The Revenge of the Scythians Chapter 1: The Battle of Northern Dawn & Darkmor Keep On Saturday, July 25th, The King of Britannia summoned his subjects and loyal followers to witness the public beheading of Lady Aino Nystad, the disgraced former Captain of the Royal Guard and Commander of the Town Watch of the City of Britain. The actions of Aino Nystad are a capital offense. As such, her punishment will also be capital. With a heavy heart, I announce that less than a week from now, Aino Nystad – the shamed captain of the guards – will be executed. Once again, the unpopular foreign despot seemed poised to make an example out of one of our own. Casca would use the execution to strike fear and self-doubt into the hearts and minds of his detractors, both Britannian and Sosarian alike, while feeding into his own misguided paranoia. People like Aino Nystad must pay a heavy price for their actions. If there was ever another amongst us that had plans for similar machinations, then they would look back to this day and be discouraged. The citizens and representatives of a number of Britannian villages and Sosarian city-states arrived to watch in disgust and horror as someone whom they had come to respect and admire was being dragged unceremoniously through the mud to the executioners block, the spectators helpless to stop Lord Casca's evil charade or to do anything to help the beleagured woman. Or were they? Oriana, Lady Governess of Heaven's Forge, flung herself at one of the Royal Guardsmen, but was shoved back into the crowd. Also in attendance, standing in open defiance against the Britannian crown even on Britannian soil, was Lady Wildstar of Dawn and Lady Cymidei Fier of Wind, both warning Casca of the consequences of his actions, much to the elven monarchs chagrin. But were they so helpless to stop this paranoid scheme? Or was this defiant spectacle merely the precursor to something more? As the former captain was marched to the guillotine, several noticed in awe the strange dark dress that she wore. Although it was not unlike the simple but elegant dresses that she was known for wearing, the shadowy cloth was a sharp contrast to the bright colors that many were accustomed to seeing her wear. And to the sorcerers and thaumaturgists that stood in attendance, it seemed as though the mana was being sapped from the very air surrounding her, properties that belonged to only one substance: Blackrock. As she was forced down onto her knees before the chopping block, Aino smiled defiantly at the elven king. Casca asked her if she had any last words for him, to which her response was threefold: "Kal Ort Por." The anti-magus barrier that surrounded her shattered with a loud and deafening crack, and when the spectators regained their senses, Aino was gone. Operation Royal Flush had struck again. Casca howled in outrage, clawing at his elven shirt and shrieking that the War between Britannia and the Sosarians would end now. A flash erupted, briefly blinding the gathered audience. When the haze lifted from their eyes, Nosfentor the Shadowlord stood in Lord Casca's place. Without a moment of hesitation, the battle-hardened and well-trained Town Guards, who had suspected trouble, drew their weapons and lept into action, leading their brave friends and old rivals into battle. Dawnite Knights of the Blue Rose and Red Caps, Necromancers of the Dark Tower and Priests of the Holy Light, Spawners and Keepers of the Dark Moon, setting aside old rivalries to launch themselves at the Shadowlord, who summoned an army of warriors and controllers to her aid. When the dust had settled in the wake of the ensuing battle, those gathered realized with sudden and ominous horror that the execution itself had been a ruse, meant to draw them away from their homes and villages. The Independant Kingdoms themselves had been left unguarded and defenseless. Lady Wildstar shouted that Dawn had come under attack. The mages wasted little time, opening gates and magical doors to the Realm of the Blue Rose, leaving behind a smoking battlefield and the charred remains of countless mercenaries and a single fallen Shadowlord in their wake. The Battle of Northern Dawn, as it came to be known later that evening, raged for more than two hours. Tokuno mercenaries and Chaos dragoons flooded the Northern City and the Hordelands, while leaving Southern Dawn relatively unscathed. Although many near-deaths would occur that evening, the healers were quick to drag the injured to safety and revive the fallen. But just as they thought they finally had the upper hand, yet another Shadowlord emerged in their midsts. Astaroth, the Shadowlord of Hatred. This time though, it did not catch the defenders off-guard. Xel the Wanderer and Nicholas the Old launched themselves towards the creature, armed with the same volatile substance that had saved Aino earlier that day. "Vas Kal An Mani In Corp Hur Tym!" The resulting explosions sent shockwaves through the northern hills, leveling trees and small buildings on the Rouvale Peninsula as the Old Priest and the Lord of the Ivory Throne destroyed the Shadowlord's magical defenses, leaving the Dark One bare and vulnerable to the defenders who quickly swarmed around it, using every ounce of their magical prowess to fell the ancient evil. The mercenary army fell soon after the defeat of the Shadowlord and their Captain. The defenders, bruised, battered, and beaten, had thought they had won the day, but at what cost? The Duchess of Dawn and the Mistress of the Dark Tower were no where to be seen, leading some to worry that the two Scythian leaders might have fallen in battle. They had only just begun to collect their weapons and inspect the bodies of the fallen for clues of Casca's plans, when the very air began to crackle to life in the midsts, revealing another magical blue portal. From it a sorcerer emerged, announcing in a hurried voice that the Barony of Darkmor had nearly fallen to Casca's mercenary horde. Worn and exhausted from the previous clash, the defenders forced still found the strength to limp through the gates provided for them, completely unprepared for the sudden onslaught that would await them there. Countless mercenaries swarmed around them as they emerged in from the portals, cutting down man and woman indiscriminately as they stepped into the Covian Woods. But after minutes of intense fighting, the defenders managed to push the Zentoese soldiers back to their own dark portal. The defenders - Knights of the Royal Flush and members of the Scythian Covenant, the Cartel, the Spawners, and many others - engaged the mercenary captain, a powerful foe that seemed to be impervious to most attacks, and capable of hurling spheres of pure elemental energy at the defenders. Only by cutting off the head of the army could they ever hope to crush the army that swelled through the dark portal into the Covian Woods. The Captain and his hordes used a noxious gas to choke the defenders, causing many unsuspecting souls to fall to the strange and choking poison. Only the quick thinking of several healers prevented a full-scale retreat from Baron Darkmor's hold. He would shout to the defenders, taunting them by name, as though he knew them personally. But healers from the previous battle arrived through the gates, and began tending to the fallen warriors at the steps of Baron Darkmor's Keep. Over time, even the Mercenary Captain found his strength failing him, and when he showed the first signs of weakness, the defenders struck hard and fast. By the time he had fallen, the arrows that riddled the mans corpse, if he could be called a man, left him nearly unrecognizable. When the dust once again had settled, the defenders expected another attack, but the sorcerers discovered that the four remaining realms had been left untouched and unharmed. The Town Guards quickly returned to Britain in secret, while the Knights of the Blue Rose and the Order of the Crimson Staff returned to Dawn to re-enforce its holdings. The Captains remains were hung from the walls of Darkmor Keep, a warning to any who might strike at the Barons lands. All knew that, should another strike of that magnitude land again, no one would have the manpower to push it back. Only by stopping these attacks before they could be launched could the Independent kingdoms be saved. It was determined that a counter-attack must occur, and that is when the King of Thieves knew it was time to throw his support behind Operation Royal Flush, and end the War of Many Nations once and for all.