Xeron's legacy may have begun the Reckoning, and many perished that day. One of the greats was lost, alongside his wife, Catherine. Roland Ironfist had a celebrated history of victorious campaigns in his homeland of Enroth, beginning with the Succession Wars. He fought his own brother, the corrupted Necromancer Archibald, for control of their father's kingdom, eventually sealing his brother away in cursed stone. Ironfist was known as a benevolent and compassionate ruler and a brilliant tactician, though he abandoned his son and his country for a great span of time.
Tales of horror still spread from the mouths of the descendants of Enroth here in Axeoth. They are tales concerning the disappearance of their king, when the Kreegans arrived on earth in a shower of shooting stars. Their invasion was well-planned, and Ironfist sought to protect the world they sought to destroy. He was captured and held prisoner, subject to torture for years until rescued.
There was no rest – he returned to Catherine, then in Erathia, but the royal couple could not leave Enroth, for Lucifer Kreegan had begun his quest for Armageddon's Blade. Perhaps Ironfist's actions and life has become legendary here in Axeoth, held aloft as one of the greatest kings who ever lived, but there are those who believe he was something much simpler – a man willing to do anything to protect the world he loved.
Sometimes Roland's life seemed like a series of nightmares – first, his murdering brother Archibald had haunted him, then the Kreegans had haunted him, then the destruction of Eeoful had haunted him – would there ever be a time when he was without the pain and sorrow of the past?
The Kreegans had tortured him for years in their cells – at first, they had burned and cut him, his skin sparkling with tiny red lacerations, stretching his physical limits; then, they had tempted him with alluring women who looked like Catherine but were truly only succubi; then, they had entered his mind, worked their obscene magics, forced him to see horrors that were not there, feel pain that was not real… and never once did he break and speak a word of Enroth or those dearest to him.
Outwardly, he was a king and a warrior, but on the inside – a side his subjects could never see – he was screaming.
Catherine had been a suggestion, an arranged marriage made by her father not long after he ascended the Enrothian throne – Roland could not refuse the tactical advantage, but he had never realised how much he would come to love the brazen, proud woman who was his other half.
"If you want a griffin, Catherine, you can have a bloody griffin – I just don't think they are particularly suitable mounts, that's all!"
He had become king of Enroth solely to protect his father's people from Archibald's malevolence – when he ascended the throne, he knew everything about being a good commander, but found that his skills did not automatically translate to being a good king.
Archibald had nearly killed him more than once before and during the Succession Wars; Roland could only wonder how he and his brother had taken such different walks in life when they were both the sons of a good man.
There was a full moon the night of his wedding and the night his son was born; ever since then the lunar brilliance held special meaning for him, though he knew he would never see the moon here in the dungeons of Eeoful.
There was a pattern to Catherine's mood swings; at first, he had difficulty navigating and deciphering the difference between her anger from boredom, her anger from frustration, and her actual anger, but eventually he did figure it out and even found a solution – one that allowed her to visit Enrothian troops whenever she desired.
He was a skinny boy with stringy hair when he was young – many had never considered he would one day be king.
Roland loved the sea; when he was boy, he had searched out haunts along the beach, an activity he now sometimes indulged in for nostalgia's sake.
The succubus looked at him, her white teeth sparkling behind red-gold lips as she pulled him towards her, a split-image of Catherine save for her searing touch.
King Gryphonheart had not chosen an heir when Catherine married and became Queen of Enroth, but after his death and the Restoration War, Roland suddenly found himself king of two countries since his rescue from the Kreegan lair.
Nicolai's first gift to him was a smooth, shiny rock he had found when playing by the river – Roland kept it with him, even in his demonic prison.
If he had Archibald's skills, if he had studied with the wizards or the warlocks, learned their lore and practiced magic, would he have been able to resist capture by the Kreegans?
Catherine had left her battle armour in their chamber again, and it was beginning to smell.
As their marriage had been a political function, he had never officially proposed to her; so, one evening, long after their wedding, he got on one knee, took her hand and spoke the words no man had ever said to her – and Catherine howled with laughter.
No cry of joy, no amount of tears could express the twin feelings in their hearts when he returned – broken, maimed, but alive – to her and felt her arms around him again.
The first time he met Gelu was at the conclusion of the Restoration Ear when Catherine awarded him with he Erathian Medal of Gallantry – he knew in that moment that the young ranger would go far, but no one could know how far.
The peculiarity about Catherine was how soft her hands were; he always expected her to be as coarse as her profession, but there were small details about her that caught him pleasantly off-guard.
"I… have… no… words… for you!" he spat, ignoring the blinding pain and sending biting defiance towards his captor.
The Erathian War with Eeoful was his second campaign against the Kreegans; half of him prayed that he would not fall into their clutches again, while the other half seethed with a murderous desire to harm them as they had harmed him.
When he finally boarded the ship to return to Enroth, he could not believe that after years of captivity and two devastating wars he would finally breathe the air of his homeland again.
Roland could not believe in perfection, but even so he was glad to hear King Gryphonheart of Erathia held him in such high esteem.
When he held Catherine in his arms upon their return to Castle Ironfist, he almost felt healed.
Gryphonheart sent him a portrait of his daughter and Roland knew she was beautiful – what he didn't know was the amount of steel and stubbornness that came with her beauty.
"I had lost hope until they found you," Catherine murmured in his ear as they sat together on the steps of the still-ruined Steadwick Castle.
Open ship battles on the lake provided Roland with an interesting tactic – Kreegans particularly disliked becoming mounds of hissing, wet demon flesh when knocked overboard.
Even when he had returned to Enroth, the fumes of Eeoful's destruction still seemed to follow him.
His first challenge had taught him a valued economic lesson later drawn on during the wars in Erathia – paltry nobles and self-indulgent warlords can always be bribed.
He did not see Kreegans the way others did: to him, they were far more than demons – their malice and thirst for power were much close to human needs than others would admit – however, even if that made them more understandable, he would still willingly kill them.
He had tried so desperately to stop the Succession War, but Archibald was relentless in his thirst for bloodshed – since then, Roland mistrusted familial relations, even as he loved his own.
Smoke rose from the barren wasteland that had previously been Kreelah as Gelu strode forward – alone and carrying the shimmering Armageddon's Blade.
Historians spoke of his victory over his brother as if it had been a contest and Enroth was the award – it aggravated him more than he could express.
Though Gelu had cast the final spell which destroyed the Kreegans, Roland had killed his fair share of them – they all had the blood of a race on their hands for the final events of Kreelah.
Roland's strategies suited him: he planned and organised well, taking one event at a time while consulting the broader image – unlike Gelu, who struck fast and hard and became impossible to target, but worked with such few numbers he could easily be overwhelmed.
Catherine tossed the fruit at him and he shook his head, wondering how the royal couple could get into a food fight, of all things – they were worse than children.
There were times when he feared he had submitted to the succubus and his mind simply refused to remember – how else did half-demons such as Xeron come into existence?
He had been born royal, but he always questioned whether he was fit to rule; though some said such thoughts were a sign he was.
In the later days of their marriage, he could have sworn his wife was leaving her armour out to annoy him – and so, he added his to the pile.
As frightening as the nightmares were, they never left him, and they were as much a part of him now as his name and title – they made him who he was.
Nicolai had been a curious child; Roland wishes he had spent more time with him before his capture, but now it was too late – his child had grown into adulthood without his father.
Roland and Catherine were in the courtroom of Castle Ironfist when the earthquake shook down the walls and the sky burst with red and white – the world ended, and there was nothing they could do to prevent it.
"We could pretend that the sky won't burst into flame, that Erathia will recover, that the Kreegans are merely figments of our childhood imaginations – but that will not change what Lucifer Kreegan plans to do with Armageddon's Blade."
Catherine once cut her hair short to make it more manageable in combat – once she became Queen of Enroth, he requested she grow it out again, and it stayed that way.
His wife had such a forceful presence that if she had been killed on her campaign to Eeoful, he would have felt her passing in the very nature of the world.
The glowing succubus smiled as she traced the contours of his face, casually slicing the skin and burning it closed.
The image of his son was one he would never forget – even if he died in Eeoful, he would at least have the knowledge that he tried to make the world a better place for Nicolai.
The fate of the world depended on the small trio comprised of himself, Catherine and Gelu – it was nothing out of the ordinary, he reminded himself, it was just a mission, same as any other.
Roland Ironfist would do anything for his wife, his son and his country, no matter what the cost – and he would rather give up his title of king than surrender the capability of protecting those he loved.
How differently our settlement in Axeoth would have been had Roland and Catherine escaped Enroth! But to wish is only to dream. There is much that has been lost to history, but there the hope of remembrances still remain. Myth and legends, while exaggerated to become larger than life, contain parts of the truth. Perhaps if we consider them, the times of Erathia and Enroth, the times of the Restoration and Armageddon's Blade, will not be forgotten.
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