In the alleyways of Sethia, someone crawled away on their knees, veritably pulling themself forward using the walls. They pushed aside rubble, heaving, then eventually collapsed against a building, breathless.

“Haah… haah,” the man breathed. Covered in grime, dust, and sand, the man was entirely nude. He was ridiculously skinny, appearing both dehydrated and starved. His hair and eyes were brown. His skin was the color of copper.

If any of the residents of the city saw him, they would know he was unmistakably the Lord of Copper.

Brium did not consider himself a fool. He knew when he had lost a battle. His enemies waited beyond, letting the elves tear at him like wolves hunting a lion. All of his allies were vanquished. His death was inevitable. As such, rather than perish, he elected to commit the only cardinal sin for Vessels of Fellhorn—severing his connection with the ancient god.

Two Vessels before Brium had done such a thing. It was an abominable act, and all who had done it had died miserably. Brium was no more than a mortal man, now. He looked much older than he once did—near forty, his true age. He was weak, friendless, and surrounded by people hostile to him. But he was alive, and that alone was sufficient.

After having caught his breath, he tried to rise to his feet. Something stopped him from doing so. Brium raised his head up, only to see a man in plate armor holding a boot to his shoulder.

Boarmask stood there. His namesake, the boar helmet, was badly dented. Part of the mock boar’s eye was caved in. His armor had been ripped asunder in many places, and even now, the man was bleeding.

“Planning an escape?” Boarmask questioned. “You aren’t why I’m stalking these streets. But the world must consider itself fortunate that I was watching. A tyrant such as you cannot escape judgement.”

Brium raised his hand up. He opened his mouth, but his tongue was dry, and he could form no words. Boarmask raised his mace up. Light fell onto his helmet, revealing a blue eye as cold as the deep sea.

“Reap the misery you have sown.”

Boarmask’s mace descended. After a second, the man pulled away his foot and mace both.

“Gods above, nurture these souls I send to you, wicked though they may be,” Boarmask prayed as he cleaned his mace. “There is one more I must send to meet you. I beg of you—watch over me, and ensure I walk the righteous path.”

Boarmask limped into the alleyway, where Titus’ voice grew ever louder.


Now that Titus had brought his plan into light, many of the oddities and inconsistencies throughout their journey started to make sense to Argrave.

Regarding the weaponry… the only place where that many elven war relics could be found was in Malgeridum, deep within a cordoned section of the mines. Titus presumably found them there. The revolt was likely a distraction to move them—and it would explain why Anneliese noticed Titus was nervous and anticipatory.

His strange, uncertain allegiance started to make sense, if only just. Since he knew much about Durran and the tribals, he had likely been the intermediary between them and Brium. He was near certainly the Lord of Copper’s primary agent in this coup, influencing guards and population alike.

The mystery remaining, though, was how this dye merchant had grown to this position of prominence. Was it a variation between fiction and reality? Was it a set of coincidences, one after another? Had Argrave brought this about by changing things? Or were powers beyond Argrave’s ken influencing matters?

Argrave stepped into the square where the victors gathered, listening to Titus. Blue eels sparked and swirled around him dramatically. His Brumesingers flanked him, filling the air with their mysterious fog as they sung their chiming song. Following behind was Anneliese, Galamon, the southron elves. Everyone noticed their presence—flashing lights and growing mists were eye-catching, after all.

If they wanted to be heard in a large crowd, they must be seen—and Argrave made damn sure they’d be seen.

Anneliese held her hand up and cast [Skysunder], the loudest spell that they knew. It achieved the same effect as Titus’ bell—everyone focused on them.

Argrave spread his arms out and shouted, “People of Sethia! People of the tribes! All of the lords of this city are dead and gone! The Lord of Gold, slain by her own people! The Lord of Silver, felled by my hand!” Argrave revealed the silver inheritance medallion—it was a ceremonial thing, and so easily recognizable. “And lastly, the Lord of Copper, slain by the heroic elves of the Burnt Desert!”

The crowd greeted this with enthusiasm—it was the sort of friendly welcome Argrave hoped to receive, that they might be more receptive to further direction. Durran turned his gaze towards them, too, and urged his wyvern to rest not too far from them.

“Despite what Titus claims, the southron elves did not provide Durran with any weaponry whatsoever.” Argrave stepped forward, standing atop rubble to reach a higher place. “I brought the elves into this struggle for independence—no one else!” Argrave waved Florimund up to where he stood.

“It’s true,” Florimund added as he came to join them. “We provided no weaponry to the people here. We were aware of the coming battle only days ago—there was no time to distribute weapons to anyone.”

“He’s covering for them!” a member of the crowd shouted. “The elves need the tribals’ protection!”

“Do a people who would confront the Lord of Copper alone seem the type to scrape and bow for the sake of protection?” Argrave countered quickly, anticipating Titus’ men might try and sabotage things. “No! They seek peace, not protection.”

“I can attest to the southron elves’ innocence in this matter. Yet how can any trust Durran?” Titus shouted out. “The tribals know he was the one to discover the southron elves, despite what this foreigner claims!”

He discredits me by naming me foreigner, Argrave deduced quickly. “If none know of this collaboration besides the tribals, then how do you?!” Argrave questioned. “Where is your proof?”

“Because I was once a tribal,” Titus replied quickly. “And I still have friends there. Belhard!”

The man who’d spoken against the elves earlier rose, almost in cue. “Aye! Titus has kept in contact with us. He suffered underneath the reign of the Vessels, fighting for independence from within!”

“Then it seems just as likely that he is the one who armed men with elven war relics as Durran,” Argrave suggested at once.

A few voices rose up, booing, and the power of the few bought voices within a crowd made itself known. A mob was a volatile thing—humans are reasonable creatures, by and large, but within a crowd, one can project their opinion infinitely. People join in protest simply to be a part of the group. Self-awareness and personal identity are muted in a mob, and reactions trend towards the emotional side of reasoning.

The large majority of the people likely did not know who Titus even was, but the crowd soon joined in expressing their disdain for Argrave’s accusation.

Titus rang his bell and made to speak, but Argrave seized the opportunity.

“I accuse no one!” Argrave explained. “There is simply no proof in this matter! A proper judgement cannot be made.”

“And why not?” another voice chimed in. Boarmask appeared on a roof, holding a man by the neck. “I captured this man. He had these,” he explained, holding out arrows that had purple runes etched into the arrowheads. “How did you get these?!” Boarmask demanded of the man, shaking him about.

Argrave nodded at the unexpected contribution.

“Titus! Titus’ men gave them to us, gave us all our plans!” the man shouted, choking from Boarmask’s grip.

Those words could not be booed, but a silence did take over the crowd.

“The man’s been badly beaten—he’d say anything!” Titus refuted, and his men planted in the crowd joined in support.

“Argrave…” Galamon muttered, stepping up to him. “Titus’ archers are getting twitchy.”

Argrave nodded, feeling a sense of nervousness.

“What’s more,” Titus continued. “Durran, son of the current chief, led his people into war against his father’s wishes!” He pointed to Durran, still mounted atop his wyvern. “Your father said he would exile you if you went through with this!”

Argrave’s heart froze. In the game, Durran could reconcile with his father and earn his support if the player took certain actions—he didn’t know if the Durran of this reality had. Though Argrave looked to Durran, hoping to all that was holy that wasn’t true, he could glean nothing for the man wore a helmet. Argrave looked to Anneliese.

“…Titus isn’t lying,” she shook her head.

“He led men into war against the wishes of his dying father!” Titus declared damningly. “If that proves anything, it shows that Durran is one who would do anything to gain power! By giving elven war relics, ordering indiscriminate slaughter, he sought to weaken Sethia, control it completely with his tribals!”

Dying father? Argrave noted. Durran’s dad never…

“People!” Titus shouted, stepping forth to the edge of the tower he stood atop. “For centuries, the Burnt Desert has been trampled beneath the heel of tyrants! For the first time in ages, we have liberated this place from the cruel, from the unjust, from the wicked!”

Cheers began to swell, and Titus continued. “In the distant past, the southern tribals waged war unending—with each other, with the north, with the southron elves!” Titus spread his arms out and paced about. “And after them came the Vessels—tyrants of a different breed, religious fanatics fueled by zeal and following cold laws of an ancient god. We have suffered beneath them, all of us! They took the very water from the earth, the very blood from our veins, our souls from our bodies! My own wife, my children, both Drained by the Vessels!”

Argrave sought desperately for a point to interject, feeling the crowd slowly slipping away into Titus’ narrative. His words seemed ironclad, though, and Argrave did not dare force his way into things lest he draw yet more ire.

“In Delphasium, our people labor for hours unending, tending to fields and feeding grapes to their overlords!” Titus pointed north. “In Malgeridum, the Vessels prostitute our women to the rich, while the men work in the mines, breathing metal and fire day in and day out to be rewarded with only food and drink!” Titus pointed east. “In Carlandian, people toil away, crafting fineries and papyrus that the Vessels use wastefully. Tyrants all—untenable, intolerable, unjust!”

Titus paused to take a great breath. “This land—this great land, with its stark beauty, does not need to be ruled by those past!” He stepped to the edge. “We cannot allow a man like Durran, a man who would do anything to gain power, to once again lead us towards death and misery! We need a nation to mend the wounds caused by despots! We have that opportunity! Let us go forth into a new age, embracing change! Embracing unity between the southern tribals, the southron elves, and all the people of this vast desert!”

With that, Titus turned and rang the bell. Perhaps he did not need to, though. The great ringing was completely muffled by the deafening cheers that erupted following Titus’ speech. Argrave could feel their voices shake the air, almost.

“His archers are all but ready to fire,” Galamon said loudly in Argrave’s ear.

Argrave nodded. It was a game of chicken, now—Titus had no plans to back down. Argrave could tell that the man was willing to do anything to achieve the future he envisioned. That impression was drilled into the crowd’s bones just as well as Argrave’s.

An incredibly loud noise split the air, sending the mist spawned by the Brumesingers dancing away in a whirl. Durran’s wyvern roared, head held high, maintaining its volume for nearly ten seconds. People stumbled over themselves, afraid, and many readied to fight.

Durran walked atop his wyvern’s snout and removed his wyvern scale helmet.

“Let this ‘tyrant’ speak,” he said, wrath in his voice.


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About the author


  • Buried on a hill overlooking a little river with pinecones all around
  • Esquire

Bio: Author of the #1 'Heroes of Berendar' fan-fiction. Vicar of Crust. President of the Richie Aprile fan-club.

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