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The Kingmaker

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PENDRAGON:
THE WITCH-QUEEN AWAKENED





INTRODUCTION

With Halloween approaching swiftly, I’ve felt inspired to do a darker, more “gothic-style” AAR. However, given my current dearth of spare time due to graduate school, any AAR-writing attempts on my part for the next few months are going to have to be of the “quick and dirty” variety. So this is a bit of an experiment.

I’ve been playing around with various “create-a-character” starts (some of which I may attempt on a later occasion), but because of my love for the old Arthurian legends, I finally settled on this one.

My primary goals for the AAR are 1) to restore the honor of the House of Pendragon by forming the Empire of Britannia and 2) to just have a bit of fun. I need some kind of alternative creative output to take my mind off of my thesis paper.

I’ve used a basic narrative format for the prologue, but the rest of the story will likely be written in the form of primary source documents like journal entries, letters, etc. So basically what we might call a “history-book,” or some kind of hybrid thereof.

There’s one caveat to this story: I’ll be using imagery from various iterations of the Arthurian legendarium, but I won’t be holding to any of the existing plotlines in particular. This is whimsical writing, just for fun, so don’t take it too seriously. It's a dark fantasy AAR, so I'll be incorporating elements of magic on occasion, although for the most part I intend to do so subtly. That being said, here we go! Enjoy the story.


TABLE OF CONTENTS

 
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The Kingmaker

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PROLOGUE: THE WITCH-QUEEN AWAKENED



September 1066, Somewhere in the Welsh Marches


“Surely we must be close by now,” hissed the man who called himself Godric, “We’ve been searching for over three hours!”

“Be patient,” whispered the taller of his companions, a greying bard who answered to the name of Taliesin, “They say it only appears at midnight in the last few weeks before the vernal equinox. Surely you can afford to wait a few moments more for something so rare.”

“You’ve said that every night for the past fortnight,” said Godric, “I swear, if we don’t find it tonight I’ll have your guts for garters. I’m starting to think this is just an old wives’ tale.”

At this, the eldest and most taciturn of the three companions spoke up. “We of the Hwicce have long remembered the old tales,” said old Iorwerth, “Do not dismiss them so hastily. They all say he’ll return when Britain faces its direst need. What need could be more dire than the one facing us now?”

The three men grew quiet for a moment. They well knew the double threat posed by the two armies invading from both north and south. Finally it was Godric who broke the silence.

“Hmph,” he scoffed, “What do you know, you daft old fool? Just hold your torch and your tongue and keep your silly old wives' tales—“

“Hush!” said Taliesin, his voice the lowest of whispers, “Will you look at that!”

The mists had cleared a little, revealing a clearing in the midst of the dark forest, less than fifty yards distant. At the center of the misty glade rose the rocky silhouette of an ancient barrow. It seemed to glow dimly with an unearthly light.


“That’s got to be it!” said Taliesin, “The lost barrow of the king!” The trio made their way stealthily to the massive edifice, which was marked by a clearly defined, ovular stone slab.

“You’re the expert, Taliesin,” said Godric, pointing to a runic inscription on the cold stone door, “What does all that say?”

“I can’t be sure,” admitted the old bard, “I’ve never seen runes quite this old before.”

“Well that’s a laugh,” said Godric, “I search for months to find the last man who knows anything about old druidic lore and he can’t even figure out some silly old symbols.”

“Wait,” said grey, old Iorwerth,” “That one there, the circle with the star in it. I know that one. It was on the old scroll of stories my grandsire used to read from. The one about old Emrys Myrddin from ages past. I never could make head or tails of all that stuff, but I’d bet a silver penny that’s old Myrddin’s crest!”

Taliesin couldn’t suppress a gleeful laugh. “This is it. This is it! After all this time I can’t believe we finally found it!”

“Fine,” said Godric, “But what good does it do us if we can’t get inside? If we fail tonight we’ll have to wait a whole year before we can try again!”

“Steady on,” said Taliesin, “I know I can figure this out. Just give me a moment.”

He touched each of the runes in sequence, before letting his finger rest on an engraved dragon.

“Our need is dire,” said Taliesin, “The time has come. We are here to awaken the great king!”

He traced the circular etching of Myrddin’s symbol with his finger, then pressed his thumb into the center of the glyph.


“Open!” he cried, a little louder than Godric would have liked.

Nothing happened. They waited for a full minute in tense silence, each on his guard in case something should happen. Nothing did.

A wolf howled somewhere in the distance. The clouds parted slightly overhead, bathing the giant stone slab with a tiny glimmer of moonlight. Taliesin blinked, his face a mask of bewilderment in the torchlight.

“That does it!” growled Godric at last, “I’m heading back right now and I’m telling his lordship that—“

He was cut off by the booming noise of stone grinding against stone as the monolithic door slowly moved aside.

“This is it!” repeated Taliesin, “Told you I could do it!”

“Good God!” gasped Godric, his mouth agape. Iorwerth just grinned, showing several gaps in his yellowed teeth.

The three of them entered a low earthen passageway, lined with rough stonework and rotting timbers. Here and there, long-forgotten talismans and banners hung from the ceiling. At length the passage narrowed and they entered a small circular chamber at the heart of the barrow, filled with dusty, decomposing, old artifacts.

At the center of the hollow stood a crude stone altar, just about long enough for a person to lie upon. In fact, as they drew nearer, that is exactly what the three of them saw.

“That’s no king,” said Godric, his breath catching in his throat, “It’s a woman!”

Sure enough, the occupant of the ancient stone bed (for that is what it now appeared to be,) was a beautiful young woman with a mane of raven-dark hair. Her face appeared to be unmarred by time and her body untouched by decay. Her long black gown appeared as fresh and clean as the day it was sewn.

“Is she dead?” asked Godric, reaching out to touch her pallid, porcelain skin.

“Wait!” said Taliesin quickly, “Careful now. We don’t know how long she has lain like this, but it’s clear there’s powerful magic at work here. One wrong move and…“ He let the sentence trail off.

Cautiously, he placed two fingers upon the woman’s wrist—and gasped.

“What is it?” asked Godric.

“She’s warm!” stuttered Taliesin, “Her heart’s beating. She’s—she’s alive!”

“This is very wrong,” said old Iorwerth ominously, “This is not what we came looking for. We should never have come here. Better leave now while we still can.”

At that moment, the young woman took in a deep breath and opened her eyes with a start.


She groaned as she slowly rose from the slab, as if she hadn’t moved a muscle in centuries.

The three interlopers began to back away, but she appeared not to notice them. She seemed to look past them, or through them.

“Wizard!” she wheezed, “Where are you hiding? Wherever you are, I will find you and you will suffer!”

“You fools!” cried Iorwerth, “You’ve awakened the Morrigan! Get out of here! Get out!”

The three of them ran for the doorway, but the raven-haired woman was too quick for them, moving to block their escape in the blink of an eye. In fact, it was as if she hadn’t moved at all. One moment she had been sitting on the old stone altar, and now as if by magic she was simply standing there in front of them, barring the way.

“Tell me everything,” she said, her piercing green eyes glaring into them, “Now.


***​
 
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crusaderknight

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Very frightening! I rather enjoyed the nAARative, but I know full-well how much work that is. Looking forward to seeing how the rest of the story unfolds in its new format. Also, was this line:
Godric said:
"That's no king... it's a woman!"
intended to be a Star Wars reference? If so, very clever. ;)
 

Deaghaidh

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Promissing. One thing though: why would a bunch of Saxons want to revive Arthur?
 

The Kingmaker

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RESPONSES:

loki100: Thank you sir, it's always a pleasure to have you on board!

crusaderknight: Thank you my friend. I'm hoping to have fun with it. Re: the Star Wars reference -- I don't think I originally intended it that way, but I quickly noticed it after re-reading my draft a couple of times. I think those kinds of things have just permeated my psyche to the point that they pop out whether I intend them to or not.

Deaghaidh: Thanks. In response to your question: who's to say that they are, in fact, Saxon? We know there's one man who calls himself Godric, a Saxon name, but the other two quite clearly have Welsh names. We know Iorwerth claims to be associated with the Hwicce (who were at least nominally Anglo-Saxon), though I didn't elucidate further on that. We know they're concerned about the multiple invasions that are taking place. (Though who wouldn't be?) I think it's pretty clear that they're desperate. Really though, I haven't yet revealed their particular motivations for acting as they do, or what their connections with either Saxon or Welsh nobility might be. You'll just have to read and find out. ;)
 
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Kurt_Steiner

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Will the cymbrogy ride again with the King? Caldvwelch, where art thou?

We shall see...
 

Frozen_Predator

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made me want to have another go at my own Welsh game again, then I realised I ended it due to stupid AI blobbing.
 

The Kingmaker

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RESPONSES:

Kurt_Steiner: We will indeed have to wait and see. Truth be told, I should very much like to find a way to incorporate both mounted companions and a certain enchanted blade if I can manage it. As always, thanks for commenting, my friend!

Frozen_Predator: Alas! What sort of blobbing did you in? Or did it just stop being fun to play? I can appreciate a good cautionary tale. Thanks for dropping by.
 

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RESPONSES:

Frozen_Predator: Alas! What sort of blobbing did you in? Or did it just stop being fun to play? I can appreciate a good cautionary tale. Thanks for dropping by.
well no blobbing did me in, I started as king of Navarra, my son inherited Gwynedd and went native, while after my death the muslims kicked me out of my homeland, but thanks to a strategic inheritence I managed to unite Wales and Ireland under the triple crown. When I feel I'm safe enough to reconquer my ancestral homeland I notice Castille is already there and had by 1200 reached Mali. It just drained all my fun out of the game to see such impossible conquests.
 

The Kingmaker

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CHAPTER ONE: THE ONCE AND FUTURE QUEEN


Excerpt from the Grimoire of Morgana Pendragon, rightful High Queen of Britain

31 October 1066


It has been quite some time since my last log entry. I have had to start my efforts anew, seeing as how my old grimoire has long since crumbled into dust. A pox on that cursed old fool Merlin! So much has already been lost to time, and now I find I am forced to rely solely upon my own memory. The deep magic, the many hidden secrets I discovered, everything I slaved so hard to learn and to record… I shall simply have to start afresh.

Yet that may prove to be more difficult than I had hoped. Those fools who awakened me were most pliant, their memories easily sifted and culled. It was ridiculously easy, in fact. Doesn’t anybody use the old mind wardings anymore? Of course they don’t. Such things have long since been forgotten. That hackneyed bard jabbered like an ape and told me everything I wished to know (and a good deal I didn’t). From what he said, it appears that magic as it was once known is no longer to be found in these lands. It has become a thing of legends and fables. Those few who dare still dabble in even the most paltry of cantrips are dubbed heretics, chased down and slaughtered like animals. I may well be the last of my kind. It is the greatest of ironies that I, the most powerful enchantress since the elder days, have survived for so long beneath their very noses.


Oh Merlin, you old simpleton! I’ll wager you didn’t have that in mind when you cursed me so long ago! Although I can’t be entirely sure, it would seem that I have slumbered for the better part of five hundred years. In that time, everyone I ever knew and everything I've ever known has passed away. But no enchantment lasts forever; thus I tread the earth once more, unfettered by the bonds of wizards.

Between his screams, the oldest of the three kept calling me “the Morrigan.” It appears that some fragment of my legend has survived the ages, at least enough for the old fool to know to be afraid of me (and rightly so, I might add). He even seemed to know about my incident with the dragon. Or should I say as a dragon? A reputation as an unspeakable horror is something I can definitely put to use. There’s nothing like turning an enemy’s bowels to water with fairy stories that just might be true.

I wish I could discover what fate befell my old nemesis, Merlin. The bard told me many tales of him, though none bore the distinctive ring of truth. It seems that one day in ages past, Merlin simply disappeared and was never heard of more among the children of men. The bard seemed to think he was ensorcelled by that trollop Nimue, who laid him in an everlasting slumber akin to my own. What a coup that would be! Her trifling skills never could hold a candle to mine. Barring that, he must surely be dead by now, mustn’t he? Unless that old devil finally figured out how to live forever after all. What a jest! How I do amuse myself.

It was no surprise to learn that with the passing of Merlin, the passing of my dear brother Arthur came soon afterwards. He never would have amounted to anything without the interference of that meddling wizard. I hope to the Goddess that that impudent little dolt got what was coming to him. The bard told of how Arthur received a mortal wound in battle and was taken to the Isle of Avalon, where he too slumbers through the centuries until “his kingdom should have need of him again.” What rubbish! Apparently it was his resting place that the three fools sought, a pity for them they found me instead. Yet if there is even a kernel of truth to that tale, then I must find out for myself. If my brother truly slumbers somewhere beyond Avalon’s sacred shores, then I must find him and ensure he never awakens.


Yet I do not see how that tale can possibly be true, for Avalon itself seems to be no more. Not many days after my awakening, I made my way to the blessed Isle, following the well-worn path I trod a thousand times in days gone by, now choked with noxious weeds and briars of course. Of the sacred groves or indeed the very Isle itself, there remains nothing at all. The Isle of Avalon has faded into the mists as surely as it has faded from the minds of men. Since magic now is gone from the land, why should not its wellspring fade as well, with none now living who believe in it save myself?

But enough of this for the time being. If either Merlin or Arthur yet slumber somewhere on these ancient isles, let shades of me plague them in their darkest nightmares.

I have dwelled so long on these bitter shadows that I have neglected to mention what else the wizard’s curse has wrought. I am… younger… than I was before. This is deep magic beyond even my greatest ken. Apparently the sleep of centuries has very slowly aged me in reverse. I never dreamed I would awaken with not just my life but my youth restored to me! Could my Merlin have possibly known this would occur? Surely not, or else he would never have dared to toy with so powerful a curse as this, not even for the sake of his beloved pupil. Would he?

I suppose I must record what has transpired these past few days, in case my memory should fade along with my many years. The Albion of former years has long since fallen, vanished with its king. With my brother gone, it was only a matter of time before the Saxon hosts prevailed and finally dominated our lands. They still rule over much of the Isle of Britannia, though it would seem that their fated time has now run out as well. Shipfleets filled with northern barbarians and vile southrons have landed at either end of their kingdom, bringing portents of doom in their wake.

Not a fortnight has passed since I witnessed a crimson dawn to eclipse all others. I have heard no news as yet, but somewhere a great battle has been fought which has dwarfed the greatest struggles of ages past. In order to provoke such a red sunrise as that, the blood of thousands must have been shed. But such things have no bearing on the greater scheme of things. If the Saxons have sealed their doom it matters little, for the rightful High Queen of Britain is once again abroad in the land, and I shall take that which belongs to me.

My old lands in Venedotia (which the locals now call Gwynedd) were long since seized by a niggling little clan that calls itself the House of Mathrafal. No doubt they are descended from the mewling lickspittle that used to clean my boots. Their present lord was some insipid brute whose name I did not even bother to learn. Within a day I had already bent him to my will. It has been so long, I had almost forgotten the power this fair face gave me over men back in my youth. Of course, that is a kind of magic in and of itself, I suppose. Ah, how exhilarating to be young again! It didn’t take much effort to have the oaf quite literally eating out of the palm of my hand. Unfortunately, it would seem he partook of something that did not agree with him. Perhaps it was that haunch of venison dressed with a surfeit of nightshade berries? Or mayhap it was the hemlock in his wine? No matter.


Before their lord’s body had even grown cold, I swiftly presented the buffoons that pass as courtiers in this place with a charter of ancient date, indicating the right of House Pendragon to possess these lands. Their so-called clergymen did not need much persuading, as their oafish lord had left behind a veritable gaggle of bastards, but no proper heirs whose legitimacy I could not call into question.

Thus by considerable guile I was able to reclaim a pitiful corner of the vast domains that rightfully belong to me. I am now recognized by all as sovereign Lady of both Gwynedd and neighboring Powys, with the marches of Perfeddwlad in vassaldom to me. I suppose I should say that Perfeddwlad was in vassalage to me. That sorry state of affairs has since been remedied.

With my initial demesne secured, I spent the next few nights scrying in the hopes that I might gain some new advantage. I must say, I was not disappointed. The petty princeling who used to rule in Perfeddwlad was a notorious fellow they called “the Spider.” As if his meager acumen with either pen or blade could ever be the equal of my own. It was late one night as I peered into my scrying orb that I caught a glimpse of him plotting with his lackeys to overthrow me. He seemed to think that he should be the rightful successor to… whatever his name was.

I decided to handle his treason the old-fashioned way. After a few well-placed bribes, I managed to turn the more avaricious of his henchmen against him. (Who else, but his churchmen?) Those greedy clerics then declared that by right, his lands and property belonged to me alone, and that he must relinquish them or face my just and wrathful sword.

How I do love it when they choose the sword! There is something so visceral about watching a man’s face blanch when he realizes that you hold his very life in your hands.

I rallied the levies of my new realm, a number more than twice what the old Spider could muster, and marched at their head to the very gates of his stronghold, which I then burned to the ground with him and his minions within it. It was a bonfire and a blood offering truly befitting the festival of Samhain! Let that be a lesson to anyone who dares to dream of defying me in future.

So far it has been all too easy to achieve my goals, though I do not delude myself into thinking that it shall ever remain thus. My people the Britons are a broken nation, long bereft of their birthright. The Isle of Avalon is no more and the light of magic has been snuffed out in the land. My beloved homeland of Britannia is benighted with lesser denizens on whom the glories of the past are wasted. But that is all about to change.

These shall not be the last of my gains. In the days to come, I shall reconquer all of Cambria before I move farther east into the lost lands which the Saxons now crudely call their “England.” From the ruined fragments of Britannia I shall forge an empire greater than my brother Arthur could have ever dreamed.

For I am Morgana Pendragon, true Queen of the Britons, and I will not be denied.

I am the once and future Queen.



***
 
Last edited:

Kurt_Steiner

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I suppose that you chosed Eva Green to take a bit of a holiday this time... I wonder if Morgaine will be the only one to return. I hope not. Otherwise it would be a bit boring.
 

tormos

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I see from the start of this entry that Morgana has access to the most feared of the dark arts: Calculus.
 

Ciccillo Rre

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Uhmmm... interesting. A woman-led Pendragon dynasty.

I will start soon a neo-Arthurian Pendragon AAR as well. It is an old planned thing (I have an old thread asking around for ideas, not bothering to search for it) and it is at present a completed (1066-1453) campaign with all the relevant screenshots saved in my PC.

It's gonna be different though, I'll have a more historical and less fantasy approach.
 

Mr. Capiatlist

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I am very intrigued. I'll add this to my reading list for later.

Good luck.
 

Clophiroth

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Following this, very intriguing :O
 

mdman1

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I'm looking forward to where you'll take this AAR. Consider yourself subscribed.
 

Eber

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I love your first two posts. Captivating! Looking forward to more!
 

Herbert West

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Morgana, a christian?