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World in Flames: The Trouble With Karameikos

by Bruce Heard

AC 1018, 1st Quarter: Before the end of the winter, Darokin reconquers all of its lost territories. Large amounts of gold are invested into the devastated cities for their repair and reconstruction. New defences at Corunglain are planned. All troops that fought against the goblins head home.

In Karameikos, new trouble is flaring. While attempting to resolve the succession issue and his abdication, King Stefan names his daughter, Adriana, as the ruling Queen of Karameikos. This decision is popular with the native Traladarans. Queen Olivia, Stefan's wife, then stuns everyone when she reveals Adriana and her brother, Justin, are both illegitimate. She and the King's brother, the chancellor, announce that Adriana and Justin are indeed their children -- not Stefan's. Therefore, the youngest son, Valen, must be the only legitimate heir. Valen has the support of native Thyatians in Karameikos. News of the scandal spread through Karameikos like wildfire.

Stefan, at first in utter shock, then believes Olivia is merely trying to push forth her favourite son, Valen, and that she "invented" the story about Adriana and Justin. He declares both Olivia and the chancellor traitors to the crown, and claims it are Valen who is the chancellor's son. Olivia takes to a convent and the chancellor is thrown into the dungeons. Clashes quickly follow in the streets while ethnic Traladarans and Thyatians take sides.

A hard winter strikes the north of the Known World. Remnants from Ugrah's old hordes settle outside Wendar to weather the cold while the bickering goes on. Wendar's army reclaims all lost territories. The crusade against Denagoth halts, as troops dig in to wait out the raging winter. More Glantrian volunteers manage to get through the Wendarian Range's treacherous passes and bring news of the Alphatian-controlled invasion from Boldavia. The Glantrian princes reconvene at the Wizard King's palace. All are present except Malachie du Marais and Dolores Hillsbury who have presumably returned to Glantri. Brannart McGregor and Morphail Gorevitch-Woszlany are in Wendar but have sent proxies to the meeting, as have Malachie and Dolores. Despite the objections of Brannart and Morphail's proxies, the princes decide to wait for the end of the winter before marching back to Glantri, get some rest, accommodate the volunteers, and prepare their troops. The Wizard King does not recognise the legitimacy of King Kol over Glantri and agrees to help the Glantrian princes with their endeavour to regain control over their nation.

Meanwhile in Glantri, the Alphatians continue their attack despite adverse weather conditions. They take Glenmoorloch and sack the town for supplies and equipment. Dolores orders her newly created army of pumpkin head warriors, dubbed the Black Jacks, northward to engage the Alphatian vanguard. Because of the cold, the Black Jacks slow down and fail to reach the enemy, stopping between Braastar and Kopstar. Terrified townspeople flee Braastar as the Black Jacks sweep through. Refugees flee toward Kopstar and Leenz, many dying in the cold winter. King Kol rushes the Glantrian City Militia and his humanoid warriors northward from the Broken Land border to re-establish order in the north. One night, Synn sneaks into his camp. She uses an enchanted item to trap his soul and control his body. The kobold who would be king does not have the means to resist Synn's powerful enchantment. He becomes her servant. Kol's armed forces come to a halt in Glantri City. In the west, werewolves have completely decimated the remnants of Ugrah's old horde. Prince Malachie declares his loyalty to the old regime and renounces Kol's suzerainty.

In Thyatis, the war between the empire and the Khan comes to a halt, awaiting the end of the winter. Moglai receives news from Rockhome - the dwarves will remain friendly with the Great Khan, but otherwise are returning to their lands. Ethengar forces continue to hold Ylaruam. Meanwhile in Ostland, allied naval forces maintain their blockade with great difficulty, the winter weather taking its toll among the ships and their crews. Fearing the worst, key leaders of Ostland run the blockade and disappear into the stormy sea, heading east. Warbirds are unable to intercept them. Ostlanders prepare for the imminent invasion.

AC 1018, 2nd Quarter: After an initial push forward, the joint Wendar-Heldannic crusade against Denagoth comes to a halt as the Champions of Light and Law reach the edge of the Elvenstar's range. They begin building fortifications. The Wizard King summons his councillors and the nations most knowledgeable wizards. They discuss possible solutions to save the mad city of Woodgate. Reports arrive that the land around the city has perished. No animals seem to live in the area and all vegetation has died within a radius of a mile from Woodgate's city walls, leaving barren, muddy earth. Glantri's Loyalists rumble out of the city of Wendar, heading toward Glantri. With the melting snow, Wendar's unpaved trails quickly turn into a sticky, muddy mess slowing down Glantri's freedom fighters.

Riots about royal succession become outright civil war in Karameikos. Queen Adriana seizes power, as her father retires to a monastery of Halav. Traladaran supporters seem to be getting the upper hand, gaining control of the capital city and the western half of the nation. Valen, the Queen-Mother, and the chancellor quickly leave Specularum (Mirros). Valen declares himself the King of Karameikos, rallies his supporters in Penhaligon, and levies an army there.

Dolores' Black Jacks clash with the Alphatian invasion force just outside of Braastar. The battle-hardened Alphatians and their Boldavian retainers buckle before the Black Jack's initial impetus, but eventually prevail on the battlefield. Dolores' forces retreat into deserted Braastar. Looters inside the city are caught and promptly crucified on the doors of the buildings where they were captured. Meanwhile in the capital, Kol announces his abdication in favour of "Queen Dolores I". The local population, numb from years of catastrophes and bizarre events, fails to react either way. Prince Malachie strenuously denounces Dolores' treachery and claims she harbours evil plans for the people of Glantri. He calls for a general revolt, but people hesitate, no longer being able to see through the tortuous maze of politics and monstrousness. Whom should they support - a notorious werewolf, the creator of the terrifying Black Jacks, or the master of kobolds and goblins? Yet, the Alphatians are coming!

In Thyatis, the war resumes swiftly. Moglai Khan hold's Biazzan against the Thyatian attack, while his troops storm Fort Nikos further North. Before summer, the fort lies in ruins and the Great Khan's army spills into Ylaruam. Before they leave Biazzan, the Ethengarians put the city to the torch and take Thyatian slaves along. Furious, the Emperor orders his armies to pursue the Great Khan into Ylaruam as well. In the north, Vestland, Thyatis, and the Heldannic Knights storm the isles of Ostland. The fight is brutal, but the Ostlanders are no match for their invaders. Shipton falls in the first few days of the invasion. Port Svenson, Zeaburg, and Ostmanhaven remain under siege. More troops disembark.

AC 1018, 3rd Quarter: Unable to devise a cure for Woodgate, Gylharen simply orders a wooden palisade and watchtowers erected around the mad city and its sun-baked dead-lands to keep people out. Fortifications continue in Denagoth as the two armies observe each other warily. King Valen, now with a substantial army, marches toward Kelvin. At once, Valen demands the city surrenders to the rightful king. Fearing bloodshed and needless hardship, the city's guilds pressure Kelvin into recognising Valen as their rightful lord. He enters Kelvin in triumph. A day later, however, news of Queen Adriana's army quickly reach Valen. Scouts report it is at least twice the size of his forces and is but a few miles away. A city merchant then approaches Valen, saying he bears an important message from a powerful ally.

The Alphatians attack the city of Braastar. The Glantri City's militia and Kol's humanoids join the sinister Black Jacks in their defence of the city. The Glantrian troops have difficulties fighting together. The humanoids are the first to hesitate. They resent Kol's abdication and suspect human magic. The Glantrian militia finds it increasingly unnerving having to fight alongside goblins, kobolds, and the Black Jacks. Furthermore, news of Morlay-Malinbois' defection to the old regime are not helping. The Black Jacks go on, fighting fearlessly as larger patches are grown and new reinforcements arrive. One morning, the alarm is sounded after the humanoids desert the city's defences en masse. Lawless bands of goblins and kobolds are later reported fleeing south and looting everything on their way. Fearing the ominous reinforcements among the Black Jacks, Glantrian militiamen break rank and retreat to the helpless capital to protect it from the marauding humanoids. The Alphatians choose this time to storm Braastar again and the Black Jacks retreat. The Alphatians move in just as they hear about Fort Nordling surrendering to the Glantrian princes' and their Wendarian allies.

In Ylaruam, the Great Khan's armies spread out around Kuznetz and Hedjazi which they control. Thyatis reorganises its forces outside Ctesiphon, whose Ylari garrison had surrendered upon the Emperor's arrival there. Ctesiphon's Ylari cavalry joins the Thyatian army. A vast series of clashes ensues, pitting the stout Thyatian infantry protected by their wild Jennite horsemen against the nimble Ethengarians. The Great Khan unleashes his Skyriders, disorganising the Thyatian rear, disrupting supply lines, and causing fighting units to break rank. To this, the emperor unveils his trump card - the newer, greater Retebius Air Corps. Fewer than the mighty Skyriders, the armoured Thyatian knights have the advantage of riding a breed of smaller, well-trained wyverns. They are slower and less agile than Ethengar's Skyriders, but infinitely more resilient in combat. Scouts report another large Thyatian army on the march in Ylaruam. It has already taken Cubia and Fabia, and is swinging westward in an attempt to encircle the Great Khan. Ethengar immediately withdraws toward the capital of Ylaruam. Thyatis pursues after leaving solid garrisons behind to control the Ylari towns.

Meanwhile up north, one after the other, the remaining three cities of Ostland fall before their besiegers. Vestland occupies Ostmanhaven, the Heldannic Knights Port Svenson, and the Thyatians Zeaburg and Shipton.

AC 1018, 4th Quarter: Queen Adriana's army attacks Kelvin. Valen holds the city for several weeks until the city's guilds decide to switch their allegiance to Adriana. It happens quietly and the gates swing open during the night. The threat is almost immediately discovered, allowing enough time for Valen and his army to make a sortie and flee eastward. There, they meet a Thyatian envoy. Following an earlier message sent to Valen, Thyatis had pledged gold, weapons, and supplies to support his cause. A Thyatian convoy is waiting for Valen in the forest. The help is welcome. The Thyatian envoy then adds that several thousands civilian volunteers in Machetos have made their desire known to help their ethnic brothers in Karameikos. They and Thyatian missionaries await Valen's call for help, should he need further assistance. Valen refuses.

Glantrian Loyalists and their Wendarian allies quickly sweep downward and retake Kopstar. Soon, they set up camp north of Braastar while the Black Jacks occupy the southern countryside. The next day, the Loyalists sound the attack. The Black Jacks do the same on the opposite side. Both forces spill into the city. . . to discover it is totally empty, save for the Alphatians' Boldavian retainers who immediately surrender to the Glantrian princes. The Alphatians remain conspicuously absent. Soon, the two armies face off, Black Jacks on one side and Glantrians on the other. Catcalls and jeers break the ominous silence. But the two armies slowly pull back and hold their two sides of war-torn Braastar. Boldavians report that the Alphatians pulled out the night before and circled around the Black Jacks. They are heading for Glantri City.

In Ylaruam, Thyatis launches an all-out assault upon the capital city. The embattled Ethengarians fight bravely, but without their dwarven allies, they must retreat. For the Great Khan the writing is on the wall. They sack the city, loot its holy places, put them to the torch, soil the water wells, and ride off toward Rockhome via Parsa and Uruk. The same fate awaits all the towns on their path. The Khan conducts a masterful retreat leaving nothing behind but scorched earth, with the Skyriders covering their every moves. The Retebius Air Corps pursues the Ethengarians as best they can, engaging the enemy wherever possible. Thyatis moves on, capturing all remaining cities save Surra-Man-Raa and Abbashan.

The Western Defence League meets in Darokin toward the end of the year. Present are the ambassadors from Darokin, the Shires, Ylaruam, and Aengmor. Two Karameikan ambassadors are present with their nervous guards, both claiming to be the legitimate representatives of their kingdom. They are both allowed to speak for their respective monarchs. Rockhome is absent, as everyone expected. The topic of the discussion is Thyatis' obvious bid for conquering Ylaruam. The Ylari ambassador demands the League counterattacks from Selenica in accordance with the treaty. Immediately, Adriana's ambassador shows her support for a concerted action against the empire who she claims is invading Karameikos as well while pretending to help the treacherous Valen. The other ambassador objects vehemently. The Shires also support some sort of action against the empire, more like a food embargo. Darokin, with their army in shambles and true to themselves, prefer some diplomatic solution rather than a war they feel they can't win. The Shadow Elves wholeheartedly support the Darokinian ambassador, loathing even the most remote thought of fighting in the wide open, sunny Ylaruam. Disagreements flare up and hands are inching closer to daggers and swords. Suddenly, the whole assembly grows quiet as a dignified military figure steps in. Emperor Eusebius walks up to the table, lays down his sword upon it, and quietly stares at everyone. In a stern voice, he says finally, "We need to talk."