For generations, two kingdoms have been feuding, and have recently been poised on the brink of a cataclysimc war. Then the old king and the king of the rival kingdom finally decided to make peace. Negotiations were going well, and the ambassador quite charmed some of the members of the court. In fact, with the old king’s permission, he became engaged to one of the ladies of the court. All was well, and then the unthinkable happened. The old king was brutally murdered. His son took the throne, and, without a trial of any sort, denounced the ambassador as an assassin, and had him executed. The ambassador’s fiance was condemned as a traitor and exiled (she escaped execution because she was a cousin of the new king’s). He, of course, openly declared war on the other kingdom for the murder of his father. They retaliated by declaring war for the baseless murder of the ambassador. In the tense weeks that followed, more members of the court were condemned as traitors and executed or exiled. Of those that lived, some sought sanctuary with the rival king, the dead ambassador’s fiance among them. Others fled to neighboring kingdoms, and some to the wilderness. A rumor that has been circulating among the exiled nobles, and actually among many other quarters, was that the new king was not as innocent as he seemed. Some have said that the king was driven mad by the death of his father, which was committed by members of his own court. Some said that the king committed the crime himself, for varying reasons. Some said that he passionately hated his hereditary enemies, and was appalled by the prospect of peace. Some said he merely wanted the throne, and the ambassador was a convienient scapegoat, with the declaration of war to muddy things completely. A few believe that the king was right about the ambassador. And a very few believe that the rival kingdom did indeed arrange the assassination, with either the ambassador doing the deed, knowing he would die, or being an innocent dupe, framed by his own countrymen to start a war. The theories about what really happened are almost as numerous as the people speculating about it. But the result is the same. The two kingdoms are hurtling towards a horrifying confrontation. Should events continue as they are, one kingdom will be utterly annhilated, and there is the very real possibility that both will be.
The PCs are members of the king’s court. Things are very tense, with nobles being exiled and executed right and left for treason. It has become patently obvious that the king is a crazed maniac, who no longer listens to reason. Something must be done about him before he destroys the kingdom.
The PCs are friends or relatives of the dead ambassador and/or his fiance, and possibly members of the court as well. Either way, they are determined or begged to find out what really happened. Note: The fiance implicitly believes the ambassador was innocent, and nothing the PCs discover will alter that opinion. They will also have to be careful that the king doesn’t catch them. He doesn’t need a reason to kill them.
The PCs have encountered some of the fleeing nobles, who tell their disturbing story. Some have also mentioned that one of the king’s closest advisors has avoided the “justice” of the new king, and indeed tightened his grip on the royal ear. He might be an agent of the other kingdom, or of a third kingdom that wants the other two to destroy themselves. Either way, he consistently gives the bloodthirsty king bad advice. There are even whispers of dark magic involved. The evil advisor might even have murdered the old king himself.
What very, very few people know is that the old king was not the only one murdered, and that the new king did not execute the ambassador as claimed. The ambassador was murdered as well, and indeed his body was found before the king’s was. A servant, who probably saw too much, was also killed. The new king, knowing what would come and knowing no one would believe the truth, decided he might as well get the jump on things. However, he fears treachery from his own court, hence the mass exiles and executions. He is convinced there is a conspiracy at work. If the PCs could determine who was responsible, and get proof, it is possible that war could be averted, if both kings could be got to listen, for neither wants war. Depending on the way it plays out, the king might have actually had the ambassador’s fiance, his cousin, exiled (ostensibly for treason) to protect her.