The Sack of Bastion
As the sun rises on a snowy winter's morning in the Crownlands, the sunlight falls on a changed Bastion. The Cathedral, the site of such celebration the previous night in the hours before the horror began, still stands, but the beautiful stained glass of the windows have been busted out and vines cling to the structure. At the harbor, most of the buildings and half of the piers are destroyed along with a quarter of the fleet that House Grayson had docked there. The rubble that is left, along with most of the city, is covered in the dried out corpses of thousands upon thousands of insects. Grayhold remains standing as well, but with smashed walls. There are still sounds of fighting in the streets as shavs, seeing an opportunity, fight for territory in the neighborhoods where Bastion's citizens used to dwell. Yet, despite all this destruction, there is nothing more horrifying than the bodies of those that didn't survive the night littering the streets and buildings of Bastion. Fear and terror broke the illusion of safety provided by Bastion's strong walls and the leadership of the House Grayson, which is being credited for the fact that there is even any city left to rebuild at all. Survivors, amounting to a little more than half of the city proper, slowly make their way from Bastion toward Arx and the towns and settlements betweeen, whispering to each other in disbelief if they are even able to speak of what they have seen at all.
There appear to be a dozen unusually large colicky ticks terrorizing the Crown Ward of Arx. Witnesses say they were seen leaving the Nox'alfar embassy.
Thankfully, the skilled people of Arx had this mishap that will be known as The Tick Invasion of 1016 from this point onwards, well in hand. Non-lethal methods of handling the strange species of tick seems to have been a good call since they had a tendency to explode in such a manor as to cause onlookers to wonder just how such creatures fit all of that blood in them. Most of them had been ushered into the Embassy by Kastelon, Marzio, Ivy, Acacia, Sorrel, Silvio and Denica but the few that didn't quite make it ended up drenching both Alarice Plaza and Grace Way in blood.
Spokespersons from the Nox'alfar embassy insisted that, "This is what happens when you don't keep spiders on hand." Denying any culpability for what happened. They have however extended their favor for those involved in mitigating the situation. Each being classed as, Level Four Tick Herders. Whatever that means.
As the scouting parties draw closer to Bastion, they find something unusual. It's a /nice/ kind of unusual, however. Quiet roads, quiet forests. They expected to encounter a higher number of enemy shavs while traveling, but those numbers seem to be thinned out somewhat. Another point of note, numerous refugees that finally make it to their destinations indicate that they were waylaid by attackers and kidnappers along the road. But that they were later liberated by brave and honorable strangers, and then escorted to a safer point to continue their journey. Odd, but not unappreciated all things considered.
It's just a typical day, beside the fact that the moon is just lingering in the sky, when suddenly a house in the Lower Boroughs suddenly burst into flames. Locals seem to blame all sorts of things; from negligent smoking, strange experimentations and revenge arson. No remains have been found. Or anything really. The fire seems to have been incredibly thorough. Possibly too thorough.
It's an otherwise uneventful morning when people come across thorny vines covering the entirety of the Shrine of Lagoma, barring entrance. Attempts to hack through the vines or burn them lead to astonishingly fast regrowth. It offers enough opportunity for those trapped inside to get out but it seems the vines are here to stay. Attempts to physically climb the structure lead to serious wounds.
The surprise growth of thorned vines over the Shrine of Lagoma is the talk of Arx. The only thing that seems more shocking is that in effort to combat the problem, the Legate of Creation, Bianca Wyrmguard, authorized the burning of the Shrine. It seems, though, that while the Shrine burned, the plants survived. As a testament to the city's trust in the Legate, most believe that she clearly acted out of heightened concern and worry over an influx of invasive plants and their danger to the houses and buildings of Arx. Some mutter that the foreigners must have brought them in. Still others blame the Prodigals. Regardless, everyone with a garden eyes their herbs and flowers with a bit more wariness with some opting to rip out entire flowerbeds all together.
As thick fog descends on the city, there is an uptick in activity throughout the wards. The Iron Guard complain that they can hear voices asking for help from the fog, but there is no one there when they move to answer their calls. Individuals all across the city claim that they can hear voices that are strangely familiar calling in the fog, that they can never quite find. The Mercies of Lagoma are deeply concerned after discovering a rash of these obviously ill victims all claiming that they hear the voices of their dead loved ones.
People who stumble into the Lyceum Ward find that no matter which way they turn in the fog, they all find their way to just one place -- the Velenosa Estate.
As the dense fog that rolled in so quickly rolls out just as suddenly, whatever strangeness that might have occurred is written off as just a weird mood that descended over the city. In the light of day, it seems that whatever audience was being held at the Velenosa Estate turned into a wild party at some point. Most of the windows around the Audience Hall of the Estate are said to have been blown out and there are even rumors of injuries in the aftermath. Most people in Arx just shrug their shoulders and move on with their day. Lycene parties do have a tendency to get out of control after all.
Deep in the Valardin Ward, the ground begins to rumble, shaking and quavering beneath the feet of any walking Cairn Valardin. But then it settles, quieted and appeased for the time, it seems. Seconds later the screaming begins. From the Blackram Fasthold, the shouts of the guards, the cries of terror, and the clash of weapons carry over the walls and into the streets.
As the dust settles, the Blackram Fasthold danger appears to have passed. Stories of giant bugs, of grotesquede centipedes, circulate through the streets. The Blackram family is uninjured, from all reports, and they will rebuild the wall that was breeched. Why the creatures appeared here, so boldly in the middle of the Valardin Ward, is unclear, but some whisper of piece of jewelry stolen with a mysterious black diamond set in its metal.
Autumn in the Compact is a season of reaping the result of Spring's planted hope. Grain is harvested and stored away for the winter. Fruit and vegetables are plucked from stems and branches, both to be savored in the moment and treasured as protection against hunger when the air turns cold. Yet, there are few harvests as eagerly anticipated as the harvest of a season's grapes and the promise that they hold within those exquisite, tiny globes. The promise of warmth and celebrations to come for wine flows liberally through the Compact's veins and serves as the backdrop from weddings to births to funerals.
The Mercier vineyards located near Ashford holdings are some of the most lucrative in the region, if not in the Compact despite fierce competition from Lycene and Pravus vintners. Yet, this late in the season, the grapes remain on their vines long after they should have been harvested, fragile and delicate with the risk of the coming chill. They remain there, filled with potential, even when the Merciers' neighbors come to investigate their holdings after the sounds of horrifying roars pierce the stillness of an Autumn's night. They remain there, coated in the blood of the bodies that are scattered about the property, most of them in pieces.
Though the vineyards remain untouched, the house and the buildings are in shambles, coated in horror. All that remains of the holding are the ripened vines while what is left of the workers that so lovingly tended to the bounty rots in the Autumn sun.
What seems to have been a relatively normal evening in the Ward of the Crown is suddenly disturbed by half a dozen people leaving the Rectory screaming in horror. One Godsworn appears to be wounded, clutching his bloody side as he attempts to get away. "They're /eating/ them." He's heard to be shouting.
It doesn't take long for word to spread like wildfire across the city, though thankfully there were no actual fires in the Rectory. Apparently a number of shavs had the gall to sneak into the Rectory dressed as servers and even TEMPLAR guards and proceeded to attack and even eat several Godsworn and Disciples. This doesn't come as news to traditionalists who had already been convinced that cannibalism is common practice among shavs. Nonetheless, it's due to the heroic actions of many within the hall that the damage wasn't far worse and all but one of the attackers was dispatched.
It's been a long season for the Crownlands. After the Fall of Bastion, many mourned for the losses of House Grayson. Not only did they lose their city, but they lost many members of their family. They lost a sense of security. The belief that none would dare attack them. Many of the fealty lost their homes and have been living displaced since the sack. When the couriers ride at breakneck speed through the city of Arx in the wake of the Battle of Bastion with joyful news.
Bastion has been retaken by House Grayson.
The battle was brutal with many injuries and some troop losses for House Grayson, but the day was still won. There will be a great deal of work going forward to restore Bastion, but those refugees that remained in Arx begin to pack their things in preparation to return to their city and begin that work.
In the days just before the Moonlight Masquerade, there seems to be a run on soap at every alchemist's shop within the city of Arx, the more perfumed the better. While most just credit the sudden boost in sales to the desire to smell pretty around the Queen at her fancy party, others wonder at the city's new obsession with being clean...
The stars above Arx suddenly dim, and the locals, fearing the clouds have rolled in and a sudden Spring squall will follow, begin to batten down the hatches. The moment passes quickly and the stars regain their brilliant twinkle. A few observant locals whisper that they seem less bright than before, but that is surely just a trick of the eye.
There's a few spreading rumors before the news begins to spread that the region in the Northern Oathlands taken by the foreigners heralded by the Platinum throne had been besieged by an unknown party. The attackers had killed nearly a dozen guards and set the merchant district of the reiion aflame. Onlookers could say little about the attackers except, "shadows", "shavs" "shavs" and "Abandoned".
The sound of glass breaking and screams in a noble estate isn't usually a cause for concern. However, staff at the Redreef Estate rushed into the Countess' room to find the new Count-Consort Saverio Redreef nee Inverno dead, having been torn to shreds as his wife grieved over his body. Several wounded family members points to an animal attack - presumably an astonishingly large wolf - although no one had any explanation for the puddles of water that were found throughout the room.
Unrelated, a bystander in Thrax Road North swears to anyone who will listen that he saw a large shard of ice fly from the Ward and land on the ground next to him which conveniently melted before anyone can verify his claim.
The past decade has not been an easy one for the Compact of Arvum. A series of wars has shaken the continent, and the relative stability of the years before the King's Rest seem increasingly distant to the Compact Arvani. The Compact withstood the invasion by shavs in what is now called the Silent War, ending with the Siege of Arx and the defeat of a shav horde. A naval invasion by the pirate king known as the Gyre was driven back at great cost, and the expansion of the Compact into the Saffron Chain brought war from the Eurusi slavers of the Dune Kingdom of Skal'daja whose massive fleet was destroyed at the Battle of Pieros, leaving the Compact battered but unbowed.
Unfortunately, not all of the Compact's threats come from outsiders.
Societal changes have alarmed many members of the vast and powerful nobility, as Peers of the Realm fear the loss of their traditional privileges. The number of ennoblements of commoners, the reforms of the Faith of the Pantheon, the abolition of thralldom in the Isles, the acceptance of former Abandoned as prodigals, and establishment of new houses all are looked upon as an existential threat to many of the noble houses' way of life, and chipping away at the coveted place they hold in society.
And now matters are coming to a head.
As Anders Nightcove, Turo Navegant, and Dagon Thrax leave the Assembly, the assembled guards and retainers watch them file past with curious expressions. It's not like they couldn't hear the shouting and didn't witness Evander Darkwater get 'gently encouraged to leave' by the King's Own. As they walk past those Thrax guards in attendance, Dagon makes eye contact with some of them as he walks past. Slowly, one then several of the guards abandon their weapons, tear their badge from their uniforms, and follow their Prince on their expeditious walk to the docks and their waiting ships. In the end, nearly a third leave their posts to join up with the Traditionalists.
As a fiery Assembly of Peers starts to draw to a close, exhausted riders from the Oathlands gallop through Arx, delivering messages to all the wards of the city. A massive, coordinated Abandoned attack has occured just north of Riva and Greenhaven, destroying several villages, shrines, and acres of valuable forest. The few survivors speak of the attack being led by a strange woman with a blood red bow that shot arrows further and harder than any of them had ever seen. There are other, stranger stories that seep out, of some parts of the forest eaten down to nothing within minutes by swarms of massive insects and infestations of small, blood-sucking bugs that ran rampant through the villages. Most just consider those the thoughts of traumatized minds rather than stories that one should set store by.
These messengers also return with the devastating news that Lady Monique Greenmarch, the Minx of the Marches who just happened to be traveling through the area, is a casualty of the attack. They relay that she engaged in single combat with the archer-leader of the attacking Abandoned, and seemed at times that she might best the other woman, but in the end fell. Survivors claim that the Minx was taken out by an arrow to the heart that sprouted blood red vines that slithered over her, but, again, the messengers stress that terror can make people see strange things.
After the Assembly of Peers has ended and the attending members of House Tyde return home, they make a gruesome and terrible discovery. Duchess Margot Tyde who had remained home after not feeling well is found slain in her personal quarters. There's no sign of a forced entrance, and the servants allegedly have not seen anyone suspicious entering or exiting that they made note of. Which is not to say there wasn't, simply that no one truly noticed, as everyone was quite wrapped up in the flurry of gossip coming out of the Assembly of Peers. It's an awful tragedy and the entire staff is besides themselves with the loss of their formidable leader, the state of House Tyde is in mourning. Even more concerning is that the children of Margot and Dagon are no where to be found.
Sometime after the Assembly of Peers has ended, word reaches Arx from the Mourning Isles. Whitefrost has fallen. Baron Edward Stormbreak has been presented to the sea, executed after a brutal fight between the people of the barony and the soldiers of House Grimkin. Whoever is not slain is taken as a thrall and put to work on the fortifications and defense. By all means the island is near impenetrable now and lies dangerously close to Tyde Hall. The Marquis of Grimkin makes it clear by the announcement afterwards where his loyalties lie: "House Grimkin stands with Prince Dagon Thrax, we demand our traditions be upheld. Down with the usurper."
Sometime after the Assembly of Peers has ended, word arrives from the Mourning Isles. House Navegant has closed down its harbors and is now patrolling their waters strictly, allowing only the closest of allies to join them. It's said that the order to do so has come from Marquessa-Consort Arcelia herself. No one is allowed in or out without providing some mark of passage given to them by Marquis Turo himself.
Delays in reports are expected in such tumultuous times, especially with a looming Civil War in the Isles and increasingly emboldened shav attacks in the Crownlands and the Oathlands. Few had been paying much mind to the Lycene County of Balsamo, the seat of House Ricotti, just on the Lyceum-Oathlands border... until the dust settled. The city was the target of a string of horrific attacks over a period of three days leaving many troubled by the notion of a band of shavs causing such devastation in so little time. The merchant square was ablaze as the marauders torched stalls and warehouses, and whichever houses they happened to pass by in their rampage. Galleries were looted and sculptures were either destroyed or stolen. Lady Azaela Ricotti was slaughtered in her carriage, during her return home from a hunting trip, along with her companions and armed escort while her murderers took off with a precious family heirloom, a beautiful amethyst pendant.
As can be expected in the aftermath of such carnage, there was no end to the tall tales and wild theories that spread among the survivors. With some claiming to have seen centipedes the size of dogs scuttling through the alleyways, insisting that the creatures are still at large. One of the more consistent recollections mention a blonde woman in golden armor, ostensibly the leader, who called out directives from atop... a tree. One botanist is adamant that it was in a fact an absurdly large oleander, which her fellows find a dubious claim at best.
It's been months since the Shrine of Lagoma was first cordoned off due to the overgrowth that many of the faithful blamed on strange seeds brought by foreigners. After the efforts of Countess Thea Wyvenheart, who created a brilliant new herbicide, with the assisted of Count Drake and Lady Kiera, the vines seem to have weakened and decayed somewhat. The Templars are grateful that their swords have an easier time cleaving through the vines although they do still seem to be regrowing, albeit slower than before. The charred building can be seen a little clearer underneath the foliage.
It's notable when the Suspires, led by Nina Autumndale put in a one time performance for the Shrine of Lagoma. She's accompanied by the incredible talents of, Radiant Anisha, Cesare Whisper, Marquessa Cassiopeia, and Mistress Mailys. Those that witness the experience speak with great affection about how moving it was, with talk of the event traveling through the city. The Faithful are quite pleased with this show of devotion to one of the Gods. Given the energetic nature of the exhibition, no one is surprised by how tired all the performers seem at the end.
It came as a surprise to many when the Mirrorguard announced their intention to hold a pilgrimage to Lagoma's Shrine in each great city: Farhaven, Sanctum, Lenosia, Setarco, Maelstrom, and for Bastion-beset, back to Arx. Not an unwelcome surprise and their show of devotion was noted by the Faithful, some of whom felt an uneasiness to the Mirrorguard prior to this due to their name. This has alleviated many fears, especially in the Oathlands, although some distrust may still remain among the Orthodox. The members of the Mirrorguard, including Vitalis, Alexio, Agostino, Quenia, Esme, Cerys and Pasquale, lit candles in each of the Shrines and spoke of the benefits of change to an interested audience. The pilgrimage was smooth for the most part besides the odd, but swiftly dealt with, brigand attacks. The group tracked and apprehended a clan of heretical shavs in the outskirts of Lenosia for which the peerage is truly grateful. Devotion to the Goddess Lagoma has been re-ignited and coincidentally, the increased infestation of bugs in Lenosia's Shrine that had started earlier in the week also suddenly ceased. How lovely.
For thirteen days, the Mirrormasks and Silent Reflections conduct a vigil and fast outside of the Shrine of Lagoma. On the thirteenth hour of every day, Archlector Giada leads the clergy and attending faithful through a prayer dedicated to one of the Gods. Each day, she passes an item through a brazier lit by the Lagoman lanterns from Saving Grace Hospital. Every God is honored leading up to the conclusion of the fast, Gloria, the Sentinel, Jayus, Mangata, Petrichor, Death, Skald, Aion, Vellichor, Limerance, Gild, and Tehom and finally Lagoma. Archlector Giada of Tehom is joined in her efforts by Legate Vayne, Radiant Anisha, Princess Isolde, Marquessa Cassiopeia, Duke Valdemar, and Selene Whisper. The services are well attended. The people of Arx find the vines that have overwhelmed the Shrine of Lagoma to be very concerning and they'd like to see it returned to normal sooner rather later. Whispers spread over the city over how well Giada spoke to the tenants of Lagoma and many express a feeling of hopefulness for the future.
A couple days after the weakening of the vines by the Wyvenhearts, there is the final day of the thirteen day vigil conducted by the mirrormasks. The Mercies and the rest of the discipleships gather on the final day to give their offerings and prayers, in hopes that the mysterious vines cease their presence. The Templars, Scholars, Mirrormasks, Mercies, Solace all gather with full devotion.
What happens next is strange to say the lest. There's a bright, blinding light, that extends across the many Sanctums of the Shrines. When the light fades, all that can be seen is smoldering embers and the ashes of the vines.
Unrelated, a bizarre looking... what can only be assumed to be a horse immediately attacked multiple mercies. Killing one and grievously injuring many more. Their survival can be attributed to the quick actions of Lady Azova Darkwater.
The profligate ennobling of commoners and nobles, the demolishing of certain 'traditions' that have been in practice since before the Reckoning, and the inclusion of more and more Prodigals into the Compact has the traditionalists of Arvum up in arms all across the continent.
In no place is this made more clear than in the Mourning Isles. After Prince Victus Thrax's announcement that thralldom was to be abolished, the more traditionalist houses of the Isles have banded together to make a stand against it amongst other complaints. The Order of East Light, the Mourning Isles knightly order, attempts to mend some of those rifts by exemplifying all the things that those from the Isles value. They hunt pirates, they attempt to show that their knightly vows are cut from the very fabric of traditionalism. While the Order of East Light enjoys a surge of popularity as a result, those who are the most staunch in their traditionalist views are not so easily swayed. House Blackshore's merger with House Carideo with the marriage of Baron Aedric Blackshore to Baroness Scylla Carideo is considered a step in the right direction since many viewed Lady Scylla as a neonoble at best and considering the House Blackshore is considered a strong and solid House in the Isles, it does mollify some of the more conservative elemnts a tiny bit, but not enough to stave off the inevitable civil war that is expected.
The Crownlands are generally more successful in quelling some of the traditionalist pushback. Rumor is that House Grayson turned on the charm (and open their very substantial coin purses) to reassure their vassals that all is well and House Grayson are still the same solid and dependable rulers they have always been. In other parts of the Oathlands, Lord Grady makes himself ill in trying to soothe their own vassals who have objected to almost all of the decisions made by House Deepwood in the last decade. House Bisland, in an effort to choose children from noble families to train into Ministry positions, does more harm than good by accidentally giving an impression of favoritism in their selections.
The only slightly sour note comes from the Harrow family, who try to convince the Crownlands vassals that some commoners are -worthy- of being raised to nobility. Most of the established nobility scoff and make it clear that they can't think of a good example while the commoners hear the impassioned speeches from the Harrows and get a little starry-eyed at the prospect of becoming the sort of heroes that are worthy of such an honor.
The Lyceum, at least prior to the raising for House Pravus to a crown House, has always been perceived as the least traditional of the fealties, but they -do- have traditions that are revered. With several popular and powerful figures dying under mysterious circumstances over the years and the murder of one of their own, Dominus Orazio, many have began to wonder if the Lyceum is starting to surrender their own traditions too easily. House Malespero, a rather new player in the great game of politics within the Hundred Cities, try to convince their fellow Lycenes of the merits of raising the truly worthy to nobility. Some within the Lyceum might concede that it seems to be working out for Malespero, but the rest of the Lyceum doesn't seem to be faring so well. House Artiglio manages to root out a thief and return some stolen silver to House Velenosa, which is considered Very Nice and only serves to reinforce what the Lycene traditionalists say when they state that a commoner can do perfectly -fine- things without a title.
House Malvici and House Magnotta, an offshoot of House Malvici, seem to understand that those with more conservative views are craving action, not words. House Malvici manages to decisively destroy the Abandoned that attacked and killed Calypso Malvici in a move that many Lycenes are calling inspired. While Duke Martino Malvici was considered a bit of a dandy before with silky words, he is now looked on a worthy successor to his family's fabled martial ability. Count Artorius Magnotta benefits from his famous family and is admired for taking Abandoned land and turning it into a stable holding with old blood at the helm.
The Oathlands are considered second only to the Mourning Isles in terms of traditionalism in part because it is considered the heart of the Faith and what could be more traditional than the Faith of the Pantheon? Of course, the Faith has added several new 'gods' in the past decade or so. And the position of Dominus has been a revolving door. Dominus Orazio was ever assassinated which is, frankly, horrifying to the most devout. What has the world come to if the Dominus can be stabbed in the street, even if he -was- a Lycene? Princess Alis Valardin goes on tour to speak with the priests and officiants of the Faith. They all think it is very pleasant to see her out and about with ehr family and other vassals, but they make it clear they want tangible action taken, not just pretty words and a tour. Many point to House Laurent as a bastion of traditionalism. Duke Cristoph Laurent is ridding his lands and his neighbors of the horror of the Abandoned. One had to respect a man of action over words!
House Greenmarch, being a Prodigal House themselves, made an attempt to convince the Oathlands that Prodigals can make good citizens and vassals, after all, look at them! Unfortunately, a disaster happens in the midst of this convincing in the form of a forest fire that destroys several acres of prime lumber and the House's attention is forced to turn toward mitigating the impending crisis instead.
The King's Own also go on tour to ease some of the traditionalist pushback in the Compact and it goes really well! Who doesn't love to see the King's Own show off a little? Of course, there is that terrible accident that happened in the village of Lanthan's Grove, but accidents happen when common people try to do what the King's Own do. That's why they are so special. The Faith also works to mollify some of the harshness of traditionalist ire, but, again, the loudest voices in these crowds state that they want concrete plans and actions, not goodwill tours and pretty words. The time for talking has passed and the traditionalists make it clear that without some effort to mitigate or roll back some of the changes, they aren't going to be quiet about their way of life changing so dramatically.
The drums of war beat in the Mourning Isles, with open acts of aggression taken against Redreef Shore across the entirety of their domain, and with one particularly nasty naval engagement at the Seacoast Watch that sees a ship captained by Lord Jace limping back to Redreef Shores with Lady Martinique.
There's no mistaking who's responsible for this, as the man behind it makes an open declaration to the region. It comes from Admiral Anders of House Nightcove, a march sworn to House Helianthus.
"I will not stop until every ship of House Redreef has been sunk to the bottom of the seas. I will not stop until I have secured the sanctity and security of the Mourning Isles, its people, and its grand traditions. I will not stop until Countess Ember Redreef's head is mounted upon a pike and displayed as a lesson to every other dangerous radical that would seek to destroy us."
House Tyde spends several long months in a period of tense peace, working to stabilize tensions in their region on a variety of fronts. Their efforts are commendable, but sometimes the drums of war beat and the only choice a person can make is what stand they will take.
Admiral Anders of the traditionalist Nightcoves of Eastcrest, a march sworn to House Helianthus, begins a series of military campaigns against those they perceive as enemies to the sanctity and security of the Mourning Isles. He whips up numerous vassals under Tyde into a rage, encouraging them to join him and they begin a long series of reaving in the Tydelands that sees fields and villages razed. There's a particularly brutal sea battle not far from Tyde Hall that ends in loss for Anders' forces. But not for Anders himself as he wasn't there personally and continues to pull strings.
Make no mistake, this is war.
Duke Valdemar Grimhall begins the initiative to prepare for war by setting up new watch towers, barracks, and roads within his domain. This creates work and income for natives of the duchy as well as refugees and thralls alike. It's a wildly popular move, with partial success attributed to Orchid Champagne and her hands-on approach to the execution of the project. But all is not well, not even in this well prepared duchy.
War engagements begin to rapidly spread across the Mourning Isles, hitting numerous houses and their domains. Grimhall's lands seem unscathed until the day that a series of newly constructed watch towers south of Grihem's Peak are razed to the ground. They're burned down until every last timber is a smoldering pile of ash and the blocks of stone are toppled into ruin. Every military officer and thrall stationed to work or oversee the project has been killed, their heads set upon pikes and faced in the direction of Grihem's Peak itself.
As tensions mount and battle finally breaks out over the Mourning Isles, House Kennex stands ready against the storm. Attacks do fall on the duchy, with traditionalist forces harrying the outer islands. They're met by a wall organized navy that does much to repel their efforts. They're also met by the Orazians, who attack the invaders furiously and drive them off several of the smaller isles before they can gain a true foothold. Still, some farms and villages take a hit. But Kennex is prepared to help feed and care for their people for the time being.
As many houses are doing in the Mourning Isles, House Darkwater prepares for the oncoming storm of conflict that's been brewing for ages. Their efforts are well thought out and executed, leaving the county in a better position than it was previously. A curious thing that has the Redoubt at large on edge is the visit of Admiral Anders Nightcove of Eastcrest, a vassal of Helianthus. A staunch traditionalist, he spends the night dining with the Darkwaters. It's surely a coincidence that shortly after the visit, one of the Darkwater's lighthouses is toppled and burned.
House Eswynd has been heavily involved in the unrest in the Mourning Isles, from assisting diplomatic efforts in order to keep the peace, to being unafraid to use the sword when talks fail them. A heated exchange transpires in the barony of House Saltshoal where Eswynd forces clash with a fleet organized by Lord Anders Nightcove. By all reports they were mere inches away from getting their hands on the fierce admiral of Eastcrest, but he escaped when a freak shark attack saw the ship Lord Haakon and Lord Odin were standing on sink into the sea. They made it out alive as well, seeing the barony saved by but their enemies living to fight another day...
House Velenosa sweeps through the Lyceum in the wake of Dominus Orazio's assassination and newly risen Dominus Aureth's appointment. For the most part those they speak with are outraged over the death of 'their' Dominus and there's a faint undercurrent that they're glad he was replaced with someone the Waldo followers find possibly even more offensive. There are few followers of the false Dominus in the Lyceum, and those that are there are keeping underground for now. They know that House Velenosa doesn't jest when they say no one may harm them unpunished.
House Ashford goes forth into their domain to speak positively on the current Dominus Aureth as well as to seek out any information on where false Dominus Waldo might be. While they find no sign that the man is there within Ashford lands, they do find that the people are generally a bit restless. They tolerate talk of Aureth, but they're still very concerned about changes in the Faith and the addition of new gods. They're far happier to discuss the building of small stone walls instead.
House Redrain and many of its vassals embark on a grand tour of the Northlands. They start in Stormheart and from there travel to (in no particular order), Cascade Springs, Glacial Cove, Clearlake Hold, Aviaron's Peak and various other points in between that are surely very interesting in their own right. They finish in Farhaven, where House Redrain reveals a grand new garden dedicated to the gods, and also a pool that people whisper is for the spirits, but everyone is polite enough to not say that part loudly in front of the Faith. Despite the uncertainty of the last several years, the people of the Northlands are receptive to the Faith's presence, and they take solace in how well their leaders seem to be meshing with it. For now, the Northlands are quiet and peaceful among its many houses, without the internal strife of other regions.
Unfortunately, scattered reports of a shav attack arising from the Everwinter suggests that internal strife may be the least of the Northlands' worries.
War is breaking out across the Mourning Isles, and numerous progressive houses are being hounded by the traditionalists. All hope for supplies is not lost, they will be able to avail themselves of the Cullers services in the future, if they desire to do so, with the family being one of the few to successfully get past Lord Anders Nightcove. Currently, the Cullers are the premier shipping company in the Mourning Isles, known as one of the few that are able to actually get things through without having their cargo confiscated or their ships sunk to the bottom of the ocean.
Sir Preston Godsworn, Carnifex of the Faith, Grandmaster of the Templars hosted the Feast of Alor Valardin in Maelstrom, accompanied by some Templar knights including Dame Ida Ferron, Marquis Dante DiFidante and Lord Gaspard Blackram. Of all the Knight Commanders stationed in the Isles, slightly more than a half had turned up to the feast, with others citing excuses for their absence with varying levels of credibility. Middling turnout aside, the feast went without a hitch until a messenger arrived with the news that the Seraphs of Dredcall and Eastcrest are dead, the former poisoned while the latter perished in flames. Seraph Josephet Dredcall's Templars were apprehended on suspicion, although they vehemently deny having any hand in this. The reports from Eastcrest are conflicting, although it was noted that the Seraph's Templar guards were cut down before the fire started.
The timing has people looking at Grandmaster Preston askance and the trust in his faction of the Faith among those in the Isles has not improved.