People are afraid of making the hard decisions, the necessary decisions. They are afraid of what might happen. Afraid that something will go array. Afraid they will be criticised. Afraid that it is the wrong decision.
If you have a problem, solve it. It is as simple as that. Of course the means is not always that easy. Quite the contrary in fact. It is hard, and it is meant to be hard.
Say there are bandits attacking merchants on the road. You don’t sit back and talk about it. You eradicate them like you would any other vermin. Same is to be said about someone owing you money. If they say “I will get it to you next month.” You need to reply “No.” not bow down to their demands. Once you start on that path people will be walking over you for your entire life.
You may lose friends and supporters for taking a strong stance. And so be it.
Hard decisions need to be made regardless of the repercussions. For what is necessary is never wrong.
- Hard Truths by Jent Barrgarah of Iceguard
Year 3633, the Sixth Age, the twenty-fifth day of Spring
“Your brother Vythe is dead.”
The sudden news made everyone in the room gasp and his mother and sister began crying. Vhindr placed his hand on the shelf of the bookcase beside him to stop himself from collapsing.
“What?” Volden, the eldest of Lord Varrintine’s children exclaimed, “How? When?”
“In Sparren,” Lord Varrintine replied solemnly, “Not six days past. I just received a letter this morning from my friend Lord Delaux. He explains that he was involved in the attack the Goddess made upon Antōre.”
“Is this a joke?” Varren, the youngest son asked, “Are you speaking of the Goddess from The Prophecy of The Five, and Antōre the God?”
“This is no jest, son,” Lord Varrintine replied seriously, “For the Rifts in the sky that have only recently been cured were a result of the Prophecy. The Goddess killed Anduěr which caused the first Rift and as she killed Antōre the second Rift opened. Lord Delaux writes to say that Vythe fought with the Goddess to stop her from killing Antōre.”
“There is more news I am afraid,” Lord Varrintine continued after a pause, “With Vythe was also Fairris, Bārdin and the Nevārancien, Lieut. They all died.”
“No,” wailed Valianna, who was the youngest of the Varrintine children and the only daughter.
“Lord Deluax writes more,” their father sighed heavily before continuing. “It seems Lieut managed to kill the Goddess before succumbing to his wounds. He reports that Dhror and Melenduil appeared then and repaired the Rifts in the sky before taking the bodies of Vythe, Fairris, Bārdin and Lieut.”
“So Vythe is not dead then?” Vyard asked in confusion.
“Is he here, Vyard?” Vhindr asked angrily and his brother shook his head, “Then he is dead isn’t he? Do you really believe this Dhror and Melenduil nonsense? Lord Delaux is writing that to soften the blow that is all. Vythe is dead.”
“Lord Delaux is a friend of the family, he would not make up such a tale,” Vyard was quick to reply, “I believe that Dhror and Melenduil gave Vythe and his friends another life in an unseen world filled with joy as reward for killing the Goddess who was destroying this world.”
“Then you are a fool, brother,” Vhindr snapped and he stormed from the room.
Angrily Vhindr slammed the door behind him and ignored the calls from his family. Without a thought of where he was going Vhindr walked swiftly through the mansion and past paintings on the walls devoid of caring. Next thing he realised he was leaning on the railing of the patio at the back of the house which looked out over the gardens. The sun, Inüer, shone brightly across the family estate located on the southern highlands of the city Port Na’brath. Also known as The Port this large city was the capitol of the western realm of Sesserrech.
Trying to take his mind of the sudden and tragic news of his brother’s death Vhindr thought about the city.
Port Na’brath consisted of three sections which were divided by two rivers and connected by bridges. Of the three sections Vhindr lived in the richest part of the city, his father being the Ruling Lord of The Port, the area was called The Land of Lords. The other two sections were called The Ladder where the middle class lived, and The Pit where the poor resided.
Port Na’brath was also home to two well-known guilds, the Magi Guild and the Thieves Guild. Both of which his brother Vythe had been a member.
Vhindr gritted his teeth and fought back the tears as he tried to change his train of thought.
The Magi Guild used to be home to many individuals wanting to learn how to use the magicks of the Fog. But in recent times the cloud like substance called the Fog, which had allowed most to use magicks, had greatly disappeared and now only a few could wield its magicks.
Vythe had been particularly skilled at magicks, more so then the rest of the family.
Vhindr rubbed a hand across his face for it was no use in trying to distract his thoughts. Vythe was his brother and despite the story of Dhror and Melenduil, Vhindr new that he would never see his brother again.
“Vhindr,” the voice of his father came softly behind him, but Vhindr did not turn.
“You and Vythe were always close,” Lord Varrintine continued as they both looked across the gardens. “I have always noticed the two of you were closer to each other than the rest of your siblings. I suppose that is to be expected though, considering Vythe was only a year younger than yourself.”
Vhindr’s father let out a small laugh.
“I remember one time the two of you were playing out here,” Lord Varrintine laughed, “You must not have been older than ten. You were both messing around with a magickal ball or something and Vythe smashed one of the windows. I remember being so angry because I told you both to be careful, I was about to hit Vythe when you stepped in and said it was your fault.”
A slight smile came to Vhindr’s face, “We always persuaded each other to do stupid things that got the other in trouble.”
“But you both were always there to get the out of that trouble,” Lord Varrintine replied.
“Not this time,” Vhindr replied, his smile vanished.
Vhindr felt his father’s hand grab him warmly on the shoulder, but he refused to turn.
“Celebrate his life, my son,” his father said, “Do not morn his death for he will always be with us so long as we remember him.”
With that Lord Varrintine returned to the house and left Vhindr to continue to stare blankly across the gardens.
A few days later they held a private memorial service for Vythe in the small wilderness at the back of their lands. Vhindr stared sadly at the black stone of ebonite that had been placed at the foot of a tall tree. In golden letters carved into the rock was Vythe’s name. Beside the tomb stone sat another of his brothers. Vhaan, the twin of Vheord, who died late last year during the conflict between Vhindr’s house and the treacherous house of Cardonian.
At the time Lord Cardonian had been the ruling Lord of The Port and had a serious vendetta against house Varrintine. The conflict was resolved when Cardonian acted rashly and murdered another ruling Lord of The Port. This resulted in Cardonian being executed and house Varrintine become the ruling house.
Vhindr did not notice as the rest of his family slowly left the graves of his brothers and return to the house. He stayed there long into the evening, staring in quiet despair at the tomb stones of his two dead brothers.
“Good bye Vythe, I will miss you,” Vhindr said quietly before finally heading back towards the house.
* * *
The past few years in Essinendeür had been a difficult time for all of the six realms. During the war between Sesserrech and Krnōrel the Wyner from the land of Nevārance had invaded. The Nevārancien warriors failed in their attempts, but that was hardly the most devastating thing to come out of that war. In a large explosion the Fog disappeared from the lands along with magicks and the Goddess got free of her prison to initiate the ending of the world.
Great rifts in the sky had soon opened up as a result of the Goddess, Kreha, killing two of the so called Five Gods in her revenge.
But it seemed that all that terror and evil that had seeped into the land from the Goddess’s obsession with revenge was cured when Lieut killed her and the true Gods, Dhror and Melenduil, brought peace back to the land.
Although all was not peaceful any longer, and as far as Lord Varrintine cared peace did not exist. On top of the tragedy of learning his son Vythe was dead he had to deal with all the problems within The Port. Chief of which was the presence of the Baron of Issia and his army camped on the boarders of Sesserrech and the northern realm of Gaianaus. The reason the Baron was there was due to the fact that when Lord Cardonian had waged war with Krnōrel he had persuaded the Baron to break the Age old Treaty of Neutrality and join forces with him. The treaty had been in place to stop different realms combining forces to overpower another realm, and it was seen as a great dishonour to break it.
Lord Vincint Varrintine walked quickly through the decorative halls of one of the most important buildings in all of Port Na’brath. It was where the lords and ladies of the city spent a great deal of their time working on keeping the city in order as well as managing their personal affairs and businesses. The House of Lords was also the place where the five ruling Lords of The Port held their meetings to discuss the pressing issues of the time and try and create a solution.
A meeting of the lords was just about to begin and Lord Varrintine was late. Vincint quickly moved through the corridors feeling quite annoyed at himself. He had always hated tardiness in others so the fact that he was not punctual for this important meeting was very irritating.
Finally he reached the door to the meeting room and hurriedly pushed through to see that the other four Lords were indeed waiting for him.
“I apologise for my lack of punctuality,” Vincint said as he took up his seat at the round mahogany table.
“No need for apology, Vincint,” Lord Barristine said honestly, “Times have been difficult for all. Please allow me to extend our deepest sympathies to you and your family. Vythe and his friends are heroes none of us will soon forget.”
Lord Varrintine nodded and smiled slightly as he looked around to the other Lords in the room. After Lord Cardonian was executed, Vincint had been promoted to Ruling Lord and Barristine had moved up to second. After him was Lord Terth and then Lord Wataven, who had initially taken Lord Zanzier’s position after Zanzier’s death. The fifth Lord at the table was in fact Lady Alorren Zanzier, who had been promoted to the vacant position that had occurred when Lord Cardonian had been killed, and she was also married to Lord Varrintine’s son Vheord.
“It is good that these meetings have once again become a frequent occurrence,” remarked Lord Terth as he pushed back his short blonde hair.
“Indeed,” Lord Wataven agreed, “But I must confess that I am surprised to see a woman at this table. Would we not be better suited to have promoted Lord Herschell to fifth house?”
“No,” Vincint said emphatically, “There is no place for such remarks at this table, Wataven.”
Lord Varrintine narrowed his dark eyes at the Lord across from him. Although the house of Wataven had a very strong heritage within The Port such thoughts were taking a backwards step in his mind. But Wataven was known for such archaic beliefs and if the rumours were true throughout their history the Wataven’s allegedly disposed of any first born daughters to keep the house name the same and the blood line pure.
“I think we should begin,” Lady Alorren remarked, ignoring Wataven’s comment, “The initial panic and rioting caused by the Rift when it had opened has stopped and the guards have control of the streets again. And now that it seems the Dhror and Melenduil healed the Rifts many are breathing easier. But can we really believe that the Gods did this and the Rift will not simply open again?”
“Trust a woman to talk so emotionally,” Wataven scoffed, “There is no place for emotion here.”
“But we cannot rule anything out,” Terth cut in harshly.
“And now it seems all is well, and no longer is it the most pressing issue,” Barrestine said loudly, “Baron Ellengar is still sitting on our borders waiting for the repayment promised to him by Cardonian.”
“The Baron of Issia will in fact be here the day after tomorrow,” Vincint said seriously, “I received a letter from him this morning.”
“Will his army will be joining him?” Terth was quick to ask.
Vincint shook his head, “No, it purely a diplomatic visit. He wants what Cardonian promised him, which none of us really know what that is.”
“No doubt he wants money,” Wataven spoke up, “But how much, who knows. And likely he will ask more than Cardonian originally offered.”
“None of us have the resources to pay such a sum,” Barristine added seriously.
“Then we will just have to offer him something else,” Alorren said with a shrug.
Wataven chuckled, “Like what, my Lady? Shall we empty the vaults of the Merchant Bank? If you wish to contribute to this council please think it through first. Or perhaps you could make us some sandwiches.”
Lord Wataven continued to chuckle, but the other lords at the table did not share his mirth.
“What are your thoughts, Lady Alorren?” Vincint Varrintine asked, ignoring Lord Wataven.
“Give him Midway,” Alorren replied seriously.
“Preposterous idea,” Wataven shook his head.
“He already has possession of the town,” Alorren was quick to say, “The profits he will get from Midway will more than adequately cover whatever Cardonian promised.”
“Profits that will be lost to us,” Lord Barristine replied.
“But it will cover the insult,” Alorren was quick to say, “Cardonian’s betrayal has injured Ellengar greatly, and not just politically. We are in a bad position to be negotiating a price with the Baron. So if we offer him Midway before he voices his own wants. It will cover the debt as well as the insult.”
Silence filled the room as all the Lords considered what Alorren was proposing.
Finally Wataven grumbled loudly and shook his head, “Preposterous idea.”
“But perhaps the only viable option we have,” Vincint was quick to say and both Terth and Barrisitine nodded their heads slowly.
With a majority vote Lady Alorren’s idea was agreed upon and two days later Lord Varrintine was standing in Varrintine Square below a proud statue of himself as he watched Baron Ellengar approach.
A grand entourage rode slowly through the streets with flags of Gaianaus blowing in the breeze atop tall lances. At the head of the party rode the Baron himself wearing fine clothes and a thick green cloak around his shoulders. Trumpets sounded and many people gathered along the streets to watch the Baron meet with Vincint Varrintine.
Around the plaza many market stalls stood with their owners eager to show off their wares to the Baron as well as the Ruling Lord of Port Na’brath. Despite the serious undertones of the Baron’s visit it appeared a grand and joyous occasion.
“Baron Ellengar, you are most welcome,” Lord Varrintine greeted with a smile.
“You know why I am here Vincint,” Ellengar said quietly to Lord Varrintine as they shook hands. “Our friendship will have to be put aside during this time. I want what Cardonian promised me, and if I do not get it my banner men are pushing for me to declare war.”
“I understand,” Vincint replied softly, “We will talk more later.”
“Indeed,” Ellengar said loudly and slapped Vincint on the shoulder, “Come, show me these famous markets of yours.”
Lord Varrintine nodded and smiled as he motioned for Ellengar to accompany him through the square.
“It is a good likeness,” Ellangar said as he pointed to the grand statue of Vincint that stood in the middle of the square. “I always found it odd your tradition of placing such an ominous statue of the Ruling Lord in the middle of a plaza.”
“Such are traditions,” Vincint shrugged, “Personally I think the Magi at the guild got my eyes wrong. I look too severe.”
Ellengar laughed and Vincint joined him as they continued to pass by the market stalls.
“Not as severe as that Rift in the sky was, am I right?” Ellengar stopped and looked to the heavens. “I can still see the green crack through the sky.”
“It still has many people worried,” Lord Varrintine nodded and they both continued to look at the sky where a thin green scar could be seen slithering through the blue heavens.
“Excuse me m’lords,” called out a merchant, “Care to look at my wares?”
“Silence cur,” one of Ellengar’s personal guards said threateningly, “You will speak to the Baron only when he speaks to you first.”
“Stand down,” Ellengar said with laugh, “It is why I am here at the moment after all. What are you selling good man?”
Both the Barren and Vincint moved over to the market stall to see the items on sale.
“What is your name merchant?” the Baron asked as he looked over the beautifully crafted jewellery at the booth.
“Wilks sire,” the merchant replied hesitantly as he looked about nervously.
The Baron nodded as he looked at the brooches, “These are very beauti-”
The Baron’s words were cut short as an arrow suddenly plunged through his neck and dropped him to the paved ground.
“No,” Vincint gasped as he dropped to his knees beside his friend.
Eyes wide in horror Vincint grabbed at Ellengar’s throat as he tried to stop the flow of blood coming from the wound. The arrow had severed both arteries in the neck and the Baron’s face was quickly turning pale as his blood pooled on the pavement. There was nothing Vincint could do and he watched in despair as the Baron’s eyes widened in fear and died in his arms.