Tales of Orichallus
Name: Xenophon Makenshi
Back Story: Xenophon had a privileged upbringing: the eldest son of the House of Makenshi, one of the ancestral aristocratic families who have reigned over The Kingdom for centuries. Through family connections and wealth he was schooled in the cities finest establishments, before ending up, as all Makenshi do, with those who used the crystals to wield Magiks.
After five years of intensive study, specialising in offensive uses of magik, his skill in the art was substantial, and his mentors allowed him to graduate. From there he joined the militia: the standing army, which The Kingdom found necessary to guard itself from its hostile neighbours. Again, because of his station in life, he was not expected to join the rank and file, but immediately started officer training, excelling in tactics and during his combat training showed exceptional skill with the sword. It was a relatively short time before he was promoted to General – his promotion being accelerated by the outbreak of the Crystal Wars, in which The Kingdom was forced into combat with the neighbouring Empire of Aiolis, whose desire for dominance of the Thaumicite trade, and the incredible wealth which accompanied it, had pushed them to launch an offensive on the South Eastern city of Orichallus.
An army was quickly assembled and dispatched from Capitol to bolster the, already sizeable, garrison in Orichallus: The army was divided into three with the venerable General Archidamos commanding the largest section, the senate’s favourite, General Modesitt handling the defence of the city, and Xenophon assigned a small force of some 30,000 men. They each knew it would not be an easy war, they were hugely outnumbered and the lust for wealth was a powerful motivator in their enemy.
The first year of the war saw few decisive victories for either side with the generalling skills of Archidamos and Xenophon largely helping to counter the weight of numbers against them, however, by the second year, fatigue and what losses had been inflicted started to mount up. At the Battle of Ash Pass, Archidamos’s army was heavily defeated by the Aiolians. He was forced to retreat into the city, joining Modesitt behind the substantial walls of Orichallus; word was sent to Xenophon of the defeat, ordering him to act as rearguard before joining the main army within the city walls. He refused.
Instead marching his men into the Ash Wastes, there he stayed for a month. The Aiolian forces found no trace of him and believed that he had fled following the defeat of Archidamos. Exactly one month later however, they noticed the supply routes were being attacked, less than a week after that supplies were not getting through at all. The besiegers, who were taking a heavy toll on Orichallus, were forced to dispatch a large force to hunt down the cause of these supply interruptions at all costs.
Realising what must be causing these sudden problems, the Aiolians began a tiresome pursuit of Xenophon’s army, which constantly managed to evade them. Despite been badly outnumbered and incapable of a pitched contest, Makenshi devised a plan to destroy the Aiolians at a box like canyon known as “The Saw”. Through misinformation, spreading rumours amongst the locals that his secret H.Q was in a hidden cave at the far end of the canyon, Xenophon managed to trick the enemy into marching to the mouth of The Saw, once there, in a perfectly planned and executed manoeuvre, the general launched a surprise attack upon the rear of the Aiolian marching column, and in their panic, they were herded, like cattle, into the canyon. With his entire force entrenched on the high ground above, and in secure locations in front of the mouth, the enemy were sealed in. The Aiolians now faced certain starvation and turned to cannibalism as thousands began to die. Their commanders Spendius, Autaritus and Zarzas came forward to discuss terms of surrender with Xenophon but they misjudged their standing….
The summer sun beat down. Running the razor along his jaw, Xenophon glanced at himself in the mirror for a second: he was looking gaunt, the time in the desert had not been easy for any of them, and he had eaten no more than his men. “General!” came a call from behind him, his eyes glanced sideways slightly, using the mirror to grant him vision over his shoulder. Captain Agathos and about ten men were leading three others towards him – judging by their clothing they were the commanders of the Aiolian force. Grabbing a towel and cleaning the remaining foam from his face, he turned to face them, saying nothing. “We are here to discuss the terms of our surrender” said one, a tall thin man with a shock of black hair, his name was Autharitus, and was, in effect, Xenophon’s opposite number. Almost before the words had left his mouth Agathos delivered a powerful blow to his face, which caught him so hard he was dropped to one knee. “You’ll speak when spoken to, Dog” the captain rasped sternly. Raising a calming hand, Xenophon stepped forwards, taking a seat on a large rock, which had had a crate put in front of it – it had been acting as a desk for the past couple of days. Makenshi had feared this response. The King’s Senate and the Court of the Aiolian Emperor had both agreed to follow the long-standing terms of war; prisoners had to be held in “acceptable conditions for no more than two years before being released”. Fools. The Senate was full of old men, politicians: they had no understanding of war! “Thank you, captain, but that won’t be necessary” he said finally in a low voice. A second later he looked up at the three commanders, waiting for Autharitus to pull himself to his feet again before continuing, “Very well, gentlemen. Your terms?” “We ask no more than to be treated as the ancient rules of war dictate!” Again their was silence, as Xenophon stood slowly and approached the men, slowly walking around them, inspecting their condition. “That might pose something of a problem, as you can see, I don’t have the means to hold your whole army in suitable conditions for that long” again he paused, “instead, I offer you a chance to fight honourably for a worthy cause” The three men looked at each other for a second, “Speak plainly, man” said Zarzas, he was an old man, perhaps as old as Xenophon’s father, and clearly had been doing his job since more…chivalrous times, “what is it you are saying? A pitched battle? Winner takes all?” A rumble of nervous laughter spread through the commanders as hope was restored, though only fleetingly, “No” Their laughter stopped, “I offer you and your men a chance to fight for Orichallus to help lift this siege, and then to join The Kingdom’s military after this war. We will both get what we want, you will all get your chance to benefit from the wealth of our Thaumicite, and we will gain the numbers we need to defeat your countrymen” Spendius, Autaritus and Zarzas stood aghast. “This is an outrage!” blustered Zarzas, “An outrage, I say! You…you impudent upstart!” Xenophon raised his hand quickly and gave a light shake of the head as Agathos’s fist clenched once more. Zarzas continued, “You are law, and honour, bound to find provisions for my men! I demand it, and let me tell you” he said, raising an angry finger and shaking it at the man standing opposite him, “As soon as I get back to Aiolis I’ll be raising another army to address this insult! Betray our home, indeed! Such gall!” The others nodded their agreement, Makenshi gave a long sigh, his eyes looking to the ground in genuine sorrow, “And nothing I say can change your mind?” “The very idea!” Zarzas spat, fury burning through his every vein, “Then you leave me but one choice…I can’t accept” There was a silence of non-comprehension. “Can’t accept what?” “You’re surrender: I can’t accept it. It would mean the lives of my men”, and with that, in a lightening quick action, Xenophon’s sword was loosed from its scabbard and taken straight across all three of their throats in one fluid motion.
The three Commander’s bodies were taken to the top of the canyon and thrown in amongst their men, panic overcame the trapped Aiolians and many made a desperate attempt to escape The Saw, but their efforts failed, the narrow canyons mouth nullifying their number and making them easy prey for the waiting Orichallans, the rest were killed by the waiting ranks standing above the canyon in the most large-scale massacre in the military history of The Kingdom.
In total approximately 45,000 enemy troops lost their lives at The Saw, which decreased the Aiolian army enough to break the siege. In a co-ordinated attack using primitive methods, Xenophon managed to signal the forces inside the city and as the remainder of Archidamos’s force surge from the city gates, Xenophon’s army descended upon their rear. The war was over.
Makenshi’s trial was a short one. The charges of disobeying the order to return to Orichallus, as well as the massacre at The Saw were levelled against him and although many military figures spoke in his defence: the command hierarchy of his army explained the necessity of his actions, mentioning that it was either “them or us” more than once. Even Archidamos spoke, stating that Xenophon’s decision not to return to Orichallus had won the war, but the Senate did not care. In their minds the ancient honour of The Kingdom had been tarnished and in an attempt to appease the outraged Aiolians, action had to be taken. The fact that it was an excellent opportunity for many grudges and scores to be settled against the Makenshi family was an added bonus. The former-general was exiled to the Ash Wastes.
That was ten years ago and, although the city walls were lined to watch his departure, no one has seen or heard of the man since then. Many presume him dead, others, mothers to their children and drunks to their drinking buddies, tell great stories of his adventures out in the wastes, but the truth is a mystery.
Makenshi, while originally from the noblest of births, now carries none of the hall marks of his privileged upbringing. Ten years surviving in the Wastes has added a variety of interesting scars to his body to accompany the 100 lashes he received before being banished. Fortunately, only one adorns his face, a small cut down his left cheek, which is covered by a neat beard which skirts along his jaw line to his chin.
He stands about 5’11” and is lean – food can be scares in the Wastes. Xenopon has long, black hair and a pair of large, icy blue eyes set into his gaunt face.
Makenshi’s clothes are plain and functional. Baggy, off-white clothes which help to keep him as cool as possible when roaming the Ashen Wastes. They also have the added bonus of hiding his sword which hangs on his belt and is entirely enveloped by the material. The white “robes” he wears also includes a large hood which is perfect for protection from sand-storms or, when he crosses the mountains into the Clan Lands, heavy rains.
Beneath the white robes he still wears the black, high-collared jacket of his military uniform, and the accompanying boots still protect his feet. He usually wears gloves also, protecting as much of his skin as possible from the harsh conditions of the Wastes.
Xenophon’s primary weapon is his sword with which he is highly efficient and incredibly well trained, having not only received the military training in its use, but, coming from one of the Noble families, had been trained in fencing and swordplay since he was old enough to grip a foil.
It is likely, although none have reported seeing it, that Makenshi also retains the pistol of his commission. Guns in the empire are mostly steam powered. Rifles are accompanied by large back-packs filled with water with a small shard of Thaumicite placed in it. On the stone is craved a symbol which causes it to keep the water at perpetual boiling point. The steam pressure is then used to propel the bullet, other than that, they are used almost identically to muskets/Napoleonic rifles. Obviously this method would be cumbersome for smaller firearms such as pistols, and as a result they are rare in the Kingdom, however, Generals are gifted one upon their promotion, and the maigks which spurs these guns into life is a closely guarded secret.
Although he rarely uses it, Makenshi’s magik can, of course, be used as a powerful weapon. Though he only uses it in the most dire of situations feeling that in his disgrace he no longer has the privilege of using his f amily’s ancestral talents.
Possessions / Items:
Other than his weapons, Xenophon has little. If it’s too big to fit about his person its no use to him, also, in the desperate first few months, while he learnt the ropes of living in the Wastes, many of his personal items were bartered for whatever food he could get from traders on their way to the city, or the many nomad tribes who inhabit the Wastes. Mainly his bag contains rudimentary medical supplies, some food, his bowl and cup, and other bits and bobs which have proven useful for survival.
Ability Subset 1: The Traveller
• Local Knowledge: Many of the tribes of the wastes and the Clan Lands, which Makenshi occasionally visits, are suspicious of outsiders and quick to be angered by them. As a result, during his time in exile, Xenophon has learned many of their ways, customs, and in some cases, even languages. (1 point)
• Patch Up: While Xenophon would never claim to be a “healer” as such, much less have any real medical expertise, during his time in the wastes he has learned many local healing techniques and remedies, which he often uses on himself when necessary, be that crushed Candar berries for a headache, or putting the damp leaves of the Noran tree over an open wound to reduce the chance of infection and help slow blood loss. (1 point)
• Path Finder: Having spent a decade wandering the wastes, spending time travelling with the tribes, and exploring the mountain routes into the Clan Lands, Makenshi has built up quite a mental catalogue of the secret, obscure, and remote ways about this part of the world. (1 point)
Ability Subset 2: The Swordsman
• Swordsman: Xenophon is an exceptionally skilled swordsman using his training, speed, and experiences to adapt his style to any situation. It is a very rare opponent who can best him with a blade. (2 points)
• Dodge/ Feint: Makenshi can duck and weave past most of an opponent’s blows, fake attacks with practiced ease, misdirecting his enemy’s response to suit his next move. (1 point)
Ability Subset 3: The Magik Wielder: Although from the Makenshi family, one of the greatest and most highly respected of Magik-wielding families of the Kingdom, and a skilled magik user himself, Xenophon has sworn not to use his powers while in exile as they are the legacy of his family name; a family he has ashamed. As a result he will use only the most basic of incantations, and even then only when necessary, until his name is restored.
• The Wall: The most commonly used of the incantations Xenophon still uses, The Wall causes, as the name suggests, a wall to thrust upwards from the very ground itself providing cover for him, should he be facing enemies with guns, or those using the powers he has banned himself from. (1 point)
• Flaming Dart: Makenshi summons a small blazing inferno in the palm of his hand and throws it at his opponent. The ball quickly picks up pace as it races towards its target.
• Rust: Although a fairly complicated spell, Xenophon allows himself to continue using Rust. Originally thought up as a way to deal with enemy war machines and other weapons, in his current situation and new life, Makenshi finds using this spell, in which he controls the oxidation rate of whatever metal he is focusing on, against the metallic parts of other people far more amusing and beneficial in getting his way. (1 point)
• True Potential: In times of great need Xenophon will decide the situation is dire enough for him to lay down his self-imposed magik ban and use his full, ancestral power. (2 points)
Money: Following The Crystal Wars, many of the soldiers in Xenophon’s army were court-marshalled, disbanded, or simply left following what they considered the great injustice of their general’s exile. Some of these men united and, employing their former military ranks to organise themselves, opened “Heaven”, an underground club/gambling den/brothel/black market emporium/hideout. Soon those who ran Heaven, often referred to as “The Heavenly Council”, were amongst the wealthiest men in the city. Now, with its small “army” of former Kingdom soldiers, and its extreme wealth, Heaven is beyond police control. Those who own, run, and operate Heaven feel beholden to Makenshi, and as a result whenever his travels bring him to the city, he knows that there, unlike anywhere else in The Kingdom, he can walk about as he pleases without having to hide his face, as if the authorities which to start anything, the voices from the shadows will quickly warn them off the idea.
As a result, his honoured position with The Heavenly Council means that on the rare occasions he ventures into the city he is well provided for, and when he is in the wastes the coin of the realm is worth considerably less than barterable goods he finds or collects along his travels anyway.
Languages: Terrakari, High Terrakari (an archaic form spoken at court), and over a dozen different dialects of the Ashen Waste tribes.