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Keventhrios Nastnal and Baraden Hellmane

No country is more divided than the nation of Dargaleck. With its rolling hills, vast scrub-lands and rocky deserts, Dargaleck is a demanding land filled with hardy people. Each city has its own culture and traditions. Every city is ruled over and protected by a powerful individual colloquially known as a “Duke.” Despite their title, the Dukes of Dargaleck very rarely claim to rule by royal mandate. Instead, they are de facto rulers who come into power by gaining the loyalty and respect of the city council through military, magical or economic prowess.

Because only a small percentage of the land is capable of growing crops or supporting livestock, those few arable fields are hotly contested by the city-states of Dargaleck and their various Dukes. For most of the region’s history, these conflicts were limited to isolated battles and skirmishes; however, a few years ago much of Dargaleck was attacked by a warlord called Duke Helris.

Duke Helris ascended to the dukedom of Xzi in 96 AH. By 98 AH, Helris had united the quarrelling Xzi tribes through a mixture of military conquest and intimidation tactics. Using the combined might of the tribes, he launched a devastating assault against the city of Nystal. It was there that Helris suffered his first defeat at the hand of the Duke of Dawn.

The Duke of Dawn, also known as Keventhrios Nastnal, was the ruler of Nystal. He was the latest in a long line of Dukes who had supposedly passed the title down from father to son since the founding of Nystal. The title is most likely linked to a popular saying in Nystal: “The Nastnals have ruled since the dawn of time, and shall rule until the twilight of the world.” The saying is not all hyperbole; Nystal is one of the oldest cities of Dargaleck and there is no record of anyone but Nastnals running it.

Even considering his prestigious lineage, Keventhrios is one of the best rulers that Nystal has ever seen. He is a skilled warrior, a talented diplomat and an unparalleled leader. His specialty is mounted combat and his personal guards are said to be the finest heavy cavalry in Terah. When Duke Helris attacked Nystal, Keventhrios and his dragoons rode deep into enemy lines and destroyed half a dozen of Helris’s war automatons. The charge was so ferocious that most of the chieftains who marched with Helris sounded the retreat, contrary to his direct orders.

Although many of the chieftains broke their allegiance with him as a result of the battle, Duke Helris did not let the defeat at Nystal halt his advance. He enlisted the aid of the Colzars—who had long chafed under the rule of Yirolln—and then renewed the assault on two fronts by attacking Nystal and a second city, Lylan, which lay to the south. Keventhrios was once again able to repel the invaders, but could not prevent Lyan from falling into Duke Helris’ hands. Concerned that Helris would cut off Nystal from the rest of Dargaleck, Keventhrios had no choice but to request aid.

Baraden Hellmane, the leader of a Rhidayan mercenary company, answered the call to arms. Baraden was originally a colonel in the Rhidayan military, but his love of adventure lead him to give up the post. He founded the Hellstriders in 87 AH and quickly forged them into the most elite mercenary company in Terah. The company itself consisted of only about 1,000 regulars, but Baraden’s Hellstriders had a reputation for trouncing military forces nine or ten times their size. Part of their success lay in the rigorous training which every member underwent, but what really made the Hellstriders a force to be reckoned with was Baraden Hellmane’s masterful grasp of strategy and tactics. Nowhere was Baraden’s genius more apparent than in the retaking of Lylan.

In spring of 101 AH, Keventhrios marched out of Nystal and made for the heart of Xzi territory. Helris’s scouts reported that the Duke of Dawn had left Nystal undefended, and he hurriedly sent a portion of his force north to snatch the helpless city right from under their noses. Baraden ambushed the column on their way to Nystal, captured their war machines, and immediately turned them against Lylan’s occupiers.

Besieged by the Hellstriders and thinking that Keven thrios was poised to strike at the heart of his stronghold, Helris decided to ride out against Baraden’s force in the hopes that a quick, decisive victory would give him time to capture Nystal and cut off the Duke of Dawn’s attacking force. He attacked Baraden’s encampment in the early morning, only to realize that Baraden had prepared the field with countless deadly traps during the night. The mines, tripwires and pitfalls devastated Helris’s vanguard, but Helris—confident in the superior numbers of the Xzi—pressed the attack. Just as the battle was turning against the Hellstriders, Keventhrios and his elite cavalry appeared from behind and hit Helris’s flank. Realizing that even if he achieved victory it would come at a heavy cost, Helris sounded the retreat and left Lylan to be retaken by Baraden and Keventhrios. Through a few acts of misdirection, Baraden and Keventhrios had defeated the largest army in Dargaleck with minimal losses.

The people of Lylan immediately bestowed the recently vacated title of Duke to Baraden, and Baraden and Keventhrios have stood together since then in defending Dargaleck from Duke Helris. Although the war is currently locked in a stalemate, Baraden and Keventhrios frequently work together to counter Helris’s overwhelming assaults on surrounding city-states. Baraden’s supreme ability as a strategist combined with Keventhrios’s charisma and leadership skills makes them both major players in national politics, so much so that they are known far and wide as “The Dukes of Dawn and Dusk.”