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Here is the third chapter of my birthright story.


- --
Ian Hoskins

ICQ: 2938300
Home Page:

>From the Darkness we came.
And to the Darkness we will return.
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The Rohrmarch Campaign

Book 1: The Fall of Prince Oden.

Chapter 3 (The Destruction of Osternord Castle)

Osternord Castle was a mighty edifice that rose out of the forests of the
province of the same name. For the past three hundred years it had stood
against invaders from Kiergard, Massenmarch or any other of Rohrmarch's
northern neighbours. Combined with the citadel in Oden city the castle
ensured the protection of the people of Rohrgaard from the Orog and Goblin
horde that were now said to roam the land in Kiergard. Home to the
Osternord family, third in line for the throne it was also important in the
politics of Rohrmarch.
Surrounding the fortress was the town of Osternord. It was only small
compared to the twin capitals of Keidel and Oden, but it was the largest
settlement in the province and home to many of the carpenters and carvers
that worked the timbers harvested from the great forests of the province.
With the castle itself on a hill overlooking the town it provided the best
view of the northern border available, unless one were to set up camp in
the monster infested Vicissitude Mountains to the east.
In the past this castle had supported a large garrison, numbering maybe a
thousand soldiers, all ready to protect the kingdom. But now with the civil
war waging throughout the Rohrmarch, Osternord's army had been stripped
from the castle and sent to fight in the battles even now being fought in
Nunkappel and other southern provinces. This left the castle and the town
relatively unprotected, with maybe as many as two or three hundred soldiers
left to fight off any invasion from Kiergard to the north or the Vampire's
Hold to the east. The people of Osternord did not appear worried though,
obviously thinking that reputation alone would be enough to protect them.

So it was the very same night that the Gorgon had made his deal with the
new ruler of the Chimaeron and Prince Oden was marching on the southern
city of Kiedel that a strange cloaked figure walked into the town. Covered
from head to toe in a dark purple, hooded cloak not even the slightest
glimpse of his face or features could be seen. Strapped to this beings back
was a large sword, crafted it seemed from a single shard of blue crystal.
As the creature passed the town's graveyard the sword glowed slightly with
a pale blue light. The figure stopped and looked towards the graveyard for
a moment and noting the dark figures moving between the trees there
continued on its journey towards town. Old Karn the gravedigger did not see
the figure moving along the road, or note its interest in his home. He was
too busy drinking to notice the shadows creeping towards him through the
darkness, fingers reaching for his bony body. His corpse was found the next
day, the life drained from it leaving little more than a dry husk. The next
night another shadow would join the others in the graveyard.
None of this was of importance to the cloaked figure though as it was in
Osternord on a very important mission, in fact the very same one given to
the guilder el-Hadid that very night, only a few hours ago. For this
creature was el-Hadid, although this time he was not using his shape
changing ring, for its power was limited. Instead he was relying on more
mundane means to keep his appearance a secret. The cloak he wore was one
crafted especially for him by the three mage who inhabited his realm in
return for their freedom from his dungeons. When worn with the hood over
the head it his the wearers face in a dark shadow that was impossible to
penetrate at night, and even difficult to see through during the day.
Not that the cloak was really needed, as it was a dark night and few people
walked the streets of cities in Rohrmarch after nightfall. Even the Castle
guards stayed in doors on a night like this one, and el-Hadid could see the
light from their guardrooms even from where he was, on the outskirts of
Osternord town. Unlike many of the other Brecht cities and towns Osternord
did not light lanterns to light the streets after darks. As a result the
night's gloom settled over the town like a blanket, with only a few shards
of brightness indicating an open door to a tavern or similar building.

El-Hadid was passing the first such building when he encountered trouble. A
pair of drunken locals, farmers by their garb, staggered out of the tavern
straight into the cloaked figure of the Awnshegh. Down they all went in a
tangled heap, the farmers still laughing over a joke told by their friends
in the Tavern. El-Hadid was not laughing however as the hood of his cloak
had fallen from his face in the fall, exposing his twisted features to all.
Thinking quickly climbed to his feet and drew his blade, his cloak falling
down around his body to hide his features once more. With a quick thrust
one farmer was dead, his heart pierced by the crystal blade of the
Awnshegh's sword. The second farmer opened his mouth to scream for help but
found his throat slit by an extremely sharp dagger el-Hadid had drawn in
his second hand. His eyes still open in pure terror at the glimpse of the
Awnshegh features he had seen, the farmer dropped to the ground his blood
pooling on the cobblestones.
All of this occurred in the space of a few seconds, before any of the other
patrons of the tavern had even heard anything. El-Hadid thought quickly. He
wiped the two blades on the farmers clothes and sheathed them quickly. With
a strength that defied his small frame he leant down and grabbed hold of
the two farmer's belt dragging their bodies around the corner of the
building into a small alley. In the alley were several empty barrels,
stored there by the tavern until they could be collected. With incredible
ease he tossed the dead bodies into two of the large barrels, then turned
and fled the alley, not wanted to be stopped and questioned now, in case
his mission was discovered.
Peering around the corner he saw that the street was again quiet and no-one
else had left the tavern to investigate the noise outside. As he passed the
tavern door he risked a glance inside, and saw the reason no-one else had
left the tavern. They were all engrossed in watching a drinking contest
between a Baruk-Azik Dwarf and the tavern champion. El-Hadid quickly turned
away and continues along the main street towards the road leading up the
hillside to the castle.

As he walked he wondered just why he was doing this. Certainly if he
succeeded he would gain the Gorgon's gratitude, but did the ancient
Awnshegh have something else in mind for him, or was his offer of an
alliance nothing more than a ploy to distract him. El-Hadid smiled when he
though of the plans he himself was already preparing. With any luck by the
time he returned from this trip his lieutenant Nekrul would have prepared
his army for what was to come and then when the Gorgon struck he would be
ready with a powerful force of his own.
So lost in his plans and plots el-Hadid did not notice that he had not
arrived at the outer gates of the fortress, and he was standing in the
light of the two enchanted lanterns that cast light onto the street below.
The guards of the castle however did notice his arrival and with their
swords drawn were already approaching his position.
The captain of the gate guards had seen the figure of el-Hadid walking
slowly up the road several minutes before and wondered just who would be
out after dark. Waking the other guards he had moved to a position directly
in front of the approaching figure. Lost in his thoughts el-Hadid did not
notice him until his line of sight came into line with the Captains steels
capped boots. Quickly his hooded head came up and he saw in front of his a
small collection of sleep guards and their captain. He almost laughed then
when he thought how easy this would be.
"Now just who might you be then," the captain asked.
"Just a simple traveller seeking a place to stay the night noble lord," a
soft voice replied. "I have walked a long way from the south with news of
the war and are looking for a place to rest before I continue on to
"News of the war you say, do you know then if the Prince has finally
crushed that dog Alaric?"
"When I left the southern lands Alaric's forces where falling before the
prince. I believe that soon he will be inside the city of Keidel itself."
"Then that is indeed good news, come we will let you rest for the night
here in our barracks, as long as you do not mind us prying you the latest
"Not at all my friend let us go, I have much to tell and a short time to
tell it."
The Captain and the Awnshegh turn and walked with the rest of the guards
towards the gatehouse of the castle. One of the guards however stood their
looking confused, trying to shake off the fog of sleep that still enveloped
him. He thought about what he had just heard and something did not make
sense, something was very wrong with this visitors story. For several
minutes he stood there thinking over what he had just heard while the cool
night air slowly cleared his head. Then it hit him the stranger was on
foot. He turned and ran towards the gatehouse shouting to his companions.
"Look out he is an enemy, the Royal messengers ride on horse back and this
man is on foot. We should have received news from them before any traveller
who has walked the whole way."
Running into the gatehouse he was just in time to see el-Hadid dispatch the
last of his fellow guards. Blood was everywhere as were the bodies of his
companions yet the stranger did not ever seem to be injured. In a rage the
guard drew his sword and rush the man from behind. El-Hadid was not so
easily taken though and had heard the guard shouting as he ran towards the
gatehouse. Turning towards the rushing guard he concentrated his thoughts
and sent a wave of mental energy towards the running man. The guard felt as
though his mind had exploded as waves of painful thoughts washed through
him. The force of the attack was so great he was flung back against the
stone wall of the gatehouse. Confused and dazed he was only able to feebly
raise his sword in defence before el-Hadid had pierced his heart with his
crystal sword. The Awnshegh calmly withdrew the weapon and pulling a
blanket from a nearby bed wiped the blood covered blade clean.
Then he left the gatehouse and walked towards through the open castle gates
and into the castle proper.

Inside the walls el-Hadid slowly crept along the wall, always keeping to
the shadows. He knew that he had only an hour at the most before the dead
guards would be found so he had to move fast. He spotted a side entrance
into the keep and quickly moved through the darkness towards it.
Fortunately his abilities gave him almost perfect site in darkness and
therefore a tremendous advantage over the humans in the castle.
Reaching the door he quickly check to see if it was locked, which of course
it was. Cursing under his breath he reached into a pouch tied to his belt
and pulled out a small bundle. Untying it he rolled out his set of thieves
tools, the finest gold could buy. Selecting two small picks he knelt next
to the door and slowly inserted them into the door locks. A few quick
twists and the lock sprung with a load click. El-Hadid quickly repackaged
his tools and opened the door and enter the keep proper.
The door led into the castles kitchen, which fortunately was empty at this
time of knight. After a quick look around he slipped across the room toward
the next door, through which a stream of bright light poured. Hiding behind
the door frame he glanced around the corner into the next room.
Two soldier asleep at their post in the room beyond, their booted feet
sitting on the table in front of them. Damm he though, this is just what I
didn't want, more guards. Carefully he crept into the room and stepping as
lightly as possible he crossed the room. For several moment he though he
would not make it as one of the guards stirred in his sleep. El-Hadid
froze, his hand one his dagger just in case the guards woke. But the
uncooperative guard soon slipped back into a deep slumber and he was able
to make it all the way across the room without waking them.
After a quick check to make sure no-one else waited in the hallway beyond
he left the room and entered a narrow hallway running south deep into the
keep. El-Hadid looked both way, unsure which to take, then finally unable
to make a choice he had to consult his map. First walking a short distance
down the passage away from the guards he pulled the folded paper from a
pocket of the robes he wore beneath his cloak. Unfolding it he placed it
against the wall, using the light from a nearby lantern to read it. The map
he had been given by the Gorgon soon showed his position, just south of the
main dining room. After studying it for several minutes to make sure he had
memorized everything on it and was sure of his position he folded it up
once more and put it away.
It was then he heard voices coming from further down the passage. The
seemed to be getting closer so el-Hadid quickly looked around for somewhere
to hide. The only possible place seemed to be between to darkened pillars
where none of the light from the nearby lantern fell and he moved quickly
into this darkness, pressing himself against the wall to ensure nothing was
showing. The owners of the two voices soon came into view walking down the
passage from the stairs to the south. Turning the corner the came to the
door leading to he kitchens and halted only a few metres from the hidden

The first man was a young warrior wearing a heavy breastplate inscribed
with the crest of the Osternord family, a soaring dragon with a crown above
its head. At his belt swung a heavy looking broadsword. Unlike El-Hadid
graceful weapon this sword had only one purpose, to slice parts of an
enemies body off. The second man however was totally different. To start
with he was about forty years older that the young man in armour, and he
was dressed in thick robes to ward off the cold and not the chain or plate
armour favoured by the soldiers of Rohrmarch. He also had at his belt a
large number of pouches and small bags, while in his calloused hand he held
a large book in which he was making notes as he walked. It was the young
man who seemed to be doing most of the talking while the older man
continued to make notes in his book.
"And this tapestry here must also be replaced, remind me to tell father
when he returns from the war," the young man was saying.
"Yes my lord," was the older mans reply.
"And also remind me to replace the kitchen guards tomorrow these two seem
to be asleep again."
The young lord then walked into the room and picked up a pot sitting on the
table banged it with his sword. The two guards in the room beyond both fell
of their chairs as the were jolted awake by the load noise. Struggling to
focus the opened their eyes to see the angry face of their lord, and
quickly closed them again.
"I trust you two have been having a good time?" Lord Branm Osternord asked.

"Sorry my lord, but we have been very busy lately with the rest of the
castle guard off fighting with the prince and we just needed some sleep."
spoke up one of the guards.
"Well then perhaps a bit of night air will do you some good. I want both of
you walking post outside the main gates and if I catch you asleep again
then I will assign you to guarding the town graveyard and I am sure neither
of you wants that."
"No my lord," said the guards in unison as they both struggled into the
armour while trying to fasten their sword belts at the same time. Legends
of the horrible creatures that haunted the graveyard after dark were told
throughout the town and the guards did not wish to be sent off to that dark
place. They moved out the door so quickly the did not even notice that it
was already unlocked and ran out into the courtyard beyond.
"I really think that we must have been left with the worst of the castle
guard when Prince Alder selected troops to go with him to Friedlund, what
do you think Wilheim."
"Yes my lord, I agree totally. Shall I make a note to reprimand the
guardsmen Calder and Kort?"
"No I will let them off this time. After all I do not wish to appear a
tyrant before the troops do I now. The two fellows were only catching up on
some lost sleep."
As he finished saying this a shout came from the direction of the gate
house. The young lord frowned and went to the kitchen door wondering what
his guards were up to now. Looking outside he say one of the guardsmen he
had just sent to the gate running back across the courtyard waving his
hands and shouting.
"I think something may be happening out there Wilheim, perhaps we had best
go check it out."
"Yes my lord."
The two nobles then left through the kitchen door to see what the frantic
guardsman Kort has discover. In the passage behind them el-Hadid stepped
out of the shadows where he had been hiding and quickly sprinted off down
the passage, knowing that he now had only a few minutes before the alarm
was raised.

Outside in the courtyard Kort quickly told the Lord of the castle and his
advisor what he and Calder has discovered.
"They are all dead lord, something seems to have broken into the gatehouse
and slain them. There is blood everywhere."
"Its true my lord, all the gate guards are dead. Me and Calder found them
that way."
"Then someone must have broken into the castle. Wilheim you go and raise
the alarm and see if you can get my mother out of harms way. I will go with
the guardsman here and see if I can find out what has happened. I want the
whole castle searched from end to end, someone may be after the treasury."
"Yes my lord," said Lord Wilheim.
"Then get going man, I don't want my father to return to find mother dead
and the treasury empty. Alaric must have sent a raiding party to attack the
castle. Now get going."
Wilheim bowed once and then turn and ran as fast as his old legs could
carry him towards the main guardhouse on the other side of the courtyard.
Lord Branm grabbed Kort and headed in the direction of the gatehouse.
Once he arrived he could see that nothing could be done for the men here,
they had been slaughtered. Who ever had done this must have hit them while
they were on a break as most of the corpses faces seemed shocked at what at
happened to them.
"Doesn't look like we can do much for them Lord Branm," said Calder.
"Someone must have caught them with their pants down, so to speak."
"Or perhaps they were sleeping like you two," retorted Branm angrily. "Not
that it matters now already Alaric's men must be inside the castle. You two
go to the town and see if you can get father Dane and his priest to assist
us and hurry, we may not have much time left.
Once the two guards had left lord Branm ran back to the courtyard, just in
time to meet up with Wilheim and the rest of the castle guard. Looking over
the collected soldiers he quickly reached a decision.
"Wilheim, you take half the troops and go around the keep, checking all the
building on the way. Then I want you search the keep. Start at the ground
floor and work your way up. The rest of you with me."
There was a moment of confusion as the soldiers sorted themselves out into
two equal groups but they quickly worked it out and the half with Lord
Branm ran towards the main entrance to the keep. Wilheim quickly followed
suit and his troops spread out to search the castle grounds.

Meanwhile el-Hadid was running down the stairs leading to the lowest level
of the castle. Reaching the cellar he quickly looked around for his
objective and soon found it. Along one wall of the cellar was a large pile
of large barrels, stacked on top of each other until they reached the
ceiling. Quickly consulting his map he saw he was on the correct level, so
these must be the barrels the Gorgon mention. Moving over to them he knelt
and carefully removed a large bag that had been hanging from his belt.
Placing it on the stone floor he started removing the cloth that had been
stuffed into the bag to prevent the object inside from breaking. Once this
was done he pulled the object out and looked carefully at it.
In his hands he now held a delicate looking crystal ball, with a glowing
ball of fire burning in the centre of the globe. El-Hadid quickly turn away
from the bright light as it burned at his eyes after they had become used
to the darkness of the stairs and the cellar. After several glance he found
he could look at the globe and pushing the cloth scattered on the floor
behind one of the barrels he placed the crystal globe on top of it. He then
pulled out a small piece of paper that had been given to him by the gorgon.
Using the light from the globe he carefully read the strange words that
were written on it. After he had done so the paper seemed to flare and
catch alight. El-Hadid threw the burning scrap of paper into the darkness
behind him well away from the barrels and then turned to look once more at
the globe.
The flame seemed to become much brighter and the light seemed to pulse
slightly as he watched. El-Hadid knew better however that to spend too much
time in the cellar. The Gorgon had been most insistent that once the paper
had been read he should leave as quickly as he could if he wanted to live.
Picking himself up off the floor he sprinted back towards the stairs and
began the climb back to the upper levels.
He had just reached the ground floor when Lord Branm and his men arrived at
the stairs. Seeing the cloaked figure running up the stairs. With a yell
the large group of guards charged el-Hadid who once he heard them coming
turn and heading back to the stairs this time heading upward instead of
down. Branm was at the head of his troops as they reached the stairs.
With a wave of his hand he yelled to his men, "some of you check below
there may be more of them."
About half of the soldiers with him, headed down the stairs towards the
cellars while the rest followed their Lord in pursuit of the invaders.
Reaching the first floor Branm quickly glanced around and not seeing any
sign of the invader assumed that he must be heading towards the door
leading to the castle walls and started running up the stairs to the second
Having just reached the second floor el-Hadid glance frantically around. He
knew that he only had a few minutes before what ever the Gorgon had given
him did its job. Then he remembered the map he had been given. Somewhere on
the second floor there was a door leading to a bridge to the castle walls.
Thinking quickly he found the right passage and ran down it as fast as he
could. At the end of the passage was a solid oak door door, which to
el-Hadid's amazement was unlocked. Flinging it open he ran out over the
bridge to the castle walls.
Hot on his heals however came Lord Branm and his troops. Glancing backwards
el-Hadid saw the young lord chasing him and cursed loudly. He had by now
reached the walls and turning right he started running along the wall
towards the west tower. It turned out to be the wrong decision however as
another group of guards had just left the tower and were running along the
wall towards him. Drawing his sword in one hand and his dagger in his other
he prepared for a fight.
Lord Branm seeing the invader trapped let out a yell of triumph and pulled
out his own heavy weapon. Motioning for his men to stand back he approached
the Awnshegh who watched him carefully from beneath the deep hood of his
"Well my friend it seems that you plan has failed and now you will die,"
gloated Branm.
El-Hadid responded by raising his weapons are readying to strike.
"So it is fight that you is it. I must warn you that I have been the
champion swordsman in the spring festival four years running. Any duel can
only end in your death."
Without a word el-Hadid moved to attack, his blue crystal sword swinging
towards the lords legs while he held his dagger to defend against any
attacks. Branm hopped lightly over the sword and brought his own weapon
down in a swinging arch that should have cut his opponent in half. This was
no ordinary human though and what he lacked in skill el-Hadid made up for
with strength. Raising his dagger above his head he deflected Darnm's
thrust using the strength given to him by his tainted bloodline. Branm
stepped back looking in shock at the figure in front of him. What the
invader had just done was impossible. His sword should have smashed through
the dagger with ease, never before had he met anyone able to deflect a
sword with a mere dagger. Worried now he motioned for his guards behind him
and on the other side of the invader to attack.
El-Hadid saw the Lord's hand movements and quickly positioned himself
against on the far edge of the wall so he did not have to fight off attacks
from all sides. The guards came in a wave attempting to overpower the
invader by rushing him. This was a more experienced opponent than they were
used to however and el-Hadid simply swung his sword in a wide arc. The
guards were moving to fast to avoid the blade and three of them fell as the
sword point slashed across their throats or faces. Leaping into the space
now vacated by the fallen guards el-Hadid avoided the others coming from
the right. Stabbing out with his right hand he struck one of these in the
chest with his dagger. The guard fell, grabbing at one of the other guards
for support and ending up tripping him instead. The other guards moved back
slightly wary now at approaching such a skilful swordsman. They looked at
each other for support but saw none there as they slowly backed away from
the Awnshegh.

Meanwhile the guards who had gone down the stairs instead of up had finally
reached the bottom cellar. One of the quickly noticed a bright pulsing glow
on the far side of the room next to the oil barrels. He moved to
investigate fearing that the invader may have lit a fire in the cellars
hoping to burn down the fortress. He never made it across because at that
moment the cellar erupted in fire as the Gorgon's powerful spell was
released. The massive oil barrels kept in the cellar for use in a siege
fuelled the explosion of flame as it swept across the room. The guard could
only watch in horror for the spilt second it took for the wall of flames to
make it across the room and reduce his body to a charred corpse. None of
the other soldiers were any luckier as they were also swept away in the
explosion of magical fire.

Outside on the wall the guards were warily circling el-Hadid looking for an
opening so they could strike when they heard a strange noise behind them.
It sounded as though a powerful wind was rushing towards them at high
speed. Spinning around the were just in time to see the flames rush out up
the stairs from the cellar and pour out of the open windows and doors of
the keep. It looked as the thought the keep itself had changed into a
horrible monster spewing fire from every opening.
El-hadid took the chance offer to make his exit and jumped over the edge of
the wall. Concentrating as hard as he could he slowed did fall and floated
lightly to the ground and rushed off into the night away from the castle.
None of the guards ever saw his exit however as they were to busy watching
the keep burning to the ground.
The fire had swept away all in its path including the ancient timbers that
supported the walls. When these burnt away the keep could not support its
own weight and collapsed inwards tumbling to the ground like a stack of
Lord Branm could only watch in horror as his home was destroyed in front of
his very eyes. The destruction did not stop there however as the fire next
spread to the wooden building that lined the inner walls of the castle. The
smithy, the guardhouse and the stable all caught alight and still the fire
was spreading. His body shaking Dranm could only watch as the east wall
started to buckle and fall as the flames destroyed the supports that had
stood for centuries. His sword slipped from his numb fingers and dropped
with a clatter to the stones below, but the young Lord did not even notice.
His home, his whole life was being destroyed around him and there was
nothing he could do about it. He dropped to his knees and began to sob as
the flames spread to the gatehouse. He knew that there was nothing he could
do and soon it would all be gone.

By morning el-Hadid was far from the castle, but looking back he could
still see the pillars of smoke rising from the direction of Osternord. With
a smile on his face and a spring in his step he turn away and walked off
down the road towards the border of the province. It was a long walk, but
soon he would be back in the Iron Hills and on his way back to Mhowe and
his own castle. Still maybe he could find someone with a horse and convince
them to part with their ride, for a fair price of course.

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