- Long winded intro, detailed below. We open on a party that is in honor of the anniversary of King Cailith’s coronation, and to announce the impending birth of his heir.
- Sir Martius Vitellius is attending the party in an official capacity tonight. Due to the recent attempts on the King’s life, his household knights have a special interest in making sure the evening goes smoothly.
- Atoc Ikal has been invited because he’s become fairly popular at court. He’s been doing his best to nurture the reputation as a way to garner interest in developing ships capable of the trip across the ocean to his homeland.
- Corbis is playing tonight as entertainment. Keeping his eyes peeled for any opportunities in thievery. He is also doing his best to avoid Galatea, who is continually trying to catch his eye.
- Rabirius has been invited to honor his excellent work with the walls during the siege. Not traveling in these social circles often, and not having an income to match, he decided to make a broach (simple and elegant) from a topaz stone he’d purchased recently to present as a gift for the occasion.
- Phinella is here serving as an escort for Baron Regulus Antillar. She won a duel to clear his son Json’s name recently, and he claims the invitation is in thanks. It seems clear that he chose her as his escort to make a political statement to someone. Since she wore pants (granted, nice pants) for the occasion, she is definitely making a statement.
- Rabirus is somewhat overwhelmed by the attention he receives upon his entrance to the party- many nobles stop to thank him for helping to keep the city safe.
- Ikal discusses his homeland with Janus Danari, who seems quite eager to hear what he has to say. He also crosses paths with Rabirus who introduces himself figuring that Ikal is probably feeling just as out of place as he is. Phinella also introduces herself, as she has always been curious about the foreign warrior.
- Martius deals with the arrival of the King, and escorts him around the party for introductions.
- The party continues with presentation of gifts to the King.
- Ikal causes a fuss when he offers his own blood in a ceremonial bowl as a sacrificial gift to the King.
- Rabirus presents his brooch, which is quite well received by the King who admires it for it’s practical simplicity. As the brooch is presented to the King, the King slips and the catch on the pin catches his hand, causing him to bleed. Rabirus noticed that as the King handed the brooch to his retainer that the gem flashed brilliantly and strangely as though it had been caught in bright sunlight for a moment. He was uncertain he saw it.
- The party ended when the King made the rounds and left for the evening. Martius left with the King and made sure that all the gifts were properly taken care of. He made certain that the brooch was given to the King’s Chamberlin for daily use.
- Following the party, Corbis decided to stow his gear and sneak back into the castle to do a little looking around. He figured on most of the palace being asleep, drunk, or distracted with the party. Unfortunately, he was caught by one of Lady Medina Vespillo’s maidservants, who seemed to think that he was a young nobleman trying to sneak into Lady Medina’s daughters chambers. She tried to chase him off, and Corbis decided to cut his losses and retreat for the night.
- The next day, Rabirus, still troubled about what he’d seen in the gem, visited Erasmos, the man he had purchased the gems from not more than a month previous. He asked how Erasmos had come by the gems. Erasmos seemed embarassed, but admitted to buying the gems from someone who had taken them from the dead of the battlefields. He couldn’t tell Rabirus the man’s name.
- Back at the palace the next morning, Ikal and Martius get wind of a situation brewing at Duke Alexios’ estate. One of the Alexios household guard came to the palace yard and asked for some royal representatives to accompany him back to the estate. Upon arrival, Martius and Ikal find that everyone who had been in the home over the previous night was dead. Their skin was a dull grey, and their hair brittle, and white. It was found that the Duke and his wife were the most severely affected by the condition, and the rest of the household to a lesser degree. A boy in the stables (who did not sleep in the house) and the animals were not harmed. There is no sign of forced entry.
- Phinella catches wind of the situation as she is living nearby and the scene is attracting lots of attention. She tries to get into the front door to see what’s going on, but is met by opposition with the guards, who bring her to Martius for questioning due to her suspicious behavior.
- Corbis catches wind of the situation when he starts hearing rumors. He decides to check out the situation, and heads over to the Alexios estate. He climbs the courtyard fence and the side of the neighbor’s home to get a look in to the windows of the estate. He sees little more than one of the Lady’s maids, still and white in her bed in the gloom of her bedroom. He decides to wait until later to head home.
- The Royal Coroner suggests poison, but he can’t find anything in his records to match the symptoms. He decides to take the bodies back to a palace outbuilding until he can rule out plague.
- Martius, Ikal, and now Phinella, who offers her knowledge of the spats of the noble houses, decide to look into whether or not Alexios had any enemies. They find that he was a well respected member of a very old house who mostly remained out of politics.
- The next day, a hysterical Menelas Andrastos rides into the palace courtyard demanding help. Having heard rumors of the situation at the Alexios household yesterday, in spite of the crown’s best efforts to keep the situation quiet, when he returned to his father’s household after a night of carousing only to find the doors barred and no one answering, he panicked. Sure enough, Martius and Ikal find that Baron Andrastos and all his household are also dead in the same manner. His son and some servants off for the night are the only remaining members of the household.
End scene. :) (If I forgot anything, please let me know in the comments, players. I will correct/update.)
To follow is my overly long winded intro, which set up the scene and nearly put two party members to sleep. ;)
We begin our story in Portus Clare.
The city is under siege. The majority of the kingdom of Caledonia lies in waste. Portus Clare has been the jewel of Caledonia- a massive port city full of trade and wealth, and the home of Caledonia’s navy. Once the capital of the kingdom, it has once again become the home of the King and his forces- but for unfortunate reasons.
Between what is left of the kingdom and the wreckage of its former glory lies the encamped, invading army. The siege is just over two months old, and in that time it has gradually become clear via a few battles that the two forces are at a stalemate.
The retreat and subsequent loss of the rest of mainland Caledonia took only a year and a half. The attack, swift and devastating, began on the natural inland border of the small kingdom, the Caliath mountain range. The Caliath mountains have traditionally been considered impassible. Storms wreath the heights, including the only known high pass, year round. No one who ever gained the pass returned to tell of it. The range continues north into the barren tundra that forms Caledonia’s northern borders, and begins to the south in the neighboring kingdom of Vadani. Within Caledonia, the mountains have long been thought too intimidating to attempt, except the foothills which were occupied by a few free tribes.
So when attacks were reported by the villages bordering the Caliath range, few believed the rumors. At the point an attack hit the first regarded town, Aescia, the King and his advisors were reluctant to acknowledge a problem. Certain it was raiders from some tribal clan, the King and his advisors sent no response. When the damage to Aescia was observed by couriers and reported, their assessment that the town had been burned to the ground and there were no survivors to be seen seemed impossible. Military scouts were sent, and their reports of the size of the shadowy force encamped on the far side of the once decent sized town were even more unbelievable.
By the time military forces could be mustered from the border with Vidani, traditionally the only border that needed defending, it was too late for two more decent sized towns. The invading army was shockingly large. While nobles argued over how such a force could possibly cross the mountains, King Calith and his generals rushed to meet the force in the field. It had become clear that the huge army was marching on Caldonia’s capital, Civitas Caledoni. The army hoped to slow their advance and reduce their forces enough that the capital might have some chance of holding.
When the armies clashed, the forces of Caldedonia found out what they were up against- extremely well trained forces who were used to working as a seamless unit. They had units of every type- foot and cavalry, and some used weapons that Caledonian forces had rarely heard of, and never fought against. The opposing army was a professional one- those captured claimed to be paid to fight, and discussed war like a trade deal. They treated the art of war as an impersonal business transaction as well- the traditional rules of war were not something they apparently understood or observed. Their communications seemed impossibly fast, and their response to change on the battlefield even moreso. A few spoke, under extreme pressure, of serving Drujan.
The armies of Caledonia lost, and made a fighting retreat back towards the capitol. Built inland, far from any traditional areas of conflict, Civitas Caledoni was ill prepared to withstand a siege. The King’s acting General advised him that it was unlikely that the city could hold- for while the invaders didn’t appear to have any siege equipment, neither did Civitas Caledoni have any walls that would stop an army for long.
Worried for the safety of the King and Queen, the King’s advisors and personal guard insisted that they remove their household from the capital and travel to Portus Clare. King Calith nearly refused to go. Ready to send the Queen and the unnecessary members of the household on, he was prepared to stay behind. The King argued that the loss of the capitol should not be allowed, that the blow to morale was too great. Pressured on all sides by advisors concerned about the lack of an heir, and the Queen, who feared for his safety (though there were those who whispered she only feared for her own- the Queen had never been well loved), he reluctantly agreed, and the royal court prepared to move.
During travel one night, the King awoke with a cry to see one of his 10 year old pages, Xavier, standing over him in the dark of the royal pavillion holding a knife. The boy’s eyes were wide and shining, and the downward motion of the knife was slow, as though struggling against the currents of a tide. The royal guardsman heard the King’s cry, and without hesitation, ran the boy through with his sword. When lanterns were lit, and the assailant was seen in full light, there was an outcry of grief. The boy had been well loved and promising, and the guardsman was sure, at first, that he must have made a terrible mistake. He had seen the glint of the moon on steel and reacted with gut instinct. The King assured him that he had made the right decision, and insisted that there had been no trace of that boy in the figure that held the knife.
Inquiries were made regarding the boy’s family- his father had been one of the king’s retainers. Normally, the boy’s father would have been called to a trial by combat to determine his son’s innocence or guilt, but it was found that the man had been lost during the most recent fighting. The King could not account for the boy’s sudden change of manner, but most felt that grief over his father and family had broken him and led to madness. The next morning, rumors flew across the royal encampment, though the guard and household knights did their best to keep the entire affair quiet. Some wondered if the boy had been paid to further someone’s political agenda. Others said that there had been an enemy spy who had killed the boy before the guard could stop him. The King kept his own council, and became quiet and troubled. The Queen became nearly hysterical. The royal guard doubled their watch, and the entire group moved towards Portus Clare more swiftly.
Nearly upon the moment they entered the gates of the port city, a courier reached them to say that the enemy army was within sight of Civitas Caledoni. The army was going to attempt to hold what walls the city had. The courier also noted that the first winter storms were blowing in from the north, and that the enemy army would soon be caught in it.
The Court had returned to Portus Clare and the safety of its walls, and the weather was in their favor. The city’s numbers began swelling, and for a time, trade was very good as goods that normally would’ve gone elsewhere came to the port city instead. The mood in the King’s chambers was quite different, as it became clear with every missive from the capital that the defenders were going to lose as soon as the weather lifted.
More information was gathered as scouts were sent to the combat area and returned. Entire villages stood empty. Towns had been burned to the ground. Most disturbing was a sheer lack of refugees- while there were some, there were not nearly enough to account for the destruction. The navy reported that they had seen no unusual traffic or any hostile overtures- and that was a spot of good news at least, that the enemy had no presence in the water. Ships pulled into harbor as the weather moved towards the port city.
Missives were sent by boat to the Vidani, currently at peace with Caldonia thanks to the recent marriage of the King and Queen, and to a few other neighboring kingdoms, asking for aid and assistance. All the troops that could be found on the walls along the Vadani border were brought to Portus Clare and nearby towns.
The snow hit Portus Clare. By the time the weather cleared, word reached them via scout that the capital was lost. The General had held the capitol for a week after the storm lifted before deciding to cut their losses and retreat towards Portus Clare. Survivors trickled in. The weather and the enemy had made an organized retreat nearly impossible. By the time the Caledonian forces reached Portus Clare and were gathered, it became clear that King Calith had lost over half his men.
The enemy took their time and recovered at Civitas Caldoni. They spent a while making strikes against the larger cities and towns they hadn’t yet taken. Caledonain forces made attempts to stop them, but were repeatedly rebuffed back to their defensive position at Portus Clare. As spring approached, the enemy followed slowly behind. As the late snows melted and turned to mud, and the marshes around Portus Clare slowly thawed, the enemy struggled against the unfamilar terrain towards the walls of the port city. They stopped along the way to burn villages, though most of the people living in them had been warned by the retreating army and come to the safety of the walls.
Come spring, the streets of Portus Clare were swollen with refugees, and the countryside was flattened.
The minute the enemy army began marching towards Portus Clare, the Queen requested that she be allowed to make an extended visit home to Vidani. She thought that perhaps if she talked to her father personally, the chance of help might be greater. As it had recently been discovered she was finally with child, and the journey could be made by sea safely with the ice cleared from the waters with the spring season, it was agreed that it would be much better for her and the future heir to be away from the city before the siege was under way. The court was full of muttering about the queen withdrawing to her home country with the heir. It didn’t take much to see conspiracy there, and the existing tension made people more prone to worry.
The siege has been on for two months. In that short time, the enemy army found that they wouldn’t be able to take the walls of Portus Clare so easily, and withdrawn out of trebuchet range. The surrounding countryside doesn’t make for easy encampment, but the enemy has done just that, and don’t show any signs of leaving. Everyone is puzzled as to why they aren’t building siege equipment or boats. Their strategy seems completely incomprehensible. The King and his advisors have reluctantly decided that there is little chance that the troops left to them would be able to lift the siege, and with no danger of starvation within the city, given the port is still open and crops can be brought in from the Insula, they have decided to see if they can outlast the enemy.
The tension inside the city is rising with the temperatures. Once the city went under siege and the spring storms left, many decided to leave the city. There are a surprising number of people who have decided they are perfectly safe behind the walls and have chosen to stay.
This week, while watching the enemy encampment from the walls, sentries reported that with the use of a spy glass, they saw a small detachment of around a dozen leave the enemy encampment on horses, and head quickly towards the mountains. Rumor spread quickly, and the nervous speculate that they have gone for reinforcements. The confident joke that desertion has already begun.
Under these conditions, the King has chosen to allow the traditional celebration of the anniversary of his coronation, and to allow the announcement of the impending birth of his heir, in order to boost morale. The whole affair is not really his idea, but his longtime advisor, who had served his father before him, has convinced him it should be allowed.
And… we open on a party.