Arx Season 1 Recap
It had been a tumultuous decade for the Compact to begin with. The Tor-Southport War in the Lyceum had cost thousands of lives, and left tensions between two of the larger duchies. Then there was the Tyde Rebellion out in the Mourning Isles, and the disappearance -- and presumed death -- of King Alaric Grayson III upon his return from trying to negotiate a peace among his warring vassals.
Luckily, he did not die without heir. Though his son, King Alaric Grayson IV was many things: a scion of a long and time-honored line, a well-loved king, the sort who genuinely wanted to know all of his courtiers, an individual always ready with a smile, eager to be friends with all his subjects.
What Alaric IV was /not/, however, was a particularly good king when it came to any of the real aspects of rule.
Easily influenced by those who could bend his ear, Alaric was inconsistent and lenient in his rule. And when his wife, Queen Genevieve, died in a tragic fall in the palace late in 1002 AR, it left the king vulnerable to those whispers. And so he was led a merry dance by those who'd see him used for their own ends, slowly weakening the realm.
As a result, the young king was left ill-prepared to respond when disaster struck the Oathlands: the Tragedy at Sanctum, wherein Prince Radley Valardin, the High Lord of the Oathlands, and most of his immediate kin were slaughtered by a force of shav'arvani who attacked the seat of Valardin power. The grieving young Prince Edain Valardin became the new High Lord of his people.
In the end, the plots against the King culminated in 1003 AR when he, the leader of his guard, and most of the remaining High Lords went riding out for a hunt in the Gray Forest. A hunt which interrupted a sacred ritual being held by the mythological Nox'alfar, the Night Elves who, rather inconveniently, turned out to be real after all. Even more inconveniently, when the King's party saw the nature of the ritual -- human sacrifice -- they chose to attack the Nox'alfar, who proved to be rather unfortunately good at killing things. It was, it turned out, something of the primary pastime for the death-obsessed elves.
The High Lords were slaughtered and the king left in a coma-like state, unresponsive to anything even though his eyes remained open. Heirs inherited the throne in most fealties, while the king's bastard half-sister, Dawn Baseborn, ended up acting as regent in his stead. (The last meant little change other than in title, given that she'd been doing much of her brother's work in keeping the realm running as it was.)
Research was done into what, exactly, the Nox'alfar had been up to when the king's hunting party was lured into attacking them. A treaty between the Compact and the Nox'alfar, dating back to the era of Queen Alarice the Great five hundred years before, was uncovered and translated, and it came out that the Nox'alfar had promised their aid to the Compact in times of great need, in exchange for intermarriage -- introducing elven blood to the Compact to bind them closer together -- and a promise of noninterference in the ritual of the Teind. A ritual consisting of the sacrifice of thirteen willing individuals, their lives spent to supposedly seal away a great evil known as the Silence. Thirteen individuals from a tribe of Abandoned known as the Keepers of the Teind, who had nearly been wiped out after a hundred years of warfare against the Abandoned in the Crownlands.
A ritual, unfortunately, that the king had been led into disrupting.
Many didn't believe it. The blood-magic ritual, involving human sacrifice, went against everything the Arvani faith stood for -- and indeed, shamanism as well. What sort of threat could the Silence really pose? Many of those those who cleaved to the Faith and traditional wisdom viewed the Nox'alfar as the enemy, especially after the deaths of the leaders of the realm.
Some believed it still important, however. Quiet investigations were conducted, and an organization known as the White Stewards was uncovered. An organization who, supposedly, believed they were serving the gods -- bringing order, crushing dark magics -- but who were, in truth, serving as agents of the Silence. Indeed, they'd been working for the better part of a hundred years to convince the Crownlands that the Abandoned tribe Keepers of the Teind were a threat to be wiped out -- and they were some of the most notable voices whispering to the king that his hunting party should go to this place at this time, leading him into the disruption of the Teind.
Around this time, strange creatures began to appear, ones known as Bringers of Silence. Some claimed they were the bodies of humans -- indeed, of White Stewards in many cases -- who had given themselves over to the Silence, now soulless and animated by abyssal magic. Others claimed they were merely particularly beastial shav'arvani. Yet they seemed to possess inhuman strength and speed, and just like in folklore, weapons of diamondplate or alaricite did particular damage to them.
In light of the seemingly abyssal threat, and at the insistence of Lady Regent Dawn, letters were quietly exchanged with the Nox'alfar Twilight Court -- carefully, to avoid the messengers being capriciously slaughtered. After a group of emissaries were able to speak to King Calithex himself, ruler of the Night Elves, an agreement was made to try to mend the broken treaty provided the Compact pay the Teind in the place of the Abandoned tribe known as the Keepers of the Teind.
Many of the High Lords were outraged that the Lady Regent had reached out without involving the entire Assembly. Despite this, three of the five High Lords voted in favor of paying the Teind, while two stood in opposition. Denied a unanimous vote -- and with no agreement on how to find thirteen volunteers -- the Assembly seemed stymied. In frustrated response, Lady Regent Dawn tendered her resignation, announced her intention to pay the Teind herself, and left with a small cadre of volunteers from the King's Own before she could be stopped. Lady Nekarris Darkwater also slipped away to join them in paying the Teind, revealed only after her death to have been an agent of the Nox'alfar all along.
For reasons they did not explain, the Nox'alfar refused to allow Dawn to pay the Teind -- presumably due to her own part-elven blood, through the Grayson line. Instead, she and others beyond the thirteen sacrifices fought alongside the Nox'alfar to prevent the Silence from spilling into the world. The Teind was completed, the sacrifice made, and the Silence sealed. Dawn returned to Arx, and the regency was taken over by the High Lords as a council.
Unfortunately, while the Silence had been sealed, it turned out there was yet one more desperate gambit to be made: a weak space in the fabric of the world, known as the Thinnest Point, could be pierced to create a new gate for the Silence to spill through. And so while no more Bringers of Silence could be made, the massive army that had already been created could still act in this world. Tolamar Brand, a figure known as the Herald of Silence, led his Silent Army towards Arx on a slow and inexorable march, while part diverged to march for an attack on the Bisland seat of Pride Hall.
Around this time, the Dominus of the Faith, Fawkuhl, made what some claimed was a pious move, and others claimed was a naked bid for power: he excommunicated all the High Lords and Voices of the realm who had voted in favor of paying the Teind and allying with the elves once more. Several claimed to have information proving Fawkuhl was corrupt -- notably including Princess Lark, the High Lord of Grayson.
While several of the excommunicated sat in vigil on the Sovereign Bridge, Grand Duchess Esera Velenosa vanished entirely, only later announcing she had turned herself in to Fawkuhl for judgment. However, when Fawkuhl brought her out supposedly to show her repentance, he ended up throwing her from the Sovereign Bridge to her death. Worse still, two others of those accused -- Duke Leo Fidante, and the now-legitimized Princess Dawn Grayson -- were also found to be missing, possibly the victims of Fawkuhl's plotting. Fawkuhl was stripped of his position as Dominus, taken into custody... and there he vanished, only a black rose left behind to mark his disappearance. The former Archscholar of Vellichor, Aldwin Aurum, was elected as the new Dominus.
It was also around this time that the elderly Prince Donrai Thrax was found murdered within the Thrax ward, having survived the tragedies that took so many of his contemporaries among the leaders of the realm. When his heir, Prince Dagon, went to claim the throne, he was challenged for it by Prince Victus (much to the surprise of other fealties, who thought the entire succession by combat somewhat gauche). When Victus laid his opponent low, he claimed the title of High Lord of Thrax in place of Prince Dagon.
Meanwhile, with the Teind paid, the Nox'alfar sent envoys to the city as promised: two representatives of the Nox'alfar traveled to Arx to negotiate a new treaty with the Regency Council. Indeed, rumors spread that the elves would be providing alaricite weapons to many warriors of the realm, to better fight the abyssal forces of the Silence. But somehow, it all went wrong.
Many fingers were pointed, many claims about the fault were made, but in the end the one who was given the responsibility for the failure was Prince Anze Redrain, who agreed to do penance for a year in order to atone. However, the damage was done, and the Nox'alfar envoys left once more.
Denied the alaricite and magic aid of the elves, a new solution had to be found. Investigations were launched into forgotten bits of religion, and along with various hints at past encounters with the Silence a thousand years ago, humanity managed to rediscover information on the three gods of the Pantheon they had somehow misplaced: Aion, the dreamer whose dream is all of creation, Skald, the god of freedom and choice, and the Queen of Endings. (The last, the goddess of death and rebirth, of reincarnation, proved to also be the goddess whom the Nox'alfar venerated.)
It was around this time in 1006 AR that the King reawakened, supposedly through the blessing of the Queen of Endings. However, his three-year coma had seemingly driven him mad, leaving him unsuited to rule. In the interests of a more traditional regency, Duke Gabriel Bisland -- who had once been Alaric IV's regent when he was younger -- was appointed as regent again.
Meanwhile, as a result of all this research, and through the efforts of a number of Scholars, explorers, and other researchers, an ancient ritual was uncovered that could empower five individuals as 'paladins', granting them protection enough from the Silence that they might be able to slay the Herald, Tolamar Brand. However, the cost of this ritual would be the sacrifice of millions upon millions of silver worth of materials. A huge drive was made to raise the necessary resources, and then the ritual was performed to empower five individuals: Prince Ainsley Grayson, Lord Killian Ashford, Sir Aleksei Morgan, Lady Juliet Fidante, and Mistress Leola Allenatore.
And then Arx settled in to wait impatiently for the army to reach its walls.
The Siege of Arx, once the army finally arrived and settled in, was prolonged. Bringers of Silence disguised as normal citizens of the city slipped inside the walls, and attacks were frequent at any public gathering. Many heroes arose during the fights, and were honored by their fealties. But in the end, when the final attack came, it was those five paladins who held Brand himself off from reaching the Thinnest Point and ending all life.
While Arx was rebuilding in the wake of the Siege, a coup within the House of Questions led to the death of Master of Questions Shreve Tyde, and some of his most loyal Inquisitors. Rumors swirled of accusations into blood magic, or even of some sort of demon fought outside of the palace -- ridiculous rumors, of course, not to be believed. In the wake of this, Prince Laric Grayson was appointed the new Master of Questions, and tasked to clean up the Inquisition. To bring in new -- and ideally, less corrupt -- blood, and turn the Inquisition back into a force for good. (Or at least, one not rumored to be actively engaged in human sacrifice, as a start.)
It also became clear around this time that the Nox'alfar had taken the broken treaty, attack on the Teind, lack of a new treaty, and general perception that the Compact didn't respect them as excuse enough to consider themselves no longer bound against treating humanity as a plaything. As a result, those who ventured outside the walls of Arx and into the Gray Forest found themselves risking life and limb at the hands of elven 'follies', games the Nox'alfar played that often ended in a rather fatal outcome for the hapless human involved.
Efforts were made once again to reach out to the Nox'alfar, and -- once again -- a delegation came to the city.
This time, a much smaller group was appointed by Duke Regent Gabriel Bisland, and they quietly negotiated a treaty that was largely identical to that which Queen Alarice had put in place five hundred years before, with one notable new addition: just as Prince Tyrval Ael'Noctis of the Nox'alfar had once wed Queen Alarice Grayson, the Lady Symonesse Marin'luna of the Nox'alfar would marry King Alaric and use her magic to help heal his wounded soul. And, to avoid any future misunderstandings, an embassy for the Nox'alfar would be established within the walls of Arx.
Not everyone in the Assembly, or indeed within Arx itself, was entirely happy with this decision. But the follies in the forest came to an end, the King was healed, and Arvani could travel safely once more.
Still, not all in Arx are convinced that this means peaceful times ahead. Many claim there are other threats on the horizon -- perhaps even greater ones. And there's still so much of the world that the people of the Compact have forgotten. Truths and history to rediscover, secrets to reclaim, and dangers to face.
There are stories still to be told, heroes yet to rise -- and others who will fall.