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 Of Demons and Devils

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Rogue Gamer

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PostSubject: Of Demons and Devils   2014-04-18, 7:40 pm

(Open to anyone interested)

Fifth stood in his command tent, a wide wooden table layered in maps and reports before him.  Daggers and rocks and sextants and cups sat arrayed amongst the papers to weigh the down, and coloured stones marked positions of friendly and enemy units.


It had been some thousands of years since the Fifth Legion had set foot in The Capital of The Holy Astirelian Empire.  It had been hundreds of years since the Fifth Legion had a single soldier drafted from the Inner Provinces, let alone from The Capital.  And now he had seven.  With three more newly arrived and standing before him.


Much like the previous seven, these three were...different.  Grey of eye, speech without emotion.  They were good officers though.  Quick to respond to orders and see them carried out, but they were without the sort of initiative he liked in his officers.  These ones seemed only to do as they were told.  They were...hollow.


Hence why the other seven were only serving in his Legion on the books.  In practice, they were all in deep graves, their bodies burned to ash and bagged with talismans the witches and soothsayers in the camp followers had provided for the task.


The problem this time was the papers these ones had brought him.  He stared at the orders again, studying the penmanship and seal but still could find no fault there.  It was written by the High Fist of the First Legion, a man he knew well.  A man who's penmanship he could easily recognize.  This was no forgery.

"I am to report to the Holy Fortress of the White Moores, to the High Inquisitor himself, to give confession, to assure my immortal soul is untarnished from my long absence from The Capital."  He glanced up at the three newly arrived officers.  One held the rank of Fist, and would fill in for Fifth until he had returned.  Fifth had little doubt that the...man...carried the rank and badge of a High Fist in one of his belt pouches, and would be wearing before he was even past the horizon.

Fifth knew High Fist Rinaldi of the First Legion well.  Well enough to know the man knew full well he had never set foot in or even anywhere near the Capital.  And that he would never, under any circumstances, set foot in the Holy Fortress without an army at his back.  He had no trust for the Inquisition, and for good reason.  The three officers in his command tent were the fruition of that distrust it seemed.

"That is correct, High Fist.  The Emperor wishes his Legions to be free of the taint of heresy before beginning the next great campaign."  The man's voice was disturbingly hollow, but there seemed to be something behind it.  Something...sinister.  Sadistic.  Familiar.


He nodded slowly then tucked two fingers into one of his belt pouches to produce a jet black marble.  The light played off it, as if it were something within the marble that reflected the light, rather then the shear black surface.  Something fiery and hungry.


The three officers' heads turned slowly to the marble as Fifth rolled it along the tabletop beneath one finger, as if it were a common habit.  Their eyes narrowed, and the Fist turned his gaze back to Fifth.  "The Emperor worries the Fifth Legion is consorting with Devils."


"The Fifth fears the Emperor has been swayed by Demons."  He stared at the three carefully, the little marble still rolling across the table, now of it's own accord, until it bumped against the base of a candle, as if seeking the flame at it's tip.


The pieces quickly fell into place in his mind.  The officers were possessed.  It explained why those of magical inclination had insisted on so thorough a disposal for the previous seven newly arrived officers.  And if he wasn't off the mark, it was being orchestrated by the Holy Inquisition itself.  And the High Fist of the First Legion was already under their sway.  Hell, if they had come to the Fifth Legion, then the plague had likely spread to all corners of the Empire already.


The fight that ensued was short, and a few moments later Fifth stepped out of the tent and glanced at the two Legionnaires that stood guard on his pavilion.  Neither seemed concerned, as Fifth calmly sheathed the heavy bladed gladius he carried.  "As with the others, men.  Burn them, collect the talismans from the witches.  Runners, to me."


By morning, the remnants of the Fifth Legion, barely two thousand men and women strong, had struck camp and were marching east, towards the Capital.  A journey that would take years, but the Fifth Legion had allies in strange places, and it's ranks were filled with unusual people.  Enemies turned ally and friend.  Powerful mages whose heads were wanted hungrily by the Holy Inquisition.


If Fifth so desired, they could be in the Capital within the month, but he dared not risk travel the Imperial Warren, a warren of magic claimed by the might of the Holy Empire from the gods and elder beings that haunted such alien realms of magic.  He remembered that campaign clearly; it had been a long and terrible century.


-----


The Holy Astirelian Empire had known constant war since it's inception 2,000 years ago.  Grand Legions of well equipped, well trained, and well led troops had conquered half the world and brought with it wealth and power.  In it's earliest days, legions of 10,000 marched with cadres of a thousand mages each.  Great magics did the brunt of the work, and in the early days battles saw tens of thousands dead a day.


The one day, the Empire discovered religion.  Over the centuries industry has won over magic.  Gone were the great mage cadres, replaced with siege weapons and great works of engineering.  Magics were frowned upon under the new religious creed, and eventually banned outright save under the most strict and controlled of educations.  Educations overseen by the newly formed Holy Inquisition.


Under the guise of religious creed and necessity, rebellions were put down with mass execution and bloodshed.  The ancient accords and treaties governing the rights of newly conquered peoples and cultures were tossed aside, and replaced with 'education' and 'encouragement' to abandon old religions and ways for those of the Church.


The truth of the situation was far darker then any had suspected, and found out too late to be stopped.  The Holy Inquisition, in a misguided effort to gain more power, turned to the manipulation of Demons, binding them into their most stalwart of Inquisitors to grant immense power held in check by their iron wills.  But demons taint and corrode, and iron rusts.  One of those great Inquisitors fell to the demon bound within his mortal body, his immortal soul burned away to nothing.  That demon hid itself well, and bid it's time, to rise to the stature of Holy Inquisitor.


Within a year the entirety of the staff of the Holy Fortress of the White Moores was tainted.  Then members of the Holy Church.  Then the Emperor himself.  Next were the inner Legions, and nobles, and Senators, and merchants.  The blight has spread fast and far, unnoticed till too late.


Now much of the Empire has fallen under their control.  Their presence in the Capital has tainted the people and the land, a slow and cancerous infection that has led to the people to be hateful and distrustful, a blight that spreads further with each year.


The Fifth Legion is one of the last bastions against their blight.  Bound by ancient oaths, the Legion turns it's sights towards The Capital, seeking to cut out the cancerous heart before the Empire collapses.  It's collapse would lead to centuries of brutal and bloody warfare.  Any sign of weakness would lead to the hounds at the borders charging in, seeking gratification for past wars and defeats at the hands of the Empire.
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PostSubject: Re: Of Demons and Devils   2014-04-20, 5:36 pm

The far west front was a tenuous line that split the great continent of Criresa between three armed camps.  The Holy Astirelian Empire held half of the continent, conquered through force of arms and treaties over the past century.  The Church and the Holy Inquisition still struggled to gain an influence over the indigenous peoples.  It was where the Fifth Legion was most likely to find the man power they would need to cut free the cancer that festered at the heart of the Empire.


To the north and west, ruling a third of the great continent was the Matriarchy of Mirellan, a powerful kingdom ruled by a reputedly immortal sorceress Queen, who's armies were known for their maneuverability granted by giant flying insect-like mounts.  They had resisted the Empire's advance thus far thanks to a massive cliff some hundred meters high that separated their portion of the continent from the rest, and believed only surpass-able with the aid of their flying mounts.


And to the west and south, ruling the remainder of the continent, was the Fellion Autocracy, ruled by a mysterious Emperor who had not been seen by his people in centuries and, as the story goes, had not set foot out of the throne room of his mountain-palace in centuries, a room cast in impenetrable darkness.  Their armies had resisted the Empire thus far thanks to their use of towering golems bound of eldritch magics.  It was to them the Fifth Legion had turned it's attention in the past decade, slowly encroaching further into the Autocracy's domain.  An advance that was now abandoned as the Legion marched east.


Fifth sat atop a powerfully built destrier horse, staring down at the gathered commanders of the Auxilia, formations of troops recruited from the outer provinces and not made into proper Legions.  They were of a myriad of backgrounds and origins, all gathered now under the flag of the Empire, and the sight of the Fifth Legion marching east instead of pressing the assault against the Autocracy shook them to the core.


"There is a cancer at the heart of the Empire.  One that, left unchecked, will taint and destroy all we have built, my friends.  It is time the Fifth returns home to right this, before it is too late."  He gazed at the gathered commanders, studying each with surprising familiarity; there were many who believed he knew the name and origin of every soldier under his command, no matter how obscure.  And it was true.


 "We march east, but you must hold here.  Trust none of the Legion.  I trust you to hold fast, here.  It may be years before we can begin the campaign anew.  And in those years, our enemies shall rebuild and press you.  In those years, you shall be without the support of the Legions.  Trust none that wear the colours of the Empire."  They shifted uncomfortably, each plagued by the same doubts; without the unifying presence of the Legion, many were old enemies, unified only for that they were conquered by the Empire.  An empire that had brought roads, and industry, wealth and medicine, and had allowed them to embrace their own traditions, languages, religions and even laws to some degree.  Many had flourished under the rule of the Empire, and were not necessarily so willing to throw off it's shackles.


Fifth was aware of those doubts and cast them aside in their minds, "So long as you hold here, your homelands will be safe from their shadow for a time longer.  The cancer has yet to truly grasp the inner provinces.  Your people are safe so long as you do not draw the ire of the Inquisition upon them.  Hold here.  My command tent still stands."  He pointed to the distant great pavilion, the flag poles bare but awaiting the return of the Fifth's standard.  "I trust it shall still be here when I return."


The men and women straightened up at that, the trust of their commander bolstering their resolve.  He knew they would do all they could to stand fast and hold, but would not chastise them should they be pushed back.  Without the Fifth Legion present, there was some risk that the Matriarchy and Autocracy could combine forces, seeking to reclaim the continent and share it amongst themselves while the Empire was distracted.  And there was little doubt the Autocracy would not be forgiving of those who had sided with the Empire.


In the distance, the Fifth Legion marched out.  Two thousand men and women, with hundreds of wagons and thousands of camp followers in tow.  They were a strange group to say the least, their uniforms and equipment centuries out of date by the Empire's standards.  Soldiers carried bronze bladed swords and spears, armours of leathers and iron, wooden shields bound in bronze and covered in leather.  Beyond that, any standardization ended.  The Legionnaires carried a broad array of baubles and knickknacks and charms.  Weapons of their homelands were carried alongside the bronze gladius' or spears of the Legion.


Magicks abounded within the Fifth Legion, startlingly evident to any capable to see.  Every Legionnaire carried enchanted items.  Some were merely leather storm cloaks warded to protect from the cold.  Others were knives that would always hold their edge.  Some were far more powerful things, protections from spells or bolsterings of luck.  Some members of the Legion were themselves of a magical nature; great and powerful mages and warlocks that had once fought against the Legion and had switched sides, hidden among the rank and file soldiers, hidden away from the prying eyes of the Inquisition.


The Fifth Legion was under strength by way of numbers, but would prove more than a match for any other Legion in the Empire; they were battle hardened, and had no shortage of tricks up their many sleeves.


Fifth bade his farewells to the Auxilia commanders, and urged his horse into a gallop to take his place at the head of his Legion as they marched for the far distant Capital.
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