Paved With Good Intentions II
Several different brushfire conflicts in the Compact have continued, fairly or unfairly blamed upon the Great Road's completion provoking conflict with hostile Abandoned groups and stirring up long simmering rivalries and disputes. At the same time, the Compact has been dealing with foreign emissaries attempting to make their pitch for how the Compact will ally itself, with the most recent Assembly of Peers declining to endorse a path forward with any of the foreign powers and instead the Highlord of the Mourning Isles declaring thralldom to be ended. As of yet, those foreign powers have not responded, but their ships remain, and it is assumed by many peers that some answer will be forthcoming. With much of the recent events happening in Arx, it would be easy for many of the peers to forget about the different minor regional conflicts of the past few months, and it does take time for news to return about them, but return it does.
First is the reply of Count Augustus Grayreeve to Marquessa Samantha Deepwood, who diplomatically and reasonably asked the rebellious count to reconsider his position, and travel to Arx and to meet under the auspices of House Bisland to reconsider his rash actions. A reply finally makes its way into Arx, delivered by his Voice, "It is beneath the dignity of a Peer of the Realm to respond to an inquiry from an upjumped commoner pretending to be a noble. Nor shall we countenance being lectured on the nature of nobility by a commoner who cannot possibly understand it, but perhaps you should you should turn your attention to the prodigals being made into nobility. For there seems to be a great many of them, and they are sorely lacking in instruction."
All indications are that the domain of Grayford, House Grayreeve's holding, and its surrounding baronies are preparing for war.
Prince Victus Thrax, Prince of Maelstrom and Highlord of the Mourning Isles, at the most recent Assembly of Peers has declared an impending end to thralldom throughout the Mourning Isles, declaring that one of the oldest institutions will be coming to an end. The lack of immediate response of outrage is almost suspicious, though some note that a great many Islander peers have departed Arx in recent days, traveling to their home domains. But now word starts to trickle back into Arx.
Marquis Ford Kennex was performing inspections at one of his coastal villages, a relatively new town called Breakshackle made up of freed thralls from the time he declared thralldom illegal at Stormward. While there, a large force of unknown attackers surrounded the village and put every man, woman and child to the sword, overwhelming Marquis Ford and his honor guard. Marquis Ford Kennex was then flayed living and crucified along the coast, along with his guardsmen.
Duke Ivan Helianthus makes a public statement of, "Unfortunate what happened to the Marquis of Stormward, but this is what happens when one carelessly frees violent criminals on their land. I, along with most of the Isles, urge the Prince of Maelstrom to reconsider before we have similar acts. That would be tragic."
After the Crackneck-Valdossa wedding party massacre that also resulted in the death of a Grayson marquessa of House Longwood, both the Northlands and Crownlands house declared war on the presumed culprits in the Isles, despite the lack of proof. Nor did they seem inclined to wait for proof, as word comes back of a major Longwood-Crackneck raid that attacked House Warwynd. The raid burned all the fields of the barony's island and sacked several villages, killing hundreds of non-combatants, but they declined to lay siege to the castle of Wyndhall, insteading opting to withdraw towards the Crownlands after the successful raid that might starve out Warwynd. During the return trip, the fleet is attacked by a much larger Islander force and smashed, with thousands dead, and no more than a fifth of the Crownlands-Northlands fleet surviving to withdraw.
Duke Asger Crovane, while on a trip to the county of Coastside to meet with Crackneck nobility, suddenly turns purple and chokes uncontrollably after being served wine. Though the Crackneck guardsmen immediately search, they aren't able to identify or apprehend the poisoner, despite the castle immediately being barred and no one being permitted to leave.
Senior Scholar of Vellichor, Jonathan Grimkin, opines in a white journal that, "Assassinations such as Asger Crovane's are a sign of moral decay in the Compact. When one loses respect for tradition, and seeks to destroy institutions such as thralldom, respect for our leaders is lost. With each ennoblement of a commoner, with each Abandoned that bends the knee to become a prodigal, the Compact is further eroded. Only by the rejection of neonobles, prodigals and those who would attack our traditions can the Compact remain safe." It is a widely distributed talking point in the Isles among traditionalists, and reviled by many more progressive peers.
While many would expect the Mourning Isles to be a tinderbox about to ignite because of Victus' decision with thralldom, the Oathlands seem to be seeing the largest increase in conflicts. House Bellerive's castle of Last Bridge is sieged by House Threerivers, until the arrival of House Blackram's forces, which combined with a sally from House Bellerive's defenders and an arriving host of House Decalmbre's bannermen. The Threerivers' force is enveloped and is destroyed, with ugly rumors that a great majority of the Northlands soldiers were massacred after they had surrendered and asked for quarter. Count Trevor Threerivers was among the killed, which hardly ends the conflict. His daughter, the new countess, swears revenge. Meanwhile, House Fireside launches a seaborn raid upon House Decalmbre's lands, using fireships that crash into Decalmbre's docks and set their port ablaze- which destroys two visiting merchant vessels from House Farshaw.
The wave of anti-prodigal hatred sweeping through the Oathlands is increasingly being tied to traditionalists of the Mourning Isles, who argue that neo-nobles undermine the institution of the peerage, and that prodigals undermine the Compact's stability itself. Atrocities against prodigals are increasing in the Oathlands, particularly among the most fervent of the Oathlands Orthodox, and some houses are taking a stand against that- with House Greenmarch's Greenhaven and House Laurent's Artshall in particular accepting mass waves of refugees. House Greenmarch's patrols quite nearly come to blows with knights attempting to pursue prodigals, and peers such as Count Gael Fournier suggesting that quite loudly that it was a mistake for House Valardin to allow for houses such as Greenmarch to bend the knee, and they have no place at all in the Compact, and the Oathlands would be better without them.
On Keaton lands near Oakhaven, a camp of unarmed prodigals that came seeking refugee are attacked by a group of a dozen knights who were visiting from Greenwither, House Beaucage's lands. They are driven off by House Keaton troops, but not before several prodigals are killed- including one who had fled into a shrine maintained by the Seraph of Oakhaven, and had been granted sanctuary there. The Seraph of Oakhaven is calling for the excommunication of House Beaucage.
The Faith is seeing a major uptick in fervency, particularly in the Oathlands. A recruitment effort by Dame Thena Grayhope for the Knights of Solace is spectacularly successful, as well as individual lords like Count Philippe Blanchard supporting the Knights of Solace with an endowment towards the order on his own lands, and Princess Saoirse Velenosa's treaty negotations. By contrast, many of the Northlands are seeing a backlash against the Faith. Lady Acantha Clearlake manages to talk down Threerivers soldiers demanding that she turn over templars for trial, and House Stahlben is currently granting sanctuary to some other templars fleeing violence in the Northlands. The Seraph of Fireside starts preaching that Dominus Aldwin was in error when he ruled that the discipleships should reject anyone that actively practiced shamanism, and starts pushing for new dogmas that merge Petrichor with some old spirit worship, in ways that are clearly heretical, but the Northlands templars in the domain pledge themselves to the New Church of Petrichor.
Meanwhile, the death of many scholars in Arx, and the continued arrest of 30 or so nobles who were involved in the conspiracy, sees increasing demands for their release from the Inquisition, with some wild rumors being spread about the leadership of the Faith and the Inquisition being involved in dark deeds. Despite the death of the scholars happening long before most of the crises, some individuals in the Northlands baselessly use that to claim that it is a sign that the Faith of the Pantheon is corrupt, and that there needs to be a 'Northlands Dominus' to cover a newly budding faith, untouched by Arx corruption. The Oathlands Orthodox wants this crushed, root and branch.
In the Lyceum, the war along the Oathlands and Lycene border appears to be spreading. After an early victory at the Wineroad Pass, Marquessa Magdalena Daveiga has continued to repulse Fournier attempts to dislodge her forces, and blocked most Oathlands travelers trying to reach the Lyceum along the Great Road. Despite many of the Oathlands being willing to treat the conflict as a private war between vassals of House Malvici and House Lyonesse, the interference in trade is changing that, with some Oathlanders considering it an outrage that Lycene forces backed by sellswords haven't yet been driven from the Oathlands. And that might serve to explain some of the other incidents.
In the city-state of Rivincita, House Daveiga's domain, the wedding between one Lord Marcellus Daveiga and the former Lumen Whisper is attacked by assassins, with several of the wedding party being slain and the bride and groom only being saved as the attackers mysteriously spontaneously combusted, which unfortunately left no one to question. Many are blaming House Fournier, but hiring assassins to attack holy ceremonies isn't really like the Oathlanders, so some believe it was traditionalists in the Lyceum giving an unambiguous vote of disapproval towards an ennoblement of an illegitimate child of Bisland blood. Others in the Lyceum are certain it was the Oathlanders, just relying upon their reputation to escape consequences.
While the Wineroad Pass of the Great Road is being blocked leading into the Lyceum, many different Lycene domains see violent raids by unknown forces. A caravan moving some of the new luxury brocade from Fortezza di Iriscal is attacked by an overwhelming large force of heavy cavalry, far better armed and armored than one would expect from Abandoned thieves, resulting in losses among Tessere merchants. A village on Volkov lands is put to the torch by riders, and there's been similar signs of violent raiders even as far south as some of the lands near Tor, Brassfall March and Iasu, seeking to prey on travelers or less defended small towns or hamlets. Some patrols have gone missing, and many Lycene in both Malvici and Fidante vassals are calling for a full scale invasion of the Oathlands to crush whoever might be responsible for this.
Meanwhile near the Crownlands and Lycene border, House Gallo and House Groverfield are both demanding each other apologize and make amends to one another, while word spreads in Gemecitta that Warchief Wilbur the Excessive of Clan Stormstorm has described the conflict as 'hysterical'. Shortly thereafter some very crudely drawn and excessively vulgar bits of propaganda are found in Gallo and Groverfield lands, each aimed at stoking fury towards the other house. To his credit, Duke Malcolm Shepherd is already having House Shepherd help Groverfield with their lost crops so they won't face starvation, which might have averted immediate war but tensions remain high.