Promises to keep (swords in the summer sun)

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[size=200]PROMISES TO KEEP[/size]
*They come down out of the high peaks of the north. A trail of lightstones in the gloom, swaying gently on lanterns attached to slim weirwood poles. Robed in midnight blue, hooded against the cold they came, walking single file. They pause on a high ledge, alongside the cascading river, looking down, down to the lake and the dark forests beyond.

There is a brief discussion, and a parting, and some of the company turn back. Down into the woods of Mieriada they come, following the river down to the shores of Coldmere and the vale of Wendell’s Hope, and the Last Warm Hearth of the North.

They do not attempt to conceal their approach. Their party numbers less than a dozen. Most wear heavy armour beneath their roughspun night-blue robes. Their leader favoures runecarved mage armour and a battle staff. They make camp a short distance from Wendell’s Hope, and wait for morning.

The gates of the vale are closed against them, when they come; travelling along the old road that runs around the lake and up to the mines. The schlacta of Wendell’s Rest turn grim faces towards them as they come, their captain calls out:

“Turn back, wyrmspawn! There is no welcome for you here.”

The orcs stop. The warriors raise shields, forming a cordon around their leader. The spellbinder gestures for them to part and steps forward, well within bowshot of the walls. His hands are empty, and spread wide to show he means no harm. He pulls back his hood and casts a cold eye over the Varushkan warriors on the walls. He raises his voice, calls to them.

“We come from the north to parley with Varushka.” he says. Simply that, and then he falls silent.

There is a discussion on the wall. An arrow is launched, striking the worn stone between the spellbinder’s feet. The warriors growl, raise their shields but the spellbinder gestures to them to stop. he has not broken his gaze from that of the Schlacta captain. Neither has blinked, even as the arrow shattered before him.

“Go back where you came from, orc. We have no patience for your games.”

“We are here to parley,” the spellbinder says again. “Will you deny us that? Will you send messengers to the south to tell them that the Thule came down from Otkodov to parley and you sent them away? That there was a chance to end the war which lies between us and you decided that it was not to be?”

His voice is flat. He turns his face away, makes as if to leave.

“We are travellers come under a flag of peace to parley. If you will not aid us, we will go around you. But we ‘‘will’’ travel to Anvil in the south. I make this my oath, here, while I stand upon your road, schlacta. Will you strike me down and face the consequences for turning us away? What will the people of Karsk say in the face of your recklessness?”

Silence falls again. There is distant muttering, that grows to a swell. An argument. Two elderly figures can be seen remonstrating with the captain of the Schlacta, and then the boyar joins them. The Thule wait. One of their number - a dishevelled, unarmoured, hunched figure in a tattered robe - sits down suddenly on the road. The warriors to either side grab it under the arms and pull it to it’s feet as the Varushkans argue.

After several minutes, the captain of the Schlacta calls out again. “Swear, Thule, on the name of your masters that what you have said here is the truth. Swear it in front of witnesses, on the road of Varushka, beneath the trees of Miekarova.”

The spellbinder bows his head for a moment and then calls out in a clear voice: “I swear in the name of my mistress, i swear by her throne and by her staff, that I speak the truth and that we come in peace to parley. I swear it by the name of Orobus the Chained, the lady of the green iron throne, and by my fealty to her. I swear it, and let my tongue be stilled forever and my eyes be darkened if I break this oath.”

The silence is broken by the sound of wings, and the sudden cawing of birds launching themselves upwards from the trees to the south and west. The Thule spellbinder seems as surprised as any, taking a single step back, turning his head from side to side as if scenting for danger.

One of the wise ones leans past the captain and stares down at the Thule below as the order is given and the gates are opened. A double-handful of heavily armoured warriors wait beyond. The old woman watches carefully as the orcs approach, stroking her chin and narrowing her eyes, paying particular attention to the unarmoured, tattered orc dragged along by the warriors.*

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Down out of Otkodov, out of the chill peaks of northern Varushka, come the Thule to parley with the Empire. A small delegation - no more than half a dozen - have approached the vale of Wendell’s Hope in Miekarova under a flag of truce and asked for parley with the Empire. They are lead by a spellbinder - a warrior-magician - and accompanied by a small number of warriors and what appears to be a slave of some sort.

They claim to be travelling in the name of Orobus the Chained - one of their ancient sorcerer-kings, their Dragons.

As with other delegations heading for Anvil, they claim to be diplomats under the protection of the law. They have been open about their general intentions but silent on the details. They wish to speak with the Varushkan people gathered at Anvil, and for an opportunity to address the Imperial Senate. They may also be interested in speaking to the Imperial Conclave. They have confirmed that among other topics they wish to discuss the drawing up of borders between Otkodov and the Empire, and a potential cessation of hostilities.

As they pass from the lands of each vale heading south, they are passed from one group of Varushkans to another. From Miekarova down into Karov, and then a contingent of wardens from Delev have lead them the rest of the way south. All being well, they are expected to arrive at Anvil some time during the Summit - the first people likely to know about it will be the Varushkans.

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The picture is by Austrian painter, sculptor and Photographer Manfred Kielnhofer (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Not blue, but there was a quality of Thulishness about them that I found quite compelling.