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Scelt is a Territory in turmoil and peace is tenuously held together by the Sceltic Queens. Rivalry between the Clans errupted into horror for the Territory that resulted in many dead, on both sides, and culimated in Clan Sheane being outlawed in the Territory. Further troubles plague the Territory in a variety of manners - Landen villages are raided, Courts are attacked, and no one seems to be safe.
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Author Topic: War Games  (Read 743 times)

Description: attn. Fin, Eamonn, Raild & Court | Selections for Master of the Guard

Offline Loreniel Killan

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War Games
« on: Jan 16, 17, 07:14:46 AM »





Face courtesy of Dash

There had been too many good candidates for Master of the Guard. At least that was the conclusion that Kean Devlin and Loreniel Killan had come to when they had begun to review their notes around potential candidates. There were many who had come forward after Loreniel had declared her interest in interviewing for the position (and for the position of stand in First Escort).

They'd spent hours pouring over the list of candidates and debating the positives and negatives of each individual. Each of the candidates had strong merits in their favor. Eamonn's experience as Master of the Guard for the Court of Denford was a strong favor for him, though it was balanced by the stigma of the Sheane name he still bore. Finley's experience as the second in command to Rorie for all those years was a very strong favor for him, but his tactics weren't advanced. Drostan was a loyal and bonded male but had withdrawn into his own shell following the death of Brighe Devlin. Quinn's strength and unquestioning loyalty were key considerations for Kean, but she was painfully awkward in social circumstances that would be required of the Master of the Guard to attend.

Kean had considered a number of his other siblings as well, independantly of Loreniel. The Devlin Clan, with the exception of the black sheep Brennan, had served the Queen well all these years. He knew that a number of his brothers could do well at the position, but would not consider opposing Finley's natural consideration for the role. Cillian and Faolan had both made it on Keans extended list of considerations. Along with a few of Loreniel's Killan cousins who had served the Queen well.

A forced halt to the proceedings of determining the Master of the Guard, due to the attack on Loreniel by Brighe Devlin, had held up their decision making for a time. When they had finally begun reviewing their options again, back at the Killan Estates, the decision was no easier. Each of their choices had stepped up to help a tremendous amount during the incident in Tuathal and proved to be loyal and trusting to a fault.

Upon the return to the Killan Estates it was clear to Kean that a Master of the Guard was not a luxury but a necessity for the Queen. They could not stall the decision making process any further, but a decision was not easily at hand.

"What if we tested them?" Loreniel had asked during one of their meetings. The Queen was wrapped in a thick tartan and her legs tucked beneath her on the couch in Kean's office. The fire provided a warmth and an additional source of light to the fading light of a winter's afternoon. She looked young in this light and particularly vulnerable after the latest attack against the Queen. Kean knew the toll that Brighe's death had taken, not only on Loreniel but the majority of her Court had felt the death keenly. Brighe had been well loved and cherished not only by her siblings and Clan Devlin, but by the extended Court as a whole.

"You would invite all the candidates to participate in this test?" The idea had merit in it's theory but Kean would be more comfortable paring the list down between them first.

Master of the Guard was not typically a Court role that was meant to be won. Competitions like the Highland Games earned prestige and awards for various Clans, but they had never been used to determine a candidate for such a position before.

"No, not all, but I think it's easier to select a group of finalists than it would be to agree on a single candidate." Lore told him. "I don't mean for this to be like the Highland Games." Kean felt a shiver up his spine as she practically read his thoughts. Could she have read his thoughts? Black Widows had mysterious powers at their fingertips, but Kean reminded himself that this was Loreniel. "We could tailor the tests to ensure that they could show strength in the areas we deem the most important for the role."

Kean had to admit that Loreniel had a good idea even if it left him uncomfortable. Giving a selection of candidates a chance to prove themselves for the role seemed the most sensible way to progress when so many of the candidates were so evenly matched.

























Offline Loreniel Killan

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Re: War Games
« Reply #1 on: Jan 16, 17, 09:08:15 AM »
It took hours for the Queen and Stewart to map out what would be an appropriate test scenario for the role. It was a set of War Games that would pit four finalists against one another to test their ability to command and marshal troops against each other. To ensure that there was an equal playing ground they had established several rounds of the games to test strategies on being the attacker and the defender.

"To make it even we need to exclude the use of Jewels." Kean had suggested.

"We already know their strengths and how it would apply to the job. I don't require a Dark Jewel to serve the role, but someone who can be trusted with overseeing the safety of the Court and of me." Lore agreed with Kean. Fin's Summer Sky might be seen as a detriment to his eligibility for the role compared to the other Jewels he might compete against, but Lore valued his loyalty and experience more than his Jewel. She knew just how dangerous his Summer Sky could be when he applied himself and his skill sets.

They agreed that to test the leadership and tactical capabilities of the candidates that they would each be supplied with a balanced group of guards from Lore's court. And that they would make an effort to find an equal balance in rankings of Jewels and experience.

Though their personal Jewels would not be a part of the equation for the exercise they would still have the skills, and strength, of the guards trusted to their care.

"We could simply base this on simple wins and losses in a bracket, but I think in doing so we could miss out on critical skills employed in the process. I think that whether they lose or win is key but I also want to find a way to rank them on their performance as well." Loreniel told Kean and began to draft a set of criteria that she wanted to see them ranked on. They agreed that those excluded from the exercise might be best placed to offer their opinions.

It took several days for them to hash out the specifics but once they had agreed on all the criteria to be tested, the format through which they would test the candidates, and the scenario that would be given to them, they were faced with the most difficult task yet - determining the final four candidates for Master of the Guard.

"Are you sure?" Kean questioned Lore a final time as they looked down at the list of the names.

Eamonn Sheane.
Arran Killan.
Finley Devlin.
Raild Falkirk.

Each brought a unique perspective and skill to the War Games, and each would make a fine Master of the Guard. Two were males Bound to Loreniel by the Darkness, Eamonn and Raild, but the inclusion of Finley and Arran were nods to their individual skills and the continued support from Clans Devlin and Killan to Loreniel's rule.

There were a half dozen others who had been excluded and it had been hard to remove them from the running. Drostan Kerr, a bound and loyal Warlord Prince, had descended into heavy bereavement following Brighe's death. Likewise Riordan Doyle had taken the hearth witch's death hard, since it had been at his hand, and Kean had deemed that Riordan wasn't ready yet for the role. Quinn Higgins, though powerful, wasn't capable of fulfilling the social role that was required of Master of the Guard, though Kean had argued that such skills could be learned on the job. Loreniel didn't want to push Quinn too far before she was ready. Toag, Boisil and Gavin were all dear to Loreniel as well but Kean had ranked the skills of the four candidates marginally above them. And where the candidates (minus Eamonn) had strong Clan relationships to support their cause, these men did not.

A second set of names detailed who would be judging the event.

Kean Devlin.
Quinn Higgins.
Toag Dunning.
Rorie Doyle.
Gavin Skye.
Loreniel Killan.

Kean had written a request to have Rorie Doyle, the former Master of the Guard, attend the proceedings to help determine who his predecessor would be for the role. Where they might have involved Drostan or Riordan in such an event they opted to give both men the space they needed at a difficult time.

Kean had questioned whether it was advisable to employ him as one of the judges, given that his brother Finley was one of the selected finalists. Loreniel had insisted that it was appropriate and that everyone knew Kean to be a remarkably impartial judge of character. Fin would win the role as Master of the Guard on his own merits, and not because of his brother or childhood friend (Rorie) being included on the judging panel.

At the end of a particularly exhausting planning session Lore and Kean completed the long planning, and decision making, process. They were ready to announce the event, invite the finalists to participate, and provide their judgement on the proceedings.

























Offline Loreniel Killan

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Re: War Games
« Reply #2 on: Jan 16, 17, 11:35:10 AM »
There had been a veritable army of helpers on hand for the past few days to help clear out belongings from Castle Loch, where the Devlin family maintained their residence while at Court. Though the Castle was still owned by the Killan Queens they had long ago gifted the residence to the Devlins who served Court as a reward for their endless service to the Killan Queens. And for all their sacrifices.

Kean had insisted that Castle Loch was the best place to conduct the games. Though Loreniel had argued that moving his family out of the Castle for over a week would be disruptive especially since they were all still mourning the loss of their sister, Kean was insistent. He argued that they needed to be in the Killan Estates anyways and be surrounded by loved ones, instead of being left to their own isolation at Castle Loch. Rather than argue the point further with Kean she had conceded to his decision to use Castle Loch to stage the War Games.

First it had been emptied and then the entire structure had been layered in protection spells from Quinn's Ebon Gray, to ensure that it wouldn't be permanently damaged during the siege and defense of the War Games.

A week ago they had held a gathering in the Great Hall to announce the finalists for Master of the Guard. And to explain the circumstances around the War Games that Loreniel and Kean had devised. They'd celebrated the success of the finalists for the role. The Court celebrated in a more subdued manner than usual; the ale didn't run dry for once and most of the Court had sought their beds before the midnight hour. It was a reflection of the period of mourning they were all enduring at the loss of Brighe Devlin.

The candidates had a whole week to prepare their strategies, time to study Castle Loch, and to work with their assigned guard groups. Each would be given an opportunity to be the Attacker and the Defender in the War Games. Each engagement ought to end with a winner but Lore did caution that they could reach a draw in the right circumstances; in which case the winner would be determined by the judges. The judges, in turn, would rank each of the "Generals" on their tactics, skills, cleverness, efficiency and effectiveness throughout their engagements. Loreniel and Kean would review the rankings from the Judges and the outcomes of each of the fights before making a final decision; though both were in agreement that the "General" with the winning-est record would be their likely choice for the role unless the scoring was drastically disproportionate.

The morning of the event had arrived and the Judges had been given seats at the top of a temporary structure that had been built into the lake around the Keep. It had several telescopes mounted on the wooden railings and each of the judges were given paper and pen to record their findings. Behind them was a tally board that had been created showing the matches for the day and allowing room for the Judges to set a score in each of the categories for each "General". The work to create the entire setup had been undertaken by Sorcha Tiernay, who had served as Brighe's second hand when she had been Housekeeper. And whom had picked up the role of defacto Housekeeper, though Loreniel had been unable to bring herself to officially bestow it upon Sorcha. Sorcha and a crew of maids and footmen were on hand to help re-set Castle Loch between each of the matches.

The matches had been drawn at random, and a schedule set:

Match 1: Eamonn Attacking against Raild Defending
Match 2: Arran Attacking against Finley Defending
Match 3: Finley Attacking against Eamonn Defending
Match 4: Raild Attacking against Arran Defending

"Good morning and welcome to the War Games!" Loreniel announced from atop the platform. There was another built nearby that allowed for spectators, and it seemed that all those in the Court who were not on duty had come to watch the festivities.

"We have a great group of competitors vying for this position." A cheer went up from the neighboring tower and Loreniel smiled to see so many of her Court in good spirits, especially following the tragic events in Tuathal. "Eamonn Sheane. Raild Falkirk. Arran Killan. And Finley Devlin!" The men had been given a staging site nearby to prepare their guards for the excercise. Raild was already setup inside Castle Loch, being given an hour to establish the defenses before Eamonn would be called forth to begin his assault.

"First up we have Eamonn Sheane attacking and Raild Falkirk defending!" Lore announced.

The first round was a tight match between the experienced Eamonn and the Blade Master Raild. In the end Eamonn's guards broke through the defenses using an interesting interpretation and variation of a book standard strategy. Kean had been particularly impressed with the ingenuity from the Sheane, and the scores favored Eamonn's tactics heavily.

Eamonn Sheane was declared the winner; with both the outcome and points in his favor.

The maids diligently cleared any debris and webs from Castle Loch in record time to allow Arran a chance to setup

"Second up we have Arran Killan attacking and Finley Devlin defending!"

The second round proved particularly interesting. Though Arran had not grown up in Daveil's Court like Finley there was a closeness between the Killans and Devlins, and a friendship between the two. It seemed that they both could anticipate the actions of the other, based on their similar training and personal knowledge. The boys had likely played chess together one too many times as a child. Arran was taken by surprise when Finley launched a counter attack with a small segment of his Guards, pushing Arran further away from Castle Loch and marking a large portion of his guards as "dead" in terms of the War Games. Arran's forced retreat ensured he lost tremendous ground in the fight and then Finley proceeded to defeat the attackers with some beautifully executed tactics that could only be described as "by the book".

Finley Devlin was declared the winner; though Arran had challenged him heavily on points he had lost a significant amount due to the number of guards who had died under his charge.

"We'll have a break for lunch," Which Sorcha had provided and was being carried to the top of the two towers. "And this afternoon the Games will continue. We'll first see Raild attacking against Arran defending, and then Eamonn attacking against Finley defending." Lore announced.

The remaining two Games would provide an outcome decided either by a winning record or by points collected between the two Games. In glancing at the board Eamonn Sheane was marginally in the lead over Finley Devlin for points, but neither Arran or Raild could be counted out just yet.

By the end of the day Loreniel Killan would have a new Master of the Guard.

























Offline Loreniel Killan

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Re: War Games
« Reply #3 on: Jul 17, 18, 02:05:48 PM »
The thrill of the event had lifted the spirits of the Court and the invited guests. The Queen's Banner Clans had gathered in full force to support their candidate for Master of the Guard; the Towers were awash in the colors of Clan Killan, Clan Devlin and Clan Falkirk. Members of the Court and other invited Clan guests showed support to their favored candidates as well. The light-hearted nature of the serious event and outcome had brought a sense of joy and even jubilation to the spectators and this pleased Loreniel.

There had been little opportunity during the years of her reign to hold events of pleasure and comradery, so when given the opportunity she was fast to act.

Lore also saw the event as a strong opportunity for the four candidates to increase their profile within the Court and among the allied Clans. The Highland Games served a similar purpose but for the wider Territory. Her Court and close allies had spent the last few years living on the edge of something and expecting the worst; the lives they led were challenging and full of too much tragedy. And when given the chance to bring just a small amount of joy and pleasure to them, Loreniel was only happy to make the arrangements and deliver. In many ways that meant that the War Games were about more than just finding a new Master of the Guard. And it meant that though there were subtle and mild rivalries being played out between the spectators, they would all cheer for the winner once selected.

Kean had finished tallying the scores presented by the various judges they had selected; ranging from Rorie Doyle (the outgoing Master of the Guard) to Toag Dunning or Quinn Higgins. It represented a variety of talented individuals within her First Circle and who's opinion she explicitly trusted without question or doubt. Several had been under consideration for the role of Master of the Guard, but were overlooked for a variety of reasons. None of which would disqualify them from a vaulted position as judge, or within her trusted First Circle.

"The standings!" Kean's voice carried on the wind and assisted by a touch of craft from his Birthright Opal, that resonated within the abyss, a soft thrum of power that called to Loreniel's own Birthright Opal.

Movement within the Castle, preparations being made by Eamonn for the next round, ceased after a moment and heads began to pop above the wall to listen intently to understand what the rankings were. Loreniel thought she caught a glimpse of Eamonn along the far side of the wall, but when she glanced again the figure was gone. One of the judges would be relaying the news direct to Eamonn and Finley, who were already in the field, to ensure that they heard the results as well.

"After the first two rounds of the War Games, the standards are:" Kean paused for a moment of dramatic effect.

Lore watched as an ingenious member of the Court used craft to display the standings on the white sheet covering the front of the makeshift Tower that had been built to hold the spectators. At the end of Kean's announcements it read:
Eamonn Sheane
Finley Devlin
Arran Killan
Raild Falkirk

The loudest cheers were received by Finley and Arran, who had the largest group of supporters from their respective Clans present. The Falkirks, not to be outdone by the larger Clans, made up for their numbers with a boisterous roar. And the amount of the Court who had chosen to support Eamonn Sheane seemed to come as a surprise to all, even those who had chosen him to support. Certainly the cheer for him had grown louder since the first round and his dominant performance.

"The rankings are remarkably close." Kean informed the crowd. "Which means that this remains anyone's game to win."

Kean signaled to Lore that it was her turn to speak again and she stood, swiftly replacing him at the front of their Tower. She waved at the crowd and received a warm cheer from those gathered. It seemed that the Queen still maintained some fans in the Territory, regardless of what the papers from Tuathal claimed.

"Our final matches of the tournament will be as follows!" She raised her voice with the support of the Birthright Opal she wore. "The third match will see Finley Devlin attacking as Eamonn Sheane defends the Castle!"

A loud cheer of "Fin-ley! Fin-ley!" started from deep within Clan Devlin's gathering. And a soft cheer went up from the smaller group who had started to back Eamonn after the first round of the War Games.

"The fourth, and final, match will see Raild Falkirk attacking as Arran Killan defends the Castle." The cheers from both camps, of Falkirks and Killans, competed in volume.

The cheers died down and Kean confirmed that both Eamonn and Finley were ready; Lore would have done it herself if she didn't struggle with direct communication using craft. Luckily those closest to her were aware of her struggle and helped to fill in the gaps so others wouldn't notice.

The atmosphere was electric with excitement from the gathered Court and Clans. It was reminiscent of the excitement that usually accompanied the Highland Games or Bonfire Night; in short it reminded Loreniel of happier times. It was a salve to her battered morale and that of the Court she held. It was clear by the turnout and enthusiasm that many others shared her desire to celebrate something happy and joyous for the first time in a long time.

"Let the third match commence!" Loreniel's voice carried across the loch and up the slope of the mountain. A touch of whimsy craft, a trick Brogan had taught her many years ago, elicited a loud noise and a bright light to start the third round.

As Loreniel sat back down in the judge's box she leaned close to Kean and commented softly. "This is closer than I would have expected." Eamonn, as a former Master of the Guard, had always been an obvious choice but the true challenge was his lack of support within the Court. The turnout that morning and afternoon seemed to indicate that support was growing for the Prince. "No matter the outcome I'll be blessed to have a talented Master of the Guard." All the men had shown considerable skill and talent during the War Games, and she was glad that they had devised this method to choose a winner rather than being forced to make the choice herself. It would have been easy to simply pick Arran or Finley due to their Clan connections, or to choose Eamonn or Raild due to the Queen's bond. In doing so she would have dismissed viable candidates for a poor reason rather than a true acknowledgement of their raw skill or what other talents they could bring to the table.

"That wasn't by the book." Toag grunted with admiration as Finley's first attack proved promising. Earlier critique of Fin's style had always indicated that the man lacked creativity and ingenuity, and instead relied on a "by the book" approach to strategy. Kean and Loreniel had challenged him to approach the War Games differently and prove he was capable of more than memorizing the book of good tactics.

It was clear, within the first quarter of an hour, that Finley was working very hard to show that he was not limited to his "by the book" tactics. It earned a considerable amount of admiration (and points) from Toag, one of the judges, in particular. He was finally employing his creativity, but it didn't seem to be enough to get through Eamonn's defenses. Eamonn, after all, had also read the book (so to speak) on strategy and tactics. And Eamonn found the weaknesses to exploit, where Finley had relied on old tactics to underpin his new creativity. And this ultimately gave Eamonn Sheane the stronger advantage against Finley.

Still, Fin fought hard and long against Eamonn, forcing the match on far longer than any would have expected. He found chinks in the armor and weaknesses at the joints that Eamonn had not seen to fortify himself going into the match. Despite scoring a few powerful blows against Eamonn there was a definitive winner by the end of the match, and the scores strongly reflected the elongated struggle between the skilled tacticians.

"The winner of the match is Eamonn Sheane!" Lore declared. Surprisingly many wearing Devlin kilts joined in the cheer with the earlier supporters, and it seemed that Eamonn was gaining something of a fan base in the stands.

The maids carefully reset the Castle with a few masons to ensure that no lasting damage had been delivered to the ancient structure. In the meantime, several dancers from various Clans entertained the guests with classic reels, featuring the high leg kicks and still upper body movement that was traditional to Scelt. Kean and Sorcha had done their best to ensure that the day of War Games represented the region at large, and not just their four contestants. It wasn't long before Arran Killan and Raild Falkirk confirmed that they were ready for the next match.

"Our fourth, and final, match will have Raild Falkirk attacking while Arran Killan defends the Castle." Loreniel declared. "Let the match commence!"

"Wait." Quinn said to the other judges in the Tower. "Has he left the drawbridge down?"

Loreniel took a pair of binoculars from Quinn and studied the scene set before her. A bridge provided a path across a portion of the lake to reach the Castle, but a drawbridge had traditionally covered the space where the bridge ended and the Castle began. It was a dangerous approach for an attacking force to head straight up the bridge directly, but with the drawbridge down it made it far more appealing of a tactic.

"He's forcing Falkirk to either continue with the attack plan he's already prepared, or change tactics and head straight to the drawbridge with force." Toag explained after a moment's deliberation, and studying the scene at the Castle. There wouldn't be enough time to raise it if the attackers chose that route, it was ancient and extraordinarily heavy, and neither side could use Craft during the match. "There will be a skirmish but it will force Falkirk to think on the fly. It means that Arran had dictated on what grounds he wants to start the battle". And given that the defender's role was often more reactive than proactive it was an interesting approach.

"Something looks off about the drawbridge." Kean mused, and Loreniel had to agree. Among the judges they were the ones with the deepest knowledge of the Castle, having grown up there. Lore couldn't quite put her finger on it. "But it doesn't seem to be Craft." Kean must've checked with the Red for Lore not to have noticed.

Lore's cousin was a strategist and a chess player. He was broad and brawny like most of the men raised in the Highlands, but his passion was not to simply wave as word with more strength than the next man. No, he was passionate about using the least amount of strength to achieve the most profitable and desirable outcome. By the age of eleven Loreniel had learned to never play the sneaky arse at any competitive games if she wanted to win (and she always wanted to win).

Raild took note of the drawbridge and split his men swiftly. He sent half to complete the original plan and the others he directed at the drawbridge. Quick on his feet, was Raild, and Loreniel took careful note as she awarded him several points for the maneuver.

While Craft had been banned from using during the War Games it could be used during setup (though not to leave lasting spells). Which explained how a dozen strong Highlanders had wound up dunked in the Loch.

Once Raild's men had reached the drawbridge and stormed upon it the entire structure pivoted on a lever, and the side where the men stood dropped as the opposite side rose into the air. Down into the loch went the Highland warriors and they were deemed to be out of the game as a result. Kean's observation on the drawbridge appeared to be correct and somehow, under the nose of all the gathered spectators, Arran and arranged to have it changed out for a trick bridge in the process. The wood looked lighter, though just as weather worn, and she could see that the ropes weren't connected to the Castle, especially now that they had fallen into the loch with Raild's men.

The remaining men continued with the execution of Raild's original plan, and they were met with more force than expected. The ensuing battle was far shorter than the third match between Sheane and Devlin. Raild Falkirk had managed to claw back a good number of points during the ensuing battle but the loss at the start was too great to overcome and Arran Killan eventually claimed the victory. The cleverness of Arran's sabotage and plan had earned him praise from the judges, but points had been given to Raild for his management of the attack and limited the effect of Arran's trickery.

Arran had chosen to apply the tactic against the right opponent; one who had not grown up with him and would already be wise to his tricks and tactics.

While the maids and masons returned to the Castle for the final time, and the participants cleared the field of play, Loreniel and Kean consulted with the other judges to tally the final scores. It was going to be close, Lore thought, as she watched Kean scribbling on a piece of scrap paper to finalize the scores. The four men had impressed the judges, impressed Loreniel and won tremendous support from the gathered crowd. It had been a fantastic event and soon Lore would once more have a Master of the Guard. And Rorie would be free to join the Court of Denford, and the Queen to whom he was now bound.

Would her new Master of the Guard be Eamonn or Arran? It was difficult to tell at that precise moment. Both men had performed beautifully throughout the day and had impressed a panel of skilled and talented individuals.

Kean dismissed the remaining judges to enjoy the festivities below, but Loreniel stayed patiently. "Do you want to see this before the ceremony?" He asked patiently as he folded a paper that held the final tally of results and ranking of candidates. Did she want to see it? A part of her longed to know exactly who would be her Master of the Guard immediately, but it would be lovely to be surprised herself. And knowing who was Master of the Guard would put her in a better position to select an interim First Escort.

"Who is it?" She asked quietly, barely audible above the thrum of activity in the yard below. Kean handed her the paper and she took a deep breath before unfolding it to reveal the ranked names. At the top was the name of her Master of the Guard and it brought a genuine smile to her lips. A decision had been made, and it needed to be delivered.

A small platform had quickly been erected for Loreniel to stand upon with Kean at her side, the only remaining member of her Triangle.   

"Thank you all for joining us today to watch these War Games." Lore addressed the large crowd with a warm smile. "I hope you all enjoyed the display of strategical and tactical prowess that was put on by these phenomenal men!" A rousing cheer went up as the four candidates joined her on the stage. "Master of the Guard is a prestigious role in any Court. We know these men through and through, and know their loyalty." She glanced at Eamonn with that comment very briefly. She'd always known him to be powerfully loyal but those who only knew him as a Sheane had taken longer to convince. She was certain though, by now, that all knew him to be a loyal member of her Court.

"Each of you brought a unique view and talent with you to this consideration and to the War Games." Lore addressed the candidates next. "Watching you all today was a true joy and I wish I could simply declare that I have four Master of the Guards, but then there is that old adage about too many cooks in the kitchen to consider." The comment was met with laughter from the gathered crowd. "We had a panel of judges today scoring your performance on a wide variety of measurable elements, from strategy to counter attacks to raw skill. And I wanted to thank the panel for their support, time and expertise today. Impartial judges are usually so hard to come by." A few hands went up at the front of the crowd from the likes of Toag, Quinn, and Rorie accepting their praise and banter alike.

"I have the final results of our War Games and we have some medals to hand out for all the effort put forth by our candidates." Kean called forth four medals on a velvet cushion and Lore picked up the last in the row - the fourth-place medal.

"In fourth place was Finley Devlin," Fin stepped forward with a deep bow that reflected proper Protocol. Lore returned the curtsey but also hugged the larger man tightly, Protocol be damned. "You've proven to us that 'by the book' is not the only strategies you are capable of employing." She pinned the medal to his chest and stood on her toes to kiss his clean-shaven cheek.

Fin accepted his round of applause and cheers with a stoic expression but she caught him fondly touching the medal as he stepped back into line with the other candidates.

"In third place was Raild Falkirk," She pinned the medal to the chest of her bonded male and smiled with pleasure as he received a rousing cheer from the crowd, the loudest coming from the Falkirk Clan who had joined the festivities. "You put on a great show." She complimented him more softly as he stepped back into line. "And proved you are capable of considerable control."

"The final scores were remarkably close. Both men won critical matches and performed with incredible skill and cleverness throughout the day. Arran Devlin showed his unique flair for tricks and incredibly detailed tactics." Arran waved at the crowd but winked at Lore. "And Eamonn Sheane, who has proven that he can transition the skills learnt as Master of the Guard in another Court to this Court and work within our unique environment." Eamonn also waved to the crowd, but seemed as taken aback as Lore by the amount of support he received in return. It seemed that the Court, and its close Allies, were embracing the Sheane at long last.

"In second place was Arran Devlin," Lore announced to the crowd. Arran paused to shake hands with Eamonn before bowing before his Queen. Once the medal was pinned to his chest he forewent Protocol all together, picked up the smaller woman, and spun her around with a hug that made her laugh and smile. "You were brilliant, but don't expect anyone to be eager to play chess with you now." He tussled her hair to her annoyance and deposited her feet back down to the stage.

Loreniel faced Eamonn, holding the last of the medals, and with a dryness in her mouth that threatened to trip her tongue up over the words she would next speak. This man had been a part of her life for years but she'd hardly had the opportunity to truly acknowledge his role. First Circle had come as a surprise to many, but Lore knew that Eamonn deserved so much more. Perhaps even more than what she could give him in the role of Master of the Guard.

"Eamonn Sheane, will you serve as Master of the Guard in my Court? The Court of Scelt."

























 

 

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