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A note from meidogeometry

On the Road to Elspar is a story that first began on July 20, 2016, and is now being posted on Royal Road in hopes of gaining a wider audience. Existing content that has been written and posted in its original forum thread will be posted here incrementally to maintain accessibility.

I will be the first to admit that the pacing for this story is a little slow, and it'll take a bit of time to pick up. Please be kind enough to give me the first ten chapters to win you over. If I haven't captured your interest by then, thank you for at least giving me a try.

The graduation ceremony for the class of 1332 at Faulkren Academy is blessed with a characteristically beautiful day for this time of year. Save for the few idyllic clouds that drift lazily across, the sun shines unimpeded from where it rests upon azure skies, lighting up the emerald plains surrounding the town of Faulkren. It is upon these plains - far on the outskirts of the town proper - that the Academy sits, a picturesque fortress of whitestone erected by the early Caldran mercenaries centuries ago, a haven that you have called home for three years.

The quasi-formal surroundings that engulfs the Great Hall obscures the hidden gaiety passing through the throng of young graduates seated in neat rows, facing the podium at the fore of the large chamber under the watchful eyes of their instructors. Decorum, discipline, and three years of training are what keeps a lid on the almost unbearable amount of excitement and anticipation amongst the graduating class, and virtually no one believes that this is no cause for celebration. Regal banners and tapestries hang from high ceilings against whitestone walls on this occasion, some featuring the stylized icon of a bird of prey. The occupants are dressed in their best, and the tables to the side hold rich foods that promise an equally delightful banquet...

...Well, as soon as the headmistress finishes her speech.

Certainly, there is reason to be proud. Caldran mercenaries have a long and rich tradition going back to the dawn of the Confederacy, warbands of deadly warriors striking on behest of the highest bidder. By the time the Confederacy was formed, Caldran mercenaries were so ubiquitous to the country that the masters of the land quietly and unofficially gave these soldiers of fortune institutional support. And now you - and the dozens of others seated with you today, friends and rivals and enemies you've made over the last three years, all on the cusp of adulthood - count yourselves among their number, a proud symbol of Caldrein's skill and tenacity in battle.

Of course, amidst all the ceremony, it is easy to forget that the pressures of war has strained the economy of the Confederacy of Caldrein to the breaking point, that the northwestern borders of the Confederacy shrink ever so little with each passing week, and that successive graduating classes of Caldran mercenaries - despite enjoying a recruiting spree greater than any other seen in its history - seem ultimately powerless to stop Caldrein's slow, valiant, but inevitable defeat.

The headmistress seems to have reached the climax of her speech when the double doors of the Great Hall are abruptly pushed open. With the instincts of trained fighters, the occupants of the room turn as one to glare at the hapless young woman who has materialized in the opening of this chamber, one of the junior staff members of the Academy. Despite being obviously aware of the many frowning faces turned on her, the young woman - stunned and breathless - takes advantage of the silence that has settled upon the hall by making a single pronouncement that shakes the Great Hall and, indeed, all of Caldrein.

"A peace treaty has been signed at Arnheim! The war is over!"

The year is 1332. The signing of the Treaty of Arnheim, accomplished in secret and without warning, formally ends hostilities between the Confederacy of Caldrein and the Tenereian Union, drawing the twelve-year-long Huntress' War to a close. An equal peace on paper, Caldrein's sovereignty and independence is ensured, but all of Tenereia's wartime gains - the region of Elspar, constituting almost a quarter of the Confederacy - now belongs in the hands of the Union.

And in your little corner of the country, amidst the cacophony of disbelieving exclamations and stunned discussions amongst the young and the old in the Great Hall of Faulkren Academy, you cannot help but blankly wonder - after training for three years for a war that no longer is - what, if anything, lies in store for your future.


This is a story about an adventure like any other.

This is a story about war and peace, pride and prejudice, life and death, when the will of the people turned a page in their turbulent history, when the great virtues and sinister vices of believers and beliefs were laid bare for all to see.

This is a story about friends and rivals, allies and enemies, sisters and lovers, when the world dared the living to challenge and stand up for their convictions, when bonds forged by flame and wine burned brilliantly into the night.

This is a story about wonder and awe, fire and steel, laughter and tears, where every corner along city streets and every pebble that paves the roads tell the timeless stories of those who came before and those who shall come after.

This is a story about a girl who dared to go and see the world.


Directed by
Bad Decisions

Screenplay by
Depression

Produced by
A Stupidly Fickle Muse

Co-Produced by
Questionable Life Choices

Based on
Anime and Wikipedia

Edited by
Alcoholism

Starring
The Readers

Co-Starring
Kinkiness

And Guest Starring
No Idea What I'm Doing

Kei Presents
On the Road to Elspar


Arc One
Faulkren Academy

Three Years Ago

The year is 1329. The Huntress' War - starting as a dispute over hunting grounds on the border that soon inflamed nationalist sentiments and spiraled into an armed conflict between the Confederacy of Caldrein and the Tenereian Union - has entered its tenth year, with no end in sight. Priding itself on neutrality and independence, Caldrein finds herself standing alone amongst the countries of the continent of Iuryis, fighting against a neighbor many times its size. To the northeast, the Imperial Ornthalian Republics offers token support, but with each passing year, actual military assistance from Tenereia's timeless rival seems less and less likely.

The people of Iuryis expected the Confederacy to suffer total defeat within a few short months due to the disparity of power. For what can tiny Caldrein do against Tenereia, one of the two great powers of Iuryis? Yet Caldran bravery and skill at arms have defied these expectations time and time again. Caldran mercenaries, who for centuries have been exported abroad to fight foreign wars for profit, returned home with hard-won experience and mastery, waging war for their homeland. Having long been a major - if unofficial - component of foreign policy for the Confederacy, they have enjoyed unofficial support, institutionalizing into organized businesses. Academies were founded to train new generations of soldiers of fortune with the quiet blessings of the Caldran countesses. And with the Caldran mercenaries continuing to produce miraculous victories from the jaws of defeat, patriotism in the Confederacy grows, and more and more youths submit themselves to these academies, fueling the largest recruiting spree that the Caldran mercenaries have ever seen.

But wars are rarely won by skill at arms, and are instead mostly determined by numbers and logistics. With replenishable ranks and abundant supplies, Tenereia has fought the war - one of several in a wide campaign for geostrategic power in Central Iuryis - at its leisure, slowly grinding down Caldrein with all the grace but surety of a sledgehammer. Already Tenereia controls more than half of Caldrein's northwestern region of Elspar, and successive attempts to dislodge the Union from their entrenched positions have failed, even as the enemy front grows step by step with every passing day.

The seemingly hopeless situation hasn't stopped you from enrolling yourself into an academy, though. "Accounting mistakes" have seen a great increase in unofficial funding for mercenary academies in Caldrein, as well as a threefold increase in apprentice capacity from prewar levels. And Faulkren Academy is no exception.

Located on the outskirts of the town of Faulkren, the fortress cuts a strong impression against the picturesque scenery typical of the region of Apaloft, buildings of whitestone gleaming against azure skies and emerald plains, a contrast to the red rooftops of the town just shy of three kilometers away. Constructed three centuries ago by the first Caldran mercenaries that formed the warband of Faulkren, the fortress hosted a reasonably successful operation for a hundred years, but the tides of war and fortune turned against them, and the complex was abandoned for a hundred years more. It was only a century ago that a new warband of mercenaries flew the banner of Faulkren atop this fortress once again, reviving its traditions and refurbishing their new home with funds that "fell by the wayside". It is not as old as the more famous mercenary academies such as Llyneyth or Alvimere, but Faulkren still has strong history and tradition.

You thus find yourself fortunate that Faulkren Academy accepted you for mercenary training. In spite of the greatly expanded capacity for apprentices, the national war fervor has driven up no shortage of volunteers. As you finish the last leg of your journey, having traveled all the way to Faulkren with the Academy now well within sight, you watch as a sporadic few walkers, riders, and wagons move inexorably towards the fortress across different roads, bringing young apprentices-to-be from all over the region, if not the Confederacy. Over the next few days, those accepted to the Academy will trickle in for the three years of training to ensue, hoping to defend their homeland, make history...and earn a hefty paycheck.

You cross through the main gate of the Academy's walls, entering the courtyard surrounded by a complex taking up ten acres of Faulkren land, observing the activity around you. With a fortress of this size, you imagine that you shall be training here with dozens of other recruits - perhaps even a hundred - and some of them have already arrived, reporting in with the fortress staff and moving their bags to their dormitories. The apprentices arriving are of all four races, representing a variety of socioeconomic classes. A girl in a plain, slightly dirty dress walks into the courtyard by herself, finding a bench upon which to finally sit down and rub her sore, dirty feet; another arrives on the back of a passing merchant's wagon, slinging a bag over her shoulder as she stares at the Academy walls in awe; the arrival of a carriage announces the presence of a highborn, who soon sets booted feet upon the ground with cautious anticipation.

Most of the adults here are academy staff, but there are a few others who move and stand about, watching this procession unfold with detached interest, and even if the weapons they carry didn't give them away, there's just something about their confident, graceful composure - the very way they carry themselves - that convinces you that these are the Caldran mercenaries of Faulkren, quite possibly your instructors and trainers, quite possibly your future superiors...and someone whom you'll eventually be.

A desk in the middle of the courtyard is manned by a small team of well-dressed clerks ready to sort out the trickle of apprentices arriving at the Academy. Your approach does not go unnoticed, and the pretty lady seated with a stack of papers smiles professionally at you as you make eye contact. "Welcome to the Academy, young miss," she greets, even as her fingers reach for the papers, a collection of names for those accepted at Faulkren Academy this year. Your application is doubtlessly also in this stack, as well as details of the arrangements for your three-year stay. "Your name, if you would?"

Name
[x] Write-In

Race
[x] Human
Humans are a diverse and adaptable race that have spread across the continent of Iuryis on the merit of grit and toughness, often represented as artisans, laborers, and soldiers. It was humanity that first built great cities and turned to industry after living for centuries under the shadow of the elves, only to be beat at their own game as the generations passed, thus carrying the reputation of being a restive race with misplaced tenuousness. On average, humans have much greater endurance than any of the other races, and will outlast almost all other living beings in terms of how long they can continue physical activity. They can thus march further without rest, and can run almost anything down given enough time and a means of tracking. In combat, humans have rather balanced traits compared to the other races, and are thus found in almost every sort of combat role.
[x] Elf
Lithe and beautiful, elves are a long-lived race often characterized by their sharp, elongated ears, and have historically been extensively represented amongst the social, political, and economic elite of Iuryis. As such, they are regarded by other races as powerful, intelligent, and sophisticated, but also as arrogant and callous. Resentment towards elves as an advantaged demographic has ofttimes fueled racial unrest across Iuryis. Elves are the only race on the continent that can in any way perceive the existence of the fae, otherworldly beings existing on a plane of existence that governs the mechanics of the universe. The ability to barely communicate boosts magecraft or allows for inexplicably sharp instincts, although not  reliably. In combat, elves rely on grace and magecraft, and are thus often found as archers, fencers, and mages.
[x] Aseri
Aseri are a humanoid race characterized by sharp animal ears and a bushy tail. Historically nomadic, aseri have traditionally been represented as huntresses and traders, even though large swathes of the aseri population have long since settled down into permanent settlements. Although considered resourceful and relatively industrious, aseri are often characterized by other races as shrewd and cunning, and thus prone to dishonesty. Compared to the other races of Iuryis, aseri have sharp senses that allow them to detect and track sights, sounds, and scents in the environment, easily allowing them to find their quarry or listen in on conversations. They are also naturally fast in sprints, even if they cannot maintain it for overlong. In combat, aseri rely on speed and skill, and are thus often found as fencers, archers, and assassins.
[x] Dryad
Dryads are a humanoid race with a partial biological makeup that's rather plant-like in nature. Historically having secluded themselves to the woodlands of Iuryis with the elves, dryads have only recently begun to integrate with the rest of Iuryian society as a whole. Without a complicated history with most of Iuryis' races, they do not have significant racial baggage and are cautiously respected, although sometimes regarded as undeveloped simpletons. With their semi-plant-like physique, dryads are capable of exerting great bursts of energy, whether it be strength or magecraft. They also heal from wounds much faster than other races, camouflage themselves well in woodlands, and can rely on just water and sunlight for emergency nourishment. In combat, dryads rely on strength and magecraft, and are thus often found as swordswomen, lancers, and mages.
All races can access all combat archetypes, but are represented in certain archetypes much more than others.

Persona
[x] Shy - Uncertain and adorably adorable.
[x] Taciturn - Withdrawn and seemingly unshakeable.
[x] Aloof - Detached and enticingly mysterious.
[x] Cocky - Confident and unafraid to show it.
[x] Joker - Impetuous and the life of the party.
[x] Write-In

Socioeconomic Class
[x] Peasant
Peasants are at the lowest rung of Iuryis' socioeconomic ladder, ranging from farmers with small patches of farmland to untrained farmhands whom some consider slaves in all but name. Accustomed to hard labor in lands on the outskirts of population hubs, peasants are tough and relatively accustomed to adverse environmental conditions. They are also more accustomed to handling and treating fauna, from domesticated beasts of burden to dangerous monsters of the wild. However, coming from the poor countryside means a lack of familiarity with towns and cities, and an increased likeliness to flub mainstream social etiquette as a "yokel".
[x] Laborer
Laborers make up the untrained or base-level workforce in most of Iuryis' towns and cities, where their lowly status is barely supplemented by relative access to municipal infrastructure. From the tougher parts of civilization, laborers are streetwise and know how to navigate through towns, cities, and the people who reside within. Similarly, they're fundamentally more accustomed to crowds of people, and thus know well how to read them, how to deal with them, and how to stay out of trouble. However, aside from being at the bottom of the social totem pole, laborers are also instinctively associated with urban crime and thusly disdained.
[x] Freeholder
Freeholders provide most of the skilled labor throughout Iuryis, representing demographics such as blacksmiths, tailors, jewelers, and small business owners. They are broadly well-regarded across the entire socioeconomic spectrum as respectable lowborns who have nevertheless achieved success through the sweat of their brow. Aside from such, they are not considered particularly privileged or downtrodden compared to the rest of Iuryis' socioeconomic spectrum, and have no further systemic benefits or drawbacks associated with their class.
[x] Merchant
Merchants manage mercantile endeavors that allow wealth to flow through Iuryis' markets, managing anything from guilds to trade fleets to banks at significant financial gain. They have a good mind for numbers and business, and typically perform well when it comes to striking deals, managing finances, and exploiting mercantile opportunities. Due to the wide-spanning scope of their trade, merchants are also typically well-traveled, and typically fit in relatively well in strange lands and stranger cultures. Unfortunately, although relatively privileged, merchants are sometimes regarded as greedy swindlers and not necessarily immediately trusted.
[x] Minor Noble
Minor nobles may not have the power to dictate regional or Confederate policy, but they are still a privileged class with enviable social power and relative financial security. The education afforded to you means that you're broadly learned in various fields to sound at least somewhat knowledgeable in many different matters. Habits and etiquette that denote you as highborn are also liable to gain begrudged courtesy from your peers and reflexive deference from those of a lower station. However, this also means that during unfavorable circumstances, you stand out as a bartering chip for the powerful, and an outlet for envy and frustration for the downtrodden.
As you will most of the narrative being a mercenary some ways from home, socioeconomic class acts as profile indicator and a personal quality, and does not offer significant institutional support associated with that station. Choosing to be the daughter of a minor noble far from promises the institutional advantages that come with that socioeconomic class.

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