Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The Last Days of the North Part I: Prologue

A Dux Britanniarum campaign in a fantasy land.

The kingdom of Caerhenned has stood since the sun kissed the moon. Other kingdoms have risen and fallen around her, but neither the Thorny Crown nor its seat at Rath Luin have ever fallen. Even now, when alone among the Nine Kingdoms it still stands, the king's word is law across moor and wood, field and town. But the king is old, already two and sixty. His southern queen finds no favour with his council, either in her pale beauty or the fiery priests she has brought with her from far Jorsala.

The Five Islands fell to the Sea Wolves long ago. They have their own kings there now, petty warlords with wild hair who rule by the sword rather than by sceptre. As the rogues of the east once fled the coming of the Great Ice, now the Five Islands' rapscallions sail west to Caerhenned, the last of the Nine Kingdoms, seeking that same success that their grandfather and great-grandfathers carved out with their cruel axes.
Caerhenned and surrounds. Click for larger image.

Among the armies Caerhenned musters against the resurgent Sea Wolves four men stand out: Elion Greycloak, Anwyth Halfsword, Coiran Longfoot and Cei Wolfhand, the prince's champion

Elion Greycloak, nine and twenty, tall, strong and brave. A prince of the lost kingdom of Geredwyn, all his riches are displayed in his plainwoven cloak. His strength in battle is matched only by his weakness for the women of the king's court, whose affections barely keep him from the beggar's bowl. The king having no trueborn sons, Elion Greycloak is favoured by the crown with command of Caerhenned's armies. Cei Wolfhand, his last retainer from lost Geredwyn, stands fierce by his side in every battle, ready to do his prince's bidding to the last.

Anwyth Halfsword has not even a score of years under his belt. Of average build, he is nonetheless known for his insane courage. He won his name when he slew a mountain chief of Cragowen with his dying captain's broken blade. Some whisper in the halls of Rath Luin that this owes more to his prodigious drinking than any noble blood, since his father is rumoured to have been a mere peasant. No matter the truth, he now wields twin Quethani shortswords with consummate skill as his king's sworn man.

Coiran Longfoot was once the fastest runner in the kingdom. Now that he is in his thirtieth year, he takes his place instead in the shieldwall, wielding his father's sword with pride. A quiet man, he is known for his thrift and caution in matters of coin. A natural son of the king, he hopes one day to earn legitimacy by his deeds on the field of combat.

The wolves of the Five Islands travel far in their dragon-ships. In the cold East they were dragons truly, but the Great Ice quenched their fire, and like wolves they ran from death in savage packs, bringing that cold kiss instead to their victims, the true owners of the lands they now hold from the Five Islands to southern Quetheen.

One man among the hordes stands head and shoulders above the rest: Thorvald Snowborn. It is he who leads the greatest assaults on Caerhenned, with his lieutenants Njall Crowbone and Jaetar Foxfriend. At his side marches his champion, the bone-strewn, the bloody, the bastard Halfdan Flintfinger.

Thorvald Snowborn. Already four and thirty, Thorvald has carved a name for himself in the Five Islands. Since his noble father escaped the blizzard with his mewling newborn in his arms, Thorvald has grown tall and strong, proud of his strength and his iron liver. He has amassed a fair sum of gold in his raids, and now he seeks to rob himself a kingdom.

Njall Crowbone. At one-and-thirty, he is almost of an age with his leader, though of much poorer birth. He is penny-wise and foolish with no coin, having not forgotten the hut he was raised in. He has served Thorvald long and well, even losing an eye in a skirmish off the Quethani coast. When Caerhenned falls, his reward shall be great indeed.

Jaetar Foxfriend. Barely a score of years old, the Foxfriend is short and wiry, a natural athlete. He has made no name for himself as yet, but has claimed a positon in the Snowborn's expedition by virtue of his father's position. If Thorvald wishes to keep the sealanes to the Five Islands open, he would do well to please the Asvaldrsons.

And now, in the 3090th year of the gods, these men will clash in battle. In the fields of Whitetower, in the rakes and gullies of Ravenwood, even in the streets of Rath Luin itself will the sound of steel ring. The North is at its end, but it shall make such an end as to be worthy of a song by men in every corner of the world.

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