A Recent History of Tilea, Part One
This written for the wise Lord Fazi Duccio by Master Lamberto Petruzzi of Astiano, the work being completed in Spring of the year IC2401
My Lord may I humbly present this useful summary concerning the great events over the last century in the realm of Tilea. I am grateful for the works of Uther von Gelburg for my account concerning the years up to the middle of the twenty fourth century.
A map of northern Tilea drawn in IC2341
In the earliest years of the twenty fourth century the infamous ‘Tilean Terror’ consumed much of northern Tilea. Vast hordes of ratto uomo swarmed from the Blighted Marshes to despoil and poison the land. Most respected scholars now agree that this verminous tide was born of the summoning of a vile chaos god, whose guiding power briefly united the usually quarrelsome clans. Udolpho was utterly ruined, its entire population massacred, and shortly afterwards Toscania became afflicted with a particularly virulent plague of boils and buboes. Desperately employing fire in an effort to cleanse the most diseased quarters, the Toscanians were unable to contain what they themselves had begun and the entire city subsequently burned to the ground. To this day Toscania remains a ruinous pile of blackened stones.
Ebino also suffered a grievous affliction, but commanded by the condottiere duke Bardollomao Colleoni, its people managed to thwart the besiegers’ attempts at infiltration. Nevertheless, every Ebinan village was razed, all its castles and manor houses, and the petty realm was left in a sad and sorry state, so that even today it is barely recovered. The great city of Miragliano, however, survived the turmoil. Its people, living upon the edge of the great swamp, had developed immunities to the fevers arising from the foetid waters, and its substantial garrison remained strong enough to hold the city’s mighty walls against all assaults. Most crucially it was well supplied from the sea, and just as importantly could not be undermined on account of its vast moat.
The beginning of the end of the Terror came in 2309 when a great battle took place before the city of Ravola. The Ravolans, aided by Lord Francis d’Este’s army of Brettonians, scattered a massive swarm of rat men, after which the enemy’s attacks stuttered out. The swarm never reached further southwards than the villages and farms around Viadaza and Scoccio, where there they were finally defeated in a series of engagements fighting mercenaries and militia in the employ of the Trantian Lord Jolenzo de Medizi.
In 2322, encouraged by both Remas and Pavona, and led by able militia captains, the populace of Urbimo rose up to shake off the yoke of Trantian rule. By this time the ‘War of the Tilean Sea’ had already begun, in which the resurgent ratto uomo committed uncountable acts of piracy, both petty and large, and fought several full-fleet battles. In 2332 the rat men besieged the city of Portomaggiore. Fearing they might be next to suffer, Luccinni and Raverno contracted to dispatch a large relief force, while an allied Sartosan fleet struck from the sea, and together these lifted the siege. Portomaggiore, keen to retain independence, subsequently endured years of hardship repaying the debts incurred.
In 2336, fifteen years after the death of the great Jolenzo de Medizi, and grown tired of what they claimed was the tyrannical rule of his son Piero de Medizi, the people of Trantio, in an action not dissimilar to the ‘Urbimo Uprising’, assaulted every one of the Medizi clan they could lay their hands on, hounding them out of their palatial residences, imprisoning some, murdering others. This became known as the ‘Liberation of Trantio’. Piero de Medizi and a band of loyal armed retainers fled the city with all the treasure they could carry and rode off into exile.
Pietro Soldoli, subsequently to become the Gonfaloniere of Trantio, is seen here encountering a band of Piero de Medizi’s looting brigante during the Liberation of Trantio in 2336.
Trantio then declared itself a Republic once again and began the struggle to regain what they lost during Piero’s rule, including a drawn-out conflict to regain the port of Urbimo. In 2337, the government and mob of Urbimo declared their Captain General Enrico Videlli to be a traitor – accusing him of plotting with Trantio to return their town to its rule. When they subsequently beheaded him they gained a new enemy, Enrico’s condottiere brother Videllozo Videlli.
In 2343 Frederigo Ordini, Arch-Lector of the Church of Morr and Reman Overlord declared a Holy War against the Skaven Menace. He assembled a massive army consisting of the traditional Reman legions, contingents sent by nearly every Tilean state great and small, and every mercenary company the wealthy church’s gold could buy, including the famous Compagnia del Sole.
Here Frederigo inspects a brigade of Pavonan soldiers assembled for the Holy War
A huge fleet, the like of which had not been amassed in the living memory of a dwarf, carried the army and towed hundreds of flat-bottomed barges (specially designed to negotiate the marshes) across the Tilean Sea to the mouth of the river Berselli. But the expedition into the Blighted Marshes proved to be a disaster, with nearly every soldier perishing over the next year, either through disease, starvation or injury. This failure rocked the Church of Morr as Tileans everywhere questioned how a supposedly divinely inspired war could fail. Riots broke out in Remas, and charges were brought against the Arch-Lector accusing him of agreeing a secret alliance with certain Skaven clans.
A Secret Meeting at the ruined Tempio Dimenticato in Remas in IC 3242
When it was learned that a newly emergent Skaven alliance had indeed wrested control of Skavenblight, gaining power as its rivals’ strength was sapped in the war against the doomed Morrite expedition, the suspicions grew into open accusations. No great trial was ever held, but Ordini’s reputation was ruined, and the Church of Morr, by far the most influential of all Tilean churches, suffered ignominy. The only exception to this newfound shame for the Church of Morr was the ‘Sagrannalian’ sect in the city of Trantio. There, the radical, reforming priest Father Sagrannalo had been preaching against corruption and decadence within the church for many years. As he now seemed to have been proved right all along, his influence grew mightily.
The Remans declared that never again would their Overlord be a churchman of any kind – that civil authority and military power should be kept separate from religious authority. The new overlord, Duke Giovanni Matuzzi, re-established order to the Reman state and ruled so successfully that he began a dynasty which has held power ever since. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of this rule is that the standing army of Remas became composed almost entirely of foreign mercenaries. Remans, Tileans even, were thought too liable to be swayed by the leaders of the Church of Morr. Although the standing army has both shrunk and grown in the intervening decades, occasionally necessitating the use of locally raised militia, its core ‘alien’ nature has been maintained, even growing more exotic. Currently the Reman army’s professional soldiers even include a large regiment of Cathayans.
Several years after the Holy War debacle, the new Arch-Lector of Morr made a proclamation, read by priests throughout Tilea, in which he declared that the disgrace belonged solely to Frederigo Ordini, who had succumbed to the temptations of worldly power, and that the church had now been fully purged of all such corruptions to become re-sanctified in the eyes of Morr. Today, even after all this time, the church may not quite as influential as it once was, yet it is without doubt the most powerful church throughout the realm, its traditional influence deeply rooted in the heart and soul of common Tileans, perhaps explaining why the current Arch Lector, Calictus II, feels able to criticize the princely rulers of Tilea for failing to march immediately against the Undead Lord of Miragliano.
In the middle years of the 24th century the city state of Pavona enjoyed a renaissance under the able guidance of Duchess Elisabetta. The actual ruler, Duke Alfonso de Montefeldo, was often incapacitated by illness, and thus relied upon his wife Elisabetta to fulfil various responsibilities. She was both refined and fashionable, and gathered a great entourage of artists and poets to make her court reputedly the most cultivated in Tilea. Throughout the city building work transformed the old fashioned, fortified towers into ornate and delicate palatial residences, relying on the city’s walls for defence.
Pavona contributed to several conflicts, sending a very large contingent of its young gentlemen and men at arms to serve in the Arch-Lector’s Holy War (see the illustration above) and providing several companies of condottieri and gifted engineers to serve in the Bastard’s War (see below). In 2358 a large force of wild men and goblinoids burst through the defences of the Stretto Pass, large enough to threaten Pavona’s doom, but the walls proved strong and the men at arms, militia and mercenaries led several sallies out at the enemy, each time preventing some scheme for assault, such as the construction of wooden siege towers, and the damning of the River Remo in an ambitious attempt to flood the city. Pavonan warriors from across the realm returned in force, and along with a goodly number of Astiano and Scozzese soldiers, arrived just in time to save the city, and chased the foul foe from the realm, cutting nigh upon every one of them down as they fled through the pass. As the bells sounded and the victory celebrations and feasting began, the Duchess finally died. It was said that she had waited to know whether her beloved city was safe before she finally yielded. Her daughter Salanna succeeded her and ruled jointly with her husband Luigi Gondi of Verezzo for many years. Much of their rule was a happy one, though a terrible plague visited the city in 2387 during which time not only did a good third of the populace suffer and die, overwhelming the capacity of the gravediggers as well as the priests of Morr to preside over their proper burial. So it was that the unburied (or improperly interned) dead were believed to walk the streets in the hours of darkness during two nightmarish months. Even now many folk consider the darkest hours of the Pavonan night to be a cursed time – not peaceful and quiet under a star filled sky, but eerily silent and inhabited by distorted shadows that seem to possess a wicked will of their own. No other city in Tilea lights as many lanterns and torches at night as Trantio. No other city is as quiet. Duchess Salana’s son, Duke Guidobaldo Gondi, now rules this city.
In the year 2352 King Ferronso Perrotto of Luccini died in somewhat suspicious circumstances leaving no obviously legitimate heir to rule his empire. His two bastard sons, Scoroncolo and Gismondo – the governors of Mintopua and Capelli respectively – went to war over the matter, and bloody conflict (‘The Bastards’ War’) engulfed the whole of the southern tip of Tilea. Sartosan Pirates, hired by the governor of Alcente to assist in the defence of the city, took possession of it instead. Pavezzano’s walls were battered down by siege engines, and at one point the population of Capelli fled desperately to seek shelter in the sylvan realm of Sussurio Wood.
Portomaggiore, heavily indebted both to Luccini and the Sartosan admiral Gran Strozzi, and barely clinging to independence, stopped paying the Luccinian portion of their debts as soon as it became clear that Luccini was unable to spare forces to argue the matter with them. Gran Strozzi, however, continued his stranglehold on Portomaggioren trade. Supported by soldiers and funds sent by exiled elders currently residing in Ridraffa and Remas, the Portomaggioran council of elders declared the Gran Strozzi debt also repaid the morning after every Sartosan ship in the city’s harbour had been simultaneously burned in a coordinated act of sabotage. A year later, Gran Strozzi himself died at sea, fighting against Gismondo of Luccini, and the question of the loan died with him.
The city of Luccini emerged from the Bastard’s War very much impoverished, with Scoroncolo the victor. His descendant still rules there, the boy King Ferronso III, but the days of its glory seem ever more distant as the years roll by. King Ferronso is nearing the age of majority, however, and is gradually taking more and more control from his council. Many believe him to be much like his great grandfather, the great Ferronso I. He has recently contracted the service of the infamous Arabyan mercenary company, Gedik Mamidous’ Sons of the Desert. This is presumed to be in response to the threat presented by Khurnag’s Waagh!
The Republic of Trantio finally accepted defeat in its long, drawn-out war to regain control of Urbimo in 2349, a decision helped by the fact that they were somewhat more concerned with countering the activities of a large force of greenskins who had spewed from the Border Princes along the Via Nano to roam the Trantine Hills raiding the outlying settlements of Trantio, Pavona and Astiano. This had long been a recurring problem, but this time the goblinoid strength was greater than ever before. The famous Trantian Gonfaloniere Soldoli died in one of the skirmishes, after which the ancient prophet of Morr, Father Sagrannalo, buoyed to even greater influence since the fall of the Arch-Lector Ordini, spurred the people of the city to form the strongest militia force ever made and scour the hills clean of every goblin and orc. In 2350, inspired by his successes and growing ever more manic with old age, Sagrannalo declared the ‘Holiest War’, intending to utilise his new army of Trantio to cleanse the other princely states of Tilea of corruption.
Father Sagrannalo declares his ‘Holiest War’ in Trantio in 2350
Although many of the militia subsequently deserted, thousands of fanatics followed him to attack and ‘cleanse’ towns and villages, until defeated by a condottiere mercenary force in battle outside Stiani. Trantio had to pay dearly to compensate for the damage done by Sagrannalo’s fanatics – by now several city states were allied against them, threatening to gain reparations through acts of war. Trantio declared its new policy was to stay out of other states’ affairs. But exiled ruler Piero Medizi, supported by his condottieri son Liovvani, took advantage of the bad feeling against Trantio stirred up by Sagrannalo’s ‘Holiest War’, and aided by loyalists within Trantio (the sinister ‘Bigi’) took possession of the city in a cunningly and brutally combined coup and assault. The entire Albinni family (traditional rivals of the Medizi) were slaughtered – man, woman and child – and many who were believed to have Sagrannalian tendencies were put to the sword. A new tyrannical rule began, first under Prince Piero, then his son Liovvani, and now Liovanni’s son, Girenzo Medizi. The first two ruled Trantio with an iron grip, and Prince Girenzo is no exception.
Once their war against Trantio came to a conclusion, the people of Urbimo looked forward to peace and prosperity, but it was not to be. The condottieri Videllozo Videlli, who had been unwilling to ally with the Republic of Trantio (an action which might be seen as admission that his executed brother had indeed been plotting with the Trantians), joined with Liovvani Medizi, son of the returned prince of Trantio. Thus began the second, long, war between Urbimo and Trantio (2352 – 2359). What little assistance Pavona and Remas were willing to provide, either publicly or secretly, allowed the Urbimans to hold on to their city for years. Only when Piero Medizi died and Liovvani returned to Trantio did events turn in their favour again. Videllozo was wounded by a crossbow quarrel, and took ship intended to sail to the great city of Miragliano where the famous doctor Jacopo practised his reputedly miraculous skills. An Urbiman ship gave chase, however, and both ships were lost at sea. Urbimo remains fiercely independent, its walls made stronger than ever.
A Recent History of Tilea, Part Two
A map of the entire Tilean Peninsula
In the year 2355 the wizard lord Niccolo Bentiglovio of Campogrotta had ruled for more twenty years, the third Bentiglovio in succession. His reign was widely known to be tyrannical, and his waged soldiers, his provisionate, consisted of a large regiment of Ogres, bolstered – however unnecessarily – by veteran mercenaries reportedly more cruel than any other in Tilea.
A company of brutes patrolling the night-time streets of Campogrotta in 2353
As a consequence, the wizard lord’s reputation darkened across the whole peninsula. In 2350, he had proclaimed the noble rulers of Ravola, being Bretonnian in origin, were foreign invaders – somewhat ironic considering that his own strength lay in a force that was not even human. This created a particular friction between him and his northern neighbours, resulting in a desultory war involving several skirmishes. Nevertheless, his city thrived as a healthy trade flowed along the Carraia del Ferro (the Iron Road) between this city and Dwarfen mines of Karak Borgo in the neighbouring Vaults.
Yet despite all this it was also believed that Lord Niccolo brought about an end of the friction that long existed between Campogrotta and the denizens of Tettoverde Forest (a reticent clan of sylvan elves). As it is no easy thing to remain on friendly terms at one and the same time with two such inimical races as the elves and the dwarfs, it was perhaps odd that he was so hated by his own people and other Tilean states.
In 2355 most of his ogres left upon some errand of their own, seemingly without Lord Niccolo’s leave to do so. They were not gone more than a month, but even so it was long enough for the people of the city to rise up in rebellion and burn down Lord Niccolo’s palace, believing him to be inside. Thus ended his first reign. Most of the populace then fled the city when the Ogres returned, heading westwards. It was commonly joked that the ogres had been back in the city a fortnight before they realised that their so-called lord and master was no longer alive. More surprisingly the Ogres did not destroy or even loot the city (possibly because much of its wealth had been removed by the refugees) but instead left once again, this time remaining absent for many years.
Three decades passed and the city re-established itself, even beginning to thrive. A republican council of the merchant classes ruled the city, and as well as Dwarven trade, Campogrottan goods were sent in quantity down the River Tarano to be traded in Viadaza and Remas and further afield. Then, in 2388, a strange, aged man arrived at the city gates declaring that he was the Wizard Lord Bentivoglio and had returned to take back what was his. The people laughed, for this fool had no army, no ogres, and they chased him away. The event became little more than a tavern tale, and the city continued to prosper. Twelve years later, in 2400, the old man returned – or at least a man claiming to be him returned – this time he did indeed have large force of ogres. Within two days the city was his. The fighting was brutal, the ogres cruel.
Brutality and cruelty now curse the city, for ‘Niccolo Returned’ (as he styled himself) took possession of a new palazzo and settled into obscurity, not unlike his secretive existence decades earlier, while the Ogre Tyrant Razger Boulderguts ruled in practise. Boulderguts sent envoys to Campogrotta’s Tilean neighbours, declaring his governorship in Lord Niccolo’s name, and even recommenced trade with the dwarfs of Karak Borgo. A courtly wit in Remas remarked that just as Lord Niccolo’s old army of ogres failed to notice that he was gone, the dwarfs have similarly yet to notice that Ogres have replaced the men of Tilea. Still, the wit added, both races are taller than dwarfs!
Now the people of Campogrotta live in fearful obedience, in ever harder circumstances as the ogres steadily consume their city’s wealth, and even, on occasion, the people themselves!
The ruler of Ravola, Prince Sigismondo d’Este, son of the Bretonnian Lord Francis d’Este, died in 2361. Most of the city state’s ruling elite were descendants the knights who came with Lord Francis in 2309 to fight the ratto uomo, who stubbornly clung to their ancestors’ traditions in peace and war. Prince Sigismondo left no male heir as his eldest son had died from a jousting wound, and his youngest had been lost questing in the Vaults to chase down the orcen warrior who had killed his squire. The Bretonnian king’s official ambassador, Sir Gorrin de Bordelaux, with permanent residence in the city and a seat upon Sigismondo’s privy council, declared that the new ruler should be the noble winner of a grand tourney and the knights of Ravola (who some say are more Bretonnian than the Bretonnians) clamoured to agree. A date was set, with enough time for even more landless knights to travel south through the Nuvolonc Pass from the homeland. Deliberate or now, Sir Gorrin’s tourney was to double the knightly strength in Ravola, for many stayed even after the joust, making little keeps for themselves and a handful of serfs each in the open land of Usola south of the city. The winner of the tourney, one Galleac the Red, duly became the new Prince of Ravola. When he in turn became mortally ill in 2388, having begotten only daughters, the Ravolan knights could barely contain their excitement. The precedent had been set, and once more a grand tourney was held to decide the new ruler. This time Giacomo Uberti of Olessi, a Tilean, who tricked his way into the lists, won. An argument erupted, leading to another touney somewhat bloodier than the first – a great tumult in which several many knights perished – Giacomo was finally accepted. He had been a knight to begin with, but his title was considered insufficient in comparison with true Bretonnian knighthood, so the Bretonnian king’s ambassador, Sir Baelan of Couronne, knighted Giacomo in the Bretonnian manner, and made him vow to rule in the Bretonnian way. This he has done and continues to do, despite the grumblings of some more traditional Ravolan knights.
Alcente emerged from the Bastards’ War with a new Grand Council containing a majority of Sartosan Pirates. Happily for the city state, it turned out that a good number of these Sartosan captains were tired of the constant struggle of a pirate’s life, and were happy to begin a privileged life of wealth and safety. Within years it was no longer the fashion to refer to any on the council as other than citizens and merchants, and the city prospered. In 2399, however, the city was threatened by the greenskin Waagh led by the orc warlord Khurnag which spilled into the Golfo di Pavezzo. At first the Waagh’s main strength attacked different targets, with Pavezzano putting up a brave but ultimately futile resistance lasting several months, and Monte Castello holding out much longer against a massive force of besiegers until the greenskins fell into disarray after a vicious disagreement led to murder and mayhem in their camp. Capelli and Alcente faced weaker greenskin sorties and small raiding parties, but they were both aware it was merely a taste of what was likely to come. It was too late to defeat the Waagh at sea, for it had already crossed the Black Gulf and was now receiving a steady stream of reinforcements from the Border Princes, either overland or crossing the narrow Bay of Wrecks. Alcente knew from historical experience that asking for aid from Sartosa would be inviting a different kind of trouble, and so too would asking Luccini to help. So it was that they turned to the powerful northern trading company of the VMC (Vereenigde Marienburg Compagnie), who already had many agents and warehouses in the city, to ask for help. Terms were agreed regarding future trade and a share in political power, and mercenaries were hired. Earlier this year the first of the VMC’s own northerner regiments arrived at Alcente, proof that the company had every intention on honouring their agreement reaping the future profits.
Early in the 24th century the condottiere Andrea Dornida, who was due to retire as captain-general of the Reman army, was granted governorship of his home city of Viadaza by his Reman masters. The consequence, as unexpected as it was sudden, was that he threw off the yoke of Reman rule and, supported by alliance with the Sforta of Miragliano, he made Viadaza his own. A small army of lawyers and priests gathered to prove his family’s ancient rights as Viadaza’s first family and the people proclaimed him their saviour from Reman domination. Soon, however, he began acting against the Sforta’s wishes too, making it obvious he wanted nothing more to do with their regime, and thus quickly fell out of favour with them. During the time of ‘The Terror’, when the Miraglianese Sforta were somewhat distracted, he established an aristocratic republic in Viadaza ruled in theory by twenty three noble clans (including the Cydo, Griseldi, Dornida, Filleschi, Pallavacano and Spidola), but in practice controlled by Dornida. He then went on to make the Viadazan navy a force to be reckoned with, and so successful was he in his endeavours that his fleet came out of the War of the Tilean Sea stronger than it had been before conflict began.
Under Andrea’s guidance the city grew rich through sea trade, including the chattel slavery business. Certainly the twenty three noble families became very wealthy. Men and women from across the globe, whether outcasts, convicts, or born slaves, also halflings and even half-orcs, were bought and sold in Viadaza’s bustling markets. Sea faring dark-elf slavers often traded in the city, and Viadazan slaving vessels usually included half-orcs and other greenskins amongst the crews, although who by law such sailors had to remain in certain city quarters if they disembarked. It was visitors and servants such as these that gave the city an ill reputation. Worst of all, it was also widely believed that ‘Father Andrea’ was a leading member of the feared and hated Assassin’s Guild – the slippery, secret, and deadly society supposedly spanning all Tilea. In IC2351 Andrea, unlike most of his enemies, died of old age, leaving two old sons to rule after him. Their chaotic rule lasted less than a year, as they killed each other – one used a blade, then died from the poison smeared upon the handle of the same blade. The chaos then spiralled as the city fragmented, every ward and quarter fighting against the rest. Ratto Uomo were witnessed openly in the streets, in the sunlight, and no day went by without bloodshed, turmoil and grief. At least seven different people claimed to rule the city, but in truth each only held a portion, and there was much left ruled by none of those seven.
One of the seven was a half-orc called Magledy the Sharp, who for the best part of a year controlled the docks and wharves, leading an army of sea dogs and cut-throats. He had been Andrea’s harbour master, governing the previously troublesome dock workers for half a dozen years with an iron grip. Magledy the Sharp proved a cunning leader, and in one night of carefully planned riots and well-timed assaults, removed five of his rivals. The sixth, a ferocious matron called Lady Beatrice (or ‘Bloody Betty’), successfully fled the city This led to Magledy’s tyrannical rule of the entire city. But tyranny seemed to suit Viadaza, and the city slowly but surely regained the wealth it had boasted at the height of Andrea’s rule, with ample trade of a dubious nature. Magledy proclaimed that the assertion he was half orc was a vile and libellous lie, and that in truth he was as human as the best of Tileans – a sea dog and proud of it. To prove this in 2354 he had every goblin and orc in the city killed, be they pit-slaves or galley-slaves. Only those serving on board ships were spared. Still to this day the Viadazans have the legal right to slay any goblinoid they find on the streets on sight, yet even so, hundreds stride the decks of the ships in the harbour every day. In the same year Magledy married the Lady Vanozza, daughter of wizard lord Niccolo Bentiglovio of Campogrotta, with whom he then had several children. His first son, Adolfo Appuntito, born in 2363, succeeded his father in 2383 and has been Lord of Viadaza ever since. In some ways the city has become a slightly less disturbing place during his rule, for the slave trading is now performed more secretly, away from the public gaze, and there aren’t quite so many fighting pits surrounded by shouting crowds. Fewer rotting corpses hang from spikes over the gates, and Dark Elves do not walk the streets leading chained chattel slaves by the hundred to their ships. But the galleys are still rowed by greenskins, and once again people say that Viadaza is the chief home of the Assassins’ Guild. Adolfo’s mother, the septuagenarian Lady Vanozza, still lives, though is rarely seen.
Miragliano eventually thrived after the Tilean Terror, although initially faltering for a while as an ill-governed Republic. In 2322 the condottiere general Ludo Sforta took possession of the city in one terrible night of violence and riot. Ruling at first with a heavy fist, his most loyal mercenary captains rewarded with the best titles and most profitable commands, he ensured the city-state was securely his, but later he encouraged art and natural philosophy to flourish. Many wonders created during this time, including machines apparently magical in nature. After Ludo’s death in 2343, his brother Lord Francesco Sforta became regent during the minority of Ludo’s son Duke Marsilio Sforta. Lord Francesco enjoyed a much wider array of sports and pleasures, indulging in luxuries of every imaginable kind, and many who had once busied themselves with more serene arts and careful fabrications were now caught up in a swirl of pomp and festival, spectacular jousts and cavalcades. Lord Francesco was jealous of his own power, very cruel to those who displeased him, and even when the young Duke came of age in 2348 and should have taken the reigns himself, Lord Francesco continued his rule, while the city’s magistrates and captains strove all the harder to prove their loyalty to him.
The young Duke Marsilio walking the walls of Miragliano in 2347 with his favourite companion, Gellafno the Halfling, who was in truth (like all his servants) a spy for Lord Francesco.
Lord Francesco’s nephew remained merely Duke by name, and then not even that, for young Marsilio finally lost his wits and became a gibbering fool. Surrounded by luxury and toys, but no-one he could trust, he lived a long life of insanity, and bore no heirs.
Lord Francesco was aided in his rule by his brother Lord Gianpaolo Sforta, governor of Udolpho. This once beautiful city had been rebuilt from the ruins left by the skaven siege of 2303. Udolpho’s walls were not just repaired but improved, and the palace made twice as grand as previously, yet much of the city’s populace continued to dwell in ramshackle huts atop the ruins and rubble, or down in amongst cellars and dungeons buried beneath. Lord Gianpaolo Sforta’s governorship of Udolpho began in 2341, and he became famous for his interest in alchemy, constructing a castle-laboratory of extraordinary proportions from which strangely hued smoke constantly belched forth, wreathing the bubbling moats about it in noisome miasmas.
In the ten years from 2363 to 2373 three successive wars were fought against the skaven. Each time the skaven would splash and scuttle forth from the marshes in great numbers, a wave of fur and fangs, slave warriors set on carving a swathe of destruction. Each time the army of Miragliano, bolstered by condottiere mercenaries, and cleverly commanded by Francesco and Gianpaolo, would find some weak point at which to strike – once it was the enemy commander, next the explosive destruction of a store of warpstone, then finally an attack at the foe’s rear during the brightest hour of the day. Each time panic would be caused, spreading like an infection through the ratto uomo rank and file. From there on in the war would become a matter of chasing and breaking the disarrayed rats in their thousands. Clan legions would make a stand here, or become bottled up there, resulting in bloody of engagements, but in the end they too would yield to fear and flight.
Upon Lord Francesco’s death in 2375, his own son, Allessandro, became regent in his place. And when Allessandro’s cousin Marsilio died in 2377, he inherited the title of Duke to go with his actual power. Duke Allesandro proved to have inherited some of his father’s and grandfather’s interest in the arts and natural philosophy, but his true fascination was in the application of such for war. Rumours abound concerning his activities and methods, including that he and his now ancient uncle Gianpaolo used captured ratto uomo to bring to life the diabolical machines captured from the foe during the Tilean Terror and the War of the Tilean Sea, and that they poisoned the already foul waters of the Blighted marshes in such a way that for several leagues no life at all, neither beast, fowl, fish nor flora, none of the foul creatures that used to call the brackish waters home, could survive. In 2384, after a plague that finally killed his uncle, and threatened to end Duke Allesandro’s life, the famous Miraglianese Doctor Jacopo was commanded to administer solely to the Duke and was kept prisoner for this purpose in the palace. The Duke made a full recovery the week after Doctor Jacopo took his own life. It was reported that the doctor had been slowly poisoning Alessandro until eventually the guilt of his deed drove him to suicide. The subsequent lack of poisoned potions allowed the Duke to recover.
Alessandro went back to his works and experiments. A new tower was constructed in the palace that rose nearly a hundred feet higher than any other tower in the city, and many other lesser buildings which were still more magnificent than everything in the surrounding streets. Another strange experiment spilled a potent magic into the swamps, until the vast mass of dead things lying with the foetid stink stirred themselves and began splashing westwards. Even the ratto uomo grew afraid of the Lord of Miragliano then, believing he had taken their own already tainted magics and horribly twisted them in new ways. Life for the people of Miragliano became strangely contradictory, for all were glad that such a deadly blow had been dealt against the skaven, a race previously known to swarm back in double the numbers whatever was done to them, but at the same time terrible darkness seemed to shroud the city as their ruler engaged in ever darker experiments and engaged ever more fearful servants. The fears would soon prove well founded!
The Duchess Maria Colleoni of Ebino (granddaughter of Duke Ludo Sforta of Miragliano), aided by her court of Miraglianese advisers, also grew concerned regarding events in Miragliano. It was the Duchess who first recognised what her cousin had actually become, and she acted quickly. Employing the famous regiment of ‘Ironside’ dwarfs, as well as several companies of experienced condottieri mercenaries, she had watchtowers made and defences dug to defend the roads and settlements of her realm, and summoned all the clerics and priests of Morr she could to assist in warding off the evil. It is said that even Ebino’s old enemy, the Arrabiatti Brotherhood, the ragged brigands who hold occasional court in the ruins of Toscania, have promised to lend their arms if it comes to battle. And so she and her people wait for the day when the vampire Duke turns his gaze eastward, praying morning, noon and night to Morr that he will deliver them in their hour of need.
Soon all Tilea learned that Duke Alessandro was a vampire, and that all who dwelt in his city lived in fear of the undead who now guarded their gates and patrolled their walls. With all the wars that had been fought within the boundaries of Miragliano, there was no shortage of the dead to revive. It is said now that the vampire Duke has an army of the dead that rivals any mortal army in the realm. And if it is commanded to war, then all it can do is grow – for every soldier who dies in battle against it will surely rise to swell its ranks.