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Saturday, 04 December 2010
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Meeting at the Pass of Laz
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Mislav rode slowly, adjusting his eyes to the darkness. He knew he would find them here, sleeping around a large fire. These knights were not champions of stealth. After a while, he noticed a light coming from the north, and rode towards it.
As mentioned earlier, there were some warriors from this region, that sought their luck in the crusades. They are known here as The knights of the Old generation. Some of them ascended to knighthood, and were given domains in the Hinterlands. Their domains were scarce but domains nevertheless. However none of these old, stubborn, xenophobic lords ever took up the Grail quest. As the barons father, once put: “I would really have to be a fool to go from my warm castle, eat leaves and snails, wandering randomly throughout the world, without any particular goal, waiting for an elf witch to grant me a glass of water.”. These knights believed the Lady of the Lake being an elven trick, orchestrated by the Fey enchantress to whip the folk into obedience. After his son, returned a Grail knight, with undisputed divine powers, the barons father and his companions were shocked. Now these madman who were approaching or were already deep in their seventh decade, took upon old weapons and armor, and had set of on the grail quest. Old, crazed knights. Slow yes, but veterans who knew every trick of the trade, joined in the Brotherhood of the Swordbearers. They quested only through their native region, which they adored, too stubborn to acknowledge any other natural beauty. The ventured further, only when war would take them in that direction. Nowadays they were hunting ghouls (one might say fishing for them) because a fully equipped, armed to the tooth regiment of elite knights is a bit too much for a group of two ghouls, three at most. Another knight, the barons battle brother, Joseph of Brionne, was traveling with them, serving as their standard bearer.
Baron Mislav approached the encampment. The knights were sound asleep. Three hours had passed since midnight and these old men were never accustomed of being up late. As for young Joseph, it was perhaps the warm wine and monotone conversation that forced him to the land of dreams. The baron, tied Baiardus to a tree, and stood amongst the knights, intentional making a racket. The knights woke with a frightened roar, their tired lungs gasping for air, and old eyes seeking a sword. When they identified their visitor, the tension calmed down. “Don’t do that Mislav, you shouldn’t come unannounced, our sentries could have wounded you.” – said count Marian, the Lords father.  The baron, refrained from laughing. “I am sorry brothers, but I am in need of your steel in my ranks. We ride to war. There is a great battle to be fought at the outskirts of Marienburg…” started the baron but was interrupted- “Let them fight their own battles, when did they ever help us”, “Why don’t they defend themselves when they are so autonomous?”, “Is it not enough that we serve one master, now we will have to serve the Kaiser as well?”. The baron knew, that these knights made it their profession to be unsatisfied. But there was really one thing that they praised more than criticism – the Lady. “What you say is true, but if this force from the north, compiled from the slime of life and undeath, marching in vast ranks with their Tyrant banners raised high, if they reach our borders we will have no chance whatsoever to defend ourselves. Mountain streams will become mines, forests will be cut for timber, and the folk massacred so that their skulls might make a throne. Ponds and chapels of the Lady will be defiled. We ride not, while we want to. There is really no other way”. The knights were standing up slowly, arming themselves and mounting horses, still rumbling all kinds of counter arguments ranging from: “Its late” to, “Why don’t we join the other side if they are so strong”. The baron had no doubt of the outcome of these negotiations. Also he had no dilemma that these old men would murmur against the idea. Joseph was smiling, finding this ritual which he had witnessed many time, still laughable. “We will meet you at Laz”, whispered Sir Grliach, who could not speak well, due to an old arrow wound to the neck. The knights took their time to get ready, and one of them, Sir Barlowich, actually woke up, a moment ago. The Baron left the questing knights to prepare and rode towards the Grey Mountains, where the Monastery of Saint Michael stood. He needs to gather as many pilgrims as he can.
Sir Leon the fat heard strong periodical hits on his castle gate, which urged him to open his eyes. Pale moon beams were lighting his chamber floor as if some luminous milk was spilled on the cold stone blocks. He grabbed his sword and stepped out on his keep balcony. He saw his armies standard and Sir Sead on a rampant warhorse. He let out a loud roar waking most of his manor along with the peasant girl in his bed. “Yes, yes, let the trumpets of war bellow. My shield for my Realm Paladin. Wait for my presence, you will not wait long”, yelled Sir Leon, getting ready for the campaign ungainly but quickly.


The Hinterlands are divided into estates, namely fifteen feudal domains, with woods, rivers and mountains left undistributed while they belong to the Lady and her followers such as Grail knights, Damsels and Pilgrims. These fifteen knights of the realm gathered into two guilds: The Knights of Upper Oroslavje (Eagle's Fort) and The Knights of Lower Oroslavje, depending on the geographical position of their estate. Those north of Oroslavje belonged to the first and those south of it to the second organization. Sir Sead was gathering the older guild, the Knights of Lower Oroslavje. Banging on their gates, sounding horns and ringing bells, the knights gathered. These were loyal battle frenzied warriors who had always formed the backbone of this army. They were at the Battle of Pale Gorge, against Naser of Khorne. They charged the fields of Marienburg against En’Althain, and rode against the army of Horta on the Field of Sudden strangers. Their yellow and black garment symbolized the presence of Hinterlanders on the field of battle. Castle after castle, the regiment grew under the holy banner of their deity, friends and battle brothers reuniting as they did so many times before. The immaculate column rode quickly through the icy night, galloping through frosted mud roads of their homeland. Near Karivarosz junction they met up with Warden Johns Stubica Brigade, who was now at full strength after it gathered its men in villages through which they passed on their way to Laz. The knights slowed their pace, and slowly rode behind the commoners.
At the other part of the region, at the foothills of the Gray mountains, the Baron was navigating a narrow mountain road. His destination : the monastery of  Sankt Michael, and the brotherhood of the Purple cross.


And indeed there it was, built in accordance with the disorder of the cliff top, oddly shaped, with grim stone walls and broad but low domes – The monastery of the purple cross. A pallid haze was enveloping it, due to a full and strong moon, that shined brightly and graciously as if it had banished the clouds around it, curious of the events happening down below. The night was at its darkest peak, and the baron felt the sting of frost through his armor and garments. He dismounted and proceeded to the grand copper double gate, knocking on them very loudly. A man, dressed in a brown paupers robe opened the gates, holding a lantern. He saw the knight, and leaned forward, illuminating his coat of arms. Seeing the black and white quarterly with two towers, the monk realized who this was. A sudden tremor and a silent exclamation  occurred as the light that was beaming from the lantern started to dance on the night wreathed surfaces . The Baron appreciated that the monk, in most respects, kept his calm, despite the fact, that in his mind, he opened the gate for a deity. This is why he respected this brotherhood. They were loyal but without letting their zeal suffocate their reason.
Without exchanging any words with his host, the grail knight entered the monastery, marching through its orange hazed corridors, illuminated by modest torches. The distinct metal clap of a knights war-boot against the crude rock in the corridors had awaken the other zealots of this lonesome abbey who were, following the guard forming a procession behind their visitor, who was, knowing the layout of this zealous bunker, heading towards its most holy place, the Vestry, where the body of Saint Michael (Mihovil) was kept. The brothers of the purple cross, were worshiping his holy remains and went into battle, carrying his catafalque,  with the sacred bones of this knight still in the suit of armor in which he had fallen. They were not a wandering rabble, like some pilgrims in Bretonnia, who carry forth the skeletal remains of a random warrior, based solely on the merit that at one point in his life he received a blessing of the Lady and has sipped from the most holy of all chalices. They were a clerical brotherhood, dedicated to preserving and worshipping the bones of a specific saint. In this case, Sir Mihovil the Old, the second grail knight of this region, and also, the Barons grandfather. Upon reaching the vestry the baron halted his pace. Behind him, a crowd of pilgrims gathered. The knight took of his helmet, and approached the catafalque that was placed in the centre of the oval room that was the vestry, under the very centre of the vestry’s dome. The bones of his great ancestor were well taken care of, still suited in his armor and wrapped into a clean sheet. The baron kneeled and the zealots with him, as if he is asking his grandfather, rather than the band of his worshipers to follow him to war. After he uttered his prayer the baron turned. “I am riding forth to war. Over the mountains, that are our guardians, into the bogs and marches of the Empire. I need your steel and will beside me.” There was no negotiating with this monks, as their purpose was to follow the grail knights into battle. The pilgrims started to make quick preparations, with a silent and solemn song lingering through the cold air. As the duke mounted his steed, the procession with Sankt Michael was all ready leaving the abbey. “Meet me at the Pass of Laz, brothers” shouted the baron and rode away from this brotherhood.
When his standard bearer instructed him: “summon the brotherhoods”, the barons aid de camp, had three brotherhoods in mind. The Order of the Swordbearers which the baron gathered at the forest of Humlug was the first. The Brotherhood of the Purple cross, which the baron gathered at the mountain monastery was the second. In order to persuade the third brotherhood, mentioned earlier, the baron needed to go from chapel to chapel, from pond to pond and from a forest cottage to forest cottage, individually summoning its members, for the third brotherhood, were The Grail Knights of the Hinterlands.
Last Updated ( Saturday, 11 December 2010 )
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