The Fall of the House of Silad

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Elerian and Dekressa, or the Fall of Silad

The Sithire Silad's Challenge

"In the year of One hundred and twenty-seven or so, long before the great-grandfather of our current good King Arlok, there was a great Sithire[1], Alathar ul-Asproth Silad, who had a beautiful daughter named Dekressa. Now, this time period was very unstable, as the first Kings were still fighting to make the borders as wide and lush as they are, and the Assi had not been pushed back over the mountains where they belong. Because there was so much fighting, the Sithire wanted only the strongest warrior to marry his daughter, to protect her, sire many grandchildren and mostly to defend his considerable domain. He was a good leader himself, having kept bandits off his land and encroaching neighbors disguised as bandits as well.

"He had no other children and his beloved wife had died at his side in fighting many years before. He was getting old at this point, and muchly needed to assure his legacy upon future generations. Dekressa, for her part, was uninterested in marriage or any suitors who came her way at all. She was willful, and wished to ride out to battle with all the regular soldiers to fight bandits. He was at a loss of what to do, until one day he recieved word of a small dragon rampaging in the north. This was before the days when dragons were made protected as talking creatures, at least in Drache-parts, and this dragon wasn't much of the talking type anyway. So old Alathar made a decree and spread it all around- that any who could stop the dragon's rampage could have his daughter's hand as wife and be assured a rich future as the Sithire's married family."

"This lead to many reckless young would-be heroes to get their lives cut short by dragon claws, as the Sithire had sadly expected, but people died every day, even back then. Then one day, a woman of mysterious ancestry rode into his court and accepted his challenge. Her name was not Arangothian, being Elerien Fierell, and she carried only a slender duelling sword and a lute, and wore precious little armor. The Sithire looked at her askance and asked if the hot summer sun had addled her womanly brains but the woman shook her head and said that the challenge clearly stated that any could attempt it, and so it was true. The Sithire bid her try as all the others did."

"And so Elerien left, and was gone for some days of travel. When she reached the nothern parts where the dragon had been misbehaving, she did not immediately seek it out and challenge it. Instead, she tracked the beast, for dragon spoor is unmistakable in a most unpleasant way. It's lair was in the mountains, though not so high as the truly great scaly wyrms of old, for no snow graced the stones in front of its reeking cave. She waited, hidden near the dragon's home for several more days. At long last the dragon returned, roaring out in beastly pleasure as it tossed the severed pieces of another young hero to the ground, joining the littered bones of others who had met the same fate. Elerien watched and waited still longer as the beast went inside, clutching other human treasures to its scaly breast. Then she snuck in after it."

"Dragons are like gophers, in that they hate visitors, but unlike them in that they don't always have two exits. This one had only one door to its home, and Elerien approached bravely towards the beast, now curling upon itself in preparation to take some rest. She carried light with her, and called ahead brightly and fearlessly to the dragon."

"Dragon! Mighty Dragon! I have come to admire your flashing scales and shining claws, and to pay tribute to your might in hope that you will leave my village intact from your wrath!" And the dragon perked up swiftly, having noticed the light, and smelled the human.

"More like you come to sssteal my horde. I know you humans." It opened only one shining yellow eye as it spoke, bright green hide shining emerald bright in Elerien's lantern light.

"Never would I try such a thing! I see the bones at your door and know that no humble human such as I could seek to take that which you do not give! I come only to offer my playing, which may soothe you into your sleep, as we are poor people and have little wealth that we can give." The dragon snorted steam at this and flickered out its forked tongue, nearly brushing Elerien's face with the sinuous length of it. She stood her ground bravely, holding her lantern aloft in one hand and the neck of her lute in the other. She did not even have her sword with her now, knowing well that dragons can smell iron at a great distance.

"You bear none of your puny metal human clawssss. What playing iss it that you mean?" It had opened both eyes now, for dragons have no music of their own, and they rarely get to hear it since most humans break and run at the sight of one, dropping whatever it was that they were doing.

"Just the humble strumming of a peasant bard." She set the lantern down now, and gently took up the lute, touching the strings to make them sound a simple chord. The dragon's eyes alit at this and it rested its scaly head upon its claws then, watching her intently.

"Play then human, and if you do not keep me amuusssed, I will eat you."

"And so Elerien Fierell played, and played, and played, strumming first, softly, then bringing up the tempo of her music until the notes of her lute rang off the cavern walls. The dragon sat quietly, only the long and spiny tail bobbing with the rhythm. It was enchanted, and not just with the music. This woman was clever you see, and her playing was meant to soothe fierce beasts, even dragons. Once she added her own voice to the music the spell was swiftly woven and the scaly beast's eyelids drooped slowly, eventually closing until sonorous snores filled the cavern. Elerien stopped there, and staggered out of the cave.

"It was well past midnight by then, and her throat was parched and sore. She did not take the time to drink from her skin yet though, instead running to her former hiding place and pulling out her slender sword. She ran back into the cavern, sword ahead, and got up as much speed as she could. The dragon kept up its snoring, right until the moment when the woman charged with her sword outstretched and drove the shining blade through its eye. Even at such speed, she had difficulty piercing the thick and leathery lid, but the sword impaled to the hilt in the great yellow orb. The dragon awoke swiftly and began to thrash, chasing the woman out of the cave with a blast of its poisonous breath. Its roaring could be heard for miles, in all the villages below, and did not cease for many hours as the shining sword kept its place, stuck through lid and eye and bone, to brush against the dragon's thick brain. At long last it did die, thrashed across the floor of its cave, many human baubles scattered beneath now lifeless claws."

"Elerien re-entered when the dragon's noise had ceased, and withdrew her sword. The dragon's bilious blood had stained the blade deeply green, and no amount of polish would take it from the steel. The woman merely cleaned it as she could and put it away, but not before taking one of the dragon's mighty claws as a prize to show the Sithire, and one beautiful glinting necklace stolen from a Vorfon nearer to the dragon's lair, a gift for her wife to be."

"Then she rode back southward, telling no one of her deeds and keeping the dragon's claw within her saddlebags. She rode hard, day and night, and finally reached the Sithire's castle again early on the day of the Morning's Feast, the thirteenth day of Broxkakat, as the preparations for the celebration were to begin. The Sithire was muchly surprised to see Elerien again, and he nearly turned purple when she showed him the claw and told him of the place where the dragon lay dead atop its mighty horde. The Sithire sputtered and said that no woman could marry his daughter, for there would be no children. Elerien responded that there would be as many children as there were rooms to hold them, and reminded him of his solemn vow that whoever stopped the dragon gained his daughter's hand."

"Old Alathar could not escape his promise, not before all his Gemarinds and Vorfons assembled on that day of First Planting, no matter how he growled and snarled and grumbled and pleaded, offering large sums of money and land to Elerien in the stead of his daughter's marriage. She would have none of it, and at long last he called for his Chancellor and drew up the marriage contract, signing and sealing it with his great chop. At this point Elerien thanked him and asked to see her bride-to-be. The Sithire gave one last grumble and had his Chancellor escort the woman to his Dekressa's chambers, his one hope being that the girl would refuse the marriage as she had threatened to."

"Elerien knocked upon the heavy oaken door of the Dekressa's chambers, and eventually the girl herself answered. She was still a stripling, being only sixteen, the only child of the Sithire's to live past her youngest days. She looked at the woman before her, still road-dusty and with scars of dragon's breath and blood upon her body. She lifted her head imperiously and looked at this dusty traveller with disdain at first, her expression growing colder and colder as the Chancellor explained who Elerien was."

"I'll have none of my father's hero-games! So you may have killed a dragon! That doesn't make you my love, nor will I ever marry you!" And she prepared to slam the door shut when Elerien lodged her booted foot in the opening and offered the daughter the necklace she had taken, the jewels gleaming in the torchlight and drawing a breath of surprise from the Chancellor.

"I brought this for you, as proof of my devotion, that I would conquer a dragon to win it." Elerien spoke softly as always, facing Dekressa with dark eyes.

"I have no use for trinkets!" Dekressa shouted, and tried to shut the door again, more painfully upon Elerien's foot. She didn't even wince, but instead drew her sword, and before the Chancellor could raise an alarm, she had turned the gleaming hilt to the Dekressa, the blade stained with the dragon's blood.

"Then I can give you only this, my sword Ghelerion that felled a dragon and bears the marks of its blood for eternity." Dekressa let up her pushing on the door, and some would say that Elerien sighed with relief at the release of her poor foot. Dekressa took up the sword and examined it, the shining length of the blade marred with the dark green stains.

"I will accept this, a gift fit for a fighting woman, one to another, and will think well on your request." It was no request of course, but her father's order, which she knew that in the end she could not disobey and still live within his walls. She stepped back towards the Elerien then, and set the sword upon a side table, taking up the necklace she had before cast aside.

"And I bid you to wear this, as a token of your own bravery, and at least some compensation for giving up your sword." And with that, they were engaged, and no word or objection of the Sithire could break the pact. Their marriage was not carried out until the New Year's Day, giving time for preparations and the Sithire to stop grumbling so much. There was a grand celebration as befitted the marriage of such a prestigious person, with all the assembled Vorfons and Gemarinds and errant warriors gazing in envy at Elerien's good fortune. Few muttered much upon the fact of two women, since even then the ceremony was not that uncommon. Many conniving souls muttered greatly on how the Sithire would have no heir. Elerien did not heed their whispers, and this was to lead to much misfortune, but that is another tale to be told later."

The Betrayal of Silad

And the second tale, being called most often "The Betrayal of Silad". The word "Sithrarang" is used to describe the domain of a hereditary Sithire, so it could be translated as "Grand Duchy". The plural is "Sithrangel" rather than "Sitharangs". This is much the sort of tale as the first, being that it isn't a complete historical account.

"This tale takes place still quite long ago, only three years after the first, in the year of One hundred and Thirty, when the land of Arangoth was still forming and the Sithires were each nearly as strong as the King Anskar ul-Herbord, and all rivaling each other for their places. The family of Silad was the fourth greatest and oldest of the Sithrangel, with wide pastures and lush valleys under its demense. The family of Silad had fought bravely to bring all of this wealth under their proud dominion, and had thusly pacified the bandits and monsters of the region strictly, and always managed their Vorfons with equally firm hands. It is the nature of Vorfons to be quarrelous- just attend one time upon two of them having a pint of ale, and if one doesn't leave red in the face with anger, they're both passed out drunk! And so this was the case even in the early times of Silad."

"The old Sithire Alathar ul-Asproth Silad was still alive and reigning though the black in his hair had given way completely to iron-grey and his stride was no longer as spry as it once had been. He was a stern old man still, and remembered well his ancestry of proud warriors, all bent upon enlarging the family demense to create a rich kingdom for themselves and their descendants. He was well satisfied with his life and his works all except one point- the heirless marriage of his daughter Dekressa ul-Nedixe Silad to the foreign woman Elerien Fierell. Elerien was a great fighter, as she had proved time and time again on the practice courts even after slaying a dragon by her own hand, but she could not bring children upon his daughter, though she had claimed otherwise. If she had merely served among the Gemarinds or even the Vorfons, he would have been satisfied, but instead she had claimed the prize for the dragon's slaying and married Dekressa. Dekressa, for her part, seemed blissfully happy with her newly wedded wife, though all was not so serene behind closed doors at Siladhorna."

"When will you give me children as you so often boast that you can?" Dekressa spoke in anger, showing the explosion of temper which her line was well reputed for. Elerien did not respond right away, having dodged aside from a thrown statue which struck the wall resoundingly.

"When the time is right- soon, I assure you, and why are you in such an eager rush for such things?" Elerien had known this day would come, but she had been trying to put it off as long as she could. Children were more terrifying than dragons, afterall.

"Because I wish for them, and my father does also, and you promised me! Three years is long enough a wait I say! My dearest bosom friends all have at least one, and dear Silge has three of her own already, and she's only a half-year my senior!" Dekressa was enraged, and her cheeks flamed scarlet with her anger. Elerien loved her wife well, and so she held up her hands in surrender to see Dekressa upset so.

"Then I shall tell you now how I would plan to bring you children. There are secret ways of the land that the Sithires and King know little of, the old ways of magic, that are spoken of in legend. You know this well, as all in the land know it, though the paltry court-mages kept by your father and others match up nothing to those who truly pursue the mysterious arts." Dekressa's expression had grown different at this discourse, for of course she knew of magic- everyone did, and many could practice a few tricks and charms learned at their mother's knees. "I know the magic, and learned it well as a childling, long ago in my home which is far from here. My gifts let me hear the land the and know its ways, of healing and soothing and also birthing."

"Then- you can use magic to bring me a child?" Dekressa asked, curiousity lighting her young features.

"I can, but it will take me sixty days to finish the spell-making and I shall require a lock of your hair, six drops of your blood, one eyelash and one nail paring, all to call upon the land to bring you the gift of a child. I must begin it on the same night as your moon cycle, which is one week hence is it not?" Elerien held her wife by the shoulders as she spoke, looking deeply into her eyes. Dekressa nodded finally that she understood, her breath unsteady with the prospect.

"Then in one week I shall begin." And that was that, as Elerien kissed Dekressa on the cheek and went back about her business.

"Thus all was well again within the private halls of Silad Steading, but not in the lands about with the Vorfons to a man being jealous of their rightful lord and now scheming to avenge their bruised pride that Dekressa had rejected all their children for a foreigner. Most of the Vorfons were not nearly strong enough to make any attempt at Alathar's estate, but there were three, the Vorfons Pinek, Orgod, and Metrilod, who between them held steadings nearly equal to the Sithire's own personal wealth. All three had lost sons to the Sithire's challenge, foolish young men riding off to fight a dragon with only regular steel and not half the wits of their own swords."

"The three Vorfons were holding a secret meeting deep in the house of Fenduth ul-Quarflis Pinek, who was tall and red-haired, but with a cool head despite. The others were Sarla ul-Oryan Orgod whose husband stayed home and managed the estate, letting his wife do the ruling and fighting, and Huixon ul-Dorn Metrilod, the youngest of the three and the burliest, with arms like small logs. The Vorfons were skilled fighters, as all those who would hold any title of noble blood had to be in those times. Each one was aging but still fit, not quite as old as their Sithire, and each was well noted for their ambitions."

"There was one other figure in the room, an old, old woman, gnarled and hunkered down in her velvet-cushioned chair, bony hands clasped over her staff. She wore a dark grey robe embroidered with red symbols in an old tongue, not any that the three Vorfons knew, and they all gazed at hear askance, each afraid to speak here in this privy council. Their fear was well-justified, for the gnarled old woman was Getrithe the Pale, the oldest remaining of the Soleilsbane Order, long purged from the land by the very first Kings of Arangoth. To consort with that Order was treason then, as it might be now, if any still remained. The three Vorfons had sought them out in greatest secrecy after their Sithire's challenge had been filled. The old witches had answered their fearful requests and now Getrithe herself sat before them, gazing at them all with one milky blue eye, the other only a black pit hidden by the shadows of her cowl. The old witch didn't speak, just watched them all as each would open their mouth to say something, then cease, all exchanging glances until finally Sarla brought up her voice."

"We wish vengeance upon the Sithire Alathar for calling our sons to their deaths, and taking a foreigner into his household rather than an honorable marriage. That is why we sent for you, Old Witch." At these words the Witch looked up suddenly, her milky eye ceasing its roving to center somehow upon them all three at once. Even these stout Vorfons could not help but quail before that supernatural gaze, and the old woman cackled softly as she watched them all, speaking in a voice like old leather, creaky and harsh.

"So you seek vengeance is it? And so you seek me, to wreak it for you, after your rulers hunted my Order half to death. I care nothing for your vengeance- only for your price, which shall be steep! You seek to bring down the line of Silad since they possess no grandchildren? Then your price is this! Each of you must bring one of your children's children to a place of my naming. No other payment shall suffice!" And the witch fell silent then, turning her fell gaze upon them each in turn, each Vorfon now paled as they remained silent. They all had grandchildren- several, even, and they treasured their families. Each one went through an internal battle then, waged within their heart-of-hearts, to choose between the witch's offer of power against the welfare of their grandchildren. Sarla spoke first again, after several moments of quiet.

"I will grant your price witch, and may Van curse your soul for such askings." The Witch merely cackled and looked to the other two, Huixon and Fenduth, awaiting their answer. Huixon spoke first, looking down at the table.

"My love for my child was not enough to keep him from riding off at the Sithire's word, so I will sacrfice another to see him fall." The witch merely nodded this time and jerked her head to stare at Fenduth who narrowed his eyes and then nodded, once, briskly, not trusting his voice in this moment of perilous decision.

"Then it is done! Three weeks hence, on the night of the full moon, assemble yourselves and your grandchildren upon the Vulture's Rock at midnight and the Soleilsbane shall meet you there to fufill our part of the bargain." The three Vorfons stood as one, and the witch tottered onto her wobbly legs. She looked them all in the eyes again, then strode out of the room swiftly, robes shuffling around her ankles as she departed, leaving a chill upon the hearts of the three Vorfons and the pact they had made.

"That secret meeting took place nearly two months after Elerien began making her spell upon Dekressa, and unknown to the rivals of Alathar, a child had begun to quicken in Dekressa's body, seed of the magics Elerien brought with her to Arangoth. It was too early to be certain the ritual had worked, but Alathar's ire towards Elerien was much eased when he found out about the plan. His court magician Erixet insisted that such a thing was impossible, but Elerien had proved herself capable where others were not before. And so it was that on the night of the Vorfon's planned second meeting with the Soleilsbane, Dekressa missed her first moon cycle, giving firm backing to Elerien's claims."

"The Soleilsbane had been driven deeply underground by the purges of earlier Kings, and not without reason, for they consorted with the dark powers that yearn for entry into Arangoth but are forbidden it by the oldest orders of things, able to bring themselves forth only when called. The Vorfons took their three grandchildren, all aged less than five, and bore them to the Vulture's rock under the silvery light at midnight. There they found a ring of witches, some male, some female, but all clad in the same dark grey with the same red symbols upon their clothes. The old witch waited in the center of the circle and crooked a finger at the three Vorfons. As they set foot upon the ancient rock, the scent of blood became overwhelming. Getrithe's beckoning drew them forward as fish upon hooks, they and their young descendants."

"Come closer my children!" The witch cried, and the Vorfons cast their offspring forward. Two young girls and one boy stumbled towards the aged witch who laughed now deeply, echoing across the glade full of witches. Three of her underlings caught the children by their wrists, and drew out curved knives. The Vorfons watched in horror as the knives came down and slashed across the children's forearms, once, twice, three times, making a pattern of evil in their skin. Then the three underlings threw off their robes to reveal pale nakedness and painted themselves with the blood of the screaming children, and began a sinuous dance. The Witch herself began a chant in a deep and gutteral tongue, which was followed by the circle of followers, all raising their hands into the air as flames began to line their forms. The great witch brought her chanting to a high screech, then stopped in sudden silence, all her followers freezing with arms upraised. The children were no longer crying, their eyes frozen and dark as they looked up, faces masks of calm, towards the stars. The old Witch laughed again and gestured her staff at the Vorfons."

"Go! Your part is filled, and so mine shall be before sunrise- your vengeance shall be set in motion, taking its form before the Harvest to strike!" With her gesture, the Vorfons were released from their fascination and fled from the glade, fearing for their very souls as the dark rituals resumed behind them. They had fabricated stories to explain the disappearances of their grandchildren, but that did not ease the grief of their grown children, or their own, secret deadening guilt that filled their hearts to bursting, and which they quenched with their lust for power."

"The Harvest was at that point almost nine months away, it being early in the year. The Vorfons returned to their manors to run their estates, attending the funerals held for their grandchildren tearfully. Derkessa's stomach grew large and swiftly, bringing many disbelieving whispers among the Sithire's vassals, but by this time the story of Elerien's magic had gone out, and she was petitioned to aid other childless couples with the same magic. It was at this time that she penned this ritual and several others into a great book which she gave to Erixet, detailing spells to help crops grow, to bring children into the world, and to heal diseases of livestock and human. Erixet undertook a journey to the King's Seat in Tagrana to deliver the manuscript upon the King's Magician Ruixen, a wizened old mystic who was mightily impressed with the work and had it copied several times by scribes."

"The growth of Alathar's grandchild was hailed by much celebration within Alathar's household, and much dread in the hearts of the three Vorfons as they feared the failure of their plot to destroy the Silad household. The months dragged through summer, and Dekressa's temper grew fiercer, until her father and wife were praying dearly for the Harvest to come. The Sitharang was quiet, except for vague reports of dark shapes lurking in the forests, too tall to be any four legged beast. A few farm animals went missing, and all investigations turned up nothing, not even the slightest track that would give away such fell beasts."

"Finally the Summer ended, and the Harvest was nearly upon the Sitharang. Much planning was done for a huge celebration for both the Harvest and the expected birth of the Sithire's unexpected grandchild. All the priests cast omens to portend the birth, and all came back with tidings of health and prosperity, as the Witches' careful spells deceived the eyes of the righteous."

"The Vorfons kept up their planned rebellion during this time, massing their soldiers in secret to attack the Sithire's keep while the peasants toiled in the fields for the harvest. It had been in all ways a good year for the Sitharang, and the Vorfons had benefitted during the surplus to build up supplies for their malicious plottings."

"Thus it was that the eve before the Harvest arrived, when the moon was again full and the castle was decked out in splendor for the celebration of the coming day. That night, Dekressa's child came its full term and she went to the birthing bed, accompanied by her devoted and worried Elerien and the midwife. Alathar remained without, completing the preparations long into the night, with Dekressa's cries echoing in the background."

"Morning came, and with it came the birth of the first new Silad in over two decades. They named her Kaerlixen ul-Fierell Silad, and she was healthy and auspiciously born on the day of the Harvest in the year 130. All three of the elder Silads went to a brief rest from the exhaustion of the night before, while the one junior slept with the peace of the newly born. The castle of Siladhorna was decked out in the grandest style, rife with color and ready for the joys of the Harvest day. They awoke before noon to greet the first Gemarinds and low Vorfons, all arriving early to pay their respects to the Sithire Silad and renew their vows of loyalty. The most powerful were not expected until later, closer to the actual feasting time. Each of the many vassals brought gifts with them, both to celebrate the expected birth, now joyfully passed, and for the celebration of the Harvest. The Sithire and his kin accepted each graciously in turn, until the flow of kin and vassal eased down to one young boy who strode forward clad in a dark-grey cloak. He stepped forth from the assembled court and servants, all parting before him as he drew back his hood to reveal crimson red hair and dark, dark eyes."

"The Sithire stood then and walked down the steps towards the lad who looked at him so impertinently and did not bow or even make the slightest obeisance. He had a family sort of resemblance to the Pineks, but his Grandfather was not expected for several hours yet. The boy made a half bow as the Sithire came towards him and spoke then, softly enough that only the Sithire and Elerien's sharp ears could hear him."

"Milord, I give you the gift of vengeance from the Vorfons, courtesy of the Soleilsbane!" His words ended sharply and his features warped, creeping outwards into fierce jaws and his fingers crooking into sharp knives, all of which sank into the old Sithire's unarmored flesh. The court gasped at the fiendish transformation, and before any of them could break the spell of shock, the Sithire had fallen forward across the warped and slavering form of the boy, his lifeblood spilling across it. The creature gave a fierce howl then, echoing through the entire keep as it melted back into the shape of a boy, then withered down to a husk. The first part of the Soleilsbane's pact was fufilled."

"At this moment there came a great hue and cry from without, three watchmen shouting in succession."

"From the East, the Orgod come, in battle dress and with banners raised!"

"In the South, the Metrilod, all the hosts assembled with spears unslung!"

"To the North, the Pinek, bringing siege fires and singing battle chants!"

"There could be only one reason for the three Vorfons to be marching to their Sithire's keep in battle readiness perfectly upon the moment of old Alathar's assassination. The guards were hurried out of their festive clothes and the swords unsheathed as the gates were closed. The day of Festivities had been despoiled, as Dekressa fell upon her father's corpse, weeping at his death. Her newborn daughter took up wailing also, held tightly in the arms of her wet-nurse. Elerien took command of the hall then, and prepared a hasty defense, though there was little readiness she could bring about before the first of the Pinek's siege engines began pounding the gates."

"The magician Erixet moved swiftly in the sudden throng to investigate the corpse of the boy. Such transformations were uncommon in Arangoth, and foul warpings of the human form were the province of one group, long hunted and hated by all good-hearted citizens. His quick incantations revealed his suspicions to be true- the corruption of the Soleilsbane was upon the boy, in such thick coils as he had never seen in fifty-odd years. The priests of Menxvan and Menxruk spoke their prayers over the fallen Alathar while servants removed his body from the floor and laid it atop the white-clothed table that had been planned for the festivities. Dekressa overcame her weeping slowly, wishing for her beloved's comfort, an impossible thing in this sudden crisis, but she arose at the last, hearing the sounds of battle beginning outside her childhood home, and she went to gird on her armor and sword in defense of her steading."

"All through the Harvest day, the besiegers pounded the gate with mighty rocks, pausing not once for parley or to ask for surrender. It was unlikely that the rebels wanted any to survive the battle, since any word that got to the King would send him out in a righteous fury, backed by all the other Sithires. Dekressa and Elerien prowled the walls all the night through as the forces attacked, pushing back siege ladders and casting with Erixet to block the fell charms sent by the Vorfons' magicians. The attackers held the clear advantage by morning, and though the castle was still sound, it was unlikely to remain so. The Sithire had not been prepared for a siege, nor had any of his vassals brought more than a pittance of guards. The Sitharang had not had internal strife since Dekressa was very young, and even that had been far less than this. By the mid-morning bells it was clear that the exhausted defenders would not long hold, especially with the Sithire dead and his daughter unsworn to the King."

"At this time, Dekressa made a noble sacrifice and sent Erixet out of the keep by way of some old tunnels that had been placed there for exactly the purpose of fleeing unobserved. The court magician and a few guards fled alone by daylight, emerging in a small copse of forest a mile away, sent to tell the King of the attacks. Then she and Elerien kept up the defense until night fell, and a with it a few hours quiet."

"Both women knew that they could not possibly win this battle, that no surrender would be taken if none had been asked for by now. They spoke in hushed conference, Elerien trying to convince Dekressa to flee also and take their newborn daughter with her. Dekressa refused to leave her childhood home and her wife, much as Elerien begged and pleaded and commanded, until at the last Dekressa agreed to go. Elerien drew the sword Ghelerion which she had given to Dekressa three years before as an engagement gift and spoke a soft enchantment over it, touching the singular blue gemstone that lay in the hilt."

"This shall let you know if I still live, so long as the color remains this same azure. If it changes, ever, then I am dead." At this Dekressa wept bitterly, for the thought of losing father and wife in the same span, but still she made ready to leave. There were no others of the Silad line, no cousins, no uncles or aunts, only herself and Kaerlixen still wrapped in swaddling clothes."

"And so in the dead of night Dekressa left, accompanied by only one guard, an old guard who had served her grandfather before her father, and now herself as they fled in near-defeat from the deathly silent castle behind."

"The siege continued once dawn came, and at the stroke of noon the great gates split under the constant battering, letting a flood of soldiers through into the courtyard. There Elerien led the defense with all the loyal Vorfons and Gemarinds and the few exhausted warriors they had left. The enemy roared through the gate and a fierce melee ensued, until the cobblestones ran slick with the blood of both sides and corpses littered the hall once decorated for a feast. It came down at last to Elerien fighting alone against many opponents in front of the Sithire's throne."

"Of a sudden all those she was fighting drew back, then made space for the Vorfons themselves to come forward. Pinek, Orgod, and Metrilod all stepped forward and watched her in silence with eyes gone black as night, until one small figure slipped past behind them. A single small girl darted past the tall Vorfons towards Elerien, clad in a dark grey cloak as the boy from before had been. Elerien gave a cry and tried to strike the creature down in its charge, but her sword was only common steel and could not penetrate its hide, the girl's features warping into beastial shapes that clawed and stabbed, draining Elerien's lifeblood onto the floor of the same room as her father-in-law. The Vorfons all smiled now, so far gone in the madness of the Soleilsbane that they no longer felt remorse for the warping of their own blood to serve the darkness. Their smiles vanished, however, when they discovered the tunnelways and the fact that Dekressa and her infant daughter were gone from the keep. The third beast, once the granddaughter of Sarla Orgod, was unleashed to seach of its own accord."

"Erixet had nearly reached King Anskar by this time, his commandeered horse bearing him truly with his small guard. They reached Tagrana bearing the scent of blood and siege upon them still, and the King's Chancellor sent them straightaway to see his majesty."

"The King was terribly wroth to hear of this betrayal of his close retainer, and moreso to hear that the Soleilsbane whom his ancestors had so rightfully crushed were making a return to his fair land. He called up a mighty force swiftly, summoning back the Vorfons who had just left from his own feasting and sending letters to the Sithires asking their assistance in this matter, then set forth himself with all his own soldiers to set right the attack. By then of course, it was too late."

"Dekressa fled through the night and collapsed with tiredness for a brief time in the morning, the old guard standing by bravely while his mistress slept. Through it all, the baby Kaerlixen never made a sound of protest, seeming to sense the need for quiet and speed. When Dekressa awoke just after noon, the jewel within Ghelerion had turned from its previous blue to a deep crimson, seeming almost to bleed in the morning sun. She did not weep then, but merely stood, belted the sword unto her waist and continued to ride."

"It was nearing dusk again when the small creature sent by the Vorfons found Dekressa in her flight. It stepped out from the trees and made to attack, but Dekressa struck it with Ghelerion, the dragon's blood still green upon the blade. It may have been the blood, or some other enchantment upon it, but the sword bit truly and the beast lay dying upon the roadway, pouring its corruption into the mud. Dekressa did not pause, but continued her flight, turning northward now though the King was to the west. She did not know why she did thus, but there seemed no better way to flee in the gathering shadows."

"Back within the dead Sithire's castle, the Vorfons felt the death of their cursed puppet keenly, and they all as one turned and left the castle and their puzzled servants, mounting their horses to take the road after Dekressa. Their wills were not entirely their own any longer, and their mad eyes told of it. They rode swift chargers, while Dekressa fled by foot, having not had a good chance to take a horse. The cursed Vorfons rode hard, but they did not catch up to Dekressa until after she had reached the northern mountains, the very place where Elerien had slain the dragon three years before. She did not know the way, but her feet found a path that led unerringly upwards."

"It was sometime during that mountainous ascent that the Vorfons caught up to her. The old guard threw himself behind, bidding his lady continue as he triggered wave after wave of rubble from the unstable trails to fall upon the Vorfons. Dekressa fled on, hearing the cry of the guard behind her long after she had left sight of him. Before her now was a cave, the very cave of the dragon Elerien had killed, and there the trail ended. She fled inside and left her child to rest in a small cradle of rock within the darkness. Her father had long since cleared out the dragon's horde, leaving only an empty stone blackness. She held no hope for fighting the three mad riders behind her, but instead she struck her sword down into the stone at the front of the cave, letting the special steel bite through to stand upright. Then she spoke her most fervent prayers, asking Van and Ruk for protection from that which lay without. She heard no answer, but moved back from the entryway, attending to her tiny child."

"The Vorfons rode on towards Dekressa's hiding place, dismounting their horses at the entryway and drawing their swords as they stepped within. Dekressa closed her ears to the sound of their approach, holding her daughter as she repeated her soft prayers. The Vorfons approached the sword stuck in the stony ground and made to go around it, but as they did a great rumbling came from above in the cavern and suddenly, the roof collapsed upon them all three, trapping their cursed souls under a mountain of rock. Dekressa was left unharmed behind, but with no chance of egress- her protection had been gained at the price of starvation within that dark place."

"King Anskar rode himself hard to Alathar's old castle and drove out the attackers there, killing the servants of the three Vorfons to a man, but not before learning of the strange disappearances of the Vorfons themselves. His magician and Erixet found also several servants of the darker powers among the Vorfons' retainers, all of whom he had burned quickly lest their taint spread. Elerien and Alathar were buried with high honors, but of Dekressa there was no sign, and only the efforts of his greatest diviners gave any indication of her fate within the mountains. Anskar held a service for her also, and her infant daughter, his heart wrought with sorrow over this turn of events. He sent parties to search the mountains for her body, but nobody could ever find the dragon's old lair, and all those who had known where it lay were now killed in that one sorrowful castle. The King shut the remains of the great gates and declared the place accursed, and banned all his followers from ever setting foot there. To this day, the castle of Siladhorna has never been reopened, though it is said to lie in the northeast still. He then appointed his own sister to rule as Sithire, stating that when she died the title would be passed on to some other of his choosing, rather than bring another civil war upon themselves in this place."

"That is how the Fourth Sitharang came to be an appointed seat, and to this day it has never been granted to another family for more than a generation. It is also said that somewhere in the mountains, the sword Ghelerion waits still under a pile of rubble, yearning for the moment when it can wreak vengeance upon those who serve dark powers, guided by the dead spirits of the Silad line. The King set forth again to hunt the Soleilsbane, and succeeded in killing more of those cursed blood-drinkers. In time the lands came back to the same state of peace as before, save for bloody memories of the doomed line of Silad."

  1. Please note that the word "Sithire" is somewhat equivalent to "Grand Duke" but can also be applied to several other positions, such as Regent (in the case of an absent monarch), and also "Governor" as some of the positions called "Sithire" are appointed rather than hereditary. Below that are the Vorfons, which are equivalent to Lords or landed nobility of specific title or purpose, and then "Gemarind" which is somewhat equivalent to "knight" as a noble who may or may not own property. Also, this story as it is written here is not a strict historical account (obviously) but a common tavern tale version of some true events.