Mathosian Civil War: From the War Journal of Aedraxis Mathos
On this day we, Aedraxis Mathos I of unbroken lineage, undertook the siege of Port Scion, jewel of our empire and home of our royal brother Zareph. His city is rich beyond measure, yet Zareph has refused to fund imperial plans for expansion, plotting instead to supplant our rightful rule. Though arrogant, he is nonetheless our brother. Mathosians! When you read this to your children, and they to theirs, know that your king watched with heavy heart the arc of catapult stones and Mage-fire that tore down the walls of his brother's house.
Port Scion is ours, and yet we have no joy of her. Zareph has fled, taking most of his nobles, his army, every able-bodied citizen, and somehow, all the riches of the city! He left only the citizens too weak to travel (and not even all of those!) and the city in the care of his honor guard, two hundred men who managed, through trickery and spite, to hold Port Scion for three weeks under heavy assault.
Inquiring by the most insistent means, I learned that Zareph had anticipated my wrath. Over some months, he daily sent scores of people out of the city, disguised as travelers. This proves Zareph's planned betrayal. I had every nobleman's wife remaining in Port Scion beheaded. Let no crooked lineage bear issue!
At last, the gold! One of my dragon knights caught a soldier stooping to an icon of Thedeor and noticed a trick panel on the idol's base. The panel opened to a secret room containing enormous riches, though only a quarter of Port Scion's treasure. We emptied the room and left the worshipful soldier in exchange, there to contemplate the gods.
Having taken most of the funds, Zareph has robbed his king of much-needed resources. With peasants and merchants alike withholding our due and reasonable taxes, coffers remain low. Still, this is a much-needed boost. We have hired southern mercenaries to harry Zareph's outlaws and commissioned our old tutor Orphiel to build Ethian war machines. These shall lay him low, and then Orphiel will open the planes themselves to be conquered by a united Mathosia. Zareph could have marched into these other worlds behind me. Now he will go before me, his skull atop my banner.
Accursed, blasted, filthy Kalmar! My mercenaries and machines had finally cornered Zareph in the castle of my dear murdered friend, Ulfrid of Gloamwood. As my men scaled the battlements, who should charge my bodyguards but Greatsword-bloody-Cyril himself! He tossed my knight's head onto the battlements to show Zareph's forces the nature of my minions and then tried to assassinate his king! I gave ground- strategically, of course! At last, to expedite my victory, I focused my power on my men, and they set down the burdens of flesh and life, becoming a wave of rattling bones that assaulted Zareph and distracted Cyril. Satisfied with impending victory, I departed to join my lovely Alsbeth and her councilors.
How can this be? Zareph and Cyril defeated my undead and marched to Silverwood, where they met a contingent of High Elves led by the harlot Shyla. Borrin of the Dwarves has also joined them, offering the smithcraft his people have denied my forces. Even my dotard father's black-clad by-blow Corwin has managed to stop weeping over the granitewoods I harvested for my war effort to join the rebels. As I write, they march on my position at Ardenburgh.
Oh, but they will find more than they bargained for. For centuries the eldest son of the Mathosian king has ruled Telara, and for eternity I shall rule all creation. Beyond my legions upon legions of walking dead, beyond my own sorcerous prowess, I have had that narcissistic fool Orphiel build a machine to open the planes. One in particular, where the rest of me resides.
For I am not yet whole, have never been whole all my life. I shall tear apart the sky, and my other half shall join with me. Think of it! I am the promised half of Him who is the most vast and ultimate of beings. Already, I am His equal.
I think I shall finally return to the proper, royal We...
Shyla: Eternal bliss
Shyla Starhearth: grand lady of the High Elves, foremost priestess of the Vigil, the voice of wisdom and compassion when the Guardians hold council. Shyla: bold and brilliant, bolstering the faithful with kind words and inspiring sermons. Without her, the Guardians would be swept up in zeal and lose track of their conscience. She keeps her people on the path of the gods, yet behind her flawless beauty is a soul as sad as the first icicle on a bare branch.
When Shyla was a young maid (as Elves reckon youth) she served as a priestess of Tavril. The wild goddess had sworn the High Elves to serve as guardians of the untamed places, and Shyla devoted herself entirely to keeping her people on the path of faith and stewardship. Like a pristine forest glen, she lived a life of serene isolation. Until she met Hylas, and everything else nearly burned away.
Prince Hylas was the pinnacle of Elven grace, swift of foot and mind and blade, full of blazing passion rare in the cool forest-folk. He and Shyla loved for centuries, harmonious as sun and sky. The songs celebrating their love could fill the grand library in the Chancel of Labors. Soon, the songs lamenting their parting will be even more numerous.
A difference of opinion
When the Mathosian Civil War began, the lovers found themselves divided for the first time, if only by politics. Shyla argued that the Elves had to side with Zareph for the good of all Telara, while Hylas would not endanger their charge over the wilds to meddle in the affairs of men. Unable to convince him, Shyla led her followers to join the Mathosian rebels, leaving her dear prince behind.
None could stand before the hideous magic Aedraxis released at the climax of the war, not even a cleric of Shyla's experience and skill. Shyla, Priestess of Tavril, died that day, and Shyla, Pentarch of the Vigil, arose as one of the first Guardians. Along with Cyril Kalmar and Borrin of the Dwarves, she helped keep Regulos from total victory, and returned to her homelands leading those High Elves who had also ascended.
Rushing into Hylas's arms, Shyla found them... cold. While others might take their beloved's wholesome return from the grave as a miracle, Hylas seemed alternately sickened by and jealous of Shyla's Ascended status.
Once more the two lovers clashed over the fate of their people. While Shyla fought for the Elves to officially join the Guardians, Hylas maintained that a Mathosian war had all but ruined Telara. He would not follow a Mathosian before, and he certainly never would now.
Where before their debate seemed like two lovers and friends in a lively discourse, this second engagement turned bitter, entirely on Hylas's side. He questioned Shyla's integrity, her fidelity (in more ways than one), even whether it was the gods who returned her to life. Still, Shyla loved him, forgave his grandstanding as rhetoric, and remained loyal, though he no longer visited, or even smiled upon her.
Then without warning, Prince Hylas took his entire royal clan, House Aelfwar, and holed up in their ancestral castle, allowing no visitors. Shortly thereafter, he informed Shyla by messenger that their "association" was no longer advantageous to the Elven people, and so he felt no need to maintain pretenses.
Pity not the Pentarch
To say that Shyla's heart broke would be like calling a toppled tower "cracked." Nonetheless, without further opposition, Shyla officially joined the remaining High Elves to the new-formed Guardians. For the Guardians, she has been a pillar of strength, a rallying point for Telara's scattered Elves, never wavering against any enemy, even the forces of House Aelfwar. She fears she must stand against Hylas, and that the rampant spread of Life Rifts has something to do with him.
Mighty Cyril is glad for her council, though he sees the price her heart has paid for such purity and resolve. It is common knowledge that they take tea together, privately, once a week in Sanctum. Shyla speaks only of strategy, the war against the Planetouched. She appreciates the Mathosian's clumsy attempts at companionship, his tendency to act fatherly toward a woman many times his age. Her mind is bent always toward supporting her people, so that the Elves are never again torn asunder as they were when the Kelari left, when Aelfwar turned away... as she was when Hylas broke her heart.