Throughout all of Leng's ancient history a bright star, called the Evenstar, shone in the north. The brightest star in the night sky, this glimmering star was revered by the elves as a symbol placed in the heavens by Selune, the elven goddess of the moon and stars. An old prophecy from a priestess of Selune named Elyria states that the Evenstar was a beacon placed in the sky of Morus to guide the wayward ships of the first elves through the mists from which they first came. When the Evenstar falls, the prophecy says, the time will have come for the elves to depart Morus and sail in search of a new home.
The Age of Empires ended at 0 AE - whether this stands for "After the Evenstar Fell" or "After the Death of King Eolus" is a matter of whom you ask. It is said that the two events occurred on the same day; Vintish historians consider the death of their first king the most important event in the kingdom's history, so it is no surprise that they use it as a touchstone for their calendar. Elven calendars use a different system entirely, but they recognise the fall of the Evenstar as a great and momentous event. Whether elven or human, all recognise that 0 AE heralded the beginning of a new age in the history of Leng.
- The Reign of King Astor of Vingaard
- The Reign of King Wilhelm of Vingaard
- The Reign of Queen Elayne of Vingaard
- The Lurkmoor Troubles
The Reign of King Astor of Vingaard0 AE
Only 20 years after the death and apotheosis of St. Cuthbert himself, the first king of unified Vingaard died in the fortified town of Solamnus, in an assassination orchestrated by unknown parties. The Disciples of St. Cuthbert lead a funeral procession to Ahti's Lake, west of Lionsgate: the birthplace of St. Cuthbert. In later years, this lake would be known as Lake Cuthbert in honour of the saint. King Eolus was interred in a sacred crypt on the shores of this lake.
At the funeral of King Eolus, a decision was unanimously reached amongst the Disciples of St. Cuthbert. With their leader gone, many of them pledged to serve the Crown of Vingaard and the Army of Candles, swearing their lives in service to the people of Vingaard. This group was graciously received by Astor, Eolus' younger brother and the second King of Vingaard; they were the precursors to the Knights of Vingaard.
A small number of Disciples, those who were closest to St. Cuthbert in life, elected instead to stand vigil with King Eolus on the shores of Lake Cuthbert. They dedicated themselves to contemplation of Belzor and St. Cuthbert's will, so that they may best direct Vingaard along the right path. This group would become the Order of St. Cuthbert, or as they are colloquially known: the paladins.
A week after Eolus' death, King Astor of Vingaard was crowned.
The War of Independence
If Eolus' brother had hoped for a peaceful reign, his hopes were to be thwarted. With the Disciples of St. Cuthbert at his back, King Astor spent the first few years of his rule trying to stop the new-made kingdom from immediately disintegrating in what was known as the War of Independence. This was a war marked more by shrewd negotiation than drawn swords - although plenty of blood was shed - and it was during this period many of the historic provinces of the Kingdom of Vingaard were first drawn up.
The thing could not evade bloodshed completely, and it was during these first few years that King Astor learned the value of the power structure that his older brother had left for him to take up. The Disciples of St. Cuthbert on one side and the Order of St. Cuthbert on the other commanded the battlefield and the hearts of the people, and he would be a fool not to make use of them. It was King Astor who raised the High Clerist of Belzor to the newly-formed Council of Chancellors, and it was King Astor who formalised the Disciples of St. Cuthbert into the three orders of the Knights of Vingaard. Without the advice of High Clerist Tyrus and Lord Commander Horin - who would become Astor's closest friends - he surely would not have won back the most rebellious of Vingaard's provinces.
Even early on, Astor was known as the "Diplomat King" - so it is a shame that he would come to preside over so many wars. Nonetheless, his shrewdness in times of war ensured that Vingaard remained whole, and the War of Independence was ended by 3 AE. After the end of the War of Independence and the re-unification of Vingaard, Astor ruled for a peaceful seven years. It was this period of peace, more than anything else, which prepared the kingdom for the terrible war that was to come. Those seven years were amongst the most prosperous any in Vingaard could remember since before the fighting had begun. The rains came freely, encouraged by the Druids in exchange for a promise of the sanctity of Lurkmoor and Murthrid's borders, and the harvests were rich and bountiful. New mines of iron and silver were delved, and the University of Solamnus was founded as a storehouse for knowledge. It was a time of peace and prosperity.
He was helped, as well, by Matriarch Honoria - a key figure in the newly-formed Temple of Ravi. Although Tereses Thamian was Keeper of Dawn, and had been since Ravi first appeared on Morus, it was the Matriarch who was most well known. While Tereses was driving the newly-formed Sacrament of Vigilance across Vingaard in search of pockets of undead left behind by the priests of Seidar and Cyric, it was Honoria who was moving amongst the sick and needy of Leng, healing and offering freely of herself. Her legend grew as did her power - she went from a beloved wandering priest to a living legend, calling down the power of Ravi to cleanse whole villages of disease and restore the most direly wounded to the fullness of health. Some were worried when she publicly berated King Astor for his neglect of the Solamnus Sprawl, which was growing like wildfire - but he embraced her, and gave her a seat on the Council of Chancellors. She would become one of his most trusted advisors, and it was she who foretold of a great evil coming to Vingaard.
The War of the Black Rose
There are many reasons given for the War of the Black Rose. Some blame factions amongst the elves, claiming they used one of the fabled Dragon Orbs to incite the dragons against Vingaard. Some more erudite scholars claim that, after the Second Dragon War that took place in the Age of Spears, the chromatic dragons of Leng hoped to rebuild their power. They posit that, in an attempt to overcome their kind's tendency for solitude and pugnaciousness, they banded together one last time, hoping that destroying Vingaard would cut Murthrid off and leave them friendless. Whatever the reasons, it was Matriarch Honoria's powers of prophecy that allowed King Astor to prepare for the coming war.
The King sent his most trusted advisors across Leng - his eldest son, Aemon, he sent into the city-states of Lorknir, to hire as many mercenaries as the treasury would allow. He would die there, assassinated by the League of Names. Honoria was the only one he trusted enough to go to the dwarves of Nirkivish and convince them to build a magnificent weapon against dragonkind. And Ser Horin, his oldest friend, he sent into the forests of Murthrid to seek the counsel of the Towers of Wisdom. It was here that Horin met the golden dragon Curunir, who would become known as the Earthstriker.
So it came to pass that when chromatic dragons arose from the desolate northern reaches of Tamora in 10 BE, the people of Vingaard were not caught off guard. The Knights of Vingaard fought, for the first and only time, from dragonback. They wielded the legendary Dragonlances in their hands; the price the King Astor promised the dwarves in exchange is a mystery and a secret, even to this day. The war was long and bloody, but it was won. The tales of the battles fought and the sacrifices made in those days are many, but none are more well-known than "Ser Horin's Fall" and "The Lay of Ser Beldorn and the Seventy" - the latter of which gave his name to the Great Beldorn Palace in Solamnus.
Long before the war was over, a half-elf known as Caemonn the Stormcaller became a close friend of the king. His immense magical power and acerbic personality made him unpopular with the people of Vingaard, and he was disliked by even the other Dragonslayers. But for some reason, King Astor defended him closely - perhaps merely because his magics were as effective at bringing down dragons as any Dragonlance. After the War of the Black Rose was ended and the last dragon was slain, Astor recognised the need to give legitimacy to magic-users once and for all. In a move that came very close to causing another war - this time with Lorknir and even distant Arelon - he became the first ruler on Leng to officially legalise and protect the casting of spells. He announced the creation of the Collegiate Arcana, the fifth building of the University of Solamnus, and formed the Iron Crown under Caemonn's leadership to create an elite force of "special" servants of the Crown, particularly mages.
The Apotheosis of Matriarch Honoria
Although Matriarch Honoria had a fundamental role in the War of the Black Rose, she did not make it through to the end. Twice during the course of the war, the aging Tereses Thamian attempted to bestow the title of Keeper of Dawn upon her, and twice she refused. When, exhausted by his long tenure, he asked why she would not accept the honor, she simply said "Ravi may embrace you soon, Keeper Thamian, but I fear I am bound to leave Morus sooner still".
This was not her only eccentricity. The priestess-turned-folk-hero almost singlehandedly saved Vingaard with the prophecies sent to her by Ravi, but as the War of the Black Rose progressed she took a less and less active hand in things. She became sorrowful and turned inward, saying that she had seen too much bloodshed. Knowing her compassionate nature, the king relented and bade her to do as she would, and she was often seen wandering Vingaard in the later, easier days of the war. Some began to believe that she had lost her wits, for she would go from place to place, seeking servants of the old gods and speaking often about regrets and forgiveness.
None are certain exactly what happened to her as she descended further and further into madness. All that is known is that one day in the summer of the year 15 AE, near the end of the war, she was sighted in the inner city of Solamnus. The reports that came in from the Royal Guard and bystanders are garbled and filled with exaggeration, so it is impossible to know exactly what happened next. One report, from the one man who was supposedly within earshot of her when it happened, claimed that she wept openly and raised her face to the sky, crying "I have done all you have asked and more! I have worked miracles, but I cannot turn back time!" Then, if the reports are to be believed, there was a thunderclap and a flash of light, and where she was standing was a great oak tree that grew apples made of gold.
The tree is no longer there, but the hill - now Saint's Hill, in Solamnus - is still a popular site of pilgrimage. Some claim that King Astor had it moved to a secret garden in the Great Beldorn Palace to serve as a memorial for Honoria - who is now known as St. Honoria of Ravi. Many scholars and priests have dedicated themselves to the study of "The Mysteries of St. Honoria", but none have managed to learn just what happened to her in those final days, or where she went.
The Death of King Astor of Vingaard
Known as "the Unifier", "the Diplomat", and "the Dragonslayer", the fame of King Astor rivalled and even surpassed that of his older brother - and if your predecessor's claim to fame is the formation of a kingdom, this is no mean feat. When he died in 30 AE, the sorrow of his passing was felt keenly by the entirety of Vingaard - but they rejoiced, too, in what he had left behind. If King Eolus had created the framework by which a kingdom could be forged, King Astor had taken up the hammer. Together, they had ensured that Vingaard was to be no fleeting dynasty or brief empire. Built on the stones of the Trinity and the Knights, Vingaard was here to stay.
Astor was succeeded by his second son and only living heir, Wilhelm. Though merely a boy of 17 years, the Crown Prince was mired in the ways of warfare for much of his childhood - some might even say he was obsessed with it. After all, his entire life up until the day of his coronation was filled with stories of the valor and glory of his father; he lived and breathed tactics and strategy. Some say that he did not live up to legacy of his benevolent father and uncle, being a king who fought for the power and supremacy of Vingaard rather than the welfare of its people. Even so, none can dispute that he earned his title: King Wilhelm the Conqueror.
The Reign of King Wilhelm of Vingaard30 AE
For the first three years of King Wilhelm's reign - until he had reached his 20th year - it seemed as though the line of Soleme had faltered. Surrounded by newly-made and power-hungry nobles and scheming courtiers, he became mired in court intrigue. At times it seemed almost as though he longed to rule in his father's day, in the Vingaard of the Black Rose. Then, very suddenly - to this day, some say Caemonn the Stormcaller and the Iron Crown had a hand in it - he changed.
To the west of Vingaard, Lorknir was crouched, silent and seemingly as old as time itself. Vingaard was prosperous now, and strong, but the city-states of Lorknir were hundreds of years old, and King Wilhelm knew that the only way to keep Vingaard safe was with a demonstration of power. Since a bold display of military acumen was exactly what he longed for with all his heart, he decided to simply bring one about all on his own. This was to be his magnum opus, the thing that would leave his indelible mark on history - and the young king did not disappoint.
He had already made his point by 36 AE, when the Knights of Vingaard rode through Warden and brought its rebellious people into proper, orderly Vintish rule. But this was not enough to earn him his title of "Conqueror". Having fought at the head of his knights, the warrior-king had not tired of battle, but he had learned to revel in it. Under his reign, the temples of Tempus sometimes seemed as important as those of Belzor, and he relied on the loyal and cunning advisors and friends assembled by his father to prevent Vingaard crumbling while he fought his wars.
The Halfman Wars
Although many in his court counselled against it, by 39 AE the king's mind was made up. The king was a mere 23 summers, but if he had nothing else, he had a tactician's mind. He knew weakness when he saw it, and he saw it in Nevermoor. The halfling kingdom was rich in natural wealth, but fragmented - with a weak and ineffectual center of power. The halflings in the rural provinces openly flaunted their ruler's laws, and all the while raids from the Vikings had stretched their militias to the limit. If anywhere was ripe for the conquering, it would be Nevermoor.
The Halfman Wars - briefly broken on multiple occasions by peaces that never seemed to last - would take up 8 long years of King Wilhelm's reign. Although it soon became clear that he had grossly underestimated the tactical cunning and sheer ferocity of the halflings, the king took this more as a challenge than a disappointment. Multiple historical accounts reflect the attitude of his generals and advisors of the time - that "King Wilhelm would be disappointed by surrender by the halflings". The more the king fought in Nevermoor, the more he came to understand their unique problems, as well as their advantages. It is said by some that he grew wiser as he grew older, though some would paint him as a Battleguard of Tempus.
Eventually, in the 44th year - the king had grown full into a man over the course of his war - a final peace was signed in the form of a Nevermoor Agreement. They were terms of defeat, that was clear - yet even so, Vingaard profited. The threat of encroachment by Lorknir was a thing of the past, and the two peoples had learned a wary respect for each other over the long years of battle. It had not been a dirty, vicious, blood feud but a civil, reasonable war - the deceit and treachery of the halflings taken with grudging respect by King Wilhelm and his generals.
The Nevermoor Agreement was mutually advantageous for both kingdoms. The halflings of Nevermoor, though they can be vicious, have little appetite for a sustained war - they like comfort and peace too much. And their forces, even in times of peace, were never quite enough to stop the Viking raiders from being a constant threat. And, so the halflings got what they wanted - independence and control over the lucrative trade that passes through their country. King Wilhelm got what he wanted - almost complete control over the coast, and a tidy parcel of land to award his vassals. With a fleet of Vintish ships being constructed in the halfling ports, King Wilhelm need never fear that his kingdom would be left defenseless by an invasion from one of the powerful kingdoms of western Leng.
The Death of King Wilhelm of Vingaard
Some like to joke that, with Warden re-unified and the Halfman Wars completed, poor King Wilhelm just had nothing to do - and so, he died. It was certainly the case that Wilhelm the Conqueror was never likely to be an old king. He died in 49 AE at the age of 36, after having ruled for just 19 years. Even so, his legacy left his imprint on Vintish history - and when someone is hot-headed and liable to fly off the handle and draw swords, it's said they have "wilhelm's hot blood". It's widely agreed that the Conqueror died as he would have wanted - on the field of battle, albeit a mock one. He was slain after a jousting lance pierced his brain after insisting his opponent, Ser Mauthrim of Mordred, fight him "as if he were any other knight".
King Wilhelm was succeeded by his only daughter, Elayne - another young regent. Only 14 years old at his death, she spent her early years in a Hospital of Enod, receiving proper tutelage while Vingaard was ruled by a regent. She would prove to be as different from her father as he was to his - such a devout servant of Enod that she would become known as Queen Elayne the Pious.
The Reign of Queen Elayne of Vingaard50 AE
The 20-year reign of Queen Elayne the Pious - the first Queen of Vingaard - is well-remembered amongst historians for being a change in the course of Vintish history. Though Ravi and Enod preach compassion and charity, the first 50 years of the kingdom's existence had been bloody and tumultuous. Constantly under threat and seemingly on the brink of collapse at any given moment, the first kings of Vingaard fought a constant battle to cement Vingaard's place in the world.
With the reign of Queen Elayne, however, there was no such strife. The time for defensive wars to hold Vingaard together was over, as was the time for offensive wars of conquest. The two decades of Elayne's rule are quite rightly known as the Queen's Peace - a time of prosperity, when the industry and lore of Vingaard was built up to the profit of all. The University of Solamnus grew substantially, its library swelling by the year, and the firmly established colonies of Warden and Nevermoor made Vingaard a nexus of trade with the city-states of Lorknir.
Founding of the Collegiate of Bards
Since King Astor's time, the Iron Crown had acted as a powerful force both politically and tactically, moving the wheels of Vingaard in the Crown's favor with a mixture of intrigue and sheer magical power. King Wilhelm had made the Knights of Vingaard from a group of idealistic nobles into the commanders of a highly disciplined military. And now, under the rule of Queen Elayne, the temples had become stronger than ever. There were, as ever, many political factions struggling and vying for power within Vingaard - but it was almost inevitable that groups would form with their own ideas about "what is best for Vingaard". Although the Collegiate has always been secretive about their motives, it can only be assumed this is why the Collegiate of Bards formally announced itself in 55 AE.
Of course, the followers of the legendary Bard Blackhammer had long since spun their plots in the western kingdoms. It is only in Vingaard that they felt the need to integrate themselves so ostentatiously into society, building "colleges" ostensibly for the preservation of lore and history. Despite their motto - "do not change, only observe" - their subtle machinations can be felt to some extent in every major event that came after.
The Lurkmoor TroublesOr, the Tale of the Truthseekers
By 195 AE, tensions between Vingaard and Lurkmoor had been rising for years. War between men and elves, thought to be a spectre left in the legends of times long forgotten, seemed once again to be likely. By the year 195, Those regions of Lurkmoor forest which lie within Vingaard, which had ever lay untouched, were now the object of loggers and woodsmen. Queen Madeleine had ordered a new fleet to be made to protect against a new influx of Viking raiders following a time of famine in Nordmaar. Though they were ordered to respect the old agreements, the skyrocketing price of lumber proved too tempting for many. It may be elven forest, thought the nobles, but it is within Vingaard's borders and it is ours - why should we not use it?
Perhaps having grown complacent of the elves and their patient ways, the Queen did not foresee the trouble this would cause; she did not act. As the woodsmen delved deeper into the depths of the elf forest, deaths began. Some were killed by weapons, others by the forces of nature. Many in Vingaard blamed the elves, saw this is as retribution for the deforestation even though these reaches of the forest lie within Vintish territory. Who values a life at less than a tree? The Queen of Lurkmoor was apologetic, but could give no assurance for the safety of the loggers; the forest of Lurkmoor is great and deadly, and the elves have no power over the beasts that dwell there.
Some believed the elves - some did not. Tensions continued to grow, and were at their worst when a clutch of 8 wyverns slew an entire logging camp who had gone further than any before into the reaches of Lurkmoor to request permission from the elves to harvest lumber. Although Lurkmoor denied involvement, few believed them. The events that would follow the Lurkmoor Troubles brought Vingaard to the brink of war, and resulted in something far worse.
As the tensions between Vingaard and Lurkmoor reached unprecedented heights, only the level-headedness of their rulers kept them at bay. The people of Vingaard, particularly those in the duchy of Tarovus, were outraged at their Queen's inaction; the peasantry became outright rebellious, vindictively logging excessive quantities and leaving the lumber to rot. The elves were patient and stoic as ever, but even so there was rumor that Feldane Sindarion, Crown Prince of the elven throne, had sworn to kill any human who shed a drop of elven blood. Elven oaths are not easily broken.
While the two Queens desperately attempted to calm their people and achieve peace - hampered by espionage within the Vintish Court by agents of Cyric - a calamity was done in the year 199 AE. Together, a group of 60 young and foolhardy Knights of the Sword met in secret, against the orders of their queen. Led by a Deceiver of Cyric in disguise, their contingent rode into Lurkmoor numbering some 300 men. There, they descended upon an elvish town under the protection of the Druids. The elves fought well, but it was a slaughter; the response of the elves was outrage tempered only by wisdom and respect for the throne of Lurkmoor. The knights were called to Solamnus to stand trial for their crimes.
They refused, sending a messenger to the city in their stead. They would not serve a Queen who would pander to those who would commit evils and slay men for the sake of trees and low beasts. They were named the Forsworn Knights, traitors of Queen and Country. It was proclaimed by the throne that to house or protect them was to defy the will of Vingaard. This proclamation was accepted by Queen Alaunda Sindarion of the elves, but not by her subjects. Feldane Sindarion, her son and heir, did what has not been done in centuries, millennia even. He called for blood, standing against his mother the Queen.
Feldane was old, powerful, a veteran of the Underdark. Many flocked to his cause - the elves have ever been slow to anger, but when roused their wrath is a fury of burning passion. The Queen of Lurkmoor was filled with grief, but would not hold her subjects against their will. In this, humans and elves differ. She told her son to fight his war, but in doing so he and any who followed him would forsake Lurkmoor and go into exile.
Despite the consequences, Prince Feldane took his host and was thenceforth known as Erezar, the King under the Stars; 100 elves marched with him, old and powerful - his personal guard, his brothers-in-arms in the Underdark, young elves filled with rage and Shadow Druids with their own motivations. They marched under his banner, swearing an oath that was carried across the land of Vingaard:
We will be as a bloody wind, elusive as the mist and pervasive as the eyes of the trees. Nowhere shall be safe from us, none shall escape us. Under the eye of the blood moon and in sight of Shevarash, the oath is made. No matter where they run, the Forsworn Knights shall not escape our blades: justice shall be swift and merciless. Beware, Oathbreakers. Beware to all who would shelter, aid or abet them, for your fate shall be like to theirs. All who oppose us shall perish.
And so began the Conflict of the Erezine.
In the year 200 AE - in the midst of the Lurkmoor Troubles - an unlikely and unknown group of adventurers appeared. Although the composition of the group that would come to be known as the Truthseekers would change greatly over the coming years, they were destined for greatness. They began in the town of Dreptan, the seat of House Percival in Vingaard. The original group consisted of Lady Annabelle Percival and a group of mercenaries assembled to keep her safe:
- Patrick, a travelling bard
- Davonil, a wandering elf from the forests of Lurkmoor
- Ser Ulrich Mordred, a Forsworn knight in disguise as a mercenary named Gunther
For a time, this group concerned themselves only with petty adventuring. They first made their names known when Lady Annabelle, desiring to become a knight, was offered a chance to prove herself by a knight of the Tyrean Order named Ser Andal Brunus. The party assisted Ser Brunus in storming a Fraternity of Nirrin warehouse; for this, and various other good deeds in the Lionsgate area, Annabelle was summoned to Solamnus to be knighted as a Dame of the Order of the Sword. It was here that the party encountered Felicity, a young archer of common birth who dreamed of knighthood herself. Dame Annabelle took her on as a squire.
In the days to come, the star of the group seemed destined to rise. Dame Anabelle led the group to the slopes of Mount Tyrus, the site of St. Cuthbert's apotheosis, and decided that they would champion the cause of righteousness in Vingaard. The priests there directed them into Lionsgate to seek out a priest of Cyric disguised as a man of importance, plotting to kill the Queen. They discovered that a highly-placed knight, Ser Goring of Hospitalier, was the very same man who had led the Forsworn Knights into Lurkmoor. For their role in rooting this man out, the party caught the attention of the Queen and were awarded the prestigious Mark of Vingaard.
This goodwill from the royal family later enabled Annabelle to attain the rank of Commander, leading a force from Lionsgate to destroy a monstrous mimic in a confrontation that was bloody but ultimately successful. Killing the so-called "Manse of Murder" brought the group even more renown, but it was not without cost: Patrick was killed the first time the group tangled with the beast. He was replaced by Thelen Fulmore, a young and ambitious apprentice from the College of Learned Magi, in Lionsgate. Thelen's arcane skills and alchemical creations would serve the group well in the days to come.
For the party's role in the defeat of Hospitalier, as well as their later crusades against the murderous cult known as the Chosen of Vashidin, the party gained a reputation for rooting out evil and bringing it to the light. They began to be known as "The Truthseekers". The composition of the group would change greatly in the years to come: Ser Ulrich Mordred was slain fighting the Chosen, and the party was joined by Kazur, a priest of Ravi. Others came and went, too. Even though only Annabelle, Felicity and Davonil remain of the original Truthseekers, their names have become well-known in central Vingaard.
The Purge of Solamnus
In the winter of 201 AE, Solamnus, capitol of Vingaard, was a city of great wealth and opulence, but one with a growing problem in the Sprawl: the colleges. The Sprawl has always been a problem for Solamnus - tightly contained by the enclosing walls, it is a densely-packed rat's nest that is impossible to police effectively. The people who live there have always relied on the colleges for justice long before the guards, an arrangement the colleges have always encouraged: a symbiotic partnership. As of 201 AE, there were four colleges: The College of Peers, the Aventi Family, the College of Mercenaries, and Red-Beard's College. Of these, the College of Peers and the Aventi Family were most powerful.
By 201 AE, the Truthseekers had amassed a considerable fortune, and the favour of Queen Madeleine. With her approval, they obtained permission to undertake a great operation to undermine and destroy the growingly brazen colleges of Solamnus, with the full cooperation of the city guard. To this end, they also hired the Company of the Crow, a mercenary group renowned for its experience and brutal effectiveness. With this firepower at their disposal, the Truthseekers assaulted the fortified manse of the Aventi, and this fighting progressed into the streets and sewers over a course of days. The fighting was bitter, and it resulted in the death of the Truthseekers' leader, Dame Anabelle of Percival. The Aventi were driven from Solamnus for good, and the Truthseekers profited greatly from their vaults, but it was a bittersweet victory. In Annabelle's absence, Felicity - now a knight in her own right - stepped forward to lead the Truthseekers.
The colleges of Solamnus reorganised after the purge, following a brief guild war for control of the Sprawl. In the aftermath, Redbeard's College vanished completely - whether destroyed or in hiding, it is not known. The College of Mercenaries withdrew to a very small corner of the Sprawl, foregoing almost all criminal activity besides a protection racket in their territory. For the most part, they have returned to traditional mercenary work. This allowed the College of Peers to claim almost all of the Aventi's former territory, making them the preeminent thieves' guild in Solamnus.
The Lionsgate Disaster
In the year 202 AE, the name of the Truthseekers was irreparably besmirched. They were already reeling from Annabelle's death, and the Lionsgate Disaster seemed a deathblow to the goodwill and reputation the Truthseekers had built up over the years.
Thelen Fulmore, the party's mage and alchemist, had long since proven himself a competent wizard - but a dangerously ambitious one. The catalyst came for Thelen's ambition to be turned to evil when his master and adopted father, Deckard Fulmore, decided to leave Vingaard. At this point, Thelen was much more than the meek apprentice that first joined the Truthseekers; he had grown into a formidable mage, ready to make his own way in the world. As a parting gift, his master made him an offer: finish up my last piece of unfinished business in Vingaard by killing my rival, Theleb Karna of Lionsgate. In exchange for swearing a geas to do this, Deckard offered Thelen his old spellbooks and research materials.
Thelen accepted. The result of his hubris and arrogance was catastrophic; in trying to disrupt Karna's rituals, he released an ice devil into the streets of Lionsgate. More than a hundred people died; streets were sealed off by walls of conjured ice, and the swords and spears of the Lionsgate Sentinels were as effective as spun sugar against its hide. It was not slain until the Collegiate of Bards brought a group of mages and druids against it, and by then the damage was done.
Realising the magnitude of his crime, Thelen attempted to escape the city - but Dame Felicity and the rest of the Truthseekers rode him down and captured him. He was tried for the crimes of Necromancy, Demonology and Treason and sentenced to the witch's execution. The Truthseekers were briefly exiled for their role in failing to stop him, but the misunderstanding was later cleared up and they were invited back into Vingaard by the Queen at the end of the year. Nonetheless, they were no longer heralded as the heroes they once were.
The Fall of High Tarus
By 203 AE, the Erezar and his elves had terrorised Vingaard for 4 years. True to their oath, they could not be found by the agents of Vingaard. Their camps would appear and vanish in the space of a day, leaving no trace behind but those they killed. After 6 months of trying to assuage the wounded pride of the Knights of Vingaard by sending more and more of the Iron Crown to hunt down the Erezar and capture him, the Queen gave up. It had become clear that the only way to stop the Erezar killing anyone who had so much as glanced at a Forsworn was to capture and execute them herself.
In the year 203 AE, something of a status quo seemed to have been reached. Of the original 300 Forsworn, about 150 were accounted for - more by elven hands than by the headsman's axe, but accounted for nonetheless. Those that remained, however, were furtive and sly. They had cunning, or resources, or both, and assumed new names and identities. These last Forsworn were doing everything they could to avoid capture, and the Erezar became more and more frustrated. Despite her proclamation, his mother the Queen of Lurkmoor even sent diplomats to find him, pleading to end the bloodshed, but he sent them back with no answer.
Tensions grew worse. The Queen hired mercenary companies to bolster the militia of High Tarus in the duchy of Tarovich, after suspected Erezar agents slew three disguised Forsworn in the street in broad daylight - along with 20 guards who tried to apprehend them. It was not enough. The Erezar, appearing in person, used old and powerful magic stolen from the treasury of Lurkmoor to send the entire city into a magically guarded sleep. He then blasted down the gates of the inner city with powerful magics, and the followers of the Erezar stormed High Tarus - where a large number of nobles from around Vingaard had attended a feast. The guards were slaughtered to a man, and the nobles were taken hostage.
The next morning, a message was proclaimed in the streets. High Tarus belongs to the King-Under-Stars, now. Any civilians may leave. Any who attempt to enter the inner city will die. For every 3 Forsworn that die, one hostage will be released. For every month that passes, one hostage will die. The Queen's reaction was swift and decisive. There was no time to muster an army, but while the bannermen were being called she sent the next best thing. Within 3 days, the Iron Crown had infiltrated High Tarus, along with some of the most skilled Knights of Vingaard, and there was open fighting in the streets.
However, during the pitched magical battle that ensued, the escalation of events came at last to its absurd climax: the magical combat awoke an ancient presence beneath the streets of the city. Those streets exploded outwards as a vast and terrible dragon emerged. Zargothrax was his name, and he was the oldest and greatest red dragon ever seen in the living history of Vingaard. The rumors, fragmented and full of terror, claimed that he was a mage, too, more powerful than the High Magus. The combined forces of the Iron Crown and the Erezar were not enough. He slaughtered them to a man, and seized High Tarus for himself.
Dragon, Drow and Giant
A great deal happened in a short period after Zargothrax claimed High Tarus, and a great many things had changed. Annabelle had been restored to life by divine magic, taking her place once again as leader of the group. The Truthseekers learned of the dragon's origins; that he had been buried millennia ago while fighting for control of a mystical artifact belonging to the First Gods. They learned of his ultimate goal; to retrieve this Starjewel from the Underdark and use the corpse of his ancient linnorm ancestors to shatter it and attain godhood himself.
Fragments of this same Starjewel were recovered by the Crown of Vingaard and used to construct the Eye of Light, a terrifying superweapon capable of focusing the sun's rays into deadly energy and directing them miles away. Mounted on the Spear of Justice - a newly-constructed flying ship - this was to be the Crown's ultimate weapon against the dragon. Its creation was fraught with difficulties, culminating in Malvolio himself - Vingaard's court wizard - turning against the Crown in an effort to destroy the weapon. The Truthseekers most loyal to the crown, Dames Annabelle and Felicity, prevented this from happening.
Annabelle and Felicity were content to protect the Eye of Light and assist with its construction, but others were more sympathetic to Malvolio's cause. They looked beyond Zargothrax to the impact this weapon would have on the nations of Leng, and sought another way of defeating Zargothrax. It was they who discovered the "Isle of Black Glass" in the distant north, where the stone body of the linnorm Corpse-Tearer had been reshaped into an altar to split the Starjewel. It was they who infiltrated the drow city of Kathan Gar and retrieved the Starjewel. They denied Zargothrax his prize by beating him to the punch; but they knew it would not be so easy. He would come for them, and he would destroy them. After all, they were close enough to High Tarus to smell the brimstone in the air.
Using the limited teleportation magic at their disposal, they brought themselves and the Starjewel back to the Isle of Black Glass - to a place far enough way that they would have time to think. Even this was not enough to protect them, however - in the south, Zargothrax was learning from his drow underlings of what had been done to him.
The Fall of Zargothrax
The remnants of the Truthseekers, isolated and fearful that Zargothrax would find them and recover the Starjewel, became increasingly desperate. Using Kazur's divine magic, most of the group left to find support amongst the kingdoms of Vingaard and Lurkmoor. Ada and the drow priestess Elaida were left behind to protect the Starjewel. Even within this group, opinions were divided - Davonil and Dinaric believed the Starjewel could be safely contained, while the rest of the group wanted to destroy the thing and be done with it. Ada and Kazur, specifically, wanted to shatter the Starjewel upon the altar themselves - even knowing such a release of power might slay them, they thought it worth the risk if it would deny godhood to Zargothrax.
Eventually, they returned with the full might of the elven armies behind them. A tense stand-off resulted; the elves had been brought to protect the Starjewel from Zargothrax, but the rest of the Truthseekers feared that the Starjewel would be taken from them by force. Ada stood above the very altar designed to shatter the Starjewel and used the threat of its destruction to keep the elves at bay. Davonil and Kazur did their best to negotiate between the two sides, but in the end it was not enough. Ada shattered the Starjewel and became suffused with its divine magic. Ascended from flesh, she became a creature of spirit in the sight of the men and elves assembled there that day. The repercussions of this act would ripple into the future, and went far beyond the immediate threat of Zargothrax and the anger of the elves at this treachery.
In the end, all the Truthseekers were able to put aside their differences for the final battle. Held as something less than guests and something more than captives by the elves, the Truthseekers called to Annabelle and Felicity for help. Bringing the Spear of Justice to bear above the elven forests no doubt permanently damaged relations between humans and elves, but Dinaric and Davonil soothed the Elfqueen's anger and avoided all-out war. On the proviso that they attempt to convince the humans to destroy the Eye of Light once Zargothrax was slain, the Truthseekers were allowed to board Menhedrul and reunite for the first time in months. Although it was a tense reunion, with much bad blood between members, all agreed that they should unite to defeat Zargothrax.
Finally the day came on the 7th of the 12th Moon, 203 AE; the armies of Vingaard were preparing for their final confrontation with the dragon. Soldiers massed on the ground prepared to fight drow and giants - the figures of horror stories and folk tales. They would reclaim High Tarus, but at a terrible cost. In the skies, the Spear of Justice was to test the Eye of Light upon Zargothrax himself; to cut the dragon out of the sky like a mayfly. As Zargothrax rose from the city and flew north for the Isle of Black Glass, they pursued him. He brought searing dragonfire and powerful magics against them, but the power of the Eye of Light overcame them all. Eventually, a broken Zargothrax fell into the mountains of Dagrenoth Ur. His schemes had been unravelled and his power outmatched by the machinations of Vingaard and of the Truthseekers.
Zargothrax was slain; but his mark on the world did not fade quickly. The Eye of Light; Ada's ascension to demigodhood; the Vingaard-Lurkmoor situation; all this and more had created bad blood between the Truthseekers. These wounds could not be easily healed, and were a reflection of the animosity rising in Leng. Between Vingaard and Lurkmoor there would be no friendship until the Eye of Light was destroyed. And Vingaard's neighbors, too, could only wonder how long the devastating power of the Eye of Light would be unleashed on humans rather than dragonkind. Even with the crisis ended, it seemed that war could descend upon Leng at any moment.