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 The House of Ainsley: Bygone Years

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The House of Ainsley
Keeper of the Dark Mirror
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Male Number of posts : 2005
Age : 45
Location : The Dark Heart of Bardosylvania

PostSubject: The House of Ainsley: Bygone Years   Mon Dec 28, 2009 11:35 am

1050 of the Second Imperial Era (SE) - A loyal knight, Sir Bardos Ainsley, serves diligently and obediently under Count Wulfrich Eowuld of Konegheim.  But though his service is regarded as honorable by Konegheim's nobility, Sir Bardos develops a cruel streak and comes to deal with prisoners, rogues and lawbreakers with needless brutality, no matter how minor their offense.  Rival knights and squires, envying Sir Bardos' position, conspire against him.  Two such knights intercept one of the count's younger messengers as the latter leaves the count's quarters, taking the messenger aside and successfully tricking her into thinking that Sir Bardos is the intended recipient of her message, that she is to dress herself in commoner garb to avoid undue attention and that the secret phrase to greet Sir Bardos and clandestinely alert him of her message would be not unlike "Your mother was an ill-bred and pestilent harlot, and a foul and witless ogre would be more deserving of your shield."  The increasingly hot-tempered Sir Bardos, unaware of the subterfuge, replied to the messenger's challenge by leaping on her and beating her within an inch of her life.  The count took a very dim view of seeing one of his messengers--travelling on an official errand, no less--attacked so savagely by one of his most trusted knights.  Sir Bardos was disgraced, publicly denounced by Count Wulfrich and summarily stripped of his title, his Coat of Arms and his lands, forcing him and his household to live as commoners among the folk who had once admired him.

1052 (?) SE - (Bardos Ainsley, seeking revenge against both the count and Bardos' former comrades who had arranged his humiliation and dismissal, gathers a band of malcontents and criminals to harrass the county.)

1055 (?) SE - (Bardos Ainsley lays claim to the station of robber-knight, constructing a keep and a walled compound in southeastern Konegheim.  More brigands gather under his banner.  Though he behaves more like Vlad Tepes than Robin Hood in dealing with his enemies, Bardos Ainsley soon becomes a folk hero among a populace weary of the count's cumbersome laws and unfair taxations.  All attempts to raid the compound and rout the brigands fail, and the price on Raubritter Ainsley's head soon rises to over 5,000 Groschen, a monumental bounty for the time.)

1057 (?) SE - (The compound surrounding Raubritter Bardos' keep continues to grow, evolve and gain in population.  Upon the birth of the settlement's first infant citizen, one of Bardos' lieutenants dubs the young renegade town "Bardoston" in honor of their leader.  Count Wulfrich wages another siege against Bardoston, but the siege is quickly broken in concert with several disgruntled commonfolk sympathetic to the robber-knight, who act as spies and saboteurs among the count's ranks.)

1060 SE - (The price on Bardos Ainsley's head finally rises to exceed 15,000 Groschen, enough to tempt his fearful kitchen staff and taster into betraying him.  In the dead of night, four squads of the count's men-at-arms storm past Bardoston's uncharacteristically disorganized defenders and barge into the keep to find Raubritter Ainsley and his court asleep at their dining table, drugged into torpor via their evening feast.)
• (Following a rapid series of abbreviated trials, the count's executioners begin putting many of the brigands and supporters from Bardos Ainsley's employ to death but, whether out of respect for Bardos' previous years of honorable service or out of fear of an increasingly disgruntled citizenry, Count Wulfrich Eowuld suddenly grants Bardos a stay of mercy, offering to spare his life and the lives of thirty of his followers--chosen by consensus between the count and the magistrates handling the trials--if Bardos and his followers would leave Konegheim, tame and settle the barbarian lands to the southeast and establish a new colony in the count's name; were Bardos to succeed in this task, honor would be restored to his name and he could begin to atone for his robber-knight years.  Bardos wisely accepts the offer, bringing his chosen followers into the designated wilderness.  Several more followers--who either were found not guilty during the trials or were convicted for minor offenses, received minor sentences and were released--follow him and his band into the untamed region.  Bardos leads his band to a large freshwater lake not far south of Konegheim's border, and there they construct a crude hamlet of tents and wooden shacks.)

1065 (?) SE - (The region's two predominant barbarian tribes, not recognizing the newcomers as any threat to their ways of life, tolerate the newcomers but do not welcome them.  Bardos commences a clever campaign to turn the two tribes against each other, kidnapping a son from each tribe's chieftain, putting the boys to the sword and leaving the bodies--each decorated with ornaments and markings from the opposite tribe--in conspicuous locations where each boy's native tribe would find him and blame the other tribe for the terrible deed.)

1066 (?) SE - (Bardos and his band of followers attack the chieftain of the war-weakened Seng tribe, killing him, his family, his shamans and the center of the tribe's leadership.  The surviving Seng are scattered into the surrounding forests, and the tribe ceases to exist.  The Vorgir tribe is grateful for Bardos' aid in vanquishing the Seng, and their chieftain welcomes him as a brother.  But Bardos rejects the Vorgir's grateful overtures, turns on them and brings the Vorgir tribe to heel two months later.)

1068 SE - Using the surviving Vorgir barbarians as slave labor, Bardos Ainsley and his 50-odd followers complete the construction of their settlement, fashioning it into a productive and independent village on the shore of the newly dubbed Lake Hopeful.  Delighted at having a respectable chance of enduring the untamed land's countless trials and hazards, Bardos christens the hamlet Hope Springs--in homage to Lake Hopeful's bountiful freshwater springs--and, as he personally taps the town hall's last flagstone into place, declares that day (April 18th) to be Foundation Day for his fledgeling province.  All the villagers join Bardos in a lengthy prayer to Wee Jas--the deity whom he credits with permitting their continued survival in such an unwelcoming land--and a satisfying feast and hours of merriment are subsequently enjoyed by all...except for the Vorgir slaves, of course.

1335 SE - Tsar Orsek Yukurov, believing that Karkova is a large enough, resourceful enough and powerful enough nation to separate from the Empire and attain independence, opposes the Faceless and Eternal Emperor's new mandates for increased tribute from the nations of the Eternal Empire by declaring his intentions of succession at the 3,255th Grand Senatorial Convention.  Gramr Armborg Jaekrsen the Lesser concurs with Tsar Orsek's notion and immediately pledges his support for Karkova, while the other eight Gramrir of Hrothjurgan gather to begin their debates on whether Hrothjurgan should join Karkova in rebellion.  The Emperor and his envoys remain silent throughout the dispute but observe all of the assembled leaders and delegates with rapt attention.  But the Emperor ultimately does not repeal his demand for greater tributes, and so Tsar Orsek goes to make good on his threat.

1337 SE -  After a two-year series of conferences, Drottning Geirlod Brow-of-Iron Jaekrsen--the twin sister of Gramr Armborg the Lesser and fellow ruler of Hrothjurgan--continues to oppose both Gramr Armborg the Lesser and Tsar Orsek, pledging her continued support for the Empire, and Gramr Agnal Fjallgeisr chooses to side with her.  The remaining six of the Nine Gramrir of Hrothjurgan side with Gramr Armbolg the Lesser; these include Gramr Utgar Skutilsveinn, Gramr Stigr Karbryti, Gramr Ottr Skjotr, Gramr Dagor Yfirmadr, Drottning Tyrhild Stafrhrid and Gramr Brokk Lasgardn.

• One month after the conference concludes and the gramrs and their jarls return to Hrothjurgan, the body of Folkni Adavnirr--Geirlod Brow-of-Iron's lover--is found floating facedown in Lake Dorgundr with seven arrows piercing his neck and torso.  Drottning Geirlod immediately sends for the jarls of the tribes still loyal to the Empire, and within a week most of the Imperialist Hrothjurgandrs prepare their longships and withdraw west to Hrothjurgan's great Tunglman Island.  Two-thirds of Hrothjurgan's tribes join hands with the rebel Gramrir in the mainland region of Hrothjurgan; separatist tribes who remain on Tunglman Island are swiftly put to death when Geirlod Brow-of-Iron and her horde claim the island for her own.  Within the year, the nation of Hrothjurgan is split in twain between the sibling gramrir, with the mainland portion under Gramr Armborg the Lesser becoming Hrothjurgan Major, and with Tunglman Island under Drottning Geirlod Brow-of-Iron becoming Hrothjurgan Minor.

• One month after Hrothjurgan is divided into two nations, an assassin makes an attempt on Tsar Orsek's life as the regent emerges onto his balcony to address his people on the coming war.  The assassin's arrow penetrates the tsar's royal vestment but fails to breach his ribs, and so Tsar Orsek survives.  After the assassin is captured and subjected to torture, the assassin's Fioriallian heritage is discerned.  Enraged, the tsar has the assassin killed and scalped, writes up and signs Karkova's Declaration of War and binds the scroll with the assassin's long and flowing russet hair, then orders the message delivered to the alabaster palace of the Emperor.  The Imperial Civil War begins in earnest.

1357 SE - The ground war between the two Hrothjurgan kingdoms escalates into a prolonged naval campaign as other nations get involved in the conflict.  The navies of Konegheim, Nellowswann, Brustagg and Caed Fainne soon form a blockade around the Hrothjurgan nations, attacking any Karkovan vessels that approach the blockade while permitting all other vessels to pass through to Hrothjurgan Minor.  Karkova responds by assembling the Stele Ursa Armada--a fleet of war galleys empowered by Earth and Water elementalist magic--to sail through the Sea of Opalescence and shatter the Imperial blockade.

• Despite being an Imperial nation, Karkova's neighboring county Kunyakarova attempts to draw up a non-intervention pact with Karkova.  Interpreting this act as a sign of weakness, Tsar Orsek immediately commences a campaign against Kunyakarova.  In early October, Karkovan ground forces cross the Korkaw Canal and attack the port town of Nerenyuski, killing over 2,000 Kunyakarovs and capturing twenty-two trade and fishing vessels, which are hastily converted into warboats and used to patrol Kunyakarova's strait and oceanic shores for refugees as the Karkovans march further inland.  The Kunyakarovs prove to be more stalwart combatants than Tsar Orsek had estimated, and nine months of fierce street fights and bloody forest skirmishes ensue before Kunyakarova's capitol Borsenek falls amid the capture of Duchess Neshenya Werzov II...considerably longer than the four months which the tsar and his advisors had predicted.

1371 SE - Imperial battering rams breach the gates and walls of the capitol city Karkov, and the chambers and hallways of her Royal Palace soon resound with the marching solerets of Konegheimer men-at-arms.  Tsar Orsek Yukurov, the King of Karkova, is cornered by invading Imperial soldiers.  His heirs are dead, his contingents of October Blades and Stali Muzcinami are dead and he at long last stands alone before three-score of his enemies.  Preferring death to humiliation, he refuses to surrender and draws his mithril greatsword, making his last stand on the Golden Stairs of the Royal Palace's Celestial Hall.  Even against such daunting odds he charges and cuts down fourteen Konegheimer pikemen before they converge and run him through, putting an end to him and his long reign.  And, in a peculiar phenomenon, Tsar Orsek's pooling blood leaves a bright, indelible crimson stain in the white marble stairs beneath him, marking the exact spot where he perished; the mark endures to the present day and will defy all attempts to scour it away for years--or centuries--to come.  The Imperial Civil War ends.

1375 - Despite being in good health for his advanced age, Lord Heward suddenly falls ill on December 15th, slips into a coma and dies days later.  Within the week Abbot Bereghel Menlott, a leading Jasian priest, crowns Lord Heward's son, Darrovan Ainsley, as Bardosylvania's lord in a brief and largely private ceremony at Saturninity Chapel atop Saturninity Hill.  Abbot Menlott's visit to Bardosylvania is unusually brief, and he appears visibly shaken upon his return to Konegheim.

1376 - At some point in January, the caretakers of Saturninity Hill threaten to quit their posts after a disembodied voice repeatedly moans "Vengeance" throughout the Ainsley family crypt, commencing every night at dusk or moonrise.  Lord Darrovan immediately orders Lord Heward's remains relocated to a more secluded vault, interred with several pailfuls of salt and sealed away with multiple walls, traps and magical wards.  No explanation for his orders is given.  The ghostly cries for vengeance immediately stop, and the caretakers return to their duties.

• Throughout the year, Lord Darrovan continues his purge of the Scarlet Order and the Wee Jas temples remaining in Bardosylvania; by autumn's end, little more than scattered roadside shrines along less travelled roads remain of the once-prevalent religion or its priests, who have all been either imprisoned, killed or driven outside Bardosylvania's borders.

• Throughout November, Lord Darrovan writes up a small pile of invitations and mails them out to all his family members--however close, remote or estranged--as well as a goodly number of friends, trusted partners and political allies, inviting all of them to a great gala on December 15th to celebrate Lord Darrovan's first anniversary as Lord of Bardosylvania.  He seems to take unreasonably great pride in this otherwise unremarkable accomplishment and goes to great lengths to secure and prepare a small army of servants, hire a band of talented musicians, procure lavish food and decoration and otherwise ensure that the celebration is, in every conceivable way, perfect.  Some invitees send Lord Darrovan their regrets, but most who receive his invitations--roughly nine in ten--attend.

• On December 15th the anniversary party is hosted at Ainsley Manor.  Attempts to soothe old rivalries or alienations among the House are made at Lord Darrovan's request, and the party seems to progress quite well.  But the day ends at the stroke of midnight, and at the bell's first toll a great number of shadow-beings rise from the surrounding groves and grasslands and converge on the manor.  Fires break out at several places in the mansion, and most of the partygoers and servants are slain by the marauding shadow fiends.  Only a very small number of survivors--none of them of Ainsley blood--escape the slaughter to report accounts of the Fall of the House of Ainsley; one gardener speaks of the shadow creatures being called forth and led by a dark, towering, antlered figure emerging from the woodlands, twice as tall as a man and with eyes of fire, bearing a hunter's horn in one hand and brandishing a great flaming spear in the other, with a small, empty brassen cage chained around his neck.  The gardener withdrew to a safe distance and claimed that, when the dark hunter returned to the shadowy wood with his horde, the uncannily loud throbbing of a human heart followed with him.  Though plumes of cold, dark fire sprung up in the hunter's footsteps and burned for days afterward, the hunter could not be tracked down and found after sunrise; his trail ended in a large white scorch mark deeper into the woods, and no other trace of him or his fiends was ever found.
• Fearing great calamity in light of the supernatural events leading up to the House's extinction, the people of Bardosylvania hold a hasty mass funeral for the House of Ainsley's dead--and for the dead of all others attending the gala--and inter the slain Ainsleys in their family crypt beneath Saturninity Hill.  Curiously, Abbot Bereghel Menlott--the Jasidan cleric who had crowned and annointed Lord Darrovan--was in attendance to conduct the funeral, despite the banishment of Wee Jas' priests over the year before.  Lord Darrovan's corpse is found in the manor's Council Chamber; unusual among the dead from that night, Lord Darrovan's chest has been split open with a deep, cauterized wound, and his heart forcibly cut out and removed.  Searches for Lord Darrovan's heart end in failure, and his body is immediately taken to the Ainsley Crypt to join his fallen kin.  But the moment his body is interred and sealed in the sarcophagus set aside for him, the skies over Saturninity Hill darken with a howling wind.  The wind seems to speak softly in a thousand voices yet with one unknown tongue as the earth of the cemetery rapidly blackens and goes barren; the blackening earth swiftly spreads well beyond Saturninity Hill's walls, withering the grass and immediately killing every tree it engulfs.  Gripped with sudden panic, the pallbearers and other funeral attendants drop whatever they're doing and rush to escape Saturninity Hill, leaving several coffins unburied and corpses uninterred as they flee the unholy blight.  Word gets out and Saturninity Hill is promptly abandoned, even by those whose loved ones reside in eternal rest there.

1377 - Without the dead House's governance to interfere, anarchy begins to spread its wings over Bardosylvania.  At first the lordship's roads are plagued with bandits and highwaymen, but then the supernatural horrors which have long haunted the troubled province rise sharply in number, and many of the criminals soon perish at the teeth of werebeast and undead alike.  A few brave souls return to visit their loved ones at Saturninity Hill only to find the cemetery's locked gates imprisoning a number of the walking dead.  But few Bardosylvanians leave the province to spread the word, terrified of straying too far from civilization and falling prey to the land's wandering horrors.

• One year after the House of Ainsley perishes, many of the House's former allies and contacts receive formal letters--apparently written by Lord Darrovan's hand and stamped with the House's seal--inviting them to revive their former relations with the House and to meet him at Saturninity Hill in central Bardosylvania, while promising that all will be explained--and all questions answered--upon their arrival.

• Around that time, a greater number of undead sightings--greater than Bardosylvania's usual numbers of undead--are seen rising from their graves and roaming the land.  A small number of the undead, however, march unerringly towards the center of Bardosylvania, where Ainsley Manor and Saturninity Hill lie.  The sediment-crusted skeleton of a child moves upstream along the Black Earth River before vanishing into the forests.  A gaunt and armored corpse, its eyes radiating soulfire in the night, clambers out of the Sea of Opalescence and slogs into the hills of Konegheim, brandishing a rusted trident at any who would impede him.  And the misty forest northeast of Boughbog is pierced with a woman's disembodied screams and wailing amid the furious hammering of fists against wood.  The peasants and scoundrels of Boughbog lock and barricade their doors even more soundly for weeks afterward.


(I'm setting this aside for now, so I can grab some food and get back to work on the prologues.  I'll get back to it later.  Promise.)
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