by L. M. Jewell
A brief outline of the life of Kieran Merritt.
Kieran was betrothed to Velaria Dharkhart at a young age in order to solidify the allegiance between the Merritt and Dharkhart families. Their union was, clearly, a very political union. Velaria despised Kieran and considered him to be a vain and selfish child. She made this very well-known to those who would listen, but was always shushed by her family. They needed this union in order to make sure their family was well taken care of in the future. Upon their first meeting, Kieran was enthralled by Velaria. She spoke her mind, unlike a lot of other courtly women, and was not shy in the face of a powerful family. She found him despicable and vain though made herself open to his advances for the good of her family.
Their courtship, though it had a rough beginning, moved along rather naturally. Velaria learned to look past her preconceived notions that the Merritts were conceited bullies and see the Kieran that no one else was allowed to see. The pair learned to lower their defenses around each other and grew to genuinely care about each other. One year after their marriage, Mael was born. Having a strong, male child as his first heir made Kieran's father pleased and Velaria's family relieved that their union was successful.
Kieran gained control of Lisea just after the birth of his second child, Elira. When he inherited the regency, Kieran was unprepared for the amount of family baggage that he inherited with it. Leonidas Deimos had begun applying political pressure on his father to allow the vaemir unrestricted access to the Lisean veilgates, but an agreement had not yet been reached. They had also been working on a new treaty that would cease all hostilities between the two families. This peace was something Kieran felt he could achieve, if only for the survival of his children, and began working on building a new rapport with Leonidas.
Several years later, Velaria died while giving birth to their third child, a daughter, Caitlin. For the next year, Kieran lived in a mental fog. Negotiations with the Deimos for the cessation of hostilities crumbled as Kieran was in no shape to negotiate. Finally, at the urgence of his advisers, Kieran remarried to someone that could help run his household. Rhiannon Isolde was chosen for both her political ties as well as her ability to organize her father's household. Kieran was only five years her senior and so the match could also prove to bless the Merritt family with even more children.
Rhiannon proved to be a perfect match for a busy leader. She organized his house and mothered his children, not trying to remove or replace Velaria but to simply love them as they needed to be loved. The pair enjoyed each other's company. Rhiannon was a free-spirit that could find happiness in anything. They enjoyed playing games together and, eventually, a new child was conceived. Lysander was born three years after their marriage and the Merritt family seemed as if it was back on track.
Negotiations for peace between the Merritts and Deimos were able to begin anew. Leonidas, upset that their first treaty died, demanded an arranged union between his eldest son and the Merritt's eldest daughter. Kieran refused as Elira was already promised to another ally's son. He wanted peace, but not at the cost of his word. He offered Caitlin's hand to the vaemir leader as the symbol of his word, but it was refused. In the end, the pair settled that their youngest children would be betrothed. Lucius Deimos and Aryah Merritt were slated to be wed on the Deimos son's eighteenth birthday and a deal to cease all hostilities was struck.
Ten years of something that could be called "nearly total peace" ensued. The infrastructure of Sanguis was rebuilt over that time and all of Serus grew and prospered. Recovery efforts were made on both sides in order to restore the former glory of once-great nations. Somewhere in the midst of all this recovery, the reality of the situation was the the agreement between the Merritts and Deimos was eroding. Leonidas was unhappy with the arrangements for the veilgates and, by proxy, Edoria's resources. Kieran did his best to try to keep the peace, even going so far as to send Rhiannon as his emissary to Sanguis. She did her best to cool the situation before it could get too heated, but it seemed that Leonidas demanded too much.
Sadly, the tensions were not eased in time. Rhiannon was embarking on her return trip to Lisea when her entourage was ambushed. The members of the Merritt's Elite Guard were more than capable of defending the queen but, somehow, Rhiannon was still assassinated. Losing not one, but two wives to tragedy took Kieran to a very dark place. His mind become dead-set on extinguishing the Deimos family. The deal between the two houses was broken and Lisea was closed to the Deimos and their allies.
Kieran spent the next decade in preparation for what he felt to be the best and most lofty goal to end the war -- to take control of the Deimos' seat of power, Sanguis. If he could not find peace, he would stamp them out instead. His advisers thought him insane and, while they could not stop him, they tried to divert his attentions to a different, less fortified, target. Kieran unhappily agreed and all members of the Merritt family were drafted to engage in the act of war. Even his youngest children began intense training that would help them become superior warriors.
On the anniversary of Rhiannon's death, the Merritt army set siege to Isolon, a major vaemir stronghold halfway between Lisea and Sanguis. Kieran planned to use this as a stepping stone toward conquering Sanguis itself. If he could gain momentum by taking this stronghold, he could use it to push them back. All roads to the walled city were blocked and the city's biggest asset had now become its worst nightmare. The siege lasted for weeks until Kieran decided to send in spies to ascertain if the city was right for the taking.
Kieran's youngest, Aryah, had proved herself to be a very capable and stealthy spy. She and the rest of her Shadow Stalkers were sent inside to wreak havoc. The Shadow Stalkers worked their magic in order to slowly drive the city into madness. Every time one Stalker was caught or killed, two more would fill the gap to do their job. The daemir's unique brand of sabotage was beginning to pay off, but then Aryah was captured. The thought of Rhiannon's last child being captured and, possibly, killed was just too much for Kieran. He blinked, pulling the Shadow Stalkers out and allowing the city to marinate in its madness. If his daughter was going to die, then he would starve the Deimos until they were all dead.
After nearly two weeks and no confirmation of either her death or ransom, Kieran's advisers suggested that he hit the city hard again and so he did. One of the great gates was finally smashed and the daemir laid waste to Isolon's streets. It was in this chaos that Aryah reappeared. She was beaten and bloody when her brother Lysander found her, but she was alive. She said that it was the chaos of Kieran's last efforts that afforded her the opportunity to break free.
The siege of Isolon was broken by the information that Lucius Deimos was able to acquire though the torture of Kieran's spies. Merritt battle tactics and information were more than useful to the vaemir, who managed to push the daemir forces back once reinforcements joined them. The Merritts were forced to turn tail and flee back to their own territory to lick their wounds and wonder what was next.
Most expected the vaemir to capitalize on the momentum, but Leonidas held back. Some thought that he might be licking his wounds and hoping to bide his time prior to retaliating, but no one knew for sure why he gave this time of mercy. Most likely, it was because he needed to rebuild his armies after such a deadly siege.
Things were not going well for the citizens of Lisea. All knew that there would be retaliation and may tried to flee to Edoria, but were stopped at the veilgates by Edorian guards. They wanted no part of Serus' new war. In the midst of the fray, a frightening Deimos agent had managed to breech the walls and was hunting their greatest allies, the Aster witches. The Asters could not help if they were dead and no one could capture the rogue assassin that was slowly whittling their ranks. While waiting on retaliation, Kieran began stockpiling and fortifying Lisea. Part of this effort included sending his eldest child to Edoria in order to negotiate for more resources. If they would not fight, perhaps they would trade instead?
In the end, his days were numbered. Three years after the siege of Isolon, Kieran was assassinated by Deimos agents. The creatures had infiltrated the palace, and even Kieran's Elite Guard, before pouncing on him and his advisers as they gathered for council. The assassins slaughtered the most powerful members of the Merritt family before sabotaging the city's gates to allow the Deimos soldiers to flood into the city. Lisea was lost to the vaemir and the Merritt children scattered.