Note: This little story was originally drafted by the player who commands Portomaggiore, which is only fitting as it involves a conversation between his own Player Character, Lord Alessio Falconi, and his closest adviser (an NPC). It was then re-written by me to better fit the campaign’s ‘writing style’ (i.e. my writing style). Much was swapped around, but little was changed in terms of the substance of what the characters said. I did change a bullet hole in a map into a knife, but that was for the picture’s sake … after all, who would even have been able to see a minuscule, pin-prick bullet hole in a map actually measuring 1 cm by 1.5 cm?
There is only one picture, but I reckon sometimes just one picture is just right!
The story …
A TENT IN THE MIDDLE OF WAR
Somewhere in the realm of Trantio, at the end of Autumn 2403
Lord Alessio was glad he was alone. The flash of fury that had just driven him to thrust his knife into the table was not something he would wish his servants and officers to see. He had a reputation for calmness and self-control to maintain. Still, he thought, he need not beat himself up about his impetuousness, for the news he had received would drive even the most meditative of monks to distraction. If his weakness was nothing more than the mere momentary desire to stick a knife into a map, then it truly paled into insignificance when compared to the weakness of the man whose actions had instigated his anger – Duke Guidobaldo.
As the anger subsided, which it quickly did, he looked at the knife and chuckled. It had struck the map exactly where he intended, obliterating the inked name of Pavona in the process.
Movement at the entrance of the tent caught his eye, and he looked up to see Lord Black leaning into the tent.
“My Lord,” said his visitor. “May I?”
Alessio gestured to his friend to enter. As Lord Black strode in he looked immediately at the knife.
“I see you’ve heard the news,” he said, apparently understanding immediately what had just happened. “It never rains but it pours, eh? First the Sartosans sap us of the Luccinans, and now the soldiers of the VMC have become distracted by a sudden need to make war against the Pavonans.”
“We are attempting to fight a war to save all of Tilea, Ned,” said Alessio, “against the enemy of life itself. And what does every other Tilean ruler do to help?”
“They set about attacking each other?”
“Of course! What else?”
Ned leaned upon his scabbarded sword and looked at the map. “Well, at least they’re all willing to fight,” he said.
Alessio gave a pained chuckle.
“So, what do we do?” asked Ned.
Alessio pondered a moment, then spoke, “As I see it, we have three options. We could march to Pavona in an attempt to convince the VMC not to sack the city, then deal with the duke.”
“So, you don’t believe his claim that the VMC murdered Lord Lucca?”
Alessio just rolled his eyes, then continued, “Or we could leave them both to their misery and return home. Whichever squabbling fools survive will have to face the duchess themselves.”
“Aye, and if they then lose for want of sufficient strength, we will end up fighting their walking corpses when the duchess makes them her own.”
“Which leads me to the third option,” said Alessio. “We can press on with the forces we have at our disposal regardless, to try our luck against the duchess despite our lack of allies.”
“Several have tried that before without much success. Do you think the army she commands is as strong as that we defeated in Norochia?”
“If she wiped out an entire horde of fanatical Morrites at Ebino, then she’s not lacking in strength. I had thought of sending word to the mountain dwarves and the Compagnia del Sole to request that they dispatch a force to join us, but I’ve a feeling they’re still too distracted by the recapture of Campogrotta and the need to deal with the ogres remaining in Ravola. And now that Verezzo has been so badly wounded we can hardly expect their payments to continue, which makes simply feeding our army more difficult. I like and respect his son, as you know, but Duke Guidobaldo picked a terrible time to pull one of his bloody tricks. One would hope the VMC had been here long enough to realise that revenge is a dish best served cold.”
“Can we not put the spending at home on hold a while?” asked Ned. “Do we need a new harbour right now? Cannot Hakim wait a little longer for his lighthouse to be completed? And in light of the threat, even the Ravernans might be willing to show patience over the pace of the works in their realm.”
“We could save gold at home, yes” agreed Alessio, “but if the Sartosans move north then that gold will be needed at home.”
“So, which is it going to be?” asked Ned.
Alessio prized the knife from the map and pushed the torn edges where Pavona used to be flat again.
“That’s the question,” said Alessio.