Chapter 49: Dreams made of snow
27 December 1260
For the past three months I have had every night the same dream. I find myself in Khudan, the capital of my kingdom. But as I walk the streets, they all appear to be deserted. The only footprints I can see are my own. A cold breeze chills my old bones. No-one answers my calls as I knock on several doors. No friends, no allies: no-one would come to my aid, no-one would explain what's going on. When I finally arrive at the central palace, I see two guards at the front door. As I approach them I'm shocked to discover that they are both me. But while one is even colder than the snow around me, the other radiates a heat I've never felt before. Both prevent me from entering my own home. I ask, order, shout and even try to knock them down, but they remain silent observers until they suddenly turn around, and each walk in an opposite direction. Stumped I watch them go. Are they showing me roads to follow, paths to take? I watch their departure, until I'm all alone again. That's the moment I wake up with sweat frozen on my forehead, while my heart burns. Every night, for the past three months. Except last night.In my dream I met myself twice.
What has happened to me? What has happened to the world? Before sultan Hakim had managed to bring peace to Calradia, war ravaged the countryside. The battles were numerous, as were the amount of conflicts. But even in these times of distress, there was always the hope of peace, the relieve of a quiet time in between. The world seemed a bright place at that time. But the past three months the world has grown dim. Shadows loom over the mountains, plants crumble the moment I touch them. It's not just the coming winter causing this: I can see something different is affecting the land. It looks like the spirit of Calradia is slowly fading away.
I sent Lezalit to the Sarranid desert, to ask Hakim if he'd seen these signs too. He returned without a written reply from the sultan, but his stories of the state of the palm trees standing next to the oases, told me enough. Hakim isn't blind: he must have seen these signs too. A permanent peace might lead to the destruction of the lands. Did my dreams warn me for this? I pondered it the entire night. Eventually I must have fallen asleep, since the dream returned, with only one difference: I started to follow one of my copies. I wish I could remember which one. I ran after him, through the frozen streets, with a chilly wind in my face. My dream was roughly interrupted when a fist hit me on the nose. I must have been sleepwalking, since I found myself in the middle of the town. The sun was slowly crawling over the roofs, while I lay in the snow. Some sinister figures drew their swords, their grins hidden behind dark masks. Assassins. If it wasn't for a quick reaction form the local guards, I wouldn't be writing these lines.In the early morning some assassins tried to kill me. They almost succeeded.
The following month several other attempts on my life were made. Some roughened me up pretty badly, while others were prevented before they could do any real harm. Why these fanatic attempts on my life? Who send them? Was it Hakim, the bringer of peace? These attempts started right after Lezalit had returned. Had he said something wrong at the court? Had he insulted the sultan? Even tough he denied these accusations, I can't be entirely sure he hadn't. But maybe these attempts weren't ordered by the peacebringer himself. It could be Ragnar, my old enemy, who decided that he needed revenge for the lost lands. If he could only get rid of me, a Nord victory would be assured. He could gather his armies in secret, preparing for a strike, just awaiting my death to roll over the country the way I did with him.
Whoever had ordered my execution, had achieved the opposite. Right after the first attempt on my life, I decided that I should train more. Preparations for another attempt. I'm glad I made that step, since a lot more followed. In the arenas of several different cities I fought with many trainees. Also I rode form feast to feast. Not to eat, like Harlaus would have done, but to compete in the tournaments. These events were the testing grounds of my abilities. And even tough I didn't win any of them, I noticed that each time I competed, I managed to reach further rounds. I could feel my muscles grow, my reflexes sharpen. I regained my strength and self-confidence.
If a war was coming, I couldn't win it alone. So I didn't forget my men. As I travelled from one city to the other, I took a few dozens of my soldiers with me, teaching them along the road. My trusted companions each did their part in the training of the army. Once a group had had sufficient skills with the art of war and all its aspects, I would return to Khudan and exchange them for fresh recruits, or old veterans who needed to refresh their training, as I had. Slowly the army is turning into a fighting machine these lands haven't seen before, not even when I rolled over the Nords. But I'm not there yet. Training hundreds of men takes a lot of time.To regain my strength, I trained in the arenas of different cities, and participated in several tournaments.
After travelling the lands for months, I'm now back home. Through the window in this high tower I can see snow pouring down, whitening the landscape even further. The streets look empty from up here, just like my dream. The only difference is the noise of someone climbing the stairs I hear now. He's rushing upstairs, so he's probably a messenger. What news will he bring, just a few days before the new year will come, that he needs to exhaust himself so much for it? Maybe he'll bring the final answer I've been searching? An explanation for my dreams, or the man behind these attacks? Or will he return with news of vision I experienced this night? This nights dream was so different... But I must stop writing now: I can hear him knocking my door. Affairs of the state await.
It's been a while since I posted a chapter, and I'm sorry for the long absence. I used the time in between to work on my mod pack
. While the last chapter was done in the Floris Expanded Mod Pack version 1.0, this one is made with version 2.3. Or, the best approach towards it. There were a lot of changes in the mod pack, and since my Floris savegame dates back to Native 1.113, not everything went as smooth as planned. There were some bugs that prevented me from continuing the game, but now I finally got it working. The arenas from the upcoming version 2.4 are also already used in this chapter.
Here is a picture of Floris' current stats:
Nothing has changed on the worldmap since the last time I posted one, so I decided to show you some pictures from the new arenas.