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HistoryDude

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Ah, villagers desperate for food… poor things.

Although I don’t see how raising the dead helps with their problem…
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Ah, villagers desperate for food… poor things.

Although I don’t see how raising the dead helps with their problem…
The abbot did it after they ran off, as in the chapter. Probably didn't mean for the punishment to be so severe but who can say?
 

El Pip

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The abbot did it after they ran off, as in the chapter. Probably didn't mean for the punishment to be so severe but who can say?
The Mitchell and Webb Evil Vicar.


Could be a tricky one, after all the zombies are (from a certain perspective) the good-guys just trying to get justified revenge against a bunch of defilers and grave robbers. What might help is a good curse lawyer as this bit looks promising;

The Abbot said:
"cursing the whole town and everyone within for their crimes."
Looks like only those guilty of crimes are actually cursed, so if there were any innocent souls in the village then they should be fine. If not a strongly worded scroll of complaint should be sent to the local Necromancy Ombudsman to clear the matter up.
 

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Looks like only those guilty of crimes are actually cursed, so if there were any innocent souls in the village then they should be fine. If not a strongly worded scroll of complaint should be sent to the local Necromancy Ombudsman to clear the matter up.

I actually took it the opposite way, that the Abbott "cursed the whole town and everyone in it" as holding everyone in the village responsible, innocent and guilty, for the crimes of a few.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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The Mitchell and Webb Evil vicar.
An excellent sketch.

Could be a tricky one, after all the zombies are (from a certain perspective) the good-guys just trying to get justified revenge against a bunch of defilers and grave robbers. What might help is a good curse lawyer as this bit looks promising;
Looks like only those guilty of crimes are actually cursed, so if there were any innocent souls in the village then they should be fine. If not a strongly worded scroll of complaint should be sent to the local Necromancy Ombudsman to clear the matter up.
I actually took it the opposite way, that the Abbott "cursed the whole town and everyone in it" as holding everyone in the village responsible, innocent and guilty, for the crimes of a few.
Well there are a few ways of looking at it. The guy who got to Lancaster was in a monks habit, but he could have nicked it. It depends on what's going on in the village. Sure they might just be scaring the townsfolk or getting their stuff back, but a single touch is enough to kill someone and the abbot seemed pretty mad...

As for curse morality, it would be totally in keeping for medieval tales for the curse to affect anyone in the village because of the crimes of one guy who stopped by ten years ago, let alone a dozen local grave robbers. Then again, it would be in keeping with the Lancaster narrative for the monk to have been extremely, unknowingly specific. In any case theres bound to be a awkward conversation once the abbot wakes up and the crisis is dealt with
 

El Pip

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As for curse morality, it would be totally in keeping for medieval tales for the curse to affect anyone in the village because of the crimes of one guy who stopped by ten years ago, let alone a dozen local grave robbers. Then again, it would be in keeping with the Lancaster narrative for the monk to have been extremely, unknowingly specific. In any case theres bound to be a awkward conversation once the abbot wakes up and the crisis is dealt with
Well group punishment would be entirely appropriate if the village was an anrcho-syndicalist commune where all decisions of the executive officer of the week were ratified at bi-weekly meetings, because then they would all deserve being cursed.
 

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Well group punishment would be entirely appropriate if the village was an anrcho-syndicalist commune where all decisions of the executive officer of the week were ratified at bi-weekly meetings, because then they would all deserve being cursed.
Well...i never said they weren't...
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Chapter 7: Night of the Living Dead


The grim procession down the street might, in daylight, seem a fairly amusing sight. Skeletal bodies carried aloft several coffins, marching in step. The townsfolk had barricaded themselves anywhere they could, and scarcely breathed for fear. This had been going on for several hours; the dead descended in force to the places where the looters dwelt, and made off with their stolen treasures swiftly enough. Now however they were intent on sowing terror in the night before their long rest resumed.

They halted, for the first time that night, when they saw a lone figure standing in their path.

“Evening,” said Elfwine cheerfully. “Lovely night for a walk, isn’t it?”

The dead clacked their jaws upon and shut in a loud chitter. The wind whistled through the empty cavities and holes within their bodies. They continued to stand still and watch.

“Do any of you retain the power of speech?” Elfwine said, walking forwards. “Otherwise I’m afraid we will have to do this by force.”

Some of them were at least capable of growling, for that was what met Elfwine’s words. A whisper of word: ‘Never’ and also, ‘Cease’.

Elfwine sighed. “Alright then. Secret?”

From behind the ghastly parade, a quiet snort was heard, before the dead were introduced to the new and improved Bear Juiced Secret barrelling straight through them. Upon his back, Wigberht clung for his life as the bear repeated his charge once more, turning back the way he came.

“Now we have your attention, we’d really like you to go back to the graveyard and bury yourselves. Otherwise my other friend will dump your ashes into the sea.”

An extremely small man burst from the fog with a loud cry of “AHAAA!” and waggled his fingers at the undead mob. Very small sparks of flame flittered around his hands. He looked at them for a second, shrugged, and engulfed the sky above the horde in bright green fire.

“Right then, if you’ll kindly follow the pyromaniac, we’ll see you and your goods safely back to your resting places. I assure you all that the ground will be re-sanctified by the Abbot…oh, you might have killed him…well, by whoever’s left at the monastery.”

The corpses grumbled to themselves as they picked their coffins and their bones off the ground. But they did as they were told, with all the enthusiasm of sulking children. The procession moved smoothly enough, up until just before they got to the Abbey. Wigbehrt, who had been praying and attempting to sooth the passage of these weary souls, looked up in surprise as Secret jerked to a halt, nearly throwing him onto one of the coffins.

His “What’s happening up there?” was wholly eclipsed by Rambunctious’ louder screeching of the same. So much so he almost missed Elfwine’s response:

“Oh dear.”

Rambunctious shoved various bodies out of the way in his race to the front. “I said, what’s going-Oh dear.”

Wigberth and Secret looked at each other, then once more strode through the undead to get to the front. Then they looked at each other.

“Oh dear.”



...

There are a number of creatures that serve as blights on the land. They seemingly have no purposes other than to make life miserable or painful or short for Mankind. The Wraith serves as all three. It serves as a parasitic entity that devours all life within a certain area. Heat as well. A wraith can be found easily enough in a desert by the curious permafrost left in its wake.

A wraith now stood in the centre of the burial grounds. Twelve feet high and enshrouded in tattered shreds of black and grey cloth, just visible enough beneath to drive men to madness. Elfwine knew that, should it become aware of their presence, all this would be joined by a fearsome screech that sapped the sanity and vigour of all that hear it. Then, far faster than its size should allow, it would be upon them, clutching and crushing much like the broken rocks tossed about the place.

A wraith such as this could hardly be summoned. It had been called perhaps, by the rage or darkness of the caster, but now it trod aimlessly on through the undergrowth. It was certainly enough to kill them all, and the dead too, before descending on the monastery or town. So it had to die, Elfwine decided, though he was unsure how exactly they would go about it.

“It has to be killed.” He muttered, to the others.

“How on God’s earth do you kill such an abomination?” Wigberht whispered back.

“With great difficulty,” Rambunctious replied. “Good luck with that.” And the wizard wandered off up the hill towards the monks dwelling.

“Treachery,” Wigberht hissed.

“Common sense,” Elfwine said. “I’m going to go kill it now. You may wish to move our new friends a little further away. This is going to be awful.”

His father’s arm grasped his own. “Not by yourself? No!”

“You will die if you step foot in that place. Secret won’t, but he has not the advantages I possess. I assure you; I will kill the creature.” I just don’t know how much of me will be left, he finished mentally.

Wigberht was unfazed by his words but could hardly struggle against Secret. “I will have word with you when you return then,” he said, and he looked furious. “This night continues to darken my horizons.”

Elfwine let him go with that. Secret didn’t look happy either, but that could not be helped. Elfwine watched the forms of his family vanish into the mist before starting forward, eyes closed. He needed to find that part of himself freshly buried within. The darkest heart held a great power, despite his new reticence. Sometimes a monster can only be battled by another, though in his past life he recognised he had gone too far.

This wraith however, would learn in the last minutes of its life what it was to face the King in the North.


It was feasting. The emergence of that which should not have been disturbed imbued the site with a great deal of energy. The wraith liked to be full.

It slowly became aware that there was another wandering through the graveyard. Unexpected but not unwelcome. It turned its head to stare mournfully down at the small thing. It stood quite close by really. Closer than most managed, or dared. The wraith’s arm floated down from where it rested upon a shattered tree. This thing would do for food, not that more was really required. Still, it liked it when things screamed.

And it screamed its own cry. The thing did not move. This was unexpected and unwelcome. Little in the Wraith’s existence had not fled from its visage, let alone its shriek. In fact, the thing was doing something the Wraith had never seen before.

It was smiling.

And then it opened its eyes, and the inferno scorched within those sockets.


Wigberht finally broke out of Secret’s hold. “Enough! I will not let him die like this.”

Secret growled and pawed at his shoulder.

“He is not! He is my son. We are going back. We are going back.”

The bear huffed and puffed, then cuffed him round the head. He none to gently flung the man onto a rocky outcrop, and indicated with his head where to look. In a daze, Wigberht looked down and beheld a battle for the ages.

What he had presumed to be thunder from the oncoming storm was in fact the crack of the Wraith upon the ground, upon the air, upon wherever it so chose, save for the body it was aiming for. Elfwine was practically a blur as he weaved around and behind the monster, frustrating the beast’s attack at every turn. His laugh chilled Wigberht to the bone, devoid as it was of humanity. It sounded not unlike the throats of the corpse-men. And, when Wigberht screamed aloud as the hand of the Wraith finally brought itself down upon his son, Elfwine merely chuckled. The creature tugged in confusion, but its arm was indeed firmly gripped in Elfwine’s till the whole monster was launched across the grounds.

“I’ve never killed one of your kind yet,” Elfwine said, strolling along after the Wraith. “I look forward to figuring out how to do it.”

The wraith seemed to shrink; its terror turned inward. And the storm began in earnest.


Rambunctious was smoking some kind of pipe by the time Wigberht and Secret made it to the monastery. By the time Elfwine showed up, the trio had explained the situation to the monks and brought the Abbot around.

“Ah, he isn’t dead. Excellent, excellent,” Elfwine said.

“So, how did you defeat the Great Wraith of Agnes Moor?”

“With unbelievable skill.”

Rambunctious harrumphed. “That’s it? How did you kill it?”

“Skewered each limb to one corner of the graveyard then burnt the body in the centre whilst exorcising the heart.”

“Huh, lucky you were in a graveyard.”

“Indeed. Any problems here?”

“No, the monks were unharmed. The Abbot caused the curse under intense conditions, and probably won’t do it again. He’s in his room thinking about what he did.”

Elfwine nodded. “All’s well that ends well then. Shall we go or stay for the night?”

“Not quite,” Wigberht growled, “just what the devil happened out there?”

Elfwine looked at him. “Perhaps, on your deathbed, I might explain. No sooner, and no other occasion. I will accept banishment if that will not suffice.”

“Damnation Elfwine, what have you done to yourself! Just what else did you sacrifice on your road to power?”

“Much, all of it taken on myself. Thus, it is my business. I assure you, it will most likely never happen again.”

“To my knowledge.”

Elfwine smiled. “Precisely. Now then, shall we go? We have things to do.”

He left just as he arrived, taking Secret with him. Before the wizard could follow however, Wigberht caught his arm.

“What is he? What did he do?”

Rambunctious’ eyes sharpened for an instant and stared into Wigberht’s soul. “He is the King of Lancaster, sir. And all that entails.”

Wigberht was left alone in the entryway, half-illuminated by candlelight. He began to feel the weight of his years upon him, and reluctantly followed the party, leaving the sanctuary of the righteous behind.

 
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That night, a fog descended upon the gravesite, blanketing the bodies, the markers and the ground itself in a coat of white.
A mystery. Very Stephen King.
What might help is a good curse lawyer as this bit looks promising;
It needs someone qualified to investigate if you do indeed need need a qualified curse lawyer. I recommend getting Witchsmeller Pursuivant:

He needed to find that part of himself freshly buried within. The darkest heart held a great power, despite his new reticence. Sometimes a monster can only be battled by another, though in his past life he recognised he had gone too far.
Uh oh, don’t go too far and create a monster worse than the wraith!
And then it opened its eyes, and the inferno scorched within those sockets.
Like that :eek:
The wraith seemed to shrink; its terror turned inward. And the storm began in earnest.
Great line.
Wigberht was left alone in the entryway, half-illuminated by candlelight. He began to feel the weight of his years upon him, and reluctantly followed the party, leaving the sanctuary of the righteous behind.
Not the only one leaving the sanctuary of the righteous, it seems. :( Let’s hope Elfwine can find it again.
 

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Had a look through the plans this evening. We are very nearly at the start of Elfwine reign and thus caught up to the game. The firework show start to fly in the next chapter however as Elfwine finally becomes usable in game. More family strife, a quick jaunt to parts unknown and more children next time on Lancaster!

Should be interesting to see what our options are going forward. And hopefully not recreate the Lancaster of old at the expense of Elfwines sanity/soul.
 
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Rambunctious’ eyes sharpened for an instant and stared into Wigberht’s soul. “He is the King of Lancaster, sir. And all that entails.”
Whippets, flat caps, Boddingtons and such like?


I can only assume he applied the power of that most Lancastrian of god-like figures Henry V Fred Dinbah to defeat the Wraith. Because hitting it with a collapsing chimney is an amazingly effective way of subduing pretty much any creature, magical or mundane.

A good bit of medieval yarn telling and terrible as the Wraith is these updates have been much more "fun", I think because there are some moments to lighten the mood and fundamentally there is a bit of hope around the place; the tone has moved more towards the NobleBright end of the scale (if you are familiar with it). Whatever you wish to call it I am enjoying them more and hope this style and tone continues.
 

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Whippets, flat caps, Boddingtons and such like?
When such things are invented, yes. It makes me wonder how the Yorkshire/Lancashire rivalry will develop and evolve when the two duchies are owned by the same person and who also happens to be the king of wherever we manage to conquer? Or will there be even more of a unifying culture in the North than OTL (they had their own dialect of English for instance, till Chaucer's southern dialect became the standard because of his writing). Lots of potential butterflies here.

I can only assume he applied the power of that most Lancastrian of god-like figures Henry V Fred Dinbah to defeat the Wraith. Because hitting it with a collapsing chimney is an amazingly effective way of subduing pretty much any creature, magical or mundane.
When you've had your pie, chips and gravy, you can overcome any obstacle.

A good bit of medieval yarn telling and terrible as the Wraith is these updates have been much more "fun", I think because there are some moments to lighten the mood and fundamentally there is a bit of hope around the place;
One of the effects of leaning into medieval folklore more is that they, despite believing in a really rather horrfying world of monsters and demons and such, believed there were solutions to fighting back against all of them. There is no such thing as a cosmic horror story where the evil is incompressible and undefeatable. Indeed, the only eldritch abomination is not only supremely on humanity's side but also impossibly benevolent. Thus despite everything, famines, terrible kings etc, people were extremely hopeful and optimistic in their stories and faith. And why wouldn't they be? In the dark ages and early medieval age, it was rather hard to starve if you could work or forage (outside of cities, most food came from what you could pick up or kill yourself). The local lord probably owned only as much land as the eye could see, so was in touch (to an extent) with the people. Unless you were unlucky and got hit by a bad epidemic disease, or got called up to war, you would probably live a fairly long, fairly happy if tough life.

All this to say, I am delighted the tone has been saved from grimdark, which has its place but I don't really like writing too much, and certainly doesn't fit ckii all that much.

The wraith was an interesting concept. Tolkien himself got them pretty much perfectly in his mythology, and had several types including the infamous ring-wraiths, the nazgul. I picked what is probably the most recognisable variant, similar to a dementor or nazgul, but with typical medieval saxon charm, these babies were much bigger than you could ever show on screen without it looking silly. 12 ft, by dark age English standards, is over 4m tall!

the tone has moved more towards the NobleBright end of the scale (if you are familiar with it). Whatever you wish to call it I am enjoying them more and hope this style and tone continues.
Googlegooglegoogle

Hmm, yes. Sir Terry had similar thoughts on storytelling. I think i get the point. There can be darkness but must be hoepfull too, or even mostly good. That is to say, there is a heightened reality where narrative forces conspire to make the world, whatever it looks like, better rather than worse.

I think you coild certainly argue that unknowingly or not, Elfwine's Lancaeter was grimdark and this new one is Noblebright. Humanity survives here without losing itself. This actually might aid the narrative because a grimdark protganosit has been deposited right in the middle of it! Perhaps Amaudru's thoughts were right after all?

But yes, I certainly intend for this style to continue. It was the thing I was shooting for in the first place...alas it took time to develop. If this were a novel, the draft 24 chapters would be binned and we could start again. As this is online flowing narrative, we work with what we have. In this case however, I think that this might make the story more interesting...at least ptoentially.
 
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Chapter 8: Coming of Age New

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Chapter 8: Coming of Age


Elfwine looked at himself critically in the glass. It was a marvel of the workshops, a piece of polished glass set onto polished silver. A rather wonderful mirror image, albeit a small one. Elfwine stared into a face that was not his own, and yet had been in his possession four years running now. His sixteenth year was approaching, and his hundred and first. How many men of his age could boast a full head of hair? The golden curls were still distractingly wrong to his eyes, but the beard was far superior to anything he could grow up until extreme old age. It certainly aged him up beyond his childish face, and his build and height added to the effect. He was beginning to look like the age he acted the majority of the time.

Unfortunately, with his majority upon him, and Lancaster, a variety of problems he thought far away were now at hand. Just what did he intend to do within this world? His family, indeed the entire realm, believed him to be the next great heir, and he had certainly acted like the First Lancaster for his entire childhood here. Still, Elfwine within himself was unsure if it was safe. If it was wise.

The fires within him burned still, though dampened by time and the same iron will that stoked them in the first place. He had already decided he would not recreate the Hunters that he had previously. He no longer believed extermination the most desirable or moral thing to do, even regarding the supernatural. The study in Blood would have to be extended, expanded to include all things under and over the sun. He smirked to himself. A Cathedral of Blood, to guard and protect but also to learn and enquire. Yes, that seemed better. And if later rulers found the beings in the dark too unmanageable, they could always do what he no longer could himself.

Returning to the glass, Elfwine examined his body. It was tall, taller than he’d dare hope (he knew well men did not tend to be tall outside the wildest lands in Scandinavia and Africa) and strong. His sight and strength were singular, which was to be expected, but would aid in his subterfuge around others. Tapping the surface with a long finger, Elfwine wryly mused that he looked a far more benevolent presence this time around. Gone were the long dark strands of Lancaster hair, the hair his forebears found so foreboding they shaved off. He was fair headed and…hearted? Was that how it worked?


His father seemed to think so. Despite their differences, he had seemed proud yesterday upon his recital of all he had learnt studying beneath him.

“You have come far, young one.”

Elfwine smiled at his father. “You remain many years my younger, my lord. Old age suits me well, I find.”

“If we should all be so lucky,” Wigberht said. “But do not deny it. You have become a fair-minded judge, a well-balanced steward and negotiator. The people respect you. The children love you. What more can you ask of yourself?”

“Everything,” Elfwine said, without hesitation. And that remained the problem. After all this time, after all this work from his father, the son still believed himself a deity, and felt frustration and guilt in measure for not being such.

“Oh, everything? That’s rather a lot,” Wigberht said, “and why do you think this?”

Elfwine lowered his gaze. “Because I could be better. Because I look at the world and want to seize it for its own good. Because I struggle still the trust any other person with their own lives. Because I,” he paused, “because I hate myself, and yet fear death more than peace.”

Wigberht sat next to him quietly for a while. He didn’t react to Elfwine’s darker thoughts. Elfwine assumed he already knew then, which upon reflection made sense. His father was a wiser man than many believed. Himself included, sometimes.

“Now there is a secret of my own that I must tell you, my son.”

And damn it if it wasn’t hypocritical, but Elfwine suddenly couldn’t bear to hear whatever it was. His father’s voice was soft, and gentle, and sounded like he knew everything.

Which, upon further reflection, he did, Elfwine realised. Wigberht knew, somehow, of everything that had occurred previously. He didn’t know whether to be furious or terrified.

“How?” he asked finally, his throat tight.

“You are not the only one with a gift for the creatures of this land. I have had occasion to speak with him before, but at length I spoke with him on you.”

“Who?”

“Amser, the Great Dragon.”

Elfwine flushed. Of all the beings, it had to be that one. How could he have forgotten that he would be here? And yet, of course he had. He had tried to forget everything to do with dragons for half a century.

“He told you everything?”

“Yes, eventually.”

“Including that I killed him?”

“Him, and every other dragon on the island. Their hatchery, their eggs. Now really, what were you thinking?”

Elfwine was silent.

“He told me everything, so that I would understand. So that I could help you.”

Elfwine looked up, “I don’t understand?”

Wigberht sighed, “Amaudru said once, long ago, that you could only have been sent here for a great purpose. Amser agrees.”

“He forgives me?”

“No, and that is irrelevant. No one could possibly forgive you for what you have done in a meaningful way. But you are certain to be king one day as you were before. You have the power then as you do now. And I suspect it could end the world or save it, in your time or after.”

“Father?”

“This, all this, feels like the setup in a great game between unthinkable players. What our role is to be, I cannot think. Amser himself does not know much, and what he does, he refuses to share. But a power greater than any of us stalks this family, this realm. We are mere pieces in its grasp.”

The pair sat together in silence.

“What should we do?”

“You are a man now…again. You must do what you think is right, not what you think is necessary.”

“That sounds simpler than it really is.”

“It always does. But you know this from ruling already. Help someone. Then another. There is little evil to be done in caring for others my son. Cynical as these past years have made me, I do not regret them much. I really am proud, you know?”

He did. And it made all the difference.




They sat in council together, father and son. The wealth of Lancaster grew ever-greater, it seemed. Elfwine sat, partially amused, partially horrified, as Wigberht took a councillor to task for a minor misdemeanour.


Halton, one of them anyway. How many men of God had he corrupted over the years, or twisted further from their path? Watching this one be saved from such a fate was a reminder, once again, that his father was a good man as well as a good ruler. Still, he tired easily these days. He was not old, yet the years and perhaps, knowledge, had hung heavily upon his shoulders. More and more he retreated from daily life to his tomes, his prayer and his solitude.


Little Margret did not understand as of yet, why her father vanished for days at a time. She was an insistent little lass, though too young yet to truly comprehend much. Maud was far less obtrusive, but that said little for she was still a Lancaster, and thus extremely capable of raising hell when it suited her.


No wonder Wigberht secluded as he did. The townspeople certainly noticed. They were whispering about him now, calling him ‘the Holy’, as if he were a saintly ghost that had yet to realise it had yet to depart for Paradise. Elfwine knew that his past, or previous life, wore on his father greatly. It had, despite objections, rendered him a cynic of sorts. Wigberht was not the happy man who lived and prayed hard, and died happy, ready for his son to take the throne.


So, when his father quietly announced at dinner that he was preparing for a journey of Pilgrimage far to the East, Elfwine was unsurprised. That did not stop him objecting in private afterwards.

“Why now? With the children still so young?”

“I have a feeling in my bones I am not long for this world,” he replied serenely. “No, do not deny it,” he shushed his son, “I am determined to see the Holy Land before I die, and I have every faith in my regent to handle matters here.”

“Mother will not like this.”

“I will make it up to her, somehow.”

And a few weeks later he was gone, riding off ahead of hand-picked guards and guides. His family watched him leave with a certain amount of foreboding. Elfwine sighed and bowed lightly to his mother.

“He left you in charge.”

“That is not all he left me.”



Elfwine’s brow raised and he smiled.




It took mere days for the carrion birds to descend upon Lancaster. With the master gone, the wretches of the island believed his lands would be easy pickings. Elfwine had arrested two and driven off four more agents of ill-repute. The holy men he had to send to his mother. Bribery only worked sometimes however, when death awaited those that failed back home.



Lancaster might well have found itself invaded by a larger threat, but thankfully Elfwine’s careful eye upon the Mercian Queen bore fruit. She was busy preparing for war yes, but it was against Northumbria. The Iceling were still at their old game of unifying the Church underneath their banner. Having been somewhat successful in Canterbury, and York being too hard a nut to crack, they turned to the third Christian site in Saxon lands: The Holy Isles.


Elfwine knew that the monks of Lindisfarne could not fall to the Mercian army, and so drew a plan of attack that would hopefully allow a ruinous war between Lancaster’s two rivals whilst ending in to stalemate. His mother, aware of the risks not only of war but also of doing nothing, agreed after consultation with the churchmen of the city, who begged an intercession.


Mercia was a much greater threat militarily than their would-be enemies in Northumbria, and so Elfwine waited for their army to cross the river border into Yorkshire before pouncing on the undefended Mercian capital in the Trent valley. The war was short, bloody and brutal, effectively snapping the neck of the kingdom before they could muster any defence. Their queen agreed to respect Lancaster’s land claims, and gifted them tribute of a smattering of goods annually.

Having defanged Mercia for now, Elfwine was reasonably secure in the belief that Lancaster was adequately protected. Now he began the second phase of his campaign. He needed to ascertain the lay of the land outside Saxon territory, introduce Lancaster as a powerful and benevolent neighbour and potential friend in Ireland and Pictland, and reaffirm its bonds with the Welsh peoples.


By the time Wigberht returned from his pilgrimage, Elfwine wished for the entirety of Britannia to know the name Lancaster, and recognise their authority as a true power of the islands.
 
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He needed to ascertain the lay of the land outside Saxon territory, introduce Lancaster as a powerful and benevolent neighbour and potential friend in Ireland and Pictland, and reaffirm its bonds with the Welsh peoples.
I am impressed he said that with a straight face. If nothing else he has a mighty future as a diplomat, provided the self deception doesn't come back to bite him.

Dragons and Pilgrimage, very few things are more medieval story-telling than that combination.

Also, sad to see Wigberht conflicted. If he just embraced the cynicism rather than get annoyed about it I'm sure he would be happier. You can still be a good man, and a holy man, while having the realistic view on life that the naive call cynicism.
 

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I am impressed he said that with a straight face. If nothing else he has a mighty future as a diplomat, provided the self deception doesn't come back to bite him.
To be fair to him, it really is more upon the old Ming China lines of diplomacy: show up off the coast or in the court of all your neighbours with an example of your much better, much larger army, an example of your much better, much larger economy and wait for the hosts to suggest perhaps that they might want to pay tribute to such magnificent in exchange for protection.

In game terms, tributary wars are so small scale and quick (usually, unless you really are fighting an empire neighbour) that it is a pretty good simulation of a powerful nation just throwing a little weight around its neighbours. In story terms, I think he actually believes at least some of that because he does need to go and find out what is different or the same as he did for the saxon lands.

Whether or not the mutual protection excuse blows up in his face depends on whether the vikings show up in force like they usually do in game and did in his own time. And, if you look at the map, it could be argued he means to protect the tributaries because there's one glaring exception to it right on Lancaster's doorstep...

Also, sad to see Wigberht conflicted. If he just embraced the cynicism rather than get annoyed about it I'm sure he would be happier. You can still be a good man, and a holy man, while having the realistic view on life that the naive call cynicism.
With all that said about medieval values and hopefulness, it would still be pretty easy to be or become cynical about the world. Wigberht's been worn down by time and fate. When he became cynical, it seemed appropriate.
 

Bullfilter

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This, all this, feels like the setup in a great game between unthinkable players.
A very nice storytelling conceit. :)
But a power greater than any of us stalks this family, this realm. We are mere pieces in its grasp.
Its name is Kelebek, dropping by from a thousand years hence in the dark recesses of 1930s Ankara. :D

And, if you look at the map,
... speaking of which ;)
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Its name is Kelebek, dropping by from a thousand years hence in the dark recesses of 1930s Ankara. :D
I have been tormented and struggled with whether or not to bring him in. He's an excellent character idea however on the forums he's now basically a meme reference on three different AARs now. Whether or not he can actually be used as a character meaningfully might be past its time now...I don't know. There is certainly some cosmic power going on though, since the medieval world does have them, they just viewed them very differently. Whether a modern eldritch horror shows up too is up in the air.

... speaking of which ;)
Basically, yes.
 
Chapter 9: Ventures Aboard New

TheButterflyComposer

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Chapter 9: Ventures Aboard
It had been a year of adventure, Beor decided.

His brother seemed to come alive as never before when their father went off on his travels. With Lancaster in the safe hands of Amaudru, Elfwine gathered an odd assortment of soldiers, bards, servants and advisors, spending days at a time in confidential talks with them. Upon the fifth day of the regency, his brother came to his door.

“We’re going on an adventure of our own, you and I,” he said. His eyes sparkled in excitement as he described how their party would travel the land, meeting with the chiefs and rulers of all the peoples of the islands. Trading with them, revelling with them, Lancaster would push its influence outwards towards its neighbours by all the powers at its command.

“We are a land of traders and merchants, shopkeepers and craftsmen,” he said. “Let us go out and sell them our wares, find out more about their own lives, perhaps aid them with small difficulties they are having. I want to push the map outwards and ensure we at least know rather than know of these peoples.”

“That sounds a grand plan indeed,” Beor replied in a daze, enchanted by the visions laid out before him. “Exploring the land, righting wrongs, fighting monsters!”

“Yes, I expect all of that in time,” Elfwine replied. “It grants us the opportunity to remind the Welsh that Lancaster is here to stay also, and whilst we have little interest in fighting them and conquering their land unlike Mercia, we will defend our interests just as fiercely.”

Beor frowned. “Is that really necessary? So far as I know, most of the welsh have been fairly decent to our own men, and there hasn’t been any incident with any of their princes since Father defeated them many years ago.”

Elfwine flicked his hand, “It is a possibility that I am aware of, now that Mercia has been cowed and contained at least for the moment. I simply wish to ensure that the peace that existed between our realms out of fear of Mercian attack will stand following their loss.”

Beor nodded slowly, but still thought that his brother was far too worried over nothing. “I’m sure they will see reason. And I certainly wouldn’t want to march down in their midst spear and shield raised on the off-chance of their hostility.”

Elfwine shrugged. “We shall see who is right, when it comes to it. I suspect we shall have to fight some in our travels but our goal is hardly evil, we do not mean to replace and subjugate our fellows across the seas. Pictland is chaotic and dangerous at the best of times however, so there may be some difficulty there.”

“So long as we adopt the best of intentions, and are honest in our dealings, I doubt much evil will befall us. As for the rest, we can handle it.” Beor was confident of that. His brother was, if stubborn, usually a good judge of these things.

And so, they went with much fanfare from the city. The Welsh did revolt just a little, though not as much as Elfwine expected. Beor took pains to meet and greet as many as he could in his time in the south, an area he had never been before. The best part of the adventure was unquestionably next however. A short and stormy trip across the seas saw them landed in an incredibly lush and green land of forest and beast. The tribes who lived there were hardy, handy folk who lived extremely close to the land and waters. Aside from some trouble with pirates, and some raiders that troubled the Leinister fishing port, Ireland was a wonderful place. The monsters there were fearsome but kept mostly to themselves, and the people further into the interior of the country had little to do with the coastal tribes. Even Elfwine, though curious, did not see much reason to go off the beaten track too much.

Most of the men and women they encountered were awed by the displays from Lancaster, a rather legendary place for most. A city that had, from their stories, sprang from nowhere yet burst forth with gold, treasure and might. The bears attracted great attention, especially from children. Secret enjoyed himself immensely, being one of the few whom had left Lancaster before to this wilderness. Their gifts of cloth and baubles were returned tenfold by locals of all description, from great mounds of mead and fish sent back to Lancaster or strange yet beautiful carvings and artwork. At a large meeting of several tribes that lined the coastline facing Saxon lands, Elfwine agreed enthusiastically to a treaty of mutual aid and protection surrounding the Irish and Lancastrians. They would work together against external threats, and even minor ones such as the perennial issue of raiders and pirates that so dotted that sea.

If Ireland was a triumph, Pictland was cold, wet and miserable. The weather turned almost as soon as the boat hit the land, and the omens did not improve afterwards. There was a war of some kind within the country, and Elfwine fought off many groups of bandits and armies from various local lords and chiefs. Even the King’s forces encountered them on occasion, though Beor was proud to say they showed them off thrice. Somehow, they did manage to meet and interact with some friendly faces, and Elfwine through some great effort did in the end get a similar treaty agreed upon as with the Irish chiefs, though he did not hold out much hope of it ever bearing fruit.

“A note we must remember Beor,” he said as the party finally descended from the harsh lands of the Picts, “this place is utterly unruly as of yet. There is little to be got out of it.”

Still, by every other measure the adventure had been a great and grand one. They returned to Lancaster in triumph, with even some Irish guests and dignitaries already present and working with their mother to patrol the new trade routes established.

All in all, Beor felt quite pleased with his year. Still regrettably young, as Elfwine put it, he had taken part in his brother’s great diplomatic overture, and seen his city welcome many more people into its bosom. It would have been better had he taken part in the battles, he supposed, but Elfwine was rather firmly of the opinion that he remained too young for such matters yet. Soon however, he would be a man in full, and one that had already seen and done many things of import.


Wigberht of course, viewed things a little differently when he returned from his voyages. He was greatly surprised that he was greeted in Wessex by a guard of honour, and a fawning number of servants to answer his every whim. His suspicions grew to certainty when the local king was complimentary of his and his heir’s work in the past year.

Lancaster had in his absence expanded its necessary franchise of ‘understanding’ between itself and the welsh princes (the understanding being that they were free to do as they would, provided they pay for the privilege) to apparently everyone under the sun. Quite how his son had gotten away with such blatant statecraft he did not know but events were in motion that distracted his attention.


First and most importantly, as soon as he landed in Lancaster, he was greeted by panicking maids about his wife’s labour. In the sprint back to the hall, he cycled through the various emotions of astonishment of unexpected parenthood, joy at the prospect once again, dread at the threat of childbirth upon his wife and child, anger at Elfwine’s daring and presumption…wonder at why his son had not met him at the dock.


Judith Wiglafing of Lancaster was born several hours later, with difficulty. Neither he or his wife were had youth on their side, and the child struggled to cling to life. A sailor surgeon he had grown close to on the voyage back worked tirelessly to bring vigour and blood into his daughter, and at last succeeded in keeping her warm and happy. For this, he humbly accepted little reward, but the offer of court physician held his attention.


After the turbulent emotional highs and lows of Judith’s birth out of the way, he finally collapsed into bed with his recovering wife. He leapt out of it again moments later. Elfwine was not in Lancaster. Elfwine was in Northumbria, fighting a supposedly large force of men sent down from the Pictland wars to invade Lancaster. Messengers had already reached the city that the danger of attack was past, the army had been defeated and little remained but to negotiate restitution. Still, Wigberht fumed. Still, again, his son had gone out into the world and brought back a bloodied carcass as a prize.

What he would have done was, alas, never to be known, even to himself. The nervous energy he had carried with him all day overcame him, and he collapsed in front of a terrified Amaudru. His recently appointed doctor, and new Mayor of Malpus, helped him to bed and examined his body.


It made for a grim telling. Wigberht’s body was riddled with the pestilence. At two score and two, it seemed his life was already up upon the scales of Fate.


Elfwine smiled atop Secret as his army marched victoriously out of York yet again. This time however, he grinned not for the conquest of land but the promise of Lancaster. His mother was due her time for birth, and soon a new Lancaster child would grow up safe within her walls. His new bride was also due to arrive any day now from Francia, along with, apparently, half the courts of Europe to attend what promised to be the wedding of the year (late though it was) and be close to the two Karls as they once more tried to garner support from Lancaster.

A messenger nearly falling off his mount in exhaustion cut through such thoughts cleanly. Secret bounded forward and butted heads with the other bear in concern, whilst Elfwine hoisted the boy to his feet.

“Sorry sir…my lord,” the lad was quite faint.

“Deep breathes son,” he commanded. “Now, what is your missive?”


“Return at once. My Lord Wigberht is gravely ill. He is…” the youth gulped, “not expected to last many morns hence.”

Elfwine nearly dropped the boy. Secret whirled around and threw the two men together onto his back before racing off over the countryside, leaving the army far behind.
 
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