In the past decade, the Compact has been no stranger to war. The memories of those battles ache like scars all over the continent from fealty to fealty. And it seems that war is not done with the Compact just yet.
The situation in the Mourning Isles, brewing for years as the end of thralldom as declared by Prince Victus Thrax and other changes to the closely-held traditions of the Islanders met opposition, boils over into civil war. Under the military leadership of Anders Nightcove, the traditionalist Houses of the Isles have attacked several Houses loyal to Thrax and promise to attack even more as a massive fleet of the allied traditionalist Houses prepares to take on the Thrax Leviathan in a war that is sure to leave the Mourning Isles devastated no matter who is the victor. Dagon Thrax has been placed a figurehead for the traditionalist movement after declaring his intention to reclaim his inheritance after having it usurped by Victus Thrax nearly a decade ago.
The Antidominus Waldo has been suspiciously quiet, leaving people to wonder what's up his sleeve or if he even has sleeves. Most of the members of the Faith have thrown in their support behind Dominus Aureth, but there is concern that the most Orthodox of the faithful, angry over the changes in the Faith in the past decade with the addition of new Gods and the rapid cycling of Faith leadership, could be persuaded to throw in with the Antidominus if he manages to present a convincing argument. The Faith can ill afford a widespread schism in such perilous times and so most hope that Waldo quietly disappears. Or at least stays quiet.
In the Oathlands, and the Crownlands, brutal attacks by the Abandoned on outlying villages have left the people anxious and fearing that their home might be the next to be destroyed. Princess Liara Grayson seem to be in a stronger position than ever, but few who saw what happened in Bastion can begrudge House Grayson their recovery even if the people of the Crownlands fear what might be to come from these emboldened Abandoned. As multiple attacks shake the Oathlands, Princess Alis Valardin finds herself facing similar fears and anxieties. Some take these attacks as a warning that the Abandoned are preparing for a war, just at the time that the Compact can least afford it. Many of the traditionalists in the Oathlands and Crownlands point to these increased Abandoned attacks as even more reason to secure the traditional Compact way of life through promises from the nobility to curb some of the most egregious of progressive behaviors that have swept through the Compact. Any commoner seeking elevation is quietly advised to put said hopes on hold for the foreseeable future.
In the Lyceum, many of the Hundred Cities are facing economic collapse as many Houses discover that their coffers are mysteriously lower than expected. In the face of a war on mutiple fronts in Compact and the predicted economic troubles that result, many Lycenes aren't just concerned, but outright panicking at the thought that one of the richest fealties in the Compact appears to have been built on an economic house of cards that has started to crumble. Many look to Archduchess Jaenelle Velenosa and the other ducal Houses of the Lyceum to see how the leadership will deal with this crisis.
While war can be devastating for many, those involved in the shadier dealings of the continent are seeing increased opportunities as their expertise in getting things in the right hands at the right time is sought out more than ever. Commoners, already exhausted by the wars of the past decade, aren't eager to fight in yet another, but take up arms willingly to protect their way of life and restore the fragile peace that has made the Compact so successful in the past.
On 11/19/1017 the loyalist houses of the Mourning Isles, following Prince Victus Thrax clashed with the rebel houses being spearheaded by House Nightcove. The battle occurred in the waters just north of Darkwater Watch. At first it was 'just' the Thraxian fleet versus Nightcove, Dredcall, Navegant, Bloodbrook and a mercernary fleet. But then more and more ships arrived to re-enforce the rebels original numbers, and as vassals of vassals arrived in open defiance and full rebellion, so too did other allies. Minor Crownlands houses, mostly vassals far down in House Shepherd's fealty chain that had marriage contracts arrived to fullfill their duties of 'military aide'.
And if all this wasn't enough, House Bloodbrook let loose Thraxian Fire into the naval battle. It raced through the ships, causing massive damage to both sides. Casualities were high and in one instance, Prince Romulius' ship exploded into flames moments after he and his entire crew lept into the water. Many are still eyeballing that incident with much curiosity but other wartime gossip has eclipsed it.
The rebel forces boarded and attacked the hospital ship manned by the Mercies of Lagoma and Knights of Solace. Some truly intractable people claim that the ship should have never sailed in with Prince Victus' fleet as it 'sent' a message. However the vast majority are utterly appalled anyone at all would attack the Mercies. The sentiment is so strongly held by both sides that it reportedly caused a massive fight at Nightcove's next war meeting. Lord Anders' was quoted as reportedly saying, "What kind of absolute idiot attacks the Mercies of Lagomas" which was very unusual for him because he usually keeps his temper firmly in check.
The next day, the captain and his firstmate are drawn and quartered. The rest of the crew is sentenced to a long period of thralldom that most likely will outlast their lives. A heft donation is also sent to the Mercies from House Nightcove.
In total, the losses to both sides exceeds 50,000 lives and dashes any remaining hopes that this conflict will be ended quickly and decisively. The waves of the Mourning Isles is tinted red with the blood of her people.
News starts to filter through the city that Marquis Magnus Stahlben and several House Stahlben guards have been killed by what is presumed to be bandits during a walk in the Gray Forest not too far outside of Arx. The Marquis himself is said to have been shot through the throat with an arrow.
It's a slow murmur through the city, the story of a Crafter walking through the cathedral courtyard and spying something spectacular attached to the bell-tower: a golden web of wire and lead crystal that stretches to the roof from the tower itself and how it caught the morning light in a spray of shimmering broken rainbows.
The artisan swore he was caught for a brief moment in its light, felt himself fill with euphoric warmth. Others speak of a similar experience, some vague in their descriptions and others verbose, mostly those of Crafters and artists of all paths, rambling about a sudden burst of ideas and needing to work -right now-, only to return later to stare at the web in open contemplation.
The guards and attendants stationed around the square, when questioned, offer no details other than to say that it's a piece of art, and 'sanctioned by the Dominus himself, of -course-'.
Somehow, the predictions of how bloody civil wars can be never quite live up to the actual horrors when one is faced with reality.
On 2/09/1018 House Redreeef and her assorted allies met at the sea forts protecting the county, putting together a formidable line of defense against the amassed forces of Dagonites en route to attack them. Military strategists will look back over the battle later and confirm that Baroness Ember was amply prepared for the struggle ahead of her, but sometimes external conditions prevail and a fight ends up bloodier than anyone could have predicted.
Houses Nightcove, Bleakshoal, and Bloodbrook arrived with forces equal to the loyalists and promptly engaged at sea. Nightcove landed troops on the strip of rocky land where House Eswynd was holding the sea fort. They were overwhelmed, with the rebels driving back the prodigal house, taking prisoners of war for thralls, and capturing Lady Medeia Eswynd. Her status remains unknown.
The rebels suffered the most serious losses, strangely enough, at the hands of House Halfshav. Commanders on both sides will be speaking of Lord Mirk's prowess at sea in the dead middle of winter in poor weather for months to come. Some Dagonite leaders are hiding behind the thin excuse that 'Northerners don't know how to sail properly, how were we supposed to prepare for that'.
Meanwhile, House Halfshav is receiving a lot of mail inquiring about Lord Mirk's military acumen while at sea. From both sides.
While bloody, the battle was turned on its head when Lord Baltus Darkwater arrived. His appearance was at first hailed with good cheer by the progressives, until he promptly turned his fleet of ships onto the //other// Darkwaters, creating a good deal of chaos and forcing the loyalist members of House Darkwater to call for a retreat.
With substantial losses being faced by all on the waves that day, House Redreef called for a retreat as well. There are none in the Mourning Isles who feel she should have stayed a second longer, and while the inevitable siege is not ideal, it is even less ideal to fight until the very last man is lost. Her decision is viewed as shrewd and practical; because everyone knows how difficult it is to take a holding that is entrenched in their castle.
Strategists point to the campaign to reclaim Whitefrost as a comparison point, where Grimkin has dug in and become a festering wound on the island.
With Redreef falling back, all others begin to disburse as well. Houses Halfshav, Proscipi, and Blackshore are the last to retreat and make the heroic decision to hold the line until the last second in order to cover their allies.
They're joined by Lord Wash Kennex, who sacrifices his own ship to buy more time. Significant losses are taken across the board, and the Kennex caraval that Lord Wash captains is lost fully, but what remains of the loyalist forces is able to escape. It's this decision that prevented the bulk of the fleet from being harried as they sailed to safety.
During and even in the wake of the battle, the Mercies are given the space to attend to the many injured that are taken from the sea or their ships. Their services are invaluable and are attributed to the great preservation of life.
As the war progresses, it's clear they'll be dearly needed. And now? The siege of House Redreef looms, an ominous inevitability.
While the Battle of Redreef Shores and the terrible losses suffered there dominates conversation in Arx, several reports filter in over the next few days that prove strange enough to find their own hold when that topic is briefly set aside.
The residents of Arrowrun, a sizable village roughly a day's ride from the Cloudspine, are awakened in the wee hours of the morning by a mild, yet inexplicably lingering earthquake that grows in intensity in fits and starts, lasting for nearly forty minutes and eventually becoming violent enough to collapse several buildings and split the main cobblestone street running through town so completely that carts and wagons are unable to use it at all. Quite a number of people report hearing a strange, nearly musical hum beneath the chaos. When the quake has ended and the villagers are able to assess the damage, they find two massive sinkholes nearly side by side at the edge of town that have half swallowed several houses. Even stranger, the quake appears to have been highly local, as Bearwell and Dustpoint, the two nearest settlements, claim they felt and heard nothing.
Stranger still, at least a dozen more sinkholes of varying sizes (though all of them large) are found in scattered spots throughout the Stoneburner Hills, along with numerous patches of flattened and shattered trees, and in one case, a barn torn completely from its foundations and left lying on its side, half of the building (and its entire contents) simply gone.
Strangest of all, however, is the half filled sinkhole found some distance from Pridehall. And the smaller, though still significantly sized sinkhole several days ride from Graypeak. And the hill that collapsed into a small valley near Gemecitta. When notes are compared, all agree that it is very strange indeed that these incidents seem to have occurred over the course of the same, single night.
News of what appears to be a mass abduction of villagers between Leaholdt and Graypeak makes its way to Arx. The actual number of people taken from their homes is unknown although estimates place the number within the range of 35 to 75. While a disappearance of that scale would surely be assumed to be staggered, reports indicate that the kidnappings were carried out around the same time across those regions.
A company of armed men and women followed the culprits to a village north of Graypeak in an attempt to rescue their loved ones and claimed to have been ambushed by many more of their number forcing a retreat. No rescue attempts or attempts to infiltrate the bandits' holding have been successful as of yet.
It hasn't been long since news of the mass abductions in the Crownlands reached the ears of the citizens of Arx. Tales of what happened when an intrepid group set off to the Crownlands in an attempt to rescue these commoners spreads fast across the city. The adventurers, among them - Katarina, Ailys, Ezra, Thea, Eirene, Ian, Felicia, Raven, Alantir, Preston, Caspian, Tesha, Vitalis, Giorgio and Gaspard, traced the bandits to a modest holding north of Graypeak which was heavily guarded by some of their number. Fighting their way through when it became clear that a parley was not in the cards, they found the victims tied to altars within the holding, surrounded by their captors. While they found themselves overwhelmed when the chief of the band of shavs arrived to dispel the would-be heroes, a turning point came when Dame Felicia Harrow forced the leader to retreat (although the specifics are unclear), sacrificing herself in the process. Though they did not emerge unscathed, the adventurers were able to rescue the vast majority of the captives and offer their wounded aide before returning them to their loved ones. Save for the leader, not one of the vile bandits escaped with their lives, with the surviving shavs awaiting judgement.
News from the Mourning Isles is bleak, as would be expected from a civil war spanning across the entire region. Bloodshed and fighting has erupted in numerous domains, with no end in sight.
New Hope in particular faces a grim struggle. Blackshore's army has faced dwindling numbers and support in trying to recapture the capital of Tresova, and still needs to take the strongly defended Bloodstone castle. Greywalke still dominates the waters around New Hope, rumors of collaboration with the Dagonites and discontent at home over the Tresovan campaign plague the Blackshores.
Some hope can be found in the campaign to reclaim Whitefrost. The Leviathan annihilated Grimkin's fleet south of Whitefrost and has established a war camp outside Tidewatch. Grimkin continues to control the capital, but lacks access to critical supply lines and is preparing for a siege once the ice thaws. It's rumored the Grimkins have withdrawn to their home march in hopes of buoying their ship numbers by spring.
At Scorched Rock, the Windfires remain a neutral voice in the civil war. Scholar Timofey Navegant, who currently does not want to be associated with his family of origin and reminds everyone he is GODSWORN now, weighs in on the implications of a neutral House Windfire. While all three of Helianthus' vassals are dangerous in their own right, Scorched Rock is particularly wealthy. To have that monetary support thrown in with Dredcall and Nightcove (along with their fleet) would spell near certain disaster for Sungreet.
Scholar Timofey goes on to comment that the march could swing their support to either side at any time, but that it's notable they did not after the last ball. There are still surprises in the world.
As the smoke clears and the fires finally gutter out in Artshall, the extent of the damage becomes clear. Nearly a third of the city's population has been lost to the attack and the subsequent fires. The city itself is little more than rubble and melted stone, but salvagable, especially since many of the initial surveyors notice that the soil in the wake of the fires is richer and darker. How strange. The outlying villages and farms were virtually unscathed which means that Artshall doesn't lack the resources to rebuild. House Laurent only needs time and labor.
Rumors abound about the battle itself, with many dismissing the horrifying accounts of the traumatized survivors regarding monsters roaming the streets at the behest of a woman with a blood red bow and a deadly wasp attack led by a strange man with a cigarillo in his mouth. The Traditionalists of the Oathlands and beyond see this attack as retaliation against Duke Cristoph for his successful quelling of the Abandoned threat within his own borders. They simply believe that the shavs, already dangerous, are simply growing more sophisticated and reckless in their attacks. Any reports of dragons assisting in the battle on the Compact's side are waved away as pure nonsense and the result of a chaotic night leading the minds of those who suffered to create fantastic explanation for the horror and trauma they have suffered.
In the days following the attack, the Compact, and, surprisingly, many of its foreign allies, reach out in support of House Laurent and Artshall, just further proving that no matter how far the fall, the Compact stands again.