With Jezebeth’s death, the Fourth Eclipse was finally over. But in the Empire the troubles were only beginning…
844 YSD – The Conclave of the New Dawn
七龙纪844年 – 新晓选举会议
Maeve’s death had been avenged. With Falcon’s Reach reduced to a pile of smoldering ruins, the fallen Empress’ body was taken to the imperial Summer Palace, near Whitecliff, in the Greyhound Duchy. There she received funerals worthy of her rank: her body was cremated, letting, as per the custom, her essence rise towards the sun towards Elrath.
No one could ignore the mounting tension during the ceremony. All the Dukes and Duchesses were in attendance.
Ivan of Griffin, Maeve’s avenger. Seamus of Stag. Amílcar of Bull. Rowena of Unicorn. Enguerrand of Greyhound. Stefan of Wolf.
If Maeve’s son Brendan were truly dead, one of them would soon become Emperor or Empress.
Soon after Maeve’s funeral, the Church of Light announced the creation of the Conclave of the New Dawn in the holy city of Flammschrein. This assembly of Angels, priests and scholars, led by the beloved Archangel and war hero Sandalphon, was to decide who would inherit the crown. Of course, even centuries after Uriel’s infamous Deception, many citizens of the Empire still had reservations regarding the Church’s impartiality, suspecting the Priests and Angels would simply pick the candidate that would serve their own interests best.
To alleviate these suspicions, Sandalphon decided to invite an Angel named Murazel to sit at the Conclave. “Guardian of Hammer Fall, brave heart of the purest Light, I trust you. I trust you to help us choose the best possible Emperor for this great nation. I trust you to keep us honest and true. Will you join the Conclave of the New Dawn, and sit at my side once again through these testing times?”
It was a brilliant move: Murazel was a figure of legend, known to favour Humans over her fellow Angels. She had helped the Free Cities of the East on numerous occasions, sometimes against the Empire, and her own kind considered her a renegade. If there was an Angel who would never compromise her ethics for personal gain or politics, it was Murazel.
Murazel accepted Sandalphon’s offer, and departed Hammer Fall for Flammschrein, putting an end to six centuries of exile.
猎鹰血脉 - A Falcon by any other name…
Of course, as soon as the Conclave was established, many young men arrived in Flammschrein, claiming they were Maeve’s son Brendan. The Conclave interviewed them, and in the end rejected them all. Some Conclave members insisted the rascals needed to be tortured or executed publicly, to set an example. True to herself, Murazel spoke vehemently against this solution, and proposed to send them to jail for one year instead, to “meditate” on their life choices. The wise Sandalphon approved Murazel’s suggestion. It proved dissuasive enough.
Several weeks passed, and the Conclave was still debating, or investigating leads regarding Brendan’s possible survival. Within the Empire, tension was growing. Everybody had an opinion about who should sit on the throne. All Dukes and Duchesses had at least one Falcon ancestor in their family tree, and they were all building their cases, gathering genealogical documents and other proofs of their heredity.
The most obvious candidate was Seamus of Stag. The house of Stag was cousin to the Falcons, and it seemed this strong family bond could not be questioned. Yet some scholars pointed out that Seamus was not a descendant of the main Stag bloodline, which had gone extinct around the Second Eclipse, but of a remote branch, cousins by marriage. He had some Falcon blood, but not as much as he would have hoped.
These same scholars had their sights on a more potent candidate: Ivan of Griffin. It was brought to light that Ivan descended from both the Falcon and the main Stag bloodlines. The great hero of the Second Eclipse, Duke Anton, had later become Empress Gwendolyn’s consort, fathering three children with her, the second of which then inherited the Griffin Duchy. But Anton’s own mother had been Cate of Stag, the sole member of her house to have had children.
Needless to say, Seamus was not pleased by the work of these scholars.
战争谣言 - War of the Words
Accusatory whispers started to spread in the taverns all around the Empire. These rumours claimed that it was Ivan who had led the Demons inside Falcon’s Reach, hoping to inherit the throne after Maeve’s death. If Ivan was innocent, then how did he know where Jezebeth was hiding? Was he really trying to avenge Maeve… or was he just making sure the Succubus would remain silent?
At the time, Ivan was courting Seamus’ daughter, Nolwenn. As the rumour grew stronger, Seamus publicly forbade his daughter to see Ivan again. “The Griffin may have blood on his wings”, he famously stated. Amílcar of Bull, who had inherited an old family grudge towards the Griffins and had always distrusted Ivan, made accusations of his own, much less subtle.
The other Dukes were not so eager to join in Seamus and Amílcar’s accusations, but they demanded that Ivan revealed how he knew where Jezebeth was hiding, to put this matter to rest once and for all. Stubborn and proud Ivan refused to explain himself. To you, my fellow shadow councillors, I can reveal he had learnt about Jezebeth from a trusted informant, and being a man of honour he simply would not betray his source. When Amílcar of Bull claimed Ivan’s silence was enough proof of his duplicity, Ivan challenged Amílcar to a duel. “There’s nothing I need to be ashamed of”, he said. “Let Elrath choose who is telling the truth, and who is spreading lies!”
Two weeks before the anniversary of Maeve’s death, Ivan and Amílcar met on neutral ground, in a small town called Brookshire, within the former Falcon province. Declaring himself Maeve’s champion, Amílcar unsheathed his sword. There was tumult among the witnesses when they recognized the legendary Blade of Truth, the ancestral sword of the Falcon dynasty, one of the seven “Bastards of Elrath”. Ivan saluted his foe with the Griffin’s Blade of Revelation, and the duel began.
Ivan was younger, faster, more powerful, but Amílcar was more experienced, more skilled, more cunning. Their duel lasted thirty agonizing minutes during which it seemed they were evenly matched. The blades clashed, again and again. And the unimaginable happened: one of Ivan’s blows shattered the Blade of Falcon to pieces.
Disarmed and shocked, Amílcar admitted his defeat. Ivan had proven his innocence in a fair fight, but an ominous feeling descended upon the audience. Many felt the broken sword was no coincidence: it was an omen heralding the end of the Falcon Empire.
Three days later, the bells of Flammschrein started ringing, but their song was dreary and doleful. It was a death-knell. Sandalphon was dead; a dark blade had been plunged into his heart. Murazel was nowhere to be found.