Sir Duncan Conrad
Knight of the Realms
It was over ten years ago when I first set foot in the Realms, but my story begins before then. You might want to pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable, because I tend to go on, and if you want to know who I really am, you'll need to know where I come from.
Once upon a time, I was the Duke of a land called Crestview in the Kingdom of Rhiassa. It was a noble and glorious Kingdom, or at least it seemed that way to me, as I was lucky enough to be born into nobility.
While we occasionally had border disputes with neighboring lands, Rhiassa was a fairly peaceful Kingdom.
An army of Dark Elves marched upon Crestview in the late spring of the year 387. They came as if from nowhere, and were led by tall and powerful Knights who were unaffected by any of our weapons. The onslaught was intense and their pikemen and bloodthirsty, invulnerable Knights made quick work of our border guards.
We brought as many of our people inside the walls of my ancestral home, Conrad Castle, as possible and mustered a strong defense. Many of the peasants fled to nearby Redwall and to the heart of the Kingdom, Rhiassa. The siege of the Castle was brief and bloody, and through a brilliant tactical gambit that I can take no credit for, we were able to escape once it became clear that we would not last long enough for reinforcements to arrive from Rhiassa.
Many died during the siege and the retreat out of Crestview, and one point I had to be bound by my best man and Champion, Gabriel, to keep me from throwing myself into a duel with what seemed to be the greatest of the Drow Knights.
A beaten man, having lost my duchy, many of my people, and all hope for the future of the war, I came to lead what was left of my people into the heart of the kingdom. His Majesty, the King of Rhiassa, always counted me as one of his closest advisors and most trusted friends. He took us in and showed us great compassion. He had heard much of what had transpired from early refugees that had left Crestview after the first few engagements with the Dark Elf Army.
His Majesty had also been brought a captured dark elf scout. Through means beyond my understanding, the elf's speech had been deciphered and some of the Dark Elves' intentions had been hinted at. Apparently they were looking for someone.
Lorien, an elf with silver skin.
Now, in our lands, like in many others, our parents and grandparents had brought us up with stories of all kinds. Many of the children's stories involved the adventures and misadventures of animals - animals that invariably spoke the common tongue, and who often lived in huts or even castles and went about as if they were people.
There were other stories they told us, though. Stories that kept us up all night, imagining ancient worlds and strange races, mystical artifacts and angry gods...
...and silver elves.
To make my story complete, I must dip into a bit of legend now.
One of my favorite tales as a child was of the war between the dark elves and the silver elves. I don't remember it well, but the gist of it is something like this:
Now, I had long since grown up and written the story of the silver elves off as another tale that someone invented to enchant wide-eyed children.
I had known for a long time that dark elves existed, and had a poor opinion of them even before my Duchy had been taken by the foul creatures. I had never believed in Silver Elves, though.
Against my better judgement, his Majesty sent me to look for this silver elf. He sent me back into Crestview, with the guidance of some of his eldest and wisest advisors - older and wiser than I, at least - and after two days of riding fast and eluding or killing dark elf scouts, I found Lorien.
I think I only found him because he let me find him. He was in the cellar of a ruined guard tower on the furthest outskirts of Crestview. I suspect that he would have been happier and more comfortable hiding in the woods or somewhere more natural than a dank, dark, underground room, but he probably thought it was the last place the dark elves would look. As it turns out, it was the first place on the border of Crestview that the dark elves hit, and he had been there since before the invasion. The armies of Niefelheim hadn't started seriously looking for him until they had passed into my lands.
I hesitate to describe him, largely because any attempt would fail utterly.
When I first looked at him, it was as if he wasn't there and then he appeared before me from out of thin air. He had been there all along, but some glamour or enchantment had masked him from my sight.
His skin was the most beautiful silver I had ever seen. It wasn't exactly shiny, like metal, but it had a glow to it that was simply magnificent. I spoke and he understood me, and when he spoke, it sounded like music, and was no language I had ever heard before, but I somehow understood him as well.
He was injured. Badly.
It seemed that the dark elf army had spent several days resting after the assault on Castle Conrad and then had moved towards Wrendale, which was on the other side of Crestview from Redwall and was slightly away from the heart of Rhiassa. I suspected that the King had created a diversion of some sort to buy some time to prepare for a final battle.
The silver elf's name was Lorien. I brought him to Castle Rhiassa, and we cared for him as best we could. He was often unconscious, and would only speak to certain people. When he did speak, he often made no sense. I suspected that he had been poisoned by a dark elf weapon or arrow that had struck him. We had hoped that he held the secret to defeating the dark elf army, but each day brought worse news from the outlying parts of the kingdom and less hope that Lorien would be of any use to us.
Two weeks after the fall of Crestview, after countless failed attempts to defeat the dark elves in the field, we found ourselves besieged. Much of the kingdom had been razed, and every effort to send missives to our allies was intercepted.
Lorien was slowly getting better, but our time had run out. His Majesty brought all of his warriors, Knights and Nobles together and told us that it was time to wage a final battle. From where I stood, it looked like suicide, but it was clear that there was no other choice, and by the end of his speech, I was eager to mount up and ride out the gates to meet my fate - whatever that fate would be.
The battle was a hard one, and I slew many a dark elf pikeman until I was caught an arrow in the thigh, and fell heavily to the ground. I remember feeling a burning sensation moving up my leg and into my gut. I remember looking up and seeing my champion, Gabriel, leap over me swinging his Great Sword to beat back the enemies around us. Then everything went black.
The next thing I remember was looking up into Lorien's eyes as he leaned over me and dabbed my head with a wet cloth. I saw branches and leaves above him, and the air was clean and slightly fragrant. I tried to move, but his hand held me fast to the ground. He said something in his tongue which I did not understand this time, and I passed out again.
After many such episodes, I eventually returned to health. I was in a forest, but it was unlike any forest I had ever seen. The only way I can describe it is that the trees felt alive, and there was more of a feeling of energy and life here than in any wood I had ever wandered through.
Lorien explained to me that we were in Faerie. I had been struck by a poisoned arrow. Gabriel had brought me back to the Castle and Lorien had summoned up the strength to use magic to slow the work of the poison. His constitution was strong enough to resist the poison, but the venom would have killed me if not for his spell.
The Rhiassan forces had been beaten back into the keep, and the resistance slowly moved into the Great Hall and then up into the King's Tower, where I lay unconscious, tended only by the weakened Lorien. When it was clear that there was truly no hope, Lorien summoned up all of his strength and he opened what he called a "gate".
I only have his word on this, but apparently his spell created a portal between Rhiassa and the land we were in when I recovered... Faerie. He brought me through and called for the remaining Rhiassans to follow us. Some did, and those that didn't surely perished. All of my comrades who followed, including Gabriel, must have thought they had either gone mad or died, for they were not familiar with magical gates, and some of them literally backed into it without knowing it was there.
Lorien stayed with me, and after several days of searching, we were unable to find any of the other Rhiassans in the wood. Faerie is apparently a very large, and very dangerous place to get lost. I was glad to have Lorien's company, for he seemed to be at home there.
After much travel through Faerie, with many strange and sometimes amusing adventures, we eventually found our way to a land called Valehaven.
Before I continue, should mention that entering and leaving faerie isn't always as dramatic as opening a magical gate. It can actually be as easy as walking behind a tree, and when you come out the other side, you're in Faerie. The ability to do it seems to have something to do with your energy, your mindset and your intention. The trouble is, you can "stumble" into Faerie if you're walking in the wrong place at the wrong time thinking the wrong thing, or maybe even humming the wrong tune.
My personal theory is that the inhabitants of Faerie, some of whom are powerful enough to enter and leave at will, create "spots" of energy where they break through the veils between the two worlds. Those spots are the places where it's easier to get through. So, if a Prince of Faerie were to regularly jump back and forth between Faerie and the Mortal Realms behind a certain Willow Tree, that tree would be a really easy place to accidentally wander into Faerie.
Lorien seemed to like my theory, but I suspected he might have just been humoring me. I often got the feeling of being like a child to him, and that he was infinitely older and wiser than me. I do think am more than a little bit older and wiser for the time we spent together.
Eventually I told him what I remembered of the legend of the Silver Elves and he confirmed that much of it was true. He also completed the story for me.
Lorien didn't actually know how he was released from the sword he was trapped by. He figured that they must have grown weak over time, and that eventually one was broken. The dark elves knew that he would be able to tell others how to do the ceremony to make more swords, and must have sensed somehow that he had been released. Fate simply led him to Crestview and led me to him.
Once Lorien's powers seemed to have returned, I asked him if he would be able to use his magic to tell me if someone had survived the fall of Rhiassa. He said he could try, and after much effort, we located my cousin, Fallon DeLisle. She and I had been very close, and we made one last trip through Faerie and back again to get her. She was the only survivor from her family, and was overjoyed to know that I had also survived the war.
The kingdom of Valehaven that we had discovered on the other side of Faerie was a new start for us. Lorien wished us well, but stayed in Faerie to look for more of his kind and to learn more about what happened to the other swords.
The people in Valehaven were generally good and fair, and we were welcomed with open arms. The Prince had gone missing a few years before, and it seemed that political change was in the air, but we did our best to stay out of politics that were unfamiliar to us.
To do honor to the many friends and to the King I once swore to, we set about to found a new land, and we called it New Rhiassa. Over the years, it has become common to call it simply "Rhiassa".
Fallon and I were fortunate enough to meet up with some other refugees from Old Rhiassa, including Lady Damona, and with the addition of many new people who were looking for a good leader and a safe land to live in, Rhiassa slowly grew. Our first followers were a short but deadly pikeman named Dhugal and a young man named Cedric, whom I would eventually squire and Knight as the first Knight of New Rhiassa.
We quickly decided that it would be wise to seek shelter under the protective wing of an existing Kingdom in these new Realms, and after some debate, we chose to swear to Queen Meg of Chimeron.
I was able to swear to Her Majesty without dishonoring my vows to the King of Old Rhiassa. Normally, such an oath would extend beyond death, but he had once told me that if anything ever caused me to leave Rhiassa, it was his will that I never swear to another man. I think if he had not had heirs, I honestly think he would have seen me inherit the throne. In the interest of making sure that New Rhiassa would be well positioned and well protected - particularly after watching Old Rhiassa fall to an invading army - it made sense to me to lead us into the Kingdom of Chimeron.
I soon learned that a drow army had attacked at a celebration called The Feast of Min, and that as a preemptive strike, a group of Knights and Squires had quested into Neifelheim the night before the invasion and had come out with seven magical swords.
They called them "Luthrien Blades".
With the help of the Luthrien Blades, the people of the Realms were able to resist an invasion that was led with a great shield wall that stretched clear across the battlefield. This was a time when there were fewer great shield fighters in The Realms, and it was a hard-fought and hard-won battle.
I later learned that one of the blades had been broken by a drow elf that same fall.
To help the people of the Realms maintain a strong fighting force, Fallon and I began to hold annual tournaments in which various nations would compete in war maneuvers and individual competitions. We called these events the "Queen of Hearts Tournaments and War Maneuvers".
At the first of these gatherings, Niefelheim attacked again with a pike wall that was greater than any that had ever been seen in the Realms. Somehow, the dark elves were beaten back. By this time, another Luthrien Blade had been broken, but the dark elf knights were defeated with the five remaining blades that could affect them.
Over the following years, Rhiassa grew in numbers, eventually becoming one of the strongest factions in the Kingdom of Chimeron. We had a highly skilled Archers' Guild, led by Aderyn, who was Squired to Queen Meg. Our shieldmen were among the greatest to be found, and the year that we had the company of Machta and Quick as pikemen at North/South War, we were easily the strongest unit on the field.
By the time our Fifth Queen of Hearts rolled around, there were few Luthrien Blades to be found. At the start of the Tournaments, Excruciore herself led an army up to our gates and in the ensuing battle, I and several others were captured. A ritual was performed to create new blades, and with a handful of enchanted daggers, an invasion into Niefelheim was mounted that evening. Excruciore was slain and the Demon they had made a pact with was banished back to the underworld. The link was broken, the dark elves were defeated, and a new era of peace was upon our lands.
In the coming years, many of our greatest fighters and mages did what so many people do as they get older - they started families. While the arrival of each new child was a joyous occasion, it also marked the decline of Rhiassa, as we were soon unable to muster much force on the battlefield - with many people now dedicated to the far more important duty of parenting.
Eventually, Queen Meg left us to go into Faerie, and Sir Pyr ascended to the Throne. I was unable to compete for that position, as I was told I would have had to swear fealty to the victor. It also seemed clear to me that there was not much support for me to become King of Chimeron. It seemed to me that a number of influential people wanted a puppet-king that they could control, and they knew that could never happen if I was on the throne. For the future of Chimeron, I hope and pray that King Pyr will be able to wrestle the reins of control from them and maintain the public support that is so essential when leading people. I expect he'll do fine...
After much reflection, I eventually chose to pass the leadership of Rhiassa off to my second Knight, Sir Da'oud. I now had a child to care for, and was unable to remain active enough to fulfill the position of Lord as I thought it should be filled. Instead of allowing Rhiassa to slowly fall into irrelevancy, I decided that I would serve my country best as an elder advisor to a new Lord.
Da'oud's first action was to pull Rhiassa out of Chimeron and into a new Kingdom being founded with Lord Jarrod of Folkestone as the King. While I cannot swear fealty to him, he told me that he would accept me as one of his people, and that he has a great deal of respect for everything I have done for Rhiassa, Chimeron and the Realms.
That just about brings me up to the present day. To my credit, I think I have chosen well. The future of Rhiassa is bright, and Lord Da'oud is bringing new members in to bolster our numbers. It isn't "the old crew" that made New Rhiassa strong and proud, but I'm excited to see what Rhiassa will become in the coming years.
- Sir Duncan Conrad