07 February 2016
Tale Of The Fallen Kings
So you want to become a king? Ha! I’d thought about that again, kid… We had many, many kings here in the Deepwood… And you know what? Only a few of them died peacefully. Yeah, the kings… Well, the kings here ascend and fall often, very often, and violently too! Whom I should tell you about first? See, let’s start with Andars Antheros, a southern lordling who came here to carve a name and a fief for oneself. It was a hundred and fifty years ago, more or less. He arrived with a retinue of men-at-arms, servants, and laborers. He had a seer with him. Some sort of magician who threw lots and divined the auspicious place for the castle… Not much stone was were he settled and the roads here weren't suitable for long distance transport at that time. Not that changed much, the local routes are still a crap in the eyes of southern merchants. Anyway, without stone, Andars had to content himself with a wooden keep. He had grandiose plans, though. Clear the wood, build routes, settle the land, import the stone, build a proper castle fitting a southern prince… He let slip that he would value being prince of Imperial colony more than being a local king, though, and the locals would have none of that. They intercepted his envoy with letters of submission on the way south and confronted the wouldn’t-be-a-king. He died that night together with his magician and his senior officers. He must have made some sort of agreement with his killers, however, for they spared his teenage daughter, Kalia. She refused to return south and even kept some of her father’s retainers with her. The rebellion had four leaders: Arndal, Sigbert, Yesh, and Kirgillo. Arndal and Sigbert became co-rulers, called themselves Lords Keepers Of Deepwood… Kirgillo was their steward. Yesh went to become champion of the common laborers, hunters, and lumberers. He was quickly ousted from the ruling elite and had to flee and hide among his supporters. Kirgillo managed to keep peace as long he lived, but when he died of old age incompetence of the Lords Keepers couldn’t be hidden for long. Without steward to handle things for them, Arndal and Sigbert increased their oppression of the commoners, demanding higher and higher tribute. Rebellion rose on the first spring after Kirgillo’s death and Yesh led lumberers and hunters against the tax collectors… With the help of Kalia’s loyal troops. Young heiress was viewed as a savior now by the people remembering her father’s reign with fondness. Soldiers were leaving Lords Keepers side in droves. Before the autumn harvest, Kalia and Yesh stormed the keep. Arndal, Sigbert, and Yesh died that night. For years people believed that Yesh died fighting, but later some servants started telling stories of the hunter’s leader ghost haunting the keep, claiming to have been killed by Kalia in delayed revenge for her father’s death. No one knew that at first, though, and Kalia ruled for ten more years. She managed to build a stone tower as a central part of the keep as a first step of making her father’s dreams come true, but she died in childbirth. Baeldrick, captain of her guards, rumored to be the child’s father took over as a regent. His rule was deemed satisfactory but unexceptional. Until the kid got oneself killed at the ripe old age of fifteen. Fell from a horse, or so the official story went. I think it might be even true… If Baeldrick wanted to take over, why would he wait fifteen years to get rid of the kid? The people didn’t think him innocent, though. They rose against the regent. He fought back. Blood was spilled, lots of blood. Then a witch came out of the woods and offered to bring the dead prince back to life. She demanded a royal ransom for that, she did, but the people agreed. It was paid from the regent’s coffers anyway. It ruined our small kingdom but the prince returned, the regent was exiled, and the witch became the sole royal adviser and consort. The boy crowned himself the first king of the Deepwood and named himself Andars the Second in honor of his grandfather. Ruled five years and got himself killed during hunting accident. The witch revived him, emptying the treasury again. Five years later the king was dead again. This time it was fair and square death on the battlefield in a border skirmish with Idriss, a petty queen of the neighboring realm of the Greystone. After being returned to life for the third time, he promptly proposed to Idriss. The witch cursed him, took all the money from the treasure, and left for good. Thankfully, Andars was shrewd entrepreneur by now, keeping most of his wealth invested in trade routes, infrastructure, and local industries. Royal union with Greystone gave him much needed stone and now he could build a proper castle where once wooden keep stood. Just in time to see the king’s funeral. Fourth time was the final one. Andras was killed by a dragon that assaulted and ravaged the Greystone while the royal pair was overseeing a festival there. His burned corpse was recovered by the fleeing queen. She sent envoys in search of the witch who saved her husband’s life in the past. The witch laughed her out. Idriss doubled the offer only to learn that the dead kings was beyond the help of magic the witch could call upon. The dark days came for realm as the dragon turned the queen’s old settlement into own lair, earning itself the name of Greystone Dragon, and kept harassing the Deepwood. Baeldrick, the elderly former regent returned from exile to aid the queen in the assault against the dragon in its lair. The raid ended being a costly failure, Idriss and most of her companions died while Baeldrick and his squire barely fled with their lives. With no heirs to the royal line, Baeldrick proclaimed himself the king. The dragon wounded in the raid kept low for the year and the future started to look bright for the Deepwood again. And then the dragon struck again. In its rage the monster rampaged through the castle and killed every living thing within its walls. The people fled the realm and wilderness slowly encroached again. The dragon moved its lair to the ruined castle and nested there for the next fifty years. After two generations, a group of adventurers came to the Deepwood. Three siblings claiming to be grandchildren of king Andars and the witch, and their three companions. In a grand battle of magic, cunning, and martial valor, they killed the dragon, losing one of the siblings and two companions. They brought laborers and settlers and started rebuilding the castle into a new town. The sister crowned herself queen Randa while her surviving brother Faen became her adviser and her court wizard. The reconstruction works were interrupted by appearance of the former regent and self-proclaimed king Baeldrick. He arose as some sort of undying monstrosity driven by hatred toward the living, especially the usurpers of his throne. The queen and her brother promptly got rid of the dead captain. He returned next year. They destroyed him again. He arose again and again. Finally, Faen somehow managed to convince or trick Baeldrick to take the crown of the desolated Greystone and leave the Deepwood castle to the living. The battles with the dead and the time took their toll, and queen Randa died of natural causes not long after. Predicting her incoming death and with Faen refusing to take the crown, the queen organized a tournament for warriors and soldiers of the land. The winner was crowned as the royal heir. Faen retained the formal title of royal adviser and the court wizard, but he moved out of the castle and into the secret abode somewhere in the woods. Randa’s heir, Vasil, ruled for six months until an unexpected fever cut his life short. Shortness of his reign was eclipsed by those of his successors, during what is now known as The Year Of Moon Kings, for they reigned a month each, on average, before dying to poison, dagger, garrote, crossbow bolt, or fall from bedchamber window. The last of the Moon Kings fled the realm renouncing the crown altogether. The rule passed to the royal council who divided between them the control over various holdings and industries in Deepwood. Three times in the last thirty years one of the lords would try to subdue the others and put on the royal crown, but each time the rest would overcome their animosities and ally to defy the usurper. As you see kid, being a king is not easy. You might be strong, you might be wise, you might be loved, and yet, Death might take you before you know it.