Faces of Stone


Erich stared at the command table with unwavering intensity, his eyes never breaking contact with the two carved figurines that were placed on the large map atop it. The map itself was that of the greater lands surrounding the city of Pravia, reaching all the way south to the dreaded Dweghom hold of Ghe’Domn. In Pravia’s place stood the carved form of a city – with minuscule walls and a few jutting towers. For Ghe’Domn, the figurine was that of an erect mountainous façade, an inhuman stone face with a hollow, emotionless gaze. Erick could not help but return to that dreaded craggy countenance, feeling the cacophony of voices that flooded his surroundings become muffled and fade out as the intensity of his own thoughts took over. The lands closest to the Dweghom hold had been abuzz with activity as of late, with reports of missing scouts and other such cases rising at a truly alarming rate. Ghe’Domn itself was showing signs of activity in its own right, as presented from select scout reports that had reached Schur, setting the scene for a truly dreadful scenario. What were the Dweghom trying to achieve? Were they going to attack Pravia? Erich’s mind was almost set, but he could not bring himself to give the order – once a choice like that was made, there was no going back.

“Commander!” Klaus’ voice cut through the dirge like a razor through fat-ladened flesh, forcing Schur to raise his head and face his subordinate directly. The room itself was filled with a crowd of officers and high-ranking soldiers, all arguing amongst themselves on what move to make next. “SHUT IT! ALL OF YOU!” roared Erich, straightening his body as he leaned away from the table, nodding at Klaus expectantly.

“Commander,” stated Klaus again. “Scout leader Amelia has been found by one of our patrols. Her condition is critical, but she managed to provide a report while she was still conscious. Her group was ambushed by a Dweghom force while within our territory. The rest of the scouts are dead…”

“Damn it all!” hissed Schur, slamming his fist into the table at his side. With a sharp inhalation, the veteran commander managed to contain his temper once more, hooking both thumbs over his belt as he continued to speak. “By order of the Chamberlain, I am to defend Pravia at all costs – and that’s what we’ll do. During my training at the War College, I came across manuscripts – very old manuscripts – with details about the Dweghom and their armies. We must disrupt them while they are still gathering their forces near their hold. Send out another scout detachment towards Ghe’Domn. Make sure they are well-armed and prepared for ambushes – we need to know exactly what we’re facing. In the meantime, I want a forward force to be put together as soon as possible – ahead of the main army. If we are to have a fighting chance, we must strike the Dweghom while their army is still forming!”

One of the gathered officers, a portly man under the service of Baron Mikael von Kürschbourgh – though the Baron himself was nowhere to be found – laughed out loud, a sour grin forming across his lips as he spoke. “Why bother facing such an enemy outside our walls to begin with? Pravia has weathered sieges before. If the Dweghom do come, we’ll outlast them too!”

Almost instinctively, Erich started moving towards the outspoken officer, feeling his right hand ball into a fist and locking his eyes onto the man’s bulbous chin. Before his temper could get the best of him, Schur felt Klaus’ hand resting atop his shoulder, with his trusted subordinate silently mouthing “Don’t do it…” With a sigh, Erich uncoiled his fingers and raised his voice, addressing the officer directly. “If you believe the city can withstand a direct, unobstructed Dweghom assault, then you are a fool! A fool with a death wish, at that!” The officer tried to respond, only to be silenced by Shur’s wide-eyed glower. “No,” the seasoned commander continued. “We must stop the Dweghom while they are still gathering their forces and their supplies. That is when they are at their weakest. If that does not work, we chip away at their core with every given opportunity – stalling them until reinforcements can make their way to Pravia!”

Most of the individuals in the room, those under Schur’s command, buzzed with evident agreement – a stark contrast to the Baron’s men, who remained silent and discontent in their demeanor. Despite the commotion, Erich’s thoughts took hold of him once more, bringing to the surface the same questions that had plagued him over the past few days. Why Pravia? Why now?