The Age of Kings
Generations ago, tales spoke of a conflict known as the Bastard War, in which Queen Eleanor Bannon battled several half-siblings for almost a decade of bloody conflict. She proves the victor after defeating several rival claimants, she marries her half-brother, Royce Wolf, a bastard, amid a great deal of scandal and disapproval of the unnatural union. Lord Royce is crowned as King Miles Bannon I shortly after. It is widely said that Queen Eleanor and King Miles detest each other, but a child is born from their union, Giles. Their rule is plagued by more scandal as King Miles has a public affair with an Aragonese noblewoman that results in a son being born out of wedlock named Charles, now the Lord Paragon of House Bannon. When King Miles embraces Charles as his own son and names him a Bannon, he is challenged to a duel to the death by an outraged Aragon Knight. Brave until the very end, King Miles Bannon accepts and, after valiantly refusing to elect a champion, is killed in the ensuing fight.
Despite her violent ascension to the throne, Queen Eleanor is widely regarded as one of the good monarchs of the modern age. She ruled wisely for almost thirty years, seeking to restore the land after years of civil war left the people and the country ravaged. Though some would argue her success in those endeavors was mixed, the Queen did a great deal to bring stability back to the Kingdom of Arnesse and a restored faith in the monarchy. Though she struggled to fully return Arnesse to complete prosperity and health, she reigned in relative peace before passing the crown to her son upon her death.
Giles comes of age in and takes the throne of a struggling Kingdom. Though much of his reign is mired in romance scandal, many knew King Giles I as fair-minded king who spends most of his twenty-five-years on the throne improving the administrative structure of Arnesse. King Giles proves to be a wise administrator and his reign brings a great deal of prosperity to Arnesse. Among the commonfolk, Giles I was best known for his significant rework of the legal system in Arnesse, wherein he gave non-nobles more rights and protections, but also placed more power in the hands of local nobles. Many nobles used this newfound power wisely and a new age of justice dawned in Arnesse. The new laws also allowed for spouses to annul marriages, though this had little impact on most commonfolk, who infrequently ended unions.
Those who speak of King Giles I’s reign are quick to talk of his romantic involvements and the many women in his life. While it is true that the King was a man of great passion, his desire to secure a legitimate heir drove many of his actions. When he was crowned, Giles took Lady Rosalind of House Bannon to be his queen and she bore him a son, also named Giles. Rumors of malcontent between he and Queen Rosalind become reality when he annulled their marriage. Rosalind fled to the North, taking young Giles with her. House Corveaux is quick to volunteer the beautiful and noble Lady Elysande as a new Queen. The King accepts and they are married; the union produces a child, a girl named Emma. After several years, it is tragically discovered that the Queen has been having an affair. She is found guilty of adultery and put to death. Less than a year later the King falls in love with Lady Alice, the cousin of Queen Elysande, who seeks to comfort him in his grief. It is said that the King had a love curse upon him, a fact that seems true when his ill-fated union to Alice ends when she and her son Kerrigan die less than a year later in childbirth.
In the laters years of Giles’ reign, reports begin to surface that the king had gone fully mad, declaring that he has received a vision that the Aurorym faith would bring about the end of the Kingdom of Arnesse. In response, he passes an edict placing massive restrictions on religion throughout the Kingdom. In response, unrest about his policies begins to rise in the land. Rumors run rampant among the lower classes, spread by religious zealots and malcontents in the Midlands and Everfrost. While many accusations are made, including that Giles was a witch, little in the way of evidence is produced to support these claims. When Giles I marries the Lady Maeve Innis from Thornwood, this cements people’s concerns about him and what was quiet malcontent turn into open rebellion.
When Queen Maeve is announced to be with child in 750, the fear of an Innis heir to the throne fuels the allegations that the King and Queen are both involved in witchcraft. These calls are joined by powerful voices from within the Aurorym faith who claim that the King must be removed from power. In 751 Giles the Younger, son of the King, marches on Highcourt with a rebel army to seize the throne from his father. King Giles calls his banners and Corveaux responds, sending knights to join his army. Despite countless acts of heroism and valor that day, the rightful king of Arnesse, Giles I is defeated by his son on the battlefield at Lanton. Rumors run wild throughout the Kingdom about the Aurorym faith and how its valiant Vellatora knights carried Giles II to victory almost single-handedly. King Giles I and Queen Maeve are captured, put on trial for witchcraft, and both are burned at the stake for their crimes. Giles II is crowned King of Arnesse in 752. He promptly cements his alliance with House Blayne by marrying Aline, daughter of Lord Paragon Frederick Blayne.
The year is 763 and King Giles II has sat on the throne of Arnesse for twelve years. The King has been a positive but polarizing force in Arnesse. He is known to be a brilliant man who believes himself a visionary; a wise ruler who plans to take Arnesse to new age of glory and greatness. Those in the Midlands often have a mixed opinion of Giles II. Of all the Kings who have sat upon the throne, he is perhaps the most moral of them all and the King seeks to bring justice and virtue to Arnesse. On the other hand, he is a follower of the Aurorym faith, which is unpopular among the peoples of the midlands. The Midlanders want morality and justice, but too often the King ruthlessly enforces morality upon the world around him. The pious are rewarded and the profane are punished. The King often empowers only empowers those loyal to the Aurorym faith. The unfaithful are usually disregarded or marginalized. Those he deems threats are killed or cast out. This has sent many of the rich and power scrambling to either adopt the Aurorym faith or find other ways to gain the King’s favor.
But despite Giles II’s proclivities and failings, the Corveauxs and the Midlands have a complicated and involved history with House Bannon. They have the longest standing alliance in Arnesse that has survived the test of centuries of war and political rivalry. The blue blood of House Corveaux runs through the red veins of Bannon’s nobles. Many Midlanders in the Midlands accept the Bannon kings, regardless of their flaws, confident that Corveaux rulers will keep their worst urges in check. In return, the Bannon monarchies have treated the Midlands very well. It is one of the mildest and fairest places to live in Arnesse, even for the lower classes. Rarely do any who live there want for much. Their rulers are, on a whole, just, wise, and fair. This state of peace and prosperity has led many Midlanders to not be concerned with what goes on outside their borders. It is a prevalent illusion that if one stays in the Midlands, no harm can come to them and their family.
But in the last decade things have begun to change in the wider world. Since King Giles II has taken the throne, the Aurorym faith has grown stronger than ever. The faith is unpopular in the Midlands for many reasons, not the least of which is the tumultuous history with its primary patron, House Blayne. House Corveaux and its vassals have a longstanding rivalry that dates back centuries with the Blayne family. The Midlanders regard most Hearthfolk as zealots, radicals, and troublemakers, easily swayed to give away their freedom to the first higher cause they find. This rivalry was only made worse when King Giles II took the throne and awarded a massive swath of the Northern Midlands known as the Troth to House Blayne as a wedding gift to Aline Blayne. The marriage was extremely unpopular among the people and to this day, many Midlanders are deeply upset about the loss of their ancestral land to people they see as completely inferior.
The second major obscatacle the faith presents to the Midlanders is that many feel that the religion itself attempts to place a very heavy level of control on its adherents. The concept of freedom is valued in the Midlands more deeply than perhaps anyplace else in Arnesse. While the virtue and valor of the faith appeal to the Midlanders, there is far too much structure and restriction for it to have broad appeal. This sentiment was only exacerbated when in 760 the King passed a decree that made certain morality transgressions illegal and punishable. Many Midlanders felt such a decree was unncessery given their already high moral standards. The Coreveaux lords have since faithfully enforced those laws, creating an almost oppressive environment in some places that has seen otherwise innocent and good people caught up with the law and punished harshly.
The real fear on the lips of many in the Midlands is that the King will make the Aurorym faith the official religion of Arnesse. If this happened, it would give the faith the full backing of the throne, including access to its vast coffers of coin. Likely the King would mandate the establishment of the religion in all parts of the Kingdom, forcing the Midlands to welcome the Aurorym into their cities and towns with open arms. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, the Midlands may not be able to ignore the affairs of the larger world. This leaves them a people divided between loyalty to age-old alliances and the threat of radical change being forced upon their society. While few in the Midlands would ever consider something as obscene as open revolt, there are voices talking in taverns and markets about what should be done and what the future of the Midlands will be.