SAXONY KEEP: BEING A HISTORY CONCERNING THE SIGNIFICANT EVENTS WHICH TOOK PLACE UPON THIS ANCIENT ANCESTRAL GROUND DURING ITS 488 YEARS OF EXISTENCE
TO COMMEMORATE THE CORONATION OF THEIR ROYAL MAJESTIES, KING RICHARD ENDARR & QUEEN KATHERINE BARTHOLOMEW ENDARR ON THE 6TH DAY OF JUNE, YR 584 AT CASTLE EVENDARR IN THE CITY OF EVENDARR
LONG LIVE THEIR ROYAL MAJESTIES!
by Tollin Thistledown, Court Bard & Historian of the Barony of Arawyn set down in the Year of the Realm of Evendarr 584 at Saxony Keep in Port Jaskara, Capital City of the Barony of Arawyn in the Duchy of Evendarr
Humbly Dedicated to H. R. H. Prince Joseph, Honored Sponsor of This Great Endeavor & To Her Esteemed Ladyship Dame Acadia Landsheim, Baroness of Arawyn, Liege & Patroness
It is the earnest wish of this humble Bard that the reader's critical eye look upon his work as being but a brief delineation of the more significant events to occur upon these ancient lands - a silhouette, as it were, instead of a magnificent portrait. Many of the most accurate records of the site have been lost or destroyed during the Keep's event-filled history. Conflicting accounts, fragmentary memories of legends and a few whispers hinted in tales and ballads, are too frequently all that comes to the historian's hand among the Saxony family records and the Baronial archives.
To be sure, there may be additional material stored at other locations in Evendarr: the Bardic College, the Royal Academy and the Guilds, other Saxony family holdings and even among the Dwarves at Holmgate, to name a few. Moreover, in a search of the earliest Baronial records, now stored in the cellars of the Manor House (which has been located in the town proper ever since the tragic events of YR 392), some of the oldest material appears to have suffered extensive damage due to water seepage. Although Her Ladyship, Baroness Acadia, has had them removed to more agreeable quarters, it will take the work of many experts to reclaim their contents.
This brief history is, therefore, an exercise of the best efforts which can be mustered from an old and caring friend for a place filled with history, treachery, heroism and romance, a friend whose own age and infirmity prevents the degree of vigor necessary for a more comprehensive opus. Yet all may not be in vain, for this little tome may yet sow the seeds of greater endeavor in the next generation. Let this work then be construed as a promise of more eminent industry in times to come.
In Humble Gratitude,
Master Bard Tollin Ambler Thistledown
Royal Guild of Bardic Arts
Court Bard of Barony Arawyn
at Saxony Keep
13 November, in the 584th Year of the Realm of Evendarr
TABLE OF CALENDARS
The calendar kept by the Saxony family is based upon the years of each consecutive Liege. It was discontinued after the incorporation of Arawyn into the Kingdom of Evendarr. This account refers to them only parenthetically, in the interests of historical accuracy. Many thanks are given to the Keep's faithful gardener, Borilen Curiloth, who permitted himself to be placed under a series of Truth Spells in order to enhance his fading memories of old reunions and conversations. To the best knowledge of this writer no other complete written record exists, a condition which has now been rectified at Saxony Keep, and in other archival locations.
It should be noted by the reader that the designations of "Degan" and "Thonn" refer to titles given to the heads of the family in succession, the former to females and the latter to males. All Saxony years began at the New Year, and bore the name until its end, of the ruler who began the year.
SAXONY YEAR EVENDARR EQUIVALENT
Degan Jaskara 1-18 None
Thonn Robard 1-4?? None
Thonn Ansel 1-11 to YR 3
Degan KethraÊ1-10 YR 4-13
Degan Eleena 1-2 YR 14-15
Thonn Bartel 1-23 YR 16-38
Thonn Robard Blackmane 1-8 YR 39-46
Thonn Archibald 1-15 YR 47-61
Degan Shayna 1-9 YR 62-70
Thonn Johann 1-7 YR 71-77
Degan Kethra One-Hand 1-10 YR 78-87
Thonn Alfred 1-24 YR 88-111
Thonn Teodor 1-2 YR 111-112
On July 4, YR 112 was signed the Treaty of Arawyn at Saxony Keep,
and Thonn Teodor retired the hereditary Saxony titles and the calendar,
becoming Lord Teodor Saxony, first Baron of Arawyn in the Kingdom of Evendarr.
CHAPTER I - THE EARLIEST YEARS
The history of the Saxony family predates the Kingdom of Evendarr by at least three decades, although the lands which eventually became the Barony of Arawyn did not become incorporated into the Kingdom until the 112th Year of the Realm of Evendarr (Thonn Teodor 2). In fact, the Town of Port Jaskara is believed to be named in honor of the Degan Jaskara Seaxan, leader of a seafaring clan, Grand Matriarch of her people and a legendary virtuoso with sword and dagger. ("Seaxan" in Ancient Commonspeech meant "knife".)
Early legends claim kinship between the Saxony Clan and the Merfolk which are occasionally seen in the waters along the coast of Evendarr. Whether true or not, the extended family settled in one of the most favorable locations on Darksands Bay, where they soon established a reputation as expert seafarers and shrewd traders. By the time of the founding of the Kingdom of Evendarr, they were the acknowledged power in the lands north of the Black River as far inland as the Sardon Hills.
A true keep did not exist in those early days. Rather, the family's main residence is said to have consisted of several buildings within an enclosure, surrounded by a wooden palisade that was reputed to have been constructed and protected with Magic. It was simply called "The Fort" as far as we know, and commanded the same vantage point that the current edifice holds today. In addition, there was a small but flourishing port with docks, warehouses and a shipyard. At least by the time of Thonn Robard Blackmane, prosperous farms, orchards and vineyards, and forested tracts surrounded the growing town, all facing the fertile waters of Darksands Bay.
In the 95th year of Evendarr (Thonn Alfred 8), Mount Sarobar erupted in the Black Hills to the southeast, spewing ash and noxious gases north and west across Darksands Bay. The harvest was destroyed, and both hunting and fishing disappeared as land and water animals alike perished by the thousands. Faced with starvation, many farmers, hunters and fisherfolk - once law-abiding citizens - took to the roads and the ocean as brigands and pirates.
In the years before the area recovered and prosperity returned,
Port Jaskara and the land and water routes to it became the favored targets
of these desperate peoples. In December of the year of the Great
Eruption brigands set fire to the town, destroying nearly all of its waterfront.
It is said that an unknown item of great Magic was then brought to bear
against the Saxony fortifications; so that the fire also destroyed
a portion of the breastworks and several buildings in which, unfortunately,
many priceless historic documents and works of art were lost. Nevertheless,
the bulk of the family's wealth had been stored elsewhere - in several
of the caves which pocket Darksands Bay - and the decision to rebuild was
CHAPTER II - THE BUILDING OF SAXONY KEEP & SAXONY TOWER
Under the leadership of of the legendary Thonn Alfred, a program was begun which was to last several years. First, a number of Spellcasters were employed to augment the defense of the town. After the next attacks resulted in the utter defeat of the invaders, an offer of amnesty was extended to many of the bands of raiders in exchange for their service as guards and laborers. Thus the building of Saxony Keep accomplished several goals. First, it provided secure shelter for the residents of Port Jaskara as well as travelers and trade interests. Secondly, it provided work and income to many of the former refugees, who were only too glad to forsake their lawless careers and return to a life of stability for themselves and their families.
Work began on the construction of Saxony Keep in YR 96 (Thonn Alfred 9). The great outer Wall, some thirty feet high that once surrounded the heights around Port Jaskara, was completed in the Evendarr Year 98 (Thonn Alfred 11). The inner wall and the Keep itself were finished the following year - an astonishing feat of labor when one considers that the city was under attack by both land and sea during nearly the entire time.
The most magnificent structure - and the pride of Thonn Alfred - was the great Saxony Tower which rose nearly eighty feet above the bluff upon which it was set. Tall and slender, its shape evoked the image of a great tree, with a graceful curvature beginning at its four-sided base that flared into a triple parapet above its main cylindrical section. It was designed and built by the great Dwarven stoneshaper Ruta Hammerstone, and was fashioned of artfully worked granite blocks sheathed in purest white marble from the Sardon Hills. It is said to have been a replica of the Tower of Magic she had constructed nearly a century earlier, that had stood outside the walls of the old Royal capital of Cwyll. (The center of Magical learning in the Kingdom's early years, that edifice had been destroyed in the great explosion of YR 32 that killed King Berthold III.) Some suggested it bespoke an Elven influence, although those opinions were never voiced in the presence of its creator.
Saxony Tower is said to have differed in appearance from the original only by virtue of the great crystal which was set upon the uppermost parapet, whose light provided a guide to safe harbor for incoming vessels. It differed in use by serving as beacon, watchtower, guardpost and prison in the upper levels, along with a dungeon, torture chamber and vault in its cellars. It was, however, as much a defensive structure as a work of art, for within its circular walls were many cunningly-placed arrow-slits, and both the lower and middle of the three parapets were broad and sturdy enough to mount ballistas, oil pots or heavy crossbows.
Because the Tower had been assembled entirely without mortar,
the legend quickly grew that Magic had been used in its making, despite
many oaths sworn by everyone who had labored upon it that only the Permanent
Light Spell ensorcelled into the beacon contained an eldritch power.
Before many years had passed, Saxony Tower had become a lodestone for travelers
eager to view its glory, and until its final destruction in YR 392 was
considered one of the great wonders of the entire Kingdom.
CHAPTER III - UNION WITH EVENDARR
Although much effort and wealth had been expended upon restoring peace and prosperity to its peoples, the lands under Saxony domain were still recovering from the effects of the Great Eruption. Even as local conditions stabilized, the Saxonys found it necessary to extend their protection northward along the coast until their lands reached to the Ash Mountains and the bay north of the hamlet of Zamora by YR 104 (Thonn Alfred 17). The local folk of Port Jaskara had long called the surrounding area "Arawyn", after the legendary mountains to the southwest (there are fragments of local legends and ballads that tell of the earliest Humans to inhabit the lands around Darksands Bay migrating there from the Arawyn Mountains north of Holmgate). The name of Arawyn gradually spread to include all Saxony lands, but the northern folk continued to call themselves "Baltarians", and some were not entirely pleased with their new Lieges.
In YR 106 (Thonn Alfred 19), overtures were made to Arawyn inviting it to join the Kingdom of Evendarr, primarily at the urging of the Court of Nevis, Arawyn's neighbor to the north. But the feisty Thonn Alfred declined, preferring independence to the role of vassal in a larger Realm.
By this time several members of the Saxony family had settled in Evendarr, and some were rising in positions of power. A few had achieved noble titles, foremost among them Lord Teodor Saxony, a nephew of Thonn Alfred who had himself become an engineer of some renown. Born in Port Jaskara in YR 65 (Degan Shayna 4), Teodor came early to a love of the art, securing a coveted apprenticeship to Stonemistress Hammerstone at the beginning of the construction of Saxony Keep. Upon its completion, he traveled to Holmgate in Blackstone for further instruction, and by YR 102 had secured his title and a senior position among the Royal Engineers in the Court of Queen Cllotho.
When King Ulson II ("The Builder") ascended the Evendarrian Throne the following year, he immediately ordered the development of plans for a new capital city on the plains east of the Greenmarch Mountains, and a military highway linking it to the coast at Braughm-Raor as a means of further securing the union of Evendarr with Blackstone, his father's former Kingdom. Lord Teodor became the Royal Liaison to the Holmgate Dwarves, who were largely responsible for the work, and these two great projects occupied him for the remainder of his life.
On Midsummer's Night in YR 111 (Thonn Alfred 24), the pirate band called Maelstrom, under the leadership of the infamous Darkmage Cetos, launched a vicious attack on Port Jaskara in revenge for punitive actions that the Thonn had taken against it. Aided by the Water Elementals she had Summoned, Cetos and her marauders breached the Keep's defenses and savagely massacred Thonn Alfred and his entire family - some 26 members in all. Necromancers raised the victims as Undead; and although the Guard drove off the raiders the family was never seen again. By law the lands were to pass to the eldest surviving family member, but there were none left in Arawyn with a direct birthright to its heritage. Lord Teodor Saxony - now an ennobled citizen of Evendarr - became the new Thonn of Arawyn, and the end of its independent status was at hand.
Shortly afterward, Lord Teodor was approached by the King and offered entry into the growing Realm as a Baron of his own lands. He accepted fealty as an act in the best interests of his people. The Treaty of Arawyn was signed at Saxony Keep in YR 112 (Thonn Teodor 2 - the last year of the Saxony calendar), and Lord Teodor Saxony became the first Baron of Arawyn in the Kingdom of Evendarr. As a gift to his new King and country, Baron Teodor sent a large caravan filled with wealth to be used in the projects to which he had become so devoted.
Apart from yearly visits to his birthplace, Baron Teodor took little direct interest in the management of the Barony or its capital city. He named his eldest son Edmund to be his Heir and Seneschal, an arrangement that suited both the Baron and his vassals. A seasoned warrior, Sir Edmund proved to be a capable administrator as well, and the fortunes of Arawyn prospered.
The decision to join the Kingdom had largely been a popular one,
since the advantages of the Royal Highway system that was slowly connecting
the Kingdom by land were beginning to be appreciated by the merchants and
artisans of Port Jaskara. In fact, one of Teodor's few direct
actions as Baron was to begin negotiations with the Throne to bring a KingÕs
Road to Port Jaskara as soon as its other major projects had been brought
to completion. Unfortunately, the Baron was permanently killed in
a terrible rockslide just outside Braughm-Raor in YR 116, and more influential
voices urged the King in other directions.
CHAPTER IV - REBELLION
Thus did matters stand throughout the rule of Baron Edmund Saxony, who died in YR 132. His daughter, Dame Katren, succeeded him, but it is said that she had become weak and sickly in the aftermath of an outbreak of the Spotted Plague which ravaged the capital in YR 130, and had killed two of her four children. She had married Lord Durgan Balfour, a local noble who had agreed to accept the Saxony name in exchange for being designated Heir. Lord Saxony had the reputation of being a hot-head and stubborn of mind, and his disposition had worsened after his childrenÕs deaths. When further negotiations with Evendarr failed to produce the promise of a major highway into Port Jaskara, Lord Durgan began to conspire with several of the town's merchant families to consider a return to independence.
Although the growing unrest was not a great secret, Baroness Katren could not be persuaded of its importance until she discovered early in YR 139 that the sentiment had spread into the countryside. She counseled patience, and decided in spite of her growing infirmity to travel herself to Evendarr City and plead Port Jaskara's case directly to King Ulson.
The King was beset with growing difficulties on the northern borders. Although his forces had won at Battle Downs against the Nordennites in YR 122, the enemy continued to exert pressure upon Evendarr, threatened the very existence of the Barony of Nevis, and from time to time even cut off the main travel route between the Kingdom and the Royal Academy at Lake Hollym. One man seemed to be able to keep the peace - the young commander Charles Rotari - and the King deemed him worthy to be given a rule of his own. Most importantly, King Ulson had received several petitions from the Baltarians - who called the Saxonys usurpers - to be made a separate fiefdom. The adjacent Barony of Nevis, one of the four original realms making up the Kingdom, had added its voice to those of the Baltarians, and its was a powerful voice indeed.
The King offered Baroness Katren a compromise: if Arawyn would cede its Baltarian lands to the Crown, he would immediately begin planning the construction of a Royal Highway to link Port Jaskara to Evendarr City. Dame Katren agreed, since it was her sense that all would benefit from the decision. She returned to Port Jaskara and announced the King's decree.
Her husband then stood up in her Council chambers, and in an explosion of temper declared that the plan might be the best she could devise, but he intended to have the King's Highway and Baltaria as well. He left the capital and began to assemble a force of rebels. Dame Katren sent agents to learn his plans, and eventually discovered a mercenary army hidden in the Sardon Hills preparing to march upon Saxony Keep.
In a last act for her people's welfare, the Baroness ordered the army dispersed and recalled her husband to the capital where, it is said, she intended to strip him of his title and end the marriage. The accounts say that the very evening before Lord Durgan was to return to Port Jaskara, Katren climbed to the top of Saxony Tower in order to catch a glimpse of her husband's party. Few believe that she fell to her final death by accident even though the subsequent investigation - and many Scry Spells - could show no evidence of foul play. Lord Durgan Saxony succeeded his wife as the first Liege of Arawyn who was not directly of Saxony blood. Let it at least be said that he wept bitterly at her gravesite, and until his death showed no interest in women other than as comrades.
Durgan's first act was to declare Evendarrian rule at an end and himself as Thonn Durgan Saxony. He seized all of the Royal estates in Arawyn, intending to hold them hostage to the Crown. He continued to recruit mercenaries and called up a levy of local militia from the lands of the Saxonys and their supporters, particularly in Baltaria. Orders were given to capture the Baltarian dissidents, and a company of Necromancers were dispatched to turn them against their own people as zombies. Within a few weeks' time, a reign of terror spread across Baltaria and even into Saxony Keep, as 16 year-old Devon Saxony, the youngest surviving child, was thrown from the highest parapet of Saxony Tower for attempting to assassinate his father.
King Ulson lost no time in responding. Taking the field himself, he led an army into Arawyn and in less than three month's time had put down the rebellion. The destruction and loss of life were widespread, but the most awesome weapon in the Royal arsenal was the Rod of the Elements, wielded by the King himself, which Summoned many of the otherworldly creatures to wreak havoc among the Saxony forces. In the greensward before Saxony Tower, Durgan Balfour was stripped of his Saxony name and his titles and Obliterated, with his son and daughter Alyssa as witnesses.
Thus ended the 1st Saxony Rebellion. By Royal decree Arawyn lost Baltaria, which became a Barony under Sir Charles Rotari. Sir Colin Demrys, a Knight of Evendarr, became the new Baron of Arawyn, and the Saxonys were forbidden from succession. No Royal Highway was ever built to Port Jaskara. Braughm-Raor in Blackstone became the main port of the Kingdom, but Port Jaskara is still prosperous, though lacking in preeminence.
Yet the Saxony family was not completely humbled. For their
staunch opposition to Durgan's treachery, Devon and Alyssa were
permitted to hold Saxony Keep as their ancestral home. Each was given
a small estate outside the Barony, and they were allowed to retain the
familyÕs business interests in the Port itself. However, neither
son nor daughter desired to remain in the place where both of their parents
had died so violently, and they eventually settled in Evendarr City after
Baron Colin agreed to pay an annual fee for the use of the Keep as his
Baronial residence. Nearly two and a half centuries would pass before
a Saxony returned to dwell in the home of his forebears.
CHAPTER V - INTERIM
Little will be said here of the 2nd Saxony Rebellion, which played itself out for the most part in the streets and chambers of the Capital City and Castle Evendarr. It is merely noted that the assassination of Queen Diane in YR 227 by Felicia Saxony, considered by most historians as a prelude to the conflict, was - according to records brought to Saxony Keep after the Obliteration - an act of madness brought about by Felicia's resentment of the overriding influence upon the Throne of the Five Old Families who had founded the Kingdom of Evendarr.
It is merely noted here for historical purposes and without giving undue credence to its accuracy, that to Felicia's mind the openness of spirit which had characterized the years immediately following the incorporation of Blackstone and Kitheria into the Kingdom had disappeared. Over time, the original union of Endarrs, Huntingtons, Monays, Bartholomews, and the Buttons family had reasserted itself at the expense of many loyal servants to the Crown of lesser pedigree. While it is true that no Saxony in that time was able to stand as close to the Throne as the Five, the Saxony family had certainly redeemed its name in the eyes of the Crown after the tragedy of YR 139, and had actually gained considerably in wealth and influence.
Whether or not the events of YR 267 ought to be called a Rebellion, Saxony fortunes were considerably improved by the deaths of several members of the Five Old Families. The marriage of Lady Mathea Saxony to King Ulson III ("The Conqueror") that year may have marked the height of Saxony influence in Evendarr until H. R. H. Prince Joseph was formally Adopted as Heir to the Throne of Evendarr eight years ago.
Commentaries on Queen Mathea's unsuccessful attempt to install her brother Robert as Count of Blackstone are quite detailed in their analysis of her lengthy statement before she was Obliterated for King Ulson's murder in YR 291. Although most dismiss her allegations as being without merit, she nevertheless insisted that she had only been seeking justice for the centuries of favoritism shown to the people of Blackstone - and most specifically the merchant interests of Braughm-Raor - that had taken place at the expense of the Saxonys and Port Jaskara. In any case, the matter becomes important to this narrative only for purposes of continuity.
Life in Port Jaskara and Saxony Keep continued largely uneventfully during much of the 4th century of the Kingdom. The Demrys Lieges proved to be both wise and popular, and while they were unsuccessful in their advocacy for a Royal Road to the port, they nevertheless managed to greatly improve the land transportation system. Their greatest triumph, in conjunction with the Barony of Sardonia, was the Red River Portage system which speeded access to Lake Hollym and the growing northern territories.
YR 304 saw both joy and tragedy at Saxony Keep. Dame Aneille Demrys was the youngest daughter of Baroness Margala, and a trader whose seafaring exploits had taken her across the Great Northern Ocean to the Elven Kingdom of Brynmaerdyth. She fell in love with Lord Xavier Saxony, who became the Protector of Ashbury in YR 305. A great wedding feast was held at the Keep, which reunited the far-flung Saxony clan with its ancestral home for the first time in more than a century and a half. Lord Xavier swore oath to uphold the Judgment of King Ulson II, and the happy couple repaired to Ashbury the following year, where Lord Xavier's beloved wife continued her explorations, this time on land.
Later that year, the Baroness announced the betrothal of another daughter, Ylaina, to Timmonel of Lyster, a young Squire to a Knight of Arawyn. On the surface the match appeared to be flawless, but as the time for the Wedding Feast drew closer, Ylaina became more withdrawn and morose. Suspicious, Dame Margala began to ply her daughter with questions, and soon learned that Ylaina had fallen in love with a Mer-man and yearned to go to the sea with him, but was torn between her affection for Timmonel and her duty to the Barony, against the wishes of her heart. For once one joins the Merfolk and becomes one of them, all ties to the land are forever severed.
Baroness Margala was wise enough to know that, will she or nil she, her daughter was lost to her. Ylaina would either Transform into one of the Sea Folk or pine away to death. Sadly, she bade Ylaina farewell and watched as tearful goodbyes were exchanged with Timmonel. Ylaina sailed her little boat into the deepening fog of Darksands Bay and was never seen again.
Squire Timmonel was devastated, and as the days went by could
do no more than stand upon the heights of Saxony Tower searching in vain
for his lost love, or pace the great Wall for hour after hour. Finally
one night, a fierce storm lashed the city with wind and sleet. When
daybreak came, Timmonel was gone from Saxony Keep, and the legends say
that he went out to sea to search for Ylaina one final time.
CHAPTER VI - THE 2ND SAXONY REBELLION: SEEDS OF CONFLICT
In the long history of Evendarr there have been many instances of internal strife. Even the Five Old Families have seen episodes of quarrels, sedition, treason and estrangement among one another and with the Endarr Throne. But perhaps no family has seen its fortunes rise and fall as precipitously as the House of Saxony, and the tragic events of YR 388 - 392 serve as an illustrative example. The effects upon Saxony Keep were of such import that a more detailed background needs to be presented, in order that the reader might clearly understand how the events came to pass.
There is an old Hobling saying that war needs only one life to live but one hundred deaths to die. Whether this is true in the case of Brigadier Lord Johann Saxony cannot be proven, but his records of the campaign show that many of his decisions appear to have been motivated by a presumption that no matter how many Saxony lives were given in service to the Crown, or how much Saxony blood was shed in its defense, its name would never bear the luster of those of the Founders. It is not clear how he came to this supposition, being himself the grand-nephew of King Willem whose own sister, Princess Gynneth, had married Lord Johann's grandfather - Sir Damien Saxony, Protector of Ashbury after his father, Lord Xavier Saxony.
The records clearly show that the decisions of King Mykel II which Lord Johann received with such ill-favor were grounded far more in reasons of state, and in the counsel of advisors, than in personal preferences. But all those who knew him agreed that Lord Johann Saxony was a man who acted upon feelings rather than careful thought, and no amount of reasoned discourse could stay the Saxony Lord's hand once he had decided to set it against his kinsman.
Lord Johann's father, Lord Robert Saxony, had been named the Royal Seneschal under King Willem, and continued in that office after the King's tragic death in YR 359. Being cousin to Prince Mykel, the elder Saxony had expected to be named Regent for the 14 year-old Heir, and become embittered when Lord Chancellor Powell Huntington was confirmed in that office instead. To the end of his life, Lord Robert harbored a monumental dislike for the Huntington family which he took few pains to conceal. Yet it was universally known that the Huntington Lord was not only a brilliant and courageous man, but that he had shared a special relationship with Prince Mykel since the child's birth. It was, in fact, the Prince himself who had been the greatest advocate of Lord Huntington's Regency, bearing no enmity toward Lord Robert or any other member of his family, but the greatest affection and respect for "Uncle" Powell.
Lord Johann had grown up as Prince Mykel's close companion, almost as an elder brother, being the Prince's senior by a mere two years. From the earliest age he had been every inch a warrior, unlike his cousin whose broader interests reflected an aptitude for the statecraft for which he was being schooled. It is said that the two would argue long hours on the requirements of governance, Johann preferring a military solution to nearly every problem and Mykel seeking a more balanced perspective. They were the best of friends, despite Lord Robert's attempts to distance his son from the young Endarr Prince.
When Mykel ascended the Throne in YR 361 as King Mykel II, he immediately commissioned Lord Johann as his chief aide, and the two often campaigned together. They distinguished themselves particularly in the Troll Campaign in Ashbury in YR 363 - 364, and in the Lizard Wars in Kitheria which began five years later, and lasted on-and-off for more than a decade.
By YR 368, Lord Johann Saxony was a Major in the Royal Army's most prestigious unit - the 1st Old Guard. He had also been married in YR 366 to Dame Rhennys Oakley, a Captain in the Crown Guard with whom he had a son, Andric, the following year. Two years afterward, Dame Rhennys was killed in battle and the child was sent to live with his Saxony cousins in Ashbury.
It was Lord Johann who first met the Lady Katherine Huntington in YR 375, and immediately became smitten with her. Both he and the King had known her since her childhood; but it was not until she captivated the crowd at the 180th Mayfair Derby in Cwyll - by riding her own horse to victory at age 16 - that he took note of the fact that she had grown into a young woman of beauty and spirit.
Huntington custom had always been to begin early the training of their children to the rigors and dangers of service to the Crown. Lady Katherine had already seen some adventuring, but Lord Johann was an experienced warrior, and a widower who was twice her age. His single-minded courtship of her over the next three years came perilously close to being judged a breach of Courtly manners, and resulted in eliciting a response quite the opposite of the growing ardor on her part that he so desired. To make matters worse, the elder Lord Saxony's vocal opposition to Johann's pursuit of a Huntington was beginning to result in open enmity between father and son.
In a singular alliance born of desperation, both Lord Robert and Lord Powell appealed to the King to intervene. At that time, the Lizard Wars were approaching their fiercest intensity, and reports that an Elven Vampire had seized control of the monsters had begun to filter out of the Kitherian Mires. Brigadier Saxony, now commanding three regiments of the 7th Brigade, was dispatched to prosecute the hunt, and for the next two years was only intermittently in attendance at Court.
Free to spend time at the Royal Court now that Lord Johann was no longer in constant attendance, Lady Katherine struck up a friendship with the King. To everyone's surprise - including their own, as King Mykel declared at their betrothal - that friendship deepened into love, and the two were wed in May of YR 380.
The elder Saxony was delighted with this turn of events. It had been he who had openly promoted Mykel's suit, and Lord Huntington who had initially expressed concern that this was his daughter's true desire. Notwithstanding, Lord Robert had personally delivered the news to his son in the field, using the event as another example of how Huntington treachery against the Saxonys had even turned the King against his own cousin and friend.
Despite his bitter disappointment, Lord Johann returned to Evendarr City in time for the Royal nuptials, triumphantly bearing the severed heads of a hundred lizardmen upon the upraised lances of his cavalry. Shortly afterward he resigned his commission, declaring his intent to take up residence at the Saxony ancestral home. Attaching himself to the Court of Arawyn, he soon became the Commander of the Baronial Guard, and spent only brief visits at Court thereafter.
By all accounts he had become grim and hardened, although opinions differed as to whether this was due solely to his loss of Lady Katherine or the hardships he had endured in the Kitherian Mires - for despite his extraordinary heroics and the utter defeat of the lizardmen, the Vampire had eluded him. In YR 383, he married Genevieve de Montfort, Court Healer to Baron Edward Demrys, but even her letters acknowledged that there was but scant affection between them. A year later their only child died at birth, and within a few months Lady Genevieve accepted a professorship in the Royal College of Earthly Arts at Janitria. The two never saw one another again.
Yet all was not bleak for Lord Johann at Saxony Keep. He
had taken apartments in the donjon itself, and soon made himself indispensable
to the aging Baron. By YR 385 he was himself Baron in all but name,
having enlisted the loyalties of noble and commoner alike. He would
spend long hours walking the parapets of Saxony Tower, or patrolling the
countryside or waterfront - often to the cheers of the people, who were
elated that a Saxony had finally returned to Thonn Alfred's citadel.
Whether he was even then planning sedition will likely never be known.
CHAPTER VII - THE 3RD SAXONY REBELLION: OUTBREAK
Thus did matters remain until March of YR 388. Lord Robert had seen failing health for several years, and in that month his Healer sent word to Saxony Keep for Lord Johann to attend his father's bedside with the greatest urgency. It is not known what words were exchanged during their final conversation, but even as Lord Robert's body lay in state in the Hall of Crystal at Castle Evendarr, his son demanded audience with the King and the Council.
Full of passion, pride and grief, Lord Johann told the astonished King and Queen that he had been informed, in his father's dying words, that the post of Royal Seneschal had been promised to the House of Saxony by none other than King Willem himself. The Lord also admonished his Lieges that his years of loyal service, even in the face of sore trial, had entitled him to the distinction of that office. His words became so full of vitriol and defiance that they could not be permitted to pass without censure.
A young Knight, Dame Allandra Vandoros, challenged Lord Johann to Honor Combat and swiftly cut him down. The King granted his cousin a Life spell and forgave him, expressing Mykel's hope, as the accounts of that event showed, that his Saxony kinsman was only mad with grief. Lord Johann arose, and without awaiting any response returned to his father's Vigil. He would not speak with anyone about the matter until after Lord Robert was buried.
Those who were present at that fateful meeting all later agreed that the Lord's entire demeanor was lacking in reasoned temperament, which bode ill for his fitness to hold the very office to which he had made claim. Finally the King went himself to his cousin's chambers, and would only say afterwards that the two men could not reach agreement. That very day, Lord Johann departed Castle Evendarr for the final time in his life.
He returned to Port Jaskara to find Baron Edward also near to death, racked by a consumptive illness that no amount of Healing could defeat. To make matters worse, the Baron's only child and Heir, the Lady Bethina, was now a gibbering half-wit as the result of an error made during her casting of a Ritual. Public sentiment began to rise for the Baron to name Lord Johann the rightful Heir to Arawyn.
On October 8th of the 388th Year of the Realm of Evendarr, a message arrived at Saxony Keep bearing the Royal Seal. In it, as is shown in the copy which resides in the Royal Archives, was a personal message from King Mykel to his cousin declaring that, on the advice of his Council, the office of Seneschal to the King would be granted to Lord Ambrose Huntington, the youngest son of Lord Powell and brother to Queen Katherine. However, Lord Johann was to present himself to the Throne with all due speed, in order to receive a special Grace from the King's own hand.
It is understandable that the King wished to make known his intent to his kinsman before Court and Council, for the Royal Grant was to be nothing less than the rescinding of the Judgment of Ulson and the restoration of Barony Arawyn to the House of Saxony. Sadly, the news was contained in a Royal Decree that, if its contents ever reached the Saxony's eyes, arrived too late to change the course of events. We shall never know what path might have been taken had Johann Saxony stayed his hand long enough to learn of his King's intentions. But his was ever a warrior's way, and once he had decided to defy the Crown, he threw himself into his campaign with the passionate intensity so characteristic of him.
One week later, a small company of helmeted troops bearing the
banners of Saxony and Arawyn arrived at Castle Evendarr. In silence
they entered the Throne Room and stood before the King and Queen.
As the entire chamber fell quiet, the leader removed his face-piece, revealing
the gaunt visage of Sir Edward Demrys, now transformed by arts Necromantic
into a Death Knight. He removed the gauntlet of Johann Saxony from
his belt and threw it before the Throne, crying out the words that began
the 3rd Saxony Rebellion: "Hear the voice of Saxony!
From this day forward, Arawyn shall nevermore bend its knee to Endarr,
or to Huntington! So speaketh Johann Saxony, King of Arawyn, and
so do I, Edward Demrys of Arawyn, make my final intentions known!
Long live the King of Arawyn!" "Long live the King
of Arawyn!" cried the Arawyn soldiers, and with these words Edward
and his entire company - Undead all - fell upon their swords and passed
CHAPTER VIII - THE COURSE OF WAR
It is not necessary to the purpose of this narrative to render a detailed chronicle of four years of war. Sufficient to the reader's understanding is that the conflict, once begun, thundered out of Arawyn across the plains of Sardonia and Greymoor. At the height of the Saxony's success, he had nearly split the Kingdom in two by taking for a time the eastern shores of the Velowyn River at the ancient town of Velowyn itself. His former position and his years of service as Brigadier made Johann Saxony a most formidable foe, and his army's ranks were swelled for a time by many who held a grievance with the Crown, and by mercenaries hired with Saxony gold.
Although the Royal Army's response was swift and no less passionate in the defense of its land, conflicts in several other theaters - most notably in Ashbury and on the borders of Therendry - kept the full might of the King from being brought to bear upon the insurrection. Pirate attacks along the coast of Rotaria occupied that Duchy's naval forces (there being no Royal Navy at the time), allowing trade and transportation to continue largely unimpeded to and from Port Jaskara. It was even rumored that certain merchant clans in Braughm-Raor and Daven were growing rich in illegal trade with the Arawyn rebels.
For the first year of the campaign, King Mykel continued to seek a diplomatic resolution to the conflict, twice sending messages under flags of truce which proffered an offer to negotiate an end to the hostilities. The first delegation was turned back without ever entering the Saxony's presence; the second returned by way of Resurrection. By the winter of 390 - 391, whose severity forced a pause in the campaign until the end of April, King Mykel decided to take command himself as Marshal of the Armies of Evendarr.
The King's arrival in the field brought the two old battle companions into direct tactical combat against one another. In the first few months the Arawyn forces seemed to be gaining the upper hand, but a brilliant flanking maneuver across the Velowyn north of Johann's army - aided, it is said, by Water Elementals Summoned by Lord Ambrose - caught the rebels in a pincer movement late that summer. Thus was the stage set for the Battle of the Harvest Moon at Velowyn, on the 12th day of September, 391. When it had ended two days later, the King had won the decisive battle in the war against his once-beloved foe.
By this time, Rotarian naval forces had mounted a successful blockade of Darksands Bay, and supplies to the insurgents were no longer plentiful. Additional Royal troops and mercenaries of long service were now swelling the ranks of the King. Johann was forced into a defensive strategy which, though skillful enough to drag out the war for several additional months, was by all accounts leading to his inevitable defeat. Slowly, step by bloody step, the Army of Arawyn began to retreat across Evendarr. By the following spring all of Saxony territory had been regained by the Kingdom save Port Jaskara and its immediate environs.
Just before the Royal forces took the port, King Mykel made one
last overture to his kinsman. This time the head of the Obliterated
emissary was returned upon her horse's saddle. Enraged beyond
the obligations of blood and family, King Mykel swore oath before all who
bore witness to this atrocity that Johann Saxony was as evil as he was
mad, and that this combat was now to the Final Death. Less than a
day later Port Jaskara fell to the Royal Army, and a full siege was laid
to Saxony Keep.
CHAPTER IX - THE SIEGE OF SAXONY KEEP
It is still believed by those who witnessed the event that only the superb Dwarven craftsmanship wrought by Stonemistress Hammerstone saved the defenders of Saxony Keep from being overrun during the Royal Army's initial assault on Port Jaskara. Although desertions from the failing rebels were increasing, and their intelligence reported that Johann's legions had dwindled to a few hundred of his most fanatical supporters, the realization quickly dawned upon the attackers that their most formidable opponent was the Keep itself.
It was virtually impregnable to all but the most powerful of Magics, and from its redoubts and parapets there came a constant hail of death. Night assaults were beaten back under the light of the great crystal, which the enemy had contrived to use as a weapon. They would shield its base to darken the Keep's interior, while still illuminating the Royal positions. After nearly two weeks of constant combat there were no more deserters, and it was later recorded that the former Saxony Lord seemed unusually patient during this period. His demeanor became almost cheerful despite the apparent hopelessness of his position, and some of those who remained inside the Keep began to wonder if he had truly gone mad.
On the 10th day of the siege, King Mykel's wizards were
finally successful in Summoning an Earth Elemental, who was able to infiltrate
the Keep from below ground and make its way to the rebel supplies.
Scry spells determined that by the time it was destroyed, most of the food
and ammunition had been eliminated, and both wells were collapsed.
The end could not be long in coming.
CHAPTER X - THE FINAL DAY
By early on the morning of April 9th, 392, speculation on both sides had concluded that the Saxony forces would not withstand the King's siege for many more hours. They were now into the 15th day, and additional Scry spells were beginning to bring the information the King had long been hoping for - that hunger and thirst were beginning to take their toll on fighting effectiveness and morale. Preparations were being completed for a massive Royal assault that King Mykel and his commanders calculated would overwhelm the enemy by sheer force of numbers, and by Magic.
Suddenly there was a flurry of activity within the Keep, followed by the casting of many Obfuscate spells. Anxious moments passed even as the King's siege engines were being readied. Then from the upper parapet of Saxony Tower a single heavy crossbow bolt was shot, a packet attached to its shaft. The packet bore the Saxony seal, and was immediately brought to the King.
It contained the worst of news. To the King's great horror, Johann Saxony had contrived to kidnap Mykel's beloved Queen Katherine and their young son and Heir, the 3 year-old Prince Berthold, out of Castle Evendarr. Somehow the captives had been spirited into the Keep - it is believed through passageways deep underground, although afterwards the Queen could never confirm the speculation - and were now being held as hostages against whatever terms the Saxony Lord might demand.
His first was simple and direct: that the siege against Saxony Keep be lifted immediately. As an earnest of Johann's intent, the message was accompanied by a lock of hair from the head of each captive and the threat that any following messages would instead be accompanied by their fingers. Torn between his love for his family and his duty to his people, King Mykel agonized over his decision. Finally, he chose a course which he hoped would stand the greatest chance of success for both himself and the Kingdom.
During her scouting of the Keep's defenses earlier in the siege, one of King Mykel's irregulars had come upon a tiny, concealed gate directly below Saxony Tower. Her practiced eye had immediately noted the presence of traps, evaluated the quality of the locks which held both the outer door and inner portcullis and, lastly, Detected the eldritch glow that indicated the presence of Magic. In the distance, she could hear the measured step of a guard's pacing. She dutifully reported her discovery to the King, never guessing at the time that this might be their only hope of rescuing the Royal captives.
This, then, was the King's plan: while the bulk of Mykel's army began making overt preparations to abandon the siege, a portion of the Royal forces would storm the main gate as a diversionary tactic. At the same time, the King and a specially chosen group of volunteers would attempt to slip into the Keep through that secret Warded entrance and make their way into Saxony Tower, desperately hoping that they would achieve their objective in time. The Royal spellcasters would continually Scry the party's progress. As soon as it had passed the first challenge, Lord Ambrose would briefly Dispel their Obfuscation, the Scry spells would catch a glimpse of the King moving forward, and the diversion would begin.
It will do well enough for history's sake to say of the King's final heroic journey that he succeeded in his rescue; that both the Queen and the Prince were safely returned from their trials to bear witness to a complete victory by the Armies of Evendarr over the rebels of Arawyn, and to live long and honored lives in the service of the land and its peoples. There are other tales which tell of the Gypsy Bard, whom Fortune had placed inside the Keep, coming to the party's aid when all other means for passing through the Ward had been exhausted; and of the long battle, always upward, to gain entry into the Tower; and of the final confrontation between the King and his arch-foe, the former Saxony Lord and Mykel Endarr's own kinsman.
Nevertheless, the names of the heroes who accompanied their Lord and Liege should be repeated, since they are writ large upon these ruins, and their Spirits may yet roam in the half-collapsed tunnels that are said to thread their way still beneath this bloody ground. And these were, besides King Mykel himself, Lord Powell Huntington and his son, Lord Ambrose: Dame Allandra Vandoros, who carried out the Queen's final Justice upon Johann Saxony and later became King Berthold's Champion; and Brother Laramis Hartwell, who provided Life to one and Healing to all, and then more, as Guildmaster of Healers for the City of Evendarr; and Mages' Guildmaster Jarridar Coriolis, Arch-Wizard of Flame and Truth, who served the King with his Magic, and who may have ended his life a few years later engulfed by the Magic he served.
And there was Magda Ivanova Ajanisa, the Gypsy whose destiny led her to that Warded portal, whose magnanimity - together with dexterous hands - provided a Ward Key that allowed a King to rescue his beloved family and made her a legend among her own; and the Eorl Haarkan Thunderblade, Barbarian, leader of mercenaries, and until his death acclaimed the greatest warrior in all Evendarr; and the Lady V'ktara Solonori of the Kyralia or Stone Elves, Royal Magistrate under three Sovereigns, who passed the Queen's Judgment upon the Saxony; and Shandra MacGregor, a thief called "Honesty", who discovered and outwitted the little postern gate which led to the death of a Saxony traitor, and ultimately to her marriage in later years to the loyal son of that same traitor.
And the last, though not the less important for the order of their naming, were Gurndrak Hammerstane, Dwarven Armorer and Master Weaponsmith to the King, who came from simplicity, sped a Royal rescue through a citadel he claimed was built by an ancestor, and returned to simplicity; and the Lord Arigil Nandemyr, a Quentari Elf who made a King's anguish his own, sang a song of lost love that won a Gypsy Bard's heart, and lost his own in unrequited silence in a land far from home; and young Perrin Galenson, who took a bolt meant for a King and spent his life as a Knight in service to a Queen.
There are two names of which brief mention has already been made, but to whom this writer must still pay the debt of history. They are, of course, those of Johann Saxony and King Mykel Endarr.
Johann Saxony met the fate that Justice and the Law require of a seditionist. Yet it is not certain whether his fate was earned more by rebellion, or the equally abominable crimes of kinslaying and Regicide. For it is written in the archives of both the Kingdom and the Barony, and sworn by all those who witnessed the tragic events of that hour, that "Johann Saxony alone gave the order which resulted in the premature loss of the King to the Realm, and of husband and father to his beloved family". It is, in fact, a tribute to the sense of Honor and Duty to the Law and the Code of Chivalry manifested by those present, that the array of hideous punishments which could have been exacted upon that twisted remnant of foresworn fealty and family, were stayed by a grieving Queen.
There are those who believe - like one faithful Elven gardener who has entered his fourth century of service to Saxony Keep - that the swift and clean justice meted out to Johann lanced the festering sore upon the spirit of the House of Saxony which many had called Envy. For since that sad day in 392, though there have been offspring who might be called simple, or perhaps foolish, none have been called traitor and several have been named "Honorable", of which the current Lord of Saxony Keep may be the most renowned.
And at the end of that long day, Evendarr had lost a King and
gained its wholeness. Mykel Endarr was dead, Berthold was the Crown
Prince and Katherine was both Dowager Queen and Regent. The King
had left behind a legacy of justice and conciliation, but those capstones
of the Diplomatic Arts were swiftly transformed into bold strategy and
dogged persistence when the need arose. He gave up the utmost in
the service of those things which he had held most dear to his heart:
his family and his Land. There are no better reasons to offer one's
CHAPTER XI - QUEEN'S JUDGMENT: THE DESTRUCTION OF SAXONY KEEP
With its leader now dead the collapse of the rebellion followed quickly, as the remnants of an army that had numbered in the thousands threw down its arms in surrender. Of the three hundred final defenders of the Keep, the full weight of the Queen's justice fell upon only a few dozen leaders. Several of Johann's Necromancers had already committed suicide and their whereabouts were never ascertained, although whispers that they had Resurrected in Baltaria continued for years afterward. Only one other - Diarmid Byrne, called "Byrne the Bloody" - was Obliterated for the atrocities he had perpetrated. It is said that his descendant became the infamous pirate Keegan Byrne who met his own fate more than a century later upon the cliffs of Capulus, and that Bloody Byrne's ghost still haunts the grounds of Saxony Keep.
There were twenty-one first executions, of which five were Banished from Evendarr upon Resurrection. Eight were declared Outlaw and executed a second time, to Resurrect in parts unknown with the Queen's Bounty upon their heads. The remainder, all minor nobles, were brought to the Capital in chains to be paroled to their families after paying a heavy forfeiture to the Crown. The common soldiers were given the Queen's Amnesty upon swearing oath never to take up arms again. The mercenaries were, of course, released from detention after redeeming their bonds. Only after all this was accomplished did Queen Katherine pronounce her Judgment upon the Saxony family and upon Saxony Keep.
The land on which the Keep stood was forfeited to the Crown, and the House of Saxony was stripped of its ancestral rights in Arawyn. Dame Ysabet Landsheim, who had been a Captain in the 3rd Crown Guard, was declared the new Baroness of Arawyn. She was issued two Royal Orders: to build a Manor House in the town of Port Jaskara away from the Keep, and to rebuild the Court of Arawyn with not a single known drop of Saxony blood among any of its nobility.
But the Queen's severest judgment was reserved for the Keep itself. A great space was cleared before the Tower, and the crowds who had gathered upon its walls were ordered to stand back. In a clear voice that some say caused the stones themselves to ring in response, she cried her Doom: "As my Husband and my King was Destroyed by thee, let ye now be Destroyed by me!" And it is said that the ground shook with the force of her words, as though the Keep itself echoed her agony.
Then her brother, the Lord Ambrose Huntington, stood forth. He raised his Staff and spoke words of a Magic so powerful that every spellcaster was brought to knee with the force of it. Out of a clear sky a great bolt of lightning struck the topmost parapet, and the crystal beacon that had shone upon Port Jaskara and Darksands Bay for three hundred years became as bright as the Sun, and exploded into a shower of molten fragments. The brilliant light spread further, engulfing the lower parts, and the base, until the entire Tower shimmered like sunlight upon water. With a great roar of sound an