The troubles of King Stymian
Only a year before, King Stymian's future was firmly in his grasp. Today, he struggles for his own kingdom. But of all things, he is not a man that yields to opposition.
In the wake of the conflict for the Falcon Islands, King Stymian had finally the right moment and the right means to start a war that was due for so long. The lure of the Arnellia Valley was too strong, and there was an army tried in battle; a surprise for the enemy was also at hand. With an able general to lead the army, what could go wrong?
Then it all started falling apart like a house of cards. The invasion failed miserably, and anything that could go wrong, went downright south. His enemies at home, until then disorganized, have united into a strong opposition.
What should be a quick invasion could only become a war of attrition. Even then could be victory achieved, with heavy losses. But by that time was the king aware of the quiet resistance on his home front. First the invasion was sabotaged, then started the chaos.
Seeing that he would loose the whole kingdom soon, he acted wisely. His son, now 'Stymian the Third, Slayer of Giants', has suppressed the chaos, and the old weakened man has given up his crown to the valour of youth. How praised was this decision!
The old man wasn't as weak and close to death as it seemed... he had enough power to advise his son for some necessary measures. Aside, while pondering the future, he developed a little private project.
So, this is the current situation. Of some help may be the plans of all concerned parties. But what the future will bring, only the stars know.
The whole story may be used as a metaplot for the current part of the game world - overarching the everyday events and providing a background for major events.
As a campaign, it may serve for parties of lesser stature, to serve in the open or hidden conflicts on any side that hires them - or choosing their own side. Or they could be lower nobles, or similarly empowered to meddle in the politics for their own good. Still, sooner or later they will be pushed to choose a side. Note, that the situation is open-ended, so both sides could end up victoriously - or even a third side could show up.
And lastly, it can be made recent history, the winners and losers already known, providing for background and some newer plots to stand on the old events.
Occupied more than a hundred years ago, the locals never accepted their fate. Not understanding the luck of being governed by a remote, but enlightened government, whose best men rallied to bring the blessings of true civilisation (high taxes, advanced strict laws and a devoted bureaucracy), the primitives took to fighting their best future, undermining the gentle threads of prosperity.
The situation started to spin out of control when other countries lustfully made their moves, and supported the fledgling movement for 'independence'. Parts of the archipelago wealthy in spices and other exotic resources were not longer under the control of mainland. A rival state has started to arise, not strong enough to take over the rest, but too hard to defeat with the support from outside it had.
Times like this bring out great men. It was baron Spader who shined in several naval and land battles, promoted to the governor in hope of solving the growing problem. In position, he reduced the corruption and injustice that provoked so much hate in the locals. With skilled political maneuvering, he calmed down the population and won respect at all sides of the conflict. With his secret aid, some of the problems befalling the young rival country were increased, if not caused; it is still not sure if the sudden outbreak of diseases was not of his making. However, his help was always public and generous, and that is what counts.
In the end, a compromise was reached that both sides could interprete as victory. Both sides have promised to respect the borders, and the rival state to not call upon foreign assistance. From that moment on, the enemy is slowly and gently being turned into an ally, a country fully in the Kingdom's zone of influence.
An area of some strategical importance, it is nestled within a mountain chain, and offers the only passable way to the other side. It was for long years contested with the neighbouring kingdom, many small victories in a drawn-out lazy war, until it was suddenly taken over with great military power. The reason became clear soon enough: veins of iron ore and silver undiscovered before, along with lesser amounts of other metals were the hidden treasure of Arnellia Valley.
The Valley was occupied during the reign of Stymian's grandfather, and from then on, the duty of reclaiming went from father to son as a dark heritage, a shame on the family, to be cleansed one day with whatever means necessary.
That time has come.
While the move to war was hard to hide, there were two surprises prepared for the enemy:
First, the preparations for war were made to seem delayed. While the enemy forts were only starting to be fully stocked, the attack should be launched weeks, up to a month before expected.
Second, there were known weaknesses in the defensive grid of the defender. They could be breached, and time, luck, and a great sacrifice of men would bring true victory. However, the attack was planned on the strongest fortress in the valley, and therefore the least expected target. A suprising strike coupled with a little treachery meant (relatively) few losses, and free access to the Valley... a good start is half of the success, as King Stymian likes to say.
Side note: the movements of troops were explained with preparations to wipe out the numerous bandits that started to proliferate in the hills nearby. Of course, it was never believed; but should things turn out badly (intelligence claiming the plan cannot succeed), the troops will be used that way. Some minor parts of the territory may be reclaimed anyway, just because.
His fame arose in the conflict for the Falcon Islands, at first a skilled strategist, then a politician, he rose from a low noble into the position of a general and later the governor of the Islands.
The Baron is blessed with a rare kind of charisma - he appeals to the instincts of every man as honorable and trustworthy. If he listens, you know he pays attention to you; if he speaks, his words are worth listening to. His principles are undeniable; it is known that he always keeps his promises.
Motivation: the baron is slow to offend, and is not of the kind that jumps on any chance to get higher. But as his position rose, he found the pleasure of being respected and seeing ones commands well executed. He has become a great governor, serving his kingdom faithfully, for it was his art of diplomacy that brought peace to the Islands. He was content... were it not for the growing anoyance, the king that kept sending delayed instructions, not knowing the intricate details that could be only gained in place. It was not once, that he had to adapt the well-meaning intentions of a king, so that the success of the measures could be ensured.
It may have been annoyance, but the Baron was himself sure, that his services were highly valued, his position being the reward. He loved the Islands dearly, and even found a gentle servant girl, to replace at least partly his long deceased wife. Marry again did he not, but never did take another woman to himself.
Then, from one week to another, he was called off. The governor should become a general again, with as much thought spent on him as on a chess figure moved from one place into another - a valued piece but nothing else, to be sacrificed if necessary. Was this to be his reward? Was he supposed to go into a useless war, for a king that wanted just a little fame?
And his devotion to the king slowly waned...
The islanders say, that to a man are his sons like arrows - he will not know what their flight will be, until he releases them from his hands. According to this wisdom, Baron Spader is a lucky archer.
Valermont, the oldest
Quite the father, he grew up during the first wars on the Islands, learned to command men and lead them into battle, to use his sword or his tongue as the situation demanded it. Of the three brothers, he is the closest to his father, and they are often seen together, arguing and debating any topic. He has inherited his father's charm, and he knows how to gain the respect of people, noble or low.
He will be the prime inheritor of power, and maybe will achieve much more... but that is to be seen.
A failure, or maybe not. While he seemed as much promising as his brothers, there was something wrong with him... managing all the duties and lessons of a noble son at ease, but on the battlefield awaited his doom. No coward was he, but blood and wounded flesh, and the dead he or others killed were too much for his mind. For a time he suppressed himself, yet the nightmares continued and slowly even his sanity was shaken - shaken enough for his father to notice. And so he was sent to a friend of the family, a priest that would help the young man overcome his hard moment and return him to his father's side.
To the dismay of the father, his son has become a priest.
It took several years for the father to overcome the shock, and gradually accept his decision. The young man himself had a few doubts at first, but the resistance to his father helped him to stay firm. Strangely, they eventually found the way back to each other, and exchange many letters every year. And as the son slowly moves up in the hierarchy of the Church, his father does not fail to see the opportunity in the future. This weapon is saved up for later, however.
Marival, the youngest
He is the warrior, curteous to the ladies, but of the brothers, he is the only one married. He is known to tell adventurous stories, wildly exaggerated but based on truth. Will make a great general one day, now he is the one to impress soldiers and young nobles alike.
As an aside, he does not take father and his far-reaching plans very seriously, but he will support Valermont on anything.
Motivation: while for the nobles opposing King Stymian count manifold reasons intertwined together, at the core of this revolt are emotions, hurt feelings that can arise so easily, and yet are so hard to reason with. Of course, each of them has perfectly logical reasons why the king's actions are against his own interests.
Duke Asimon - a wealthy duke of the east, has a long grudge against the king, and the list of reasons grows ever longer, starting with his sister King Stymian hasn't married years ago, up to the fact that the attack against Arnellia Valley will be made through his territory, with all the costs of an army to be fed and guarded lest it has too much fun falling on him. He is no petty man, or at least does not see himself so. As his line is descending from the royal family, he _deserves_ to be treated accordingly. Personnaly, he even started to fancy that he could become the king.
He is definitively not the brain of the operation, but his support (and wealth) is crucially important.
General Bartingau - the unlucky one. During the conflict for the Falcon Islands was he commanded back to mainland when he failed to deliver the victories asked of him. His noble family with a glorious history was having financial problems even then, and has been down on luck ever since. Being the chief commander of the army has kept him afloat, and the upcoming war brought a promise of spoils and rewards... only to be gone again, as he was once again displaced by baron Spader! (While he understood the reasons, and they get along well now, this might be a possible weakness, where to sow conflict into the opposition.)
Not the natural talent as baron Spader, the general must not to be underestimated. He played the game of court intrigue long, and played it well. He is also a good, if unlucky commander, and was the chief advisor when King Stymian planned the strategy of his war. It hurts all the more.
While not many soldiers would follow him in case of a civil war, he knows how to make the lesser commanders hesitate and wait, in effect blocking a significant part of the army.
There are also many lesser nobles, but this all would be only a debate club, were it not for support of the baron.
The opposition grows
Shortly after arriving back in the court, the king invited baron Spader to a feast, and praised him loudly for all he has done in the interest of the kingdom. Then, half-jokingly, and maybe half serious, he noted his influence on the Islands, and even mentioned some overheard rumours that he was offered to be a king for the whole archipelago, if only he would give up his allegiance. Would he not want to be a king?
Laughing on the rumour, the baron answered very seriously, that he was always faithful to the kingdom, and that he never wished to be a king, it being a too great burden on a common man like him, and it was honour enough to serve a good king. This was seen by all present as an open declaration of loyalty and support for King Stymian, and earned him high respect on the court.
The group of dissatisfied nobles were at first repulsed by this, but the new star on the court approached even them, and let them know of his doubts and regrets. When Duke Asimon carelessly uttered words that bordered on treason, the baron only replied that he would never turn on the king openly, a statement that shocked the group. To turn on the king was never an option they would seriously consider, until then. But, the baron continued, should the king fail in his endeavours spectacularly, he may fall on his own. And the king's plans have many weaknesses...
Feverish were the next days of the group.
All the good plans failing
Enthusiastically, the king gave the order to move. Long have been the preparations, and the victory would be glorious. Small army units marched the roads to east, all according to the plan. Elated, the king noticed not the opposition growing in the midst of his own camp. Then came the news.
It was the minor things, outbreaks of diseases halting some army details, sudden plundering by what should be loyal troops, and numerous small accidents turned the angry flood-to-be, into a lazy, muddy stream, that reaches a place and is not sure what to do.
The secret is simple: with incompetent people on the right places, no enemy is needed; only a little help perhaps.
Loosing the advantage of time, there was still The Plan. For this part, the baron was clear the plot should never be revealed to the enemy kingdom, because treason would pull the whole group into dirt, not to mention that such knowledge has a tendency to be revealed - something no one wanted to risk. (Also, the whole plan could be eventually retried later.)
Instead, the army had to be stopped long before its target was reached, with as little losses as necessary. 'The Plan' relied on veteran units that would quietly sneak close to the main fortress of the valley, with a large part of the army marching quickly after, while the door was being unlocked.
The easiest was to reveal the elite troops before they could get into position. Being 'accidentally' found, alarm was sounded, and the trap could not be sprung. A few token skirmishes later, the war was over before it could really begin.
To the credit of the troops and their leaders, they wiped out most bandits of those dirty mountains. As if by accident, they also captured two small forts they claimed to be in support of the bandits. Small as they were, they would serve as a fine springboard for the next invasion.
Times of unrest
The army was away.
At home, there was already little love for the higher taxes, fueled by more disseminated rumours. The abrupt tide of incompetence has swept through the whole country. The good civil servants were suddenly clearly seen for what corrupt leeches they were, and many mistakes and downright attacks on the common citizens became widely known.
Criminality and banditism soared to unheard of levels, the aristocrats were blatantly unable to aid their people as they were 'doing their duty' and serving their king.
And as chance had it, a group of Giants has settled close to human settlements while his army was occupied far away. After a short period of uneasy cohabitation, an estate has been found destroyed by obviously gigantic hands, people killed and partially eaten; all of this less than a mile from a half-empty guardpost. News of this spread like a wildfire, creating a massive uproar that halted even the most trusty nobles.
More and more of the talks turned against the king. Where was he, playing at another war, something he always failed at? (Yes, even the Falcon Islands were again interpreted as a failure.) News of no real progress of the army could not be denied.
Not such a lucky archer as the baron, King Stymian is also not without progeny and hope.
Good thing is, the young prince was into time-honoured hobbies for a ruler - hunts and swordplay equally entertained him, and he excelled at them. Bad thing is, politics wasn't such a hobby, and wasting away at the court too much of a hindrance. The education was there, a determined look belonged to the young man, and he even had the smarts. But he still wouldn't sit in the court.
Alas, the young generation is always differing from the tried values of elders. The two came at last to an understanding of sorts - the king would stay in his place ruling, the prince would slowly learn the necessities for running a kingdom, showing up on important public events, but left with considerable freedom and privacy. This left both content, as neither actually wished to change their place.
But those times changed. Now, when the king is over sixty, and the prince approaching thirty (scandalous as he is unmarried!), a large crisis loomed over their lineage. Discontent of peasants could be suppressed, but rebellious thoughts started to infect even lesser nobles; both sources of frustration were channelled into the army. Clearly, this was made possible by enemies that wouldn't stop so easily. A drastic change was necessary.
The scandal with giants was made for such a symbol. The prince has tracked and killed all the beasts, in a combination of hunt and military operation, possibly his last great hunt as a free man. Perhaps the Giants were innocent, but the rumour was out of control already.
Stymian the 2nd, faking a serious wound, has passed on his crown and kingdom, to a younger and stronger king. Great celebrations followed, the young hero hailed by everyone as a saviour, untouchable by his enemies at least for the moment. This strong move has shocked the opposition, who are not quite sure what to do.
Of course, a King is not complete without a Queen, so the news of the provisorial coronation, along with the following public one, immediately provoked heated talks of who would be best suited for the king and the kingdom. The young man certainly bade his time for succession, but, so it is said, he matured into a strong decisive man able to take on a bear with but a knife, yet still stay curteous on the royal ball. All attention focused on the royal family, which is as it should be.
And so has the new king (advised by his father) disbanded the war council. Not loosing time with convictions of treason, there were spread rumours (and some evidence) of their strategical failures; that way the diffilcut nobles lost face and a lot of influence. Several of them were commanded off to various borders and irrelevant positions of the kingdom, to prevent them from plotting (and make the common folk laugh about their incompetence).
In a truly heavy blow, one not so important baron has been accused of looting - OK, allowing his men to loot - when they should cover the main army's flank. While he bought himself free with a part of his properties, the damage was already done. And so on...
The largest problem here is that the former king doesn't still know all the main characters of the opposition. Duke Asimon was an easy guess, and general Bartingau is strongly suspected (and not a few times was his exchange regretted). Baron Spader is the real unknown... is he a loyal soldier to be used, or would he be a troyan horse that would destroy all of his plans? Distrust plagues the old man, who sometimes really feels as the rumours suggest he should.
A new toy
The plans of war being put to a halt, and his son taking over most of a king's duties, there was still much to think about - the very future of the kingdom! Not to forget the war he felt was necessary. In the end, it was the (lack of) public support that hit him hardest, a strong opposition backed by the unwashed masses could not be overcome. Yes, he had wise advisors and even the mage dabbling in mind-magic, but he couldn't control or easily see through that many people.
Then, while having no magical powers, but making full use of the magicians under his command, he himself has directed the research for an item that would give insight into the mind of 'the people'. And as the rumours have started to circulate, it has been dubbed Helm of Prophecies by those that knew little of its function.
The heavily guarded secret being not so secret anymore, his enemies loose much time pondering about what kind of weapon has he got. Could it really be a tool of prophecy? They don't know how it works, but they know he is not a fool. Most wouldn't ever believe in prophecies... but how can they be sure in a world full of magic? The very possiblity that the former king could foresee the steps of his opponents is terrifying. They desperately need to know more.
Plans in the plans of other's plans
So what do they all want, anyway?
The former king is insulted. He desires to find out all of those that have committed treason, and take care of them... with any means necessary and practical. Long-term, he may find the magical research a very interesting venue of pursuit, and may produce more items, even as he slowly would hand over the reigns to his son. But the young man needs to marry first, and that is a task that cannot be left to chance.
The new king wants his freedom. With time, though, he will find his place on the throne acceptable, and if the marriage business goes well (particularly if he has children), there will be peace for him. Eventually he will take over the power; there may be some conflicts with his father about the exact time period. The opposition is not that important to him, but he will surely indict anyone proved to have acted against the kingdom (his own line and himself, in the end).
Duke Asimon is a little surprised by the turn of events. Now, he does have a daughter in the proper age, and he realizes that such a marriage could bring peace to the kingdom, not to speak of promoting his blood on the proper place. But the slights are not forgotten, and the former king is still the one with power. Although less probable than before, he still thinks of the throne as reachable. Should he decide to go for it, his acts may end up to be quite desperate.
General Bartingau starts to be tired by it all. A new option has opened for him now - to become a servant of the young king, help him to become a ruler worth the name, that would push his father aside. That way, he could get a good position, and settle the score, without getting his hands dirty. The Baron may stand in his way, however; also his more than brief flirt with the opposition (and direct help) could complicate things.
Baron Spader is still not content. His secret ambition was to shame the old king sufficiently, then see to it that a hunting accident ends the life of the prince (in such a way to be NEVER associated with the deed - he would warn his companions, but knows their motivation too good). As the Duke would quickly be not only suspicious of the deed, but also considered unfit to rule, his son Valermont would marry the Duke's daughter - and surprisingly become the best way to make peace in the country. An acceptable result would be to close quietly the whole opposition thing, and withdraw to his beloved Falcon Islands. But even this may fail if the former king finds out the truth.
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? Responses (8)-8
wow, never saw this before. Its wonderful, do continue.
Okay, this is a really bad case of a submission that just won't be finished. Thus I throw it at you, mindful of too many places where it could be expanded still more.
I cant believe there are no comments on this one. This here, is a fully formed campaign setting/plot, that has enough juicy info, to last several gaming sessions. It also wisely leaves room, for additions and subtractions, which every GM should appreciate. Evrything is intricate yet pliable! Great Work manfred!
The characters are believable, the plot is in-depth and layered nicely, and I loved all the easy links to the scrolls.
This is wonderful! Its the type of submission I will come back to again and again, and hopefully add to, since I know thats what your looking for here!
Lets say your a GM. The 'crew' is about to come over. You have nothing prepared. Well, here's an entire world! Just print it off, read it, understand it, alter it if you must, and BAM!!! instant long-term campaign!
5/5 for this interesting world.
Can I rate it a 6?
Fully formed and well fleshed out. Linkage to scroll points and other posts was what the new citadel was all about. This is one of the few submissions that actually utilizes this to its potential.
Plus the plot is good, the characters and setting are interesting, and it is well written.
I give this top marks for innovative presentation!
Can't add much that has not already been said. Awesome.
Many thanks to all the praises!
Oh, and yes, Muro: there is still much to add to. :)