I wrote this short story to be the Prologue of a longer piece based loosely around the plot line of D&D Campaign I've been running for the last few years. The story was gonna be about a group of mercenaries sent to do a rough job in a rough port city called Caer Lucan. In a larger sense, we'd follow the break-up of the once proud Free Cities as they were slowly conquered by the Shallantyr Empire, a kind of fantasy stand-in for Rome.
But I'm starting to think that I don't really have time to write much new fiction. So for the time being, this piece has to sort of stand on its own.
Once upon a time, there were five brothers living in a small village at the foot of Mount Shinjow, the ancient ancestral home of the gods. When the great Empire of Shellantyr, then in its infancy, sent its armies to conquer Mount Shinjow and enslave the gods and their peoples, the mother of the five boys, the warrior-queen Tyranna, led the gods’ armies into battle. She defeated the Shellantyr and thereby delivered the first check to the nascent empire’s rapacious expansion.
In victory, Tyranna came to the attention of mighty Jove, all-father of the gods. Beautiful, intelligent, and ambitious, Tyranna seduced Jove and soon became pregnant once again. In this, the all-father was well pleased. He offered to make Tyranna his wife and goddess if only she would but join him permanently upon the throne of Mount Shinjow.
Tyranna’s heart lusted for the power of godhood, but she knew that mighty Jove would rescind his offer and kill her if he ever learned of the existence of the husband Tyranna already possessed—and of her already-living sons. To hide them, Tyranna lay with her mortal spouse one last time and then slew him in his sleep. Her sons she sold into slavery, sending them into the gladiator pits of mighty Shellantyr City, far to the south. Then Tyranna ascended, becoming the dread goddess of War, Conquest, and Seduction.
There she remains to this day.
There she remains to this day.
The five boys grew strong and proud, for they came from the stock of the mightiest warrior queen in history. Together, they fought in the arenas of Shellantyr City and triumphed, gaining fame and a following amongst their fellow gladiators. Eventually, their fame and prowess threatened the very Emperor himself, who ordered them to fight one another to the death in one last great battle, with the winner claiming freedom and Imperial Citizenship.
But the brothers would not fight each other. Instead, they made a pact the night before their battle was to take place. They vowed each to defend the others against all enemies and never again bend the knee to another in bondage or servitude.
Together they would stand, and together they would fall.
That night, the Five led the Great Slave Revolt. They killed their guards and assaulted the palace, laying waste to all in their path. Eventually the Five and their followers escaped Shellantry City and made their way north, towards the Foothills and the Great Forest. There they lived for many years, taking elven brides and learning the ways of war and of fey magic. Many were their adventures, and in time, their deeds became legend. Their own men now, the brothers lived by their oaths and stood together. Never would they bow or pay homage to another. Together they stood, and none could stand against them.
Jak ,the eldest, married the elven princess Arisa, a Lifespeaker, and they moved south to where the fertile Southern Plain meets the waters of the Bright Bay. Here they founded the city of Jakara, the greatest of the Five Free Cities, and Storm Watch, the citadel that watches over the Straits of Olin.
Alin, the Hunter, married Terra, a Druid. Of the five, they stayed closest to the Forest, settling amid the farmlands of the Fork of the Green River. There they founded the city of Alintere and pledged its people to watch the borderlands for any sign of renewed Shellantyr aggression.
Willem, the Mage, married Kara, a Magician. Together they followed the Eastern Star into the Endless Ocean, where they found Moonharrow Isle and founded the city of that same name. Ever did they look to the stars for advice and counsel.
Fredrick, the Scholar, was the youngest, and closest to Willem. He married Willem’s wife’s sister, named Elaina, a minor Sorceress. Fredrick and Elaina traveled in company with Willem and Kara east along the Green River to the sea, where Fredrick and his bride stopped, founding River’s End. But they visited Willem and Kara often, and their people became the Cities’ first Free Traders.
This left only the fifth brother, Lucan, called the Killer, last of the brothers to leave the elven cities of the Great Forest, and by far the deadliest. Ever the black sheep, Lucan married Tamanee, an elf witch of dusky skin who was rumored to be a Necromancer. Conscious of his brothers’ disapproval, Lucan and Tamanee moved north and west, beyond the Great Forest and far from the other four settlements. They and their followers passed through the mountains and their many perils until at last they came to a rocky bay west of the great dwarven stronghold of Mundan’s Gorge. Here, on an island in the Great River’s estuary, they founded the fortress city of Caer Lucan and the great tower that would with time become known as the Arcanium.
When all of this was done, Tyrannus, the boys’ long lost mother, was well pleased. She laid upon her lost sons and their people a blessing—and a curse. So long as the Five stood together and kept their oaths, they need fear nothing. But if rivalry, betrayal, or neglect ever comes between them, then Tyrannus herself will smite all five, razing the Free Cities and giving dominion of the World at last to the Shellantyr.
That was long ago.