Primal

This is a story/fluff post I wrote up for a roleplaying game I’m currently involved in (and also used for an english assignment). You don’t need to know most of the backstory, but here’s a few things that you probably do:

-This all takes place in the Primus Imperium, which is very feudal in nature: the High Queen rules over the noble houses, which rule over their own lands. They also have a habit of naming the lands they conquer with numbers, in order. Primus, Secundus, Tertius, etc.

-Primus is currently at war with the Three Crowns, a political situation far too ridiculous and unimportant to explain here. During the war, High Queen Roethye was assassinated, with the most likely suspect being the Three Crowns. Some say it was the Aeldir but that doesn’t make much sense for political reasons I won’t bother you with.

-The Kingdom of Berrium is Primus’ closest ally, owing in large part to the fact that their queen was sister to Roethye, the previous queen.

-Lady Conferrus’ latest child (and heir apparent) was born with red skin and black eyes, and was declared a demon returned from the Time Before, which in the simplest term possible is big scary bad time. The baby was taken away by the Lady’s midwife, and she fled into the wild.

-The Aeldir are basically elves. They are also exceedingly racist, haughty, arrogant and currently the strongest power in the world. They are considered hostile by pretty much everybody, but Primus in particular has been feuding with their diplomatic arm (the Autumn court) for years.

Hope you enjoy!

——

The balance of power in Primus is a constantly shifting thing. Technically the Highback mountains were the domain of House Navus, but this only became the case in the last years of Roethye the Proud’s reign. Before then, they were House Eventus lands. Primus proper is always under the eye of whichever house is next in line to receive proper lands.

Only one thing remained constant: the city of Valkyrie belonged to the Primus royal family. The Primus family held absolute power in the Imperium, and all knew that they were the reason the Time Before had ended. It was responsible for mediating any conflict between the houses, and managing the nation as a whole.

But it was not always so.

*=*=*

Royo wasn’t all that different from the other noble houses. Matriarchal, war-like and far more proud than it honestly had any right to be (not that anyone would tell them that). However, it had made many territorial gains thanks to its usage of moonsilver arms and uncanny ability to survive when massively outnumbered. Their request for peace came as a surprise to the other houses, but it was a reprieve they could not afford to ignore.

Cochradice Royo had brought several of the largest houses together at a time when her own house had more than enough strength to wipe them all out. However, she did not. She proposed the idea of an Imperium stretching across the entire mountain range and into the desert, to become the undisputed masters of this land and beyond, with Primus at its center and master of all the world (At the time, no one knew of other world powers such as Berrium, the Courts or Ambrose). After generations of ceaseless war, however, her talks of peace and unity sounded hollow. Each Lady (and the two or three Lords) was certain that this was an attempt to spread her lands by tricking the other houses back into open war for a proper Casus Belli. Perhaps she intended some gambit to insert her blood into their own lines and press a claim on their lands.

So House Conferrus came prepared with an offer House Royo couldn’t possibly accept: The Royo would be granted the power to hold this “Imperium” together if they agreed to limit their personal demense to one city: the city of Valkyrie, a true backwater. It wasn’t valuable in and of itself, it was valuable because of how close it was to OTHER sources of value, and how easy it was to defend. But if you could only hold the city, it would take but a single misstep for the other Houses to starve you out. Only a complete idiot would take one city like that on the word of dozens of Houses that they wouldn’t immediately swallow them up from a position of such strength.

And Cochradice said “Yes”.

Every square centimeter of land other than Valkyrie was returned to the House that the Royo had taken them from.

It was a complete shock to the entire realm. A House as ancient and implacable as the Royo, so sick of war that they were willing to take the risk of utter annihilation when they had been poised to take all the world (again, no knowledge of foreign powers). What was more, she’d agreed to this deal on the condition that the other Houses’ squabbles be hers to manage. And while the Primal people were many terrible things, they kept their promises.

And so House Royo became the Primal royal family, with Valkyrie as the nation’s capital.

The Imperium had spread, swallowing many new lands and granting them to the other houses. Roethye the Proud had actually started the process of conquering that territory, but Cochradice was the true reason that such gains were possible in the first place. It was her that created the Imperium, and ended the Time Before.

And the royal bloodline – the Primus – would ensure it never came back.

*=*=*

Breydice’s eyes narrowed when Lady Conferrus entered the arena. The woman’s skin was dark from so much time in Secundus, and her moonsilver axe was the yellow of the rising sun. Her coal-black hair had been tied back, but was long enough to reach her tailbone. Around them both, cheers and cries for blood and glory rang in the stands. While they would not be participating personally, the Queen and one of her nobles doing battle was a rare sight indeed.

“I see you decided to show up.” Breydice growled. “At least you have enough moral fiber for that.”

“Do not lecture me on morality, Royo.”

Primus. You would do well to remember that title, milady. We are to stay as far away from the Time Before as possible, and every horror it spawned.”

“‘Every horror’ as if you know even one. You were not around for the Time Before.” Conferrus growled.

“Nor were you. But the difference is that I do not pretend that I was. Once I would’ve been Royo – one squabbling noble among many. Now, I am Primus.”

“I see the infamous Royo arrogance continues, regardless of the name.” She sneered. “And what charge have you brought before me for this ‘honor’ duel, little girl? I am in no mood to cater to your whims. I tried to kill a demon, what’s so wrong with that?”

“You are charged with treason.”

That actually caught the Lady off-guard. “Treason? Are you out of your mind? My House brought the greatest land gain to the Imperium in years. I have always served faithfully and with due dili-”

“The Aeldir are looking for the child.” Breydice interrupted.

A hush fell over the arena. Murmurs circulated in the crowd.

Conferrus’ smile faltered, but she still pointed her axe at the High Queen. “What of it?! Are you telling me you’re too incompetent to find her first? Or perhaps that the Aeldir are a threat to us? Everyone knows that your capital city is abuzz with hatred for the Autumn Court, but this is just absurd. I doubt the knife-ears even care about Primus!”

“First of all, I’ll thank you not to insult an entire race, especially when there is an Aeldir in this city that happens to be a friend. Secondly, Mother’s spy and information network was never the most robust even before it was upended by her death, and I have little experience of my own to work with.” Breydice growled. “This would be completely irrelevant had you not tried to cut your heir’s throat. And in doing so, you have handed the Aeldir a perfect reason to declare war on us at any point they choose. Do you not realize the strongest claim to House Conferrus’ titles and lands current belongs to your daughter?”

“That THING is no daughter of mine.”

“She was born from your loins. As such, she is your heir, with the strongest claim on your title when it becomes available. If your midwife doesn’t come forward to us of her own volition, the Spring Court will find and spirit her away long before I can. She will be raised under Aeldir ideals and laws, and as such will worship the ground the Court Lords and Ladies walk on.

“And with the heir to a noble house loyal and in debt to them, they will have a Casus Belli to declare war on us and ‘return her rightful lands’.

“Whether or not they care enough to use that excuse is irrelevant. They are not on trial here – you are.” Breydice’s face grew livid. “You gave them the opportunity to put a puppet in our lands ON A SILVER PLATTER!!!!”

Sound in the arena faded to a hush. Breydice was well known for being stoic and stone-faced. This was an uncharacteristic display of emotion for her.

“I have sent letters to the courts to try and negotiate for her return to Valkyrie the moment she is found. She will either be my adopted daughter or be betrothed to Aurus, and in either case become a princess. Perhaps she will be wed as my aunt has, and become a queen. Killing her will be an even greater betrayal than you have done. But if they decide to ignore my request and press that claim at a later date, there is little I can do about it.” She paused. “Unless House Conferrus does not exist when she comes to claim it. No noble house to claim means no chance for her to be a puppet in these lands. And if by sheer luck I find her first, I can always create a new one for her.” She smirked. “Your house was the one that granted mine that power, after all. I hope the cocoa was worth it.”

Lady Conferrus snarled. Her region’s main export was a touchy subject for her. “You dare! You cannot destroy my House, Royo!”

“I am High Queen Breydice PRIMUS!!” Breydice roared. “I have every right to make your name dust on the wind, and you know it! You gave me that right as well! You wanted me to get rid of House Materius, if you’ll recall when they took their time securing Tertius.”

Conferrus raised her weapon. “Only if you win here does Conferrus die. And you cannot win here.”

Breydice drew both of her short swords, moonsilver as black as midnight oil and embroided with gold. “We shall see.”

The arena was as silent as the grave. The Princess and the Noble circled each other like tigers, each looking for the right moment to pounce.

A twitch.

Blade met blade, and the contest began.

*=*=*

Phelnia watched in silence, hood drawn over her eyes. No one had seen her come in, she knew. No one kept quiet when they saw a Princess, especially not the next in line. If anyone knew she was here, she’d be swarmed with offer of “charming” men to take as her husband, no doubt from idiots who thought they’d be able to influence the royal family if only their son made it in. No one likes to look long at scars as extensive as hers anyway.

Besides, there was no way in any hell of any gods old or new that she was going to sit in the palace and watch Varadia play with her child.

“Blood?”

She glanced to her side. The creature next to her looked human, but had a white cloth wrapped around its ‘eyes’. His skin was flushed, and his teeth were mostly canines. He was also breathing heavily in the heat of Primus’ day.

“Soon.” Phelnia promised. “Breydice just needs an opening.”

“Not her. For you.” The Aima rasped. “Blood slow, heart fast. Bad for heart.”

Phelnia smiled. Galorius technically was her guard, there to help her watch for foes, but he did far more than his calling dictated. He really was a hard worker. “No, Galorius, I’m just nervous for my sister. She’s very proud.”

He tilted his head. “Heart, steady beat. Not wild.”

It took a while to get used to the Aima’s manner of speech. It was difficult for them (something about redundant blood vessels? Phelnia didn’t know much about biology), so they tended to cut out as many words as possible. On top of that, they had an almost unnatural obsession with blood (since that was all they were physically capable of seeing). Even having him as a guard for months, Phelnia took a moment to figure out what he was saying.

“She doesn’t seem emotional to you because you haven’t known her long.” Phelnia looked down as moonsilver weapons clashed in the arena. “She’s furious at Conferrus.”

Galorius’ face turned towards Phelnia. The princess knew he couldn’t see her scars – only the blood in her body. Maybe he could see where her wounds had healed, but mostly he just seemed to care if she was hydrated. “You not?”

“… It’s difficult to be mad at someone who acts in ignorance, Galor. And we’re not in as bad a position as Breydice claims.” She gestured. “House Conferrus’ lands are going to be transferred to the ownership of the Kingdom of Berrium when this war with the Three Crowns is over. If they gained any new lands, they’d be to our west, and far out of the Aeldir’s way. We could easily just allow her in as a long-lost sister, and they’d have a puppet for a generation at most. And the Lady was right – the chance of the Aeldir caring enough to try and take us over is extremely small. Even if they wanted us like a man wants a woman, they’d take Berrium and the League of Allied Provinces first. It would get them more, be closer to their island home and put more pressure on us.”

“Then why… kill?”

“Because Breydice is right, too. The fact that the Aeldir don’t care enough to take the opportunity doesn’t mean the chance wasn’t opened, nor does the fact that this is an easily fixed problem mean that one wasn’t created-” Her eyes narrowed. “Oh, there’s blood for you now.”

“Can see.” Galorius grinned. “Queen blood pretty. Good health f-” He suddenly started, mouth agape with shock.

Phelnia turned to him, alarmed. “What?”

“Bad axe!” He shouted, looking directly at the two fighters. “Is legal?!”

“Uh, well, yes.” Phelnia was confused now. “You can bring any weapon to an honor duel, so long as it’s a weapon.”

The Aima scowled. “Not weapon. It drinks.”

*=*=*

Both combatants jumped back, taking a moment to catch their breath.

Breydice smirked as she looked her opponent over. Her short swords lacked range, but once she got under the other woman’s guard, she could get a lot of damage done quickly. Conferrus’ belly was bleeding. While she had managed to do some damage, it wasn’t enough to keep her from fighting. Breydice’s armor had been split at the shoulder, but moonsilver had a way of knitting itself back together. She took a step forward

and stumbled.

She blinked as black spots crossed her vision. As the scene swirled before her eyes, Breydice noticed something.

She was bleeding from her wounds, but the axe that inflicted them was bone dry.

Something was very wrong.

The axe had bitten into her armor and she was bleeding, yes, but Breydice felt light-headed already. She’d lost blood before, but this was way too much too quickly. She coughed as her limbs trembled, and she looked up to the woman.

Conferrus grinned. “Things have survived the Time Before. This axe, for example – quite the marvel of moonsilver. It doesn’t just bite through metal.” Her grin grew sadistic. “It drinks blood. Draws it out of your body, and drinks it. Even if it only scratches you, it packs quite a wallop.”

Breydice fell to one knee as the world fell out of focus.

“It’s been fun, brat.” Conferrus said coldly, gripping her axe and advancing on the half-crouched Queen. “And to be honest, I don’t want that time back any more than you do. But my House has stood for centuries, even from the time before the Time Before. It won’t end because of you.” She drew her axe up and brought it down.

Breydice grinned.

She charged, stabbing forward with her blades just as the axe came down. It bit into her shoulder, and this time she could swear she felt it suck up her blood. But Conferrus had made an error. She’d gotten close with her great axe. Breydice only had one strike left in her, and she made good use of it.

Her blades dug straight into Conferrus’ breast, and plunged deep into her heart. Blood vomited from the woman’s mouth, and Breydice’s momentum carried her to the ground.

Neither combatant moved.

*=*=*

Galorius had been told to destroy the axe, a task he took on with gusto. Phelnia dragged Breydice back to the palace just as Varadia came running out. Breydice was struggling to stand. Phelnia scowled when she saw her twin.

“Sis! Sis! We just got a message from-” She glanced at Phelnia, stopped short. “Geez, what jumped in your womanhood and died?”

“You met him.”

“Look, if you try again, I’m sure-”

Breydice held up a hand. “Varadia. Message from whom?”

“… well, uh… earlier a letter arrived, and uh…” Varadia turned back to Breydice. “Geez, looks like it was a rough fight… From the Kingdom of Berrium. Auntie ‘Meia and Uncle Alistair are sending some knights to look for the red-skinned child. We also don’t need to give them Secundus until the investigation’s done.”

“Oh.” Breydice’s expression and tone remained unchanged. “That’s nice.”

“It gets better. They’re joining up with the Jade Coalition to look into mother’s death! We’ll get actual evidence now!” A wicked grin split Varadia’s face. “Oh, those elfs are in trouble now!!”

Phelnia covered her face with her palm. “… Elfs?”

“‘Evil little fuckers’. I’m talking about the Aeldir.”

“…Are comments like that why Aeluta’s been avoiding you?”

“No, she said she thought my baby was super cute, but wanted to avoid ‘icky barf’. I think she’s playing war chess with someone?”

“The Aeldir… aren’t a threat yet… they don’t care… about Primus…” Breydice was heaving in huge gulps of air. “And they’re on… good terms… with the League… The crowns… More likely…”

Varadia shrugged as she moved to help up the queen. “We’ll see, I suppose. Here, let’s get you inside.”

“Get Lady Navus, would you?” Breydice wheezed. “She needs to… go to… oh geez…”