Chapter One

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The Winterblades began back in those heady days of 2001 when all waited on bated breath for the release of the much anticipated open pvp MMO Shadowbane. Its founding members had already been playing together for years in Ultima Online, but were ready for a new challenge and so we sat in IRC and on our forums through delay and disappointment until March 25, 2003 when the answers to our collective prayers arrived.

Shadowbane was a brutal game. It was the true “sandbox”. In Shadowbane guilds truly risked something when they built up their cities and unfurled their banners. The fruit of months of the combined labor of the entire guild could be reduced to rubble and ash in a mere three days. An individual’s actions were consequential in Shadowbane, both for himself and his guild. Shadowbane was a political game. Influence over how the political wind was blowing could bring a guild salvation or destruction. This was the environment in which the soul of the Winterblades was forged.

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And so we began on Deception server under the leadership of Talin Kir’shen and Talimor de’Monte the original founders of the guild. Winterblades grew steadily from server launch and made an early alliance with House Daenyr (HD).  The Winterblades loaned House Daenyr a significant sum to help House Daenyr found the first city on Deception, Gaeryn’s Hope. Wintershield was founded a day later with the repayment of House Daenyr’s loans and an injection of several million in gold stolen by one Malefric Soulstealer. Wintershield attracted many recruits to the Winterblades in the first few months due to its location and early foundation on the server.

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The server however became dominated by the incredibly numerous Alliance of Order, led by Defenders of Order (DoO), from their Ice Island fortress. In the name of “Order” they called on all guilds to destroy any of the vile “rpk” (random player killer) guilds who had begun to raid and pillage parts of the mainland’s more restive city-states.  In the name of Peace, Love, and  Order, the numerous and might legions of Owyne, Commander of the Defenders of Order so branded the Avatars of the Flame, Lords of Avatar’s Torch and Undead Island, as RPKS and the first server war was on.

Deception

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Talin choose to have the Winterblades sit on the sidelines of this first great conflict, except for the first battle of the war and the first city destruction on Deception. The razing of the City of Gehenna, home to the RPK guild Shadow Syndicate. The siege was in many way a party with the elite of Deception showing up at the direction of Owyne and the Defenders of Order.  Little did Talin and the Winterblades know that the siege of Gehenna foreshadowed their own future, and how ironic the situation was soon to become.

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The first server war proved one thing to the players of Deception: that the Defenders of Order could bring overwhelming numbers to a battle if they choose to do so. Moreover Owyne’s DoO flexed its political muscle and diplomatic acumen demonstrating that they could wield the mere fear of their numbers to coerce other large guilds to join them in their campaigns.  Talin Kir’shen to his credit was not one to be intimidated.  He however grossly overestimated the courage of his allies.  Talin began to speak of building a mainland alliance to counter DoO’s influence on the server. To this end Talin attempted to win over House Daenyr’s leader King Tearin, who was fighting a losing war against the RPK nation of Kill Cult.  House Daenyr lost several sub-guild cities to Kill Cult.  When Gaeryn’s Hope became threatened, Talin rallied the Winterblades to aid our long standing friends in House Daenyr.

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Owyne disturbed by a possible alliance the two of the largest guilds on the mainland, began to threaten Talin in private correspondence with dire consequences. Ignoring these Talin worked to strengthen his position and Winterblades accepted the fealty of two sub-guilds The Echelon of Eagles Reach and….non-other than Shadow Syndicate of the former city of Gehenna. Shadow Syndicate renounced their “RPK” play style publicly as a condition of their fealty. This led to a chilling of ties between DoO and the Winterblades. . . for now we harbored the evil “RPKs” of Shadow Syndicate.  Shadow Syndicate made a public plea to the server and renounced their “RPK” playstyle and appealed to the masses for enough mercy to allow them to continue to play Shadowbane. In private Owyne threatened to use Winterblades’ subguilding of Shadow Syndicate as a pretext for war, if Talin did not stop aiding House Daenyr against Kill Cult. Hoping to rally the entire server against DoO’s manipulative dominance from afar, Talin published the letters. The server was outraged, but it was also afraid.  No leader was willing to risk an innumerable horde of DoO showing up on their doorstep.  In preparation for the coming storm, the Winterblades sought to shore up their mainland friendships with Knights of the Alliance and House Daenyr whose cities the Winterblades had helped build and defend.  It was at this point that the political leadership began to despair of Talin’s provocative course. Both Galahad and Tearin refused to stand up publicly in defiance of Owyne.  DoO issued an ultimatum to desub Shadow Syndicate or be annihilated. The back channels of diplomacy raced as Winterblades admitted defeat and gave in.  Final appeals for intercession were sent to the ruling members of House Daenyr, but despite these personal pleas none of the ruling council of Tearin Daenyr, Alkwing Daenyr, or Rhibald Daeynr voted to come to the aide of Wintershield.

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However, the hounding of RPK guilds was not the Defenders of Order’s true goal. Owyn wanted blood and to silence the critical voice that had challenged Ice Island’s domination of Mainland Deception. In a clever ruse de guerre Owyn claimed Shadow Syndicate continued to fly the graywolf banner. A banestone was placed to sap the energy from Wintershield’s tree of life allowing DoO to lay siege to Wintershield three days later. Despite our aide in of House Daenyr in the past, our backchannel pleas and warnings of future doom, fell on deaf ears. House Daenyr betrayed us and renounced their support of Wintershield. Communication with the Knights of the Alliance ended, when Galahad, founder of KoA, indicated that though he valued Wintershield’s friendship and support, he could no risk the future of his city.

The Winterblades had been forced into a corner and in a defiant rage launched a massive raid on DoO’s island fortress breaking through their defenses at Erkenring. Over several days the Winterblades slaughtered DoO’s farming groups, pillaging the cities of their subguilds and returned to raze the outer defenses (dog shacks) at Erkenring. Unused to having to defend their homeland DoO finally rallied annihilating the raiders before the gates of Lion’s Pride. The Winterblades exacted what price they could from the unprotected lands and structures in DoO’s heartland and took the short route home with grim pleasure, resigned to the impending loss of Wintershield. In the last hours before the siege The Echelon forswore their oaths of fealty and desubbed. The Winterblades thus stood alone, friendless and betrayed, against the hordes of Owyne’s Alliance of Order.

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Scores of Winterblades died defending Wintershield, but they could not staunch the endless waves Defenders of Order and Owyne’s puppets. The few score fell before the few hundred and Wintershield was razed to the ground. Many Winterblades died true deaths that day, forever lost to the dark Void. Their souls were severed from their connections to Wintershield’s tree of life and were never heard from again. Talin Kir’shen was amongst the lost.

Despite this great loss, the Winterblades were a hardy people and promptly planted a new tree of life amongst the ashes of Wintershield I. A week later a banestone was placed on the fledgling tree of life of Wintershield II. Owyne’s true intentions were then revealed to Deception: Resistance is futile. In the name of Order, no challenge to DoO’s influence over the mainland would be tolerated.

The tragedies of the first siege were repeated, only where once scores fought now there were only tens. The insult of the siege however grew, for fighting alongside DoO was The Echelon, our former subguild. Knowing the city was lost, the defenders made a last defiant drive to slay Owyne as he commanded a squad of sappers undermining the foundations of Wintershields inner wall. Wintershield II was razed to the ground and more Winterblades died true deaths in the endless Void never to return.

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The fall of Wintershield was not completely in vain. As revealed later in Owaine’s historical treatise, The Great War and the Siege of Lion’s Pride, the exposure of Owyne as a fraud and hypocrite angered many in Owaine’s own The Ancient Order.  Owaine, guild leader, of The Ancient Order, along with the Thieves of Enlightenment, joined Kill Cult and the Legion of Steel (former Avatar’s of the Flame) formed the and opened a two front war against House Daenyr and Owyne’s Defenders of Order.  Thus, Owaine of the The Ancient Order (TAO) became blood enemies of Owyne of the Defenders of Order (DoO) and much confusion was wrought amongst the uninitiated chroniclers of the era.

 The chapter of Talin Kir’shen’s rule over the Winterblades ended with the beginning of the second server war, but the story of the Winterblades continues on. From the ashes four comrades Merek the Mad, Ssly Unterdepth, Damebix, and Angelmar (Malefric) took up the leadership of the guild and gathered the remnant of Winterblades and headed south into the Bog of the Black Drake and the swamps of the Southern Mainland to rebuild while the server bathed itself in the fire and destruction that began with the fall of Wintershield.

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The swamps were the backwater of Deception. The trackless depths were the original havens for groups of lawless murderers and thieves like Shadow Syndicate and Kill Cult. In the swamps the Winterblades eeked out an existence until we heard from a from our contacts in Shadow Syndicate of a small city state on the coast that would be willing to grant us sanctuary, despite the risk of becoming targets of Owyne. The Winterblades swore fealty and became a sub-guild of the Atomic Godz of Olympus.

The Atomic Godz also had their roots originally in UO. The Atomic Godz in Shadowbane were an interesting mix of silent hard bitten barbarians, an all male enclave of elves known as the “fairy rainbows”, and a hypochondriac leader known as Montok.  The server largely forgot both the Winterblades and the Atomic Godz. The locals of the swamps were our concern and the bogs rang with the cries of A*G’s unorthodox combat leader, Montok. A*G and –W- rallied behind the battle cries of: “MONTOK NEEDS A HEAL! MONTOK NEEDS A HEAL! HEAL MONTOK! IM GOING DOWN! MONTOK NEEDS A HEAL!” The small scale banes rewarded us with several trees that were repeatedly captured and lost accounting for Wintershields III-VII.

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 THE SECOND SERVER WAR

The rest of Deception did not stand idle while the Winterblades recovered in the swamps. The alliance of The Ancient Order under Owaine, the Legion of Steel, the remnants of the Avatars of the Flame, the targets of Owyn’s first server war, and Kill Cult had shifted the balance of power. The TAO/LoS/KC alliance despite being outnumbered laid siege to House Deanyr’s Capital of Gaeryn’s Hope. The city was barely saved from complete destruction, by Owyne’s timely arrival with his Defenders of Order. The Northern mainland reacting to this threat renewed their vows of allegiance and together the Northern Alliance (House Deanyr, Knights of the Alliance, and Kingdom of Eleador) went on the offensive laying siege to Cair Yingyang, the capital of The Ancient Order. The Northern Alliance (NA) and DoO offensive was easily turned by TAO/LOS/KC, who countered by successfully razing Archeron, the capital of the Knights of the Alliance, and Kingdom of Eleador’s capital. Echelon who had betrayed the Winterblades at the siege of Wintershield II, continued their treachery and switched sides for the Archeron siege against their allies the Knights of the Alliance. In retaliation the Knights of the Alliance captured Echelon’s Eagle’s Reach and took it for their new capital.

TAO/LoS/KC pressed their advantage after razing two of the three capitals of the Northern Alliance and again laid siege Gaeryn’s Hope this time successfully breaching the walls, forcing the defenders to take refuge in the Cathedral of the All-Father. The attackers unleashed their greatest Pyromancers and Aeromancer on the Cathedral, who rained fire and lightning on the structure until it caught fire and began to collapse. The defenders made a desperate drive to escape but were slaughtered on the steps of the cathedral as they tried to escape from the arcane torrent.

The NA/DoO retook Gaeryn’s Hope, but the tide of the war was running in favor of TAO/LoS/KC. Defender’s of Order capital on Ice Island, Lion’s Pride, was regularly raided and placed under siege. TAO/LoS/KC almost attained their vengeance upon Owyne and the Defenders of the Order. They raided and locked down every city on Ice Island and breached the walls of Lion’s Pride. Owyne rallied the NA/DoO on the mainland and travelled via the runegate back to Ice Island and broke through the TAO/LoS/KC force at the gate, but they had far to travel. The fall of Lion’s Pride was all but expected, but higher powers intervened and the server crashed.

THE ALLIANCE OF BALANCE: RETURNING TO THE FIGHT

TAO/LoS/KC however would not be stopped by mere gods. They again laid siege to Lion’s Pride and the Winterblades and Atomic Godz once again enter the story. The neutral nations of Khar, the desert island, and the Southern Mainland had watched the events of the war with growing unease. The autonomy and power of the neutral states had greatly increased while the Second Server War raged. Owyne’s untold hordes had been defeated, the spell of his supremacy broken and most importantly the Defenders were to busy with TAO/LoS/KC to risk offending anyone else. But the heads of the neutral nations worried if Lion’s Pride should fall and Owyne lose control of his hordes, would Owaine from TAO not just replace Owyn as the dominate force? A decision was made to form the “Alliance of Balance”. The alliance consisted of the Defenders of Aleria, Shadow Syndicate, and other desert states who formed the DIE nation, along with the two largest southern nations, the Adumbral Empire under Shadow Rhal and Atomic Godz under Montok.

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The decision to aid the Defenders of Order was a close one amongst the Inner Council of the Winterblades. Despite protest votes, we showed up with the rest of the Alliance of Balance at what was to be the largest battle on Deception. Almost 1000 players took the field at Lion’s Pride. The enemy unlooked for is the most deadly. TAO/LoS/KC were dislodged from their siegeworks with a pincer movement. The Defenders sallied from the walls while the Alliance of Balance attacked from the flank and rear, breaking the siege of Lion’s Pride and marking a turning point in the great war.

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The new combined AoB/DoO/NA force laid siege to TAO’s capital of Caer Yingyang and Kill Cult’s capital of Lankmar. The first siege of Caer Yingyang was epic, although not as large as the assault on Lion’s Pride, the siege was the longest on Deception. The attackers took the field six hours early and began to man the bulwarks and trebuchets in hopes of making an early breach in the walls. Owaine, realizing he had lost control of the walls even before the bane stone was active, moved all his forces to a citadel within bowshot of the bane stone. When the banestone went active and the Tree of Life’s protection was removed, the attackers easily took the tree and deranked it twice. The banestone though was also falling to a steady hail of arrows. It became a race on two fronts. At the tree the AoB used hand weapons to destroy the Tree of Life and tried to prevent TAO suicide runs to repair the tree. At the bane stone not only did TAO’s archers led by Owaine have to fend off attempts to take the citadel but they had to out damage the bucket healing brigade that had formed to heal the bane stone. And thus the siege of Caer Yingyang was prolonged for almost three hours as both sides committed all their resources into a marathon nine hour contest of wills. In the end the tree was deranked, but before all seven levels were destroyed the banestone fell.

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The following week the AoB/DoO forces split into three divisions at Lankmar. DIE held the defender’s citadel while DoO was tasked solely with finding Kill Cult tree healers. Shadow Rahl led his own Adumbral Empire and the rest of the Southern contingent made up of Atomic Godz and Winterblades at the banestone and the siege works bombarding the Tree of Life. In another epically long siege the attackers had taken up their positions ten hours before the bane and held them throughout the day. Despite occasionally smashing through the DoO skirmishing group TAO/LoS/KC never took the banestone. The combined ranged fire from DIE in the citadel and the AoB forces under Shadow Rahl thwarted all attempts at dislodging the attackers. Lankmar fell.

A week later TAO’s Caer Yingyang was again baned. However another epic full day siege was not to be had. Owain deleted the tree and subbed to LoS, due to lack of funds for a proper defense. Owyne wanted to complete his victory with the destruction of the Legion of Steel’s capital, but he miscalculated when he tried to use the new AoB as a tool to dominate the server. The neutral nations that had saved Lion’s Pride all had different reasons for aligning themselves as they did and their differences weighed strongly on their minds. DIE disbanded. The Adumbral Empire and Atomic Godz returned to the swamps of the southern mainland and continued their close ties. Owyne’s Defender’s of Order proved insufficient on their own for Owyne’s grand schemes and broke themselves on the walls of the Legion of Steel.

Low level raiding ensued, but for all intents and purposes the Second Great Server War had ended and so too soon did the fragment of Deception. But not before a taste of vengeance.

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The Echelon had replanted their city Eagle’s Reach II.  The Winterblades had been betrayed by the Echelon at siege of Witnershield II when they broke their oaths of fealty and aided DoO in their siege in order to save their city. The Echelon’s faithless duplicity did not end there, as they betrayed their next liege lords, the Knights of the Alliance at the siege of Archeron siding with TAO/LoS/KC and against their liege lords.  It would have been an atrocity for such treacherous servile mongrels to hold a tree at the close of Deception. The Winterblades desubbed from Atomic Godz and declared war on the Echelon guild vs guild in order to leave no excuse for Echelon’s impending humiliation. The siege brought back old faces from the early days of the Winterblades on Deception.

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When the city fell it became Wintershield VIII and so ended the saga of the Winterblades and Deception.  The fragment (server) was devoured by the Void (they closed it), but not before remnants of the Great Nations of Deception were able to flee through the Runegates to the newly discovered fragment of Corruption.