After the Sacking of Calidor and the conclusion of the Great Hunt, the Kingdom of Maheira became a dead realm whose people became downtrodden to the point that even the mighty Toranton Kingdoms did not bother to conquer what remained. The local Estudians dissolved into seventeen smaller domains, not including the kingdom-cities of the Aaurians throughout the Yslin, who too suffered greatly during the Great Hunt for the Eedian nya Ansolas at the tower of Alándir as the Ellúndar came to share a close relationship with the reigning monarchs (namely Taherían and Nasúria Endúcar) of Calidor and their courts.
When news of a queen risen from the south, who journeyed to the continent of Islinin across the great ocean of the Eûnair, reached the ears of Lyon the Great of Hillard, it came with a proclamation by Athulian, the Bright Lord, wearing the face of Emperor Asdonic sar Eadrenys, to march whole the armies of the Toranton Kingdoms upon this enemy gathering in the west. The old Steward of Hillard heeded the call and brought to arms men and women from throughout his lands, readying them for war. The Lyon would ride out with his son and heir, Elund, to join the hosts gathering at the edge of the middanlands bordering Maheira at the Klashmere Mountains and the Norründ Valley.
Lyon Jormont would leave his wife and daughter-by-law to rule the affairs in Hillard as he and Elund journeyed westward. With them would remain the young lord Aryyn, the only child of Elund, to act as heir if his father and grandfather would be slain on the battlefield.
Aryyn Jormont watched from the battlements of Thanard as the marcher’s line stretched beyond the hills into the west toward Osgorath. Aryyn, a lad of merely thirteen-years, would spend his days helping his mother and grandmother manage the people’s trifles, spending the nights reading letters from the Lyon and Elund, and writing some of his own, describing events while on the march.
A series of transcripts of those letters from Elund to his son Aryyn:
Dated—April 5th, 1633 of the Second Era.
We are now four days out from the border and heading deeper into Osgorath, my son. We have been joined by mercenary armies from Westershire and Pelmont, Novaind and Adearon, the old holds. The host grows with every day—initially we numbered merely twenty-thousand of our own men-at-arms and Knights of the Hills, but with the troops from Osgorath, we are nearing a hundred-thousand. We are expected to meet up with the host from Marlovan tomorrow night and those from Malar in the following week. Heed the words of your mother, Aryyn. For her words are wise.
Dated—April 23rd, 1633 of the Second Era.
We have been re-routed northward after reaching the Belvenardi and Iruaran camps at Uton. Our numbers have swelled to the point that I can no longer see the horizon past the endless ocean of steel and horses. Those who live in the path taken by the host on the march suffers greatly as provisions from commoner farms are taken whole to serve the effort, an unfortunate symptom of what some have started to call the lead up to the greatest war in generations. I wish you could see it, Aryyn, the beauty of it all—so many from distant lands have gathered around us, speaking in accents I never thought to hear. Stay safe, my son. The red dawn will come someday soon, and we must be ready for that day.
Dated—June 14th, 1633 of the Second Era.
I have been hearing more of late concerning this new queen that has risen from obscurity. Nobody seems to know where exactly she came from, only that the Estudians of Maheira have gathered around her like wolves in a great meeting of councils outside the old kingdom of Ilhivendal, as our scouts have reported. Yet we have not crossed into the Norründ and through the Klashmere Mountains, as many have thought we would by now. The host bloats by the day, but the days are boring and even our own soldiers have taken to finding revelry among the outlining villages with growing discontent.
Dated—August 1st, 1633 of the Second Era.
The Lyon has fallen ill of late from the refuse that has gathered in the tents and, I fear, his condition might not improve. His days grow darker as the old warrior rambles off something about seeing a strange figure walking the camps at night, wearing the face of our dear Emperor Asdonic, but not his stature. There is something different in his eyes, as though there was a different man looking through them. I confronted this figure, and the shivers I felt afterward hearing his voice left me speechless. Others have noticed this, too, and I convened a summit of all the lords from Hillard to debate our next course of action. We marched at the command of our emperor because we expected a war, not to wait around, moving from camp to camp as stores became scarce with each local harvest.
Dated—October 18th, 1633 of the Second Era.
It seemed for a while the Lyon had improved, but I received word in my tent this morning my lord father has crossed into the shadowlands beyond the waters of passage. I have been named Steward of Hillard by Ivad sar Esmund of the imperial court. We burned the Lyon by way of the old customs, on a pyre befitting of his station. Take heed, little Aryyn—I will return someday soon, even if I have to kill this Nialla Elensah myself and all those who deem to protect her. They will fall to my sword.
Dated—December 4th, 1633 of the Second Era.
The world shook as the horizon cracked with a thunderous roar so loud it could wake the dead in the cemetery outside Saykeral. Asdonic sar Eadrenys has been spotted in the northern camps, although reports have described him as now having the face of a man three decades his senior and growing older by the days. This morning we received our marching orders—we are to cross the Norründ within a fortnight and move through the Mírdanwod and ford the River Ahainnerin into Ahmaer. I do not know where our road ends, but I have seen the fearful looks on soldier’s faces when Ahmaer was mentioned. A great battle was fought there long ago between the Míran of Lurón Fallenstar alongside Neümorians of Anmoric against and the Hadorns loyal to Alûcarn. And I cannot deny my own fears of traveling into that dead place full of whispers.
Dated—February 9th, 1634 of the Second era.
Young Aryyn, I have missed your nameday and that of your mother’s in the time I have been gone, and I wish you could be here to have seen the wonders I have seen in this foreign land. The grand monuments and fortresses of our world are nothing to that of the old Maheiran holdfasts, the pride they took in their construction, showing a different breed of man that inhabited this land before the Great Hunt of the Vedrethal. Here I walk those same steps our forebears had during the days of the distant Hiírom who crossed the Eûnair to create the greatest civilization Aleóran has ever known. Here we stride amongst the ghosts of history as it was before the first petty kingdoms sprung up in the east and south. Yesterday we passed through the gates of Balix, banners of the Golden Oak on a red field swaying wildly in the chilled spring breeze, but its streets lay emptied, the people having recently abandoned this place by the thousands. I hope to see the cities of Aem Màrt as I had Raed Tos, whose towers spanned the Norründ from Aandrall to the hidden road through the mountains. These letters to you and your mother are what keep me sane in these darker weeks gone by. Do not fret, Aryyn. Soon this war shall be over in a single battle, I dare to hope, with all my heart. I will come home.
Dated—February 28th, 1634 of the Second Era.
I should not be writing to you about these events, but I long to be home with the hearth of the Veiled Keep to warm my hands yet again. Your mother has sent word the family has decided to take up in Raudhen deep in the Rudimark until the war is done. Stay vigilant, Aryyn—for both our sakes.
Dated—March 7th, 1634 of the Second Era.
Our progress has been halted from repeated attacks on the outward camps. A large enemy force has been spotted riding out from Seannchall and Red Crossings. The truth about this newfound Queen has erupted through the ranks in recent weeks, and many here find that we are conflicted. This Nialla Elensah is the last of the Eedian nya Ansolas known as the vedreron, so it has been told. She is the Lady of the Mountains, the same woman they heed in Sordon and the southern reaches of Elhaven. She has gathered the armies of all the Estudians of Maheira behind the steeples of Kelek Angren. It will be a hard fight ahead, and many of the good men and women I have come to know these many months will lose their lives just trying to make it onto the battlements. A single span of bridge stretches across the ravine that separates the walls of the Hadorn’s fortress-city of old from the Eedienrûn. They say the Hadorns abandoned their kingdom to move further east whilst keeping its defenses intact. It’s the end of the road we find ourselves, I fear.
Dated—March 13th, 1634 of the Second Era.
A lone rider dressed in a ragged garb has managed to sneak their way through our outermost camps in the southern reaches of the Eedienrûn. Those few soldiers of the enemy we’ve captured call him the Blackhand, but they seem ignorant as to his purpose. Description of the man fits with another rider that hounded us from the Norründ through to Eessorn, where over a hundred scouts keeping watch over the Bay of Isenefal have disappeared, with more than a few turning up dead in the woods not far from their last patrol. I receive daily reports from scouts in our rearguard concerning disappearances of a whole battalion at Raed Tos. Something is coming—and I’m not even sure if these letters are reaching you anymore. The Torantons have grown nervous with an ever-aging emperor committing mass executions of those who used to be his most loyal subjects. Our once beloved Asdonic sar Eadrenys has demanded to be called this Lord Athulian—? I’ve seen him kill a man by just a stare, blood seeping out through the victim’s pores, or their armor suddenly imploding to crush their hearts inside. This is not the emperor we swore fealty to, this I know—but it is the emperor who’s led us across the continent to fight a war for reasons none of us understand. I fear this might be our doom.
Dated—May 6th, 1634 of the Second Era.
All the banners have been called back to the Eedienrûn. We are going to besiege Kelek Angren and storm its walls at tomorrow’s dawn. The whole camp has been silent for the past few days. It has taken months of preparation for the attack—I will take part in the first wave sent into the fray—arrow-fodder as demanded by the commanders so the more noble infantry may push into those ancient halls and take the glory. I left Hillard with your grandfather and twenty-thousand men and women at our backs. Of those, eleven-thousand remain after the raids and previous attempts to breach the borders of Hal-kerol, to no avail. This is the greatest battle of our age, but even with our vast numbers, I have come to know stilled breath. My captains have expressed their doubts what plans have been put in place would even work when the rain of fire douses nobles and soldiers alike.
None of the later messages written by Elund Jormont to his family ever made it back to Hillard as they were taken by the watchers of the Toranton armies in order to keep their movements from getting into the hands of the Maheirans trying to repel the invaders; and in turn, few of the letters written by young Aryyn Jormont and his mother ever made it to the front as the carriers were often killed on their long roads into the westmarks.
The Battle of Kelek Angren had been the defining moment during the War of Old, the beginning and the end; it saw the deaths of Elund Jormont and his armies on the lower parapets of the walls. Though the battle was nearly lost for Nialla and those who gathered around her in the name of what used to be, a host from the Maithandír of Invala Dailn had come in aid to the Lady of the Mountains at the final hour, laying waste to the armies brought by Athulian to end a war that started long before the most ancient tomes of history could recall. In the darkened lower halls of Hal-kerol, Nialla and Sackery Greywolfe of the Vedrethal dueled Athulian with the aid of the Blackhand, although what happened during that fight and the greater outcome of the battle itself is a tale that will be told by another, when the songs of return are spoken at last by the singers and ballads, telling events as they happened from the tale of Galron and Cyridel to the bitter end of days.
What can be said is that news of Elund Jormont’s death, who’d come to be known as the Fallen Knight among the courts of his son in Hillard, reached the ears of Aryyn, then sixteen-years by the time the fighting fully came to an end, that he rode with a hundred men from Raudhen to Thanard and burned the Veiled Keep to the ground in righteous fury, proclaiming it to be the grave of his father and grandfather, demanding a monument be erected in its stead so that the people of Hillard will always remember Lyon the Great and Elund, the Fallen Knight, as they were… heroes.
Aryyn Jormont would later build a new keep on the third hill at Raudhen, far larger and more heavily fortified than the one he burned in Thanard. On the second hill, he built the tourney grounds and the arena, so called the Pit of Lions, where prisoners would be executed for the entertainment of the masses. By this point, the Toranton Kingdoms had been dissolved and taken into a new nation that spanned most of the continent with the Stewards of many provinces of former Tor killed at the Battle of Kelek Angren, leaving their heirs to bend the knee to a monarch that promised to unite them and heal the lingering scars left over from centuries of conflict. Lord Aryyn truly became the first independent ruler of Hillard since the days of Ryenal, and though he was considered fair and just by his people, much of his energy would be spent in dreaming of vengeance for the deaths of his father and grandfather during the War of Old.
Come the year of 1692 of the Second Era, when Aryyn turned seventy-two years of age, he wrote a letter and an invitation and sent it west after decades of planning in his dreams. Thus began an ordeal of the unlikely—a man, who very nearly did what armies and figures more powerful than him could not.