Somewhere in Dovurak
Kazahk Janbrook was knee deep in a filthy swamp. To think he had ran, thieved, and stole his way all the way from Frankmark to be halted by a ocean of mud. He would rather drown in this grimy slop then be returned to that damned Inquisitor though. He took another step, almost losing his boot in the process. It was slow going through the sea of reeds he found himself in, but at least he hadn't heard the dogs since noon yesterday. Admittedly, going headlong into the bog wasn't the smartest idea but it had been dull enough to loose the minions of god. Maybe they didn't think him as that stupid? Kazahk had already thwacked a good number of beasts on the snout for trying to have him for brunch, so maybe they wern't half wrong.
The sun was breaking through the clouds of morning dew and mist. It gave the eerie haze a warm golden glow, that did absolutely nothing to brighten Kazahk's mood. He'd have to steal himself another set of boots if he didn't want to loose his feet to any wetrot. He'd stolen a few rounds or drinks from a bar near Ballengvo, so he knew he had crossed into the border of Borkstvo days ago. The mud that clung to his stride suggested he was in Dovugrad now. If he went any further he'd need to procure himself a vessel, unless he felt like wading out to sea. It didn't like that bad of an idea now that he thought of it. Then again he was delirious from hunger and lack of sleep, and the fumes from the marsh were getting to his head. He swore he heard the nipping of horses up ahead. Could he be mistaking that trot of horseshoes for something else? But was that not the shadows of a horse walking on the mist ahead?
Kazahk frantically hopped and splashed toward the mirage. It must be a mirage, but what else did he have going for him? A promptly fell flat on his face as he reached a plateau of dry land in the middle of the swamp. Spitting out a mouthful of grass, he clawed up the hill, finding himself on a path of some sort. It meandered through the swamp as far as the eye could see, which wasn't very far at all to Kazahks eye. It must be a road for the locals, unless they all invested in stilts to get anywhere. He couldn't really argue about the small graces he was given though, and ran after the rider up ahead. Looking like a wildman from the hills of the north didn't really help him as he jogged and stumbled up to the beast, it's rider lost above in the thick fog. The steed bucked and tossed its rider off as Kazahk inadvertently startled the beast. The rider, in a full suit of armor fell with a groan, rolling over onto his side to ease is new injury.
Kazahk, now almost as confused as the horse, looked down at the fallen knight and then to his steed. He quickly made a decision, running up to the knight and pulling the dagger from his hip. He had to knock the helm off before he could silence the man forever, but it was a fairly quick death none the less.
By noon Kazahk had followed the path up to the gates of a castle that suddenly appeared out of the mist. He'd almost turned his beast around to flee the other way before the guards called out at him.
"You're attendance has been expected Sir Roland!"
Underneath the helm another stupid idea formed in the desperate mind of Kazahk. Before he knew it, he was strolling down the halls of Castle Dovugrad, ready to to clean himself up and take his place at the court of Dovurak.
Castle Dovugrad, Dovurak
The council chamber was a small domed building with a high roof, once formerly a place of worship until they had built a better and more grand steeple to the west Kingsland. Now large oak tables and chairs circled around the perimeter of the mosaic tile, forming a rather spacious meeting place for the unusually large congregation of Castle Dovugrad. The circular chamber was filling up quickly, as hungover nobles and boyars, flustered squires and servants, and curious maids and messengers scurried in and out of the multiple entrances. The deep fog was beginning to lift as noon arrived, and so did the Herzogina as she strode in with every bit of annoyance nipping at her heels. The court was never punctual. She took her seat along side her Aunt Astrid and her brother the Magnar Jasta before clearing her throat and signalling the servants to ring the bell that hung above them, a bell that formerly signaled the start of worship a century ago. It brought the clamor to silence quickly, as everyone found their seats and brought their attention toward their reigning Herzogina.
"Revered Kastus is no longer with us. His mortal vessel has passed in slumber. The Grand Cardinal shall take his place until one of the Empire can be chosen to follow the path of the divine! God is dead, and he has left the sinners and saints to squabble!"
A riot exploded in the once holy chamber, as shouts of protests and blasphemy rang off the dome with reckless abandon. Some denounced Tyne's words as heresy, others begged to explain the reasoning behind the emperor's passing. A few bouts flared up as the boyars traded words with fists, no one really agreeing with each other. The former Herzog's court was no stranger to such audacious actions and there were plenty of incidents when the very royal chamber was stained with the blood of enraged nobility. Tyne Viporra, Herzogina of Dovurak would not let such days of old repeat themselves, not today.
"SILENCE!" spat Tyne with unrivaled venom, once more pacifying her herd of sheep. Her icy glare fell on the council like that of a enraged giant who was very much tempted to behead all who stood against her. He turned to Jasta and gave him the floor. He stood up slowly, a grave expression shrouding his craggy features as he strode toward the center of the chamber as he began to speak.
"We must stay strong through these uncertain times. The Empire may very well find itself in upheaval with these recent events. Dovurak knows this well, for not a dozen years ago Atrox lead us on the coattails of Gregor, almost all the way to the grave. We must not let the past repeat itself, or there will be no Dovurak left to defend. County Ballengvo stands strong on her borders, and I suggest Dovugrad do the same. We cannot be sure what our fellow Borkstovians may do out of rashness. We cannot be sure what the Kingdoms of Pontetate intend either."
Jasta let his words hang in the air before returning to his seat, his sorrowful look no better than it had been before he rose. The Herzogina's voice chimed across the expanse underneath the dome, meeting the ear of all present.
"May fate and fortune smile upon us, for they have not done so in the past. Should dire times find themselves at Dovurak's door, you will heed my call, your fellow man's call, and defend it. Council dismissed."
And with that, the once hectic congregation walked out in a somber procession. Those of the castle court remained, including Tyne and her Magnar Jasta. Still seated, they were deep in conversation about the future possibilities of the Kingdom and the Empire when a cry interrupted them.
"My Duchess, I am Sir Roland of Celland. May I offer you my services in these restless turn of events."
Herzogina Tyne Viporra shot around with a most agitated and bemused glare. Duchess was a term fit for the kingdoms of the north, not a Borkish lord. She could also not recall the last time a knight pledged his services to the court of Dovurak, not since Old Atrox and his glory seeking days had formed a Order of questionable intent. Fortunately he and his followers lay in unnamed graves across the countryside when Gregor's Folly came to an abrupt end. Still, a follower had his uses...
"I am Herzogina Viporra, Sir Roland, and my reign is over the lands of Dovurak."
Astrid tugged at the sleeve of her robe, causing Tyne to lend her her to the hushed whisper of her aunt. "Sir Roland hails from the Crownlands, my lady."
Tyne's eyebrow rose a hair in suspicion. 'Sir Roland' spoke once more before Tyne could protest.
"Forgive me Herzogina. My mind is muddled with sorrow over the great one's passing."
"You speak much like a Frank for someone from Celland, Sir Roland."
"Ah, huh, yes! I have done most of my service to the assortment of Dukes of glorious Frankland. I seek to offer such services to you my lady, from my heart."
"Of course! 'Sir Roland'. Do all Cellish, or is it Frankish? Knights were such ill-fitting armor into battle?"
"Much apologies your majesty, I wear this suit of plate in honor of my fallen brother, who was unfortunatly a much larger man than eye. It does not see the light of day outside such honorable occasions."
"I would hope so! That must explain the unpleasant smell, for this dank weather punishes those who wear such armor."
"Yes, yes, a thousand pardons my lady. But my skill in battle is much more honorable than my odor, should you honor me with a position your majesty."
"Is that so? Perhaps I should have Jasta test that here..."
"I must decline such defilement to such an exquisite chamber my lady. It would shame my title and name."
"A true gnetleman, would you look at that! Well, my rank and silver-tongued boyar, how much do you know about sailing?"
Kazahk Janbrook gulped at the question. What had he gotten himself into?