King Henry Luisan sat on an unsteady throne for less than three years. The rumblings of war had begun long before his time, had been slowly growing stronger in a land of oppressed peasants, corrupt nobles, and tyrannical rulers. In Havaral's history only one king was praised as being righteous and just and he had been dead for nigh on two centuries. It was no surprise to Henry, then, when his people mistrusted him, his nobles disregarded him, and his own sons came to despise him.

Henry's sons went to war amongst themselves for the right of succession, and the country watched as one after another the brothers fell at the hands of each other. When the news reached him that his last remaining son had been killed in battle, it is said that Henry wept—not for the sons he had lost, but for the country he had failed.

Soon after losing his sons, Henry himself grew ill and was forced to acknowledge that his days left on earth were limited. One early morning the High Council was summoned to the king's bedside to discuss the issue of an heir. Some suggested Henry's half-brother, Gregory, others his wife's brother, George. After several hours of quarrel and dissension Henry ordered them all out save one—his most trusted advisor, the Archbishop of Lofflan, Thomas Dunngeld.

Thomas urged his friend to name a successor, assured him that in doing so he would not have failed his country or his people. Wouldn't he rather a born nobleman be seated on the throne than a vagrant of the people's choosing, Thomas said. But the king was not moved, indeed, he turned his face away from his friend and whispered, "Nothing is hereditary—especially nobility."

And so ended the life of one man, and so began the bloodshed of countless others.

The Hawthorne family had prided itself on offering the royal family wise counsel and protection through many generations, when suddenly it found itself without a king to advise, no royal family to protect. Civil war rampaged through the countryside, reaching even the most remote villages, even catching some of the more tribal settlements up in its vicious tide. The division reached even the Hawthorne's noble hall, for when the eldest son, Lucas, proclaimed his intent to fight for George's right to the throne, the eldest daughter, Valerie, declared she would die fighting for Gregory.

Forgotten was the family crest that hung with honor and glory above the marbled steps and columns of an aristocracy lost in the river of blood running through the streets, and one by one, each member of the distinguished family fell, often at the hands of their own kin. Champions of both sides, the Hawthornes spurred the combat to greater and greater proportions, the blood of many on their hands merely because of their convictions. Good became evil, evil became good; dark and light swirled in the mists together when brother slew brother and all fought for something greater than themselves.

Gregory, though holding a blood-right to the throne by sharing a father with the late king, proved himself to be a tyrant, ruthless and bloodthirsty, craving nothing more than a throne at any expense to his people and the land he would one day hope to rule. George, though related via proxy, was kind-hearted to a fault and promised a land riddled with peace, not war, and prosperity, not poverty. Daily men staked their lives for these two men, and daily those same men lost them on battlefield after battlefield, often fighting amidst the crops they once harvested side-by-side.

The Hawthorne household was in ruin when its final daughter, the youngest of them all, named Cailyn, came of age. Swept up in the turbulence that had marred her childhood, she sought the guidance of a man who had proven so integral before: Thomas Dunngeld. Now landless and penniless as so many of former glory had found themselves, he wept at sight of the young woman, barely the blush of thirteen on her cheeks, as she knelt before him and fervently begged for his counsel. She had no home, no dowry with which to find a new one, and nowhere to turn but to the gods.

"Unless the vessel be willing, no power can work through it, my child," the old man said defeated. "Nobility is more than blood, whatever they tell you, just as strength is more than skill. Open yourself up to the ultimate guidance, and you shall never go wrong."

Finding herself still tossed in the turmoil of her country, Cailyn's quest for truth turned inward, and it was then she learned to trust unearthly wisdom, her path taking her to her eldest brother Lucas' secret stronghold in the far north. Pledging herself to a cause seen as evil, for George, despite his grace was seen as a would-be usurper to the throne, she trained there to fight for the good of her people, a higher good for all. The years trickled by in a mind-numbing routine of bloodshed, betrayal, and banditry on the part of both sides, until the monumental Battle of Sorrell.

Upon the broken ridges of the mountainous region of Sorrell, the fate of Havaral's future was decided. Lucas and Valerie finally met upon the field to determine who would be king of the ravaged country, their banners fluttering in the breeze as storm clouds ominously rolled in overhead. Amidst the crash of blades, magics of every sort exploded like fireworks in the sky, crimson staining the ground for centuries to come. Lucas was struck; fell; and suddenly, a young woman of eighteen found herself the champion of a cause not truly her own. Taking up her fallen brother's sword, she remembered the archbishop's words so long ago, and delivered fate to an entire kingdom when on the point of her blade, her own sister, leader of Gregory's army, met her end.

Glory and praise paved her way, carrying her back to her ancestral home, suddenly blooming anew in its majesty. Hawthorne was once again a name to be respected, feared, and the paladin, as she had begun to be considered, returned to find the position of counsellor and protector of the new King George offered as hers by right. But she scorned the callous, gaudy halls, the stagnant and worthless words of self-claimed nobles who fled when their lands were in peril, only now returning to bask in complacent aristocracy. She had seen too much bloodshed, had ushered too many men into the hands of the gods, to resume her former life as though nothing had happened.

Forsaking her wealth, her title, and all the trappings of either of her past lives as lady of the court then renegade, she journeyed away from the borders of Havaral, content to let her name and reputation fade into myth and legend with time. She now seeks the solace of anonymity, the privacy of mystery, shrouded in a shadow of secrecy though she remains watchful, palms still calloused, sapphire eyes still sharp, for should there ever be need, she knows the path to which she would be called…

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