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Lord Decobius

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Thank you so much for stopping by! Please read and let me know what you thought!

Dark Prince.jpg


GAMES OF DEATH IN THE COURT OF THE FÆ​



13th of August in the Year 765 of the Millennium of Flame

Midnight

The walls groaned as the violent pounding shook them to their foundations. Screams and wild yelling could be heard above the din of the pounding, and smoke was thick in the air. With a thunderous crack a portion of the roof caved in, letting in the dancing light of a village on fire. But for all the commotion and mayhem outside, within the dark hall it was as silent as a tomb.

Chief Boson de Namur sat with his face in his hands. The end was nigh, not just of his rule but of his tribe. Of his people. Of their way of life. He had known the ambitions of the Samrat would never permit Færeyar to escape conquest, but Boson had hoped to favorably influence the terms of his oath of fealty. Not even a month ago his emissaries had brought back promising news, suggesting the wedge he had driven between Costanzo Ardu, the Maharaja of Arduen, and Hélie de Crecy, the Raja of Crecyony, might encourage Costanzo to grant Boson control of the duchy of Crecyony to spite Hélie once Boson swore him and the Samrat fealty. He had met with the Samrat himself and parted on friendly terms. He had organized and executed a daring raid of Iona to bolster an illusion of strength. He had even spread rumors of plague afflicting Færeyar to buy time.

And all of it had been for nothing.

1. Chief Boson (pre-Pox).png


Chief Boson de Namur

On the 1st of August they had spotted the first ships. Bérenger, the chancellor of Crecyony, had come in command of five hundred men to force Boson to surrender. Of course, both men knew the Færeyar Tribe could muster nearly twice that, but rather than underestimate his opponent Boson decided to err on the side of caution. He gave Bérenger the run-around as he strengthened his defenses, promising to meet with him each day yet unfortunately never finding the time between his official duties or conversing informally but oh-so-frustratingly being interrupted before getting to anything important. Bérenger never complained, even after ten days of such treatment, and finally Boson began to suspect it was actually he who was being given the run-around.

He had caught on too late.

2. 769 Berenger of Crecyony.png


Though a man of modest capabilities, Bérenger's humility ensured he never overplayed his hand or assumed victory in a negotiation before it was already certain

When he at last met with Bérenger, the man explained that Settimio, chancellor of Arduen, had been authorized to either accept Boson’s oath of loyalty or take Færeyar by force. The whole time Bérenger had been waiting for an audience, Settimio had been gathering his liege’s forces. He could show up any day now. The chancellor of Arduen was well-known to be a deceitful, paranoid rogue who favored direct conflict but underhanded tactics: as Bérenger pointed out, if Boson had not surrendered by the time Settimio arrived there would be no further negotiating.

Boson had promised a reply on the morrow and spent a sleepless night trying to figure out a way to turn things to his advantage. If he gave in to Bérenger, he would be forced to swear fealty to Hélie de Crecy and give up his bid for the duchy. If he did not, Settimio would come and crush him. There was a chance Bérenger was bluffing, of course, but Boson did not think so. The man was too unassuming, too mild-mannered for bluffs and gambits. Besides, what need was there to bluff when he held all the cards?

3. 769 Khottigidian Empire.png


The vassals of the Khottigidian Empire, which spans the Isles but for the Rudradevidian Raj on the southern tip (in brown) and isolated little Færeyar alone far to the north

The choice between submission and death might seem simple: survive now, take it all back later. But the issue was more complicated than that. After all, Færeyar was the last stronghold of the Fæ: magical beings that had walked the earth millennia ago. The entirety of what was now the Khottigidian Empire (and according to some sources, so much more) had once belonged to them. However, the Fæ had long since vanished, and very few bloodlines could trace all the way back to Færie relatives. Since the rise of the Khottigids, and especially after the bloody conquest of Arduen, so-called “Fairy” culture was in the final stages of being ruthlessly stamped out. Boson’s line, the de Namurs, was the last on Earth with pure Færie blood in it. And upon the untimely demise of his cousin Bruly, Boson and his sons were the last living de Namurs. Could he truly submit, knowing he would be signing off on the very same forcible assimilation that was happening in Hélie de Crecy’s domain at that very moment? Was a noble end to the blood of the Fæ not preferable?

4. Cultures of the Khottigidian Empire.jpg


The Cultures of the Khottigidian Empire, Gwyneddian being the dominant one

5. World Cultures; The Fairy Lands.jpg


The last holdouts of a once vast culture

It turned out the choice would be made for him.

On August 12th, the day he was to announce his decision to Bérenger, Settimio’s ships were spotted on the horizon. Bérenger returned to his own fleet to meet with Settimio and prepare his troops for a landing. Boson had mobilized his men to defend the shore at all costs. It would be a fight to the death after all, and Boson was determined to make it one the armies of Arduen would never forget.

By nightfall Settimio owned the shore and was pushing into the village. For all of Boson’s traps and tricks, all of the fighting spirit of the citizens of Færeyar, in the end sheer manpower was winning out. While Boson’s forces were double Bérenger’s, Settimio and Bérenger’s forces combined easily doubled Boson’s. Hundreds had been cut down as the invaders pushed inexorably into the village, and once the enemy made it there the slaughter had really begun. Women and children died by the dozens as the soldiers of Arduen swarmed into their homes with rape, pillage, and murder at the forefront of the invaders’ minds. Boson witnessed his own sons perish, each fighting valiantly to their last breaths. Ultimately Boson had taken his best surviving soldiers and barricaded himself in his main hall for a final stand. The building, made of stone, was the only one that would not burn when Settimio’s forces set the village ablaze.

So here Boson sat, awaiting his death. He would be the last of the de Namurs, the last of the Fæ, and the last free chieftain of Færeyar.

6. Countries of the UK.jpg


Place Your Bets

The door splintered, folding inwards but just barely managing to stay on its hinges. One more barrage and the enemy would be through. Faces could now be spotted through the cracks, battle-mad and bloodthirsty. The walls quivered again, and an avalanche of debris poured down as more of the roof collapsed.

Boson rose to his feet. “Men, you know fancy words have never been my strong suit: I say it like it is. We’re all going to die here. But I want you to—”

Before he could tell them what an honor it would be to die alongside them, or how glorious their end was going to be, or whatever other platitude he had planned to espouse, the door burst inwards with a mighty BOOM and the soldiers of Arduen charged into the hall. Roaring like demons, the enemy soldiers leapt over fallen roofing to engage Boson and his paltry force of seventeen. The doomed chief’s warriors raised their weapons in grim resignation; after all, their chieftain’s motivational speech had just amounted to telling them there was no hope. Boson hefted his ancestral sword, an ancient weapon time had not been kind to, and as the two sides collided he bellowed out what he presumed would be his final words:

“For Færeyar! FOR THE FÆ!”

7. The de Namur Blade.png


The blade was made of a metal that did not rust or shatter, but time and use had worn the edges down all the same

His men were falling quickly, taking one or two enemy soldiers with them but making no difference overall. Louis, Champion of Færeyar since winning the Færeyar Games, was holding his own, but in the blink of an eye Boson’s seventeen soldiers had become seven. The chieftain leapt forward to meet his first foe, catching the man off-balance and thrusting the de Namur Blade up into his chest cavity from below the ribcage. The next man to face him tried to bludgeon him to death with the broken haft of an axe, but while he got one good blow in Boson managed to pull his sword free just in time to deflect the second attack. Before the chieftain could riposte, however, another soldier rammed into him, stabbing a dagger into his thigh. Boson went down, the de Namur Blade skittering out of reach, and his foe’s dagger flashed in the light of the purple lightning as it was raised overhead to be plunged into his heart.

Boson blinked. Purple lightning?

Only then did he notice the nauseating purple smog with crackling lightning flickering through its murky expanse as it swept into the building through the holes in the roof. All of a sudden everyone was choking, rubbing their eyes, and groping for the exit. Boson had the wherewithal to seize his enemy’s weapon hand and thrust it downwards so the man’s own dagger pierced its owner's right eye, but then Boson too was overwhelmed by the noxious, blinding cloud. A strand of lightning struck him in the back, setting his hair on end and his body to spasming. He lost his footing and flopped uncontrollably on the floor like a fish out of water. His jaw locked up and his stomach churned like the sea in a storm. When his jitters finally subsided Boson got a brief respite and, believing the worst was over, attempted to stand.

Abruptly the screaming started, and Boson’s own agonized cry soon joined the chorus. His very bones felt as though they had been set on fire. Curling into a ball, Boson tried in vain to find some way to make the pain go away. His fingernails scraped against the floor, clawing for a nonexistent escape. He began to weep, and blood mixed with the tears to leave little red tracks through the grime and war paint on his face.

Anguish! Pure, breathtaking torment filled his entire body. The only thing that could compete with his suffering was his fear: before his very eyes his hands were warping, his legs crunching into shorter versions of themselves and his ribs condensing as though they intended to squeeze his innards until they burst. It came to the point that Boson could scream no more, his raw throat suffocating any sound he attempted to make. He wished he could black out, but it seemed like the very pain he wished to escape from kept his senses cruelly alert.

Finally the fog bank of arcane energy dissipated, continuing its fell journey through the night. After a minute or two the shrieks of pain that had engulfed all of Færeyar dwindled, the crashing waves on the rocky shore once more dominating the symphony of the night. Louis, Champion of Færeyar, climbed out from behind the broken table he had fallen through during the battle and peered around him with terrified eyes. All across the floor bodies stirred, twitching and writhing, but he seemed the only one able to stand.

Everyone else was adjusting to their new physiques.

Boson stared at his hands, small and unscarred. The clothes he had been wearing felt gigantic, like he had wrapped an entire sail around his torso instead of a simple shirt. The snap of wood under a boot drew him out of his reverie, and in astonishment he looked up at Louis as the man approached him. Had Louis always been so tall?

“Chief… Chief Boson?” Louis stammered.

8. Chief Boson of Faereyar 765.jpg


A New Look for the Old Chieftain

“What happ—” Boson began, but at the sound of his new voice he clamped his hands over his mouth. He tried again, muttering some random syllables. He sounded prepubescent! He sat up, shrugging out of the ridiculously overlarge shirt. Louis watched him, his mouth agape. Somehow the expression on his Champion’s face irked Boson immensely. “Louis! What happened?”

“I-I-I,” Louis stuttered, clearly at a loss for words.

Boson looked around. Everyone other than Louis and two soldiers from Arduen had been transformed into children. The newly-young boys were getting up, struggling out of suddenly too-heavy pieces of armor or comically enormous clothing. They looked around in utter confusion, goggle-eyed and gaping. Their ages varied from toddlers to preteens, and Boson even spotted some infants here and there. None of them seemed to have any idea of what had happened.

“Louis! The soldiers!” Boson hissed, reaching for the dagger he had thrust into his enemy’s eye. He noticed the corpses were unchanged; all of the still bodies surrounding them remained fully grown. The dagger was firmly stuck, forcing Boson to try to jiggle it loose with all the strength his young arms could muster. The blade finally popped free of the socket with a harsh scraping sound, and the eye came with it. Boson waved the dagger until the eyeball slid off, landing with a wet plop at his feet. He looked up.

Everyone was staring at him.

“Louis!” Boson shouted, and the Champion stirred. He turned to look at the enemy soldiers, who returned his gaze with uncomprehending looks of their own. However, when Louis raised his war axe they seemed to take the hint. Both men dove for their own weapons, unwittingly relinquished in the shock of the moment, but it was far too late. Louis cleaved one’s head in with his axe while Boson leapt on the back of the other, stabbing his borrowed dagger again and again into the man’s throat. The two soldiers from Arduen crumpled to the floor, their blood pooling out around them amid the dirt and debris.

The children started screaming. The babies started crying. Toddlers wet themselves. Every one of the newly-young boys near Louis or Boson tried to crawl away from the two murderers, shock and terror written plainly on their faces. Boson wiped a smear of blood from his eye and glared at them. Just because they had been turned into children didn’t mean they had to act like it.

“What do we do?” Louis asked.

“What do you mean? They’re still the enemy!” Boson responded, advancing on the nearest enemy soldier. The enemy keeled over, his toddler legs too uncoordinated to carry him to safety. “If I have my wits, they have theirs. Kill them, Louis! Kill them all!”

Louis hesitated only a moment, for though he had serious reservations about killing children his chieftain’s logic made hideous sense. Axe and dagger went to work, slashing and stabbing their way through the ranks of wailing children. If they could not tell the target was from Færeyar beyond a shadow of a doubt, whether by clothing or by war paint, then the target was cut down. By the end of the grim business only Boson and four other children remained.

“And now, Chief Boson?” Louis panted, somewhat winded from chasing the final squealing ten-year-old around the room. He had a queasy look on his face and his eyes were disturbingly wide open.

“Now we continue our work outside,” Boson whispered, his throat tight and his heart pounding painfully in his chest. He glanced at the four boys they had saved. The boys huddled together, cowering away from him and crying pitifully. Boson bit his lip. “For Færeyar. For the Fæ.”
 
About this AAR

Lord Decobius

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Well, in what may be the final year before ck3, it’s come down to do or die time with finally posting my own AAR. I’ve been working on it for quite awhile, studying others and mustering up the courage to commit to putting this out there. I chose a random world, with Animal Kingdoms activated, and all rulers limited to an age under 15. I really wanted to supply a narrative reason for these insane discrepancies, so as you saw, there’s a bit of magic in the air! Only a bit though, and these folk would probably consider it quite toxic.

My goals for this AAR are tied up with the plot, which I really don’t want to spoil. I can only say “I’ve got a plan” and hope you trust me. But I do have a plan! So I hope you can trust me to see it through.

I have all the DLC activated except Sunset Invasion, with pretty much every game rule set to “on” or “default” but for a few exceptions:

1. The Mongol Invasion is set to delayed random. I don’t know how this will play out in a random world, or even where it will play out, but I wanted it to be later. Also, as you can see below, I have exclaves set to limited (naval). I like the idea that ruling something way, way far away is just not plausible, even if in-game this rule can be a real heartbreaker/nuisance.

9. Game Rules; Invasions + Infections.jpg


2. I have the de jure requirement set to required. I always play with this activated. It just makes sense to me. You can see what this means below:

10. Game Rules; De Jure Reqs.jpg


3. Lastly, I have Turkic Conquerors set to off. Normally I don’t mind them, but this time around I didn’t want them messing with the random world vibe. Same went for the Charlemagne events, by the way, though I doubt those would have even triggered.

11. Game Rules; Casus Belli + Cults.jpg

Other than those minor twists, everything’s pretty much default!

One thing I’d like to say is a big thank you to those dedicated AAR readers out there I see interacting on so, so many stories. It really helped motivate me to start this, since I felt reasonably certain at least a few people would read it and respond. You guys know who you are; thank you!

Another thing I’d like to say is @JabberJock14 : your story Before Plantagenet opened my eyes to just how cool AARs could be ([link] – go read it, everyone!). I had read a few before yours, but when I saw how in depth you got with your characters and how you crafted even basic events into character-defining moments, I was hooked. I knew after that if I was ever going to write an AAR it was going to be of a similar style. Thank you so much for your excellent story! And in the spirit of ck2, I am now going to attempt to usurp Before Plantagenet’s title of “Best AAR I’ve Read So Far” in my head with my own work – can’t help it, I’ve got the ambitious trait. :p

What follows is a lot of world-building: the next portion in particular sets the landscape for the religious side of things across the world. If you don’t find that interesting, by all means skip it! The tl;dr version is that Færeyar and its southern neighbor the Khottigidian Empire adhere to a faith called the School of Kernev, which believes in an Author of Fate. Most of the world however follows one or another sect of what’s commonly referred to as The Shattered Religion, which has a basic moral duality at work (a “good God vs. bad Devil” type of thing). Naturally, the only thing adherents of the Shattered Religion enjoy more than fighting each other is fighting “pagans”, so Boson and the Samrat had better be extremely careful not to draw too much attention to themselves before they’re ready…

If you plan on skipping, the next installment after that gives a bit of backstory on where the magic that struck Færeyar came from. After that one is an installment about the global effects of the curse, and after that we finally return to Boson just before the game actually gets going. From then on my plan is to post once or twice a week (once every weekend for sure, with perhaps another installment midweek if time permits). I am well ahead in the game, and it is ironman, so if you have any questions I would love to answer them but I may or may not be able to supply screenshots (I always play ironman, so I didn’t think about it when I got the game rolling :confused:). I hope you enjoy!
 
Last edited:
Worldbuilding - Religions At Large

Lord Decobius

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12. Khottigidian Empire; Damapati Permadi.png


From the writings of Damapati Permadi of Degannwy, in Rhos, the capital county of the Khottigidian Empire​


23rd of April in the Year 760 of the Millennium of Flame

To the illustrious Khottiga Khottigid, Samrat of the Khottigidian Empire and Enduring Beacon of the School of Kernev,

I was surprised and flattered you chose to send me your treatise on the Shattered Religion for review prior to its publication. You have indeed struck upon a great obstacle to The Learned, and I have no doubt your insights would prove powerfully persuasive to a good number of misguided heathens. However, I fear you may have, quite understandably but still erroneously, misidentified the Shattered Religion as more unified than it truthfully is. Respectfully, I would like to provide some brief insight from my studies abroad so that, with the full breadth of knowledge informing your decision, you might elect to reconsider publication of your manuscript until a more opportune time.

In eons past a single so-called holy book misled millions in the east: the World’s Gospel. This hallowed tome told stories of a great god who watched over mortals and safeguarded them against an unspeakable evil. Adherents to this gospel spanned the known world, spreading their lies ever further west from unknown lands in the easternmost regions. This faith was undeniably a potent force in the political landscape from the eastern edge of the world to the shores of the Mediterranean, and from the tip of the Sinai Peninsula to the frozen North Atlantic Sea. Such a vast religion seemed unstoppable, its closest rival being the equally misguided faiths revolving around the Fertile Mother. Though united against the encroaching eastern belief, the “Chosen Children” were too paralyzed by internal disputes to truly put a halt to the relentless ideological advance. It seemed quite likely the World’s Gospel would eventually be embraced by all, either by sword or by song.

However, that was a different era. More than seven hundred years ago a dragon priest named Vorcasym, known more commonly as the infamous Obsidian Drake, shattered the beating heart of the faithful in a furious revolt against all organized religion. Vorcasym had become disillusioned with everything he had been preaching from the World’s Gospel and turned his apparently vast powers of persuasion against the faithful. No-one now knows what caused him to become so adamantly anti-religious, but the results speak for themselves: his horde sacked the sacred Golden Gallery and his flames put all copies of the World’s Gospel to the torch. His followers raged across the land, determined to eradicate every sign the religion had ever existed. The foundation of the faith cracked. The once-unified belief fell into turmoil. The Bronze Millennium had come to a close, and Vorcasym’s new era, the Millennium of Flame, had begun.

13. Vorcasym.png

The Obsidian Drake, whose scales were such a dark red they were black in all but the brightest lighting

Vorcasym’s horde eventually grew so vast he was forced to create infrastructure to support it. Endeavoring to do so ended up consuming the rest of his time on earth, and though he managed to forge an empire he never truly settled down to rule it. After Vorcasym’s death, his greatest generals continued his work. However, the dragons Kytrapan, Gerze, Seserriff, Goldclaw, and Gemhide were not as zealous about purging belief as their master had been. Where the Obsidian Drake had forged an empire only as a means to an end, his followers believed empire was the end. Even Vorcasym’s heir, the bastard Scolroth, became engaged in the messy power ploys. Eventually their lust for power pitted Vorcasym’s loyal followers against themselves, and the great secular realm the Obsidian Drake had envisioned imploded. So ended Imperial Vorcasymathlia, and with it came the end of the Secular Crusade.

14. Duke Draco of Vorcasymathlia.png


All that remains of Imperial Vorcasymathlia, at the foot of the Tibetan Plateau. In Vorcasym’s day the entire plateau was under his undisputed control.

No doubt you have heard of the Secular Crusade, for though its talons never reached anywhere near your ancestor’s lands it did disrupt all trade from the east for nearly three generations. Indeed, it was that worldwide economic downturn (coupled with a period of severe local rainstorms) that provided your namesake the opportunity he required to seize his neighboring lands and form the kingdom that would become the foundation of your great empire as it is today. Still, you might perceptively point out that the Shattered Religion endures in force even now; to address that discrepancy we must move beyond Vorcasym and his generals by nearly a century to what foreigners refer to as The Resurgence.

15. Countries of Central Asia (Tibetan Plateau).jpg

Not a century later, Vorcasym’s empire was split between his generals (whose territories still bear their names). The Taklamakan Desert is the old site of the Golden Gallery, which along with a vast swath of the surrounding area was turned to glass under the purifying flames of Vorcasym’s mighty wrath.

The Shattered Religion slowly crept out of hiding in the decades following the Secular Crusade. Indeed, most of the common folk needed only a little prodding to take up the old ways. Overt displays were avoided, of course, but not half a century after the Obsidian Drake’s demise there were already smatterings of religious festivals being held. As you know, the School of Kernev was yet to be founded and would not be until the fourth century of the new millennium. Thus, unfortunately lacking any Learned Scholars to provide these countless lost souls with the light of truth, men and beasts ultimately embraced their traditions. A new caste of priests took up the reins to steer the faithful and, less than a century after the Secular Crusade, Vorcasym’s work was completely undone... or so it seemed.

In truth, Vorcasym had dealt more of a crushing blow than anyone had expected possible. The priests of the old religion had consolidated most copies of The World’s Gospel into the Golden Gallery to ensure their power base was centralized. Since creating copies was expressly forbidden (and since most people were illiterate anyway), the priests were the only ones who knew what the scriptures actually said. It gave them immense control over the populace, since it meant their interpretation was the only one that mattered. However, that proved the old religion’s downfall when Vorcasym showed up to burn it all down. In one fell swoop the World’s Gospel had been all but lost; few outside copies survived and Vorcasym made a point of doggedly tracking as many of them down as he could afterwards. The head priests were slaughtered. The regional priests went into hiding. In short, the church’s structure had been undone. The new priests would have to rebuild from the ground up, and unsurprisingly the effort to do so saw serious conflicts arise.

Of primary importance was recreating the lost holy tome. Roughly four-and-a-half centuries ago the Scholar-Sage Jajarman, an exceptionally studious elephant, spent her life gathering the salvaged burnt pages and charred remnants of copies of the World’s Gospel to compile what came to be called the Singed Texts. When she was not traveling, Jajarman could supposedly be found under the boughs of a peculiar gold-leaved tree deep in the wilderness. The Singed Texts recounted tales such as that of the Moon and the Omega, who danced and sang together until they had a falling out that caused the day-night cycle. The Moon was by the Gospel’s reckoning the one true God, and the Omega sought the end of all creation. As you no doubt recall from your own copy of Jajarman’s work, this story was the most complete of all the fragments Jajarman managed to collect, and the Singed Texts spread like wildfire over the following decades.

16. Religions; Jajarman.jpg

However, due to the inherently incomplete nature of the Singed Texts, arguments abounded. The Jajarman Sect focused specifically on the completed works Jajarman had managed to return to them, and chose to follow the story of the Moon and the Omega rather literally. Dancing came to be considered the highest form of worship, such that song and dance accompanied all rituals and ceremonies. Alternatively the Kushunumite Sect, based on Jajarman’s acolyte Kushunum who had helped her gather the burnt relics from across the world, instead upheld song as being paramount: they believed the Omega’s refusal to sing with The Moon was what caused the two to turn from one another, and thus singing, not dancing, was the truly divine method of worship. They sang every sermon of the World’s Gospel and mistrusted the mute, calling them servants of the Bloodletter (a reference to another tale of The Omega which remained incomplete, cutting off as The Omega squeezed the earth until it bled and formed the seas). The argument over song or dance has never abated, and though their founders were by all accounts close friends these two sects hate each other with a burning passion.

17. Religions; Kushunumite.jpg

Correspondences between Jajarman and Doendrubard, a fellow Scholar-Sage likewise attempting to recreate the World’s Gospel, also produced a religious sect. Called the Epistles of Wisdom, those that believed Doendrubard’s interpretations and translations of the fragments chose to follow his teachings instead of Jajarman’s. Doendrubard focused on the Moon’s hunting of The Omega after some great crime (possibly the aforementioned “bloodletting” event), identifying The Omega as The Ravenous Hunger That Devours All Things—or more simply as The Ravenous Hunger. By his estimation hunting, not dancing, was truly following the Moon’s example. The Moon was a great hunter, the Ravenous Hunger both predator and prey, and thus all ceremonial or spiritual pursuits had to follow the strict ritual guidelines of the hunts Doendrubard outlined. As he put it, “To hunt… is to follow the example of The Divine… and nothing could be more devout.”

18. Religions; Doendrubard.jpg

Distinctly similar to Doendrubard’s interpretations, an anonymous feline author who went only by “The Duchess” produced a counterwork not long after the Singed Texts became popular. The Duchess, without knowledge of Doendrubard’s work (or at least without any apparent prior contact with him), likewise espoused the belief that the hunt was more important than the dance. In an unashamedly revolutionary manuscript she titled The Book of Faith, the Duchess averred that all individuality was in fact an illusion. The Moon was the center of a shared consciousness, like a lord is the center of an estate. In both cases, all things operate according to their direction. Thereafter referring to The Moon as “The Lord”, this inflammatory author asserted that the reason people thought individuality was a reality was because The Lord was no longer directing things, leaving the collective consciousness adrift and fracturing. The Lord was asleep, and could only be awoken by the return of The Omega. The hunt for The Omega, then, had to be taken up by the faithful, and for roughly four centuries now there has indeed been an annual Omega Hunt wherever Duchessite belief holds sway.

19. Religions; Duchessite.jpg

Historians have argued endlessly whether the Duchessite and Doendrubard sects formed naturally on their own or as a result of one another. However, there can be no argument that the Dootdi belief arose as a direct rebuttal to the Duchessite and Doendrubard assertions. Dootdi, an elephant deeply disturbed by the Book of Faith’s message, developed and published an eloquent if long-winded response addressing each aspect of The Duchess’ ideology. Dootdi declared the idea of individuality is indeed a lie, but that The Lord has not abandoned his people. Instead, there must be a Lord On Earth: a Caliph to guide the thinking species. That Without A Name, otherwise referred to as The Omega, must not be hunted lest it bring about the destruction of all life once it is found. Hunting cannot be the focus of the faithful; unifying must be. Dootdi’s followers became die-hard international interventionists, determined to bring every living being under their banner. They feared Duchessites as dangerous heathens and the Doendrubards as vile heretics, both unwittingly assisting That Without A Name in casting all of existence into eternal darkness. And though Dootdi never considered himself for the role of Caliph, after his death sometime in the late fourth century of the Millennium of Flame his followers proclaimed him the first Caliph and immediately selected his son as the second. Treating Dootdi’s response to The Book of Faith as a sacred proclamation made by The Lord himself through an earthly mouthpiece, they carefully preserved the original copy as a so-called Hallowed Manuscript and rose up in religious fervor to replace the existing local monarchies with the Dootdi Caliphate. As we know, they would go on to lead the elephantine expansion across the northwestern regions of the continent and even oust the geese from their ancestral homeland in mountainous Jamtland, a state of affairs that has persisted even unto the present.


20. Religions; Dootdi.jpg

The Seleukeiaites were yet another sect to crop up, this one in the final years of the fourth century of the Millennium of Flame. Led by Her Kittyness Seleukeia Rheia III, a notorious hedonist turned devout priestess, the Seleukeiaites took a keen interest in the tree Jajarman had sat beneath. Calling it the World Tree, they believed the tree itself had supplied the Scholar-Sage with the revelations she needed to write the Singed Texts. According to the Seleukeiaites, after Vorcasym roasted the Golden Gallery the ashes of the World’s Gospel had flown on the breeze and landed on a seed that was then nurtured into a tree of knowledge. Seleukeia scoured the wilds until she found the tree deep in the Siberian Wastes at a site called Lyzha and, upon touching its trunk, was reportedly overcome with visions of the future. She proclaimed she had heard Seven Screaming Voices warning of the end of the world, but Jajarman herself (long dead by this point) had helped her see through the voices’ lies and knew it was the Seven Screaming Voices themselves who sought to end all things. Thousands of zealots descended upon the tree hoping to recreate the mystical event, and dozens supposedly experienced revelations as Seleukeia had. The World Tree became a zealously guarded holy sight and Her Kittyness’ followers spread her beliefs far and wide.

21. Religions; Seleukeiaite.jpg

It is for the creation of these religious sects, as well as the foundation of a surprising multitude of new religions, that the fourth century earned its common name as the Century of Ideologies. Naturally, the most prominent development was the establishment of the School of Kernev after the Most Holy Prophet’s divine revelations in the year 333. If only Jajarman, Kushunum, Doendrubard, The Duchess, Seleukeia, and all their adherents could have heard the Truth as well! But I digress. All happens as the Author of Fate wills.

There are numerous minor variations on the major five offshoots of the Shattered Religion, but only three notable divergent sects that have sprung up since the Century of Ideologies. The final fractures arose from completely unrelated extensions of the old religion. In the waning years of the fifth century of the Millennium of Flame, Antigo Ferrara, a caravan merchant of dubious integrity, claimed to have in his possession a complete portion of the World’s Gospel. He confirmed that night and day began with The Moon and The Omega’s turning from one another, as the Singed Texts revealed, but that the creation of the world as a whole was revealed in his fragment. The story went that the one true god split into Five, a holy number to the Shattered Religion (interesting, considering the number of paramount branches that developed in the Century of Ideologies reflects this curious affinity). The Five became craftsmen, each able to observe a different dimension, and together they set out to create the world on all five. It was, according to Ferrara, intended to be a place without physical form so there would be no pain for its inhabitants. However one Craftsman eventually ran into The Omega, which had disguised itself to ask what was being created. The Craftsman saw through The Omega’s disguise and sent it away. The Omega donned a different guise and approached another of the Craftsmen to ask what was being built. This Craftsman too saw through the charade and sent the destructive entity away. The Omega sought out the third Craftsman, yet again wearing a new shape. The Craftsman once more saw through the disguise, but this time the other two guises of The Omega jumped out and confronted the Craftsman. The Craftsman, taken by surprise and with but a fifth of his power (the rest being split between four other forms on four other dimensions), was unable to contend with The Omega. Thus The Omega tore the Craftsman’s arm off, and when he did so all five of the Craftsmen lost their arms as one, and their flesh became the land and the blood became the sea and pain entered the world. Infuriated, the Five Craftsmen merged back into one and drove The Omega’s forms apart so they would forever be as Three Strangers to one another. Of course, most of the established sects of the Shattered Religion immediately denounced Ferrara as a charlatan, and Ferrara himself was murdered shortly after his public announcement. Still, enough laymen believed in the authenticity of the story that there is still a region of Ferraraites today.

22. Religions; Ferraraite.jpg

A similar situation arose around Billcrest Pisai in the Year 602 of the Millennium of Flame. This odd gander insisted he had been accosted by a mighty purple bird with wings that shrouded the sky while he was out hunting. The bird led him to a glade in a forest he had never seen before and could never quite remember afterwards. In the glade were five (note the number) trees with golden leaves not unlike the peculiar tree Jajarman had sat beneath centuries prior. Lying at the feet of those trees, Pisai asserted, was a complete copy of the World’s Gospel. The bird bade him read a passage, which outlined the true creation of the world (a blatant shot at the Ferraraite sect). The Moon, therein described as The Architect, constructed the earth perfectly flat and populated it with the first families. However, the human family soon lost their child in the broad expanse and begged for help finding it. The Architect built mountains to peer down from, and by doing this repeatedly he finally found the Lost Child. He went to the Lost Child and tried to direct it back home, but the Lost Child had been infected by The Omega and asked the Architect to guide it back personally. Once the Architect’s back was turned, the Lost Child stabbed him again and again until he was dead. The wounds never stopped seeping, and the blood formed the rivers and oceans. Naturally, since Billcrest Pisai was infamous for his unrepentant racism towards humankind, most humans took offense to the story painting their race as infected by The Omega and murderers of The Moon. Subsequent leaders of the Pisaian faith have therefore downplayed this aspect of their founding, instead focusing on the idolization of nature and its marvelous preservation of the World’s Gospel. Nowadays they advocate for the preservation of nature out of respect for the “divine” life that was lost to create it and holds greatest sway amongst farmers and eccentric nobles with a penchant for gardening. As these Pisaian lunatics are the closest to our own borders, and as the School of Kernev has an ongoing campaign to purge said lunatics of their delusions, I would respectfully suggest addressing this sect more directly in your next draft, should you choose to make another.

23. Religions; Pisaian.jpg

The final and most recent offshoot of the Shattered Religion is of course the Deinogalerixist sect. An amalgamation of beliefs, it tolerates most kinds of worship as simply different methods of prayer to the same being. Much like the Duchessite sect, the hedgehogs who founded the Deinogalerixist branch suggested all people are connected (in this case by what they called The Immortal Soul). Like the Jajarman and Kushunumite practices, festivals full of song and dance were treated as religious celebrations. And in line with concepts like the Seven Screaming Voices or the Three Strangers, Deinogalerixist theologians assert The Omega is assisted by entities they call The Evil Ones. Some even worship the Evil Ones alongside the Immortal Soul, believing them to be facets of the Immortal Soul just as everything else is. While disputes do arise, most Deinogalerixists are difficult to draw into hostile debate since they are most likely to accept whatever another person believes as already under the umbrella of their own beliefs (unless they do not ascribe to the World’s Gospel at all; I believe they refer to us Learned in particular as “those filthy brainless sea-heathens”). However, one thing all Deinogalerixists share is the belief that one copy of the World’s Gospel survived. By their reckoning, two groups of five noble hedgehogs (again, note the number’s reappearance) foresaw Vorcasym’s rampage early enough to act, and they raided their own temples to spirit away copies of the sacred text. However, both lost half of their texts during their flight from the Secular Crusade and despaired until divine intervention brought them together to combine their two halves into a final, mythical copy of the World’s Gospel they called “The Book of Illumination”. According to Deinogalerixists, since most of the world only knows snippets of the World’s Gospel’s stories it is natural for there to be disagreements about how to worship. But the definitive truth is out there in the Book of Illumination, guarded somewhere unknown by the offspring of the ten noble hedgehogs to this day. Many Deinogalerixists actively seek the Book of Illumination, and any noble of the Kufan Empire must have personally gone on a grand search for the holy tome once in their lifetime before they can even be considered for succession to the seat of Emperor.


24. Religions; Deinogalerixist.jpg

Such is the division of the Church of the World’s Gospel, now collectively referred to as The Shattered Religion by those not of the faith. There are of course other religions at large in the world: as I mentioned, believers in the Fertile Mother have been around at least as long as the Shattered Religion. During the Century of Ideologies the Faith of the Fertile Mother also experienced schisms in the form of the Church of Ostfriesland, The Followers of Boleslaw, and the Threebeardolic Bloc. But regardless of sect throughout history the adherents of the Fertile Mother warred against the Church of the World’s Gospel, and it was considered common knowledge that the only way either could fall is if the other prevailed (Vorcasym clearly proved that assertion false, however). In fact, these two religions were so prominent that The Fertile Mother and The Moon have occasionally been referred to by scholars as the Duality, and some extremists even proposed they were one and the same. Such scholars did not live long, of course, but the idea that The Fertile Mother and The Moon might be two aspects of the same god from some ancient unified faith is one that has curiously managed to endure on the whispered fringes of academia even to this day. Naturally, the question is moot: we Learned know the real truth.

25. Religions; School of Kernev.jpg

The One True Faith

Still, it is undeniable that the Shattered Religion remains the most prominent in all the world. It is not a stretch to call it the School of Kernev’s true enemy, for though our faith has clashed with the savage Selimovician zealots, who stare at their own gaudy obelisks night and day just to make sure nobody tries to surreptitiously change them, or the Beaktriceite imbeciles, who dress up in ludicrous wooden costumes to worship a stump, no-one in their right mind would suggest they could actually rival us. The Shattered Religion is different. Forgive the potential blasphemy of this thought, but it is entirely possible our School would be stamped out should the disparate sects unite against us. And that would be an unimaginable shame, since as we know only our dead—properly flayed—will successfully reincarnate. An unflayed corpse traps its soul beneath the skin; if the School of Kernev is eradicated, no more souls will be able to make the journey safely. Without pontiffs to carry out the rites all souls will be trapped, and without souls to fill infant bodies every birth will be stillborn. Our failure will be the final, irreversible end of all life.

And so at last I hope you can see why I request you hold off on publishing your treatise. You roundly and thoroughly attacked the very heart of the Shattered Religion’s principles, expertly crafting argument after argument that displayed the superiority of the School of Kernev on every level. However, if this document gets out, the entirety of the Shattered Religion will turn on us, not just one sect or another. It is not fear that drives me, and I expect your great personage fears the backwards masses even less than I do: no, it is strategy that compels me to advise this course of action. Is it not more to our advantage to keep them weak and divided? Will it not be more effective to spread the School of Kernev if their attentions are elsewhere?

To spread the one true faith, to ensure the light of civilization eventually illuminates every corner of the earth, we MUST ensure the Shattered Religion remains shattered. We must encourage their division, exacerbate it any way we can, and not challenge it directly. Take on a sect such as the Pisaians or Ferraraites, but declare no denouncement of the Shattered Religion at large. Befriend its enemies, even if they are our enemies as well. In short, we must be cautious, surgical even, as the pontiffs are when they perform the sacred funeral rites. Please, mighty Samrat; please do not forego the masterful guile you have thus far displayed. You are but a breath away from total unification of the Isles, and that is an achievement none before you has managed: I can only imagine the giddy sense of accomplishment you must feel. But there is much more left to do. For the School’s sake, do not publish the document you sent me, at least not yet.

Patience. Our time will come.

Respectfully and humbly yours,

Permadi, Damapati of Degannwy and Chancellor of the Khottigidian Empire

26. Religions; Threebeardolic Factions and Three More.jpg

Top: The Ideologies of the Fertile Mother

Bottom: Various Other Rival Religions


 
Worldbuilding - Fell Deeds

Lord Decobius

Second Lieutenant
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Mar 2, 2019
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12th of August in the Year 765 of the Millennium of Flame

The wilds of Wildcatistan were ablaze. Yowling mobs of nearly-feral catizens had united under Ninja, Chief of Koshma, in a witch hunt of epic proportions. Fueled by religious zeal and Ninja’s hate-filled rhetoric, hordes of hissing felines had spread across the countryside in pursuit of herbalists, alchemists, and especially seers. Naturally, things had gotten out of control. Now fields burned and looting was taking place. Petty disputes of yesterday were bubbling up into bloodshed today. And as the sky darkened with smoke and gathering night, there was still no end to the madness in sight.

Toulouse scurried through the underbrush as fast as his paws would carry him. Behind him, a ways back but still far too close for comfort, a riotous assembly chanted Ninja’s infectious cry of “To the pyre! To the pyre!” as they marched in pursuit. Toulouse knew if they kept following him, he would eventually lead them right to their ultimate targets. However, in his haste he could not afford to properly cover his tracks, and stealth had never been his strong suit in the first place. So all Toulouse could do was press forward and hope he reached his destination in time. By the World Tree, he hoped he made it in time!

27. Elder friend; Toulouse.png

For the life of him he could not imagine how things had gone so wrong. Toulouse had grown up respecting the seers, as was proper. Anyone, from a lowborn like himself to a chieftain like Ninja, could go to them for advice and expect helpful insight for but a nominal fee. They often gave gifts to young kittens, and it was considered a great blessing for a seer to be present at a kitten’s birth. Toulouse’s mother had in fact dragged herself more than twenty miles to ensure a seer was present when he emerged into the world. Sure, the occasional charlatan posed as a seer and gave the true seers a bad name, but such instances were dealt with and most understood they were exceptional cases. Why would Chief Ninja turn on them as he had? Why would he stir up the mob to bring the seers to “justice” atop searing pyres?

28. Elder Area.png


The violence in the frozen north of the world has spilled across all of Wildcatistan from its source in Koshma

A branch whipped his whiskers and his eye teared up at the sudden sting. He was climbing now, ascending forested slopes to reach the cave he knew the highest of the seers would be sheltered in. The cold air was biting, frost glistening on his fur, and Toulouse felt certain if he were not so panicked he would undoubtedly be freezing. As it was, the heat of the imaginary pyres already consuming him in his mind fueled him forwards regardless of the chill. Toulouse was no seer, of course, but he had studied under them and did dabble in alchemy when his free time afforded the opportunity to do so. If only he had made the pilgrimage to the World Tree and become a seer! Perhaps he could have foreseen this tragedy and done something to prevent it!

“To the pyre! To the pyre!” howled the mob. To Toulouse’s ear, they sounded closer than ever.

He reached the elevation where the treeline began to thin and turned, heading along a ridge towards a hulking shadow that loomed even higher than the evergreens. In the deepening darkness it was nearly impossible to make out what the shadow’s true form was, but Toulouse knew it was a rune-covered boulder that in the daylight shined with a dazzling array of ores and gemstones. It marked the entrance to the cavern he was trying to find, and despite its ominous bulk the sight of it was heartening.

Faster, faster he ran, knowing the end was near in more ways than one. There was his goal, and behind him his doom, and Toulouse could only pray to the World Tree he would not trip or stumble so close to the finish line. He reached the boulder and skirted around the side, putting a paw to the behemoth for guidance. At last the glow of a fire caught his eye, its light pouring from a gap in the rocky slope that would be all but invisible to anyone not standing directly in front of it. With a whimper of relief Toulouse dove for the opening, squeezing through the narrow cave mouth into the surprisingly expansive cavern within.

Five pairs of eyes regarded him without surprise.

“You are late,” snapped Aeris Ay, her hideous features contorted in disapproval. “We expected you sooner.”

29. Elder Aeris Ay.png

“The villagers!” gasped Toulouse. “Chief Ninja has roused them against the seers! They are coming even as we speak!”

“We know,” Oscar-in-Boots sniffed.

30. Elder Oscar-in-Boots.png

“Chief Ninja blames us for the death of his wife,” sighed Furball Fivewhiskers, calmly licking her paw clean.

31. Elder Furball Fivewhiskers.png

“You told him to throw her in the frozen river to allay her fever!” Lucky Feral piped up in his squeaky little voice. He was generally pretty shy due to the embarrassment his voice caused him, and Toulouse was momentarily shocked to hear the seer speak. Indeed, Toulouse had never seen the normally quiet, reserved seer so animated. Lucky Feral shoved an accusatory claw in Furball’s direction. “This whole nasty affair is your fault!”

32. Elder Lucky Feral.png

“If he really wanted my best advice, he should have paid me more,” Furball Fivewhiskers shrugged.

“What’s done is done,” sighed Eskil von Furrington. He lounged back on his pillows, the only one present not standing up. He waved a paw vaguely towards the cave entrance. “The rabble is coming. We must decide what to do about it.”

33. Elder Eskil von Furrington.png

“Where is the Elder Witch?” Aeris Ay demanded. Her buggy eyes flitted between her peers, and Toulouse felt grateful that her disconcerting gaze never landed on himself. He watched her scratch a wart under her chin and shuddered.

“Yes, where is Manx?” Eskil von Furrington purred. “She could do something about all this nonsense.”

“You’re lucky she isn’t here to hear you call her by her real name,” Oscar-in-Boots sneered. “You’d end up looking worse than Aeris.”

“What was that?” Aeris Ay shrieked.

“Perhaps we can still calm them,” Lucky Feral suggested tentatively. “Maybe if we give them some free insight…”

“Free?” hissed Furball Fivewhiskers. The way she said it made it sound like a curse.

“I am not that ugly!” Aeris Ay asserted. “You should have seen me in my youth! I had the males lining up!”

“What if we drop the boulder on them?” Oscar-in-Boots proposed with a nasty grin on his face. “With a little leverage we could squish those pests and have the problem solved before midnight!”

“That would take far too much effort!” Eskil von Furrington groaned. “And we’d never budge it anyway!”

“Plus it might damage the gemstones,” Furball Fivewhiskers added, wincing at the thought.

“Toulouse! You would mate with me if I were younger, wouldn’t you?” Aeris Ay asked, pinning him with her bulging pupils. She gave him what she seemed to think was a coy smile, revealing her cracked and blackened teeth. Toulouse heaved and tasted bile in the back of his throat. He was suddenly astounded by the sensibility of vows of chastity, and promptly made one to himself.

“Even a dead carcass would crawl away from mating with you!” Oscar-in-Boots spat. “I hear folk tell frightening tales around their campfires of times they crossed paths with you and failed to avert their eyes!”

“Liar!” Aeris Ay screeched. She lurched around the fire towards Oscar.

“You know why you don’t see yourself in mirrors, Aeris? It’s because even your reflection can’t bear to look back at you!” Oscar snarled, fending off Aeris Ay’s flailing paws.

“Watch it!” Eskil von Furrington hissed as his peers grappled with one another. He raised his paws to defend himself, but still refused to get up off his pillows.

Furball Fivewhiskers nudged Toulouse with an elbow. She jerked her chin in the direction of Aeris Ay and Oscar-in-Boots, treating Toulouse to a toothy smile he found disturbingly predatory. “Care to wager on the winner? I’ll give you good odds.”

“ENOUGH!” thundered a powerful voice that filled the cavern. The fire that had illuminated the space swelled and surged upwards with a roar and a shower of sparks. From the flames stepped a feline figure, imposing despite a short stature, and where the figure stepped the stone cracked. Once she was fully out of the fire the great gout of flame dissipated back into an ordinary campfire. Everyone fell instantly still and silent.

The Elder Witch had arrived.

34. Elder Witch.png

“Do you not hear their chants?” The Elder Witch ranted. “Listen to them! They squeal like pigs, hungry for slops! And you are the slops, you fools! They have forsaken all wisdom or sense, goaded by that giddy imbecile Chief Ninja, and what do you do to set things right? Squabble amongst yourselves!”

“To the pyre! To the pyre!” bellowed the approaching mob. Distracted by their own feuding, the seers were taken aback by how close the chant had gotten without their notice. Time was suddenly very short.

“What will we do?” squeaked Lucky Feral. His voice, tinged with fear, was even higher than usual.

“Mistress, we are not safe here,” Toulouse said, addressing the Elder Witch.

“And whose fault is that?” snapped Oscar-in-Boots. “You led them right to us!”

“Do not blame loyal Toulouse,” the Elder Witch interjected. “These rabid ingrates would have come for us regardless. You may not know it, but even beyond Koshma, even beyond Wildcatistan, uprisings such as these are rocking the entire Seleukeiaite faith. There is a heresy spreading that suggests anyone at all should be able to approach the World Tree for visions! I have been rushing all over working to curb this absolute nonsense, and I cannot keep up!”

“We will flee elsewhere until things settle down, then,” Furball Fivewhiskers decided. “A year without us and they’ll come crawling on all fours for forgiveness!”

“Oh, elsewhere, is it?” The Elder Witch snorted. “Elsewhere there are other leaders but the same madness! The world is led by those who believe they should call the shots, children playing with power but lacking the wisdom we have that allows us to know what to do with it!”

“To the pyre! To the pyre!” came the chant, and it was very close now. The cavern started to fill with the yelling and stamping of marching paws.

“Douse the fire!” Oscar-in-Boots cried, yanking a pillow out from under Eskil von Furrington to beat at the burning logs. Eskil shot him a look of pure venom, but finally heaved himself upright to assist. Aeris Ay gaped in fear, surreptitiously maneuvering herself closer to Toulouse (who scooted away from her far less surreptitiously). Lucky Feral whimpered.

“Infantile degenerates!” The Elder Witch raged. “This is a world of rotten, misguided, ill-behaved degenerates!”

The villagers burst into the cavern, pitchforks and torches raised aloft and an insane glee burning in their hateful eyes. Cats of all shapes and sizes rushed towards the seers, who attempted to flee but had nowhere to go. Toulouse saw Furball Fivewhiskers get overrun, and Lucky Feral was battered into the cave wall by the stampede. For his part, when the eager claws came for him he did not struggle, knowing violence would only motivate them to make his agony last longer. He shut his eyes, feeling the paws dragging him down and wondering for a final time how things had gone so wrong so quickly.

Then a thunderclap rocked the cavern.

“You brats! Your stupidity will undo everything! It can no longer be tolerated! No more will the wise labor under the yoke of conceited cretins born with the so-called ‘right’ blood! No more will you rabble have a say! If you want to behave like children, so be it! Children you shall be! And we will be your guardians, from now on, to see you are raised properly!” screamed the Elder Witch.

Cries of abject agony ripped from the throats of the villagers. Toulouse opened his eyes and instantly wished he had not: all around him bodies were contorting, twisting and transforming with violent spasms. The males who had seized him now had their claws in him, latched on like vices as they writhed and fell to their knees. Before Toulouse’s eyes the entire crowd physically shrank, bones cracking audibly and fur simply falling away in heaps. Weapons and torches clattered to the floor, forgotten, and the shrinking bodies swiftly followed.

Toulouse looked to the Elder Witch. Between her paws crackled a ball of putrid purple energy, bolts lashing out to singe whatever they struck. The Elder Witch had a look of mixed fascination and terror on her face, the power between her paws reflected in her eyes. Purplish smoke began billowing out of the warping bodies of the villagers, and the smoke flowed unnaturally into tight little funnels that entered the ball of energy and caused it to expand. The reverberating screams from all around him were deafening, but Toulouse could have sworn that over the cries of the rabble seven distinctly unnatural voices echoed even louder. These voices rasped and grated, at once sounding both very close and very far away. Toulouse found he could not bear to hear them, and he covered his ears with his paws in a desperate effort to block them out. It was futile; the seven voices were everywhere and nowhere all at once.

“I can’t… contain it!” The Elder Witch shrieked in terror. “Stop! Please! I didn’t know!”

The ball of energy had expanded to envelop her paws, and Toulouse could smell her fur roasting. Finally with a hoarse yowl the Elder Witch flung herself away from the churning magic, which immediately shot out of the cavern in a massive bolt of lightning. The cavern wall was blasted away, and the lightning bolt struck the bejeweled boulder outside. Gemstones cascaded the light of the energy in every direction, and for a moment Toulouse went blind from the searing purple beams. Unable to contain the raw power for more than a couple of seconds, the boulder shattered, arcane energy exploding outwards with a horrible howling noise. Toulouse saw a wave of electrified purple smoke pour across the land, rolling like a malignant fog bank. Then darkness enveloped him, and for a moment, so did blessed silence.

A breath. Another. And another. His mind was blank, and all he could do was stare into the nothingness and try to remember to breathe.

A mewling reached Toulouse’s ears as he rose shakily to his feet after an indeterminate amount of time. Flint and tinder were struck together, sparks catching the end of a torch, and suddenly Toulouse could see Oscar-in-Boots. The seer waved the torch slowly around him, scanning the floor. Toulouse, his brain clouded by what had just happened, could not figure out what he was looking for. If only that incessant mewling would cease!

Another heartbeat and he realized what Oscar-in-Boots was looking at. All around him, all across the floor of the entire cavern, were kittens. Not one adult villager remained; every single one of them had reverted back to near infancy. Only the Elder Witch, the seers, and Toulouse himself remained unaffected. The kittens all cried, frightened by the dark, and the cave floor was alive with their crawling, rolling, and tumbling to get out. Toulouse kicked his mind to make sense of what he was seeing, but he could not. Kittens?

“Elder Witch,” Oscar-in-Boots said, his tone for once respectful. “What have you done?”

“Children,” the Elder Witch gasped, her badly-singed paws quivering and her nose bleeding profusely. “I turned them all into children. Anyone in power. Everyone in power. I wanted to show them for what they really were. And the Voices… the Voices helped.”

“The Voices?” Eskil von Furrington croaked, climbing shakily to his feet. “You don’t mean…”

“Never speak of it,” the Elder Witch whispered. “We must never speak of it.”

“So what now? Are we the only adults left?” came Furball Fivewhiskers’ wheezing rasp from somewhere beyond the light of Oscar-in-Boots’ torch.

“How far will your spell travel?” Lucky Feral inquired with some effort, his fur matted with blood as he limped to Oscar’s side.

“I don’t know. They wanted it all,” the Elder Witch breathed fearfully.

“We must guide these kittens back,” Toulouse asserted, coming to a decision. “We must gather them up and watch over them. They are our responsibility now.”

“Toulouse is right, as usual,” the Elder Witch said, shaking herself out of her stupor. “We will take power here. We will lead Koshma, train little Ninja to respect his betters like his parents failed to do. And who knows? Perhaps we will eventually guide all of Wildcatistan. Maybe even the world. But before we begin any of that, you must vow here and now that we will never speak of this night. Not to anyone, not even between ourselves. Nobody can know what we did, and it would be best if we all forgot it as well. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” the seers responded in unison.

“Agreed,” Toulouse murmured. He would never forget this night, he already knew. But he would be happy to never speak of it again. After all, what would he say? What words could rationalize the things he had witnessed? Who could he confide in to allay the nightmares he knew would plague him forever after?

--------

On the morning of the 13th of August in the Year 765 of the Millennium of Flame, the chiefdom of Koshma unanimously elected six seers to guide them after a catastrophe of epic proportions struck their land. These seers, granted the title “Elder”, were permanently installed to assist in the chiefdom’s leadership until the infant Chief Ninja came of age again. Furthermore, the lowborn alchemist Toulouse was named regent at the new Elders’ behest. He too would shape the future of Koshma, and Wildcatistan as a whole.

35. Elder friend; Regent Toulouse.png


The events of that night had changed Toulouse forever
On a completely unrelated note, also on the 13th of August in the Year 765 of the Millennium of Flame, most of the world awoke to discover nearly sixty percent of the entire global population had overnight been reverted back to childhood. For all the disasters thus far that had marked the Millennium of Flame as quite aptly named, this mystifying calamity (later to be referred to as Children’s Pox) was perhaps the greatest challenge of all. Tumultuous upheaval swept the landscape, and it was clear to everyone that whatever changes had occurred in the night, the real changes had only just begun.​
 
Worldbuilding - Aftermath of a Crisis: Accusations

Lord Decobius

Second Lieutenant
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Mar 2, 2019
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36. Wise Court; North Realms.png

28th of December in the Year 765 of the Millennium of Flame

Late Afternoon

“I demand an explanation!” honked Baron Ludwing, flapping his wings in agitation. The Magus of the Hermetic Society was rarely so boisterous, but the problem facing the assembly had him thoroughly flummoxed.

“I have none!” trumpeted Hasdrubal, the harelipped regent of the duchy of Dootony. The elephant court of Dootony stared at the geese contingent with deep mistrust. The neighboring southern duchy, Ivoryland, had long been an elephant-held region and a staunch ally to the Duchy of Dootony. However, a few decades ago the deeply perverse Duke Tej of Ivoryland had partaken in an affair with a goosegirl named Honkrietta Mallard. The goosegirl had wrapped Tej around her little wingtip, and through her influence the Mallards were given the county of Jamtland within Duke Tej’s duchy. Jamtland was widely considered the birthplace of sentient geese (the so-called “Jamtlandic” culture), though they had lost it nearly three hundred years ago to the aggressive Dootdi religion’s unchecked elephantine expansion. With their homeland unexpectedly returned to them, a sizable populace of geese had flocked to Jamtland in what they called a long-overdue homecoming. The Mallards established a court and with their ever-growing population they consistently demanded ever more representation in Ivoryland’s governance.

37. Wise Court; Count Quackel of Jamtland.png


Honkrietta’s brother Quackel, who by her manipulations was handed the right to govern the coveted Jamtlandic homeland. Children’s Pox would foil this pair’s grand ambitions, however; Quackel lost his fiery resolve to pre-teen angst and Honkrietta lost everything to renewed infancy.

Cornelius rubbed his eyes with his trunk in exasperation. As regent of Ivoryland, he had organized this meeting with his neighbors to try to get to the bottom of what had happened. Mere months ago he had awoken to discover Duke Tej and the three goosegirls his liege had bedded the previous night (whose names Cornelius had not bothered to learn) had somehow regressed both in body and mind back to childhood. Moreover, in the weeks that followed he learned it was the same elsewhere; across Ivoryland and throughout all of the neighboring duchies inexplicable age regression had struck like a fast-acting plague. Duke Hanno of Dootony, renowned for gathering the wisest minds to his court, was at the top of Cornelius’ list of both suspects and allies to turn to for aid. With that in mind, he swiftly wrote to Hasdrubal in the hope of setting up a meeting.

38. Wise Court; Duke Tej.png


Not even Children’s Pox could curb Duke Tej’s deviant desires though

Hasdrubal and Cornelius had corresponded frequently over the past few months as they attempted to sort things out. Known to be diligent and fair, if a bit overzealous at times, Hasdrubal proved quite amenable to pooling their knowledge in search of a cure. As Hasdrubal put it, they had no time to waste: apparently his liege Duke Hanno, once an adept ruler with an uncanny ability to pick up on a person’s true feelings, had since his affliction given an entire half of the duchy to a courtier simply because they shared the same name. Indeed, upon arrival Duke Hanno had to be called in from playing with the new Count Hanno, and the two had been quite peeved with Hasdrubal for spoiling their fun.

39. 769 Dootony and Ivoryland.png


The new vassal maps of Dootony and Ivoryland

Once a date had been settled upon, Cornelius had attempted to keep the meeting a secret in the hopes of excluding the nosy geese of Jamtland. However, true to their nosy nature, the geese had somehow found out about the meeting and promptly demanded their own contingent be present. Baron Ludwing, chancellor of Jamtland and admittedly a diligent administrator for both the county and his enigmatic society, had brought two others with him: Maarten, the regent of Jamtland and a frighteningly devious military commander; and Eggbert, who as far as Cornelius could tell was little more than a gluttonous halfwit. These three geese had wasted no time in getting on everyone else’s nerves: Ludwing shouted for answers and reparations from anyone who would listen, Maarten quietly examined Duke Hanno’s defenses a little too intently, and Eggbert required everything be explained to him at least three times before he could even adequately pretend to understand. Cornelius could tell the geese were starting to grate on Hasdrubal, and in truth he understood all too well how trying it was to deal with them.

40. Wise Court; The Goose Contingent.png


The Jamtland Contingent

For his part Cornelius had brought Jumbo and Jumbo, the mayors of Jättendal and Njurunda respectively. Many called the mayor of Jättendal a master of intrigue, and Cornelius hoped he would be able to secretly uncover evidence that Duke Hanno had been behind the age regression (if such evidence existed). The mayor of Njurunda on the other hand was simply an erudite individual, perfect for these sorts of talks. Both Hasdrubal and Cornelius had stressed the importance of bringing scholars, not diplomats, to the meeting, since the problem at hand was clearly either academic or spiritual in nature. Cornelius had debated bringing the lowborn elephant Elephant along, since Elephant was a well-read priest, but in the end he deemed Elephant too stubborn and disinterested to be a worthwhile addition.

41. Wise Court; Regent Cornelius & the Jumbos.png


Cornelius and the Jumbos

Across from Cornelius and Ludwing’s contingents sat Duke Hanno’s famous Council of the Wise. Trumpo of Åsele was a mastermind theologian, shy but honest; Castor, the steward of Dootony, rippled with muscle but had spent his youth avidly studying; and the gigantic Doot was officially a Minister of Agriculture but in truth a shockingly effective spymaster. All of them sat straight-backed and stone-faced as they listened to Ludwing’s ongoing outburst. Of course, that wasn’t even mentioning Hasdrubal himself; the harelipped theologian was right at home amongst his brilliant peers. Duke Hanno had spent a great deal of time and effort recruiting his elite council, and the result was that many neighboring regions turned to Dootony for advice or arbitration. It was sad that a mind such as the duke’s had regressed, but Cornelius felt that at the very least his neighbor’s duchy was in good hands in the meantime.

42. Wise Court; Council of the Wise.png


Dootony’s Council of the Wise

A fourth faction was present in the room that had thus far remained silent. Cornelius knew not one of them by sight, and thus felt distinctly uneasy with their observation of the proceedings. They sat behind the wriggling Count Hanno, whose impatience could not have been more evident. The little elephant was practically jumping out of his seat, giving Cornelius the impression that perhaps the youth had a pressing engagement with a chamber pot looming in the near future. Still, at least the boy was making an admirable effort to keep quiet. The same could not be said for the geese, after all.

43. Wise Court; Count Hanno.png

Count Hanno was an enigma, despite his good behavior; how could the Council of the Wise let the embarrassing outrage of his arbitrary ascendance into power take place?

“This is clearly That Without A Name’s work,” Trumpo of Åsele declared, smoothly cutting through Baron Ludwing’s bluster with a reference to the Dootdi faith's Arch-Evil. “Our medics have examined Duke Hanno twelve times since his regression, and he has passed all twelve checks perfectly fine. He is not sick. He is cursed.”

“But by who?” the mayor of Jättendal inquired from behind Cornelius’ left shoulder.

“That Without A Name,” Trumpo repeated, giving the mayor a funny look. “Obviously.”

“Obviously, but who extended That Without A Name’s will? He provided the power, but who wielded it here on earth? That is what Jumbo there is asking, I think,” suggested an elephant from the Count Hanno’s faction. “I for one would like an answer to this question as well. And we are all well aware by now that our friend Baron Ludwing is keen on getting some answers.”

“Do you have an idea, then?” Hasdrubal asked testily.

“Indeed I do,” the elephant replied, standing. He flicked his trunk towards the floor, and the spot his trunk indicated burst into a cloud of greenish smoke. The elephant waved his hands and the smoke cleared, revealing a tiny bronze box with a latched lid resting where nothing had been but a moment ago.

“Again! Again!” clapped Count Hanno.

“Yes, again!” Duke Hanno concurred.

44. Wise Court; Duke Hanno.png

Though his mind was lost in childhood, some of Duke Hanno's old characteristics still shone through

“In a moment, my lords,” the elephant replied. He picked up the box and unlatched it, removing a silver needle from within. Crouching down beside the spot where the box had appeared, he threaded the needle through the air just above the stone in what appeared to be a basic sewing motion. Then he set the needle down. At first nothing happened, but then, slowly, the needle began to spin until its tip pointed directly at the elephant who had set it there.

“So he’s the magician!” Eggbert shouted, looking around to make sure everyone else agreed with him. “He did this! Right?”

“I’m sure he will explain himself, Eggbert,” Maarten reassured his comrade. The keen-eyed gander’s gaze assessed the elephant pointedly. “Swiftly, no doubt.”

“What is your game, Hasdrubal?” demanded Hasdrubal. Cornelius’ eyes widened. This elephant was also named Hasdrubal? And he utilized magic? Then he could only be…

“You see how the needle points my way?” the second Hasdrubal smiled. “This needle ties magic to its user. The trifle I used was still more than enough for this sensitive bauble to identify me.”

“So you will repeat your test from before then?” sighed another elephant from the Count Hanno’s contingent.

“Yes, Zain, I fear I must. I appreciate your ongoing patience with this process,” the second Hasdrubal confirmed. Again Cornelius’ eyes widened. Zain? As in Zain of Bygdeå? Another magus of the Hermetics who famously refused to leave his laboratory no matter who made the request? Cornelius re-examined the squirming little count. Could the juvenile elephant actually be some sort of sneaking genius? If this Hasdrubal was the one he suspected it was, and that other fellow was Zain of Bygdeå, then the Count Hanno was doing a spectacular job following the Duke Hanno’s example prior to his age regression by collecting truly towering intellects to his side. Indeed, it now made more sense why the harelipped Hasdrubal and the Council of the Wise had been unable to prevent the Duke from handing away half his land, or why they had thus far failed to reclaim it. Just how much of this business was being manipulated by the little Count?

45. Wise Court; Baron Zain of Bygdea.png

To draw this hermit back into society from self-imposed exile would have required immense powers of persuasion

“I need to pee!” Count Hanno chirped suddenly. “I need to pee, I need to pee, I need to peeeee!”

“Hahahahaha!” Duke Hanno laughed, slapping the arms of his chair with glee.

“Zain, perhaps you could assist our little lord with finding a chamber pot? We have already run this test on him, after all,” the second Hasdrubal suggested. Zain nodded and took the Count Hanno by the shoulder. Cornelius watched them closely, but could discern nothing suspicious as the little boy and the Baron of Bygdeå exited the chamber. He shared a look with Jumbo, mayor of Jättendal, who nodded and quietly made to follow the two.

“Bye bye Count Peepee!” Duke Hanno giggled.

The mayor of Jättendal had almost made it to the door when he was abruptly intercepted by the third and final member of Count Hanno’s contingent. The elephant beamed and took Jumbo by the arm, steering him back towards the main gathering. Jumbo tried to protest, but he was quickly talked down. Cornelius watched from the corner of his eye as the mayor of Jättendal, so often the sharpest wit in any room, floundered against his fast-talking opponent. The unnamed elephant made it look effortless.

“So, Duke Hanno, with your permission I will begin to tie the magic that has affected you to its source. We will all stand in a circle around you, and the needle will spin. When it singles someone out, we will approach them together and, if the needle never wavers, we will know who the true culprit is,” the second Hasdrubal was saying. Duke Hanno nodded excitedly and stood up straight as the magician began making sewing motions in the air above him.

“Gather round, good folk! Unless you have something to hide, of course,” the unnamed elephant beamed as he directed the hapless Jumbo into place beside him. For a moment nobody budged, but then everyone rose from their respective sections and formed a ring around the second Hasdrubal and the young Duke Hanno.

“Toti the Talker!” Cornelius exclaimed, snapping his trunk-tip. “You’re Toti the Talker! I was at your trial!”

46. Wise Court; Toti the Talker.png

Speaking of persuasion, what would persuade an elephant that could convince anyone of anything to serve a master willingly?

Toti’s smile wavered for only a moment before it stretched even wider. “You have me at a disadvantage then! I only know you as the present regent of Ivoryland… Please, which trial are you referring to? And what role did you play?”

“Ah, it was when you were banished from Ivoryland. I was merely in the audience,” Cornelius explained, inwardly cursing for speaking up. Cornelius had watched, dumbfounded, as a young Toti talked his way out of thirteen counts of grand larceny and made then Duke Khaj look like a cruel, arbitrary bastard for ultimately banishing him. Toti was infamous across the north, both as a con artist and as a wordsmith. Yet another incredible figure in Count Hanno’s court… Cornelius was starting to consider Count Hanno a greater suspect than Duke Hanno at this point.

“Now spin!” the second Hasdrubal commanded of the silver needle, placing it gently in Duke Hanno’s little hand and backing away. The needle slowly began to spin, the elephants and geese each holding their breath as the point passed over them. Finally the needle came to a stop… on Cornelius himself.

All eyes turned to him.

“Well, well. The new regent of Ivoryland, is it?” rumbled Castor, flexing his bulging muscles as he tensed. The steward on the Council of the Wise needed no weapon to be threatening; Cornelius knew without a shadow of a doubt Castor could tear him apart barehanded.

“Come now,” the mayor of Njurunda said, holding up his hands placatingly. “Cornelius most assuredly did not cast this curse.”

“That’s not what the needle says! …Right?” Eggbert honked, again checking with his peers to make sure he was on the right track.

“Quite right!” Baron Ludwing barked, slapping his wings together for emphasis. “And quite believable! Did you not try to keep us from coming in the first place? Do you not in fact try to exclude Jamtland from all courtly proceedings? I say you hate us geese, and hate your neighbors, and needed good Duke Tej out of the way to carry out your vendetta!”

“Regent Cornelius isn’t so dastardly,” Maarten, regent of Jamtland, interjected. “I have worked closely with him over these past few months and can vouch for that. Besides, the needle could be pointing past Cornelius, could it not?”

“Indeed, let us see if that is the case,” the second Hasdrubal nodded. He patted Duke Hanno on the back and pointed at Cornelius. “Please, your grace, step in Cornelius’ direction.”

“Hold on, what’s your game?” growled Castor. Beside him, the behemoth spymaster Doot reached out a hand bigger than the young Duke Hanno’s head and gently prevented the young lord from advancing. Castor stepped forward, eyeing Cornelius suspiciously. “If this is the culprit, we’re not letting Duke Hanno stroll right into his clutches.”

“Please! I had nothing to do with it!” Cornelius piped up, finally overcoming his shock and finding his voice. A bead of sweat trickled down his brow. “I am no magician! I know nothing of curses!”

“The needle doesn’t lie,” the second Hasdrubal stated firmly. “Let Duke Hanno step forward. We will all protect him. Cornelius, your innocence will be proven or disproven, never fear.”

“Hasdrubal Nine-Palms! This is Hasdrubal Nine-Palms!” Cornelius shouted desperately. “He made roosters lay eggs across the county of Naumadal! He induced the cattle in Kemi to grow scales! Hasdrubal Nine-Palms’ head is worth two hundred gold pieces throughout the duchy of Shahiia Minor for causing the duchess to give birth to a cat! You would believe this man, this rogue magi, someone we all know can use magic, over me? Me, a humble lowborn theologian who has never once done harm to anyone?”

47. Wise Court; Hasdrubal Nine-Palms.png


Hasdrubal Nine-Palms was as much sought after for his impressive magical capabilities as for the various bounties on his head

“I’ll have you know the duchess was going to give birth to a cat whether I was there or not. I just made sure she survived the ordeal,” Hasdrubal Nine-Palms sniffed. “And it was an entire litter of kittens. I made no judgments, though I was told a rakish feline musician had passed through the duchy a while back... But this has nothing to do with that.”

Duke Hanno stepped towards Cornelius, flanked by his burly steward Castor and his giant spymaster Doot. Maarten and Baron Ludwing were circling around Cornelius to one side while Toti the Talker and Trumpo of Åsele circled around to the other side. Behind Cornelius, the two Jumbos were tensed, ready to fight or flee with him as the situation demanded.

Two more steps and Duke Hanno stood before Cornelius.

“Now, Cornelius, step aside. If the needle follows you, we will know the culprit behind this curse,” Hasdrubal Nine-Palms declared. Cornelius wiped the sweat from his brow with his trunk and stepped aside, his eyes fixed on the needle.

The silver needle twitched.

Everyone held their breath.

But the needle did not turn.

The silver needle continued to point straight ahead, directly at the wall. Cornelius nearly fainted with relief. The Jumbos slowly relaxed as Castor and Doot stepped back. The geese craned their necks to try to ascertain what the needle could now be pointing at. The harelipped Hasdrubal, regent of Dootony, grunted.

“So it is broken?” the regent smirked, a gruesome sight with his facial deformity.

“Not broken, merely pointing to someone else,” Hasdrubal Nine-Palms replied.

“But you thought to accuse me!” Cornelius cried indignantly, his relief turning to righteous anger. “Not a moment ago you all came for me! At the behest of this charlatan magi! One little needle and you thought you might… what, imprison me? I am regent of Ivoryland! You have no jurisdiction over me, even if I had done it!”

“Calm yourself, Cornelius,” Maarten advised, putting his wing on Cornelius’ arm. The gander’s grip was tighter than it might otherwise appear.

“And where is Count Hanno? Convenient he is not present for these proceedings, is it not? Why has he not suffered this inquisition?” Cornelius pressed on, yanking his arm free of Maarten.

“Naturally we ran this test on the count’s entire court. None of us were culpable. Why on earth would we come to this exchange of information if one of us had committed the crime?” Toti the Talker reasoned. “In fact, now that we know nobody here cast this curse, we can finally put our heads together!”

“No! I am leaving! You all had it in for me, I trust not a one of you!” Cornelius shouted, spinning on his heels. He marched to the door, flanked by the Jumbos. As he exited he bumped into Count Hanno and Baron Zain of Bygdeå on their way back into the chamber. The little count staggered backwards, saved from a fall only by Zain’s trunk shooting out to catch him.

“Beg your pardon,” Count Hanno said politely after he righted himself, giving Cornelius a winning smile. Cornelius studied the young elephant for a moment, then leaned down until he was eye level with the lad.

“I’m on to you, my lord,” Cornelius hissed. Count Hanno appeared taken aback, raising his eyebrows and tilting his head in a show of confusion.

“What’s that you said?” Zain inquired menacingly. Cornelius didn’t respond, instead shouldering past the pair without another glance in their direction.

On the long carriage ride home, he pondered what he had witnessed. The Council of the Wise. Hasdrubal Nine-Palms, the Baron of Bygdeå, and Toti the Talker forming something of a Council of Rogues in service to the newly-minted Count. The eagerness of the geese when he was staring down the needle.

He was surrounded by mighty intellects, and none of them were friendly. Ivoryland was at risk from within and without. It was clear Jamtland would have to be dealt with, and before his liege Duke Tej became old enough to care. Just as clear was the fact that the duchy of Dootony could no longer be trusted. Were Duke Hanno and Count Hanno in cahoots? The two youths were certainly friendly, but their councils had not seemed equally as warm towards each other. Then again, with minds like those in the room it was hardly surprising if their machinations remained inscrutable to him. Cornelius prided himself on his vast knowledge, but he was the sort who took his time studying and pondering things, not a quick wit on the fly. He intended to study and ponder this very meeting with almost obsessive frequency in the coming months. Regardless, one thing was clear: troubled times lay ahead, and the only one he could count on was himself.

--------

In the following years meetings such as the one between the greatest minds of Dootony and Ivoryland took place across the world. The Meeting of the Mystics was a famous summit with names such as Nanuk of Krizevci, Baron Maurice of Hund, Wyrm the Divining Drake, the so-called “Skytrotter” Baron Brunte, and even the enigmatic Gilbert Greencloak in attendance. Any one of them should have had the power to divine the truth of the so-called Children’s Pox, yet even together they were unable to determine anything more than the fact that the culprit was female (in a spectacular display of power, Wyrm the Divining Drake interpreted the voice of a great wind Gilbert Greencloak summoned and thereby heard the intonation that induced the curse as it had been spoken, as well as the somewhat alarming speech that followed). Naturally, as this discovery did not actually affect the results of the curse in any meaningful way, the Meeting of the Mystics became little more than justification for mass witch-hunts across the world.

48. Mystics; Meeting of the Mystics.png


The mightiest mystics in the world could not undo the plague

When the mystics failed, rulers turned to scholars. Amakhte, steward of Nantes, Barnie, spymaster of Pecs, and the Bookworm Basils (Basil, spymaster of Maymana, and Basil, mayor of Chak) all spent years attempting to pinpoint a physical root to the problem. These scholars published a number of works that saw widespread consumption, though primarily for the medical discoveries they held since a cure to the curse remained elusive. Amakhte managed to reveal that the curse had entered the afflicted through the lungs and gone straight for the heart so as to enter the bloodstream, but after a vast number of regressed adults died to his proposed counter-technique of excessive bloodletting Amakhte’s research was suppressed for public safety. Thus the Meeting of the Minds also could not restore the world to the way it was.

49. Scholars; Meeting of the Minds.png


Though a so-called Meeting of the Minds never took place, they did correspond with increasing frequency... but such collaboration saw more arguments than solutions arise
With scholars and mystics floundering, desperate nobles turned at last to anyone with a reputation for intelligence. Remarkable individuals such as Pasqualis Lazy-Eye, Cheng of the Chicken Coop, and Tádor the Bookkeeper found themselves summoned to the highest courts in the land and gained power and status in exchange for answers. The pugnacious Punk of Ta’if famously told Groogy, the regent of Mecca, that if he wanted his help he’d need nothing less than the run of the castle in Ta’if. Groogy, his hand forced by his mentally deficient liege, ended up granting Punk the entire barony (though he insisted Punk organize something he called a “socialist republic”, a command which the newly empowered Baron Punk completely ignored). The Lowborns proved as incapable of curing the Children’s Pox as all the rest, however, and so the world teetered on the brink of chaos as the masses endured under their child rulers.

50. Wise Nobodies.png


It is distinctly possible one or more of these fellows was a Liar

51. Wise Nobodies; Baron Punk.png

While it is clear why Groogy sought radical change, it is also clear why his proposal never caught on

By December of 768 in the Millennium of Flame, more than two million people worldwide had died as a direct result of the Children’s Pox and there was no end in sight. Some perished due to where they were when they were transformed, some perished due to the ambitions of those around them, and many thousands were murdered in the hunts for someone to blame. After the Meeting of the Mystics heavy suspicion had fallen on Queen Blizzard of Ursusrike, Queen Wiggles of Hylomysistan, Countess Booper of Sortavala, and Khanum Kajsa of Malta, all of whom had been prolific schemers when they were adults (with the exception of Kajsa, who had instead been a terrifying duelist bent on bloody conquest). Yet the simple fact that these four had likewise been affected made even their countless accusers uncertain.
52. Suspects; The Lineup.png


A more fearsome lineup of hardened criminals there never was

What should subjects of horrific rulers do with their lieges, knowing what they grew up to be before? What if great rulers did not grow up to be as noble or kind as they had been? And why should adults serve children in the first place? Such questions abounded as things fell apart, and there were no easy answers.
 
The Regency: The Chief and His Council

Lord Decobius

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12th of August in the Year 768 of the Millennium of Flame

Late Afternoon

Chief Boson stared grimly out at the ocean from his vantage point atop a cliff. Each year on this day he had taken to watching the ocean, Settimio’s arrival burned deeply into his memory. Most of his people knew to leave him alone on this particular anniversary. Those that didn’t risked a night in solitary confinement “to relearn the meaning of ‘alone’.”

53. Chief Boson of Faereyar 768.jpg


The Chieftain of Færeyar

Waves crashed below him and sea birds cried above him, but Boson heard only the screams of children. He had killed dozens, dozens of them, before he realized they were truly not like him. It took the pleading of an eight-year-old on behalf of two wailing babies to see that the men they had once been, the enemy soldiers they had arrived as, were gone. He had assumed that if he retained his memories, so too must they have. He had been certain—absolutely certain—that he only had so much time before the conquest of Færeyar continued. And yet, faced with this babbling boy with the babies in his arms, Boson’s bloody dagger had slipped from his fingers and he had fallen to his knees to weep for forgiveness. The souls of the children he had put down weighed almost unbearably on him to this day. He doubted that weight would ever go away.

Wily Settimio, commander of this invasion, had blamed Boson for the Children’s Pox. The chancellor of Arduen had fled back to his ships, presuming the magic another defense Boson had kept in store for him, and though he had ordered his men to collect any child comrades in their immediate vicinity, he could not be compelled to wait for long before setting sail. When he returned home he found his homeland had been affected as well and told his tale across Arduen. News of “Boson’s Curse” even reached the Samrat, Settimio’s liege’s liege, and Boson fully expected the entire might of the Khottigidian Imperial Army to come crashing down upon Færeyar. But the army never came: for one thing, the Samrat had gone from a seventy-year-old warlord to a five-year-old thumb-sucker who didn’t care one bit about Færeyar; and for another, the belief that Boson had caused the curse made those unaffected by it supremely frightened that Boson might turn his evil powers upon them if they tried taking his isles again. Diplomatic relations had naturally nose-dived, but Færeyar was ironically safer than it had been in decades as a result.

One aspect of the Children’s Pox especially gnawed at him: Boson could not figure out why he was unique in retaining his memories. Everyone else afflicted by the curse regressed in both mind and body, but Boson retained his intellect completely unchanged. His only hypothesis was that the Færie blood in his veins had somehow saved him. Perhaps the magic of the Fæ had somehow shielded his mind from the curse’s cruel grasp? But why not his body too then? And why had some people—his Champion Louis for example—remained completely immune despite possessing not a drop of Færie blood?

54. Marshal Louis.jpg


The Champion of Færeyar

Of course, Louis had changed since that night; his transformation was simply not as visible. Louis had always been a tough soldier and a good man, brave and fierce but also charitable with his time and assistance. Now he was aloof, immensely superstitious and jumpy about any kind of magic or mysticism. He slept restlessly if he slept at all, plagued by nightmares only Boson could guess the nature of. Moreover, he had begun to display a worrying cold-heartedness towards children, whether they had been magically regressed back into childhood or not. Ashamed that he was responsible for Louis’ dark turn, Boson had cut the man much slack and ordered his other subjects to do the same.

“Chieftain Boson,” came a smooth, pleasant voice from behind him. “Your council is convening.”

Boson did not bother to turn around. “Jeanne. You know I do not like to be disturbed today of all days. In fact, you’ve made this mistake twice already in previous years.”

55. Jeanne de l'Aigle 768.jpg


Jeanne de l’Aigle, as close to nobility as could be found amongst the Færeyar Tribe

Jeanne de l’Aigle stepped into view, standing over him with her hands on her hips. She was tall and lean, almost gangly, but she held herself with such poise and dignity that most people instantly recognized her for the lady she was. Jeanne had been a thorn in Boson’s side for most of her adult life, constantly using her silver tongue to back him into corners and pull concessions for her family out of him. After Children’s Pox claimed her, Boson had been unsurprised to discover she remained as witty, clever, and dangerous as ever. At least she had forgotten their complicated personal history…

The de l’Aigle family, one of the four “noble” families on Færeyar (counting Boson’s own de Namur line), had a stranglehold on one of the most valuable commodities on the isles: boats. They owned the docks, and every boat they did not own paid them for the privilege of a berth. Raids, then, basically required de l’Aigle approval, for the only boat they exerted no control over by law was the de Namur family’s private vessel and that alone could not carry enough warriors for a serious assault. As such, Boson had often found himself negotiating with the de l’Aigles, and for most of his teens and early twenties the family had been dead set on him marrying Jeanne (who at the time was a widow twelve years his senior). To aid in that endeavor, Jeanne had turned all her considerable charm on him. Boson’s stalwart resistance to the matrimony but helpless attraction to her had engendered a fiercely tumultuous love-hate relationship between them that even after their respective marriages to other people continued to run hot. Seeing her now, in her youth, suddenly but a mere three or four years older than his new body and lacking all the biting bitterness their shared history had inspired before, Boson could not help but waver dangerously on the brink of falling right back into the trap of his previous feelings of attraction. In fact, it was due to his own mistrust in himself that he had forced her engagement to Louis under the guise of rewarding his Champion for his valiant defense during Arduen’s invasion.

“I’m doing you a favor,” Jeanne scolded. “The council was trying to go behind your back. My betrothed and I saw fit to warn you.”

“How goes it with your betrothed?” Boson inquired. He knew quite well Jeanne had little interest in Louis and disliked discussing him. Children’s Pox had rendered her the second-eldest living de l’Aigle, now bizarrely older than her own father and mother (both of whom had been turned into toddlers). Boson had underhandedly gone behind her back to lure her parents into accepting the terms of the engagement with bribes of sweets and toys, a ploy she had mistakenly attributed to Louis himself (which Boson saw no reason to correct her on). Since learning of the betrothal Jeanne had skillfully maneuvered around the terms of the engagement to establish a matrilineal union, spanked her parents into fearful obedience so they could not be exploited against her ever again, and publicly informed Louis in no uncertain terms where he stood on the social ladder relative to herself. Even now she was artfully eluding the altar, for she was already approaching her “seventeenth” birthday and had still managed to avoid officially setting a wedding date.

Jeanne made a face. “It… goes. He is no great conversationalist, but he is clever in his own right. At the very least, he maintains Hullhaven House for us while my father and brothers are… indisposed.”

“Sounds like you two are really starting to get along,” Boson noted innocently, inwardly smirking. Toying with Jeanne was already easing his otherwise somber mood. Just her presence had been enough to pull his attention away from the horizon.

“Yes, well, I am sure if there were something to be done about my unfortunate engagement—” she paused, giving him a meaningful look, “—I could get along much better with… others. I would certainly be most grateful to anyone who might assist me in the matter.”

“Jeanne, I already told you I’m not going to embarrass and insult my Champion by annulling his wedding contract,” Boson chided. “It’s not really my business, after all. Besides, it sounds like you’re warming up to him! Doesn’t the future look bright for you two?”

Jeanne crouched down beside him and slid a hand over his shoulders. She smiled at him, leaning forwards so that he could smell her long, lovely hair. He didn’t know how she did it, but even before the Children’s Pox she had always made her hair smell like lavender. Her touch set his skin to tingling, and the look in her eyes set other places to tingling as well. Boson gulped involuntarily.

“Boson,” Jeanne said, her voice silky and warm. “My chieftain. I can warm up to anyone. But there’s only one man I want to warm up to. Can you think who that might be?”

“Your husband?” Boson suggested carefully, his voice cracking. He cleared his throat. “You mean Louis, of course.”

Jeanne stared at him for a moment before clicking her tongue in disgust and standing back up. “Still such a child. Are you coming to the council meeting or not?”

“Lead the way,” Boson responded, relieved to have bested his baser impulses. As his body hit puberty, he found it more and more difficult to remain cool-headed when Jeanne turned her skills against him like that. His mind knew what was happening, but his body betrayed him… and he was deathly afraid that even a single slip-up would open the floodgates forever.

At least she had banished the echoes of screaming children from his mind.

Jeanne led him through the village, past his hall where most council meetings took place and past the alehouse where most unofficial meetings took place. They followed the dirt road for more than a mile out of the village, and it was nearly dusk when they reached a track branching away from the main road through a grazing field full of sheep. Boson knew this rocky path well; it led to the home of François, humble shepherd and Steward of Færeyar. Before coming into Boson’s employ François had been at perpetual odds with his neighbor Gaston over grazing land, and Boson had been dragged out to this house so many times to settle their disputes he could have walked the path blindfolded.

56. Steward Francois.jpg


Steward François: a nuisance, but an honest one... mostly

When they reached the house Boson saw Louis awaiting them outside with a torch in hand. He beckoned for them to hurry. When they reached him he gave Boson a nod and Jeanne a quick kiss on the cheek. Then he opened the door and ushered them inside.

Boson crossed the threshold and examined his current council. Children’s Pox and the invading forces of Arduen had annihilated his previous councilors, forcing him to look for an entirely new set of advisors. Boson had not hesitated to grant Louis the role of Marshal, and with the local School of Kernev in ruins there were simply no pontiffs to take the position of Court Chaplain. That left the roles of Chancellor, Steward, and Spymaster to be filled. Moreover, lacking any willing wealthy elites of a suitable age, this new council would have to be stocked entirely by peasantry.

François had been an easy pick for the role of steward, for though he was a shy, envious schemer who exploited every legal loophole he could find to avoid paying taxes, at the very least he knew the tax codes. For a spymaster Boson had rescued a con artist named Charles from the stockades. Charles had posed as a pontiff of the School of Kernev for five whole years, ministering to the citizens of Færeyar and collecting ample donations with no-one the wiser until a bad rainstorm uncovered the remains of the real pontiff. He had been sentenced to a week in the stockades before public execution… exactly one week to the day before Settimio and his Arduen forces arrived. As for a chancellor, Boson had left the position empty for more than a year. In truth he had grudgingly come to rely on Jeanne for diplomatic advice; regardless of their past, Boson was willing to admit he knew no-one more skilled at the art of negotiation. Still, legally-speaking she could not hold the post, so when people started complaining about the vacancy he had ultimately shoved a scruffy young tanner named Adrien into the position and gone right on listening to Jeanne regardless.

57. Spymaster Charles & Chancellor Adrien.jpg


A pair of scheming peasants, one significantly better at it than the other

All three men were present in François’ cramped little home, with the addition of one more individual. Since Boson was by all appearances a ten-year-old in the aftermath of the Children’s Pox, and since he had opted to conceal the fact that he had retained his memories from everyone but Louis (who already knew), the entire tribe had been adamant that he install a regent. Boson had promised to let the council fill the position once he had filled the council, but after his long delay in selecting a chancellor people had gotten wise to the ploy and demanded a regent be installed without any further delay. Thus the council selected Charles—a different Charles than the miscreant spymaster—to take up the duties of governance. This Charles had bravely fought on the beaches against Arduen’s forces and had directed a valiant defense of the cliffs after the chain of command broke down. Indeed, one of the first things Boson did over the following week was make him a commander, further adding the title of Court Physician after seeing the field treatments he had performed to save his wounded comrades once the Children’s Pox ended the immediate fighting. Boson found it a real pity that Charles had been made regent, because he truly felt that he could have liked the man had he not been propped up as an obstacle to Boson’s rule.

58. Regent Charles.jpg


Field Medic and new Regent of Færeyar

“Councilors,” Boson greeted them, casually taking a seat at François’ rickety table. Behind him, Louis and Jeanne entered the building and stood at either shoulder. Louis had not doused his torch.

“Chief Boson! We did not mean to disturb you with this informal gathering,” François said, licking his lips nervously. “We know how… perturbed you get on this grave anniversary. But I am honored you came! Can I get you something to eat?”

“Not if you cooked it,” Boson snorted. “It’s a pity you threw your wife out after the Children’s Pox got her. Bourguigne was an excellent cook... or so I hear.”

“Ah, yes, well, she transformed into a five-year-old. You wisely agreed I could not be expected to honor wedding vows to so young a child, remember?” François replied. If there was anyone François had hated more than his neighbor, it was his wife. From the bruises they both sported so frequently in the past, it seemed the feeling had been mutual. François had been over the moon with glee when Boson agreed their marriage could not be considered valid due to Bourguigne’s new age, and he left her right then and there to fend for herself. Boson had been forced to take her in until he found a suitable family to raise her, and he had been none too pleased about the inconvenience.

“Charles. Charles. Adrien,” Boson intoned, glancing at each one in turn. “Any of you care to tell me what this is all about?”

“A Court Chaplain, my chief,” Charles the regent informed him after a moment. “Your council needs one. It has been three years now, and you have not rebuilt the School, you have not selected one of the Learned Scholars to advise you, and you do not seem concerned about the crisis of faith this tribe has undergone since the tragedy of Children’s Pox struck us.”

“Crisis of faith!” Charles the spymaster repeated, thrusting out his chin defiantly. “I have tried to guide you as a true Learned Scholar would, but we need a real one on this council! Or better yet, a full pontiff! And soon!”

“I see,” Boson sighed. In truth he was loathe to reach out to the School of Kernev. Their priests, the so-called Learned Scholars, were primarily located in North Connacht, where the Holy Site of Aughagower was located. North Connacht just so happened to be the domain of one Fulk de Bougency, a direct vassal of Samrat Khottiga Khottigid himself. As tied to the Khottigidian Empire as the School had become, Boson sincerely doubted he would be able to acquire a Learned Scholar from Aughagower with no strings attached. He certainly did not expect another full-blown pontiff to fulfill the request, especially after what happened to the last one.

59. Fulk of North Connaght.png


Fulk de Bougency, as he was prior to Children’s Pox

“We intended to draft a letter, you see,” Charles the spymaster continued. “All you would have to do is sign it. We were actually trying to make things easier on you! Young men such as yourself shouldn’t have to worry about trivial matters like letters and whatnot, don’t you agree?”

“Letters are so very boring,” Boson nodded, feigning agreement. “But I like to use them to practice reading and writing, so it’s okay to bring these things to me. I’ve got to master them at some point, right?”

“Of course,” Charles the regent replied. “Admirably diligent of you, my chief.”

“I’m sorry, but I must confess I am at a loss. I thought we were here to discuss—” Chancellor Adrien began, but sharp looks from François and Charles the spymaster silenced him abruptly.

“Go ahead, Adrien, what has you confused?” Jeanne prodded sweetly.

“Oh, ah, I just meant… uh, never mind what I meant,” Adrien fumbled with his words, his cheeks flushing. Boson worked to keep a look of pity off his face as he examined the tanner. Adrien was sociable, entertaining, and sometimes downright witty, but every now and then he had moments of such sheer mind-boggling stupidity that everyone strongly suspected he had been dropped on his head as a baby. Possibly more than once.

“Well then, if that’s all, perhaps we could all go home now?” Boson proposed, pretending to grow antsy. He doubted anyone would give anything else up now that Adrien had come so close to spilling the beans, and he really didn’t feel like stooping to threats on tonight of all nights. “We shouldn’t bother François so late in the evening over something we can easily do tomorrow.”

“I am glad you are finally open to handling this issue, my chief,” Charles the regent commented. “As you say, we shall resume this discussion tomorrow.”

Boson met his regent’s eye and thought again what a shame it was this man had been chosen to impede his leadership of the tribe. He felt sure Charles truly meant well, which was more than could be said for the others. Adrien, François, and Charles the spymaster were all schemers, sometimes quite clever ones at that. With Charles the regent’s assistance they had forced Boson to curtail tribal organization efforts, cut taxes, and (much to Jeanne’s ire) restore the traditional status of women, all by legally cornering him so that the alternatives to these options were even worse. Boson had long loathed the “noble” houses for their unending intrigue, but these empowered commoners were easily proving just as troublesome as the so-called nobility ever were. His regent though? His regent was actually trying to help, it seemed. He was just helping the wrong side.

As they all trundled out of François’ house, Boson examined each of them in turn. Jeanne spun on her heels and marched out ahead of everyone. Charles the regent gave him a polite nod as he passed by. Adrien offered a jerky half-bow to him before tripping on the threshold and nearly face-planting. Charles the spymaster gave a little flourish of his hands with his nod of respect, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. When only he, Louis, and François remained, Boson stood up.

“François, I’ve been reading the records. You and I knew each other well, it seems,” Boson said. He paused, running a hand through his dark brown hair as he thought about what he wanted to say next. Then he shrugged and let his hand drop. “I just… I know you said we were friends, but I hope we can be even better friends this time around. I hope one day you might actually invite me here, like you did the others tonight. I’d really like us to keep working together, for the betterment of Færeyar.”

With that, Boson turned and left. He did not bother to listen to François’ response; it would no doubt be sincere but ultimately meaningless. François couldn’t help himself. With Louis on his heels Boson marched back up the dirt track towards the main road, contemplating the evening. His somber mood had returned in force, and for once he appreciated Louis’ reticence.

So his council wanted a Court Chaplain. That would force him to appeal to Aughagower, which in turn meant dealing with the Khottigidian Empire. Was his council working for the Khottigids? He doubted it. After the invasion, just about everyone on Færeyar had united in hatred of the empire to the south. Was it to tighten the School of Kernev’s grasp on the islands? He doubted that too; after all, Færeyar didn’t need converting. No, the real issue was clearly whatever Adrien had been on the verge of blurting out. Was it just his councilors playing more of their power games? Were the “noble” houses at last starting to stir after their slow recovery from the crippling Children’s Pox? Was a foreign power trying to make a move?

Jeanne’s words swam unbidden back into his mind. I can warm up to anyone. Boson’s brows knotted together and he gritted his teeth. Even without the memories of their past, could she truly be trusted? After all, whose side was Jeanne on, aside from her own? What lengths would she go to in order to see her will carried out now that she was at the head of her family? So many questions, and when it came to her he just could not seem to think straight.

“Louis,” Boson said suddenly, spinning to face his Champion. Louis came to an abrupt halt, holding out his torch to illuminate Boson’s face.

“Yes, my chief?” Louis prompted.

“Congratulations. You wed this winter,” Boson announced. “No more delays.”
 

Lord Decobius

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And we’re off! Next installment will be 1 January 769. I already have it completed, but I’ve just dumped a lot on you guys so I want to wait, answer any questions you might have (if able; no spoilers!), and sneakily get a bit ahead so I have a safety net moving forward. Again, thanks so much for reading! Please do let me know what you thought!


Here are some maps of the world, for those curious what it looks like as we set out into the game proper:

AFRICA - a brewing three-way brawl

Countries of Africa.jpg


SPAIN - a unified south, with easy pickings to the north

Countries of Western Europe.jpg


WESTERN EUROPE - a mess of nomads

Countries of Central Europe.jpg


THE UK - in this world, the Indian counterparts own the British Isles

Countries of the UK.jpg


NORTHERN EUROPE - the lands of elephants, bears, and cats

Countries of Eastern Europe.jpg


THE MEDITERRANEAN - where the Empire of Spikes (the hedgehogs) dominates

Countries of the Mediterranean.jpg


THE MIDDLE EAST - kitty country proper

Countries of the Middle East.jpg


THE TOP OF THE WORLD - the pups are in the far east

Countries of Russia.jpg


INDIA - where horses run free

Countries of India.jpg


And as previously mentioned, the dragons sit high in the misty mountains (astride the Tibetan Plateau). If anyone is curious, I have pictures of the active bloodlines as well, though I won't post those unless asked because they won't be relevant for some time (and when they are, I'll post an image there regardless). Pretty much the whole world is feudal, except in Europe:

World Govts; Europe.jpg


That reddish-purple is the byzantine imperial government of the Kufan Empire (the hedgehogs), and there's some nomads in sub-Saharan Africa as well.
 

High King Peredain

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An AAR set in a randomized world with animal kingdoms on. This is a first, but no less intriguing from what we've been shown. Well-written and excellent worldbuilding.

I'm looking forward to keeping up with this as best as I'm able. We have a promising cast, each with their own motivations and ambitions in the aftermath of what is the closest to an apocalypse as their version of the world is gonna get.

The animals seem to have their own issues going on, and from the way they are presented I can't help but wonder if they are the dominant powers of the world compared to their human counterparts.

The one human so far that seems to equal them is the Khottigidian Empire, opposite of the hedgehog-ran empire. This is mostly in the way they seem to hold themselves.

Boson's story is what I'm most intrigued by, as well as if he has any intentions on shoring up his defenses so an atrocity of this magnitude is never committed again.

As for Jeanne...if he has the body of a 10-year old, I'm starting to worry about her o_O.
 

JSB217118

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This is crazy. Holly hell so much drama, so much comedy. The deviant elephant and the interspecies stuff was really funny. The lore was hard to understand. I look forward to more updates.
 

Sailormarsfan1701

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Well, in what may be the final year before ck3, it’s come down to do or die time with finally posting my own AAR. I’ve been working on it for quite awhile, studying others and mustering up the courage to commit to putting this out there. I chose a random world, with Animal Kingdoms activated, and all rulers limited to an age under 15. I really wanted to supply a narrative reason for these insane discrepancies, so as you saw, there’s a bit of magic in the air! Only a bit though, and these folk would probably consider it quite toxic.

My goals for this AAR are tied up with the plot, which I really don’t want to spoil. I can only say “I’ve got a plan” and hope you trust me. But I do have a plan! So I hope you can trust me to see it through.

I have all the DLC activated except Sunset Invasion, with pretty much every game rule set to “on” or “default” but for a few exceptions:

1. The Mongol Invasion is set to delayed random. I don’t know how this will play out in a random world, or even where it will play out, but I wanted it to be later. Also, as you can see below, I have exclaves set to limited (naval). I like the idea that ruling something way, way far away is just not plausible, even if in-game this rule can be a real heartbreaker/nuisance.

View attachment 539990

2. I have the de jure requirement set to required. I always play with this activated. It just makes sense to me. You can see what this means below:

View attachment 539991

3. Lastly, I have Turkic Conquerors set to off. Normally I don’t mind them, but this time around I didn’t want them messing with the random world vibe. Same went for the Charlemagne events, by the way, though I doubt those would have even triggered.

View attachment 539992
Id like to recommend the fantastical kingdoms mod which adds things like high elves and vampires to the animal kingdoms option other than that im follow this

Other than those minor twists, everything’s pretty much default!

One thing I’d like to say is a big thank you to those dedicated AAR readers out there I see interacting on so, so many stories. It really helped motivate me to start this, since I felt reasonably certain at least a few people would read it and respond. You guys know who you are; thank you!

Another thing I’d like to say is @JabberJock14 : your story Before Plantagenet opened my eyes to just how cool AARs could be ([link] – go read it, everyone!). I had read a few before yours, but when I saw how in depth you got with your characters and how you crafted even basic events into character-defining moments, I was hooked. I knew after that if I was ever going to write an AAR it was going to be of a similar style. Thank you so much for your excellent story! And in the spirit of ck2, I am now going to attempt to usurp Before Plantagenet’s title of “Best AAR I’ve Read So Far” in my head with my own work – can’t help it, I’ve got the ambitious trait. :p

What follows is a lot of world-building: the next portion in particular sets the landscape for the religious side of things across the world. If you don’t find that interesting, by all means skip it! The tl;dr version is that Færeyar and its southern neighbor the Khottigidian Empire adhere to a faith called the School of Kernev, which believes in an Author of Fate. Most of the world however follows one or another sect of what’s commonly referred to as The Shattered Religion, which has a basic moral duality at work (a “good God vs. bad Devil” type of thing). Naturally, the only thing adherents of the Shattered Religion enjoy more than fighting each other is fighting “pagans”, so Boson and the Samrat had better be extremely careful not to draw too much attention to themselves before they’re ready…

If you plan on skipping, the next installment after that gives a bit of backstory on where the magic that struck Færeyar came from. After that one is an installment about the global effects of the curse, and after that we finally return to Boson just before the game actually gets going. From then on my plan is to post once or twice a week (once every weekend for sure, with perhaps another installment midweek if time permits). I am well ahead in the game, and it is ironman, so if you have any questions I would love to answer them but I may or may not be able to supply screenshots (I always play ironman, so I didn’t think about it when I got the game rolling :confused:). I hope you enjoy!
 

Lord Decobius

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Thank you all for commenting!

An AAR set in a randomized world with animal kingdoms on. This is a first, but no less intriguing from what we've been shown. Well-written and excellent worldbuilding.

I'm looking forward to keeping up with this as best as I'm able. We have a promising cast, each with their own motivations and ambitions in the aftermath of what is the closest to an apocalypse as their version of the world is gonna get.

The animals seem to have their own issues going on, and from the way they are presented I can't help but wonder if they are the dominant powers of the world compared to their human counterparts.

The one human so far that seems to equal them is the Khottigidian Empire, opposite of the hedgehog-ran empire. This is mostly in the way they seem to hold themselves.

Boson's story is what I'm most intrigued by, as well as if he has any intentions on shoring up his defenses so an atrocity of this magnitude is never committed again.

As for Jeanne...if he has the body of a 10-year old, I'm starting to worry about her o_O.

I know of at least one other animal kingdoms AAR - Against The Great Animal Calamity by @alscon . It was a humans vs. animals AAR with some audience interactivity - certainly a cool concept!

An apocalypse indeed! But I can think of at least one more they will have to contend with: the Black Death. And as for specifically Fairy culture, oblivion may yet await it still - its people have no friends left in the world (and one very large enemy just to the south). As you say, if it is a comparison between animals and humans then undoubtedly the animals have the upper hand. Fortunately, the animals are no more unified in this world than humans are in ours, so humankind may well endure. And aside from the Khottigids, which are a major menace, there is also a Divine Karachevian Empire (an HRE equivalent) run by humans. They're the great whitish-tan blob below where Finland would be (you can see it in the "Northern Europe" map I posted, just above Pallavaa).

I'm glad Boson's story fascinated you the most! He absolutely intends to remain free after how much his tribe's freedom has already cost them, so defense is of chief concern. However, he must defend against enemies at home as well as abroad, for in his weakened position there are many eager to use or supplant him. As such, almost anything he attempts will not be easily achieved, even what should be seen as common sense. And as for Jeanne, well, it's even worse than you fear: Children's Pox turned him into a 10-year-old (in fact a 9 year old, but his birthday came just a few months later) back in 765. Now he's a teenager. :eek:

This is crazy. Holly hell so much drama, so much comedy. The deviant elephant and the interspecies stuff was really funny. The lore was hard to understand. I look forward to more updates.

I'm pleased you enjoyed it! Duke Tej posed an interesting problem when starting out: in an Animal Kingdoms world, what is the common consensus on interspecies relations? The game treats them like any other union, but I was more interested in the narrative implications. Then I took a step back and thought about an elephant bedding geese (this game takes you to strange places o_O) and decided of course it would be frowned upon. So interspecies relationships became taboo, and that made Duke Tej quite the little deviant :D.

I am aware the religion post was quite dense. Initially it was the first thing I wrote, but I realized it might deter people from the actual story and so placed it after an introductory narrative. The thing was, when I set up the random world I noticed many of the religions had The World's Gospel as their holy book, and a few others had either the same God or the same Adversary. Noticing these links, I simply connected the dots and concluded a single religion existed in the past that broke into many sects - the Shattered Religion. To sum up the relevant history (that we know so far, anyway ;)): A dragon priest named Vorcasym initiated a secular crusade against all religions. It destroyed the foundations of the Church of the World's Gospel and began the Millennium of Flame (Year 0 on the calendar). After Vorcasym's death, many variations of the Church of the World's Gospel emerged, fighting with each other over the "correct" version of the faith. These sects continue to fight each other even in the present. In the Khottigidian Empire (and in Boson's tribe), people follow an entirely different faith: the School of Kernev. The Kernevites want to spread their own doctrine worshipping the Author of Fate, but to go directly against the entire Shattered Religion would be suicide (basically, if they declared war on "the Church of the World's Gospel" then all of the various sects, thinking of themselves as the true Church, would consider that declaration of war against them and unite to crush the Kernevites). So Boson and the Samrat will have to be careful about how they go about spreading the faith (if that is something they intend to do).

If your confusion was instead regarding what happened on the night Children's Pox broke loose, well, that's a bit iffy. We know the Elder Witch unleashed powers beyond her control which spread across the world in a toxic magical smog, but the specifics about what exactly she called upon are a bit mysterious. After that, everyone attempted to find a cure and a culprit, including the mystics, scholars, and brilliant commonfolk of every species. None succeeded in either regard. There are plenty of suspects, Boson himself being one (at least in his corner of the world), but sparse evidence. So the witchhunts will continue.

I hope that clears things up a bit! If you have any specific questions, let me know and I'll be happy to clarify what I can!

Id like to recommend the fantastical kingdoms mod which adds things like high elves and vampires to the animal kingdoms option other than that im follow this

At your recommendation I took a look at the mod. It's definitely cool, might have to give it a try. For this particular narrative, I've unfortunately gone beyond where applying a mod would not be too disruptive (at least, one that created new races anyway). I don't even have the red pandas in this game :(. That said, as with the Vorcasym portrait if the narrative calls for something fantastical to have a character sheet I might start a quick new game to snatch a screenshot of a custom character - and this mod will work perfectly fine for that! As such I'll keep this mod in mind; thanks for the suggestion!

To everyone, the game begins! Here comes the next chapter. I'm eager to hear what you think!
 
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The Regency: Duties for a Quarrelsome Council

Lord Decobius

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1st of January in the Year 769 of the Millennium of Flame

Late Afternoon

Boson spat in the dirt as he exited his stone hall to urinate. The festivities would carry on deep into the night, but he was already exhausted of them. He wasn’t entirely sure why that would be: he enjoyed a good feast as much as the next person, and this one was a particularly splendid feast. But somewhere along the line his mood had soured, the ale lost its flavor, and he became less and less willing to keep up his pretense of conviviality. Now, with no-one watching, his foul mood finally found the cracks in his self-control and he let loose a muffled tirade of heinously obscene curses as he made his way around the side of the stone building.

Jeanne de l’Aigle married Louis today.

60. Jeanne de l'Aigle, married.jpg


The happy union of Maiden and Marshal

Of course, that had nothing to do with Boson’s ill-temper. In fact, he was happy for her! Indeed, had he not offered his own “thirteenth” birthday as a date for the wedding so they could all celebrate together? Was he not hosting the event this very second? No, if anything marrying Jeanne off to Louis was a source of amusement to Boson! He had finally snared her, tying her to his marshal and forever preventing her from claiming himself. Their fate, such as it was, had been sealed at last. They would never be together.

Never.

Boson kicked a rock out of his way with as much force as he could muster. What, did the damn thing want to be pissed on? Clearly the stone was trying to undermine him, to get in his way like everyone else. He had made little progress determining what his council was after. He had made no progress on acquiring an acceptable Court Chaplain. And his people were growing increasingly restless as the economy declined, dependent as it was upon intermittent influxes of loot from raiding to truly flourish.

Boson was too young to raid now, but he would be damned if he let anyone else lead a raid and claim the glory. His position was more tenuous than it had ever been; if some successful raider returned with a massive haul of booty to save the islands, there would be no stopping the whispers of replacing Boson from becoming a chant or even a battle cry. Such whispers already ran rampant, and Boson knew better than to add fuel to them. Still, he was trading one threat for another, since the longer he went without raiding the more impatient people became with him…

He had ordered Louis to train the youths into a fighting force to replenish Færeyar’s drastically depleted military. After Children’s Pox and the invasion of Arduen, all of Boson’s work to empower his tribe had been undone. It had taken a lifetime to amass the thousand-man army he had under his command at the time of the invasion, or perhaps two or three lifetimes if one counted his father and grandfather’s recruitment efforts as well. Now the majority of the populace was at or under the age of fifteen, himself included. Boson intended to make sure that when they all came of age again, they were ready to fight for Færeyar as though nothing had ever happened.

To further boost recruitment Boson had ordered François to spread word of Boson’s past achievements. If the majority of his tribesmen had regressed, that meant a majority of his tribe did not really remember who Boson even was. They seemed to recognize the de Namur name, at least the older ones, but almost none of them had any familiarity with Boson in particular. Even Jeanne had reintroduced herself despite being vaguely aware that they knew each other. As such, Boson considered François’ awareness campaign as nothing short of crucial. He had briefly considered using the opportunity to embellish his deeds, but enough people would have seen through it that Boson instead opted for simply reminding folks of his greatest accomplishments. Moreover, since he himself was pretending not to know his own history he was forced to permit others to “remind” him of what should go into the stories and thus could not surreptitiously tweak anything anyway.

Fearing François might seize the opportunity to spread lies about him, Boson had initially employed his spymaster Charles to keep track of his steward. However, Boson was surprised to learn François was generally pretty honest. The steward was the jealous sort, so he rarely gave Boson more credit than he was due, but at least he was not going about slandering the chieftain. All in all Boson was coming across as a rather neutral figure, which was perhaps the best he could have hoped for considering the circumstances. However, once Charles the spymaster got involved, he started hearing other, less-than-savory stories drift into circulation. Boson promptly sent Charles abroad on a “critical mission” to Agen, a county along the Garonne just inland from the Coast of Aquitaine (and more importantly, far from Færeyar). It was one of the few places his father had raided that he bothered to make a record about, which gave Boson the perfect excuse to request that Charles investigate the area further.

Agen.jpg


The Kotromanicine Kingdom where Agen was located was ruled by the human King Danis "Redfeather" Kotromanic (newly returned to 5 years old), who had earned his moniker by plucking a bloody feather from between the eyes of his slain foe the dread gander Khagan Breadcrumbs as he had vowed to do years prior

Boson wrapped up watering the side of the stone hall and was debating whether or not he really had to return to the festivities when he suddenly heard voices coming from around the back of the building. Deciding any excuse to avoid seeing Jeanne in her wedding dress—it was a truly horrendous dress, was all; it had nothing to do with Jeanne herself or how lovely she looked in the damn thing—Boson made his way towards the corner of the building to eavesdrop. From the sound of the exchange a woman was quite irate with someone: the conversation consisted primarily of a shrill voice screeching with brief interludes of mumbled apologies.

“So the next time I tell you to send a letter, I expect you to send it immediately! If I ever find out you left another document unsealed and in plain view again, I will personally shove it down your throat!” berated the woman’s voice. Boson thought he recognized that piercing, high-pitched shriek, but he took a quick peek around the corner to confirm it. One glance was all he needed.

Chancellor Adrien stood meekly averting his gaze from his wife. Though her back was to Boson, nobody on Færeyar could have mistaken Adrien’s wife: he was married to Aliénor de Vuri. Aliénor was a dwarf: she had long been called the Doll of the Isles (rarely to her face, though). Prior to the Children’s Pox epidemic, Aliénor and Boson had held vehement animosity towards each other after an incident from his actual childhood: little Boson had been playing in the mud with his peers and, mistaking her for another child, slung a fistful of grime at her. She had slapped him so hard he saw stars, and forever after they had loathed each other with the fiercest intensity either could muster. After Children’s Pox transformed her from the aging matriarch of the noble house of de Vuri into a snobby thirteen-year-old, Boson had nearly blown his cover by snidely commenting how little difference he saw in her height.

61. Alienor de Vuri.jpg


The Doll of the Isles

Aliénor’s family owned the wool production in Færeyar. In the past the de Vuris had ruthlessly purchased every tool for wool production in the isles, threatening or bribing any competition until only they had the means to maintain such an operation. Every shepherd on Færeyar was then forced to work with the de Vuri family to sell their sheep’s wool: in short, just as the de l’Aigles owned the boats by operating the docks, the de Vuris owned the shepherds by operating the wool manufacturing center. They employed a sizable workforce and by the time Boson was born the de Vuri family’s wealth and power in Færeyar was simply a fact of life on the islands.

Or at least, it had been a fact of life… until the Children’s Pox left their entire operation with exactly four adult workers. Suddenly the wool manufacturing business hit a wall. Of the two remaining adult de Vuris, one committed suicide in less than a month and the other was ironically something of a black sheep in the family nobody had ever trusted with the books. Boson, smelling opportunity, had offered salvation in the form of an edict commanding able bodies to the production center… though his help was far from free. He had instituted drastic tax hikes on the wool trade, joined the family as a full and equal partner, and even organized a ledger of debt the family would have to repay with interest as their enterprise slowly recovered.

He had also made one more “request” of the family in exchange for his help: Aliénor would have to marry whomever he chose.

Admittedly, Boson knew this was petty. But the look on Aliénor’s face when she learned she would be marrying Adrien (or as she put it, “that cross-eyed, slack-jawed, hare-brained joke of a tanner?!”) had been so hilariously horrified he still could not bring himself to regret the decision. What fun he had had at her expense! She had attempted to marry Adrien in secret, to limit the shame of it all by having only those whose presence was required to make everything official be in attendance. Instead, Boson had announced the engagement across Færeyar: come see the marriage of a mental midget and a real one! The blessed union of a dolt and a dwarf! Where big words go over the groom’s head, and everything else goes over the bride! By the time Boson was through, the wedding had attracted nearly every living soul in the tribe. In fact, the spectacle was so popular it was one of the largest assemblies in the history of Boson’s rule, involving well over a thousand guests. Aliénor had practically fainted from embarrassment, and Boson had nearly died laughing.

Of course, his mean-spiritedness had squandered his second chance at friendship with the de Vuri family, and he held no illusions that Aliénor would ever see him as anything other than a lifelong enemy. But truth be told Boson hardly cared: he had crippled them. He owned them. Regardless of their best efforts to disrupt his rule, from there on out the family would be easier to deal with than they had ever been before. Let Aliénor seethe as long as she liked; the hard truth was that Boson had little to fear from a de Vuri anymore.

He heard Adrien shuffle his feet. “But, my dear, it was in Geeselic! Nobody here even knows how to read that language but your family and myself!”

“And we wouldn’t have taught you if we’d known you were going to leave a way to learn lying around for anyone to pick up!” Aliénor fumed. “Besides, are you sure no-one else reads it? You know how devious Boson is! That brat has more going on in that nasty little head of his than he lets on, as everyone knows! We can’t afford to underestimate him!”

“I’m sorry, my love, I—” Adrien tried to apologize.

“Don’t call me that, you halfwit! Just make sure this doesn’t happen again!” Aliénor snapped. “If I hadn’t double-checked your stack of papers who knows what might have happened…”

Boson heard gravel crunch as she turned on her heels to march away. Creeping as quickly and quietly as he could manage, Boson hastily slid back the way he had come. Knowing he could not make it entirely out of sight in time, he pressed himself as flat against the stones as he could manage, thankful he had chosen a dark blue tunic and black trousers for the wedding since they blended in well with the stones and shadows. As Aliénor waddled into view Boson held his breathe, exhaling in relief only when she did not round the corner but instead continued straight on away from the stone hall.

Thinking quickly, Boson scurried to the portion of wall he had been urinating on previously and set himself up as though he were still doing so. As he predicted, mere moments after he had taken up the position his chancellor shambled around the corner with his shoulders slumped. Adrien instantly caught sight of Boson and tensed, his eyes widening. Boson feigned wrapping up his business and gave Adrien a look of bewilderment.

“Oh! Shorry, how long have you been there? I jusht had to drain shome ale, sho to shpeak, didn’t mean to intrude,” Boson slurred. He strode unsteadily towards Adrien, grinning sheepishly.

“No, no, my chief, you aren’t intruding! I just came this way myself!” Adrien reassured him, relief plain on his face.

“Good, good,” Boson beamed, clapping a hand to Adrien’s back. “Enjoying the party? I know it’sh not quite azh big azh your wedding.”

“I’ve had a splendid time. So kind of you to host Louis and Lady Jeanne’s ceremony like that. And what a great idea, combining it with your birthday celebration!” Adrien responded, catching Boson as Boson pretended to stumble. “I’m just on my way back in, in fact. I too had to, er, relieve myself.”

“Dropping a load behind my houshe, Chanshellor?” Boson accused, giving Adrien a wink. “Better not let the chief find out!”

“I’ll be careful,” Adrien laughed. The two began walking out of the alley towards the front entrance of the stone hall, Adrien supporting his chieftain as Boson shuffled awkwardly. When they reached the entrance, Boson stopped and turned to Adrien.

“Hey, you wouldn’t happen to know what ‘ac augkak awa’ak’ meansh, would you? I got a letter from the Duke of Asarcornisen wishing me a happy birthday and that’sh how that shilly goose shigned it,” Boson hiccupped. Ac augkak awa’ak was a Geeselic farewell that loosely translated to “May you always find bread.” In fact Boson had seen it while sneakily reading his father’s letters as a young lad, and though his father had been less than impressed when he caught him he had at least explained the phrase when Boson asked what it meant. Boson’s father had always said he would teach his son the language—“Good to know what your enemies are saying about you!”—but he had never gotten around to it. Thus ac augkak awa’ak was the grand total of Boson’s Geeselic. Still, he hoped it would be enough.

“Um, may bread always find you?” Adrien answered after thinking a moment. He thought a little longer. “But when did the Duke send you a letter? Such a letter most certainly would have gone through me…”

“It wash a private correshpondenshe,” Boson explained with a dismissive wave of his hand. Suddenly his eyes lit up. “Hey! I wash thinking maybe thish wash an opportunity to getta real relationship with the Duke going, and here you are shpeaking Geeshelic! That’sh perfect! I can shend you to get thingsh rolling!”

62. Asarcornisen.png


A small northern island at the edge of the world, Asarcornisen was settled by geese fleeing the elephantine expansion that overwhelmed their homeland in Jamtland some 300 years ago

“Oh, no, I… I only speak it a little…” Adrien floundered, eyes growing wide again.

“No worriesh, no worriesh, that’sh a li’l more than me after all!” Boson grinned. “I’ll get everything arranged tomorrow. I’m sho lucky to have you by my shide, Adrien!”

Boson turned and reentered the hall, cringing as the din of enthusiastic revelry engulfed him. He left Adrien standing a little straighter, confused but somewhat proud of the praise his chieftain had laid upon him. Boson smiled to himself, pleased with how he had handled his chancellor. Swiping a mug off a table close at hand, he raised it to Louis, who returned the gesture with his own mug from across the room. Louis still had that haunted look in his eye that had never truly left since the night Children’s Pox descended upon them, but otherwise he seemed happier than he had been in years. Beside him, Jeanne appeared equally happy, and only someone who knew her as well as Boson did could have recognized the expression for the mask it was. As though feeling his gaze on her, Jeanne turned her head and their eyes met. Boson quickly looked away, hiding a sudden flush in his cheeks by taking a big swig from the mug.

Damn she looked lovely. He scowled.
 

Sailormarsfan1701

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Thank you all for commenting!



I know of at least one other animal kingdoms AAR - Against The Great Animal Calamity by @alscon . It was a humans vs. animals AAR with some audience interactivity - certainly a cool concept!

An apocalypse indeed! But I can think of at least one more they will have to contend with: the Black Death. And as for specifically Fairy culture, oblivion may yet await it still - its people have no friends left in the world (and one very large enemy just to the south). As you say, if it is a comparison between animals and humans then undoubtedly the animals have the upper hand. Fortunately, the animals are no more unified in this world than humans are in ours, so humankind may well endure. And aside from the Khottigids, which are a major menace, there is also a Divine Karachevian Empire (an HRE equivalent) run by humans. They're the great whitish-tan blob below where Finland would be (you can see it in the "Northern Europe" map I posted, just above Pallavaa).

I'm glad Boson's story fascinated you the most! He absolutely intends to remain free after how much his tribe's freedom has already cost them, so defense is of chief concern. However, he must defend against enemies at home as well as abroad, for in his weakened position there are many eager to use or supplant him. As such, almost anything he attempts will not be easily achieved, even what should be seen as common sense. And as for Jeanne, well, it's even worse than you fear: Children's Pox turned him into a 10-year-old (in fact a 9 year old, but his birthday came just a few months later) back in 765. Now he's a teenager. :eek:



I'm pleased you enjoyed it! Duke Tej posed an interesting problem when starting out: in an Animal Kingdoms world, what is the common consensus on interspecies relations? The game treats them like any other union, but I was more interested in the narrative implications. Then I took a step back and thought about an elephant bedding geese (this game takes you to strange places o_O) and decided of course it would be frowned upon. So interspecies relationships became taboo, and that made Duke Tej quite the little deviant :D.

I am aware the religion post was quite dense. Initially it was the first thing I wrote, but I realized it might deter people from the actual story and so placed it after an introductory narrative. The thing was, when I set up the random world I noticed many of the religions had The World's Gospel as their holy book, and a few others had either the same God or the same Adversary. Noticing these links, I simply connected the dots and concluded a single religion existed in the past that broke into many sects - the Shattered Religion. To sum up the relevant history (that we know so far, anyway ;)): A dragon priest named Vorcasym initiated a secular crusade against all religions. It destroyed the foundations of the Church of the World's Gospel and began the Millennium of Flame (Year 0 on the calendar). After Vorcasym's death, many variations of the Church of the World's Gospel emerged, fighting with each other over the "correct" version of the faith. These sects continue to fight each other even in the present. In the Khottigidian Empire (and in Boson's tribe), people follow an entirely different faith: the School of Kernev. The Kernevites want to spread their own doctrine worshipping the Author of Fate, but to go directly against the entire Shattered Religion would be suicide (basically, if they declared war on "the Church of the World's Gospel" then all of the various sects, thinking of themselves as the true Church, would consider that declaration of war against them and unite to crush the Kernevites). So Boson and the Samrat will have to be careful about how they go about spreading the faith (if that is something they intend to do).

If your confusion was instead regarding what happened on the night Children's Pox broke loose, well, that's a bit iffy. We know the Elder Witch unleashed powers beyond her control which spread across the world in a toxic magical smog, but the specifics about what exactly she called upon are a bit mysterious. After that, everyone attempted to find a cure and a culprit, including the mystics, scholars, and brilliant commonfolk of every species. None succeeded in either regard. There are plenty of suspects, Boson himself being one (at least in his corner of the world), but sparse evidence. So the witchhunts will continue.

I hope that clears things up a bit! If you have any specific questions, let me know and I'll be happy to clarify what I can!



At your recommendation I took a look at the mod. It's definitely cool, might have to give it a try. For this particular narrative, I've unfortunately gone beyond where applying a mod would not be too disruptive (at least, one that created new races anyway). I don't even have the red pandas in this game :(. That said, as with the Vorcasym portrait if the narrative calls for something fantastical to have a character sheet I might start a quick new game to snatch a screenshot of a custom character - and this mod will work perfectly fine for that! As such I'll keep this mod in mind; thanks for the suggestion!

To everyone, the game begins! Here comes the next chapter. I'm eager to hear what you think!
I was able to do observer only game with the after the end mod, I just ignored the check sum although it wont work with the game of thrones mod Ive heard it works with a lot of mods so a fantastical slash animal kingdoms playthrough with the after the end mod MIGHT be possible then again rust cultist high elves sound awesome
 

High King Peredain

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Boson once again displays his cunning nature in this chapter. A nice look at the infrastructure of the village again, with the impact of prior events having negative consequences.
 

slothinator

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You've done an amazing job with the worlbuilding! I'm amazed how much detail you can fit into anything.
I can't wait to find out what will happen to Boson in the future!
 

alscon

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....rrrr.....aaa.....rrrgggghhhh.... I have been summoned...

...and I don't regret it. At all :). A very intriguing beginning, and I'm always glad to see someone trying out something different. I can only concur regarding the worldbuilding.

Looks like Boson's... court?... is a... colourful place. The council may consist of commoners, but they do have their fascinating quirks.

He himself may not admit it, but I get the feeling that he also partly enjoys having been struck by the curse. After all, he never could have arranged Adrien's and Aliénor's marriage, especially not the way he did it, had the Children's Pox not struck.:p
 

Lord Decobius

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Great update. Your worldbuilding is so cool.

Thank you! I really wanted to justify such drastic changes (sentient animals, magic, child rulers, etc.), so I tried particularly hard to create a backbone that could support them. I'm happy it has held up thus far in your estimation!

I was able to do observer only game with the after the end mod, I just ignored the check sum although it wont work with the game of thrones mod Ive heard it works with a lot of mods so a fantastical slash animal kingdoms playthrough with the after the end mod MIGHT be possible then again rust cultist high elves sound awesome

"The American Dream died when the bombs fell... The American Fantasy has risen in its place." Sounds like the makings of an AAR! :D

Boson once again displays his cunning nature in this chapter. A nice look at the infrastructure of the village again, with the impact of prior events having negative consequences.

Old grudges die hard. Boson was given a prime opportunity to strike at his personal enemies, and he's just the sort of sneaky bastard to take it. However, the more he acts out the faster everyone around him learns to be wary... and all too soon what goes around comes around. Negative consequences may just be a running theme with our "young" friend.

You've done an amazing job with the worlbuilding! I'm amazed how much detail you can fit into anything.
I can't wait to find out what will happen to Boson in the future!

Thanks for reading! I'll try to be as detailed as possible in the narrative, and leave out as many details as possible in my comment responses! :p

....rrrr.....aaa.....rrrgggghhhh.... I have been summoned...

...and I don't regret it. At all :). A very intriguing beginning, and I'm always glad to see someone trying out something different. I can only concur regarding the worldbuilding.

Looks like Boson's... court?... is a... colourful place. The council may consist of commoners, but they do have their fascinating quirks.

He himself may not admit it, but I get the feeling that he also partly enjoys having been struck by the curse. After all, he never could have arranged Adrien's and Aliénor's marriage, especially not the way he did it, had the Children's Pox not struck.:p

Ah, I apologize for summoning you. I have a hang-up about talking about people "behind their backs", even if what I'm saying is totally neutral or outright complimentary, so as a personal rule when I mention someone by name I try to @ them. But I'll take this example to heart and avoid it in the future (here, at least) - I don't want people to feel like I'm forcing them to stop by. :confused:

That said, I'm so pleased you enjoyed it! Boson's council is a pack of schemers (Boson included), which made them fun to write. And it's not full yet - there's still a vacancy in the Court Chaplain position! The person who slides in there will definitely have their own agenda as well...

Interesting theory! Children's Pox was called "Boson's Curse" by the Khottigids for a reason - he definitely benefitted from the plague sending Arduen fleeing home with its tail between its legs! And as you point out, he's since used the disastrous circumstances to his benefit multiple times (with Aliénor, with Jeanne, with his councilors...). However, it also turned him into a child murderer, lost him his power in the tribe, and destroyed everything he had built in his prior lifetime. So at the very least, he would never publicly admit he was happy that it happened. But in private, on days like Aliénor's wedding, who knows? Regardless, that pros and cons tally will continue to shift - being knocked back to childhood can't help but perpetually have an impact moving forward!

------------

To everyone, sincere thanks again for reading and commenting. The next portion is incoming! I hope you enjoy the first war of the actual game!
 
The Regency: Tribute, At What Cost?

Lord Decobius

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2nd of October in the Year 769 of the Millennium of Flame

Midmorning

64. Regent Charles.jpg


The Regent At War

Charles drummed the haft of his axe where it rested across his lap, pondering his next move. The blasted geese had set up surprisingly stalwart defenses around the Mosque of Kirkjubaer, forcing him to siege it out. He knew Boson would be displeased with how slow the campaign was playing out, but Charles considered low losses better than costly, expedient conquest. Besides, he reminded himself, Boson was just a child.

He found he constantly had to remind himself of that fact: even in Boson’s presence Charles found himself treating the lad as an adult. Prior to being named the chieftain’s regent, Charles had not truly interacted with Boson. He had been a simple doctor, using the sewing skills of his mother and the knowledge of plant life from his father to help people as best he could. Of course, he had been on raids under Boson’s leadership; every man able to swing an axe had. And after Arduen’s invasion, instead of being able to start researching the Children’s Pox as he would have liked to do Boson had made him a Commander of Færeyar with a small, formal ceremony. But that had been a public affair, and though Boson had engaged him in brief conversation Charles had known the lad was simply fulfilling an obligation. Even a week later, when Boson discovered Charles’ primary profession and appointed him Court Physician, their interactions had remained rather impersonal. Mostly they discussed Boson’s case of Children’s Pox and how it might be cured. No, Charles had not really gotten to know his Chief to any true degree until the Council of Færeyar approached him about serving as regent.

Ignorance was bliss.

Somehow Boson had caught wind of the council’s intent. Suddenly Charles felt eyes on him wherever he went, and when Boson spoke to him the conversations inevitably seemed to veer towards the brutal things past de Namurs had done to their enemies. Charles of course had been reluctant enough on his own about taking up the role; as Court Physician he was pretty much doing what he had always done, just in a more official capacity and with one patient taking priority over all the rest. But regent? What did he know about ruling? However, with the added pressure of Boson’s thinly-veiled hostility, who else could he turn to but the suddenly overly-kind councilors? In the end he had relented to their request and taken up the reins of leadership.

Upon Charles’ acceptance of the role Boson’s tactics had changed yet again. The animosity of mere days before evaporated, instead replaced with a gracious yet humble host. Boson had insisted Charles stay with him in the stone hall, at least for a while, to as he put it “become true friends able to understand what each other want and work together to achieve those goals.” Charles could scarcely believe how fast the turnaround had been, and after nearly two weeks of Boson’s seemingly sincere good intentions he had begun to wonder if the enmity he had been sensing before were not somehow simply imagined on his part. The other councilors warned him again and again that the veneer of friendship would not survive their first true argument, but Charles had not wanted to believe them. After all, Boson was a child! How dastardly could he be, truly? Surely things were basically as they appeared with one so young (well, so to speak).

When he had suggested as much to Champion Louis, the sole councilor to seem fully committed to Chief Boson, the normally grim-faced marshal had suffered a coughing fit which Charles soon realized was covering up a bout of sniggering at his expense. Charles had ended up irritably excusing himself long before the “coughing” subsided. Louis seemed to find Charles quite amusing after that exchange, but Charles could not say the feeling was mutual.

65. Marshal Louis (married).jpg


Laughter out of Louis was so rare these days that witnesses were downright astonished by such a display of mirth, however muted

The regent of Færeyar truly discovered how badly he had underestimated Chief Boson the first time he attempted to institute a council edict. Steward François approached him about organizing private raids to stimulate the economy, which Charles agreed sounded like a good idea. However, he had quickly learned it was illegal to raid without the chieftain’s consent, and Boson had staunchly refused to authorize any raiding parties since his transformation. Unconcerned, Charles had proposed enacting temporary measures that would allow private raids until Boson came of age: he was sure it was merely childish jealousy over the inability to go in person that made Boson disinclined to give his consent. When Boson learned of Charles’ plans, he had approached his regent and pleasantly requested such measures be immediately dropped. Charles had explained his position and informed the lad he would regrettably be going forward with François’ proposal.

So began the greatest legal struggle of Charles’ life.

Initially he tried to get the relatively simple proposal done in an afternoon. However, the drafts he wrote up mysteriously disappeared. Next Charles tried to pass a vote, hoping to get the temporary measure recorded on the council record. Boson disbanded the council early that day before anything concrete could be established. Charles feverishly prepared for the next meeting, but Boson subsequently did not hold any council meetings for nearly a month. When the council forced him to call one, and Charles promptly raised the issue, Boson stubbornly demanded a vote on every single aspect of the proposed edict. He was uncomfortable with the wording, he said, and asked them to put their heads together to come up with something everyone could get behind. He then moved on to different topics, forcing them to parse out the votes on minor phrasing modifications over multiple meetings. In this manner he delayed the actual vote for three whole months.

Ultimately Charles, Spymaster Charles, Steward François, and Chancellor Adrien had raised the legal concern that Boson was acting outside the bounds of the regency, pressuring Boson to either accept the proposal or face mandatory exclusion from council meetings. Louis, quiet and barely seeming to pay attention most of the time, had casually drawn his ceremonial sword and tested the edge with his thumb. Boson meanwhile had glared at each of them in turn, his eyes blazing like a demon. When his gaze at last landed on his regent, Charles had been astonished to discover he actually felt cold fear crawl up his spine.

Still, Boson had relented. The temporary edict had passed. But no private raids had ever set out: behind their backs Boson had used the delays to cut a deal with the noblewoman Jeanne de l’Aigle, who effectively grounded all the boats for him. The council had won the battle but lost the war. And Charles had known from then on that the chieftain was not ever, ever to be taken lightly again.

Charles constantly had to remind himself Boson was just a child. It never made him fear the young chieftain any less, though.

“Commander,” growled someone behind Charles, drawing him out of his reverie. Charles stopped drumming his fingers on his axe and glanced behind him. It was Arnoul, known to most as Arnoul Seaborn for the way he had arrived in Færeyar one day washed up on the shore with no memories. Charles had treated Arnoul unsuccessfully, but the two had become friends in the process and Charles trusted him. Arnoul had a good head on his shoulders.

66. Arnoul Seaborn.png


Since his actual birthday was not known, his astrological sign was in dispute: while many attributed Capricorn to the man based on when he washed ashore, others preferred Aquarius for the fanciful reason that he had “come from the sea”

“What is it, Arnoul?” Charles inquired. “Have the featherheads made a move?”

“You might say that,” Arnoul replied ruefully. His voice was coarse, rough and gravelly; listening to Arnoul speak was like hearing rocks grind each other into dust. Arnoul jerked his chin in the direction of the Mosque of Kirkjubaer. “Turns out there’s a reason nobody’s come to their aid. Duke Arne took his forces and sailed to Færeyar.”

Charles froze, staring at Arnoul uncomprehendingly. “They what?”

“They landed in Færeyar and forced Chief Boson to sign a peace document. A ship just arrived with a missive telling us the war is over,” Arnoul explained.

Charles’ stomach twisted itself into knots. He could not believe what he was hearing. How could the Author of Fate abandon them like this? Boson would be furious with him.

The war Charles had been overseeing most of the past year was Chief Boson’s compromise to the citizens of Færeyar over the raiding situation. Still resolutely opposed to private raiding, Boson had instead suggested they demand tribute from frozen Asarcornisen to their north to supplement the economy. Chancellor Adrien, who had been in the foreign country nearly a month by then, had unwittingly provided promising intel about the state of Asarcornisen’s military while commenting on an inane Dootdi custom the duke was observing. Duke Arne, it seemed, had since his age regression grown dangerously lax with recruitment. As it stood, reasonable estimations suggested Færeyar’s forces outnumbered Asarcornisen’s by a fair margin. Since Boson’s spymaster and chancellor were far from the isles, the chieftain needed only convince either François or Charles himself to have a majority in the council (since Louis was practically guaranteed to vote Boson’s way). As it happened, Boson had no trouble convincing anyone: the council was unanimously in favor.

67. 769 War for Tribute.png


Duke Arne was not considered any great threat – this would be easy money

On the 21st of January in the Year 769 of the Millennium of Flame Færeyar sent the geese of Asarcornisen an ultimatum: pay willingly or have tribute taken at the point of a sword. Boson did not bother waiting for an answer: since their single island was larger than all of Færeyar’s isles combined, the geese of Asarcornisen had always looked down on their southern neighbors. Knowing full well what Duke Arne of Asarcornisen’s response to his ultimatum would be, on February 1st Chief Boson sent Charles at the head of a Fairy Fleet to plunder the arrogant gosling’s domain for all it was worth.

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Storming the beaches

The de l’Aigles had supplied the boats, the de Vuris had outfitted the warriors with warm clothing, and the final “noble” house, the de Scanges, had provided weapons and armor. Boson had whipped the men into a frenzy before their departure, and good weather ensured their spirits remained high. There was no sign of a naval resistance upon their arrival off the shore of the county of Austisland. And though the geese assembled an impressive number of last-minute defenders, Charles had stormed the shore and routed them without losing more than a single man. All signs indicated this would be a fast, easy war and the Fairy Fleet would be home again in no time.

The signs had lied.

Coming upon Valþjotstadur, home of the gosling Count Drake, Charles had spotted signs of defenses being erected. Rather than risk lives despite his numerical superiority, Charles instead chose to siege the settlement out. It was a miserable wait of months in freezing weather, and men died to the elements despite Charles’ best efforts to keep everyone alive. Still, the seasons turned and the weather warmed. By July the citizens of Valþjotstadur demanded their defenders surrender and Charles had graciously accepted. Momentum had admittedly slowed, but the war was still progressing steadily in their favor.

69. 769 War; Victory in Valpjotstadur.png


A bloodless victory

Kirkjubaer changed all that. They moved on to the mosque hoping to capture Count Drake, who had been conspicuously absent from his home in Valþjotstadur. However, Kirkjubaer had not sat idle while Charles was preoccupied with the capital: this time Charles had no choice but to lay siege, for a direct assault with the numbers he had at his disposal would have broken against the imposing defenses the guardians of the temple had mounted against them. Moreover, after the last siege Charles’ men had grown restless, tired of long nights and little action. A daily barrage of insults launched at them by the Austislanders taking refuge in Kirkjubaer put even further strain on the men of Færeyar’s patience. Charles was bugged constantly by antsy warriors begging to attack, begging to move on, begging to do anything but sit there and grind their teeth. But Charles remained steadfast, and the siege went on.

Apparently it had all been for nothing. He had wondered where Duke Arne’s forces could be; after all, it wasn’t as though the duke might somehow be unaware of his presence in Asarcornisen. Charles had been vigilant with his scouts, strictly punishing anyone who shirked their duties on watch and sending groups roaming the countryside looking for signs of enemy movement. There had been nothing. As far as he could tell, Duke Arne’s commanders (Grape and Mallard, whom he knew absolutely nothing about) had left him to do as he pleased. He assumed it was cowardice. Now he knew better.

70. 769 War; Total Defeat.png


Shameful defeat - Geese strut on Fairy soil

Bold, Charles thought to himself bitterly. The geese had abandoned Austisland, abandoned all of Asarcornisen, to sail down to Færeyar. If they had met Charles in open battle, they would have lost. If they had defended their homes, they would have merely delayed the inevitable. In hindsight, this was perhaps their only move. But Charles had never guessed, never even imagined, that the geese would try such a thing.

Charles seized his axe and rose abruptly to his feet, startling Arnoul Seaborn. He was not prone to wroth, but the news of peace with the geese, these foul-mouthed, petty, braindead honkers, made his blood boil. He had been in this miserable country for months, working hard to keep all of his comrades alive and well while keeping the war on track, and for what? The geese had made a fool of him. His men were deeply disgruntled as it was: just wait until they learned they had lost the war! And no doubt Boson was positively livid with him. Charles clenched his teeth, shaking with humiliation and rage.

“Rouse the men!” Charles shouted at Arnoul. “Rouse them!”

“What for?” Arnoul grated in his gravelly voice. “Are we packing up?”

“No! Rouse them! Tell them to gather their weapons! The siege is over, we attack!” Charles yelled, gathering his own equipment.

“What about the missive?” Arnoul asked. “We are no longer at war.”

Charles shot him a look. “It takes a while for news to reach us from Færeyar, does it not? How should we know the state of the war? Unfortunate that we sacked Kirkjubaer mere days before the news arrived, but these things happen.”

“Commander…” Arnoul sighed. “No-one’s going to take this news well. No-one. But let’s go home. We’ve wasted enough time in this backwards bird country.”

“We’ve wasted all our time!” Charles bellowed. He paused, taking a moment to breathe and regain his composure. He looked balefully at Arnoul. “We’ve wasted all our time. It’s all been for nothing, Arnoul. We’ve sat here, cold and hungry, taking insult after insult from those honking featherheads, and now we are expected to walk away with our tail between our legs? No, my friend. No. We may walk away, but we will leave them something to remember us by.”

“…Aye, commander,” Arnoul responded reluctantly. “I’ll rouse the men.”

Two hours later Charles stood at the head of eight hundred Fairy warriors, all of them eagerly dressed for battle. The defenders within Kirkjubaer had caught wind of their enemy’s shift in attitude and stood equally ready behind their makeshift barricades. From within the safety of the mosque, peasants screamed obscenities out at Charles’ host. Unlike previous days however, today the men of Færeyar were shouting right back.

“Listen, men!” Charles roared. “Listen to them squawk! They do so out of fear! The infidels cower in their temple walls, praying to the god of the Shattered Religion for deliverance and shouting curses upon us because they know not what else to do!”

The host behind him thundered its agreement with his statement, the warriors stomping their feet and rattling their weapons as they jeered at the geese guardians standing against them.

“The armies of Arne sailed to Færeyar! They attacked our home! We are ordered to return! And so we shall! But first: Kirkjubaer burns!” Charles continued. Again the warriors of Færeyar howled their approval.

“Pluck the featherheads!” crowed Aalart Hornthroat. Once known for his resonant baritone, since Children’s Pox Aalart’s nickname had become hilariously ironic as his return to puberty wreaked havoc on his vocal chords. However, on this day his voice neither cracked nor wavered, and all around him his comrades picked up the chant. “Pluck the featherheads! Pluck the featherheads!”

“The Author of Fate has brought us here today to raze this infidel temple to the ground! Chief Boson has brought us here today to loot to our hearts’ content! Honor your god and your chieftain! For Færeyar! For the Fæ!” Charles bellowed over the chanting. He raised his axe and took off running towards the mosque. Behind him, the earth shook as eight hundred pairs of feet followed. Charles was quickly outpaced, the eager warriors surging around him as they raced up the treacherous slope to the temple. Blood was in the air and the battle frenzy descended upon them all.

Four hours later the broken remnants of Charles’ fighting force leapt aboard their ships and took off for home, victorious geese hounding them all the way to the shore. The day would live on in legend across Asarcornisen, while in Færeyar it was rarely spoken of again.
 

slothinator

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Not a great start for Færeyar. An adult Boson might return to the cursed island and exact his bloody vengeance.
Although, knowing Boson, I feel that Charles might not be long for this world.