Empty Armor

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Empty Armor An Obscure Wanderer
Previous Sunken Sun
Female Spire Caster icon.png
Kazimierzian Campaign Knight icon.png
Campaign Knight
Leithanian Nobleman B icon.png
Leithanian Noble
Salaryman A icon.png
Cold Forest
Kazimierz Streets
Underground Passage
His plot revealed, Czcibor heads down a path of no return, while Młynar waits on his path to assassinating his target.
<Background black>
I don't believe they would just go off the grid like this. House Nearl would not simply sit around.
I think so too. Their disappearance is quite curious.
You know as well as I do that the trail the hunter followed to the Golden Prairie went cold three years ago. No one's seen them since.
But even if we're all thinking this, you still have to take care of old Kirill, right?
...I've been thinking these past few years. A lot of people have their eyes on House Nearl.
They envy my brothers' honors, and despise a vagabond like me.
But your older brother Schnitz is the greatest general of his generation. Why, with our own eyes, we saw him–
Who could deny his ability, even out of envy? Would they rather lose wars?
These people feel that wars are no longer necessary. Or rather, they don't want to face war anymore.
That's why they're sheathing their sharpest sword... and forcing me to return to the Grand Knight Territory.
But you can't go back!
As I said, House Nearl can't simply sit around...
Why so excited, Czcibor? And why the frown?
Not sleeping well? Worried that the people we saved could be recaptured?
No, I just...
I'm just thinking too much about this assassination.
Oh, I'm dreaming.
[Czcibor wakes up from his dream.]
Czcibor ......
Do it.
<Background 1>
December 1st, 2:15 A.M.
Outside Dzwonek
[The campaign knight tells Czcibor,]
Campaign Knight But...
Czcibor Send word to the sentries inside. Do it.
Everyone, get ready to move.
Campaign Knight But our orders are to stay where we are.
Kawalerielki has everything under control.
Czcibor And?
Are those words enough to break a knight's spear? Have the bolts in your crossbows turned to dust?
The campaign knights are the only protectors that the panicking people will see. Can this fact be changed? Or does the Adeptus Sprawiedliwi Kazimierz lack the courage to muster even when Leithanien bares its fangs?
Our duty cannot be changed by a single word from the Adeptus Sprawiedliwi.
Move. This is an order.
Campaign Knight ...I'm sorry, sir, but you're no longer in a position to give orders.
The Adeptus Sprawiedliwi has revoked your command. The captains and the Craftsman's Guild have already been notified.
We fight for the glory of our knightclub, for the proper recognition of us campaign knights.
But the Grand Knight has the authority to veto all of it.
Czcibor ...So you won't obey?
Then I'll personally pass on my orders.
[Czcibor stabs the knight with his sword...]
Campaign Knight Ngh.. You...
[...killing him.]
Czcibor The orders for Dzwonek have been issued. Everything shall proceed according to plan.
All who assent, with me.
The captain sheathes his dark-red sword and marches past the camp tents.
Dozens of highly-ranked campaign knight are on duty, but they simply stand by the wayside.
No one joins him, or attempts to obstruct him. No one salutes.
<Background 2>
[A staff asks the Leithanian nobleman,]
Staff I apologize, but due to a number of recent incidents, we are now required to inspect all vehicles that leave the city via the lift platform between midnight and 6 A.M. May I have your ID and documentation please?
Bodyguard Here.
Staff Thank you. A moment please.
And may I interest you in Dzwonek's specialty herb-flavored stockbeast jerky? It's quite a popular souvenir.
Leithanian Noble No, thank you.
[The nobleman waits.]
Leithanian Noble ......
He waits impatiently, but the inspector's examination drags on.
Leithanian Noble You see Leithanien's emblem, don't you? Is this really necessary?
[An arrow flies towards the nobleman, but it was deflected.]
Leithanian Noble –Huh?
<Background 1>
[Czcibor contacts someone.]
Czcibor No need to worry about witnesses or public opinion at this hour.
If the spire caster nullifies the bolts... you have permission to use javelins.
No need to worry about the consequences either. None of the cities still remember how the campaign knights strike.
[Młynar walks in, prompting Czcibor to hang up.]
Czcibor ......
Hey, old friend.
You stand in my way once again.
Should I feel relieved? That you're still willing to act, after all these years?
If you're here, then I suppose there will soon be an unexplained violent incident near Dzwonek, involving unknown parties.
Bounty hunters and campaign knights... neither should ever come anywhere near a city that marches relentlessly forward.
Młynar ...I only came to pick up my sword, as promised.
Czcibor You didn't come empty-handed, though.
Młynar ......
What about you? Your followers?
Czcibor You know the answer to that.
The Grand Knight Territory has intervened, as you hoped. The loyal knights acknowledge their new orders.
For honor, for chivalrous order, for their long term interests... for the vain glory of their campaigns.
Młynar The Grand Knight Territory has...?
Czcibor Ah, it seems you didn't know.
Młynar ...The Adeptus Sprawiedliwi Kazimierz casts its eyes along bloodlines. They know all that goes on in every corner of Kazimierz. This has nothing to do with me.
Czcibor My apologies, it couldn't have been you. You would not have begged for help from the Adeptus Sprawiedliwi and the Grand Knight.
You came to convince me to turn back.
But there is no way back, now that they've learned of the plan, and the Grand Knight has issued her orders.
Besides, I've raised my sword against my own men, to give the order to begin the operation.
Now that I know how hard it is to see a deed through to the end... it makes me admire what you did even more.
Młynar ...Who do you think you are, to compare what you're doing to what I did?
Czcibor I suppose I didn't provoke as many people as you.
Młynar You're not provoking anyone... you're just contemptible.
If you're not ashamed of your own actions, then why did you go to the convoluted lengths of leaking intelligence to pit me against the delegation from Leithanien?
Czcibor No need to criticize my means. I'm simply as disappointed with you as I am with Kazimierz.
Oh, right.
The Adeptus Sprawiedliwi does not permit negative news about campaign knights to exist in writing. If I really did follow the order to stand down...
What do you think would happen to me? Would I die of a mysterious illness on my way back to the Grand Knight Territory, or be forever imprisoned beneath the tower, just like you?
Młynar You're in no position to talk about my life, Czcibor.
If you insist on trying to decide for millions of people where the battlefield should lie, then you deserve your punishment.
Czcibor It is a campaign knight's duty to fight for the common folk.
Młynar The unarmed are the first to be abandoned in war.
...You should have made a smarter choice.
Even if it didn't involve returning to the campaign knights.
Czcibor "I should have"? I should have ran from Kazimierz? Then why have you stayed, if you truly believe that leaving was the only correct choice?
Or should I have abandoned the plan in its entirety, even if this is my last chance?
You know better than I do that Kazimierz needs true violence. It needs a war that will turn it on its head.
Młynar ...No.
I've never once thought that way.
Czcibor ......
Is that so?
All these years, we thought we knew each other so well. Well enough to leave certain things unsaid.
Now I'm beginning to wonder just how much of that was all a misunderstanding.
We should have sat down to talk, like the old days. Before a campfire in a forest clearing.
...If you weren't set on standing in my way right now, I'd have picked a branch and made a spear out of it, just like back then.
Młynar You need to wake up.
<Background 2>
[Unidentified shooters are firing arrows at the nobleman.]
Bodyguard Stay down, sir! There are archers nearby!
Leithanian Noble Who are they? First last night and now this, who could be after me?
[The staff blocks the nobleman's way...]
Leithanian Noble This is no checkpoint, Aloisia! We must go!
Inspector, I suggest you get out of the way if you don't want to be run ov–
[...but he is struck down by someone...]
??? Now, now, don't be hasty.
[...who is revealed to be Toland.]
Toland Our guys have taken out the ones in your way. I suggest you relax and refrain from using Originium Arts.
There are some traps here that are triggered by energy. And I doubt you'd enjoy the trip back to Leithanien if anything happened to your car.
Leithanian Noble When did you–
[Toland grabs the nobleman.]
Leithanian Noble Nnnnnng–
Bodyguard Sir!
Toland Oh, sorry.
To put it simply, we would like this gentleman to come with us. May we have your cooperation?
[Toland draws his blade.]
Toland Serious advice. We're all screwed if the trap blows up.
You're good, but not good enough to deal with everyone here. Can't hurt to hear me out, can it?
Bodyguard There's nothing for us to discuss, mercenary.
[The bodyguard strikes Toland, who narrowly blocked it...]
Toland Oh? Are you really thinking about setting it off, just to give your master a chance to escape?
That's why I never liked you spire casters. Nutjobs.
[...and disarmed her.]
Toland Chill out. This isn't worth any of our lives.
The inspector isn't one of ours. Neither are the ambushing archers.
Bodyguard ...Go on.
Toland Ah, in the mood to listen now?
Multiple groups fighting over the same objective is a fact of life in this line of work. Some people want to keep things safe, others want to watch it all burn.
Think about it carefully.
There's a little village by the road to the southeast, about thirty minutes from here. On the highest building in the village is a shield emblem that looks like it could fall off at any moment.
It'd make our jobs much easier if you waited there.
<Background 1>
[Młynar and Czcibor fights each other.]
Czcibor ...Such a familiar light. The real Nearl.
I've read the legend of Kirill, seen the Radiant Knight's name on banners in the streets, heard of your brother's blinding light from your own mouth.
But this is only Nearl I know.
It's just like in that banquet of betrayal... I thought I'd open the door to see the ground covered in blood, only to find myself bathing in a rain of light.
[Czcibor charges at Młynar, who narrowly dodged it.]
Młynar ...That was many years ago.
Czcibor Indeed, being praised for old deeds is in itself a tragedy.
What have you been doing all these years? Your sword is still sharp, your light even more disciplined.
But there is enough power in your blade to parry even the weight of a heavy lance.
Młynar Why do you ask when you already know the answer?
Czcibor Because I don't believe you're powerless.
I don't believe you couldn't have testified to Celina's innocence when she was being tried before the National Council. It would have taken a mere word.
I don't believe that she could simply vanish without a trace without you so much as casting a glance at her.
Młynar ......
There are many things that I feel powerless about.
Czcibor I didn't think they could trap you.
Młynar There was no point in testifying to her innocence. None of us could have saved her.
Czcibor The old you would never have said that. You would have pushed to have the justice you saw missing from the National Council codified into law.
Młynar There were too many forces involved. Thirteen people were convicted. One law would not have brought them justice.
Czcibor So you measured their injustice against your life, and decided it was not worth the risk.
Have you become afraid of death? Or have you simply decided that nothing is worth risking your life for anymore?
The campaign knight's blows fall hard.
His lance was intended to pierce armor and shields, creations of stone and steel.
But now, he aims his pent-up fury at an unseen foe.
[Młynar lands a hit on Czcibor.]
Młynar You're losing your balance, Czcibor. Don't make elementary mistakes.
One more, and it'll be more than your armor that cracks.
Czcibor Ha...
We haven't sparred in ages, have we? Maybe I'm fiercer than you remember.
And what about you? You never considered sheathing your sword when we tried to persuade you.
[The fight continues until...]
The lance smashes against the ground, sending gravel flying with Originium Arts sparks.
Czcibor Nice dodge.
You didn't care what the disgraced nobles and blackmailed merchants thought. You didn't care about warnings from on high, or whether it was all for naught...
You would have exiled yourself from the Grand Knight Territory forever, gone out in a blaze of glory for justice.
...What about now?
Młynar ......
Czcibor If you can't do it, then stand aside and watch.
I'll do what you should have.
Młynar Who are you to judge what I should do?
[Czcibor charges at Młynar, who intercepts him with his Arts.]
Nearl's sword looks like it is simply shaking off the rain.
Scorching golden light falls upon the campaign knight's armor, leaving behind burn marks.
Młynar You, who throws his life away callously, and refuses to turn back despite knowing that there is no hope?
...I don't want you to die here.
Your plan should not and will not succeed. What are you so obsessed with?
<Background 3>
[The nobleman regains consciousness.]
Leithanian Noble *cough*, *cough* *cough*...
Toland Hey, you're awake.
Sorry, I was hired to cause you a bit of trouble.
By the way, we're on a pharmaceutical delivery truck, and the windshield was broken by a stray bolt.
It took quite a bit of effort to get you here. Fortunately, we can take a breather now that we're in the underground transport tunnels.
This place is most chaotic in the early hours of morning. Outsourcing, irregular transactions, vehicles turned over "accidentally"...
Leithanian Noble Wh-What do you want? Where's Aloisia?
Toland Your bodyguard? She should be waiting outside the city, if she cooperates. I needed her to create a distraction.
Don't worry, no archer is going to be a problem for a caster of her skills.
As for us... we're here to help, I guess, but we're not exactly doing this pro bono. And the client is a bit of a penny pincher, if you catch my drift.
So, we've got a few wounded, and I think we ought to discuss your ransom. To cover the medical expenses, so to speak.
Now, will you be so kind as to put away your wand? I've always found casters from Leithanien to be a headache.
Leithanian Noble ...Very well. I will pay a reasonable ransom, I will ask no questions, and I won't attempt to track you down afterwards.
We shall negotiate like civilized people.
Toland Excellent. I'm just doing my job. Once this truck gets the goods to the destination, it'll only be a short wait before we get out.
Leithanian Noble ...I hear empty crates.
Toland Oh, I'm not suggesting that you're the goods.
The truck was rented, and the permit borrowed. Gotta put up appearances, after all.
Plus, in the event that something happens to your bodyguard, this cross-border business permit will give us a reason to drop you off outside Kazimierz.
Leithanian Noble Who do you...
Never mind, I don't want to know.
Toland Good. Now how about we talk money, to pass the time?
<Background 1>
Czcibor You ask what I'm obsessed with?
This society has clear-cut rules. When the price of everything in life is clearly marked and labeled, it doesn't take a calculator to make the optimum decision.
But why are we not allowed to choose less wisely?
I know the Adeptus Sprawiedliwi Kazimierz invited you, as they invited every Nearl.
Not to mention the businessmen who would have every last knight humiliated in the arena.
You could have had great power, great prestige, great wealth. You could have saved so many people.
But you didn't.
You're a stubborn one too. Why are you trying to persuade
Czcibor I returned to the ranks of the campaign knights, to the path of vassalage, in order to seek those who walk the same path.
...Do not misunderstand, Młynar. It's not war that I seek. War is inevitable, and the knights must carry that burden.
Many have never seen the shadow beneath Leithanien's spire, never heard the wailing in the northern wind, which is why they can cheer for the blood spilled in the arena. But I bear no grudge against them.
Chivalry may shine among the campaign knights, but it does not come from the glint of a sword. It is not authority through violence that I want to show people, nor the bones and smoldering ruins spread across the barrenlands.
What I want to show them is that one does not have to trample upon other lives... That one can also choose to sacrifice oneself for others.
That's what a knight sheds their blood for.
Młynar The honor of a knight needs no testimony.
How can you claim to uphold chivalry, when you have given up the ground on which you stand and left your fate to a war you have no control over?
Can you continue to shed tears and feel sorrow for the dead who line your path?
[Młynar channels his Arts as...]
A drop of rain falls upon the tip of the spear.
The forest's night fog glows, as though the dawn has come early in the drizzle.
Czcibor Finally, you're not holding back your Originium Arts.
I'm in full gear, while you're not even wearing basic armor. Is this really a fair duel?
Młynar What armor can bear the full brunt of a campaign knight's blow? Especially one from you?
Czcibor Yes, it's perfect.
Czcibor charges at Młynar...
<Background 3>
Leithanian Noble Wait, you're...
Toland Hey, good eyes.
Some nobles didn't even realize until two months into our partnership.
Others realized it immediately, but kept their mouths shut as though they didn't know anything.
Leithanian Noble Sarkaz mercenaries. Has the business machine of Kazimierz taken in your ilk too?
Toland You flatter us. It's no skin off my nose whatever you think we are, but there are more than just Sarkaz hiding here.
Kazimierz treats us all equally... when it's deciding who to throw away.
Leithanian Noble ......
Toland Spooked?
The only thing unusual about a Sarkaz is that we live a bit longer than the average Kazimierzian. And I'm still pretty young.
...Although it's true that I have fewer and fewer old friends by the year.
<Background 1>
[The fight between Czcibor and Młynar continues as rain falls, with the former ultimately losing to the latter.]
Czcibor *cough*...
Silver shards litter the ground in the falling rain.
The broken armor cannot keep the blood inside.
Młynar It's over.
Czcibor No...
Who do you want me to admit defeat to?
[Czcibor's lance falls from his hand.]
Młynar ......
The campaign knight grabs his lance again and lunges forward.
But his legs do not move.
Czcibor ...Who do you want me to admit defeat to?
The knight stumbles and falls to his knees as the golden light rains down on his cheeks.
He raises his head and gazes at Nearl, his eyes wide open in the rain.
Czcibor To the nobles in the high tower of the Adeptus Sprawiedliwi Kazimierz, who spend their days in intrigue and vainglory?
Or to the merchants who cover up their dark deeds with false mirth, and disguise their twisted greed with contrived jest?
Do you want me to admit that I can never win against the tyranny of bloodlines?
Or do you want me to flee Kazimierz, abandon the struggle, and bow down to all that we despised?
I never saw another path worth taking.
You still won't admit the only possibility, will you? Then prove it with your sword.
If it's you who thinks I'm wrong, then... I'll accept it.
I didn't lose to power, to money, to the will to survive, or to inexorable time.
Młynar ...No.
Młynar sheathes his sword.
The rain of light continues to fall from the cold night sky before the dawn.
Młynar Like I said... you don't need to die here.
If he turned back, it would stop, he thought.
Czcibor ...Hah.
How do you live with it, Młynar?
Even though your fury burns so much fiercer than mine, even though you've seen the same things I have?
Młynar ......
Czcibor Don't tell me you don't see it...
The G.C.C. meddles with the campaign knights at will. More and more knights sell their honor and their swords to those merchants, fueling their increasing ambition.
As for Leithanien... much time has passed since the fall of the Witch King's spire. I have seen with my own eyes their war preparations. There is no romanticism in it, only terror.
And there will always be those who roam the barrenlands, made pariah by Catastrophe, war, and the evolution of the cities.
You know all this, so... why do you not draw your sword?
Live and Die By the Sword.png
His vision blurs and he cannot see Młynar's expression, only that he is still gazing down on him.
Why do you hesitate? What are you thinking?
He finds no answer in the rain, only golden starlight melting in his field of vision.
Every breath he takes is a struggle, as his life flows out along his cold armor.
Czcibor ...And that scornful sneer from up high, which awaits all who passionately pursue their ideals.
Not the numb spectators who snigger as I weep for the victims.
I feel equal sorrow from them as I do for the dead.
It's the ones who are even now sneering at my futile efforts against them.
Even if I banged my head so hard against this wall that my bones shattered into dust, there would be no echo.
Czcibor ......
The rain does not stop. His eyes remain wide.
He recalls the summer downpour, the muddy forest ground, the ring of wild flowers flowing on the stream.
He remembers the last good dream he had in those times.
You should not be so silent, Nearl, he thought.
Czcibor –Just like then, you must return to The Grand Knight Territory, after a long and futile journey.
I don't believe you can let it go, Młynar.
...Their two names were erased just as they shined the brightest, like a fire thrown into a deep pool, going out without a trace.
For fifteen years the Adeptus Sprawiedliwi has remained silent. Your questions have gone unanswered.
House Nearl, bright as they are, was rejected by Kazimierz... The nation has sunken into darkness, and will not abide even a single ray of light.
That's why you became disillusioned...
You... don't know how many years they've waited in foreign lands.
Młynar ...What did you say?
Czcibor Ha...
I encountered them a few years ago, when infiltrating Leithanien...
Młynar ......
A single drop of ink stained the last letter from home.
He never had the chance to send a letter asking the question that he harbored for twenty years.
After twenty years of silence, he knows this is the only thing he can ask the campaign knight.
Młynar ...Did you tell anyone else about this?
Czcibor ......
Czcibor shakes his head.
Młynar waits in long silence for the next rebuke, and even longer for a word of repentance.
But the only response is a long exhalation, like a sigh, followed by the soft sound of clanging metal.
<Background black>
The campaign knight's body leans towards his lance that pierced the earth.
It is like one of the countless suits of empty armor they have seen on the barrenlands.
After a moment, Młynar kneels in the rain, making a gesture of mourning for his former comrade.