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Mirador stared at the milling troops, marching up and down the streets of the Evermarket. The hand on the windowsill shook gently. A strong aroma of wine emanated from him and he stumbled into the throne.

"Hibracht." He muttered, his muttering got louder, turning into a shout. "Hibracht, Hibracht, Hibracht!" He giggled and wept all at once and dropped once more. In the distance, he could hear Baggro, calling for the evacuation.

"Isn't worth it." He slurred to himself. He patted the empty wine flask. "They find us. There's nowhere to hide."

He staggered upright and went to a small wooden box. From it he drew a pistol. He primed it and picked out a bullet. He examined it closely, rolling it between his fingers and looking it over with bloodshot eyes.

He sat back in Hibracht's throne and waited, staring at the doors. A drop of wine fell from the flask and splashed on the floor, soaked with blood.
______________________________

Baggro and Valark swept through the corridors.
"Captain, you will accompany me to the gates, we will be the last to evacuate. All the people must get out safely."

Valark nodded, loading his pistol and tightening the straps on his gear. A half dozen guards followed them. Valark sheathed and holstered his sword and pistol, before opening the doors to the main chamber.

He stopped when he saw the pools of blood. Four senior merchants and the two generals lay dead on the floor. Mirador lounged in Hibracht's throne, blood soaking his leggings up to his knees and splashed across his arms.

"What did you do, Cyrus?" Whispered Baggro, his hand to his mouth.

Mirador blinked, his expression confused, like a schoolboy accused of a crime he didn't commit. Then he saw the bodies, as if for the first time and a smile of realisation and, alarmingly, relief, spread across his features.

He waved a bottle of wine, casually over the corpses. "Wasn't me." He said, his voice slightly slurred by drink. "They let one out of the study."

Valark had drawn his pistol and was pointing it directly at Mirador.

"What?"

"One of the, the thingies, the whatdyoumacallems, Generals, yes, Generals. He was fiddling with the cage in the study room and it got out. I stabbed it with my stabber, no, dagger and it ran off, but it'll be back."

Mirador giggled like a four year old boy and slid down the chair, so that he was practically lying down in the seat, his feet dipped in the blood on the floor.

Baggro gripped Valark's wrist. "The study room, we were keeping some of the beasts of the darkness in there!"

Valark nodded. He gestured to two of the guards.
"You two take the king out of the palace get him as far away as he'll permit! Now!" The men nodded and ran off.

Valark stepped in to the room, the blood was strange though, it was too runny and had become translucent. Then he noticed that Mirador was dripping.

"What is happening?" He demanded of the drunken wretch in the chair.

Mirador's face suddenly became serious, he stood up, stumbled and waved his pistol about erratically. Everyone else to a step back.

"I wanted to see the Republic back again! I wanted it to survive, d'you hear?" Mirador shouted. "Instead I see it rot from the inside. I should have blown the king's face off earlier. Hibracht had it coming to him. Bloody monster. He was worse than these things."

Just as quickly, his expression cleared. He leant in close to Valark. "As impressive a man as I am, Mr. Valark, I can't drink sixty bottles of wine and a dozen more of rum, can I? Nor can I drink oil lamps, so off you trot!"

Valark looked around, the oil lamps were lying on the floor, empty and there were dozens of bottles lying around. Suddenly it clicked.

Valark looked Mirador in the eye and handed him his own pistol.

"One for you, sir, you don't deserve to suffer, you're a brave bloody man and I pray your next life sees you with better fortune." He shook Mirador's hand firmly and then ordered the other soldiers to follow, at a run. They sprinted from the room.
_____________________________

Mirador watched the men go, smiling to himself. Gods be with you he thought, before he heard a snarling on his right. He looked and saw the behemoth beast pushing through the side doorway, the shattered remains of the door under its feet. It looked like a werewolf form that he'd saved Valark from months ago, but bigger and with the tattered remains of armour on its body. It also bore the fur pelts of dozen different types of animal at a belt hanging loosely at it side. It also had almost no fur, just sickening black skin with a few tufts of mangey hair protruding from parts of its skin.

Mirador raised his pistols. "One for you, one for me, how's that sound, eh?"

The monster blinked, confused, before it prowled forwards once more. It slipped and rolled in the liquid mess on the floor, before rising again and roaring angrily. It fell onto all fours and stepped towards Mirador, who grinned.

"Much obliged." he said and pulled the trigger of the oil, covered pistol. The gun ignited and Mirador hurled the burning weapon at the beast, who had stumbled as the bullet had struck it. Suddenly it was an inferno and the fire spread across the whole room.The central room of the palace, the wooden support beams and fine tapestries all caught ablaze. There was a grinding noise as the ceiling began to cave in.

Mirador's smiled. "For the Republic." He whispered, as he put Valark's gun to the temple of his head and fired.

OOC:

10 Transport ships created.
1000 crossbowmen trained.
as many civilians and soldiers as possible evacuated from the territory into the navy, to be evacuated to any port that will take them
 

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Salthiusar (18): Turn 24, Winter 17th Era 69 (Common: 1248-9)

1st of Snow’s Birth, 17th Era 69 (Common: 1248-9)

Thunder wracked the skies, screaming as the massive amounts of energy evaporated rain as it fell. The season was winter, but the weather was death.

Irèsp walked forwards with a purpose. Battle could be heard all around. The Salth were once again fighting the Shadow, raining destruction down upon the undead hordes. Black Magic was truly the tool of redeath. They severed bond after rotten bond the Lich held to his forces, signalling the turning of tides in the fight.

The North Tower had ever only one visitor, the Second Seat. Only he knew its contents, what it guarded. He touched the great wooden doors, the only kind in the city of crystal, and they flew open. He stepped into the tower as the doors closed.

Centuries of visits had rendered him used to the lack of light in the tower, and, as he ascended the tower’s winding staircase, he felt only remorse. When he finished climbing, he passed the first of the two magical barriers.

“Old friend,” he soliloquised, a tear forming on his face. “We are besieged.”

“I know.”

“The Lich attacks us as we speak. Our alliance with him was foolish. Simple selfishness and short-sightedness. To think, the thousands of good elves, dwarves and gnomes who died to secure Salthiusar’s survival in this war.”

“You should be ashamed.”

“I am. True, we did preserve thirty of each nation in the Archive, but I cannot forgive myself for what I did. No other elf made this decision. Only me.”

“To blame yourself is to blame me. We have been linked from long ago. I cannot truly remember use of my legs, my arms, my body. This is an abomination. Yet I persist for Salthiusar, for knowledge’s sake.”
“I recognise your sacrifice. You never liked the politics, so it was obvious to you who should risk it for immortality.”

“We all paid a price, true and right. Yours was the grief and bureaucracy, mine was this.”

“Do you remember that day, my friend?”

“I remember it every day of my half-life. I climbed the tower and broke into the aether. I knew the risks. I secured our city the so-called ‘curse’, but lost myself. It was only logical.”

“It has always been logic with you, hasn’t it?”

“I think you know that as well as I.”

“So it shall be.”

Irèsp’s face was a blank slate, though the tears ran down it as never before. He spoke one word, more magic than language, and waved his hand. The barriers in the tower all broke simultaneously, and light illuminated the rest of the cavern.

A rift, the same size as a man, persisted in the centre of the room. Just past the rift, glowing with an aetherial light, sat a monster. Its body held nearly a dozen legs and half as many arms, all intermixed with no logical pattern. Four legs were vaguely draconic and well-placed, allowing it to sit and walk. A pair of disfigured wings, made more for a grotesque show than flight, sprouted from the creature’s back. Its body was mixed scale, fur, metal and skin, sometimes flat and fair, sometimes bulging and pustulent.
Only one part of the creature was normal: its head. There sat the head of an elf, crowned with a silver diadem, with whitened hair adorning his head. Sharp, protruding features made his face, with a pair of strikingly silver eyes. He looked sad, yet relieved.

This was Hésperion, First Seat of Salthiusar, bringer of the Salth Curse and co-founder of the city.
“The rift has fed my form ill for thousands of years. If I even still have what can be called a soul, I would hypothesise that its ability to channel is, as I believe our master would have said, ‘stupidly good’. Shall we try this out?”

The monster took flight by magic, and the tower completely vaporised. Irèsp stood in midair, immobile. Hésperion flew straight through the roof, and the tower reformed, barriers and all. Irèsp ran outside the tower, where his friend waited.

“Any last thoughts, old friend?”

“Hésperion, if you can, I need you to give every single person left on Kolnur our discoveries. We must defeat this Lich, or what use does Salthiusar’s existence have?”

“Take the knowledge.”

“Take the knowledge.”

Hésperion took flight again, screaming with destruction, raining death on the undead. A splitting and painful roar came into existence, as audible near Hésperion as it was far in Esterwynne. A few simple words, purely of magic, entered the ears of all the living. Although the Lich could not know it, these were the fundamentals of Black Magic, and all who heard it instantly understood it. And Irèsp wept for his broken friend, consigned to die once he had run out of sustaining magic.

---

Summary:
-Eldritch Storm continues to be researched
-1000 Mages trained in Salthiusar, 18
-Hésperion is released to break the Lich’s hold on Salthiusar.
-Hésperion transfers the Black Magic trait to every remaining nation.

Military Positioning:
Salthiusar, 18:

-413 Guardians
-31,167 (+1000) Mages
 

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The Endgame

Lan Halfelven

So this is what it comes to. I was standing, tall and proud atop the ramparts only a few hours ago. It feels like a lifetime. The sun shone down on the army before me, battle scarred and resolute. Before them, a milling swarm of black. The Shadow. A horde so great that it blotted out the ground and covered the land for miles around. Craftsmen stood side by side with soldiers who had been fighting almost all of their natural lives, several hundred years for some of them.

But together they stood, together as brothers.

I almost wept to think of how many would fall before this war ended. A pity tears have been denied me for so long. I stood before them, named them heroes, promised their names would be written in the stars for all eternity. Promised that we would make the enemy fear us. Did I speak the truth? I don’t know. All I know is that, for one perfect moment, we could see the sun and it shone on a force that had stood, unyielding, for centuries. So much had been lost but that is what happens with the turning of the age. I shared the walls with Dragons and their riders, the precious few we had left. Still, where we rode the enemy truly knew fear.

Can the dead fear? Maybe. All I knew was that even their shambling hordes broke before Dragon fire and the steel of Esterwynne.

There was a song, sung long ago. My mentor taught it to me. It is a song of soldiers. Some might call it a song of despair. But it is not. It is a song of defiance. My wife told me it was uncouth and very unlike me. She told me she did not like the side of me it showed. So I stopped singing it, stopped teaching the men I served with. But for this battle we needed something, anything. Something that would give us an anchor to keep us sane. So I taught the amassed forces the song. When one first hears it, they do not understand. At least, not until they realise that the focus of the song, Jak o’ the Shadows, is Death.

So we charged into battle, singing:

‘We'll drink the wine till the cup is dry,
And kiss the girls so they'll not cry,
And toss the dice until we fly,
To dance with Jak o' the Shadows.

We'll dance all night until the moon runs free,
And dandle the lasses upon our knee,
And then you'll ride along with me,
To dance with Jak o' the Shadows.

We'll sing all night, and drink all day,
And on the girls we'll spend our pay,
And when it's gone, then we'll away,
To dance with Jak o' the Shadows.

There's some delight in ale and wine,
And some in girls with ankles fine,
But my delight, yes, always mine,
Is to dance with Jak o' the Shadows.’


As my blade sliced down I gave one last shout.

Dovie'andi se tovya sagain.” It is time to toss the dice...

Cúnaer Amarthanor

I was watching Moiraire as Lan had asked me to, even though it meant I would not be there for the final battle, when suddenly there was a great shout that was audible even to me and she staggered before me. I was at her side within five seconds, holding her arm to steady her. But rather than looking sick or weak, when she looked up her blue eyes shone with eagerness and focus.

“Get me to the Guild,” she commanded. I tried to protest, tried to tell her she needed to get to the infirmary to get checked out, but she was having none of it.

Therefore I was forced to run almost the entire length of the city, supporting her stumbling form and even carrying her in my arms once or twice when her legs gave way. When the Guild came into view I put her down and she smoothed her robes and tried to stride towards it before her legs buckled and I was forced to catch her. “In,” she ordered and so it was that the doors to the Guild of Mages got kicked in for the first time in centuries and the first time ever it got kicked in by a soldier who had just sprinted across almost the entire city.

Moiraire finally found her feet and her eyes were blue fire as she called across the inner sanctum and gave orders until finally all the mages left were gathered around her. “Did you hear it too?” That was the first thing she said and it was answered by a chorus of affirmatives. “Do you know what it is?” This time she was answered by a chorus of negatives, apart from one man who said that he merely knew it was of the ancient tongue of magic.

“That was Salthiusar. They just told us how to use the magical weapon they have created.”

Suddenly she deigned to notice me, standing by the door with my hands on my twin sword hilts. “You, get us to the city walls as quickly as possible. We have sat behind while you fought and died for too long. It is time we drove the Shadow out of our lands.”

Summary

Recruit Magi in all Provinces except 47
Construct Training Hall in Province 47
Strike at Province 49 with all Dragons and all Magi from Provinces 55 and 47. Also send 300 Sentinels from Province 47 and 900 from Province 55
 

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The fighting was bloody, losses insurmountable. To the south, the Great Horde had failed to throw the foul beasts of darkness back into the sea. To the north, the garrisons left behind to man the watch were swept aside like so much chaff to the winnowing onslaught of the undead hordes. It angered the Khan, who knew those brave souls would likely be raised again, to fight against their kin still amongst the living. The Khan thought of Mafis for a moment, taking pause though hopeful that the sage had made preparations, either to escape or end his life honorably before the forces of Darkness claimed him.

Seeing the choices left, few as they were, the Khan called his war council, likely for the last time, at least in this realm. "Sir, we cannot break their lines! They continue to gain reinforcements from the sea as we speak!" The Khan nodded. "The north has fallen as well, soon the Aniceans will feel the bite of death we fear. We have few options left." The Khan mulled the statements, knowing each man around him was willing to die, if it meant that Kolnur may live, that Kogan-sul could survive.

Clearing his throat, the Khan addressed those convened. "Men, brothers. Your words do not fall on deaf ears, but I know what is to be. Last night, it came to me in my sleep, a vision of death- black smoke billowing around the foot of Mount Kogan. I saw horse riding forth from the Mount, into the midst of darkness..."

The generals knew what the vision meant, or atleast, what the Khan was about to ask them to do. "My Khan, the preparations can be made. All you need to do is give the word."

Closing his eyes, the Khan could see images of his life, of his family, his father... Mafis, Mount Kogan, the people of Kogan-sul, his people. For these things, he would die a thousand times. For these things, he would kill every last beast of darkness, challenging the Lich to single combat, if that is what it took. It was not the fact that he would do such things, no. The fact that the men of Kogan-sul, what few remained, felt the same, that is what nearly brought a tear to the warrior's eye.

"Make it so. Dispense the rest of the rations, the wine. Repair what armour and weapons we can. I want the men to celebrate tonight, for tomorrow, we ride into destiny..."

...

The bonfires blazed, as the forces of the Shadow seemed content not to attack that night. The Lich was a cruel master, but intelligent. Perhaps, if by some foul magick it could see and hear what was going on in the camp of the Great Khan, it would bring forth something akin to anger in the undead's mind. Raucous laughter, wine, slaughtered pig. If one were to stumble upon the camp, they would likely forget that all around the lands of Kolnur, death was winning the war. It mattered little, for the Kogani riders, archers and conscripts alike knew what the Khan had called for. Something that had not occurred since the beginning of their nation, the Great Charge. Around the bonfires, tales were spun of great deeds, of steeds racing across the sky, chasing lightning from the heavens before crashing upon Kolnur to found what would be Kogan-sul. The Khan walked among the men, greeting them all as brothers, and sharing many a toast to Kogan-sul. "Enjoy it, warriors! For at first light, we shall loose the full fury of Kogan-sul upon the undead hordes! Fast as lightning, as powerful as the crashing wave! Fight to the last! If you follow me, you may die, but will all be welcome at my table in the heavens!"

As the horde worked itself into a frenzy, the moon fell and the sun rose. The entirety of the Kogani army had broken from this reality, and though none were frothing at the mouth, the majority could likely have taken a javelin through the chest and killed a score more enemies before dislodging it and continuing on. The Khan mounted his steed, armour gleaming in the morning sun. Bellowing his commands, the horde moved out. "North, we ride! Victory or death!" The horde echoed the cry and the second Great Charge began.

-recruit Heavy Cavalry in all provinces
 

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Discussion Starter #165
Spring of 1249

The little of nature that still remains upon the twisted and shattered plains of Kolnur wakes from the Winter to a world much changed.

In the West, the once powerful and mighty Kerin-Curan, has fallen to the very Shadow it defended against. In one final act of defiance, one glorious last blow against the Darkness, the leaders of Kerin-Curan detonated the very islands they called home for hundreds of years. An entire civilisation, years of culture, engulfed within an almighty fireball that consumed all life. The roar of the explosion was deafening all across Kolnur, and the powerful waves, and tons of earth thrown into the air, battered the continent. Kerin-Curan is no more.

Anicea holds, both upon the continent and at their homeland. A desperate retreat from Province 39 meant that Province 37 had enough men to hold, although it was a close battle that saw thousands of Anicea's warriors slaughtered by the Shadow. And upon Anicea's hellish homeland, the remaining forces continue to fight a desperate losing battle against seemingly never-ending hordes that come from air, ground and sea, all to protect Anicea's most powerful weapon in the war against the Darkness.

Of the Great Trade Republic, their land has been lost. The loss of Province 32 saw all of the Great Trade Republic's hope of victory against the Shadow, now there only goal is survival. In an evacuation rivalled in size only by Anicea's, the remaining soldiers, ghosts of their former glorious selves, and the tens of thousands of screaming, fractured families, pour to the coast, boarding hundreds of transport vessels, bound for any nation remaining with the supplies to feed them. There are countless stories of personal heroism, of soldiers letting woman and children take their place while they remain to buy the convoy precious time to escape. In the space left behind by the fleeing soldiers and civilians, the Shadow rushes in and claims the last of the Great Trade Republic's once proud lands.

For Esterwynne, the Winter is a season both of glory and of death, of victory and of defeat. Even as thousands of her brave soldiers die to defend their homelands, Estewynnes Magi discover the key to perhaps saving their nation, and even driving the Darkness back. But it is too late for the countless brave souls that have selflessly given their lives so that others may live. But now there is hope. Even as Province 45 buckles and falls to the Shadow, the Dragons of Esterynne, the beautiful creatures that have sworn to fight and die for the nation of Elves and Humans, drive the Darkness from Province 49, restoring Esterwynnes lost lands with magical beasts and dark sorcery.

But it is in the North where the Shadow strikes hardest. Their bargain broken, the Arch-Lich unleashes his full power against the small nation that dared to defy his wishes. Foul Demons brought from hell itself clash with shining Guardians beneath the walls of Salthiusar as the Mages of the Crystal City mutter the forbidden words of the Dark Magic that the City of Knowledge wields. But even with the power of this dark sorcery, and the martial prowess of the elite Guardians, the sea of Darkness cannot be stopped, and for the first time in it's history, the walls of Salthiusar are breached by an enemies hands. Calling upon it's last resort, it's last and most powerful weapon, Hésperion, or at least the twisted body which he now inhabits, is unleashed against the Darkness, where he uses the very energy of magic itself to slaughter hundreds of thousands of the Shadows forces before he found himself facing Arch-Lich Deknar'Thuul.

What happened next will resonate throughout the ages as legend. These two beings, undoubtedly the two most powerful in the whole of Kolnur, met in combat miles above a swirling battleground. Magic, both light and dark, was created that day, and each blow was like a thunderclap for the soldiers below. As the combat ensued, it became impossible to see what occurred so far above the ground. All that is know is that, after mere minutes of battle, the battered form of the Arch-Lich fell from the sky, and when the sky cleared Hesperion was nowhere to be seen.

Yet even thanks to this sacrifice, the handful of remaining Guardians could not hope to hold the city, and step by step they were driven back ever further into the city. Yet just as the shrinking ring of defenders reached the steps of the Palace, a lone warhorns note echoed across the battlefield, cutting through the roar of death and destruction. For a moment, there was silence, and then the warhorn blow once more. The battle seemed to grind to a halt, both sides searching for the source of the noise. Suddenly, a lone horse and rider appeared over the ridge to the South of the city. Raising his horn once more, the rider blew a third note across the plain that rested below him.

Slowly, countless ranks of horseman appeared upon the ridge, the sunlight glinting off their armour and weapons. The line of horses stretched as far as the eye could see, and as the line began to move down the ridge, yet more ranks appeared behind the first line. Slowly, the battle watched as the horn blower lowered his horn and hefted a banner, a banner that showed the distinctive mark of Kogan-Sul. The Great Charge had reached Salthiusar.

After the night of feasting, the tens of thousands of Kogan-Sul's soldiers left their land behind them and charged Northwards, towards the Crystal City. Worked into a frenzy, the horse-lords pushed themselves beyond any mortals man limits, breaking through the Shadow with ease till it finally reached the City of Knowledge. Yet in the absence of her armies, Kogan-Sul was barely a nation, and the Darkness surged forwards and burned the lands that had so recently supported an entire civilisation. Yet still the forces of Kogan-Sul had ridden, night and day, till they could see the battleground that was now all that was left of Salthiusar.

The Horse-Lords broke into a trot as they moved down the ridge. The mass cavalry moved as once unit as it neared the rear of the Shadows lines. There was a sudden movement as the Darkness tried to prepare itself for the approaching charge, even as the cavalry of Kogan-Sul broke into a full gallop and lowered their spears. The Shadow was not ready for the sheer ferocity and force of the Great Charge, as horse and rider lashed out at the Darkness forces and shattered their lines.

With renewed vigour, the remaining Salth surged forwards, and began to push back the bewildered and stunned Shadow from the city. Street by street they fought, as beyond their walls the mass cavalry of Kogan-Sul moved gracefully across the field, scything down the Darkness that stood before them, expertly orchestrated by the Great Khan, who seemed to be at the head of every charge, leading every group of riders, and slaying thousands of the full creatures that assailed them. In a battle that has already passed into legend, the Great Horde of Kogan-Sul slaughtered the armies of Shadow, hunting the fleeing forces till not a single survivor remained. The day was won, the Arch-Lich beaten and broken, only barely clinging to the existence he called life, but at a horrendous cost to the broken and shattered Crystal City and the mere handful or surviving Salth.
 

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Valark stared vacantly away into the misty water, the faces of a thousand lost friends flashing before his eyes. He’d acquired a new pistol, which he was absent-mindedly cleaning. It felt good to do something, to not have to think too hard about the horrors of the past few weeks. They’d stopped sailing during the day for the first time since they had fled the lands, the mist was too thick to travel safely.

“Pietor.” Baggro’s voice drifted over to him in the eerily still ocean. Valark turned to see the king. He looked terrible. His bloodshot eyes were rimmed with heavy bags, his cheeks were sunken and hollow and, even through his thick fur coat, it was clear that he was painfully thin. Baggro held up a sheet of parchment, which Valark took and began to read.

‘To any who would heed the call,

Any nation with access to ports, or land near ports, I, Lord Baggro of the former Great Trade Republic, would humbly request that you might allow for the docking of our ships, or an aid in an attempt to capture a beach, which we can use to dock. There are still many people alive from the Great Trade Republic and the chance to reclaim any notion of a normal life. We would be happy to repay you with service, as we have a some able-bodied warriors to hand, as well as a populace of civilian workers who are all willing to help in whatever way that they can.
If we were allowed to set up a temporary camp, we would be infinitely grateful. The Darkness has dealt a hefty blow to everyone, none have escaped its horrors entirely. To any who receive this message, we must unite, band together and push back against this filth that now plagues our once good lands.'


Valark handed back the letter. He looked at Baggro, who began to speak again.

“I’ll be sending out a message to every power with land, afterwards, we might be able to begin to convince any other refugee nations to pull together as well. Perhaps we can still win our freedom back.”

Valark nodded. “Milord, we don’t realistically have the troops to stage an attack alone, what if no one answers?”

Baggro sighed. “We’ll have to think of something, captain, we must find a way.”

Valark could see that the king was at the limit of his optimism. He was running out of hope.

“They’ll answer Milord, and if they don’t, we’ll find another way. We can’t let so many sacrifices go to waste.”

Baggro nodded, a tiny bit of colour seeped back into his pallid complexion. He looked up into Valark’s eyes. “By the way, Captain, I’ve been meaning to tell you. General Radgerast died last night. The poison had gone too deep.”

Valark nodded, the impact of a death was so familiar now, he didn’t even feel shock. The General had been pierced in the abdomen by a poisoned blade on the final fight at the docks. He’d been in agony for the past two and a half weeks.

“Who’s replacing him, Milord?” Valark asked absently, staring at where he thought the horizon ought to be, through the thick veil of mist.

“You Pietor.” Baggro said and Valark turned, surprised. He hadn’t really thought about it, but every officer senior to him on the human side of the military had been killed. There was no one else to do the job. “For whatever its worth, you’re the best man for it right now."

“Milord, I don’t think I’m really qualified. I couldn’t possibly-“

Baggro silenced him with a wave of his hand. “Pietor Valark, you are, without a doubt the most intelligent, loyal and pragmatic man I know. You’re right, you shouldn’t really be general, but we haven’t got the time or space to perform a coronation just yet, so you’ll take the lesser job for now.”

Valark stared blankly at him for a few seconds, before realising what the king had just implied.

“Milord, no, I couldn’t.”

Baggro smiled thinly, “You can’t question my will, not unless you take the position. For now, though, you’ll have to serve as General Valark. I just hope you’ll be able to lead us into a better future.”

OOC: Fleet moves away from port and sends previous message out to every land owning nation owning, or adjacent to, a shore.
 

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Salthiusar (18): Turn 25, Spring 17th Era 69 (Common: 1249)

1st of Breaking Cold, 17th Era 69 (Common: 1249)

Salthiusar was done. Most of the elves were dead, but their service could not end there. Due to the lack of soldiers, every corpse had to be raised, all to be entombed in crystal once the Lich was defeated.
The city itself was a ruin. Most of the buildings were shattered and broken, walls and roofs leaking the city’s lifeblood. Salthiusar pained as much as its people. However, after two months of relative calm, the city had begun to heal. Gaping wounds closed slowly, walls grew from the ground and small shelters appeared for the city’s freshly homeless. It seemed that the rift had empowered the city before collapsing.

Hésperion was long gone. His corpse had never been; he had simply disintegrated when he could not take life any longer. However, he had given all the powers of Black Magic, and had singlehandedly fought off the Lich.

Irèsp, Dalàth and Calleis decided together that this would be the last year of the 17th Era, the shortest of all, for this year had been the Fall.

However, the Fall was the greatest moment in the city’s history. Kogan-Sul had rescued the city in its hour of need, and, between them, the Darkness had been crushed, a message of hope and life for the whole city – nay, the whole world.

But one thing was clear to all: now was the time to act. Salthiusar sent a message to every remaining leader of Kolnur, with one message: send an ambassador to Salthiusar. We must prepare to fight to the end.

Summary:
-Train 1000 Mages (18)
-Salthiusar offers all Kogan-Sul warriors and civilians accommodation in the city

Military Positioning:
-161 Guardians
-4,297 Mages (+1000)


OOC: I'm sure I've forgotten to do something important, so prepare for possible edits.
 

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Lan Halfelven

People often talk of the end. During this way, they have spoken of it so many times that it has almost become routine. But, I think, now it truly is the end. The end of everything. This is our last gamble. Our last chance for victory. The last throw of the dice. Dovie'andi se tovya sagain.

I suppose I always knew it would come to this. If a man lives by the sword, he can expect to die by it. Illusions of glory in war have fallen from the minds of men. All that is left is the monotony of killing. Cutting down rank after rank of creatures from the Shadow. The soldiers cannot even cry anymore, having cut down their friends corpses so many times. We are cut off on all sides, the nearest ally leagues away and even now falling to our foes as we are falling.

It is time to strike the final blow. That, or to fall in the final battle.

Summary
Recruit Huscarls in all provinces with orders to hold to the last man
Move every other unit to attack Province 46 in an attempt to break towards Salthiusar and make a last stand in defence of the last and greatest bastion in Kolnur.
 

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When the smoke and ash settled, the day had been won, but at what cost Alawat Khan could not know. The Great Charge had worked, a last valiant effort to dislodge the Shadow from the lands of Kolnur. Truth be told, Alawat Khan had not planned on living past the battle, and was slightly bewildered that the gods had deigned that he not die that day. Regardless, he and his nation were now without a territory, their ancestral home of Mount Kogan firmly in the grasp of the Shadow. They had returned to their roots, a people not tied to a piece of land, though the Khan knew he would have to retake their lands from what was left of the Shadow's forces.

The Salth had offered the Khan and his people shelter within the city, which they had gratefully accepted. Some time passed, and the Salth sent runners across the land for the other nations to send emissaries. Presenting himself in the court, along with what was left of his War Council, the Khan clasped his fist to his chest. "You have sent runners to the four corners of the world, that there may be a meeting of what is left of Free Kolnur. I present myself, Alawat Khan, as the representative of my people. You have shown us a great kindness in these dire times, something we shall never forget, as I hope you shall not forget the glory of the Great Charge during the Fall. Our horses and blades are at your service, should that be what you ask..."
 

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Discussion Starter #170
Summer of 1249

There is no long summer days, not anymore. Day and night are the same endless conflict against the Shadow, the sun is rarely seen through the choking ash and dark clouds that throw the continent of Kolnur into darkness.

Anicea's lands upon the continent have been breached, after months of fighting, and the people of that proud nation, who had set off as intrepid explorers so many years ago, are slaughtered in their thousands and all but wiped out. However, in their homeland, it is rumoured that King Elfire still holds back the vast armies of the Shadow at the base of Anicea's super-weapon, although none have returned from the hellish wasteland that Anicea's homeland has become since the great evacuations.

The Great Trade Republic's people, forced from their land and onto a great fleet of ships, continue to drift through the dark waters of Kolnur. As they pass over the eerie and shattered remains of Kerin-Curan's empire, deep below their vessels and the waves the ride upon, the nation of refugees send out messages to any who may hear them, seeking shelter and respite, even as transports are dragged to the deep by foul monsters of the Shadow.

The Great Charge has reached it's goal, and now Kogan-Sul's armies, people with no home to return to, take shelter in the ruins of the Crystal City, and pledge their allegiance to the last, and greatest, bastion that remains firm against the encroaching hordes of Darkness.

Esterwynne has abandoned her lands, realizing that they cannot hope to hold off the Shadow on their own. Instead, they have set their sights for Salthiusar, so far away and yet their only hope. And even as her armies flee, the Darkness rushes forwards and razes the lands that it has been denied for so long.

Of Salthiusar herself, her armies and the very city itself has been shattered and broken almost beyond repair. Yet they continue to stand firm against the Darkness, refusing to give in and whispering the evil words of Dark Magic as they continue to hold back the hordes of the Shadow.
 

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Train 1,000 Huscarls province 68.

Movement:
550 Ironclads move from SP 22 to SP 36
200 Ironclads move from SP 42 to SP 36
325 Ironclads move from SP 47 to SP 36.
300 Ironclads move from SP 46 to SP 36.
225 Ironclads move from SP 50 to SP 44.
200 Ironclads move from SP 43 to SP 36.
100 Ironclads remain off the coast of Province 38, lending their cannon to the defence of Valbeach.

Cannon of Valbeach fires at province 21.

The people of Anicea had fled their home, seeking safety in the arms of strangers, only to feel the full wrath of the darkness upon them as the Shadow consumed Kogan-Sul. Countless had perished in the massacres that followed the Great Charge, and without the bastion of the Horde drawing the attention of the enemy, the Anicean army simply could hold on no longer, and fell beneath the tide. Out to sea, a day of mourning was declared amongst the Iron Navy in honour of the innumerable dead. However, not all was lost. The genius and courage of General Hokum ensured that some managed to escape with their lives. In the months leading up to the fall of Kogan-Sul, the General had been purchasing every sea-worthy vessel he could find, converting them into the foundations of a great fleet. His decision proved essential as the people of Anicea once again fled to safety in the waves. Now, they were a nation without a home – like so many others that had fallen to the vast weight of the Shadow’s forces, but they endured. Entire merchant vessels had been converted into floating farms, which coupled with strict rationing enabled the conglomeration of craft to sustain themselves away from the shore, and away from death. A vast fleet of fishing boats, trade-ships, prison hulks, and even larger leisure craft was all that the survivors of Anicea could call home, with the foul forces of the Shadow kept at bay by the vigilant watch of the mighty Ironclads of the Iron Navy. Anicea lay battered and broken, but any soul who gazed upon the mighty of her Navy would testify that she was yet beaten. Almost 2,000 warships sailed under the Anicean flag – now it represented the vast majority of all the Navies of what remained of Free Kolnur, and it remained proud. Hokum responded to the cries for assistance from the refugees from the Great Trade Republic, proposing that the two fleets merge together so as to ensure greater strength in numbers, with the secret hope, that perhaps together the two nations can reclaim the one last patch of green on the maps of Kolnur.
OOC: Sorry for the extended absence. Real life has hit me with a ton of bricks and I just don’t have the time for Heresy that I used to 
 

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Salthiusar (18): Turn 26, Summer 17th Era 69 (Common: 1269)

3rd of Risen Sun, 17th Era 69 (Common: 1249)

Wave after wave after wave. The Darkness would not cease.

If Salthiusar held strong, it was only because of the combined force beneath its walls. The true Salth were fewer in number by the day, reduced to a few thousand at best. The only upshot was that, with the death of Hésperion, none of the Kogani beneath its walls fell to the Curse. It was lucky that the Curse was permanent for the Salth.

All they needed now was a respite, a path to the Lich’s destruction. Yet, with his staunchest friend gone, even Irèsp could not hold to the Salth’s

Summary:
-1000 Mages trained

Salthiusar, 18:
-115 Guardians
-3,529 Mages (+1000)
 

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Another season passed, and still the forces of Darkness came. Despite this fact, the unified forces of the Horde of Kogan-Sul and the defenders of Salthuisar held the line, though the losses continued to compile. The Khan wished to break free, to take the fight on the hoof, though this was impossible, for as far as any could see there were the legions of Darkness. How long would the undead continue to battle, pondered the Khan, as the Lich had been torn asunder during his mortal combat with the magical being known as Hesperion the Khan had learned during his time with the Salth.

Contemplating the situation, the Khan grew vexed as days turned to weeks, weeks to months. With the agreement of his most trusted warriors, he made his way to the city guard. Seeking the most ornately dressed Salth present, the Khan spoke plainly. "Send word to your leader. I must speak with Iresp and the ruling council."
 

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Summary

Continue fleeing to Salthiusar - All units move from Province 46 to Province 40
Recruit Huscarls in 46 to form a rearguard
 

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Valark’s eyes twitched left, seeing an unusual ripple in the water, he snapped his finger up to point at it. Two dozen men leveled their weapons at the ripple. A young lad, by the name of Rickel, took up a long, thin spear and thrust at the still rippling water. There was a splash and the boy pulled his spear back, on the end of it was a large fish. Valark didn’t even bother to show any relief, he just reverted his attentions to the water once more, staring into the darkness. Baggro watched him from the doorway into the cabin. The poor man had been spiraling into depression. He no longer fought for anything beyond simply surviving. He didn’t sleep, he barely ate and he spent every hour of the day watching the waters and the skies for new foes. The Great Trade Republic’s survivors had suffered horrific blows. There was no telling if survival was even a viable option any longer.

Baggro sighed, he’d been debating with himself all night and had finally come to a decision. He approached the captain and greeted him. “Pietor.”
“Milord.” Grunted Valark.
“How many weapons do we have left?”
“Five thousand, two hundrend and fifteen rifles, six thousand and twelve pistols, sixty five crossbows and around six thousand swords. We have Fifty two artillery pieces awaiting use. I’m inventorying everything. We have around two dozen rifle rounds per rifle, two thirds as many pistol rounds per pistol and maybe two hundred crossbow bolts.” Valark said instantly. He turned to Baggro, looking at him straight in the eye with a dark, cold look in his eye. “Milord, I’m going to arm everyone, I’m going to lead them to fight, we need to come to land, this is worse than the sieges, the effect on morale has been horrific. I would suggest you officially condone this action, we are more or less the only two leading entities remaining, infighting between us might incite revolution.”

Baggro gave him the smallest of smiles. “I’d come to the same exact conclusions myself, actually Pietor. But you’re missing some factors, how many knives, woodcutting axes, hunting bows and fishing spears do we have? If we can bring together anything that can be used as a weapon, it will increase our chances of any form of success.”

Valark’s eyes opened slightly, then he nodded. He beckoned over two of his junior officers and began to explain the plan to them. There expessions were grim, but lacked surprise. One officer, a young gnome by the name of Nihrir Baylium, posed a question that dampened the kindling of hope in Baggro's chest.

"We have weapons, perhaps, but how many people are able to fight? Too many have succumbed to sickness and most of the men who were of an age to fight were slain in the final sieges. Who do we look to to aid us?"

Valark nodded grimly, "Anyone, everyone willing to fight. We'll take everything we can get, we'll put the strong up front and the weaker ones behind and pray that it will take us through to land."

OOC: Fleet moves to sea block 71 (or as close to as they can get)
A desperate conscription process begins as citizens are armed with whatever weapons have either been looted from the dead or can be roughly crafted from existing tools.
 

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Discussion Starter #176 (Edited)
Autumn of 1249

The continent of Kolnur is little more than a shattered and broken wasteland of death and despair. Even those few lands that can still claim that they resist the Darkness are blackened and torn from a never-ending fight for their very survival.

For more than six years, Kolnur has done it's best to endure against the Shadow. In that time, the very landscape of the continent has changed.

The first nation to fall was Megant, the distant civilisation to the West that was destroyed in a matter of days. Next to fall was the war-like and brutal Puplori, destroyed in less than a year by the combined efforts of the Great Trade Republic and Kogan-Sul. Then it was the turn of the Pure, the fanatical nation that proved to be too aggressive, destined to be brought to it's knees by a combined invading force and then divided up by the conquerors. Next to fall was the newly-formed Order, the country almost torn apart by civil unrest, and the first nation on the continent to fall to the Shadow itself. Robualy was destroyed by a sudden and unexpected push by the Darkness, deep into the heart of the continent. Turokhi found herself destroyed between the armies of the Empire and the endless hordes of the Shadow. Next to fall was the Empire, once one of the most formidable military powers known, brought low by the hordes and foul creatures of the Shadow, that swarmed over the walls of the castles and slaughtered the people in their hundreds of thousands. Then it was Likome, Skibul and Darkorin, all shattered by monstrosities that dragged themselves from the depths of the oceans, their armies fleeing from a fight they could not hope to win alone. Dagren and Kerin-Curan were both consumed in almighty eruptions as Kerin-Curan detonated the islands that had been both nations homes for thousands of years, a last effort to stop the Darkness sweeping forth from the West. The great horse-lords of Kogan-Sul abandoned their lands and rode forth to defend the one civilisation that may hold the key to their salvation. The Great Trade Republic were driven from their homes by the never-ending Shadow and took to the seas in an attempt to outrun their fate.

So much death, so much destruction, but still there are five nations that stand defiant.

Anicea's Iron Navy, reborn once more, again moves through the waters, deadly, silent, and hungry for revenge. Upon their homeland, the almighty cannon that is already passing into legend, fires once more, showing that somehow Anicea continues to hold her ground.

Upon the boats and ships that the Great Trade Republic now call home, the sound of hammer on metal rings out across the water as the ragged remains of the once mighty nation prepare to risk all in a desperate attempt to reach he last beacon of hope.

Kogan-Sul's remaining soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder with the fabled Guardians of Salthisuar as they continue to hold the Crystal City.

The fleeing armies of Esterwynne have come upon a twisted landscape the like of which has never been seen. A rift in the very fabric of reality seems like a burning sun upon the land, yet the remaining Magi of Esterwynne claim it is a portal of some kind, although none know the destination...

And finally, the last beacon herself, the City of Knowledge, Salthisuar, somehow continues to hold, her people fighting and dying in the shattered remains of the Crystal City.
 

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“So, Milord, what do we do now?” Asked Valark, lowering the parchment. “They clearly won’t budge.”

Baggro sighed. “I have a plan, but its damned risky.” He beckoned Valark closer and began to explain.

As the army’s of the Old Great Trade Republic finally set foot upon the greying shore, something felt amiss. There was silence across the shore. In the distance, trees were visible, but all the colours, of everything, the leaves, the ground, even the sky, were muted and dulled strangely. It was as if the land was, sick. The army stumbled forwards, veteran and conscript alike. They looked like children, lost in the thickening fog. The leader, Valark, shouted out. “Keep together!” his words traveled a few meters before the fog snatched them up, but it was enough. Soon the order was spread across the army and the ranks closed tight.

They shuffled forward in unison, up the hill of sand dunes on the sea shore. As the first troops clambered over the top of the hill, they gasped. Below them was a corpse field: Thousands of the denizens of the darkness, feasting on rotting corpses, the place may have once had a farm house in it, but the land was so covered in rotting and charred corpses, ruined, diseased trees and unspeakable filth, that there was no sign of ground. Spikes jutted out of the floor, skewering bodies, parts of which were being ripped off in a sick parody of a fruit plucked from a tree.

From the armoured warriors, sitting and standing, fighting and torturing the few, traumatised prisoners, to the hulking beasts, who were gorging themselves on the decomposing bodies, blood and filthy, yellowish fluids splattering their black, matted fur. Swarms of enemies were were milling around. They had yet to see the approaching army, but perhaps two seconds later, eyes started flicking into their direction, snarls could be heard. A ripple of fury surged across the lines of the darkness. Valark screamed out. “Hold together and split them up! We must defend the beach They’re only dangerous as a group!” The front line of troops looked on grimly, but behind them, as the army formed itself at the top of the hill, less well equipped and far more terrified looking warriors stood. Whilst a few held real military weapons, most carried pitchforks, knives on brooms and hunting bows. Assembled, the last army of the Republic was a mighty number, but so too was the foe. The horrifying force arrayed against the men and gnomes was already thundering forwards. The soldiers in front raised shields and spears, whilst behind them crossbows, rifles and pistols clicked ready, aimed at the horde of onrushing foes…

OOC:

Ships empty onto the shore, all combat ready individuals move into territory 24.
 

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Lan Halfelven

“I can see what it is, I need to know where it goes,” I said, slamming a palm onto the table to stifle the arguments and exclamations of disbelief as what was left of my people’s leaders argued about the portal we had been confronted with. The landscape around it was twisted, cracked and burnt as if it were the heart of a volcano yet no fiery mountain stood for miles around. It was impossible, it should never have happened and yet here we were, looking across this hell.

“We don’t know. We know nothing of where it goes or what caused it.” The words were spoken quietly from the rear of the room.

It seemed the whole world was tearing itself apart. The Shadow had come the first time and smashed the Great Alliance. We had rebuilt slowly after that, trying to piece together the remnants of our shattered lives. It came again, more insidious this time, wiping out the weaker nations before moving on to the stronger ones, Megant being the first to fall. The Puplori, those brutes who had murdered those who attempted to parlay with them were annihilated by the Great Trade Republic and Kogan-Sul. The Pure went on a foolish crusade, attempting to take Kolnur for its mad immortal ruler. The other nations of Kolnur crushed them while we held the northern line against the Shadow. The newly-formed Order was the first nation on the continent to fall to the Shadow, so recently after their people had overthrown their mad rulers and replaced them. Robualy and Turokhi fell next, followed by the Empire.

Likome, Skibul and Darkorin fell to monsters from the seas and the remnants of their armies fled to Salthiusar. Dagren and Kerin-Curan were consumed by the destruction of the islands that had been their homes for thousands of years in a last ditch attempt to stop the Darkness. Kogan-Sul abandoned their home and rode to Salthiusar to defend the crystal city that seemed to hold our last hope. The Great Trade Republic was driven from their homes and took to the seas and Anicea’s Iron Navy was reborn again, sailing the oceans and dealing death to all the creatures they found as their almighty gun fired across the world, annihilating everything it struck. Even we had been forced to abandon the home that had sheltered us for longer than many of the other nations of Kolnur had even existed.

“We have no choice anymore. We must enter the Portal. Kylar, take our people to Salthiusar. I will lead my men into this portal.”

Summary

Lan (1 Dragon - Warder if Dragon is killed), 750 Sentinels, 250 Guardians, 250 Hoplites and 25 Magi move into the Portal
All remaining units stay in Province 40 to defend Lan and possibly to cover his retreat if necessary. If he is forced to retreat they’re prepared to continue fighting their way to Salthiusar.
Build Castle in Province 40
 

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Discussion Starter #179
Winter of 1249

When the winter came, it did not hold back. A cold that had never before been seen blew across Kolnur, freezing hand to weapon and causing steel to shatter as if it were glass.

But it was not for the deep winter, seizing the land, that this season would be remembered for, for this season would indeed be remembered. Stories of it would be heard on the wind, as straggled survivors gathered others around them and spoke in dark voices, as firelight flickered across their broken features. For this would be a story that would last throughout the ages, passed from father to son, until soon it was nothing more than a legend. But they say every legend has a glimmer of truth.

It is said that when Lan Halfelven led his men into the twisting rift, not sure of where it would carry him, or whether he would even survive the journey, he ensured that his name would be forever remembered. For it is in that one act that he may have saved Kolnur from the Darkness.

The legend says that none of Lan's soldiers ever spoke of what they saw in that portal, that it was to indescribable for them to ever speak with their mortal tongue. But what is know, is that many were lost in that rift, hundreds of proud Esterwynne's simply being snuffed out, probably with no chance to fight for their life, their existence simply ceasing in an instant.

And yet, the few survivors claim that above Salthisuar there was a mighty screech, the cry of a Dragon in anguish, the instance before the sky itself began to tear itself apart. The very fabric of reality began to rip that day, and all across Kolnur, almighty rifts appeared in the sky, dragging reality itself into their seemingly all-consuming selfs.

In the Oceans themselves, these great rifts tore themselves open, engulfing the proud Anicean navy in an instant, before they dissapeared, leaving nothing but a few broken and shattered rafts behind, and stunned survivors.

Even as the valiant soldiers of the Great Trade Republic prepare to make their last stand against the Darkness, defiant till the last, the arrayed ranks of proud men and women are simply gone in an instance, leaving nothing but the ringing notes of an almighty thunderclap. And in the bay, the ships that bore them from their homeland are gone, leaving nothing but the rippling waves upon which the mighty ships once rested, but no longer.

The remaining armies of Esterwynne, those who stayed behind as Lan Halfelven led his army through the portal, have no time to react as the rift explodes, engulfing them all and spiriting them away to wherever the portal leads.

And the Crystal City itself, although the crystal structures are little more than broken ruins now, is torn from the ground as the sky opens up and rips itself apart. Kogan-Sul and Salthisuar alike, the armies of Free Kolnur are gone in an instant.

But it is not just the armies of Kolnur that are engulfed by the rifts in reality itself, for as the straggled survivors discover, as they stumble into the light, shielding their eyes. For the Shadow dissapears that day as well. And although the very land is gripped in an icy chill, it seems to be more of the Kolnur of old, as colour and life begins to seep once more into the land.

The few survivors that remain slowly begin the almighty task of rebuilding from the shattered ruins left behind from years of endless conflict, but over many generations, Kolnur is reborn, although it is still just a shadow of it's former self.

Over time, the story of Lan Halfelven and the Rifts pass into fireside tales, and the legend of the Darkness becomes nothing more than a scary story to get young children to behave.

And yet, there still remains the question, when the free armies, those of Anicea, the Great Trade Republic, Kogan-Sul, Esterwynne and Salthisuar, dissapeared, where did they go? But that's another story.

The End
 
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