to help train the refuges in self-defence as he is sword of his house and Minster of warfare, he will also teach them the Northland ways, how to keep them selves, warm, how to build shelters and to hunt things of that nature.

It's not easy to pull off adding a great number of culturally distinct new people to a place and avoid clashes, but they pull it off.

Rukhnis as a Eurusi is particularly helpful in easing much of the conflicts, and helping Eurusi choose Stormwall in the first place. Charming or no, a friendly Eurusi is a great comfort to many scared refugees fleeing the war that has come to their home in the Dune Kingdom of Suj'Abbat.

The Duchess of Stormwall's personal meetings with the refugees is extremely reassuring and helps ease the transition, and the personal touch has won her many, many new enthusiastic subjects on her lands.

Rysen's charm in particular is decisive- as a member of the Faith, his outreach convinces the Eurusi they won't see persecution, and helps convince the Crovane subjects living in Stormwall that the Eurusi are no threat. Even when the Eurusi bring their own religion with them from Suj'Abbat, creating a few small makeshift Temples of the Veil, there's little more than some mild unease.

Mikani's life as a thrall is a great assurance to those who spent life as a slave, and wins a number of the Saffron chain refugees. Truthfully, some of the handful of growing pains have been between former slaves from the Saffron and refugees from Eurusi, who some of the former slaves equate with slavers.

Lenne's large investment in silver and paperwork is an enormous help, particularly since making certain that someone counts as sworn to House Crovane matters a great deal to the Compact- without it, they are merely shavs, so she sees to it that they are properly accounted for and have help in finding jobs.

Transportation is certainly not easy, but Breidaia has that covered. Most were moved before the Whirlpool formed in Arx's harbor, but even afterwards Breidaia is able to arrange for pickups north along the beaches in the Crownlands. Difficult but she manages.

Petal, Rosalind, Ras, Geralt, and Rhue see the needs of the refugees- they need to be fed, taken care of, guarded, and healed for the injured. Ras doesn't find anything out of the ordinary initially, except for odd rumors overheard from some of the Priestesses of the Veil among the Eurusi refugees.

Mirk and Cillian teach refugees the way of the North. Most of the Eurusi are willing to learn, though some of the refugees came not from modest beginnings at all, and some are even nobles fleeing their cities. Shamanistic traditions to many strike them as a bit barbaric, but they are civil enough while listening. Some Suj'Abbati even abandon the Church of the Veil. Well. They say they do. Lying is a cultural touchstone, so it's a little unclear if they mean it.

Action by Monique for Skal'dajan Diplomacy

(Public Action, OOC Date: March 9, 2020, 12:36 a.m.)

It's no surprise to any that the Lady Monique Greenmarch, who has long taken an avid interest in all things Eurus, should find herself seeking out a way to meet with the Eurusi contingent headed for Arvum's shores. "Purely out of a deep desire to learn more and to extend the diplomatic relations of the Telmarch," is the official reason given. She even has new assistants, Quintus (Sebastian) and Sextus, Septimus and Octavus (Ansel's guards), and Nonus (Swift) for such an important journey.

The unofficial reason, though, is far more exciting.

The Minx of the Marches has enlisted the help of her trusted, talented allies and friends to get her to Sungreet at Farmorn Point, to finesse the way for her to meet with Prince Damik'uhl'daja privately. With the assistance of Delia, and possibly a stolen ship from a charming fellow named Argus the Cruel, they'll try to meet with the Eurusi contingent before they ever make land fall. Her goal? To beguile the Eurusi Royal and make of him an ally in that foreign land, with the ultimate goal being to seduce his support of Dawn Baseborn and Leo Fidante, whom she has reason to believe are in Eurus, acting against the Emperor. The Minx will employ all of her tricks, up to and including offering Prince Damik an unknown assassin to help him eliminate his siblings, who clamor for the crown. If they are successful in cutting a deal, she'll give him a letter from one Dante DiFidante, an introduction to his cousin Leo, speaking well of Monique and her helpfulness, among other things.

While Sebastian will be traveling with Monique to Sungreet, he by no means plans to travel as himself. Instead of being a representative of Pravus, he travels as one of Monique's assistants. His goal: to assist Monique with getting her private audience -- whether that means finding and bribing the right assistant to give her a small window of opportunity, distracting guards with a well-timed drinking contest, stealing a copy of Prince Damik'uhl'daja's itinerary to find the right moment to approach him, or all of the above.

Giving his blessing to this little attempt at 'diplomacy', Ansel isn't going to be attending in person. Instead, the Duke of Telmar is providing some resources that he sets at Monique's disposal. A sum of silver, a few guards masquarading as assistants and a few other things that he believes that she might find useful in her attempt to turn the Crown Prince.

Seems like Arianna and Sebastian have spent a lot of time together lately, he is her cousin after all and she does love him so. It makes sense she'd tag along to keep this delegation on track. Not really. She tends to be trouble when she's left to her own devices. Thankfully Monique is one of the very few people who can keep her on a tight leash, which is how she prefers it sometimes not gonna lie. In any case she's here to do what Arianna does best -- be a persuasive little thing and assist in the diplomacy. Or seductions. Most people would call it seduction but really it's her one tried and true method of getting everyone to get along.

If things go awry.

Well...the First Knight of Setarco is no meager combatant and as one of the foremost experts on making murder look like art she will utilize those skills if need be on just about any and every obstacle between the delegation and safety. Hopefully it doesn't come to that but if it does we all know she's going to do her very best to keep Monique and her second favorite cousin alive. (Don't ask who the first one is, the mystery is just so much better.)

Anisha Whisper is an excellent courtier, and her coming along with the expedition fulfills a two-fold purpose. First of all, she's very good at what she does - making people feel welcome, safe, and willing to speak on any number of subjects.

Secondly, she actually speaks Eurusi. Which she intends to keep from the delegation, and use to suss out hidden information for Monique. After all, there's something to be said for what can be spoken of in front of strangers, and Anisha has a gift for truth. So, she seeks to learn information useful to Monique's mission - particularly as regards to the Prince and his rivals for the throne, siblings or not.

Swift will be going along, ostensibly as a servant and assistant to the nobility, using her skill with medicine and alchemy to ensure if anyone becomes sick or wounded that they can be tended immediately. She will be on hand to concoct any necessary poultices or potions as required and in general to just keep her ears open and her mouth shut. A former Thrall, she knows exactly how to go about being part of the scenery, working quietly at the tasks set to her without disrupting others.

Ships. Dante won't be taking one of those anywhere, not anymore. Instead he does what he can from Arx. He's not the diplomatic type, and not being there negates his ability with a sword. So, in case things do go awry, he'll train the ship's crew in tactics that can be used on sea or land, should violence become necessary.

As a skulky investigator from the Lowers of Arx, Ras has recently upped his charges when it comes to dangerous cases, and Monique was willing to pay his fee. He's been hired to find out some extra information about Damik'ul'daja before the attempt to sway the prince is made by the Minx and the others.

Since Monique briefed him on the target, he knows that Damik has siblings who clamor for the emperor's throne, and that he is the son of the Vizier, not the emperor. So what he's looking for is whether the prince is Abyssally tainted, what more he might want, if he's controlled already by strings that need to be cut, and those types of things.

The first stage of his investigation begins immediately (before Monique goes to Sungreet) in the Lowers, where he knows black market traders who deal with Eurusi smugglers, and contacts them to learn what they know. Further, he uses his awkward knowledge of the language to converse with refugees from Eurus (from action 3843). He speaks more directly with the few refugee families that he's befriended lately, too - all with the hope of finding out more regarding the prince.

The second stage of his investigation is in Sungreet. There, he uses street contacts - some of them smugglers, many of them fluent speakers of Eurusi, who can blend in well with any groups of rabble among camp followers, the city's slums, seedy taverns, and anywhere rumors might be spread. The information is directed towards Monique.

With her decent acting chops, Alessia joins the endeavor, posing as one of Monique's assistants, Nonus. As violence isn't anticipated, she'll remain placid and charming for the most part, though will keep her eyes peeled for any threats to any member of her party, especially the Greenmarch herself. In true Lycene fashion, she's armed but not visibly so. With a hidden dagger and sharp hair ornaments on her person, she's well prepared to face any physical threat if things take a dark turn.

Delia heads off to Sungreet ahead of the others, renting a berth on a merchant ship going that way. She's going to appear as if she's there for regular courtier-type stuff, and she probably will actually do some of that for appearances' sake. However, her real purpose is to get chatting to nobles of House Helianthus, especially those who appear to be familiar with sea routes or the Eurusi. Once she finds someone suitable, she means to charm and persuade that person into telling her all about it. That creates options. Perhaps the others will want to get ahead and go try to meet the foreign fleet before it gets to Sungreet. Otherwise, it just provides some more information about which way they might come from and where they might go. Once she's all done with this, she'll wait for Monique's ship and go along for the ride, to be persuasive elsewhere if she can, or find a way to safety if danger looms.

Getting an audience isn't easy. They arrive at Farmorn Point well before the Eurusi, and find Sungreet bustling with activity. Many of the domains of the Compact have done similar to Monique's claim of being diplomatic envoys from the Telmarch, with voices of scores of domains present to speak to House Helianthus or in hopes of a conversation with the Eurusi and find out first if war is inevitable. With the bustling chaos, Sebastian is able to track down and talk to scores of different Helianthus officials and use Ras' contacts to finally track down exactly who to talk to, and from there Anisha and Delia as trained diplomats are able to find out exacting details on when and where the Eurusi are expected to arrive and just who is due to speak to them. A few bribes, cajoling and deft diplomatic maneuvers later, and Monique's Telmarch delegation is added as official envoys that have Helianthus permission to speak to the Eurusi.

Of course, House Helianthus almost certainly expected Monique's group to be one of dozens to eventually speak and would be far down the list, but the Minx of the Marches has recently acquired a very fine ship, and once there's even a threadbare official cover so the Eurusi are expecting her, there's really no need to wait. They sail ahead to jump the line and boldly see if the Crown Prince of Skal'daja will let them board and speak in person.

The Eurusi are more than a bit dubious at the entreaties to come aboard, but Monique, Alessia, Swift, Anisha, Sebastian and Delia are all extremely convincing. To be honest, most of them have been convincing people for a living for a very long time, and that's not about to stop now. So Monique, escorted by the disguised cohorts, comes aboard and has her private meeting with the Crown Prince of Skal'daja, Prince Damik'uhl'daja.

Monique and the prince meet in private for what seems like an awfully long time, and during the time of the meeting Anisha and Delia are able to find out that the crew is a mix of fanatically loyal slave soldiers, higher rank freemen from commoner families, and the officers are almost all Skal'dajan nobility. The fleet is huge and largely divided. A third is under Damik's personal command, while the other two thirds are split in command by two of his brothers, and Anisha is able to hear a fair bit of scuttlebutt about tensions between the three, as all vie for the approval of their father. The sailors gossip about the frictions and how Damik was given command because he's the least reckless and less violent compared to Ulrik'uhl'daja the Butcher of Skal'daja or Galik'uhl'daja the Whip of Skal'daja. THe sailors point that one tends to not get titles like that in Skal'daja by being pleasant. The gossip goes on, and many of the Eurusi are interested to meet the Arvani as curiosities, but at long last Lady Monique Greenmarch emerges and all of Arvum will get to find out just how convincing the Minx of the Marches could be.

The proposal of marriage from the Crown Prince of Skal'daja to Monique is still something of a surprise. Monique can be very, very, very convincing it seems.

To say it shocks the crew of Damik'uhl'daja's flagship is something of an understatement too, as this simply isn't done. Many are aghast when Damik goes on to explain that he intends to ally himself with the Arvani, and that a letter from Monique helped convince him that he's been fighting on the wrong side of the war in Eurus, and Skal'daja should turn against the Dune Emperor and break free from the fetters of the Emperor and Damik's father, the Grand Vizier. Damik, by his side, proceeds to give a stirring speech about how Skal'daja could rise to be a bright beacon in Eurus, and the continent could be liberated from the forces that have held it in sway for generations.

It really does not take long for assassins to attack after that.

Alessia notices them first. There's a hiss from a cat (wait, how is there a cat on board this ship?) and she sees Skal'dajan nobles associated with Damik's brother Ulrik edge closer in the crowd after he gives the speech. She sees the daggers surreptitiously being drawn, and she has time to draw her own weapon and shout a warning right as the assassins move to suddenly charge.

Fortunately for Damik'uhl'daja, Monique's guards Sextus, Septimus and Octavus were standing by the pair and react immediately to Alessia's shouted threat, getting swords out of their scabbards as they move forward to to place themselves in between the assassins and Lady Monique. Septimus manages to parry a dagger but a second assassin stabs him in the throat, who is then cut down in turn by Sextus. Octavus impales a third man before a crossbow bolt catches him in the chest. Sextus is stabbed from behind by a hulking Eurusi in plate mail, while Monique deftly sweeps the leg of one attacker to cut his throat as he falls then stabs the plate-clad Eurusi through the heart, her dagger punching through the metal like it was paper.

A cry goes up from the deck in Eurusi, "Damik has betrayed Skal'daja, death to him and his Arvani dogs! Rally to Ulrik!" An answering cry bellows up from most of the slaves and numerous soldiers, "Protect the Prince!" "For Damik!" "For a free Skal'daja!"

And then the battle is truly joined.

Prince Damik is shouting orders, as the ship begins to turn hard to port and a robed figure near the prow of the ship waves flagged signals. Catapults, archers and ballistae on the decks of hundreds of Eurusi ships begin to fire at one another, as the ships under Damik's command and the ships of his brothers start to clash.

On board his flagship, scores of Eurusi are trying to kill Damik, his supporters, and all of the Arvani guests. Alessia's glaive is out and the glaivedancer of House Mazetti demonstrates her unique style, dancing nimbly away from three attackers as she impales one and flings the body overboard. Sebastian has his Diamond Thorn free and is frantically trying to defend himself and Swift Grayhope. One attacker is attacking with far more strength than seems humanly possible for the thin Eurusi's frame, knocking Sebastian off his feet. Swift throws some powder into the Eurusi's face, making him scream in anguish, but the attacker grabs and brutally slams Swift to the deck of the ship with horrifying force, Swift's cry of shock cut terribly short as she impacts and lies broken and prone. Sebastian is able to recover and cut the man down, but at a glance it's unclear if Swift is still alive.

A bolt of fire lances through the air as Alessia manages to dance away at the last moment, some of her hair being singed by the blast. A robed mirrormask is chanting and pointing, as arcane symbols appear floating in the air then fly forward and burn three sailors fighting to Damik to ashes. More chanting is heard but it's suddenly cut short as the man is pulled backwards and his throat is cut by Monique, who is moving on to her next target before the body hits the floor.

Alessia and Sebastian find themselves fighting back to back, cutting down their own attackers and as their attackers fall they become aware of cheers from the deck. Scores of armed supporters are cheering around Damik, and the battle has died down as quickly as it started, as it seems the assassins could only inspire a thin minority to turn on the Crown Prince of Skal'daja. Able to catch their breath, they can look out from the ship and see what's become of the fleet.

There's smoke rising from Sungreet, and obvious battle in the distance on the ground. It's hard to make out, but throngs of thralls are fighting in what seems to be a revolt against House Helianthus, and ships from Galik'uhl'daja's fleet have made landfall with forces fighting against revolting slaves and supporting Helianthus... who seem to have other forces of Helianthus fighting them. On the sea, dozens of ships are sinking and fighting is happening across scores of decks, but it looks like roughly half of the Eurusi forces are withdrawing... though to the South and Southwest, not East towards Eurus.

Damik has his forces move to support the Arvani who are freeing the thralls, and Monique, Sebastian, and Alessia move to the ground with the forces landing, while Anisha and Delia look after the prone Swift. She's clearly in a coma and likely to perish, even with aid from Mercies on land.

As they land, it becomes obvious that House Helianthus is in a civil war, with forces of the Duke fighting alongside of Damik's brothers against a thrall slave revolt and the Faith of the Pantheon. Templars and Knights of Solace battle desperately against mages and adepts from Eurus who are wrecking horrifying damage, but Damik's forces joining on the side of the Faith decisively tips the balance and prevents a slaughter of thralls. As Monique, Sebastian, Alessia and hundreds of Damik's Eurusi take the loyalist forces of Skal'daja and Helianthus by the rear, it turns into a rout. Some of the forces loyal to the Duke escape by sea, but Sungreet falls to the free forces.

As night falls, the Compact finds itself at war. A war both with a foreign foe, as Damik's brothers lead a little under two thirds of the Eurusi fleet against the Compact, and also a civil war, as the Mourning Isles turns upon itself. But Monique's mission may have saved matters, and they have a new powerful ally.

Now she just has to decide what to do about a marriage proposal.

Action by Leola for Skal'dajan Diplomacy

(Public Action, OOC Date: Feb. 19, 2020, 4:25 p.m.)

Leola Rallies the Mangatan Finflaps
    Leola seeks out Sir Norman, or those who know him, and ask for a message to be carried to her allies.

"Her Eminance, Archpriestess Me'Ning Finflap, of the First Order of Mangatan Finflaps, Far More Blessed Than Me, I Write Unto You

Your willingness to aid the Lodge in its time of need was noted, and appreciated. Now, a war which is truly of the enemy approaches; a great fleet, with chains of gold, which comes to catch all within them. They sail to us from Eurus, carrying the shackles of gold on their flags.

The Compact will go to war, but we would seek your aid. It is most possible, as they serve those beyond the mirrors, that foes such as sharks (who are jerks) sail with them. We urge caution, and would know what threat you face. Should you see more, the Compact would appreciate the wisdom and cunning of the Finflaps in their service to Mangata, to listen and learn and let us know what they can of these terrible ships and those who sail on her, what they say and what they intend.

Those among the Compact are greatly aware of the cunning porpoise, and so we now seek Me'ning among the wisdom of the waves.

Leola (who is not a shark, and so, not a jerk)

Leola is, after a time of searching and passing messages from one bird to another and a painfully long conversation with an otherwise well meaning sea turtle, able to locate the seagull Sir Norman Beachflop. Sir Norman Beachflop agrees to carry her message in exchange for the creation of a peerage, as Leola is now the Grand Empress of the Furless Lands, as well as the Marquessa of the Featherbutt Shores, so it is only right and proper that she elevates her forever leal servant Sir Norman Beachflop to the peerage. After the matter is settled of formally investing Sir Norman Beachflop now and forever with dominion over a birch tree that he likes, the now Baron Norman von Beachflop of Birch Tree Kind of Near The Beach But Not That One It's Actually The Other One By The Path You Know agrees to deliver her message to Me'Ning.

Leola does not have to wait too long for a response.

A great many dolphins eventually arrive at an appointed place on the beaches near Arx, as arranged by Baron Norman von Beachflop. Led by Her Eminence, Archpriestess Me'Ning Finflap, of the First Order of Mangatan Finflaps, it is solemnly declared that all of the Finflaps will come to Leola's aid should she participate in a ritual of rebirth and revitalization for the Finflaps, called The Great Finflappening.

This mostly involves Leola on land clapping her hands together as if she was a dolphin and awkwardly making dolphin noises. Some fishermen in the distance look on and shake their heads. This could come up later.

Eventually, The Great Finflappening is finished and there is much splashing on Leola despite any attempts to stay dry, as they annoint her with Mangata's Blessing to forever protect her from sharks (who are jerks).

Ne'Ming declares that thanks to Leola, the ritual is now done, and they will go forth and scout and harry the Eurusi forces who almost certainly are working with sharks (who are jerks). All the Finflaps declare, "Thanks to She Who Does Not Have Fins, we now go to crusade with renewed porpoise!"

They swim away, leaving a drenched Leola.

As forces gathered for possible war and set out for House Helianthus' domain of Sungreet, others dealt with a crisis of a flood of Eurusi refugees. Much of the Compact has long been hostile to Abandoned bending the knee and becoming prodigals sworn to the Compact, but Eurusi were another matter. Most did not speak Arvani, and fewer was even aware of the Faith of the Pantheon. Eurusi joining the Compact took their vows of fealty under the sight of Limerance, but even respecting the Faith does little to quell the unease of much of the more traditionalist Arvani. The Knights of Solace and others protect most from violence, and outreach efforts in Arx in beyond help the refugee find safe homes, but there are incidents. Word spreads that the emissary from the Dune Kingdoms, Falak'a'Sib known as the Eye of the Prophet, was assassinated in the Lower Boroughs. At this time the perpetrators are unknown.

Action by Preston for Skal'dajan Diplomacy

(Public Action, OOC Date: March 14, 2020, 8:03 p.m.)

Preston has announced the formation of the First Eurusi Crusade to fight to defend the east and to purge the Mourning Isles of the Eurusi threat, their allies and their heresy. He has ordered the Seraphs to levy their Templars and begin to muster - though given the threats that exist in the land, he is not asking them to strip the shrines bear of defenders, but to send those they can - around 1 in 3, which based on the Gyre levy is around 50,000.

Unfurling the crusade banners stored in the armoury - and repairing the moth damage, and no doubt uttering a curse about moths - Preston will lead a service at the Great Cathedral, with full orthodox rites and a nice massed choir singing the canticles. Here he will lead the faithful in a call for the Gods to give their blessing for the undertaking, to strengthen the sword arms of those who stand with the Faith, to harden the will of our troops to stand against the horrors they will see, and pledging a Crusade in the name of the Gods and in obedience to all their commands - to protect the innocent, to free the slaves. One fought with Gloria's honour and the Sentinel's justice, and in pursuit of Skald's choice for all. The banners in procession will be lowered to Orazio to bless, so each Templar company can march into battle with a banner touched by the Most Holy. Preston will spend the 24 hours after the service and before the march in the Great Cathedral in quiet prayer, kneeling in simple linens with Crusader, repeating Templar prayers to Gloria for guidance, swearing by her cause and forgoing food and drink.

Preston will also be impressing on the Templar and other commanders that prisoners are to be treated with honour. Those who are slaves are to be taken to special camps with the Liberators, where they can be shown how to be free, and hopefully released to go back to Eurus once we find a way, to share their hope and their freedom with their fellow people. A thousands sparks to light a thousand fires.

The Lycene and Thrax have confirmed that they can reach Sungreet before the Eurusi arrive, so Preston seizes this chance, Preston will load that first third of the order onto ships at various points along the Arvum shore so that an army can make it to land at Sungreet. Preston has agreement from the Lyceum, Isles, Grayson and Redrain as well as the Faith fleets to help get the Templars across. The Seraph having been recalled by the mission led by Ailith, Preston will invite Duke Ivan to meet with him. He will make clear that the Faith is no longer bound by Guest Right and the Templars are here to resist the Eurusi. If Duke Ivan has not re-conciled with the Faith during actions by Ailith, Preston will give him a final chance to recant and reject the Eurusi. If not, Preston will as Carnifex declare Ivan an Apostate and invoke the old rights of the Faith, where Templars have removed nobles from power who are no longer in communion with the Faith and so beyond the Compact. The formal succession is a matter for Victus, but Preston will make it clear to the heir that he will have Templar support in his claim if he rejects his father's path and will stand Helianthus against the Eurusi and revoke the offer of safe harbour his father made. Preston will be relying in these talks with Ivan and his heir on the diplomats they have brought with them. Unless Duke Ivan forces the matter, Preston will try to keep him alive and imprisoned to be returned for trial.

Regardless, the Templars will take Sungreet and hold it against attack - hopefully with help from the Isles. Preston will bring siege engines up just to counter fire at any siege weapons they employ, but largely he is dependent on the levies having come from across Arvum. When Eurus arrive, he will seek to make clear to them that those who offered them sanctuary no longer are in the position for that - but in the name of the Gods, they may depart back to Eurus in peace. Dame Ida is named Master of the Siege Train.

If they are defeated at Sungreet, they will try to fall back if they can to the eastern coast and the Grayson war camps, where hopefully the rest of the Templar and Crusade muster should have gathered.

Freshly minted as a Knight Marshal, Katryn has little time to grow into the role before having to muster a response to the Eurusi aggression. The wisdom of her betters in tactics leads her to believe that Preston's arrangement of coastal defense and holdfasts - and the swelling of defense and patrol forces - would be a valuable use of troops, provisions, and supplies.

Troops she does not have before entreating her uncle, Philippe Blanchard. By his leave, Katryn pledges and commands the Chevalle Legionairre east, speeding men to the aid of the softer coastal areas. In addition, she accepts Philippe's tithe to the Crusade: a sizeable chunk of military provisions - rations, hardtack, spare weapons and assorted materiel - and practical products for conducting a mobile defense. Katryn adds her own accumulated resources to the task of erecting fresh watch posts and relays, ensuring the coastal lands are shored up and ready to deflect raiding attacks that are expected.

While he remains in the city -- before he heads off on his diplomatic mission -- Alban is going to be doing the work of preparing for the Crusade as best he can. Mustering the troops, speaking publicly on the Glory of fighting for the Faith, and organizing supplies from his own resources as he can provide. He has offered his services fully to Preston for the duration, and is entirely committed to helping prepare for war.

As it is possible they will have to defend Sungreet, Ida has been tasked with preparing the parts of the siege engines so that they might be transported and bolted together quickly on site. Where they might go and who will be setting them up is not up to her; the Templars have very skilled and knowledgeable people who take care of that. She will simply make sure all of the parts are in order and prepare them to be packed efficiently should they need to be used. She will also be on hand to help put them together and lend her strength to moving them, if need be. Not all knights wear shining armor, after all; some wear a simple smith's hammer on their belt.

Raja is not an up in your face combat jocky. However, she /is/ more of a slink around and stab in the back sort of gal. She will help with information gathering and keeping an ear to the streets so to speak. She will offer her body and blade and whatever resources she can spare to help with this endeavor.

Tescelina joins with the Grandmaster of the Templars as a Disciple of Gloria. A knight of the Oathlands, she's prepared to protect others and engage in any hard fighting. But she is not there as an oppressor, or a conqueror, the innocent lives of the people of Sungreet and any Eurusi they come across she will of course take prisoner before anything else. Armed with her alaricite sword and her knightly regalia, she's as ready to be the vision of chivalry as she is to be its instrument.

While Teagan is no combatant, she has served on war councils. She is a member of the Academy of War and a student of strategy. However, she is also a diplomat. She will join Preston in his Crusade -- having been a steady supporter of the Templars -- bringing along a number of the Blackram Stonegiants and the Direhorns they have trained. While she is present to serve as a tactical leader and the Cloudspine forces are present to help if it should turn to battle, she is also there to provide her presence and voice in any diplomatic proceedings.

Oili pledges herself to the Crusade under Preston's banner. Prior to going, she runs around to have a diamondplate bow fashioned and gather as many medical supplies for the crusade and Saving Grace as she can.

On the night before they leave, she'll make a last farewell to her family, beseaching them to join her on the journey. Oili doesn't take much. Her robes, cloak, and as many medical supplies as she can stuff into a bag. She's not expecting to get into a fight. If she does, she's ready to join her ancestors. She'll sneak off to a secluded spot and spend some time dancing around a fire, singing traditional songs, and praying to her gods, the spirits of the world - of everything around her. She doesn't ask for a blessing for herself. Instead, she asks the world to watch after the templars and warriors going off to fight the Eurusians and their abyssals. She asks for their protection, not her own.

Engaged in battle, she'll setup a battlefield clinic where Preston or the chain of command tells her to. She's seen war, the chaos of battle is no stranger to her. Wherever she goes, she'll get to people that need healing and patch them up. Hopefully, she'll be able to give someone the chance to go home that might not have had it.

"Gloria guide us,
Steady our sword arms to strengthen them;
Fly above us to keep our heads held high;
Hold beneath us so we keep our feet planted;
Run before us to lead us and behind us to
restrain us;
Around us to shield us;
Within us that we strike true and with honor.
In your name we meet our enemy,
In your name we will defeat them,
Yours is the glory
Ours the victory."

The entreat to Gloria was spoken over and over, once the banners of the Templar Order were cleaned and repaired the Dominus took his time in ensuring each was blessed individually as a symbol of hope and reinforcement of morale amidst the Faith Militant. Orazio stands beside Preston during the service he holds at the Great Cathedral, standing as a staunch presence in the midst of traditional orthodox rites.

In addition, the Most Holy sets aside time to specifically spend with Templars here in the city preparing for the excursion to Sungreet. He speaks with them, eats with them, laughs with them and most importantly -- he listens to them. Their fears, their hopes, their faith. The weeks leading up to the deployment, the Dominus can be found in the Shrine of Gloria or the Templar Compound devoting his personal time getting to know the men and women risking their lives for this cause.

Princess Sabella is no Templar and she's certainly not skilled with a blade, but what she is very, very good at is seeing all sides of a situation and making impassioned arguments and pleas to try to get people to agree to at least some terms in order to avoid bloodshed. She's along on this little venture specifically to try to talk Duke Ivan down. Let him know that surely while he thinks what he's doing is right, he needs to take a step back and look at what's happening around him. That she too wants to see this end diplomatically and the first step has to be with him. That he can still be a hero of this story, reconcile with the Faith, and keep the duchy in his family should his heir agree to Preston's offer. That a united Compact is a stronger Compact. All the delightful propaganda that might appeal to a man that's clearly looking to have his name in the history books--on the right side. The Compact's side. She is earnest and very, very good at making even unsavory outcomes sound promising. Which is good, because should things come to blows, well. She's there to make sure they don't. Best not to think about it!

Rysen, along with several hundred Crovane warriors and a number of large ships, join Preston on crusade under the Templar banner. He is present for the service in the Great Cathedral, dressed in Northland leathers, and cloaked in the white mantle of the Gold Order. His vigil is held in the Shrine of Lagoma, where he beseeches the Lady of Change for protection and courage in battle, as well as regenerative growth in the lives of the people of Sungreet and the Eurusi slaves who are forced into war.

Skilled in diplomacy, Rysen will serve in that capacity at Preston's pleasure, but should Ivan be declared an apostate, the Eurusi arrive in Sungreet, or both, the Knight of the Northlands, wielding a runed sword of black alaracite, and a rubicund arming sword adorned with shamanic motifs, joins any combat mission the Grand Master may assign him. With Victus's confirmation of Helianthus' role in the death of Asger, Rysen pours all of his blood, sweat and skill onto the battlefield, to bring justice for the murdered Crovane duke and victory to the Templars.

Prince Niklas Grayson on a crusade? Whaaaaaa? Well, it's his home turf! And he has a personal stake in it! So he's coming along with his wife to work as part of the Templars' small core of diplomats, looking to convince the locals of Sungreet that they're only there for the Eurusi and if Duke Ivan stands down and rescinds his invitation to the Prince of Skal'dajan then there will be no reason for any violence. It's all up to Ivan.

Prince Lorenzo Redrain has been sent on behalf of House Redrain to provide the support of the Redrain Navy, assisting the Templars in transporting troops and otherwise assisting their crusade effort. Although his natural empathy and diplomatic charm make going to war a surprising choice, Lorenzo demonstrates clear skills in both leadership and sailing abilities, ensuring the ships are shepherded safely, no matter the challenges. Additionally, his heartfelt belief that Skald's ideas of freedom (which he speaks about frequently, to any who listen) should be brought everywhere, including Eurus, give a certain heart to the journey, inspiring those who travel on the Redrain ships.

It takes precious time to muster the templars for a crusade, and time is in short supply. The forces of the Faith and the Compact are racing to reach Sungreet at Farmorn Point before the massive Eurusi fleet arrives, and templars as guardians of the Faith of the Pantheon are spread through every domain in the Compact of Arvum. But a crusade is called by the first Carnifex of the Faith in generations. Time they can barely afford is spent getting word to every seraph in every domain, who in turn organize their templars, who in turn march to rally points in ports. The logistics are challenging on a scale that few in the Compact can truly appreciate, involving tens of thousands of people and all of their own requirements, with hundreds of ships across hundreds of domains to carry soldiers, their armor, and even the potentially absolutely vital siege weapons overseen by Dame Ida Ferron, but in the end it all comes together with a frenetic haste.

Massive military troop movements are almost always a matter of 'hurry up and wait' and tradeoffs and sacrifices, with trying to make as good use of the time they have available as possible. During the time spent waiting on additional troops to arrive so they set sail, it's a time of moving speeches and solemn prayer. The Dominus Orazio speaks movingly of what is at stake, not just for the Compact but the world. Rysen leads prayers, with his Crovane troops giving homage to spirits of the wind and waves for safe travels, and prayers to the Gods of the Pantheon for much the same. Preston is leading his templars, and sees a glimmers of a fervor that has long been absent in the Compact. Blanchard, Blackram, Crovane, Farsaw along with thousands of templars come together, overseen by Katryn, Teagan, Rysen, Alban and Preston. And always weighing the risks of the Eurusi arriving faster than expected versus moving with too few, they sail.

As speed is critical in trying to reach Sungreet before the Eurusi arrive, there are some sacrifices made in organization. The Lycene fleet meets with the forces of House Thrax, and elements of the Grayson navy and Redrain and Crovane forces help with the shipping, but unless they are willing to risk arriving well after the Eurusi, there's simply not enough time to condense the forces or to instill the level of organization that would create a cohesive order of battle if it came to a massive fleet engagement with the Skal'dajans. Drills happen as they sail to Sungreet, and Lorenzo, Rysen, Preston, Teagan, Alban and Katryn do their best to keep the forces ready by the time they arrive, but anything requiring speed is going to be a matter of trade offs. But fortune is with them as the first signs of Farmorn Point are seen on the horizon- there are no Eurusi yet at Sungreet. The ships of House Helianthus and its vassals after tense moments do not contest the waters but the docks of Sungreet itself have been sealed with a mighty moving seawall, and so his forces make landfall on the beaches a short distance outside of the city. Speed, as always, is a decisive factor.

Thousands of Helianthus troops are there to meet them along with a voice, rather than Duke Ivan Helianthus himself, as the templars arrive on the beaches of Farmorn Point. Far more soldiers than to be expected, and the identity of the voice explains why. In a shockingly crass depature from Mourning Islander tradition, the Voice is the 'honorable' Sir Piotr Grimkin, a leader of the ill-reputed mercenary group the Undrowned Sons. A man of dark reputation even among sellswords, the newest Voice of House Helianthus was disowned by his family for having those who slighted him brutalized and murdered another noble in an honor duel. The companies of Undrowned Sons and House Helianthus are obviously arrayed for battle in a show of force, even if there is still a hope it can be resolved diplomatically. Preston and others waste little time seeing to his own order of battle, and the hope for peace shines brighter as the sellswords and Helianthus make no effort to contest this, without the bloody engagement that might be expected from a force trying to take advantage of the vulnerability of arriving on shore. Talks begin. Preston's demands are given, with the announcement of Duke Ivan Helianthus' formal excommunication reaching his immediate subjects and bannermen, and obvious surprise going through the ranks of some of his soldiers. The Faith's instructions for Duke Ivan's atonement is given, allowing him the chance to recant his views and deny the Eurusi harbor. Sir Piotr and his fellows speak about this at length, giving unacceptable counter offers, and how Duke Ivan needs time to consider the matter. Sabella is instrumental in trying to plead for peace and a diplomatic resolution, but House Helianthus keeps asking for more time to consider it. It becomes increasingly obvious to Sabella that they are trying to buy time for the Eurusi to arrive, and there's word reaching the Templar camps through informants like Raja that the Eurusi are close, and indeed some Arvani have even sailed ahead to meet with them. Sabella can tell they aren't attempting to negotiate in good Faith, and the decision falls upon Preston, who has been declared Carnifex, the supreme enforcer of the Faith.

So Sir Preston, Grandmaster of the Templars and Carnifex of the Faith, declares Duke Ivan Helianthus an apostate. For a long, tense moment it is dead silent on the beaches of Farmorn Point. Just for a moment.

It's not entirely clear who attacks first. Sir Piotr yells "UNDROWNED SONS!" and at the sound of a yell, templars and Helianthus soldiers alike draw steel. There's shouts from the city, and a slightly too pious Oathlands templar near Preston shouts, "DEATH TO APOSTATES!" Even as Preston turns to speak, the first arrows are flying in both directions as Sir Piotr Grimkin withdraws behind a raising wall of shield and spears. Shouts of "KNOCK, LOOSE!" are heard near ranks of archers, and no sooner do the first arrows begin to fall that Rysen is leading his Crovane warriors in a charge, in a desperate bid to stop the shield wall from fully forming up on advantageous ground. Undrowned Sons spearmen on an incline with archers behind them would be punishing if left uncontested, and there's hardly any time to think, as Rysen leads a desperate charge to cover the ground before the enemy can fully prepare themselves. With a valor that draws a roar of battlecries from his Crovane, Lord Rysen leaps into the wall of shield and spears, battering aside spears with deft skill and his dark alaricite sword cutting through shield and platemail as if it was parchment. A break in their line of spearmen form as his Crovane warriors pour through, routing one unit of archers on the closest hill as the battle truly begins.

Teagan on the rear lines is carefully studying the order of battle of House Helianthus and their sellswords, and patterns begin to emerge to her in their strategies. She is able to accurately predict several coordinated movements, and identify the meaning of trumpet calls. She's silent for a moment in intense calculation, and then issues quick orders to her Blackram troops. Blackram pike and archers form up on the far flank of the templars, which had been unthreatened and seems like a poor deployment and draws objections from some templars, which cut off as the thunderous sound of heavy cavalry round a hillside in a surprise bid to hammer the templar flank and try to roll up their lines. There's shout and screams as the cavalry impact brutally with hundreds of disciplined Blackram pikemen, who repulse the cavalry and inflict brutally heavy losses.

Preston leads the templar main advance and steady march towards the city gates of Sungreet, fighting inch by inch for ground as he steadily pushes back the main line of Helianthus and sellsword troops. With Crusader in hand, he cuts his way through Helianthus lines, the templars screaming 'GLORIA' around him. Several arrows hit Preston's rubicund armor, as he's taking fire as the commander, which doesn't seem particularly fair if anyone was to ask him, but is probably expected. His brief thanks they were still outside range of archers positioned on the walls of Sungreet gives way to consternation as scores of ballista on the walls start to fire, with tree-limb sized spears cutting through the templar ranks as they steadily push forward. And then the top of the western wall of Sungreet explodes in rock and smashed ballistae as the first of Ida's catapults and trebuchets fire, drawing a roar of cheers from the templars.

Dozens of Helianthus ships are moving to ram the Fleet of the Faith as Lorenzo briskly gives orders, his longships answering arrowfire with kind and siege weapons on the dromonds smashing each others decks. Lorenzo manages to deftly sail his ships to avoid the worst of the ramming, but at least two fire ships impact setting ships ablaze, and battle on the decks of the vessels is joined in mass boarding actions.

As the templars draw ever closer to the gates of the City, there's another thunderous rumble as a second wave of cavalry tries to crash along the templar lines. This time, Tescalina leads the cavalary of the templars in a counter charge to meet them, lances lowering and glittering the bright of the noon day sun moments before the two lines smash against one another. The Knight of Sunflowers keeps her horse, fighting a desperate sword duel with an Undrowned Captain before cutting him down, and the Templar cavalry breaks the ranks of the Sons before riding hard against remaining Helianthus archer lines outside the city and putting them to flight. Blanchard troops push back a counter attack by pike, and part of the Helianthus flank outside the city is crumbling.

Arrows start to rain down from the walls of Sungreet as Preston's main lines finally begin to get into range, though Ida's siege weapons are steadily demolishing the western wall and making it difficult for archers to keep their positions. The fight on the main line is intense, with Helianthus' troops giving ground and Sir Piotr Grimkin pulling them steadily into a smaller wedge that will use the gate of the city as a choke point. As the city gates open, there's glimpses past the Helianthus lines of fighting behind them. A figure with a glaive standing in the opened gate fighting Helianthus soldiers, and fighting in the streets between what looks like thralls and Helianthus bannermen. Smoke begins to rise from the city of Sungreet. Raja brings word- a thrall rebellion is underway.

Losses are heavy, with Preston taking one arrow wound in the shoulder that managed to ever so slightly penetrate his armor, and several more that fortunately do not manage to penetrate. Oili is franatically working with the Mercies and other physicians seeing to the huge number of desperately wounded, keeping a triage station as she saves life after life, and eases the comfort of all too many beyond her help. The Helianthus and Undrowned Son forces outside of their main wedge are beginning to be surrounded by Crovane and Blackram troops, fighting in desperate, brutal packets with a fortunate number heeding Sabella's calls to throw down their arms and surrender.

On the sea, Lorenzo's flagship is hit by a catapult which smashes the deck and taking water, and the mighty dromond begins to sink. Lorenzo shifts the flag and boards the closest galley, taking the fight still to the Helianthus fleet which begins to limp away towards Sungreet's seawall.

Step by step, the Templars get closer to the city, and through the gate they can now see Helianthus troops fighting other Helianthus troops. Raja brings word that Lord Trevor Helianthus, the Sword of Sungreet and the Duke's son and heir, has turned against his father which could well be because of the propaganda campaign by Niklas. The rebelling thralls are gaining ground in the city, and Preston sees some freed Eurusi thralls fighting the rear of Helianthus' wedge, screaming the words in Arvani, "FREE! FREE! FREE!" It may be the only words of Arvani they know. With a defeaning crash, the west wall of Sungreet collapses under Ida's siege weapons, and templars and Blackram troops are able to pour around to enter the city. Rysen and the Crovane have rejoined the front lines of the templars, and in a shockingly brutal swordfight in which Rysen takes an ugly sword wound in his side and a scar against his cheek, he manages to run through Sir Piotr Grimkin and some of the Undrowned Sons drop their weapons and run. The front lines of Duke Ivan Helianthus' loyalists are buckling outside the city, and cheers and screams are heard all throughout the templar lines. Hours and hours of brutal fighting, and the sun starting to set, but victory is at hand.

And then there is the sound of war drums.

Marching from down the coast, banners flying the Golden Manacles of the Dune Kingdom of Skal'daja crest the near hill as their drums beat steadily. Disciplined Eurusi spearmen march in tight formation followed by thousands of soldiers armed with scimitars, and in the far rear are men in golden armor. Those soldiers wear surcoats with the symbol of a golden whip and three rubies underneath to represent blood, and carry leashes attached to thirteen collars of soldiers in front of them. At the sight of them, there's screams from several rebelling Eurusi thralls, and the words, "The Anointed Masters!" can be heard. The remaining Helianthus loyalists holding the gates of the city rally, and it's clear to Teagan that the Eurusi mean to pin the templar forces against the city and remaining defenders, envelope and completely annihilate them. And to that, there is a clear answer as the templar and Blackram lines wheel to meet the Eurusi charge. Shouts of Gloria and Eurusi battle cries echo at the same time before the lines meet. And then they clash.

The Arvani lines begin to buckle almost immediately under the onslaught. The Helianthus troops were experienced and dangerous, but the sheer ferocity of the Eurusi infantry is unexpected. To make matters worse, they are obviously extremely skilled- the Dune Kingdoms have been fighting a constant war for over a decade, and these troops are very obviously veterans as they smash against the desperate Arvani lines. Preston, Alban, Rysen, Teagan, Katryn- they are all repositioning their troops against the greater threat as the templar lines need reinforced time and again, and the dead begin to pile as Preston, Tescelina and Rysen fight their way to the Eurusi front.

As the lines buckle, Eurusi and templars devolve into a brutal melee. Arvani and Eurusi are falling by the score, and then the Anointed Masters gradually come into arrow range. They see men with leashed collars around their necks drop down and pull out war slings, which truthfully is somewhat of a relief as slingers are not much threat to heavily armored templars. Most Abandoned in Arvum eschew slings as weapons since they are relatively ineffective against castle forged steel, but the Eurusi seem to be paying that no heed as their taskmasters bark orders. Preston has a moment to notice that Crusader is suddenly extremely hot in his hand as the first slingers start to fire.

It's not entirely clear if they are throwing stones. The projectiles move so fast that it is hard for the eye to track them, but they were probably black stones. Indifferent to the fact that Eurusi and Arvani are tied in a confused great melee, the stones hit and punch clean through heavily armored templars, through the people behind them, and perhaps a dozen people deep before they stop. Tescelina takes a hit in her left arm, brutally wounding her as she keeps fighting. Scores of Crovane and Blackram troops fall and hundreds of templars start to drop in a moment as archers frantically return fire at the Anointed Masters' slingers. The slingers seem completely indifferent to being targeted, as they keep slinging more black stones even as arrows fall among them and several begin to die, while others just keep slinging through their wounds.

One Anointed Master steps forward in his golden armor and unshoulders an extremely ornate black runed bow, shooting an arrow in a high arc above the battlefield. As the arrow arcs and starts to come downward, it splits, and hundreds of arrows rain down over the templar ranks and burst into flame as they land the ground, with smoke and flame spreading throughout the templar ranks. The Master starts to knock another arrow and pulls to fire, but then he has to swing and parry Tescelina's sword with his bow, and drops it to draw a wickedly long dagger pulses with a dark light. Even through the intense, brutal melee and the screams of the dying, the sound of the Master's chanting echoes as he duels with Tescelina. In a whirl of blades, they parry each others blows with the Master finally slipping his dagger deep into Tescelina's chest. As her blood stains the trampled sunflowers underfeet, Tescelina suddenly bursts into flame and the Eurusi screams in horror as the flames surround him, turning him and his belongings to ash as Tescelina crumbles to the ground and lays still forevermore.

Scores more templars are dying by the moment under the constant barrage of the slingers, though the stones falter as a single armored figure is among the Eurusi's rear, a crowned woman fighting with a glaive as robed Eurusi and golden armored Anointed Masters rush her with arcs of fire flying through the air. Even without the stones, the Eurusi infantry is gradually cutting through the templar lines, and Preston frantically is rallying his troops and keeping them from breaking entirely, though even at a quick glance as much of half of his forces are now out of action, and the Eurusi show no signs of breaking as they try to prevent a fighting withdrawal. Friendly Helianthus forces and rebelling thralls are keeping the forces of Duke Ivan at bay, but some Eurusi are in the city, and it is steadily looking like a slaughter.

And that was before a second Eurusi force arrives on the beach. As the second Eurusi charge with another few thousand soldiers, there doesn't appear to be much option but to go for a fighting withdrawal and try to save what forces Preston can. His troops start to shift so they can cover a retreat to the boats, and at least the new Eurusi forces seem to be moving not to cut him off, but to reinforce the other Eurusi lines- which is a small mercy and might well save his command. It looks particularly grim for the forces in the city, as some might be able to slip through the Helianthus loyalists, but the majority will be trapped, including those who organized the thrall rebellion. But perhaps after the rest of the templar forces rally with the rest of the Compact, they'll be able to stage a rescue. If Preston's able to successfully withdraw at all.

The second Eurusi force promptly attacks the first one.

Almost immediately, the tide of the fight turns, as the Eurusi begin to fight a withdrawal themselves and the newly arriving Eurusi put them to flight. The Anointed Taskmasters stop their slaves firing at the Arvani and turn towards the other Eurusi, and Eurusi within the brutal melee fight themselves free and in some cases rout. Inside the city, the Helianthus loyalists fight a withdrawal to the docks, and almost in moments the hostile Eurusi force is withdrawing to their ships while under assault by Arvani archers and the other Eurusi. Leading the friendly Eurusi is the Crown Prince of Skal'daja, Prince Damik'uhl'daja who is accompanied by Lady Monique Greenmarch, Anisha Whisper, Delia Whisper, Prince Sebastian Pravus, Ras, Lady Alessia Mazetti and several Eurusi carrying the body of Swift Grayhope. Prince Damik'uhl'daja asks in heavily accented Arvani, "How does one join the Compact?"

Action by Orrin(RIP) for Skal'dajan Diplomacy

(Public Action, OOC Date: March 14, 2020, 10:57 p.m.)

Trouble on the Mourning Sea! Except for around Pearlspire, which has held down piracy/raiding (staff confirmed in previous requests/page conversations) because:

* the Portress (action 3141)
* careful vetting of refugees (action 3358)
* navy growth: the caravel 'Tiga' (action 3654); most recent RFR on goal #819; plus routine army purchases mean the Seliki fleet is in line with the Grayson fleet
* cooperative patrolling with Crovane and Kennex (action 3584, which ended raids on the Northlands coast; a PRP in plot 526) - understood as ongoing
* the Crovane-Seliki marriage and building of the Crovane port (action 3642)

The foundations are in place. The time has come to build out for the defense of the mainland coast.

House Seliki and friends are going to visit the various coastal islands adjacent Pearlspire, then heading northward along the mainland coastline toward Stormwall, southward toward Arx.

* Islands held by other Crownlands or Northlands holdings get help building towers
* Islands that are uninhabited get small military stations and towers built
* Islands that are inhabited get towers after...
1) peaceful outreach first, with a message about the peace from pirates and
    reavers Seliki's patrolling has provided (join us, we protect you!) +
    good trade with the mainland as benefits to swearing fealty to Seliki +
    the good care Seliki shows all its people (medicine, artisans, training)
2) those disinclined get a wary eye: if they seem to be harboring pirates/
    reavers/cultists/enemies will turn into military engagements (and Seliki
    will attempt to take and hold those islands by force)
3) disinclined but peaceful Abaondoned get additional warnings about
    threats: Shavsbane, Eurus, and will still be added to patrol routes in
    case they change their mind (Seliki chains no-one)/so that badness
    doesn't take hold.

Signal towers are built purely for function: a continuous line of signaling up and down the coast (Stormwall to Arx, Brighthold if possible) is what we want. Early warning against Eurus (or other naval forces not bearing Compact flags) attacking.

SHORTER VERSION: Take islands, build signalling towers, protect the coast with early warning. The rest is just implementation details.

Countess Consort Scythia would assist Orrin with prepations by visiting the coastal islands that are adjacent to Pearlspire. She would be avoiding any skirmishes if at all possible (and if skirmishes break out, she would be out of there like woah). Her role is in the capacity of diplomat. She would seek to survey the inhabitants, keep matters peaceful, and discreetly alert Orrin to any of those that seem to be less on the up-and-up and more hostile in nature, be it mundane or more nefarious. If she can persuade those to bend the honest folk to bend the knee, all the better.

Kaldur, Duke-consort of Stormwall, emerging from a year spent raising cavalry to patrol Stormwall, turns his attention east. He rallies his people and his vassals to the work of defending the coast, painting the picture of their defense of the mainland not just as defense of their homes, but as service to all of Arvum. The Compact supported Stormwall, helped it rebuild, and now, they must stand as sentinels and shields.

He encourages any contribution to the great effort, from the small: meals cooked, tools mended, songs sung, to the large: boatloads of timber and quarried stone.

This exhoration of effort extends to /any/ encountered, bolstering and coordinating with Scythia.

Peri uses her knowledge of war to command and work with those under her authority to

1) Manage the logistics of naval approaches to various islands, some of which may harbor dangerous and hostile elements.
2) Plan the emplacement of signal towers and work out the logistics of their use (especially in war). This will allow for expansion of the signaling network which in turn allows for quick marshaling of forces in events like invasion fleets or for marshaling help during natural disasters.
3) Perform blockades on any islands harboring hostile elements. This will shrink their resources and lead to their defeats.

Michael Bisland makes it known wide and clear that House Seliki takes precedence in naval matters across Bisland. Its true, isn't it? Admiral Peri Seliki being a Seliki and in charge of Bisland's Navy in its entirety.

No one likes dealing with the finer details. Well almost no one. Mika on the other hand does all the book keeping and the inventory tracking. She also makes sure that none of them get ripped off during this large investment. Though it is the others that go and see her work. She just makes sure that everything is in place for them when they go.

Asher knows that building a structure requires more than just good masonry these days; iron and steel are needed. The same can be said of repairs for ships. He will be on the spot as requested, to hammer out whatever is needed for the building of these temporary towers, as well as repairs for ships that invariably will take damage during any skirmishes or upon the reefs and such. If necessary, he can also repair or craft armaments for those in battle.

The Eurusi fleet on the way to Sungreet isn't all there is to worry about. There are already Eurusi ships landing with people fleeing fighting in the Dune Kingdoms - ostensibly, anyway. There's also a whole world of cultists and other servants of darkness and demons even before Eurus got into the mix, too, as Mia is well-aware. She has the language skills (Eurusi, Crownlands shav, Northlands shav) to listen in on most of the Eurusi or Abandoned they might find on Crownlands-adjacent isles, and if there are refugees that aren't really refugees -- spies or cultists or other adversarial plotters amongst the Abandoned they find -- she'll be able to find them out and signal the appropriate fighting forces. Alternatively, if there are friendly -- or at least non-hostile -- locals with misgivings about their home islands getting scooped up for this purpose, she'll be able to further help tune diplomatic messaging to address their particular concerns. Mia has, after all, taken in refugees more than once. She took in several hundred of former Abandoned that were freed in Kennex's reforms -- specifically those whose tribes had been otherwise wiped out by Thrax raiders and Abbas' plagues -- as well as tribes fleeing oncoming threats from the North and from Shavsbane during the flare ups from the Great Road and the attack on the Lodge. She has a reputation of being good on her word when she offers protection to those in need and of a willingness to work together against threats to Arvum as a whole, and a long-standing one at that.

Thesarin is not at home on boats. When it comes to the details of naval warfare, he's more than content to let Seliki's admiralty handle the overarching strategy.
On the matter of ground combat, however, he's rather undisputed as a master of the practice. The War Chief of Riven will be helping the Seliki defenses in their deployment and preparation, where they can hold and how to best allow defense and escape; on any islands where there's intractible resistance to be found, he'll lead soirties and raids to allow the defenders at their work, and drive out packets of reavers or pirates as need be. He's never been a man to shy from leading soldiers by example.

It's not cheap or easy to construct a series of watchtowers on islands, and geography doesn't make it easier, as there's certainly islands, but they aren't exactly in a perfect semi-circle around the coast or have spacing that could be ideal. Which creates a very irregular claiming of islands, and one island that's essentially a slab of rock jutting from the sea is perfect since it's several hundred feet above sea level, and building a several hundred foot tower gives immense cover over the coast, but it's a tower that will have to be supplied repeatedly at expense time and again. Still, they get it done with construction on uninhabited islands proceeding immediately, as Thesarin gives his expertise on the strategic deployment that could best give warning on likely fleet movements.

Inhabited islands are trickier.

On two islands, nomadic groups simply flee rather than talk to the Compact. Scythia manages to talk to two groups, Clan Redbone and House Waltherton. Clan Redbone is happy to bend the knee as long as their cultural traditions are respected. Like, say, cannibalism. They are pretty defensive of that, in that they only eat convicted criminals and they are cooked first so it's not like they are savages. Still, that probably won't fly. House Waltherton on the other hand claims the land where Pearlspire rests, saying they have claims to it from the time of the Reckoning. They'd settle for half of the current city being set aside for their use, or being introduced into the Compact as a great house. These seem unlikely.

But, Seliki expands its territory, and watchtowers for (nearly) complete coverage are established. It'd be nice to have the islands Waltherton or Redbone claim, but it's probably not strictly necessary.

Action by Reese for Skal'dajan Diplomacy

(Public Action, OOC Date: March 14, 2020, 1:31 p.m.)

3871 Reese is going to be leading the Crownlands Defense at the Mouth of the Gray River. She is coordinating her action with an action to help the defense that will be lead by Marquis Malesh. She is heading to the mouth of the Gray River with a good portion of the Grayson military and with allies. The goal of this defense is to make sure that the Eurusi do not enter the Crownlands through the Gray River route. The goal is to protect Grayson lands, The lands of Grayson vassals and to protecte the crownlands. In order to be mobile, Reese will be bringing the Grayson navy along with her. Everything done here has been coordinated with Princess Liara.

She will bring the cavlary with the hopes that they can be mobile, moving to differen stations along the river as need be. They are sending some of the Archers, Pike men and Infantry to Thrax and a few will need to stay in Compact as well. STill she will have 1000 infantry, five hundred pike and 500 archers with her. This will be the less mobile force stationed near the mouth of the river where she thinks the eurusi would land. If they do land she hopes to attack the Eurusi right as they dock to get the upper hand if possible.

The cavalry and ships will be ready for movement. She is working the House Deepwood (Rymarr and Jessa), House Whikehawk (Jauffrey) and house Ashood (Rhiannon). House Stonewood is doing a seperate, but related action at the same area and Reese plans to communicate closely with them. Reese wants to be ready to move as needed, to response to orders and to be alert to any messages from the King or Liara. 4

The 1st Banner under the command of Marquis-Consort Rymarr Deepwood sets out from Old Oak to join with the gathering banner of the Crownlands. Under General Reese Grayson's instruction the plan is to wait for possible incursion by the Eurusi into the Compacts lands and catch them when they're making landfall. So that's the plan he intends to follow. On the prospective battlefield he sets himself about the task of organize his troops, conveying orders through Captains, and delegating some of the command responsibilities to Lady Jessa Deepwood. If this will be their place to defend, then Rymarr sets about the task of ordering defenses and pickets established in order to defend that beachhead against a threat to the Compact.

The 2nd Banner under the command of Lady Jessa Deepwood is called to arms. The Infantry is set in parallel to the 1st Banner. Jessa and Rymarr have coordinated a tag-team cohesion, ensuring their armies can have each other's backs in a pinch. Her defense is primarily for the innocent people in the area, focused on being the solid line (or wall of Woods) between Eurus at the coast and the rest of the Compact.

Rhiannon, as the Ashford General, is bringing all the Ashford troops to bear that are not under other leadership for this engagement. She leads the bulk of the Ashford troops to protect Grey River. Rhiannon doesn't just have the Ashford Infantry, she is a scout at heart and she will have some scouts at her disposal to be located along the river mouth and the land leading to the river. These scouts have ways to signal through sound and hidden markings in the forests to share information with infantry or cavalry to have a heads up on any movement toward the river by hostile forces. She leads these Ashford information networks just by sending out troops to keep an eye out.

The bulk of the Ashford Troops will be at the river at the possible landing spots into Grayson and Crown lands. They will coordinate with Princess Reese in protecting the river mouth and ensuring that this location can be defended and not used as a site for incursion into Grayson and Crown lands.

While not of a military mind, Rey is assisting House Grayson and Princess Reese with the defense of the Gray River by making sure that Brighthold is able to support the troops, offering the city and port as a place for rest and supplies. Rey will also be sure that there are mercies on hand should anyone be need in medical attention, first aid supplies and medical tents at the ready. As well as a place to use to send out patrols and the like from. Including adding Laveer's army to the troop numbers.

Cabbit must stay home this time while Bedivere heads out to the Crownlands Defense at the Mouth of the Gray River : with a whole slew of Solace and Whitehawk (with a siege weapon) behind him to join up with his fellow commanders.

Liam will join Reese with a force from the Riven lands to join in the defense of the gray river mouth. He and the Riven warriors will deploy with the main detachment allowing others to handle more scouting duties. Liam will offer what insight he can to preparing their defenses and readiness happy to hold the line in case of invaders.

It's a good, sensible plan to defend the mouth of the Gray River. Of course, it's often said that no plan survives contact with the enemy, and in this case well before it, as the strategic position has greatly changed since they first received their orders. The Eurusi fleet is being met at Sungreet by the combined forces of the Lyceum, the Mourning Isles and the Faith, and a great whirlpool now blocks Arx's harbor. This has made a defensive position there to intercept incoming Eurusi forces not as pressing a need as was originally planned.

Which is not to say that they don't have threats they need to respond to.

Word comes up from House Leary lands that a great many of the refugees may, in fact, be dangerous and they had to stop some refugees that were clearly advanced scouts of Skal'daja sent with orders to torch the farms and villages of the Crownlands. There's indications of fires and attacks throughout the Crownlands, and their forces are the ones in position to respond. So they march upriver in search of hostile forces.

Princess Reese directs scouting missions with the different forces under her command, finding evidence of minor villages being attacked and farms being burned throughout the Crownlands, and some murders of Eurusi refugees with evidence that suggests it was from Skal'dajans trying to stop innocent Eurusi from giving warning. Ashford troops under Rhiannon's command report movements from along the Gray River and the groups of refugees that have turned inland, and Laveer and Riven forces under Rey and Bedivere respectively track inland giving aid to villages that were attacked. And then it falls upon Rymarr and Jessa leading their Deepwood banners north from the river to hunt down the Eurusi saboteurs.

Rymarr and Jessa march quickly passed torched farmlands, and tragic signs of farmers put to the sword, of Grayson, Bisland and other vassals cut down as they worked their land. As Rymarr presses his troops for speed, the first signs of smoke are seen, and he steadily follows a line of ravaging towards Deepwood lands, including passing a slaughtered picket near Deepwood's borders. Several dozen dead soldiers, but they had bought time, and it's not long after that at a small hamlet named Lost Tree near Old Oak that Rymarr and Jessa find the raiders.

There's not many of them. A few dozen mounted Eurusi who had been riding hard and burning and killing everything on their way. The hamlet of Lost Tree is aflame when they arrive, the huts burned and bodies of cut down villagers in the street. There's the sounds of battle as raiders ride down villagers, and Rymarr sees a pair of templars desperately trying hold the door of the local church, where the children had managed to be ushered for safety. There's only a handful of armed villagers, and a robed Eurusi barking orders is pointing his scimitar at the church.

Rymarr and Jessa lead the charge, their archers taking mounted Eurusi off their horses while some crossbow fire comes in return. Jessa brings her forces around to encircle the village and to be certain none of the mounted raiders could ride off into the woods and continue their slaughter, and her pikemen manages to plug potential escape routes as Jessa matches swords with an Eurusi raider. The clash of her diamondplate sooted blade Storm's Fury splits the air as the Eurusi slashes again and again with his scimitar, but Jessa finds and opening and cuts the man down.

Rymarr is charging through the hamlet, cutting a rider off his horse that comes at him, and Rymarr doesn't even break stride as he parries another charging Eurusi and cuts the man in half.

The robed Eurusi points at the templars guarding the church, and both of the men scream and tumble over, bursting into a black flame that turns them to ash where they stand. The fighting is quickly dying down with most of the Eurusi down to Deepwood soldiers as Rymarr and as the robed figure turns and starts to gesture towards Rymarr, the Marquis of Old Oak cuts the Eurusi's arm off, sending him sprawling off his horse and mortally wounded.

There's a haunting bubbling laugh that comes from the dying Eurusi bleeding on the ground, who with his remaining hand lifts a dagger up and then plunges it into his own heart, his laughter silencing. And then the ground rumbles. Jessa, Rymarr and most of the Deepwood soldiers struggle to contain their footing as the ground shakes from a sudden, impromptu earthquake, and Rymarr is coming to his feet when he is thrown back towards the church as the ground by him and the corpse of the Eurusi suddenly erupts in a gyser of flame and a beastial inhuman roar that further shakes the earth.

From the cracked earth, a clawed black fist as large as a man rises from the ground, slowly pulling a mishapen beast from the earth. The scaled monstrosity looks like a mix of alligator, ox and man, with horned tusks, scales and rows of fangs in an elongated snout. Covered in flames and hulking at twenty feet at the shoulder, it bellows in rage and stares at the church where the villagers and their children are hiding and starts moving forward, as Deepwood archers feather arrows at it.

And the only one standing between the demon and the church is Marquis Rymarr Deepwood, once of the King's Own.

What stands in the memory of the Deepwood soldiers afterwards is the complete lack of hesitation on the part of the Marquis of Old Oak. The roar of the beast has hardened soldiers turning pale and stumbling backwards, screaming in terror, and Rymarr is running as well- but he's running directly at the beast.

The beast's clawed fist swipes at Rymarr, and he batters away the claw, his alaricite shield bending under the inhuman pressure. Rymarr's alaricite sword flashes, cutting the hand away as he charges, slashing the underbelly of the beast and drawing a cry of pain and rage.

A frightening fast turn of the beast's body and a massive tail slams into Rymarr from the side, but he rolls away on the ground before its maw finds him and snaps him up. Rymarr then slashes into it's jaw, drawing another roar as he's splashed with the black acidic ichor of its blood, and Rymarr's shield is torn away by another claw that finally catches around his waist as his alaricite armor makes a shrill squeal as it bends under the demonic strength.

The Marquis slashes off a demon's finger, but the beast lifts him into his maw. Its fangs that are the size of a man's arm closing in on him, and biting through his armor with a horrifying crunch as it tries to swallow him. As the fangs pierce through Rymarr's chest and his upper body enters the beast's mouth, he thrusts his sword up with all his might, the blade piercing all the way up through its skull.

The beast's monstrous body turns black and begins to disintegrate into ash and smoke, with Rymarr falling to the ground as Deepwood troops rush and surround him. His body ravaged, the Sir Rymarr Lyonesse and Marquis Rymarr Deepwood of Old Oak lets out a final shuddering breath. It's silent in the village, save for the sobs of relief from the villagers in the Church. Not much is said for a very long time, but all the soldiers and villagers agree.

None had seen a man die as valorously as Rymarr.

Action by Lou for Skal'dajan Diplomacy

(Public Action, OOC Date: March 14, 2020, 1:11 p.m.)

Lou has been tasked by Liara to reach out to the various sects of Abandoned within the Crownlands and to convince them to join the Compact in protecting Arvum. As such, she has put together a team of people to help with this journey, making sure they are properly outfitted, to tour the various areas of the Crownlands that Lou knows contains abandoned (from her previous work in @aciton 2263), particularly along the coastal regions, to complete this task. Her goals for this task are to:

1) Go to the Abandoned villages or tribes she knows are not tainted by the Abyss to have an open discussion about the latest threat from Eurus. First, Lou reminds those she's places visited that she's there before, and she's worked with them where she was able. Second, she makes sure the villages know that she's not there for slaughter, but honest open discussion and a good faith offer. Then, finally she discusses that Eurus is spoiling for war, they are known slavers, and they are infamous for taking slaves largely from the Abandoned tribes who do not readily have a force of people who'd fight for them. She tells them this information not to scare them, but to let them know what's at stake and what it might cost them to ignore the threat that's coming.

2) To ask them to join the Compact in aiding with the defense of Arvum. And, by doing this, she uses her position as Voice of Grayson to offer them an opportunity to join the fealty chain of House Grayson and a more permanent means of laying down roots on the land that they already inhabiting, as potential vassals of the various noble houses of House Grayson; the details of which vassal houses they'd join to be worked out at a later date and until that time they'd be members of House Grayson directly. By joining the fealty chain of House Grayson, they'd be given the protection of the Compact, as well as a means to start trading with the various members of the Compact.

She makes this offer in good faith as Voice, in part because having more people to defend the Compact would be useful, but also because she's certain the Abandoned may also be a good source of information on knowledge long since lost to the compact, much like the tribe of the Wolfheart people provided (Action 1418, @cal 1156). By adding them to the Compact, they also grow their knowledge base as well, and may be able to better fend off other dangerous threats.

Selene brings a light touch, building on her experience with the Great Road where she followed Thena (action 3099) and Reese (action 3088) to build that tremendous goodwill that strengthened the Grayson forces. The Crown, the Grayson fealty, and importantly the army have brought many benefits to Prodigals who bent the knee. They have quelled many of the battles and quarrels that afflict the Abandoned, and provided potent opportunities for those who joined up. She can sing the praises of House Seliki's endeavors to bring wealth and livelihoods with real value to those who settled among them, how Mia Riven opened her doors and absorbed many displaced Abandoned, then defended them. She orchestrates this diplomacy quietly and directly, a warm smile and a very real interest in the concerns that are raised among those so different from herself. She musters the forces of Whisper House where they might wish to accompany her, organizing the apprentices and other fully ranked Whispers to provide assistance to Lou's endeavours. After all, /peace/ is a foremost concern and a message she speaks (title: Whisper of Peace after all) with quiet, persistent purpose far and wide to draw them in. Separate, they fall, each one of them weak enough to pick off. Together, they are bound to be stronger, more certain to endure.

Felicia is particularly along on this trip to help keep the diplomats safe, but also because of her familiarity with some tribes further up the coast from Grayson. An opportunity to speak with the previously encountered Yorn (action 3562) and other 'neutral' tribes again- to reconnect with those she made headway with and provide them with more assistance. Though she knows of the Kous out there, too, her recommendation to the diplomatic team is to not approach them. This also gives her the opportunity to check the veracity of information previously provided in preparation for other actions in the future.

Invited along by Lou Grayson as her protege, Lord Martino Malvici will be putting his ability to speak before a crowd to the test again. They may have heard of his efforts in doing just this outside Southport recently (Action 3882) and so perhaps more have come along this time.

He will further amplify the points made by Lou about the benefits of life within the Compact and setting up roots. How some have done just that in the south and how House Malvici cares for them. That House Grayson will do the same for them and ensure their safety, prosperity and families will thrive. That the Compact also respects a good number of traditions so there is no total loss of their identity.

For any in the crowd that can speak Lycene Shav, he can speak privately in their native tongue where needed.

Harlan will be going along with the Princess Lou Grayson, bringing the additional power that he and Ashford brings to the table. He knows that convincing Abandoned to join the Compact directly may be a large jump, and is willing to accept a smaller jump: That if the Abandoned don't wish to join the Compact, that they at least agree to not fight -for- the Eurusi, reinforcing the fact that the Eurusi are known slavers, and that Ashford (along with the rest of the Compact) is anti-slavery, bringing up Ashford's recent acceptance of and assistance to ex-Thralls as well. He will also reinforce Selene's message of peace and unity, stressing that the Compact and people are only strong when they fight together. Within Ashford, he will also work to get in touch with Clan Tree-Runner (clue 3660) more directly, although he knows it will be a hard sell -- but at least he wants to reach out, attempting to make peace.

Quintin's a middling diplomat at best, but he's got a sharp mind for tactics and he goes along to keep people safe and get to know the lay of the land. Mostly he's scouting and determining the best uses of land and fighters. He's also going to be coming from the angle of how the Abandoned are stronger with the Compact and the benefits they'd gain from the Compact's additional resources. In a military sense!

It's not easy.

Selene Whisper is one of the finest diplomats in the Compact and Harlan and Martino are talented, which manages to at least get three different clans to the table without violence. That's hard enough in itself, as all of the Abandoned are ones that have studiously resisted attempts to get them to bend the knee during the Silent War or the Gyre War and other diplomatic entreaties, and most have generational grievances against the Compact or at least local houses.

Clan Grayfall would bend the knee if its leadership are ennobled, joined by a marriage pact for protection to a noble Crownlands house. Their lands are relatively in between Ashford and Bisland lands in the Gray Forest, in a particularly difficult area to patrol of cliffs and valleys.

Clan Greatharrow is a relatively mercenary group that has often acted for pay for other Abandoned, and they'd take gifts, but refuse to take a pay cut just for a small matter like an existential threat. Their lands are Northeast of Arx, near Harrowhall, and they'd bend the knee as commoners for roughly 30,000 resources (of any type), or 15 million silver. Otherwise, they intend to flee to the Everwinter and wait matters out.

The Glorians would bend the knee if their extremely heretical worship of Gloria monotheism is protected, and they are all made formal members of the Templars. This particular clan were made up of godsworn that went rogue during the time of Marach the Apostate, who broke godsworn vows and seized lands near where the Gray Forest meets the Red Mountains.

They all could bend a good bit, but they all have difficult demands.

Action by Aindre for Skal'dajan Diplomacy

(Public Action, OOC Date: March 14, 2020, 8:01 p.m.)

Since the calling of banners, Prince Aindre Grayson has been drilling Grayson soldiers from the detachment given over to his leadership by the Princess of Bastion. These soldiers, though dutiful, no doubt wonder and quietly grumble about sailing off to fight in the Mourning Isles for someone else so far from home so Prince Aindre leans into leadership and reminds them of the Compact's truth, of what it means to stand together and fight, especially now with so many potential enemies watchful over them. He rallies his soldiers to embrace the battle, reminding them that they're warriors of the Greatest House in Arvum and it is their duty to turn back any and all evils - especially slavers and heretics against the Gods - from the very same shores upon which their families call home.

Drilling five-thousand soldiers is no small feat but Prince Aindre is a leader of men and so he delegates as a leader should, shaking out veteran soldiers experienced with the fighting conditions in the Mourning Isles and across ships and promoting them to drill-marshals on a temporary basis to help prepare the rest of the men. Silver is turned over and so are owed favors to ensure Aindre's detachment of fighting men are armed and armored and warm as can be managed in such wet, distant conditions as the Isles.

When militaries begin to stir though it's hard to escape notice and along the way Prince Aindre manages to pick up several of the Compact's more noteworthy killers and healers - some not even from his own fealty if just to be a leading example for his men of how we must all stand united - and a few exchanges with the Grandmaster of the Templar even finds the Grayson helping to transport a large number Gloria's finest to their crusade. Their presence, and with it Gloria's presence, should only help to further inspire the men that Prince Aindre is leading to battle.

When and if the time comes, House Grayson stands more than prepared to fall in with House Thrax and anyone else to turn away these monsters.

Orelia has one thing in mind where this mission is concerned: to fight. This is why she volunteered for Prince Aindre's mission, and she she helps drill his troops. There is something evil that they will be facing, and she will not only face it so the rest of the Compact doesn't have to, but she will live to tell about it.

Countess Aella Ravenseye is no stranger to assisting the Mourning Isles, having done so during the Gyre War. This time, instead of directly beneath House Thrax, she has been offered a place among house Grayson and their forces. The Admiral of her own fleet, she will encourage those of Stormheart to join in the fight and sail with them to defend the compact. She will see that the Stormheart Naval Yard is producing ships at a faster rate. Most importantly, she will lead her people to bolster the call for the defense of the Compact, sailing with her fleet, and the Grayson's, towards the east.

Lady Clara Crovane is here as a combat medic but will utilize her skills as a Shaman and Deathspeaker as needed as well. However, she primarily focuses on keeping people alive and ensuring they remain healthy. She stays out of the way of the diplomats unless she's called in as a translator for Northlands Shav and simply leads her medics as necessary.

It's an awful lot of work, drilling a few thousand soldiers and readying a fleet of House Grayson.

Prince Aindre's detachment comes together in far faster time than most would expect, a testament to the command abilities of the prince, with Orelia, Aella and Clara aiding where they can in the drilling and preparing to sail. It seems like no time at all before they are on the sea and helping to transport templars from all over the Crownlands, and without Aindre's drive and disciplined approach to command, there is simply no way the templars would have arrived at Sungreet before the Eurusi did, putting them in a terrible strategic position.

They have extremely fair winds surprisingly, the entire trip. Aella does not seem particularly surprised by this, and some of the men are even a little unnerved by how unnaturally easy going it is, but their forces are some of the first to make landfall at Sungreet.

Then, as in the case of any war, comes a lot of waiting.

For a time it seems that the matter will be resolved peacefully. On the land there's quite a bit of meetings between the forces of the Faith and House Helianthus before the Eurusi arrive, but Aindre knows that the Faith intends to try to arrest a duke in his own domain, which suggests trouble. And when the Eurusi do arrive, it isn't long before trouble finally starts.

The first fights on land are between the Faith and forces of House Helianthus. And then Aindre spots smoke coming from Sungreet, and a full thrall rebellion is in progress. and then the Eurusi are trying to land, and that settles that.

The vessels under his command maneuver to intercept one of the Eurusi flotillas from their massive fleet, and Aindre is leading a boarding action against an enemy dromond. His disciplined soldiers swarm around him, as the ships under his command ram and board. Aindre gets into a brutal swordfight with an enemy captain, as men all around him are cut down and arrow fire rains in all directions. Orelia is nearby, her fighting style like a dance as she parries and rolls with attacks, cutting several men down while moving with a liquid grace. Clara is helping see to the wounded, and a Aindre himself gets a nasty cut across the cheek by an enemy captain before he runs the man through and the body tumbles into the ocean.

And just as soon, the fight is dying down. Aindre's forces destroyed an enemy flotilla as thousands landed on shore. The Eurusi forces are fighting with one another, and he sees Helianthus troops fighting against one another as well, with some on the side of the Faith and the rebelling thralls.

Two thirds of the Eurusi fleet is withdrawing, less a half dozen ships he's now claimed, and his own ships aren't in a position to pursue, though that would be unwise against the much larger fleet. A won battle, but the first blood in a new war.

With the whirlpool blocking the mouth of the Gray River and the Skal'dajan fleet still enroute, most of the patrols by Crownlands forces along the Gray River were to see to the safety of Eurusi refugees traveling throughout the Compact. Marquis Rymarr Deepwood oversaw one such effort, and uncovered a plot by Skal'dajan saboteurs to attack farmland in the Crownlands. Several villages were burned, farms attacked and destroyed by raiders, until Marquis Rymarr Deepwood brought them to battle in a hamlet named Lost Tree. Details are scarce, but Rymarr died in single combat defeating an Eurusi champion who was attempting to murder villagers in the local church.

It takes precious time for the forces of the Faith to gather in strength, and speed is of the utmost importance, as the forces of the Faith wished to arrive at Sungreet before the Skal'dajan fleet. So as the full forces of the Faith continued to muster, Preston landed at Sungreet with several thousand templars, supported by troops of House Blackram, House Blanchard, and House Crovane. There the Faith announced the excommunication of Duke Ivan Helianthus, and laid the terms for his redemption. He was required to deny the Eurusi harbor and rejected his prior actions and provocations. It was an attempt to end the matter peacefully. But House Helianthus delayed, and attempted to buy time for the Skal'dajan fleet to arrive, leaving Sir Preston little choice. He declared Duke Ivan Helianthus an apostate, which carries with it exile and an effective death sentence. For a moment, there was a hope that House Helianthus would give up their duke. But only for a moment.

The Battle of Sungreet had begun.

The battle at Sungreet was particularly brutal, with House Helianthus having retained the services of sellsword companies like the Undrowned Sons. Losses are heavy, with the templar and allied forces under Preston fighting to gain access to the city. Blackram forces hold off cavalry charges under Teagan's guidance. Rysen's crovane warriors manage to seize high ground against archer positions, and steadily the main line of the templars advanced while taking fire from ballistae on the city walls. Deaths mounted, and House Helianthus was holding, but smoke was coming from inside the city.

Inside the city of Sungreet, mass fighting had broken out in the streets. Thralls had slipped their bonds and were armed, and rising up in a great thrall rebellion against House Helianthus. As House Helianthus struggled to respond, the templars saw House Helianthus troops fighting each other as well, with Duke Ivan Helianthus' son and heir leading troops against him. House Helianthus lines had begun to crumble.

As templars cheer and feel the battle is won, war drums are heard from the beaches as the first Skal'dajan troops make landfall in position to attack the templar forces in the rear. The attack by the Skal'dajan forces is brutal as Ivan Helianthus' loyalists rally, and thousands of templars are cut down on the battlefield by Eurusi elite forces called 'the Anointed Masters'. One such foe was slain by Lady Tescelina Wyrmguard, but she died in the act of defiance.

The Eurusi forces were surrounding the templar forces to attempt to prevent retreat, entrap the force, and completely annihilate the Compact army.

Even as the templar forces, the rebelling thralls and Helianthus soldiers under Lord Trevor Helianthus fight desperately against the Eurusi troops, a second wave of Eurusi soldiers makes landfall with thousands more fresh troops sweeping in. The templars realize they need to desperately try to cut through the Eurusi lines before the second force can join, and valiantly attempt to save what of Preston's command they can, when the second Eurusi force promptly attacks the first Eurusi force. At the head of the friendly Eurusi are Crown Prince Damik'uhl'daja of Skal'daja, Lady Monique Greenmarch, Lady Alessia Mazetti, and Prince Sebastian Pravus with Anisha and Delia Whisper in the rear. The newest forces prove decisive, and the battle quickly turns into a rout, with Eurusi and Duke Ivan Helianthus' forces being driven from the city. The fights toward the docks and beaches are particularly brutal, with unfortunately a large percentage of the withdrawing forces escaping by ships to join the Eurusi fleet.

Roughly a third of the Eurusi fleet under Crown Prince Damik'uhl'daja has decided to support the Compact. The remaining two thirds is sailing hard away from Sungreet to the South and Southwest, which is very much not returning to Eurus.

The Crown Prince of Skal'daja has rejected his family and asked 'how does one join the Compact?'. Unfortunately, it seems in winning him over Swift Grayhope was mortally wounded in the fighting when the Eurusi attempted to assassinate the Crown Prince. She's hardly the only notable that fell. The woman known as Prism (or perhaps Triscali, as in the ancient queen?) was wounded as well, but she has seemed to regain consciousness. Losses among templar forces were brutal, perhaps three quarters of the force are dead or badly wounded. And while the city of Sungreet has been captured with Lord Trevor Helianthus turning against his father, the Duke did escape as well as with nearly two thirds of the Skal'dajan forces, likely sailing against the Saffron.

And unfortunately, with Duke Ivan Helianthus' survival, civil war in the Mourning Isles could well be inevitable.

It doesn't take long before the words of Duke Ivan Helianthus arrive in Arx, spread across thousands of parchments in the city for all to read, and submitted as white journals.

"To what was once known as the Compact of Arvum,

Since the start of the Compact, it has fallen upon the Mourning Isles to valiantly defend traditions, time and again. Traditions that have been necessary for our survival of the Mourning Isles and all the houses which have long defended these shores. And for the past decade, we have witnessed one assault after another on those traditions. When a baseborn woman served as highlord of House Grayson, we said nothing, as it was not our house. When another baseborn defeated Highlord Donrai Thrax's grandson and heir in a ridiculous combat with no merit and declared himself highlord, again, we said nothing, as it was not our quarrel. When this imposter in Maelstrom appointed a woman as duchess to House Tyde and restored it, again, we said nothing, as it was House Thrax which brought it low. When he scorned our traditions of who can serve in battle, again and again, we said nothing.

We have watched from the Isles as the King married a shav, and madmen call them elves. We have watched as commoner after commoner are raised up to nobility, with no appreciation of what that means, and no concept of honor or dignity. We have seen the Faith of the Pantheon invent three new gods, declaring for their worship, and tolerating a madman who claims to be a god in Arx. We have seen excuse after excuse, whispers of magic to cover up corruption, as they spit upon everything the Compact once stood for. Does one think a 'legate' of a position that did not exist barring a few short years has any religious authority to cast me down? Is this the Compact we knew, are these the Mourning Isles we fought for?

No. But there is an answer.

We have received word that one can come and set this to right. This Compact is false, but there IS a Compact that will have us. King Alaric Grayson III, King of the Compact, Sovereign of Arx, Ruler of Arvum, father of the current 'king' Alaric IV is ALIVE. He never perished when he was lost during the Tyde Rebellion, but has been winning lands for the Compact in Eurus, and he will come HOME.

And so, I urge every house in the Mourning Isles, every TRUE house of the Compact to welcome the return of the true king, and know that your fealty still lies with him.

Duke Ivan Helianthus, sworn to King Alaric Grayson III, Dune Emperor of Eurus"