The fields are burning…
Night no longer falls on Wintershield. The Order troops have set fire to everything beyond the walls. The inferno scorches the sky and without the wind the smoke would be overpowering. The oppressive heat can be felt even through the innermost walls of the keep. It’s been three days; I don’t know how long we can hold out without the aid of our allies.
Natalia De’Monte, Lady of Wintershield
Lieutenant Damebix Underdepth,
I have completed my task and beg to report that Wintershield ceases to exist. The attached scrap of paper is practically all that is left of our old home. The Order troops have literally leveled the plains of our former home. This was no half job. Every wall has been pulled down, and every building reduced to its lowest foundation stone. All of my assets destroyed! Not even a shred of hope of recovery this time. Wintershield is gone forever. The only thing left to mark the location is the stone husk of the Tree of Life and a mass grave where our dead were collected and buried. Odd to think that my own corpse is likely in there somewhere. I wonder if it still has any money on it… there must be something to salvage here! I “acquired” almost 3 million gold coins from my contacts in the new Deathless Empire and King’s Cross. There is no way I will be able to amass such a sum again.
There is no point in persevering and trying again. We were incredibly lucky after the first sack of Wintershield, they left many of our assets still standing and recovery was feasible. But Owyne learned from his mistake this time. He rallied every bannerman in his “Alliance of Order” and all of our allies are to afraid to even be associated with our cause. I’m not condemning the Shadow Syndicate raids, but Lord Talin sealed our fate with them. Owyne has made an example of us. Owyne has demonstrated to every guild and city, that to object in even the most tacit of ways to their domination of Deception and her resources by the Order will result in utter destruction. The first sack of Wintershield was not meant to humble us, it was meant to silence our opposition. After this second siege, I believe they have achieved their goal. No one will associate with us, from a business standpoint we are utterly shutout. I owned a third of Wintershield commerce, and am sorry to report that even with the cash reserves it would be pointless to rebuild a third time.
I have also attached Lieutenant Angelmar’s assessment of our military and diplomatic situation.
Maleficc SoulStealer, Minister of the Exchequer
The Ruins of Wintershield
Lieutenant Angelmar, Envoy of Lord Talin Kir’Shen
Gaeryn’s Hope-The Stag and Cross Inn; July the 25th of Shadow Year 97
Lieutenant Damebix Unterdepth; Sir Merek the Mad,
I’ve just returned from meeting with Archbishop Rhibald of House Daenyr and Lord Captain Commander Galahad, leader of the Knights of the Alliance at House Daenyr’s capital of Gaeryn’s Hope… the meeting was not promising. I do not believe the three of you were privy to all of Lord Kir’Shin’s councils I will attempt to outline our current predicament.
As I’m sure you are aware, these are not the days of your fathers. Wintershield lies in ruins thanks to the ambitions of Lord Owynr of Lion’s Pride and the geniue fear he instills in our allies King Tearin and Lord Captain Commander Galahad. Lord Owyne, with only the menace of battle has managed to unite all of Stormvald, the ice-bound continent in the East under his banner. Lord Owyne in the past few years has been gathering a huge force at Lion’s Pride, signing any man that would recite his Oath of Order. Under threat of destruction at the hands of his overwhelming force the Ice Lords swallowed their pride and bent their knees, swearing fealty to Owyne and his Order Code. Lord Owyne brought order to the East, by oppressing the people with the threat of annihilation. But Stormvald was not enough for Lord Owyne, he cast his eyes out across the sea and was determined bring “Order” and oppression to the rest of Deception.
All of this you know, every living soul on Deception knows it. Every lord has increased their restrictions on their vassals to avoid offending Lord Owyne and incurring his wrath. Some have even forsworn their claims to the resources of their own lands, instead giving them in tribute to Lord Owyne and his Alliance of Order. The Alliance speaks of virtue and defending the weak, but they bring only oppression, theft, and demands of fealty. All this you knew, but what you didn’t know was that you Lord Talin Kir’Shin, was attempting to build a coalition to oppose the Order.
House Daenyr and the Winterblades have a long history of cooperation. King Taerin and Lord Kir’Shin were close friends. When Tearin was just asserting his control and founding Gaeryn’s Hope, Lord Talin and the Winterblades were there to aide him. It was a mutually beneficial relationship at both the top levels of command and on the ground. Hunting parties and military operations were often jointly coordinated. When marauding bands of Kill Cult from the Southern swamps attempted raids on the North, it was often a joint force that repelled them.
To the East of Wintershield a chapter of Cambruin’s Knight’s made common cause and founded The Knights of the Alliance at Acheron under Lord Captain Commander Galahad. Under the motto of “Loyalty, Integrity, Friendship” the knights were a moderately powerful force in the North. Although our relationship with the Knights of the Alliance did not have the historical roots of our friendship with House Daenyr it was a close relationship and I myself became friends with Galahad over the years. Moreover their close proximity to Wintershield made us natural allies against forces from outside the region.
These were the people that should have stood by us in our hour of need.
But they didn’t and Lord Talin Kir’Shin should have realized he was gambling our fates on a fool’s errand after the Great War of Deception. The conflict was massive and we remained out of it. The Avatars of the Flame, an alliance of Lords seeking to increase their holdings through force of arms, were gaining in power on the mainland. Owyne took umbrage at these upstart lords, but more specifically with their methods. Their indiscriminate killing of all outsiders in their claimed lands broke Owyne’s monopoly of “legitimate” force. The key moment was their expansion onto the desert Khar’Thale islands by incorporating the guild Darkenbane, who were notorious rapers and pillagers working out of the free city of Khar Th’Sekt. Owyne though, knew he couldn’t act directly against this now-trans continental alliance. Rumors through the runegates from other fragments of Aerynth spoke of horrible dictators and oppressors subjugating entire fragments. Owyne holds the largest force on Deception, and there was already some resentment to his growing power. To so openly involve himself with a conflict on the mainland would confirm the fears of the people. So he worked behind the scenes. Lord Owyne stepped up his public rhetoric calling for all honorable leaders of the world to fight this menace managing to get House Daenyr the largest nation on the mainland and their close ally the Kingdom of Eleador to make war on the Avatars under the banner of the “Northern Alliance”. They met with initial mixed results so Owyne managed to get the Knights of the Alliance and “The Wanders” a desert nation to join in their puppet Alliance against the Avatars. The submission of our close friends and allies to the plans and agenda of the Ice Lords greatly strained our relationships.
Lord Talin Kir’Shin was by now already speaking of a “new coalition” at the council and worked vigorously to prevent King Tearin’s next move to break the stalemate in his war. Despite personal appeals by Lord Talin Kir’Shin, King Tearin invited Owyne and his Order troops onto the continent to assist with the siege of the Avatar’s island capital of Avatar’s Torch. There troops and their influence have never left. The Avatars of the Flame were defeated, and their holdings on the mainland of Tyrranth Major and the desert Khar Thale Islands were ceded. The lords and their vassals of the Avatars of the Flame were banished to the undead infested backwaters of Vorrin’s Doom. They have since taken a new name, the Legion of Steel. Thus ended the first Great War, and signaled both the doom of Wintershield and the rise of Owyne and the Order.
“While tensions with the noble Winterblades reached an all time high toward the end of the war with Avatars of the Flame. We of the House Daenyr look forward to a strengthening relationship with this fine nation once more as we march into the future.”
Here are King Tearin’s comments from the College of Hearld’s report at the end of the war. We had come lost much favor with our once steadfast ally whose capital we helped construct. And now Talin wanted to try to pry them lose from their fear and dependency on the Alliance of Order? It was madness. King Tearin was a weak and near sighted ruler of a weak people as would soon become painfully obvious.
Since the turning there have been scores of groups more interested in causing panic and destruction for their own profit, including ourselves some decades ago. These bands often take to the backwaters like Vorrin’s Doom, the outer Khar Thal Islands and especially the swamps and cesspits of the Southeastern mainland. Owyne even had to root out a band of brigands known as “Red Ravens” from his own backyard in Volgarth. Two of the most persistent brigand nations have been Shadow Syndicate and Kill Cult both hailing from the southern swamps. These two clans have raided into the north for months now. Some time ago Owyne’s Alliance of Order, now an invited guest on the mainland let loose its numbers upon the Shadow Syndicate’s capital of Gehenna which quickly fell.
While this was happening, Kill Cult continued its normal activities but ventured to far when they attempted to break House Daenyr’s control over certain special runes of power and began raiding their vassal’s lands. King Tearin claimed that the small cult of raiders from the swamps would be destroyed by House Daenyr alone and would require no assistance from the rest of the Northern Alliance. Although very few in numbers compared to House Daenyr, Kill Cult began to take the strongholds of House Daenyr’s vassals. The Kingdom of Eleador soon joined in the fray as well as the Knights of the Alliance. Lord Talin Kir’Shin would conduct his own independent raids on Kill Cult in retaliation for attacks on our lands, but we did not throw our lot in with King Tearin officially. Lord Talin was still trying to get the fragment to realize who the real threat to the freedom of Deception was, and to that end he subbed Echelon of Eagle’s Reach and the defeated Shadow Syndicate, with the understanding that they would mend their ways. The dream of a coalition free from the strings of the Ice Lords was finally beginning to materialize and Owyne knew it.
Lord Owyne began to quietly support Kill Cult, and although this move galvanized the small clan’s resistance ensuring that the war would continue to swing in Kill Cult’s favor it had the unintended consequence of sapping his moral authority. The war keeps King Tearin’s Northern Alliance dependent on financial support from the Order as most of the Northern Alliance’s hinterlands are under Kill Cult’s control. Kill Cult is a notorious clan of thugs, lowlifes, pillagers, and thieves who act only if it is to their profit. Lord Owyne’s support of Kill Cult has recently been exposed and Deception now knows of the festering hypocrisy at the heart of the Order’s actions.
This is the backdrop upon which the last months have been played. Since then King Tearin requested that we make common cause against Kill Cult and join the Northern Alliance and Lord Talin answered the call. With our help the tide began to turn and Kill Cult began to lose some of its lesser territories. Lord Owyne sent an emissary ordering us to stop harboring indiscriminate killers like Shadow Syndicate on threat of destruction. Lord Talin initially resisted, until Lord Owyne made public his demands and began to win support of other lords within the Northern Alliance for expelling the Syndicate. Lord Talin finally admitted defeat and expelled them. But Lord Owyne was not finished. Kill Cult’s elite warriors were still wading through the masses of the Northern Alliance, but under siege conditions they had difficulty overcoming their numerical disadvantage. Lord Owyne made a public demand that the Winterblades cease all hostilities against Kill Cult, despite the fact that we were not the aggressors in this war. Kill Cult had been launching raids on our people for months prior to the escalation of this conflict. And yet in the court of public opinion, we were painted as the aggressors meddling in a conflict that didn’t concern us. Our allies and longtime friends House Daenyr and the Knights of the Alliance were outraged, but they did not denounce the demands publicly. Behind the scenes they entreated us to remain in the conflict. Lord Talin stood by our longtime friends. Lord Owyne then sent another emissary, with an ultimatum. Lord Talin was to pull out of the Northern Alliance or face elimination. Sensing that perhaps this would show the fearful lords of the Northern Alliance that they were allowing their people to be dominated by the Alliance of Order and its oppressive ideology. The true intentions and message the Order preached. Lord Talin made public the ultimatum and we were destroyed.
Our allies offered their condolences some made token offers of help following the Order’s attack. Some eleventh hour diplomacy by myself made it clear that our allies were far to worried about incurring the Order’s wrath to aid us. And so we died and Wintershield burned. We rebuilt thinking that the Owyne had proved his point and he was done humbling us. But no, our rebuilt city and was again put under siege, and at the vanguard of that attack were some of our former vassals who had surrendered to save their lands and cities. This final meeting with King Tearin and Lord Captain Commander Galahad has made this clear: there is no place for us in the North and our fair-weather friends will not even grant us a temporary home.
All of my contacts are spent, I have no council to give. As you know those that have remained loyal have launched raids through the runegates. Sir Dendric and Thalakos the Hammer have managed to even loot some of the Order’s lesser cities, but Lion’s Pride is invulnerable to us and we have no home. Our numbers dwindle each day we remain wanders and Lord Talin and his right hand Talimor De’Monte have disappeared. Likely some black art of Owyne’s “righteous” Order as he has not been seen since he was slain in the first siege. Regardless we must find a home soon or all will be lost. I believe the old leadership are beyond our help and it up to us to reform the remnants of the Winterblades.
Envoy of Lord Talin Kir’Shin