Chapter 55: Ride to the Rhodoks
26 November 1263, 9 PM
Today everyone is more alive than they had ever been. I had swiped them up with my speech, and Calradia showed them a reason to be angry. Burning rocks had fallen from the sky, creating large mushroom shaped clouds upon impact. It was a display of force never showed before. But instead of cowering, my men were even more determined to fight the lands, to bring down the old empire that had taken root inside everyones head. Even tough it was no more, it was still remembered, and there it got its real power. Memories keep ideas alive. If I could destroy that memory, the world would truly be mine.
When the sounds of impacts and cheering had died away, I selected two hundred of my finest men. They will accompany me with the first wave of attacks on the Rhodoks. Once they fall on the field - I know that it would be no 'if' - they can easily be replaced by brave new - and experienced - soldiers. I just can't support my whole army on the field: attrition will kill too many knights who are already too eager to die in battle. It is unfortunate, for had I been able to take them all, I might end all trouble without any real resistance.
All men were ready for action, for they had been ordered to be so yesterday. Now they knew why. Once I had chosen the lucky ones, we were able to leave within just a few hours. An army the like no-one had seen before: the best soldiers from all factions, side by side, riding to the Rhodoks to usurp the last remnants of that faction, as I had done with the Swadians, Vaegir and Khergit. As the gates closed behind us, I knew that I would only return with bad news, for I would only reappear with the need of new soldiers - meaning that hardened warriors had fallen, died in battle. I looked one more time at the city, only to find my gaze wandering off to the tower where I had examined my wife. Did I imagine it, or was there really someone gazing down on me from the open window? It would be even faster than I had imagined. In Calradia nobles don't die, so I can imagine that lady Nelda would be really pissed at me. I'd rather fight ten wars than face her in her current condition. With these thoughts haunting my mind, I looked away. Forward, that's where me and the united army of Calradian soldiers will be going.In the fading light of the evening I rode with my army away from my capital.
The first steps outside the gate showed me the face of our enemy. My speech had rocked the land, and it had fought back with all it had got. Earthquakes had shaken the trees,throwing them all around the place. Some farms hadn't had the strength to withstand this heavy force, and had collapsed, burrowing unfortunate farmers beneath the straw roofs and wooden or - in some unlucky cases - stone walls. Crying wailed up from the fresh ruins, and I ordered my men to free whoever had the breath to shout for help. This was just the first strike Calradia had made against my people: seeing the suffering, my men shouted out their frustrations. Was this the Calradia they had believed in?
Riding further, we could see the effect the snow and ice had. Blizzards had raged outside the walls, freezing anything in their path. It looked like the sky had fallen down. Snow covered the trees, rivers were frozen, pools were turned into ice. The world had become an even paler place than it had been around here. Even the wildlife hadn't survived nature's onslaught. We soon found out that frozen food remains fresh for a remarkably long time, and my men rejoiced. For the second time Calradia had failed to scare my soldiers, to drive them away from the path I had laid in front of them. No, their loyalty was beyond any doubt.
After travelling for an hour, we finally saw the result of the third manifestation, and everyone fell silent. The sky had rained fire, molten rocks burning a path through the air. When touching the land they had scarred it beyond recognition. Big black craters laid spread out all over the fields, giving the once white landscape a touch of hell. Fires had raged though the woods - as far as they hadn't been crushed by the rocks creating those craters, blackening the land. The snow from before was replaced by ash, which still came down as a foul rain. Thick clouds and dark dust covered the sky, obscuring the sun from time to time. It might take a while before normal light would return to these lands.Looking out over the land, I could see the scars the fireballs had left.
The sight of so much destruction silenced even the most talkative bard among us. Without a word we rode on. I could feel the anger boiling up among the troops. They hadn't believed in a perfect past, but in an abomination, a monster ready to strike anyone who dared to disobey. It had stretched three of its four claws, but had failed to bring the men back under its hood. It was loosing the battle even before it had begun. Still there was one more claw left: the sea, who takes and gives. I knew it was saving it for me alone. It's inevitable. But when it comes, I will be ready.
The men now thought they knew the real enemy. That now they had witnessed the powers of nature, they would be up against the real thing. How wrong they are. There is only one real enemy, and he is walking among them. They don't recognise him, even if he's staring them in the eyes. I look around me, and can't help but to feel sorry for them. The war to end all wars has begun, and in the end it will consume them. My dreams have shown the real enemy, and my wife confirmed it. I don't know yet what these people are, but human they are not. Humans age, are being born and die of old age. I can't say what these Calradians are, all I know is that I'm more than a stranger in faraway lands: I'm the sole human being trodding this forsaken country. Are they angels or demons? Or maybe fairies or elves, like the superstition the peasants back home believe in? The absense of any church and the presence of these creatures tells me that I'm not anymore on the world God has created. Maybe that's the reason he doesn't reply to my prayers for guidance.
But whatever the men around here are, I know that deep inside they are good people, definitely standing above any low animal. Men are still rotten on the inside: given an impossible choice, the animal crawls out and takes over. Men are beasts. I am a monster. It is me, Floris, who is the real enemy - the destroyer walking among people. But they are too good to even start phantoming that. Especially the nobles, for they can't die, can they? The old masters had seen in my eyes that I had learned the truth, that I now know that I'm in strange lands beyond God's grasp, that I can't be fooled anymore and that it would only be a matter of time before I would find a way to destroy it all. Looking at the craters all around me, I think I found it.Night is falling for Calradia. I doubt that the country will ever be the same again.
Darkness is falling over Calradia, and I don't know when the sun will shine again. Maybe it won't 'till I have perished, something I won't do before shaping the world in my image. The only thing I don't know yet is why I'm here, and even more importantly, will I ever see my real
wife again? I have my suspicions, but they are something not to be uttered lightly. Definitely not now the night is nigh and the camp is being set up. Tomorrow will be another day full of marching, for we ride to the Rhodoks.
Here is a picture Floris' current stats:
This was the last of the five chapters that describe the events on 26 November 1263. I used these chapters also to tell what happened during the two and a half years (!) of peace. IT is quite extraordinary that no faction has waged war with each other for such a long time, and I must admit that it was a bit of a drag to play. But I used this time well: I trained a lot of men, and gained a few levels myself.
Not everyone liked the direction I headed with these five chapters. There was no fighting, and Floris seems to become madder with every word he utters. Don't worry about the lack of wars: that's something that's going to change in the coming chapters, for now I'm invading the Rhodoks. I still need to play the fights and sieges, but I'm sure that this will be like the good ol' fighting days. As for his mental devellopment: I am
working towards an end, and this is all part of it. You'll see how it plays out.
Since there are no changes on the map yet
, I made a few more background pictures. I took some from old chapters, and brushed them up. This time I didn't resize it into every possible size. Maybe you can guess what chapters these pictures are from?