Ever since it's early history, Althas has been a land shaken by conflicts. In the early days, these conflicts pitted the Anointed Kingdoms of Men against dark and demonic forces that threatened them. However, with the passage of time, the world has changed: the Anointed order is eroding away and new powers are rising. Another war looms on the horizon, a war of personal and political motivation. Thenodar, a burgeoning new kingdom in the North, and Anorthile, one of the last of the three remaining Anointed Kingdoms, now prepare for a war that will shake all of Althas. Old demons and new enemies gather in the shadows of both lands as each sets their sights on the ruined wilderness known as the Feralands.
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Hey Althas fans, sorry for the silence, we've been quite busy with development.
Just in time for the Holidays is a special little story for you guys called "The Hawk and the Stone". This is just Chapter 1; we plan to post the Chapters of this short story regularly, and we may even have a special surprise at the end of the series.
Morgen stumbled through the field in the faint pre-dawn light. The smoke-choked air further obscured her vision as she continued forward towards the vague forms and red firelight she could see ahead of her. Embers and sparks blew at her face, dim points of light in the grey fog. Her eyes burned from the smoke as she stared forward into the wind, straining to make out the shapes ahead of her. Suddenly, she realized what she was seeing: a town with many crumbling houses slowly being consumed by a great blaze. Her pace quickened, a sense of foreboding growing in her as the form of the house directly ahead of her became increasingly clear.
She was nearly at a full sprint when her foot caught on something hard and cold and fell sprawling in the dry, prickly grass. She turned and saw that she had tripped on a steel shield, a shield still held firmly in the hand of its dead bearer. She jerked away and quickly scrambled back from the corpse. But then her hand fell on another metal object, this time a helmet. She gasped and stood up quickly. Looking around, she saw now the field and town - her home - were choked with scattered bodies, broken swords and shields, and tattered banners. And the fire was spreading over it all, the roaring blaze drawing closer and closer...
Morgen sat up with a start, trembling as she stared into the faint light of dawn. The crackling of a fire sent a chill through her and she quickly turned to see a small campfire to her left. Saelig, her mother, sat by the fire preparing the morning meal, her golden hair framing her green eyes that glistened in the firelight.
Just a dream, Morgen thought with a sigh. The memory of Tilethe, her home village, devastated by the aftermath of the battle between the kingdoms of Anorthile and Thenodar had troubled her for many weeks now. And now here she was heading north with her family to join Thenodar, one of the very kingdoms responsible for ruining her home. Why should we have to live under their rule? She thought, her anger rising as she stared into the campfire. They're the reason we're stuck wandering homeless in the first place; this whole mess is their fault!
"I wish we could just go back . . ." she muttered.
"What was that, Morgen?" asked Saelig softly.
"Hmm? Oh . . . it's nothing." Morgen replied. She knew going back was not an option. The war, the drought, they could never have survived the winter there. Even the merchant caravans that usually passed through had stopped because of the war. They were barely able to scrounge together enough food to head north. The thought of food made Morgen's stomach growl, a bitter reminder of how slim their rations were.
Suddenly, as the morning's grogginess began to fade, Morgen became aware of a faint muttering behind her. She turned and saw her father Tholig speaking to a cloaked man with a sword at his side and a horse standing by him. They seemed to be having a somewhat heated argument though they spoke softly; the man with the cloak repeatedly gestured towards Morgan and her mother. What's that all about? Morgen wondered.
Morgen turned and stood to call out to her father. "Fathe-"
"Shhh!" interrupted Saelig.
Tholig gave Morgen a sharp glance over his shoulder and then returned to speaking with the man. Morgen turned to her mother. "Who is he?" She said quietly.
"Hopefully, someone who can help us." With that Saelig returned her focus to the meal.
Morgen turned back towards the fire and sat down. However, she turned her head so that she could see her father and the man out of the corner of her eye. Her father and the man continued their debate for a few moments and then seemed to reach an impasse. After a moment more of futile gestures and debate, he bade her father farewell, mounted his horse, and left. Tholig walked slowly back towards the camp fire, his expression one of deep thought.
"So . . . ?" inquired Saelig.
"No, he won't help us," said Tholig. "Says it's too dangerous to guard three, especially with two . . . well you know."
"Ah . . . so that's it. Then it's as you feared . . ."
"Aye. They are roaming freely throughout the lands between here and the Thenodar border, and even some beyond it between Hrectan and Arísan."
"They?" interrupted Morgen. "You mean Clan Wulfas?"
Saelig and Tholig turned and stared at Morgen for a moment, apparently stunned she had so clearly discerned exactly what they were talking about. I'm not a child anymore, she thought, annoyed by their attempts to keep her out of the discussion.
After a long pause, Tholig replied, "Yes, Morgen, the Wulfas are roaming the path between us and Thenodar."
"So what does this mean?" asked Morgen. "What do we do?"
"We . . . we just need to adjust our plans. We'll make it just fine, don't worry."
Saelig turned and said in a lower voice. "Tholig, you're not-"
"Not now!" replied Tholig, returning her gaze.
Tholig and Saelig's gazes were a mixture of sternness and concern, an unspoken conversation passing between them. Morgen fixed her gaze on them. Unable to decipher what was being said between them, her eyes drifted down to the golden brooch that pinned her mother's cloak in place just below her left shoulder, the last relic of a life their family left behind years ago. A red sunstone set in the center glistened in the trembling light, the gold surrounding its setting forming a four pointed star with numerous rays etched into the metal.
That brooch took her back to their days in Lamniemalos and the few years she could remember of that time. The Wulfas . . . , she thought, shuddering. She was only five when they left, but she still vaguely remembered the terrible stories people would tell of the Wulfas, how they would snatch up girls and women to sell off to foreign lands or drag them off to the mines. At the time, she had treated them as horror stories made up to scare children, but she had since learned from accounts from people passing through Tilethe that they were all too real. If that sellsword was too afraid to protect us, then what chance do we have of reaching Thenodar on our own? Morgen shivered at the thought.
"Morgen?" said her mother, her words intruding into Morgen's thoughts.
Morgen looked up and saw her mother holding out a plate of food. "Oh . . . thank you."
Morgen took the plate and looked down at the contents. As hungry as she was, she couldn't help but feel disappointed to once again see salted meat and a couple of small potatoes. She ate slowly, trying to stretch the small sampling out, hoping that taking her time would help to appease her stomach. It didn't. I would almost willingly be sold off if it would get me some decent food, she thought.
After the morning meal, the family packed their things and headed off. Morgen and her mother took turns riding the horse while her father led the way. After stopping for the midday meal, Morgen took her turn riding the horse while her mother walked alongside Tholig in front. The two began whispering to each other, occasionally glancing over their shoulders at Morgen. Saeling seemed to be disagreeing with Tholig on something.
Morgen tried to listen in but was unable to hear anything they said. Bored, she turned her gaze to the land around her. The rolling hills stretched all around, with the Visheval mountains peaking over them to the east. The slowly browning grass of autumn swayed in the wind, and small, brightly colored stands of trees dotted the landscape. If only we could live here, she thought, enjoying the comforting breeze.
Then Morgen spotted something else dotting the land: grey blobs, perhaps made of stone, that poked out from the grass here and there.
"Father, what are those?" asked Morgen, pointing towards the stone mounds and speaking up to get Tholig's attention.
Tholig turned and examined the grey masses. "Cairns. They mark large graves, probably for soldiers from either side of the recent battles."
"There are so many . . ." she muttered.
Tholig nodded. "It was a bloody affair and neither side had the resources to move all the dead such a long distance. Thenodar has only just formed and Anorthile is very far away."
Morgen studied the stone mounds for a moment. They were a sobering sight, standing alone among the hills without so much as a homestead to be found nearby. All this fighting and death over this land and the only thing either side built here were a bunch of graves.
The rest of the day continued in relative silence. As the sun was setting, they entered a small wood and reached a river; after fording it they stopped for the night. Saelig prepared the evening meal while Tholig set up camp.
As they ate, Tholig and Saelig again exchanged glares occasionally, apparently some unresolved issue being silently debated.
What is so terrible you can't just tell me, thought Morgen, agitated. I'm right here, I can see you doing that.
As she examined them, she couldn't help but be taken back by how the past few months had changed her father. Hs brown hair, which had once been well combed, was now matted and came down to his shoulders, and his once well-kept beard was now a scraggly mess. But not only that, he seemed to have aged unnaturally in that time, with lines once faint becoming pronounced and his teal eyes heavy with weariness.
After eating, Morgen quietly laid down on her bedroll and turned away from Tholig and Saelig. While she really was tired, she was more hoping that Saelig and Tholig would loosen up and just speak. Alas, they seemed too clever for that. Oh well, thought Morgen and closed her eyes. But after several moments, Morgen was somewhat startled to hear her father suddenly speak.
"I think she's aslee-"
"We can't do this Tholig," Saelig interrupted in a hushed voice.
"What choice do we have? Starvation to the south, the Wulfas to the north. This is the only chance for you. For both of you."
"No, it's not, we can make it north if we're just-"
"Careful? Do you want to risk everything on that? The Wulfas are dangerous, especially for Morgen. I won't risk it."
"And this is any less a risk?" said Saelig, raising her voice a bit. "How do we know we can still trust her? Or any of them? You know they-"
"Shhh!" said Tholig. There was a pause then, "Come, let's discuss this over here. I want to let her sleep."
With that Morgen heard the two walk off some distance and continue in hushed whispers she couldn't make out. For a moment she almost jumped up and demanded what was going on, but their conversation had disturbed her and now, she wasn't sure she wanted to know. So instead she closed her eyes and let the crackling of the fire and the wind in the trees lull her to sleep.
The next day they turned off the road and began following an old beaten path along the river heading east. The day passed in relative silence. Both Tholig and Saelig seemed to have settled whatever they had been discussing but seemed to be in a fairly somber mood. They continued to follow the river east for two more days, the Visheval rising higher and higher as they drew near.
On the fourth day, Morgen couldn't stand it anymore. "Where are we going?" she asked, trying to keep her voice calm.
Tholig hesitated, then said, "We're just heading east a bit to give some troubled areas a wide berth, that's all-"
"Don't lie to me!" Morgen said in a raised voice.
"Morgen!" Saelig said sternly. "What has gotten into-"
"I heard you talking four nights ago; I know we aren't headed north at all. So stop lying and tell me the truth. Where are we going?"
Tholig's expression turned grim, his brows furrowed; there was a long pause. Finally he spoke. "We are headed back over the mountains."
"Tholig!" Saelig interrupted, the surprise on her face echoed by her tone.
Tholig shot her a sharp glance, as if to cut off Saelig before she could continue. "She . . . she deserves to know." Tholig turned back to Morgen. "We are headed back over the Visheval to Lamniemalos. We are headed to meet Gebyld. She helped us before, she will help us again."
"Back . . . Back to Lamniemalos?" said Morgen, her eyes widening. "But didn't we already have to leave there once? What good would going back there do?"
"I still have some friends there. If they can help us get through this winter, we can still head to Thenodar with Gebyld's help next year, and with better supplies." Tholig hesitated for a moment, his expression softening, and then added, "Everything is going to be fine Morgen. Please just . . . just trust us."
After that, both Tholig and Saelig were silent. Meanwhile, Morgen tried to grasp exactly what she had just been told. Headed back over the mountains? Morgen thought. Through the Somstrynd Clans' territory? I mean sure, it's Clan Haefecas's area but still. But . . . maybe father's right, if Gebyld helps us . . . but we haven't seen her in years, how can we trust her?
All these thoughts raced around Morgen's head for the rest of the day as the family continued east, eventually entering the forests that covered the foothills of the Visheval. Finally, with the sun having almost set, Morgen's father suddenly brought them to a halt.
"Wait here," he said and walked forward and then turned to the left. He faced the woods and after a moment of hesitation let out a loud and peculiar whistle, like some sort of bird call.
After a few moments a man emerged from the shadows under the trees. He wore leather armor and a helm adorned with the wings of a hawk. He had an arrow fitted to his bow and had the bow pointed squarely at Tholig. Morgen's heart skipped a beat. A Haefecas warrior, she thought.
"Where did you learn that call?" he demanded.
"From your captain, if Gebyld still be your captain in these parts," responded Tholig calmly. "I also received this from her." As he spoke, Tholig pulled from his pocket a small piece of cloth with a seal painted on it. "And I was told to present it if ever I was in need of aid. Will you bear it to her quickly and ask if she will meet with me here?"
The man lowered his bow, took the cloth and examined it for a moment. "And who should I name as the sender of this request?"
"Tholig. That is all she will need to know."
After a pause, the man pocketed the cloth. "Very well, I will bear your request. If she will meet you, you will see her tomorrow before sunset."
"Thank you and farewell."
With that, the man turned and soon had vanished into the forest. Morgen let out a sigh of relief as he left. She dismounted from the horse and helped Tholig set up camp while Saelig started the fire and began preparing the meal.
That evening, after eating their frugal dinner, Morgen and Saelig sat silently by the fire. Tholig had pulled a candle and small candle holder from his pack as well as a piece of flat wood, a piece of parchment, and some charcoal and now sat off to the side, scribbling something on the parchment with the charcoal. He was writing by the candlelight and had his back to Morgen so she couldn't see what he was up to. Both he and Saelig had been quiet during the meal. That left Morgen feeling uneasy. As she stared into the fire, she tried to think of something - anything - to break the silence.
"So . . ." Morgen started, "do you think we can trust Gebyld?"
Saelig sighed. "I hope we can, but she is a Somstrynd."
"But she helped us before, didn't she?"
"That was years ago; much may have changed. And even if she has not changed, she may not be able to help us this time."
"Not be able to? Why?"
"Well . . . she is a woman. And a captain. The Somstrynd do not generally look kindly on that. She is no doubt under constant scrutiny; sneaking us through her land may no longer be possible"
"Ah . . . I see." Morgen let her eyes drift and her gaze settled on her mother's brooch, the gold and red sunstone glinting in the firelight. "Are you ever going to tell me the story behind that?"
"Hmm?" Saelig looked down at the brooch. "What, this? Wel . . . l it has been in my family for many generations."
"You already told me that before."
"Yes well . . . what it signifies is-" Saelig paused and looked at Morgen, studying her. Her expression then relaxed and she continued with a familiar line: "Well, perhaps I will wait to tell you that"
"Why?" Morgen said with a bit of a groan. The mystery of that brooch had fascinated - and frustrated - Morgen for years.
"I just want to make sure you are ready to know. Now go ahead and go to sleep. We will likely have a busy day tomorrow."
Morgen sighed and laid down on her bedroll. She stared up at the sky, the innumerable stars glistening, puncturing the vast darkness. Anxiousness kept her from sleep. Gebyld, the Somstrynd, returning to Lamniemalos. It all felt surreal to her. In fact, her whole life since leaving Tilethe felt like a dream. If only I could wake up from it, she thought. With that she closed her eyes, longing for the peace of sleep. Slowly her anxiety settled and she was lulled to sleep by the crackling of the fire.
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@Vlahktard We're thrilled that you think so! We'd love to provide you that opportunity once that term of the development cycle is ready. :)
Jul 23 2014, 6:05am
In today's news: Althas is Upgrading Engines! See more: T.co
Jun 15 2014, 7:48pm
Today we continue our Meet the Team series with part 2 of Meet the Concept Artists. Accompanied by 3 great pieces T.co
Jun 8 2014, 9:10am
As silence shall not endure, desire for new updates can thereby be extinguished, for now.. T.co Meet the Team: Concept Art
May 27 2014, 11:41pm
Mar 18 2014, 4:45pm
Mar 18 2014, 4:45pm
We're finally back with a new Lore post and plenty of concept art. More soon. ^MEB First Look: The Temple and Academy T.co
Mar 18 2014, 4:44pm
We're feeling generous this weekend, so here's a beautiful landscape concept by Chestman T.co ^MEB
Jan 26 2014, 11:31am