Author's Note:Based on the Heroes of Might and Magic Universe, created by New World Computing, then 3DO and now Ubisoft. Credit for the universe in which the game is set, the game and many of the characters go to them, the only thing I own are the made up characters. Italics for this chapter means it goes off into the past, in future chapters it will mean the story has briefly gone back to the present day.
Chapter 1: Remembering Years Back
It was not a pleasant summer's afternoon in Enroth, what had promised to be a bright day had turned into one of perpetual rain and mud. The clouds made the day seem dark and miserable while anyone forced outside for a minute would be soaked to the skin. The capital took its name from its castle which had, in turn, been named in a fit of ego by its master, Morglin Ironfist. On a good day the King could look out from the highest turret, over the purple roof of the Mages Guild and see everything around him for hundreds of miles. The knights in their jousts near the scenic mountains, the archers returning from their hunts in the forest, blacksmiths preparing tools for their many clients, the markets and taverns as they slowly filled, the little cottages of the peasants and far off, the docks were ships came and went with items to trade.
Today Morglin was sitting by a fire, enjoying the precious heat in his private quarters. Once a stranger to the land, with a small and ragtag army, he was now sole ruler of the continent. His proud moustache was showing hints of grey and his short hair seemed to be getting even shorter of late, his face was still tanned from a warmer climate. His strong body which was more suited to armour then it was a court robe was dressed in a plain tunic and trousers. Here he was now drinking a cup of warm wine with a nasty scar on his left arm a constant reminder of days gone by. The King glanced at the companions in his room, there was his Queen Isolade with long brown hair flowing over her shoulders, the tanned lady had also taken to wearing a simple tunic and trousers, a content smile on her face as she watched the children play. Morcades Lamanda had a yellow cloak wrapped round her body to keep out the cold, blue pearls around the neck as always, her raven black hair kept short, her eyes towards her sleeping husband, the court mage. Teer Estela was the only one still wearing robes, blue with silvery symbols to awe the gullible, he looked tired and pale, his hands gloved in purple, his once blond hair had turned grey long ago and his shaggy beard had reached his waist.
The only noise, other than the crackling of the fire, was the four children whispering, two Ironfists and two Estelas. The eldest was Roland, wearing a light blue shirt, the beginnings of a brown moustache appearing as Roland approached his twentieth birthday, Morglin was delighted that the child had got the kindness of Isolade but feared that he lacked the wit needed to rule securely. The second child was Archibald, black-haired and already developing a thick moustache like his father, wearing a black shirt with gold flames around the shoulders and waist. Archibald was arrogant but cunning, if there was trouble Morglin tended to suspect Archibald was behind it. The two kids of Teer and Morcades were younger then the Princes, the eldest was Arthur, short blond hair, wearing a white shirt with black trousers; it was well known Arthur had eyes on joining the church from where he hoped to do good deeds but for now he was a close companion to Roland, acting as his moral compass. The youngest was the only girl; Teer was devoted to his little Lyonet but Morglin suspected it had made the black-haired child spoilt, she was wearing green and seemed to be hanging onto Archibald's every word. Morglin was about to leave his chair when he saw a glint in Lyonet's eye and froze, she only had that glint when trouble was about to happen.
Suddenly the four children moved as one towards the King, bowing and with eyes cast to the floor. It was Archibald who spoke first, his voice carrying the cultured accent of his distant relative Lord Kilburn. "Father, whenever we have asked for you to tell us how you came to rule Enroth, you always tells us our teachers will inform us or that you are too busy. Our tutors will not tell us but the basics and since there is nothing pressing to occupy your time now, why not educate us?" Roland joined in, his deep voice pleading "Worthy father, I am nearly of age and wish to follow your good example but how can I when you keep such a large part of your life hidden from us?"
The King was silent as he glanced at Teer, the wizard was suddenly wide awake and looking amused but soon the wizard found Lyonet on his lap. Using her little princess voice, she batted her eyelashes "Daddy, you promised you would tell us one day but you're always putting it off with some excuse. Now why not tell me what a hero you are?" Arthur knelt before Teer, his voice serious but uncertain. "You always told us the importance of knowing our past so we can learn from mistakes and victories. We know of the victories of the lords in ages past and their failure to unite the land but you won't tell us where the Ironfist clan came from other then a long way away."
The two men turned to their wives, hoping for help but it wasn't forthcoming, Isolade's smile becoming mischievous, her voice smooth and gentle. "My husband, it is not right that the kids know so little of their heritage or of us." Lamanda turned to Teer, her voice solemn and questioning "I am almost as ignorant of your past my dear as the children. You owe me the story as well so why not tell it to everyone, we can share our experiences." Seeing the King wavering, Teer submitted to the requests, reaching into his robes, his quiet voice carrying a hint of amusement "Your Majesty, we must entrust the land to them one day, if they make the same mistakes we did then ambitious lords may seek to overthrow your successor. Eventually they will find a way to learn what happened, might as well be now when all of us gathered so we don't miss anything. I have something that should make it easier for them to see and understand our world."
The King slowly nodded his head, giving into the wishes of the majority while wondering how much Teer had guessed. Morglin's voice was weary but held a hint of authority, a man clearly used to being obeyed "I need less impudent children but fine, you will get your wish. Well done whoever planned the timing of the question, you forced me into a corner. Teer, perhaps it is best if you start us off."
The warlock had already begun the preparations, throwing some powder into the fire, his fingers creating a pattern in the air as he muttered to himself. Suddenly there was a bang and the room filled with smoke, when it cleared, they found themselves looking over a dull brown land, small, with a red sun. Teer was pleased with himself, explaining as the image headed towards a large city. "This will use our memories to show what happened. I have vowed never to speak the name of this land so that nobody could seek it out, I have no wish for any of you to seek it out and seek trade or vengeance, there would be no gain but lots of suffering for the people on both sides. Now this land had been ruled by the Ironfist clan for as long as anyone could remember, no other local clan had ever gained control of the hot and dry kingdom we called home. As with any long reigning dynasty, the succession wasn't always secure and it was not unknown for murder to be used."
The image swooped down into the city and into a packed jousting field. There was the young Ironfist, dressed in full armour, his red banner including a grey shield with a golden star inset with red jewels swaying in the wind, the then Prince taking on all comers. Some he bested quickly, others put up quite a fight before Ironfists natural skill won the day. "Lord Ironfist was the Heir Apparent to the throne; there were great hopes for him as his might was known throughout the land and only one person ever could hope to best him in a joust. His cousin Ragnar was strong willed, ambitious and a long time rival in tournaments it was often the highlight of a tournament when the Prince and his cousin faced against each other."
Ragnar appeared in the joust, his brown hair and tanned face in front of a purple banner with a purple shield, two lances across it. Morglin lifted up his visor, his face darker back then, and the contestants bowed as they prepared for the duel ahead. What followed was a joust that was rather too competitive for comfort, again and again they went at each other, landing blows that ringed around the stadium but eventually, the red knight landed a blow that was just powerful enough to knock Ragnar to the floor to huge cheers from the crowd. Dismounting, Ironfist held his arms aloft to acknowledge the cheers as friends came to surround him. Friends the children recognised from court portraits or court visits, the worried looking Ambrose, young Arturius handsome face disfigured by a scar on his left cheek, Dimitri in his red coat wearing the expensive earring and the goatee wearing Sir Gallant. There were many people the children and Isolade did not recognise, but one caught the eye, a red haired woman of enchanting beauty, her emerald green eyes entrapping any male watcher as she congratulated the victor by a rather passionate kiss.
This time it was Morglin that spoke as the image paused at a banquet, a sad edge to his voice as he remembered elements of the past. "I was young and foolish; I believed the throne was to be mine by right! I spent my time jousting, drinking and fooling around with my friends and my fiancée Ewine. Her connections to some of the most important families in the kingdom made her a political catch but I was entranced by her, she laughed at my jokes, seeing the jealousy in other people's eyes always cheered me up, she was beautiful and she was as a mistress to me. Ragnar had used the jousts to win fame and regard, we both did but while I frittered it away on drink and Ewine, Ragnar cultivated the support of the local barons and the head of the important organisations in the city for his uncle. For my wasteful youth and childish infatuation, I lost the crown, to avoid such losses is why I try to steer both of you away from such vices my dear Ronald and my dear Archibald."
Isolade was glaring with undisguised anger at Ewine though Morglin was unsure if it was anger over Ewine's former hold on him or Isolade's protective instincts making her angry for hurting her husband. She wasn't the only one angry at Morglin's former lover; Lyonet seemed rather displeased at the attention her friends were showing the other lady. Morglin shut his eyes, he knew what they were about to see, for awhile his dreams had been haunted by the events, even now he could still see everything clearly in his mind, hear everything as it had sounded back then.
It had been an excellent few days of hunting and now he was heading home, tonight he would be in Ewine's arms; tomorrow he would see his father the King. The road was quiet and he had got used to the sounds of the hooves behind him from his courtiers horses, so he was surprised when he heard the sound of someone galloping at full speed from his left. Reigning in his horse, Morglin waited to see who was in such a rush, in a few seconds he saw a familiar face. Lord Haart, blond hair reaching behind his shoulders, his noble face showing signs of concern, his red cloak wrapped around his grey shirt, Haart's piercing blue eyes settling quickly Morglin, panting out the news.
"Your majesty, the King has been killed in a coup by your uncle. The guards managed to kill the usurper but were defeated by Ragnar. The throne has passed onto your cousin and the capital is under his complete control."
Morglin was shocked, his father was far from young but the death hurt, the King had been indulgent of his son and had been a hands on father, Morglin was already beginning to miss him. Part of him wanted to cry, another wanted to rage against the usurpation but he suppressed his feelings, he had to ensure his own survival. He knew Haart could be trusted, the man had served his father loyally and his dedication to the Imperial Family was well known. "Haart, who in the capital remains loyal to me or to the memory of my father?"
Haart shook his head "There are Barons who will rise up if you ask but Ragnar has quickly eliminated those in the capital who could be trusted. My lord should not despair, Ragnar will wish to be seen as a merciful king who will accept the loyalty of any, if you act in the right way you can stay alive and await events. Or you may gamble that enough Barons will support you in time but I fear what forces we could raise ourselves would not last long enough to gain reinforcements." Morglin was silent for a few moments before tilting his head back. "Inform my friends of the news and urge them to go home for the night. We will see tomorrow who will stand by me Haart in my time of trouble, to those that are as loyal as you, they I will always cherish but I will need you to guide me."
As Haart bowed and left to follow his instructions, Morglin shook his head and blinked away tears that threatened to overwhelm him. He could not afford to cry now, he had to appear strong for the next few days, when he had more time to himself away from those who could overhear, only then he could cry. Spurring on his brown warhorse, Maisie, he watched as some of his friends chose interesting detours to their homes rather than be seen entering the city with him. Once he reached the gates of the capital, with the sun already going down, only Haart remained with him. At the gates a group of Ragnar's personal guards were waiting. At the head of the welcoming party was the court wizard, old Guthbert, his once red robes now changed to green but his long beard and portly figure were still the same. Ironfist didn't like the smirk in the old magic users face though the bow and tone were humble enough. "Prince Ironfist, his Majesty has been awaiting your return anxiously, he had feared you might have run into trouble. It is late and you should rest in the palace so you will be fresh for your audience tomorrow. Lord Haart, you best return home, if the Prince wishes then come to the Palace tomorrow."
Ironfist could recognise an order well enough and he suspected Guthbert was enjoying his moment in the sun. The Mages had never been an important factor in court and being a court wizard was something of a joke, the Prince suspected Ragnar had promised to make it into a position of influence. He was silent as he was escorted home, noting the little changes, the flags, the colours of the guards uniforms, a few posters showing the new King's face and a general stillness in the usually bustling streets. Without a word, he dismounted on reaching the stables and followed the wizard to his old room. As soon as Ironfist was inside, he heard the door be closed and locked behind him, leaving the prince in a room that was emptier then it had been a week ago. Someone had left his night clothes out, some wine and some bread for him so he got changed and began to eat; certainly his room had been stripped off its valuables. A sign of hi sfuture fate or just pillaging from former servants? No point wondering, there was nothing he could do now but sleep till the morning.
He had a good deep sleep and felt refreshed when he woke, till he opened his eyes and saw the room; he thought it had been a horrible dream. As soon as he got out of bed, a servant silently came in and put down another small meal then his court robes that signalled him as a royal prince, red as always. One had prepared himself, taking good care to ensure his moustache was neat and tidy, Ironfirst knocked on the door, ready to face whatever his dear cousin had in store for him.