On the Road to Elspar (Book 1)
The year is 1329. The Huntress' War has entered its tenth year, inflamming competing nationalisms and pitting the Confederacy of Caldrein against one of the continent's superpowers, the Tenereian Union. Desperately outnumbered, the confederacy has relied on the prowess of its famed Caldran mercenaries, with highly-trained and experienced warbands returning from foreign conflicts to the defense of their homeland, and it is on their backs that Caldrein has successfully mounted a valiant defense for a decade. But they are losing, and day by day, with all the grace of a sledgehammer, the vast Teneriean armies take one more bit of Caldran territory, one footstep at a time.
Sixteen-year-old Neianne from the village of Caelon has submitted herself to Faulkren Academy, one of the centuries-old institutions established to train the next generation of Caldrein's elite soldiers of fortune, to train in the ways of wars for three years before embarking upon the defense of her country. Her dryad family once hailed from reclusive woodland communes isolated from Caldrein's complicated mainstream society, and her upbringing leaves the shy village girl unprepared to suddenly train alongside other apprentices from backgrounds as low as the dirty slums of Caldrein's cities and as high as the halls of aristocratic power.
Yet the war is eroding the norms and traditions that the Caldran people have long considered part of their national mythos, and the tensions within the confederacy that have long simmered under the surface - race, class, community, identity - are slowly but surely dividing its people, and Neianne must grow and discover who she really is, even as the war that she is steadfastly training for comes to its inexorable end...
On the Road to Elspar is a fantasy quest - a work of interactive fiction wherein readers get to vote on what happens next at critical junctures - that is the first entry in a story that follows Neianne of Caelon, which first began on July 20, 2016. Originally a three-part in medias res prologue to a larger story titled On the Elsparian Road, it was eventually decided that this section - which covers Neianne's three years at Faulkren Academy - become its own independent story due to length, structural, and accessibility reasons.
Despite this being a reader interactive work of fiction, due to logistical and verification concerns, voting will only be counted on its thread on the forum Sufficient Velocity, where this story originally began. As such, the content here on Royal Road serves as a story-only archive. You are, of course, entirely welcome to enjoy On the Road to Elspar as a conventional work of fiction, just as you are welcome to comment, discuss, and provide critique. But if you would like to participate in the voting, then I would be honored to welcome you on Sufficient Velocity.
To facilitate accessibility and to ensure the best reading experience, this story-only version of On the Road to Elspar will be updated at a periodic pace, even though further content exists, so as to not overwhelm new readers on Royal Road. If you enjoy this story, wish to binge it, and/or want to participate in voting immediately, you may of course read all additional content via the link provided above. This paragraph will be removed once the content on Royal Road catches up with what has already been posted in its original thread.
Cover artwork by Soojin P.