The Bitter Fruits of Victory
A History of Voudenay
The campaign is based in the kingdom of Voudenay, in the duchy of Viteaux, in the county of Estenne, in the barony of Angoisse (which is pronounced “agwas”). What follows are the basic history and recent events in Voudenay and some of the politics
The roots of the current kingdom of Voudenay extend back to 587AK when the Koric Empire was weakened by the destruction of many of its legions at Mt. Elrood. Vounothi tribespeople, trapped between the borders of the Empire and the Sigyar clans, saw their chance and migrated into the empire. Conflicts arose and in 602 three legions were sent to “evict” them. In the fighting, Lothair, who lead the Vounothi tribes, was killed and it looked like the end for them. However his wife, Genevieve, pulled the tribes back together and eventually lead them to victory over the legions. The Vounothi were now there to stay inside the old imperial borders and created the kingdom of Voudenay with Genevieve as their first queen, ruling from her capitol at Muriah. Even though inheritance in Voudenay usually favors the eldest of either gender, it became a tradition that the monarch of Voudenay was always a queen, eldest or not.
Voudenay grew over the decades, extending the protection of the queen over other Koric lands. It even expanded out into the Sigyar plains which are the source of the kingdom’s fine horses. It eventually came into conflict with Addakai, it’s greatest rival, until the Illyriconian Cataclysm gave both kingdoms something bigger to worry about.
During the course of the crusade the current feudal system developed to deal with undead raids. Other changes happened as well. The Peonian church gained in importance by providing much-needed healers and undead-turning, even though their clerics normally didn’t directly engage in combat. The Laranian church also rose to meet the challenge of the crusade. In addition to the priestly orders that already existed in the realm, they created a new order, the Order of the Unyielding Shield (typically just called “L’Ecu” for short). L’Ecu is composed not just of priests but of laypeople who have dedicated themselves to fight for the church while living a monk or nun-like lifestyle. These laypeople are typically knights but include common soldiers as well. The popularity of L’Ecu meant that many nobles donated lands to them until they became extremely wealthy and one of the most powerful military forces in the kingdom. They have been a great benefit to the kingdom as they were vehemently committed to the crusade. It is unclear what place they will have now that the crusade is over, however. They favor surcoats and shields with a red and white checkerboard pattern, in imitation of Larani’s own shield.
Even before the end of the crusade, some people felt that L’Ecu’s wealth was corrupting its leaders, or at least making them more worldly and political than was proper. A second Laranian fighting order was formed in response to this sentiment, the Order of The Sword Without Stain (L’Epee for short). L’Epee tries hard to live up to the greatest ideals of Laranian chivalry, and for this reason many members of the order are paladins. In addition to aiding the crusade, L’Epee knights often wander the countryside, searching for injustices to right or innocents in need of protection. In fact, in order to become a full knight of the order (regardless of whether you were a secular knight previously), a knight-candidate must ride out and return in not less than a-year-and-a-day after performing at least three great deeds of chivalry and bringing some “treasure” back to the order. A council evaluates the worthiness of the deeds to Larani (they typically must exhibit both bravery and the protection of the weak) and the “treasure,” which is more usually some kind of token or trophy rather than an item of great value. Wandering paladins of L’Epee are among the favorite heroes of stories and song. L’Epee, while popular among the common folk, engenders mixed feelings among the nobility and are thus much fewer in number and much poorer than L’Ecu. This is partly because anyone, regardless of social class, may rise high within the ranks of L’Epee based entirely on her or his virtuous courage and wisdom. Even many devout nobles are unwilling to join and possibly find themselves serving under some “up-jumped commoner.” L’Epee favors white surcoats emblazoned with Larani’s blood-red sword, making their knights appear similar to Christian crusaders.
Yet another innovation brought on by the crusade was the famed Lyceum of Muriah. Before the crusade, wizards and sorcerers typically were solitary, taking students as suited them, and had to balance the benefits of working together against the possibility of having all their secrets stolen by an unscrupulous rival. The result was…few wizards and sorcerers, jealously guarding their power. In 1105AK, Queen Isabeau III got together a small group of mages who sought to defend the kingdom against the ravages of the dead and formed the Lyceum for them as a sort of school of magic. Its particular purpose was to produce battle mages for the crusade and boost the realm’s magical defenses. It was initially considered something of a “hack factory” as its main goal was to get casters on the battlefield as quickly as possible rather than plumb the arcane secrets of the worlds. In time, however, it has become the recognized center of magical study, the greatest outside of Illyndria or Kor. It is pretty much the only great center of magical study outside of Illyndria and Kor, actually, as Vecna sees training too many mages as creating rivals and asking for trouble and most other kingdoms don’t have the resources to create anything even close to the scale of the Lyceum. The Lyceum’s library is an incredible repository of rituals and other arcane works, with many casters paying exorbitant fees for permission to peruse their works. The Mage’s Quarter around the Lyceum is just about the only place you can find “magic shops” as well as many sources of alchemical supplies, books, and arcane equipment. The Lyceum, as it is today, now trains nobles, who pay for their education, and “scholarship” students, who are typically commoners who work off their educational debt through years of service to the throne as red-robed battle mages. Their service is three or fewer seasons a year, so battle mages still have time to pursue their own goals. Many hire on for one or more seasons a year even after their service is over as war mages to gain some access to the resources of the Lyceum.
Two more war-spawned innovations are gunpowder and air galleys. Gunpowder does exist, having been invented by either the dwarves or the orcs, depending on whether you are talking to an orc or anyone else. Gunpowder is only in use in bombards, which are large, primitive siege canons with a penchant for blowing up and killing their crews. They are used because they are better at taking apart fortifications than most combat spells but still have lots of problems. Both guns and powder depots must usually be protected by wards that prevent them from being magically ignited (typically a banner that creates an anti-magic zone around itself). Because they are so big and heavy, they are hard to transport as well. The most extensive use of bombards are as part of the defenses of Muriah.
One solution to the mobility problem of bombards was air galleys. Originally their secrets were known only to the Illyndrians, but the mages of the Lyceum puzzled them out 50 years ago and began crafting them, both to transport bombards (and as a safe firing platform) and to counter the dracoliches of the undead. The difficulty of the crafting and enchantments involved (as well as war casualties) mean that only a very limited number exist, almost all of them in the hands of the throne and great nobles of Voudenay. The orcs of Segova somehow acquired the secrets as well and produced a few primitive galleys that also saw action.
Timeline of recent events:
1220 Queen Genevieve IV is killed in battle shortly after the death of her only daughter and heir presumptive. A regency council is formed to rule in her place until they can decide on a new monarch. This process drags on indefinitely, though, as various dukes fail to get enough support for their candidates.
1222 The duke d’Agereau leads a major offensive against the undead and is successful, fueling the idea of his worthiness as a candidate for the throne.
1226 d’Agereau seems to have secured the support he needs to secure the throne for his family when one of the queen’s nieces, who had previously lacked any political support, appears bearing the coronet, scepter, and war-banner of the royal family, artifacts thought lost to the undead in the 1113 siege of Muriah. She gained Laranian support based on this and was able to prove her claim to the throne by wearing the coronet and grasping the scepter while seated on the throne (the coronet and scepter are enchanted to strike dead anyone but the true heir who does so). Her claim confirmed by the artifacts, she is crowned Genevieve V.
1229 Segova is overrun by the Red Blade orcs, making the bordering duchies of Viteaux and Agereau nervous
1230 Red Blade orcs begin their own holy war against the undead, but border skirmishes begin and escalate.
1233 d’Agereau, feeling that Genevieve V wasn’t giving her due support against the orc threat, defies her. Minor fighting ensues. The situation dies down but tension remain.
1234 Tension flare up into open war between d’Agereau and the throne. This is resolved by the Concord of Sertiers.
1235 A young Laranian seer referred to as La Pucelle gains influence with the queen. A year of victories against the undead follows
1237 Nobles grow jealous of La Pucelle and unrest ensues, especially after a number of military setbacks. The queen’s refusal to marry and produce an heir complicates matters.
1239 d’Agereau leads a revolt against the queen “to remove the influence of bad councelors.” The queen has to bargain away significant concessions to gain noble support to make d’Agereau back down.
1240 A new, successful offensive against the undead helps shore up Genevieve’s power.
1242 Voudenaise and Red Blade orc offensives are shattered. Undead advance on Muriah
1243 Muriah falls under siege and undead make massive gains. The plague of the dead suddenly ends as unexpectedly and mysteriously as it began.