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Invicta at War

Aurelius's picture

((originally posted September 22, 2008))

Aurelius stepped into the alley, the door to the Green Man creaking quietly shut behind him. He'd participated in many a war council in many a tavern, from the clouded rankness of the Salty Dog to an unnamed tavern, more a barn, in Brandoc Village. He'd seen alliances come and go in his time as a mercenary commander and the Company he lead had fought for or against most of them.

But this war council had been different. Throughout all the turmoil and strife of these last few months, the King's Guard of Poitain had always been the unlikeliest, yet the staunchest, of friends.

Their demeanor had always bothered him a bit... they were loyal, steadfast and, above all else, loyal to the King. His King. The King he'd fought and bled for to put on the throne. He couldn't help but feel some loyalty for the aging Cimmerian hero. But he knew well the loyalty he felt had no place in a mercenary's heart. A mercenary does not fight for a country or a king...he fights for coin.

But this... this war council, he accepted no coin. There was no bartering to be done. For the first time, Invicta was at war.

"Even a dog doesn't shit where he sleeps," was the reason he always gave for not accepting contract against the Crown. Invicta had purchased land near the Maxtenti Estate in Poitain to call home. Upon that land, the mercenaries of Invicta had built a sprawling fortification, with strong walls protecting smiths, a tavern, a trading post and even a temple, despite his own protestations. Gods had no place among mercenaries, he'd always affirmed. He glanced with a smirk to the young woman mounting her steed next to him.

Kemena. His Herald. A Priest of Mitra, the god that he had prayed to so earnestly when his family was attacked so many months before. She had found the means to tame his nightmares of that wretched night. And, in the process, she had found a way to tame his heart. In a few short weeks they were to be wed. He gave her an encouraging wink as she looked to him.

His mind refocused to the task at hand. The war. When the Order of the Blade came to Tesso that night, the King's Guard rode out to meet them on the battlefield. He watched as they departed, noble Challa at the vanguard, their faces resolute in the knowledge that they fought for a cause.

He'd fought for causes before. Those days were behind him. But these people... they had become his friends. They had always stood by Invicta in dealing with bandits. And he felt that familiar longing in his heart... the longing for fighting for a cause. To pick up blade again for that old pirate of a King and fight for a reason. But even then he refused... he was a mercenary, he fought for coin. He mounted his steed and rode up next to Thorious, one of Challa's officer.

"Invicta will stand with you this day. You owe us a tin piece." he rumbled to the man.

It was a symbolic price, but it was coin nonetheless. In his mind, at least, the mercenary had stayed true to the nature of his Company.

The Battle of Tesso had gone well, but it was against an implacable foe. The Order of the Blade was a staunch opponent, with the host of Nox Eternus at their side. Reports suggested the Brotherhood of the Serpent was with them, lurking nearby, but they did not join into the main of the fray. Until a few lone assassins snuck into the town to attack key personnel that Aurelius realized they had not the balls to take the field directly with their allies.

But even despite this treachery, the allies had won the day. The Order of the Blade departed the battlefield in good order, temporarily abandoned by their allies. Kings Guard, Invicta and their unlikely friends, Anx Ma'at, had won the day. They returned to Tesso, raised the King's standard and drank away the night in celebration.

The following day, one of his own had gone missing. The young Stygian, Niladri, had been kidnapped. Through her emblem, she had been able to communicate little to us as we searched for her, but finally we discovered who had taken her... Nox Eternus. A message was delivered... two gold and a promise never to take arms against them or their allies again.

Aurelius was surprised at his own indignation. He had known that fighting for coin might make him enemies, but kidnapping one of his own? That flew against even his sense of propriety. One does not kidnap soldiers and hold them for ransom with such demands. Invicta rode across much of Hyboria searching for those wearing the colors of Nox Eternus... the so-called "Eternal Night" and finally found one, a lone woman traveling in the wretched Purple Lotus swamps of the south. So they took her... forced her to show them the way to their hidden fortress, deep in the hill country of eastern Poitain.

Aurelius called for parley at their gates while his men secretly scaled the walls of that impressive fortress. And when Nox Eternus refused to hand her over, he called for the attack. The Invictan strike force struck true... her captors were put down and Niladri jumped from their gatehouse into our arms. She was restored to us, beaten and battered by her captors, but alive... The enemy had shown to what depths they would sink to achieve dominion over the Aquilonian people.

Days went by and Invicta howled for retribution. But Aurelius held them back, save for Zhorr's revenge for the torture of his woman. They were mercenaries still. They did not fight for causes, they fought for coin.

The day that his Centurion, Vhaelon, had gone to the Brotherhood of the Serpent to barter for the price of a slave woman that had caught his fancy, Aurelius had been busy on another contract. If he had been aware of his Centurion's actions, he would have stopped him... he knew their enemy would stop at nothing to force Invicta to stay out of the coming battles and rumors had circulated that the Brotherhood were the puppet masters behind the Order's attacks on the Crown. But he had not the opportunity... when he returned from his contract, Kyzafi and Kemena had called him to the Purple Lotus Swamp, to the dark sanctuary of the Brotherhood itself... to the siege of their city... to rescue yet another kidnapped brother.

This time, the enemy was ready. Nox Eternus, the Order of the Blade, Barush Rusha, Crimson Immortals and Midnight Brigade all stood to defend the Brotherhood's ill-gotten prisoner. Only the King's Guard and Invicta stood to secure him. By the time Aurelius had arrived, the first assault on the keep had already failed. He and Challa rallied the men, formed up ranks and pushed forward again towards those wretched towers.

Finally, when the smoke had settled and the wounded tended to, Invicta and the King's Guard were victorious. They pulled Vhaelon from his captors atop those dark towers and left the battlefield in good order.

But the deed had been done. Their enemy had not learned the lesson given freely at the keep of Nox Eternus. They had not learned that these mercenaries would not be controlled by the cowardice of some Stygian priest. Aurelius recognized Crimson Immortals and Midnight Brigade as fellow mercenaries... he knew well they did not fight for a cause, but for coin. He found no fault in them. And the Rusha? They fought only to protect Stygians... he could understand their aims did not fall against Invicta, only against the actions of outsiders.

But the Order of the Blade and Nox Eternus were the puppets of the Brotherhood. They fought to bring down Aquilonia, to replace the rightfully-won Crown with a puppet of Set. And finally bring jeweled Aquilonia into the coils of Stygia.

With Vhaelon returned safely to Fort Invicta and the priests tending to his wounds, Aurelius responded to a summons by the Commander Challa to the Green Man in Tarantia. Their conversation was brief, as their resolve was finally the same.

There would be war.

Aurelius touched the emblem, ensorcelled by the priests of Asura for some unknown reason, and concentrated on calling out to his brethren.

"Let it be known that Nox Eternus, the Brotherhood of the Serpent and the Order of the Blade are our enemies. Invicta, we are at war!"

((Thanks to my brethren in Invicta, King's Guard, Anx Ma'at, Nox Eternus, Brotherhood of the Serpent, Order of the Blade and everyone else involved for the enjoyable RP and PvP we've been involved in recently. And congratulations... it takes a lot for Invicta to declare war, but you guys pulled it off ;) It'll be interesting to see where this leads. And the events of this story are from the point of view of Aurelius and may not reflect events and motivations as they actually occurred.))

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