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The Conspiracy within Corun Houseby Ville Lähde
Here's a background plot synopsis that I drafted on the basis of my new Mystaran campaign. The campaign centres on a caravan that travels a long route through Darokin, Ylaruam, Northern Reaches, Heldann, Ethengar and possibly Glantri. We've just begun, and right now the events are not directly linked to the background but instead to the competition between the Houses, as agents of Umbarth are trying to disrupt their competitors' (Corun) great new endeavour.
But in the background is a conspiracy of Coruns and shadowelves that has roots of 500 years. I'm planning to craft links to the conspiracy little by little and let the players influence the direction very much. So right now I haven't even drawn out any NPCs of the conspiracy. Everything depends on which side the PCs end up on: a rival House, the Corun-Shadowelf conspiracy, as investigators of DDC - or possibly even in service of the shadowelven shamanistic faction that opposes Xatapechtli.
As I mention below, much of this is based on Aaron's work, and the discussions on the list between Aaron and Geoff some time ago. They were a great help - a wonderful example of the virtues of the Mystaran community. This makes Mystara a very lively world. Thanks.
The main addition to the timeline is the shadowelven surface invasion, which hasn't been addressed in the Darokin Gazetteer at all, and very little elsewhere. I wanted to preserve the history of shadowelf-Alfheim conflict without losing the sense of mystery about the shadowelves. I also tried to draw out some links between Flaem and Darokinian history, which have been fairly isolated. Especially the period of the start of Ethengar-Flaem-conflict is interesting and could be developed further. I'm planning a short adventure around the first decades of Flaem settlement myself.
The Conspiracy within Corun House
This text describes the history of the Corun House, its long-lasting involvement in the intrigues of Darokin and its alliance with the Shadowelves. It also describes events during the formation of the Republic, when Corun House was reformed. Within the reformed house a secret cabal arose, aiming to reclaim power and continuing the old alliance with the agents of the Shadowelves. The text is written on the basis of the Darokin material written by Aaron Nowack: the descriptions of the Great Merchant Houses, and the two extensive Darokin timelines - all of which can be found in the Vault of Pandius. This material doesn't have significant "deviations" from them, but some additions have been made.
Timeline of the Corun House:
291 Farold Corun takes on the offer made by king Anos II and gathers a mercenary force to liberate the areas north of Darokin. His fighters defeat the orcs, and Corun builds the first permanent settlement in the area of present-day Corunglain (Corun's Glen) 293 Settlement of Corun's Glen is complete, and the new king Mithras II wishes make Farold Corun a duke and annex the Corunglain region as the Northern Duchy. Farold declines and declares Corunglain a Free City-State.
Nevertheless, Corunglain will soon become a close ally of the Darokin Kings.
501-504 During the Elfwar a huge horde of humanoids from the Broken Lands besieges Corunglain, led by the chieftain Sitting Drool. The town is encircled and soon the humanoid hordes threaten the Darokin heartlands.
- During this crisis agents of the Shadowelves contact the leader of the House, Theon Corun. The Shadowelves give aid to the Coruns, and the town holds until the arrival of the Darokinian relief force. (Diverting armies from the Alfheim front.) The Shadowelves remind their Corun allies constantly that it is due to the "aggression" of the Alfheim elves that they had to endure such a long siege. Also, some knights of the Corun family were sent against the elves, as stipulated by Darokin-Corunglain -treaties, and many of them never return. This creates bitterness against the elves in the inner circles of the Corun House.
502 Corunglain is liberated by Darokinian troops. A joint punitive expedition by the Coruns and the King is massacred in Broken lands.
502-520 The humanoids of the Broken Lands, led still by Sitting Drool's orcs, continually harass the Free City of Corunglain. In 520, another punitive expedition is massacred.
522 The second great siege of Corunglain begins.
523 The greatest ever horde of Sitting Drool conquers Corunglain and razes it to the ground. Theon Corun, who managed to flee to Darokin, wages a political war to force the King to liberate his city. Shadowelves assist him in this by financial means.
525 Because of Theon's efforts, a joint operation by Darokin and the Flaems of Braejr scatter Sitting Drool's horde, free the Corunglainian slaves and capture the chieftain. Later on, Sitting Drool is exchanged for huge amounts of looted Corunglainian gold. This gold isn't returned to the Coruns, it is now in King's coffers. This trade causes a huge scandal, but King Corwyn XIII Ansimont "Peacemaker" manages to get away with it. The blame is shifted on the northern aristocracy, mainly the Coruns, and the king pretends to have "confiscated" the gold in order to rebuild the homes of the common people.
- Corunglain is rebuilt, but Theon Corun has lost his good relations with the crown and much of his reputation. King declares Corunglain as the Fifth Duchy. It is given to the Attleson family, who had lost the crown during the Elfwar. The Corun family is enraged and swears revenge on the Kings. Their ties to the agents of the Shadowelves are strengthened even more than before.
526 The Coruns emigrate to Ardelphia and start making their living by trade. The Merchant House of Corun is born.
527 Mercenaries hired by Theon Corun kill Sitting Drool, and the Broken Lands are "pacified" for a long time. This effort re-establishes Theon's reputation in the eyes of the people, especially of the northern Duchy.
550 (approx.) Corun House has strengthened enough to return to Corunglain, little by little.
560 The Shadowelf invasion of Alfheim. The Shadowelven surface troops attack through the hills near present-day Fort Nell, targeted at the Erendyl Clan strongholds (the elven king is Celedryl of Erendyl). Charles III Ansimont agrees to the Alfheimer request and sends a small mounted army to cut the supply lines of the Shadowelves. The Coruns warn their allies, and Shadowelf losses in this front are small. In fact, the Darokinian troops have very few engagements at all, and many soldiers never even see the strange enemy. Thus the event doesn't leave a great mark in the annals of Darokin. In fact, due to the recent Elfwar the alliance isn't a popular move, and some claim that the whole "invasion" was staged in order to re-establish relations with the elves. In any case, the Kings of Darokin and Alfheim begin to build friendship on the basis of this alliance, and slowly trade relations are opened again. The elves build Alfheim City around this time to contain traders in a controlled environment.
- With the help of the Shadowelves, Corun House gains more power in Corunglain. After 650, when the power of the Kings begins to wane, the ruling Attleson family gets no more support, and the Coruns start getting the upper hand. They don't openly try to take over yet, however.
- Corun House also begins to establish trade relations with the Ethengarians and the Flaems, as passage through Broken Lands is much safer nowadays. Actually, this is the first time in recent history that any significant north-south travel takes place.
640-662 Corun House begins to trade with the northern clients even more.
Together with the Shadowelves they encourage conflicts between the Flaems and the Ethengarians and sell weapons to both sides.
- Relations with Alfheim are getting better all the time, as Darokinians are forgetting the experiences of the Elfwar. Alfheim City becomes a busy centre of trade. Corun House is active here, and its merchants secretly help Shadowelf infiltrators into the country. This is the first big Shadowelf operation that is completely devised by Xatapechtli, the new Feathered Serpent. Instigation of the humanoids and direct assault have both proven fruitless.
675 King Celedryl of Alfheim purges nearly all Shadowelf infiltrators.
Corun merchants withdraw from the country. Their complicity is not noticed by the elves. Nevertheless, they won't return to the elven market for some time.
- Note: Gilfronden will be the first significant infiltrator in Alfheim after the great purge. The Coruns are not aware of him, this is a totally separate operation.
723 King Santhral III dies, and the reign of the Kings of Darokin comes to an end. Corun House takes over in Corunglain and kicks the Attlesons out.
770-780 The new Umbarth House takes over most of the Alfheim market, as members of the house form very close relations, even mating with the forest elves. Due the presence of the forest elves, the Shadowelves can't get their operatives into Umbarth House.
800 Orcwars: The rampaging orcish hordes hit the area of Darokin hard and weaken the old nobility even more. Corun family escapes serious harm, as their allies under the Broken lands send them surveillance information of orc movements. During the Orcwars, Darokinians and Alfheimers cooperate on a much larger scale than before. The Shadowelves are anxious of this development.
- After the fall of the reign of Kings, the power-hungry Corun House engages in intrigue all over the country. They cause conflict and strife all over the land. The operatives of Xatapechtli's Second Shadow are behind this development: they get rid of the Coruns that might be too "docile" for their interests, and feed the ambitions of their favourites. The operation is at the core of the new Shadowelf policy: infiltrating human lands and weakening Alfheim's close friends. A unified Darokin would be against the interests of the Shadowelves, as they don't want Alfheim to regain the alliance with a strong neighbour.
846 Ardelphia falls, but Corun House had no significant assets left there. In fact, they manage to gain financially from this disaster.
912-922 Merchants' War: Corunglain allies with Malpheggi against Darokin and Amsorak.
927 The Great Merger: Corun House opposes the merger, but in vain.
They are angry with the Maunteas, who manage to take over the newborn country. Very soon Coruns try to weaken the union by instigating Linton House to threaten with secession.
932 Night of the Red Knives: Chancellor Lydia Mauntea takes over in a bloody coup and manages to stabilise Darokin. Most of the old Corun nobility are killed. Shadowelf operatives in the recently formed DDC and Merchants' Guild rush to salvage their greatest asset in the country, but it is too late. Maunteas, in a devious political move, raise their friends Kalimis to head the Corun House.
- Now a new conspiracy is formed within Corun House. Workers and traders of the house, who had been working with the Shadowelves for centuries, oppose the new Kalimi rule and form a cabal with the Shadowelves. The most important of the conspirators are members of the Corun family, but so distant that they have no legitimate claim to power. (Old nobility systems still work within the Houses that have roots in Old Darokin.) However, they keep alive the stories of the past 400+ years: of the same pale-faced elves coming to meet them, perhaps only a few times in a lifetime, but always bringing sagacious advise and powerful gifts. Some of them are familiar with particular agents of the Second Shadow who may have visited the Coruns for the past 300 years!
[GM Note: this in an important dramatic flavour that can be gained from long-lived demi-humans, and I think it hasn't been utilised very much in Mystara. The vivid sense of history, long memory and other features make elves much more "alien" than their pointy ears suggest.
Human-elf-relations are formed between human families and elven individuals, and this is a much more interesting thing than the familiar individualistic Old Elf &Young Human in an Adventuring Group -approach that we have inherited from fantasy literature. If you know of any fantasy books that deal with this difference in life worlds, I'd be very interested.]
949 Vardon Kalimi becomes Chancellor.
971 Vardon Kalimi resigns.
The Conspiracy around 1000 AC:
- During the last few decades the conspirators have silently steered Corun House businesses, so that they would fit better the recent policy of the Shadowelves. Mostly they have been active in the trade of Shadowelf goods (like spider silk) and smuggled Alfheimer goods. So, even though they are not aware of Gilfronden's cabal in Alfheim, they may for example smuggle elven longswords through go-between agents. (Alfheim Gaz suggests that this is one important factor in Gilfronden's plan.) At the same time they have aided Shadowelf operatives in Glantri and Ethengar.
- Now the Conspiracy has three main goals: 1) The cabal in the Corun House wishes to oust the Kalimis and take over.
They don't support Mithras Lorenson, but see him as a useful distraction.
Right now they are looking for a good alternative. One possibility is to manufacture one. Forging family records etc. is an old trick. After all, the Kalimis were a surprise move!
2) They have managed to get Corun House attempt a return to the Alfheim market that is now dominated by the Umbarth House. The Shadowelves have been insistent on this, as they are in grave need of an ally that will help them utilise their Chossum Clan resources to the fullest. Until now the infiltrators in Alfheim have had great difficulties in getting the infiltrators in and the stolen goods out. They have still difficulties in infiltrating Umbarth. With Corun presence in Alfheim City they could speed up their operation.
3) In general, they want Corun House to expand their operations in new countries, so they can find buyers for their contraband goods and get an easy access to important information.