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Suian 516

Russel Story

 

 

Russel's Story

 

PROLOGUE

As most days, Russell was walking through the corridors of the college carrying some books.  Also as most days, the books were on history.  He walked the corridors without saying much.  The students were gone, as were most of the other professors.  He walked passed a meeting room and would never have heard anything that was being said if he had not dropped a book, which lead to a bigger collapse of the stack he was carrying.  The sound of the fall disturbed his thoughts just enough to bring his mind into the present moment and fully aware of his surroundings.  He began to pick them up.  As he did, he overheard the conversation in the room.

“… can be no doubt on that.  And only a fool would argue that there was anyone second to him other than Stasis.” The voice was familiar and elven.

“I can’t argue that.  Stasis was unmatched as a mortal.  He had to become a deity to find a challenge.  But beyond those two, who would have been next?  I don’t think any from our lifetimes or even since the war can match the talent of many of the champions of the old days.  So then we’d have to look back at history.”  The second voice was human, younger, not familiar.

A third voice, an older dwarf spoke next.  “Agreed, we would definitely have to look to the days of antiquity.  That said, I don’t think we can go back to the time before the Doggeden War.  Those tournaments were too small; the world was not as connected.  Many of the warriors of those days did not compete.  But after that war, the world became a smaller place.  Then it was truly a competition.”

The elf spoke again, “So then, who do we start with?  Tithos in 59 BC?  A veteran of the Doggeden War, a master of two swords, and elf that had been a warrior for over two centuries by the time he entered the tournament.  He would be a contender.   As would the great Owen Windblade, another master of two swords.  He neared perfection in the tournament.”

“I have to look to Borkon.  His victory was not pretty, but few can claim to have been as dominant and devastating on their path to the belt.” The human interjected.  By this point, Russell had forgotten completely what has was about to read.  Clearly, they were talking about history, a subject Russell would talk for hours.  He never let the opportunity to enlighten pass, so he walked into the room.

“Excuse me.” The elf, human, and dwarf looked up.  Russell immediately recognized Acyll the elf.  “Hi, how are you?”  He walked up to the table.  Drinks and a book were on it, the three sitting apart from each other around the circular table.  “I might be able to help you here.”  They looked at him suspiciously.

“What do you know of great warriors?” the dwarf grumbled.

“Not much, but I know a great deal of history.  I can tell you all of the locations and champions.  I can tell the circumstances surrounding each competition, and why certain combatants didn’t compete.”

The three other seemed intrigued.

“Ok, how about a test.” The human said.  Russell smiled.  “Of course.”

The human continued, “In 516, the tournament was held in Messada.  It was supposed to be the greatest tournament ever.  There were more competitors than any other tournament in history.  No former champions were entered into it, so there would have been a high drama with no favorites.  So why is it that it is a tournament that few can name many competitors from?  Why is it often talked about as the lost tournament?” the human seemed confident in his question.  He believed that the wizard would know nothing of the tournament.

Russell was not impressed by the question.  He was about to answer, after a few moment of thought, and then decided on a better course of action.

“I could tell you all about it.  Every competitor, every match; but that would be less interesting than what I am going to suggest.” The human and the dwarf cocked their heads with interest.  Acyll took a drink and shook his head; he had an idea of what Russell was going to do.

“I can show you the tournament.  From start to finish.  Every match of note.  Then you can see for yourselves what happened and why.  I think it’s the best way to learn history.”

With a confused look, the human asked, “Illusion?”

“Sure,” said Russell, “If you like, a historical realistic illusion.”

The human had a drink, “Got nothing better to do during the winter break, so  say yes.”  The dwarf likewise had a drink and nodded.  Acyll shrugged, “Why not.”

“Good then.” Russell said.  “Everyone get ready, we’ll leave in an hour.  Er, we’ll watch in an hour.”

The others, half confused and half drunk waited around for an hour.  Collecting things in case they needed to sleep somewhere and preparing gear just in case.  When Russell returned, Acyll asked, “We’re not going to be gone too long are we?  Like for a year the tournament takes.”

Russell’s nosed twitched.  “No, best that we don’t do that, we all have lives to live.  We can just watch the end, and we can get a feel from that how the earlier months went.”

“Sounds good,” the skeptical dwarf said.

Russell began his spells and the shocked dwarf, surprised human, wary Acyll and thrilled Russell were soon in the midst of a Messada long ago in the middle of a tournament that is often overlooked by history.  And they never would have guessed what they ended up seeing…

PART 1

 

The time of the Suian in 303 PsA represents absolute height of the Kingdom of Icefia.  The other nations of the world, those not of evil character at least, held the Kingdom and its leaders, including the High King and each of the lesser kings and queens, in the highest esteem.  The Kingdom had made tremendous sacrifices for the greater good of Habololy in the Wars with the Gree, the Chosen and the Spider Queen.  Though the Kingdom had grown rich from the resources of the islands seized as the wyrms were slain during the Hunt, and more still from the increased trade on the now open seas, the other nations did not begrudge the Kingdom its rewards, for they too benefitted.  This does not mean that the other nations did not want to emerge victorious in the Suian.  In fact there was a spirit of "anyone but an Icefian" among the competitors.  Much of the legendary ferocity of the 303 PsA tournament can be traced to this undercurrent, but there were other factors at work as well.

Much of the success of the Kingdom in the years of the Diamond Age, roughly 177-312PsA, can be attributed not only to the wisdom of the monarchs, both High and lesser, but the close relationship that existed between the formal government and a number of other groups; specifically the Captains of the Knights of the White Sword, the Church of Stasis and the Council of Ten of the Guardian Temple.  These three groups, in truth only some 30 beings at any one time, of diverse races and faiths, provided wise counsel to the High Kings from Stasis to Alios and ensured that the rulers of the Kingdom always kept Stasis' ideals foremost in their minds when making decisions that would affect not only the Kingdom but the rest of the world.  John the Valiant in particular, who had served every king since Stasis, and had been both Champion of the Kingdom, since 119 PsA, and Grandmaster of the Knights of the White Sword, since 128 PsA, had a profound impact on the development of the Kingdom.  A drow elf, John understood hate and prejudice on a deeply personal level and could explain how destructive they could be if they took root in a nation's character.  John was by that time one of the most dangerous and powerful beings on Habololy.  It was well known that he desired to lay down his mantle and take a lesser role, possibly as a minister without portfolio, but Alios was not the warrior that his father or grandfather had been and clearly needed a competent champion as much or even more than an advisor.  John however would not be entering the Suian.  Though he was a skilled swordsman and staff fighter his true mastery lay in wizardry.  John saw the Suian as an opportunity to review and perhaps even find a new champion to replace him.  It was not to be.

Alios had little interest in the competition itself, though the history of it thrilled him.  Still, the completion of the dredging of the Tamin and possibility of deepening the channel north of Messada to improve trade with Gnarland occupied his attention, so he gladly allowed John to oversee the High King's tournament.  It is unlikely that John, as wise a being as he was, had any idea of all the competing interests that were at work at that time in the Kingdom.

Now, the Kingdom's might was uncontested and had been so for decades.  Furthermore, the last major conflict the Kingdom had been involved in was the war at sea with the Grean Republic.  Thus for the first time in the Kingdom's history its mighty legions, Othueyn in the old language of the Gemblade line, had been unused for two full generations.  It was the royal navy, and to lesser extent marines, that had won glory for the Kingdom, and was in turn gaining the most dedicated recruits.  Thus the commanders of the Legions were determined that the High King's champion would be from among the ranks of the army.  The Eramu, generals in the common tongue, left little to chance.  Rather than simply allow any soldier to enter the national tournament each legion held competitions of their own, selecting a champion to compete in the High King's tournament.  This produced excellent entrants, though not necessarily warriors with the right combination of skill and other traits that John sought for a new champion.  Because the army sent such skilled warriors, many elite soldiers from the Diamond Brigades, others that might have thrived and succeeded in a more open field had little hope of victory.

The army however was only the first of John's problems.  Far to the west the Scaled Elves had recently begin to chafe at rule by the King of the West.  The elves had been loyal subjects from the beginning of the Kingdom, showing their allegiance by helping overthrow their first king Fraelix and serving ably in many conflicts since.  They too saw the Suian as a chance to focus the Kingdom's attention on their people and perhaps have one of their own named king or queen.  The elves' elders carefully held their own tournaments and then presented the winners for selection by the clerics of Han-sui.  Those that were not selected were sent to the High King's tournament.  Among their ranks were Sword Saints and Cavaliers of considerable skill.  These too made it far more difficult for competitors not solely dedicated to the fighting arts to advance.

Then as the tournament field was assembling word of what would surely have been a disaster reached John's ears: Kovan Iscendor, the Seeker, my friend from long ago, would enter on behalf of the Guardians.  Now Kovan had formally become Warmaster of the Temple in 128 PsA but was already a mighty warrior before then.  Like John he had fought in every major battle against the forces of darkness for nearly 300 years.  He had stood beside Stasis himself before the Abyssal gate in the Jungles in 11 PsA and again during the assault against the Spider Queen's sanctum in 126 PsA.  He had fought countless battles against fiends and servants of evil in the years of service to the Guardian cause and when not in battle trained relentlessly, seeking a perfect understanding of the Bladelord Arts.  Likely none before and certainly none since have been in equal in that pursuit.  If there was a mightier warrior alive at the time of Suian his name surely has been lost to history.  Kovan's entry would have completely undermined John's plans for two reasons.  First it is very unlikely that any of the other warriors could have lasted more than a few moments against him and second when he won there was no chance that he would leave the Temple to become the High King's champion.

Fortunately, Kovan and John had been friends for centuries.  In fact they had stood shoulder to shoulder on countless occasions. John implored Kovan not to enter and to let younger warriors from shorter lived races have their chance.  John did not have to try very hard to convince him, for Kovan had little interest in the competition.  He had fought in 5 Suians, and had long ago stopped seeking glory for himself.  In truth he preferred the quiet of his studies and training.  He had put his name forth only at the encouragement of the Guardians who wished to see their mentor in action.  His graceful and magnanimous withdrawal was a great but temporary relief for John; for when the final roster was compiled, John saw that Kovan's greatest students, no less than five Bladelords who had reached the Final Understanding, had entered their names when he stepped aside.  

Seeing that his hopes were dashed all John could do was stand aside and watch perhaps the greatest non-Suian armed tournament ever.

 

Part II

John watched from his balcony and the assembled warriors came and made their salute.  By the end of the parade it was clear that this was no ordinary field.  In the past lowly warriors dreaming of glory had entered their name with only a faint hope of advancing even to the second day.  Here was an entire cohort of men and women who all believed that they could emerge victorious.

The competition lasted a week but by the end of the first day John's fears were confirmed.  The soldiers, while skilled combatants, lacked the polish of a true competitor in the Suian tradition.  Likewise the cavaliers and knights, while surely a formidable foe on the battlefield, deprived of none of their heroic powers, could not match the pure skill of the Sword Saints, Silverswords, and Bladelords in the arena.

By the end of the second day word had spread throughout the city, and even to Porth Phiam and Colonye, that the High King's tournament was a sight to behold.  To the uninitiated it was a spectacle, unprecedented in the history of the Kingdom, so many of the Kingdom's elite in one place engaged in such a clash of skill and bravery.  To John, and others, it was less thrilling.  The outcome of battle after battle seemed like equations, solved with little effort.  Warrior after warrior fell in short order to one of the weapon masters, and by the end of the third day there was little doubt that one of Kovan's students would emerge victorious.  At the end of the fourth day six remained; the five bladelords and a scaled elven Sword Saint wielding a longsword and shield.

On the last day John was joined by the Royal Court and guests: the High King and his new bride, all of the ministers (including Gnikelle Tolist who would have preferred to be anywhere else), the General Staff, Kovan and even Escalon the Arrow.  It was the last that would set in motion the events that followed the tournament but we are not to that tale yet.  The day began and John could see the outcome as if it had already happened.  As mighty as each of the Bladelords were, one of each path but the Korddyk-ar, and the Scaled Elf's skill was no less, John knew that the Silencer would emerge victorious.  He had crushed each of his previous opponents.  Those that rushed in to meet him could not trade blows with him.  Those that sought to dodge and avoid him eventually found themselves within the deadly arc of his greatsword.  Any who thought to keep him at bay soon found that he could strike as quickly as a wyvern's tail.  One by one the other competitors fell as John expected: the defenses of the Shardykan blasted aside, serving only to prolong the battle; the swift Verdykan unable stand toe to toe with him, borne to the arena floor with a single mighty overhand chop and last the Servant of Honor who dutifully stood true and traded stroke after stroke until she too was felled.

The orc, Emerius Kor'naeur, the Watchful, would represent the High King of Icefia in the Suian.

But not all that watched were thrilled with the victory . . .


 

Part III

Such was the power of the Kingdom by the time of the Suian that none dared to challenge its decisions.  Nations, merchants and even the churches obeyed the High King's edicts or at least were not so foolish as to openly defy them.

By the time of the Suian the church of Han-Sui was in a precarious position in the Kingdom.  The faithful of Stasis had surpassed their own number in the Kingdom decades earlier.  For the most part the relationship between the churches was excellent, each happy for another ally in the cause of law and justice and the native church of Han-Sui rarely found a quarrel with the followers of the Lightbringer.  However, the church of Han-Sui is among the most hierarchical and from time to time one of the temples would receive a high cleric from abroad.  Invariably these strict traditionalists would be appalled by the open tolerance of the cult of Hemator and would try to stir their faithful to act.  Over the decades this led to several being arrested or expelled from the Kingdom.

When Messada was selected for the Suian, and the rules for participation announced, the High Cleric of Icefia, the Deputy for the West, was summoned to Castle Gemblade. There he was informed that the High King reserved the right to allow cultists to participate in his tournament.  As the Deputy began to protest he was further informed that if this condition could not be accepted the Suian could be held elsewhere and the Kingdom would simply hold its own tournament, open to all with a massive purse to the finalists.

Faced with the possibility that the Suian would be humiliated and the credibility of its winner called into question (though in my humble opinion the actions of Kaldur at the beginning of the 3rd century had long since raised that question) the church relented.  In truth in their minds there was little to fear; most of the cults were evil and unwelcome in the Kingdom, Allanda's followers were no threat to enter, let alone win, and Mouser had only a handful of truly competent warriors among his faithful and if one of those were to win it would not have been greatly upsetting for the Church was more tolerant of Mouser's cult than any other.  They believed only the numerous faithful of Hemator posed any serious threat and once the character of the field began to take shape that fear too subsided.  They had forgotten the Guardians of course.  In part this was because it was difficult to imagine any Guardian other than Kovan, a follower of both Stasis and Han-Sui, entering the High King's tournament.  The entry of his apprentices drew no notice until the tournament was underway.

It was bad enough that the victor was sure to be a Guardian by the last few days of competition but the victory of Emerius and the attendance of Escalon in the royal balcony were too much to bear.  Emerius was a follower of the powers of the upper planes, on his breast plate was a mailed hand on a diamond field.  That a cultist of this sort would represent the mightiest nation in Han-Sui's sacred games was an insult of unprecedented gravity.  So the high clerics of Han-Sui gathered to find a competitor that would humble the host nation in as many ways as possible.


 

Part IV

In the early days of the Kingdom Stasis and his companions, and later the first Knights of the White Sword and their allies from other nations, faced many threats that could have undone Stasis' work.  The two greatest were Kaldur Deth and the Hunter of Paladins.  Stasis had slain the wielder of the dread sword in the years before the foundation of the Kingdom when the foolish warrior thought Stasis to be a paladin himself and sought him out, but fate, or the dread intelligence of the sword itself, prevented Stasis from capturing the blade.

Now as Stasis set about taming the wilderness of Icefia and forging the Kingdom he uncovered many places lost to civilized knowledge and did battle with many enemies.  One such enemy was an enigmatic warrior named Kertullian.  Legends say that Kertullian was not native to Habololy, and had followed Stasis and Mouser here to challenge them and prove his mettle.  The truth of that will never be known but what is recorded is that Stasis defeated Kertullian and spared his life.  For a time Kertullian was loyal to Stasis but eventually his baser instincts took hold of him and he disappeared into the wilderness.  After a few years the Knights found him, now the chieftain of one of Icefia's numerous barbarian tribes.  It seemed that he was preparing to make war upon the nascent Kingdom and so Stasis again challenged him and defeated him.  The Barbarians carried off his body and their horde dispersed.

No thought was given to Kertullian for years until the emergence of Kaldur and it became common knowledge that the Chaos Knight had two goals, the assassination of the Suian competitors and the acquisition of the Hunter of Paladins.  Little thought had been given to the wicked blade by Stasis or the Knights, who in those early years had no paladins among their ranks but now a frantic search began.  They did not need to look for long for Kertullian emerged from the wilderness in possession of the sword and began a spree for murder around the globe that dwarfed Kaldur's own.  Then in 2 PsA Kertullian struck the Paladin School in Mydir, killing dozens before Stasis and St. Hamel the good arrived and he fled.

The following year the Knights and their allies trapped Kertullian and defeated him in a pitched battle, only barely thwarting Kaldur from seizing the sword for his own.  From then until the Day of Falling Death the accursed blade was locked away by the power of Falan in his tower in Castle Gemblade.

The murder of over 50 paladins was not Kertullian's only legacy.  For years, until the reign of Gideon the First, strange barbarians would emerge from the deepest forests and wantonly murder Icefians in the wilderness.  Unlike other tribes these seemed to relish in combat with knights and warriors armed with steel arms and armor.  They would infiltrate keeps and mansions, slaughtering any within, carrying off body parts as trophies.  During the time of the Hunt, the Knights and other adventurers came into frequent contact with these soulless killers and in 68 PsA what was thought to be their tribal home was uncovered.  An alien labyrinth of trees, caves and huts deep in the interior of the continent.  It was decorated with thousands of skulls and was a place of seemingly mindless depravity.  At its center stood a statue of surprising craftsmanship, the likeness apparent to all: Kertullian, the hunter of men.

The legions arrived and by the end of the year the tribe seemed decimated, its survivors absorbed by the larger Cavehome and Snowserpent clans, but in truth the Hunters of Men survived.  Their existence was a persistent embarrassment to the Kingdom, one which the clerics of Han-Sui were intent on exploiting.

 

 

Part V

And so the great Suian of 516 A.C. came to a close.  Many saw the hand of divine intervention when the winner and the runner up were an Icefian and a Destroytian, just as it had been with Stasis and Dextronen three hundred years earlier.  In the end most were happy with the outcome, none wished to see Ynok win, or Kertullian for that matter, but there were many who cheered against Varak as well.

The name the Lost Suian comes from what came after.  Unlike many of the great victors of the past, Korda, Stasis, Silvarn, Owen Windblade, Darkwind Brightsoul and Borkon the Rusted who went on to even greater deeds, or had already made their own legends, the finalists of the 303 Suian would soon see their legacy drowned in the sea of war.  It is worth remembering them.

Of the competitors lives after the tournament the least is known of Lexi and Gnax.  Gnax disappeared from the city with his entourage the day after he was eliminated and never heard from again.  Lexi remained for the festivities, sharing the celebration with her fellow Silverswords, and afterwards returned to the Forest.  Her fate is unrecorded but she likely passed before the horror that befell her homeland.

Kertullian and Emerius did not live long after the Tournament.  Kertullian, murdered his clerical handlers and set on a course of slaughter in Messada, killing thirty innocents and a dozen constables until Marcus and Dryden hunted him down and killed him.  Emerius was assassinated two years after the Tournament while on a visit to the Orcish Empire.  He was shot down with a crossbow bolt, his mighty Kovan Marked blade stolen.  For years it was believed that it was an Amatine Assassin that had slain him but after the War it was discovered that it was a Tinker sniper.  The Tinkers mistakenly believed that he was a champion of the Empire, rather than a Guardian and thought that they might face him in battle.  Interestingly, not long ago Emerius returned from the dead and now serves as the bodyguard of Escalon the Arrow.  I know of no reason why he was returned and why so long passed before the act was done.

Ynok, as one might expect from a Kobold, also did not live long after the Suian, though his fate is less clear.  Ynok was killed leading a Kobold revolt during the War.  His death is recorded in "song" by the Kobolds but research indicates that his body was never recovered.  Some say the drow took it for purposes unknown, but others say that the Eternal, the heretical sect within Falan's faith, bought his body and set it to some evil purpose.

Of the brothers, their history is well recorded.  Both fought admirably at the Battle of Winter's End and spent the remainder of their lives in the service of the Kingdom as members of the Guardian Brigades.  They undertook countless missions against the Tinkers and both survived their time in service.  Dryden became an instructor at the Royal Icefian Military Academy after his physical prowess left him.  The sword fighting arena there is named in his honor.  Abernathy served longer, his fighting style less susceptible of the ravages of time, and returned to Ekarude where his influence on the warriors there in part shaped the rise of the Red Guard.  He did eventually return to Icefia and is buried with the rest of the war dead in the great military cemetery west of the city.  Their family was awarded nobility for their service, though their lands were lost when the elves rebelled. 

Thrasius returned to the Empire in glory and led his team to victory after victory for the next five years before retiring.  During the War he served in the Armus, as did virtually every orc of his generation, and distinguished himself at the disastrous Battle of Lynkeed (surviving was a feat alone) and remained in service till his death.  He is still revered for his time as a player, and it is that legacy which has endured.

Varak returned to the Islands and became a chieftain of sorts.  It is possible that he might have risen to the heights of power like Borkon before him, and unified the lizardfolk of the Islands but twenty years into the War he was killed by the Tinker army.  Legends say that he smashed construct after construct until he was the only thing standing on his island and the Tinkers were forced to kill him with a naval barrage..

The three remaining each left a lasting legacy.  Marcus was one of the most celebrated figures in Icefia and was asked more than once by John to become the High King's Champion.  Marcus enjoyed the adventurer's life and politely declined until the Day of Falling Death.  During the Icefian counterattack Marcus volunteered to join the Knights of the White Sword who magically entered the Flying Deliverer's of Death and crashed those terrible machines into their waiting Sea Fortress ships.  Marcus survived and joined the army at Winter's End where he took personal command of the civilian militia during the battle.  Despite grievous injuries Marcus returned to service and he too joined the Guardian brigades.  He eventually rose to the command of the Brigade and then became Lord Protector of the Realm, the first time a person not of a High Noble family held that position.  For his actions his family was bestowed High Nobility and a massive grant of land in the southwest of the High King's lands.  Of equal importance perhaps to those that study the history of the Suian, at least one competitor in a line of unbroken succession from master to student has finished in the top 25 of every Suian since his victory including Martine Vanyar the last champion.

Tan'Fesh's accomplishments are less well known but of equal stature.  His life of travelling gladiatorial combat was utterly swept away by the War.  For a time he worked as a mercenary guarding precious food caravans in the Elven Jungles and later fighting the Tinkers in Lohak.  In 595 A.C. a group of Nipits and Sakor'Akai nominate him to be the head of a newly formed nation: Amansky.  Tan'Fesh ably led the nation for nearly 50 years securing recognition from the great nations and the lords of the Forest.  He fathered at least 20 children and his surname, An'Fesh, is among the most common in Amansky.

Theos Firstcrest returned to the Republic a national hero.  He was appointed a commander of the knights and ably led them until the Day of Falling Death.  When the Republic decided to set out to strike at the Tinkocracy Theos was the second of Herstal Steelsun, the Warlord of the Republic, and became Grandmaster of the Knights.  Only a few years after the start of the War when the Emperor (still the ceremonial title) was assassinated, the Lords Council elected Theos Emperor.  Theos reign was short, for he too fell prey to the Tinkers, for he was just as intractable as a leader as he was in the arena, but he is credited for inspiring the people of the Republic during the darkest period of their history.  Of equal importance, Theos firmly set the Republic on the path of good.  He rejected the calls of the more militant voices in the Republic for cruelty and bloodletting against the Tinkers.  He fought hard against those that called for a return to the old laws of the Republic and many scholars believe that had he lived longer he might have found a way to forge consensus in the Republic and end the growing movement towards rebellion.  He is revered as one of the Republic's greatest heroes and a monument stands in a place of honor before the gates of the Council Hall.

 

 

 

 

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