The sun was starting to set to the North, casting an orange glow on the Helvete Munn Mountains in the south. Colonel Niko Krigare, however, was too busy studying maps to take any interest in what was happening outside his study window.
The Harskare and his court had just recently decided to use this castle as their winter retreat and so had ordered Krigare to use his troops as security to accompany the residential servants that were sent on ahead. His main job at the moment was to organise the troops and ensure that they all settled into the new site so as to prevent any mistakes being made once the Harskare and his court were in residence. This meant having every soldier learn his way around like the back of their hand and ordering them to become acquainted with the locals in the town keep in order to get them on their side.
The march down had taken longer than Krigare and his men would have liked due to the need for them to keep a slow, steady pace to ensure that the civilian servants to be able to keep up. That and the constant need for the servants to stop for rest had dragged a three week march into a five week 'stroll' that hadn’t left much time for the troops to patrol the keep's outer perimeters. This meant that when it was suggested they attempt to integrate themselves into the surrounding town his soldiers were more than happy to follow orders to the letter, even further if the mood took them. Many had gone to the local inns to scout out comfier temporary accommodation, tastier food and better looking company than the keep offered. Not that Niko could blame them; the castle's accommodation for the troops was even more sparse and uncomfortable than even he was used to. As the current commanding officer he had the opportunity to claim his own personal accommodation.
Whilst not the most luxurious of the Officer's quarters, after all there were the Generals to think of, it did consist of separate study and sleeping areas. Sparsely decorated the study consisted of a writing desk, chair and planning table with a map of the surrounding area. The bedroom had a small, wooden bed and a wash basin with a small tarnished mirror hanging over it whilst a tatty, moth eaten hanging did its best to keep the two areas separate. With old curtains hung over the windows to try and prevent draughts Niko could not see himself spending too much time in his rooms however, with all the preparations and security measures he had to oversee, it didn't look like this would be too much of a problem.
There were still just over two months to go before the court arrived and Niko predicted that he should have everything in order by that time. With that in mind he took a moment’s pause from poring over the map and turned the chair to face out the window. The main town, Zhin-po-munn, had been built within the keep’s main walls however, over time the population had inevitably grown and so the lower class populace had been forced outside and created their own version of a slum town. They now lived on the edge of society, fearing and abiding by superstitions that they had created to replace the laws that didn't stretch beyond the walls. Many of these superstitions revolved around the ominous Helvete that overlooked the entire area. This mountain range spanned as far as anyone had ever managed to explore and it was even said that they go around and meet up again. Even Niko, brought up in the far reaches of the north, had been told the stories as a child. His grandmother had spoke of the Yenkeni and the Marchios, ancient races long since died out, sworn enemies who were constantly at war. As a child he had listened in awe to the tales of the final battle with the powerful sorcerers on both sides firing deadly spells and conjuring up mystical animals to attack from within the shadows. It was said that the amount of magic being used and the hatred emanating from within it had angered the land itself causing it to raise up and engulf all the sorcerers and all but a handful of the ancients on both sides, thus the creation of the Helvete Munn. Since that time none had dared to cross the dreaded mountains as it was said that the shadow demons were still roaming those lands and that the immortal ancients were still alive, trapped under the mountains, their dangerous magic seeping through the rock.
It had been these stories, told by his grandmother whilst the family was sat around fire, the only source of heat and light in their small hut, which had encouraged Niko to find a way of leaving his small village and finding countless adventures until he had worked his way down to these infamous mountains. He had dreamed of being a great hero standing at the bottom of these mountains, his sword drawn and mighty steed at his side, whilst the villagers begged him not to be foolish. He used to imagine himself laughing and making his way up the mountains, fighting off the magical creatures and seeing images of trapped ancients begging for him to release them, and then he would come out on the other side unscathed to go down in history as the first and only person to ever make it across the Helvete.
Nowadays his mind was a lot less creative, more concerned with the welfare of his soldiers and the strength of their base than with finding this heroic steed or taking on foolhardy missions. He had worked hard in his life to get as far as he had and refused to be swayed by some childish whim.
Niko heard the trumpet blare declaring the change of watch and he headed out to make sure that all was well with his men. Thankfully it had been decided that one of the head chefs in the court needed to be sent ahead in order to oversee the setting up of the kitchens, which meant that everyone was treated to his new meals with him testing out the ingredients that were not found further north. He could already smell tonight’s meal being prepared and promised himself that he’d walk as quickly as possible when doing the check in order to satisfy his hunger with whatever feast awaited them.