Friday, November 20, 2009

Grismeire Valley Campaign - Bretonnian Story

As day broke, the sunlight played amongst the rolling waves of the Great Ocean. From her window in one of the taller towers in the castle of Brionne, Lady Aleena could see the elven ships at port. Apparently, a storm had driven the elves off of their course, but she had no doubt that it was the Lady that had brought them to Brionne. One would normally be awestruck by the sight of the elegant ships. Some might consider themselves lucky to have seen one in their lifetime. However, as Aleena gazed out of the window she thought about the events of the past few days since the elves arrived. Her eyes were fixed upon the banner displayed on the vessel. She had seen the heraldry of the dragon before. It was the sign she had been waiting for.

For years Aleena had been troubled by visions of a particular Bretonnian knight that she only recently knew as Sir Edwin. She had seen Edwin in countless circumstances; soaring through the air on a mighty Pegasus, slaying Bretonnian’s invaders, standing over the graves of fallen friends, or locked in mortal combat with powerful enemies. She had seen him lead great victories and suffer crushing defeats. He had been portrayed as an errant knight, a grail knight, and every stage of knighthood in between. She had even seen his death in several visions, all of which were different. Every time her mind was opened to the knight, an incredible feeling of sorrow overcame her, often bringing her to tears. The visions had ranged so much in content that she had no idea what their purpose was. Were they real? Did this knight actually exist? She could not escape the feeling that this unknown knight had a destiny that was important to realm of Bretonnia, and that she was somehow tied to his fate. The most recent vision granted to her by the Lady had finally revealed the identity of the noble knight.

In the vision Aleena was walking along the shores of Brionne when the Lady of the Lake revealed herself from the depths of the Great Ocean. The spectral image of the Lady raised her arm and pointed off to the north east as she spoke. “Sir Edwin needs you” she said simply. Though this was the first time that she had heard the name, Aleena knew exactly of whom she spoke. The image of the Lady opened her arms, and as she faded back into the Otherworld an elven ship could be seen just off shore. Just before she woke from the dream, Aleena focused on the ship and noticed the heraldry of the dragon.

Until the elves arrived, she remained unsure of exactly what it was she was supposed to do. When she received word that high elf ships were driven off course and forced to make port in Brionne she immediately looked out of her window to the port. The fact that she knew what she was going to see did not prevent her from having to see it with her own eyes. Aleena immediately sent Victor, her servant, to summon the Duke of Brionne. The arrival of the elves was going to lead her to Sir Edwin.

Aleena was amongst Duke Theodoric’s most trusted advisors and one of the more powerful prophetesses in the land of Brionne. When Aleena inquired about the business of the high elves, the Duke explained that they were granted permission by both Duke Bohemond of Bastonne and King Louen himself to lead an expedition of importance to the elves in the lands of Bastonne. While the details of the expedition where not given, Theodric would never question the authority of the King. The high elves offered some aid in return for the Bretonnian cooperation. It seems that the northern regions of Bastonne have been experiencing increased raids by the foul beastmen from the Forest of Arden. Duke Bohemond’s nephew, Frederic Theobold, was mustering an army to head north to crush the beastman warbands. As they would be operating in Bastonne, the high elves offered their military support.

Aleena knew that following the high elves into Bastonne would bring her to Sir Edwin. She explained to Theodoric that the Lady had chosen her to go to Bastonne to aid in the upcoming battles, and requested permission from him to leave Brionne. She had no need to ask permission; as a living embodiment of the Lady’s will, the Duke had no authority over her. She would not, however, dishonor such a noble hero by flaunting her ability to operate outside of the hierarchy of Bretonnia. Certainly, he did not want to see her leave. Not only fearing for her own safety but also not wishing to give up her council. The Duke did not question her about her leaving Brionne, if it was the Lady’s will, he would see to it that it was fulfilled. He did, however request that she give him a few days to assemble an army to escort her and aid Bastonne in the upcoming war.

This was the third morning since her conversation with the Duke. The army was assembled and they were preparing to set off this morning. Lady Aleena awaited Sir Augustine Beaumont to inform her that the army was ready to march. Sir Augustine, a mighty grail knight, was chosen to lead the army as well as serve as Lady Aleena’s champion and protector.

As Aleena waited she recalled the grand feast that was held the night before in honor of the high elf visitors. She had dealt with elves before; in her role as advisor to the Duke she had diplomatic experience with most races. Still, she did not particularly enjoy the politics of such festivities. She much preferred to observe the parties involved and leave the conversation to the other more political individuals. She met the high elf leaders and had a brief polite conversation with each of them before fading into to background of the festivities where she could observe. Sir Augustine spoke with some of military leadership, no doubt familiarizing himself with their strengths and weaknesses, as well as coordinating the timeline of their arrival in Bastonne. The stoic knight struggled to think about anything other than his duty. The arrogance of the elves had shown itself subtly a few times throughout the night. As Duke Theodric told tales of his deeds, she watched Prince Tethelion pretend to be impressed; the look on Loriss’ face as he sampled the Duke’s finest wines. The attitude of elves was well known, and to be expected. For the few instances she had noticed it, they were quick to cover it. Whether this was out of politeness or meant that they were gifted liars, she could not decide. Either way, one thing was certain; the elves where very good at making themselves likable. No one within the festivities seemed to notice these things, and the conversation and laughter continued. She thought she was blending in quite well when an elf named Aldric startled her by posing a question about her enjoying these events as much as he did. She had not been aware that anyone was near her, let alone observing her. She spoke with Aldric for quite some time. He did not seem interested in the festivities at all, and mentioned that he had adventured around the countryside since they had arrived, and intended to do so again before they left. She recommended a few locations that she felt he ought to see, places of particular natural beauty. Aldric seemed to appreciate it, and for once she felt as if she actually had an honest conversation with an elf.

Aleena’s thoughts were interrupted when she heard the door to her quarters creak open followed by heavy armored footsteps entering the room. Sir Augustine rarely spoke, but when he did, his voice carried a tone that demanded attention. “My Lady. We await you”.

Shortly thereafter the army was marching through the gates of Brionne, met by the usual throng of peasants cheering on their knightly lords. Even after the crowds dispersed, Duke Theodric watched from the gate tower. He was always enthralled by the sight of the Bretonnians marching to war. His duties as Duke prevented him from joining this particular host, and as he thought about that fact he realized that his hand was tightly gripping the handle of his sword. He released his grip and continued to watch until the army had disappeared over the horizon. Surly, none could stand before the might of Bretonnia.

Sir Edwin awoke suddenly, his hand scrambling at his side to find his sword. As he found it he rolled into a crouch, ready to strike. His eyes darted around his camp, but there was nobody there. He realized that he was alone, and it was a dream. Not a day had gone by that he didn’t think about that battle years ago, but it had been a long time since he had such a vivid recollection of the undead hordes.

He relaxed his posture and stabbed his sword into the ground as his body began to remember its pains. Edwin could not remember the last time he slept in a proper bed. As a Bretonnian questing knight he was oath bound to never sleep two nights in the same place. He began to rotate his shoulders and massage his arms to relieve his aching body from the skirmish late yesterday. The commoners on the eastern borders of Bastonne had recently been victim of a few raids on the livestock. While it was certainly not his duty to investigate this, he did so anyway. After all of these years he still had respect for the low born peasants of Bretonnia. Besides, if he was not meant to be here, the Lady of the Lake would not have placed him here. It was not long before the thieves showed themselves, a small band of oddly garbed goblins. A strange mockery of human clothing, Edwin imagined they were attempting to blend into the human village. He dispatched the unworthy enemies with relative ease, but the goblins did manage to land a few blows he felt still today. As he began the process of cleaning his blade, Edwin cleared his mind and lost himself in his thoughts.

Edwin found the dream of the battle with the Vampire rather odd. Was it a sign, or simply a memory? It mattered very little; he had stopped trying to interpret visions long ago. He assumed that every decision that he made was not in fact his choice, but rather the will of The Lady. It had not served him wrong yet. Since he began living in that fashion, life had been a series of adventures. Every day seemed to lead into the next chapter of his story as he moved through the old world. He had recently reentered Bretonnia for the first time since he left so many years ago. While his life was that of a questing knight, his humble approach was slightly different, in that he did not yearn to find the grail. If and when the Lady of the Lake found him worthy to drink from the grail, he would do so. Until then he would perform the will of The Lady, and concern himself with very little else.

Edwin wondered where The Lady would guide him next, and as he packed up his few belongings onto his warhorse, he heard an unmistakable sound. He crept to the crest of the hill where he made his camp to observe. Just as he suspected, he watched a large group of Bretonnian knights, twenty or so, gallop from the horizon. They were still a good distance away, heading off to the west, but if he got going right away he would be able to cut them off. He mounted his warhorse and made off to do just that. When the knights spotted him, one of them broke off from the group and headed straight for him. Edwin halted a reasonable distance away as a sign of peace. When the knight got close enough, Edwin could tell by his heraldry and armament that he was also a questing knight.

He spoke of a war in the northern regions of Bastonne that this group had gotten word of. As they rode to aid in the upcoming battles they had gathered more numbers along the way, Edwin being the most recent addition to the group. Certainly it was the will of The Lady that he join the reinforcements. As he rode off with the band of knights he said a prayer to the Lady of the Lake, thanking her for choosing him to be an instrument of her will.

As he retired to his quarters, Frederic Theobold considered the military council that had just concluded. As he looked around the room he noted the things that were inadequately done by his servants. Though he could not remember his name, the head of the staff would receive the list in the morning. While he did not expect the comforts of his home in the small fortress that was acting as the launch point for the campaign, he did deserve better than this.

The reinforcements from Brionne had arrived at the small fortress a day earlier than expected, a much welcome surprise. A small part of his pride was stung by the amount of aid he was receiving in the upcoming campaign, but things had changed quite significantly from the original plan. Messengers from their high elves allies, operating to the east, had just yesterday brought word that there was undead forces located in the area around Tharravil. Nothing was yet known about the fate of the town, but the news had made this into a two front war. Evidently the high elves had seen it fit to hire honorless ogre mercenaries as bodyguards, a decision that Frederic despised. The ogres were well known to work for the highest bidder, and could not be trusted. It was not a pressing issue, certainly not worth upsetting the alliance with the elves. Given the current circumstances he supposed the ogres were a useful ally. However, Frederic noted that when the high elves concluded their expedition into Bastonne, the ogres would have to be closely watched and probably eradicated. Allowing them to operate in Bastonne was not an option.

As he settled into the uncomfortable bed, Frederic thought about the strategies and tactics that had been decided upon in the council. He was launching the attack early the following morning, and wanted to be well rested for the long days ahead of him. Everything was sound, and they had more forces available than he had originally anticipated. Surly leading this victory would bring him much glory. Though he was well aware of what people thought about his position, he did not care. Simply because of his family name he felt he was judged by a different standard. He viewed it as jealousy, but nevertheless, he would answer his critics with a swift powerful victory in the war. Frederic forced the thoughts from his head and instead focused on the glory he would achieve in the following days and weeks, as he drifted into sleep.

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