Shadowrun: Dark Ages

Aftermath

In the years to come that day would become known as Devils Fail. Decades after the spilled blood had dried and the memory of that day was naught but a story, the people of Dundee and the surrounding lands would still celebrate. Breads were baked in the shape of bears, sugared to make them white and with dried fruit as eyes they became a childrens favourite, and in amongst the feasting and revelry they would hang effegies of beautiful women, with half-black half-white wings and red eyes, and they’d dance around as it twisted in the wind.

The days and nights that followed those events in Dundee were quiet ones, but they were not easy. Almost four hundred men, woman and children died that day, most incinerated by the fiery blasts from the demon. A further two hundred more would die of wounds and sickness after. In the final accounting, twelve of the noble families of the City had lost men, mostly guards and loyal retainers, but five lost more. Four lost fathers, heads of their families, leaving their heirs to take their place. One, the MacDouds, lost a father and two sons, leaving a young daughter and a spinster Aunt to run their family. The Earl survived the fray as did the Seneshal (though his dogs did not). The same could not be said for the upper echelons of the Catholic church within the city. The Bishop, the paladins (bar two), the Arch Deacon and most of the high ranking Deacons and priests, twenty three clergy in all, were slain during the fight; the price they paid for being so close to the front of the crowd when the fanatical monks and the paladins attacked.

The remains of the Perthian delegation inside the city were taken prisoner by the city guard, the Earls men and the men of the Dundee nobles. The Earl ordered them held in his compound but treated well, and fairly. A curfew was placed on the town, enforced by the city guard, the Earls men and those nobles who could spare their own guard. The heroes of Dundee, such as the Earl knew who they were, were… invited… to become guests at the earls residence for a short while so they might be protected from well-wishers or those crazed by grief and anger. The very next day, the earl dispatched envoys to the armoured Pertians at the gates to tell them of the events that had transpired, and with them they carried the Baronetts body, laid and dressed in the finaries of state. Letters were taken for them to convey with all haste to the Viscount of Perth, expressing Dundees condolences at the unfortunate death of the Viscounts son and heir. For a while there was chaos within the Perthian camp and it seemed that things might boil over, but the commanders there quickly got their men in hand a the next day the camp was struck and the two hundred armed men escorted the viscounts body home.

Over the next few weeks the mood of the city began to settle down and fall back to some sense of normality. The Earl moved quickly to prevent the remaining clergy, such as it was, from galvanising around a leader. Within a few days he announced that it was essential that any remaining demonic influence within the church be rooted out and purged. This investigation would be carried out by a young ork man named Martin Luther. Once a Catholic priest before he goblinized, he remained a devout catholic and is both well disposed to those of faith, familiar with the churches organisation, rituals and hierarchies, and – being an ork – his appointment to this role was well received within the metahuman community, both those born here and those recently arrived. And, of course, there were funerals for those that died – even for those that couldn’t afford a decent burial, thanks to the generosity of the Earl and Lady Blencoe. The Earl welcomed the new heads of the noble families to his council and announced a suite of appointments, and several new edicts:

Firstly, Murdo was given the title of Knave of Arms within the court and the announcement was made publicly that, following the appropriate period of mourning for the late Lord Blencoe, he would wed his betrothed with all speed and take up his place both as head of the Blencoe family and advisor on the Earls council.

Secondly, he issued a formal pardon and apology to Elara and he bestowed upon on her a new title as part of his household – Mistress of the Mysteries – and made her responsibilities for all things pertaining to magic within his household. With it cam monies, title to a small property in the city near his own, some land on the tay flood plane to the west, tutors nannies and all the benefits of such a loft position.

Thirdly, the formal announcement of the formation of the Magisterium Arcana, as a new branch of the City Guard, with a mandate to protect all the citizen of Dundee from the malicious use of magic. Jane Lemons was announced as it head, given rank equal to a captain him his personal guard, and given mandate to find a full dozen of those with the gift within the city who would join. Along with this appointment came three new laws: 1) all those with the gift of magic within the city must register themselves and their talents with the Magisterium, either upon entry to the city or within the following month. Beyond this, all those with talent that were not registered would be considered criminals and subject to arrest and stiff sanction. 2) That the use of magic to assist in perpetrating a crime would be considered an aggravating circumstance akin to the use of any other weapon and would lead to a tougher sanction, and last but not least 3) that any form of mind control or mind manipulation magic was utterly banned within the Earls lands and that anyone using such – for any reason whatsoever – would be hung.

lastly, the Earl also issued formal and full pardons for the dwarf Cid (although he had left the city by this point) and the hunter Hannah, appointing the latter to his staff as Head gamekeeper, with all the relevant entitlements. Monseur Failon and Connie were given the freedom of the city and welcomed to stay with the Earl for as long as they wished.

Several days after the departure of the armed Perthians from the west road, a messenger and entourage arrived from Perth for the Earl and was received in the Great Hall. The Viscount requested that the Earl consider terms for the release of the Arch-deacon, the Shield Anvil and the First Spike, as is right and proper for men of their station, so that they might attend and preside over the funeral of his son. The Viscount offered considerable ransom for them, however the Earl was disinclined to acquiesce to their request – all of it at any rate. He agreed to release the Arch-deacon so that he could preside over the Baronets funeral, but he refused the ransom of the Shield Anvil and the First Spike and bid the messenger return to Perth saying that they would be released only when the Viscount disbanded the camps of Others around his city and released their inhabitants into Dundees care. The messenger and the Arch-deacon (protesting loudly and vehemently to anyone who would listen) left the city that afternoon and journeyed back to Perth.

The following five weeks were a time of peace and recovery, despite the unseasonably cold weather. Murdos wedding went smoothly and many hoped that this signalled a return to normality in the City. The bodies of Beth and the mad monks had been unceremoniously burnt and the remains of the paladins were taken from the city by a merchant vessel, under guard, to be returned to their holy order at Lord Blencoes insistance. The bodies of the Bishop and the Arch-Deacon were held in the crypt for a period of mourning and were buried a week later in the grounds of the ruined cathedral with a brief and perfunctory ceremony. Martin Luthor concluded his investigation finding only two young priests who remained under demonic influence. They were both hanged for refusing to renounce the false bishop and his demonic templars. Two weeks later the remaining clergy in the city elected Martin Luthor the interim Bishop of Dundee and their choice was ratified by the Earl. The new Bishops first edict was to instruct the clergy to provide aid and sanctuary for those who has suffered losses in the battle, assisting them where. He then began clearing the rubble of the collapsed section of the cathedral in preparation for rebuilding and sent our messengers to nearby nunneries, churches and priories beseeching them to come and visit Dundee that he might talk with them about the future of the faith in the region. Messengers from Perth confirmed the Viscounts acceptance of the Earls terms, and notified him that, following the usual period of mourning for his son, the Others in the camps would be brought to Dundee under armed escort, to be handed to the Earls care in exchange for the prisoners. Rumours and eye witness reported on the lavish funeral of the Viscounts son and the unapologetically firebrand sermon the Arch-deacon gave. During the mourning period (traditionally a month) considerable effort was made by the Perthian rulers to expand both the city guard, nobles private guards, and the Order of the Thisle, ostensibly in order that they might have enough armed men to provide escort for the hundreds of Others from the camps to Dundee. More refugees arrived in Dundee, though not so many as had been feared, and although the cities resources were stretched; Dundee coped – in no small part due to the widespread aid for the new arrivals from the newly motivated church and due to a clear ‘message’ from the underground that the refugees were not to be molested or taken advantage of. After recruiting their first few members, the Magisterium began posting people on the city gates during busy periods, to identify and provide newly arrived awakened with an easy place to register, and to provide support for the City Guard should they need it. This increased registrations considerably. The Earl agreed to expand the university and to provide some funding for deserving Others arriving on the ships.

Several small oddities also caught your attention. Several Others that apparently escaped from Perth spoke of rumours that The Order of the Thistle was actively seeking and conscripting those with magical talent and that armed men from the south, many with a swarthy, dark-haired look, had been seen arriving at the city. Brother Claudius began to look thin and tired. Aiden and others (no doubt including members of the party) were concerned but Brother Claudius still seemed bright and was firm in his rejection of treatment beyond eating better and sleeping well. Several disappearances happened in the city; again nothing particularly odd there and the City Guard looked to investigate. What did strike you as slightly odd was that five of those that disappeared were registered with the Magisterium. Finally, small figurines began appearing in the hands of the poor and the faithful, depicting the Mother Mary tending to a sick man; nothing odd in this except that the unusual figures had pointed ears and carried a staff as well as the customary cross and halo.

Then, in the space of a week, everything changed. Brother Claudius collapsed at the university and, although he recovered, it became clear he was seriously ill. Brother Aiden began treating him despite his weak protestations, and several members of the church (and no doubt the party) attended his bedside and attempted magical healing. It all proved to no avail and Claudius worsened. Several days after he collapsed, Aiden then fell ill with a similar set of symptoms and things looked grave. Then the real body blow fell, the Heroes of Dundee were called to the Earls residence following the arrival of a messenger – an Englishman wearing the colours of Perth, of the Catholic church, and the King John. He was received in the great hall by the Earl and the court. There, he presented the Earl with a message from the Viscount containing an open declaration of war on Dundee. The Viscount accused the Earl of aiding and abetting the death of his son, despite the Earls declaration of protection for him. He declared the Earl an oathbreaker and false. He declared both the the Earl and the entire city guilty of heresy in the eyes of God, not only for protecting and sheltering wretches that are anathema to God and the true church, but also for the appointment of a false Bishop. He named those who the Earl held captive, martyrs and heroes of Perth, instructing the Earl to pass this declaration on to them if he even a shred of honour left before their execution at his devil-wrought hands. The message declared that, within the week, Dundee would be surrounded and broken by an army of the righteous with God riding with them, and that no quarter nor negotiation would be sought. When they entered the city every inhuman wretch in the place would be slaughtered and those who gave them shelter – be they man, woman or child – would be put to the sword.

Before receiving the Earls reply the messenger then presented the Earl with a second message, this one in a scroll-tube of scented rosewood stained red and bearing the Popes own seal. Within it was a message from the Pope himself declaring the Earl and the city to be enemies of the Church and excommunicating them from the loving gaze of God and the embrace of the Holy Mother Catholic church. The Pope further condemned the soul of any god-fearing man who would stand with the Earl or the City to an eternity in Hell. The Earls expression, already dark from the first message, darkened further. He looked both furious and shaken.

Once more, however, before receiving the Earls reply the messenger gave the Earl a third message – this time in a scroll-case of black leather bearing the royal seal of the scottish crown. The Earls hands shook as he took the message, already guessing the heavy news that it must contain, but before he could open it the Englishman struck! Although he had been searched and carried no weapon, with a flick of his hand he hurled a spike at her, a spike which buried itself in her chest and… pulsed and twitched. Murdo and Connie sprung upon the assassin and smote him to the ground with a few well-placed punches while Hannah and the Earl ran to Elaras side. Thankfully, the wound was not deep – certainly not the worst Elara had sustained in recent months – and she healed it easily as the unconscious assassin was dragged off to the dungeons. neither she nor Jane nor Connie saw the lingering malignancy withinin the strike, despite their extensive exploration of Elaras aura. The Earl, at her insistance opened the black-dyed scroll case and read the message therein. It read, “King William the Lion is dead, lament you who are true Scotsman! By the Kings command, come you to stirling with all haste to give thy fealty to his son, Alexander. Long live the king!”.

The discussion following these three messages went long into the small hours of the morning and, as the sun rose over a changed world, the word went out to raise the militias, fire the forges, and prepare Dundee for war. The Earl was adamant that he must attend King Alexander in Stirling with all haste, war or no war, and demonstrate Dundees commitment to his crown and the succession. He came to this decision in no small part because it was far from clear that the new King would continue his predecessors apathy towards the Catholic churches proclamations, or continue the crowns support for the tolerance of Dundee. The Viscount of Perth had almost certainly been extended the same invitation and to leave his voice unopposed to influence the new King during his first days as ruler was to court disaster! So, against the protestations of many of his advisors, he was resolved that he and a small band of guards would leave with all haste, before the Perthian forces made travel all but impossible. He resolved to travel south through Fife before turning west towards Stirling. The consensus of opinion was that Perth were unlikely to be able to bring significant forces to bear for at least a week and that time would give the Earl a window to attend upon the new King and possibly even return before the Perthian army complicated matters. In the mean time, the preparations for war would be overseen by the nobles of the court and the heroes of Dundee, lead by Lord Blencoe. Murdo and the other lords and nobles would see to the defence of the city, raising their militias, speaking to their allies, logistics, supplies and the forging or new weapons and armour. Hannah was given a mandate to find poachers and hunters that could swiftly be turned into scouts and spies that might give warning on Perths preparations, to organise them, and to send them out to gather the information Dundees leaders would need. Elara was tasked with raising such spirits as she could with the same aim and was also asked to contact any allies she may have amongst the Others in the highlands. It was hoped that they might be sympathetic to the cause of their brothers and sistes sheltered by Dundee and that Elara might persuade them to come to Dundees aid. Lemons was tasked with preparing the fledgeling Magisteirum for battle and, with Elara, to coordinate the establishment and provision of such healers as she and the magisterium could find. Finally, Connie and Monseur Failon met with the Earl privately the following morning and agreed to the Earls request to carry word of Dundees predicament, the impact the Earl suspected that it might have on Scotland as a whole, and by extension its impact on England and beyond, to the ears of the French King. There they would beseech him to lend Dundee and Scotland such aid as the country might. They left on the evening tide, even as the Earl and his small band of guards left his city for Stirling.

It was the day after the Earl left that Elara collapsed unconscious, the insidious poison in her veins overtaking her. She had suspect something wasn’t right the day before as she had had a headache all day and felt woozy and light-headed in the evening. With the responsibilities put on her by the Earl, however, she had ignored these minor ailments putting them down to stress. Fortunately others where there then she collapsed and she was immediately taken to the university for care. Alas then that Aiden himself was was ill and worsening, as was Brother Claudius who seemed frail. Nevertheless he resolved to help both his friends and with the aid of Lemons and Silvio he performed a ritual that saw him meditating alongside the bed-ridden Aiden. During the ritual Claudius seemed to be having a conversation with three people, though no others could be seen and no words were heard beyond the ritual circle. Some agreement seemed to be reached, at which point those observers saw Claudius slump, exhausted, his small frame seeming to crumple beneath great weight even as colour and fullness returned to to his friend Aiden. As the ritual ended and people rushed to help Claudius it was clear that, while he was alive, it was barely. He regained consciousness later that evening and spoke at length, privately with Aiden and other. Aiden left furious and in tears but did as he had been bidden and made arrangements for Claudius to be escorted back to Lindores Abby, where his brothers and those of his Order would take his last confession and guide him to God. Claudius died four days later and was buried in the Abbey. In the decades to come his actions would be recognised as miracles and in the late 1300s the then Pope would pronounce him St Claudius, patron saint of the Awakened (something which St Benedict found riotously amusing!).

Returned to health by Claudius, Aiden immediately took to caring for Elara. Working with Silvio, William Montpiere and Hannah they kept her alive and quickly identified the rare demonic poison afflicting her, but none knew of a cure. While the cities apothecaries and talismongers were scoured for information, Lemons contacted an old cantankerous friend for advice. Fortunately, Magor had heard of such a poison and knew of the cure. Unfortunately it involved many rare and expensive ingredients. Things were looking bleak for Elara until, three days later, a mysterious package arrived at the university containing all the ingredients needed. With them, Hannah was able to mix the antidote and purge the toxin from Elaras body. Even as she awoke, rumours of the wholesale slaughter of the Others in the camps around Perth were spreading like wildfire throughout the city. The tales spoke of the roads into Perth lined with crucified and brutalised corpses, whispers of bloody initiations rites for the Order of the Thistle overseen by the Arch-deacon himself. Stories of new recuits forced to slit the throats of Others on consecrated graveyards, while preachers extolled that the blood of the enemies of God would nourish the souls of the faithful in heaven. The rumours did little for morale in Dundee and many citizens fled south into Fife, or North, to Aberdeen, fearful of the impending war. The first armed men from Perth were sighted on the road the next day. And in all the chaos, no one noticed until too late that the woman Gilsa had gone. When Elara did notice and began to ask questions, she found out only that she had left the north gate, days before, and hadn’t been seen since.

Eight days after the declaration of war had been received, more that eight hundred armed an armoured men stood at the west gate of Dundee. Most of them were militia, or clansmen loyal to the Perthian nobles, but more than two hundred heavily armoured warriors wore tabards emblazoned with a thistle aflame with holy fire and circled with a halo, and another two hundred bore the rampaging lion of the English and other banners from europe. They struck camp, they made noise, the set fire to the deserted slums, and as the dawn rose, they assaulted the City. Things went poorly for Dundee in the first few days of the attack. The haze over the burning slum provided ample cover for the advancing army, despite the best efforts of the Magisterium, and their spirits, to disperse it. The wooden west gate – thick though it was – was sundered by the first afternoon of the attack and the organised defenders of the city, numbering no more than three hundred, were hard pushed to defend the breach. Defend it they did though and nightfall brought a retreat by the Perthian forces and an opportunity for Dundee to regroup and make such repairs as it could. Several times during the night, minor skirmishes, magics, and spirits struck at opposing forces but to only minor effect on either side. The dawn saw a renewed attack from the Perthians, encouraged by the small numbers of Dundees defenders, this time favouring the more heavily armed and skilled warriors from the south and the Order of the Thistle. The assault breached the hastily repaired gate swiftly and the street-to-street fighting began – and this is where the tide turned and the trap was sprung. The city guard, the Earls men and the nobles clansmen were swiftly pushed back as the Perthian forces spread out across Nethergate and The Ward Lands. In Nerthergate they learned that the free men and women of Dundee would not ceed their homes easily and that when Others and humans stood together they were stronger than they were apart. In The Ward Lands they learnt the price of selling out those who had trusted them as, Murdo, Martin Luther, the Earls personal guard, most of the Magisterium Arcana, and Sir Martain MacCrosain alongside twenty veteran ex-perthian soldiers tore into their ranks. The growing friendship between Sir MacCrosain and Murdo had been the key to persuading them that they stood on the wrong side of history but, that if they swore fealty to the Earl and Dundee – and if they fought for the protection of the city – then they might just make things right for themselves.

Caught on unfamilliar territory, between the pincers of a militia of enthusiastic citizens (including at least two hundred angry and motivated trolls and orks) and a small but well-trained, well-armed, well-led and magically supported force, the Perthians discipline crumpled and despite their training and equipment they were soon in full retreat. Even that did not go well for the Perthians however as some very sizeable spirits materialised on the far side of the wall in the shell of the burnt out slums tearing into – and effectively cutting off – their retreat. With their mages disorganised, the spirits were not swiftly dismissed and caused a great deal of havok and harm. A great many Perthians died that day; of the eight hundred that were in the attacking force more than two hundred lay dead, with a further three hundred wounded or captured – and the rest fled west back towards their city. Dundee paid a heavy toll too, laying tragedy upon tragedy. Hundreds of its citizens lay dead in the streets by the time the day ended and dozens of buildings across the west and north of the city lay smoking and in ruins. More than half of the defected Perthians had given their lives for the city, fighting people they had called brother only days before. The Magisterium was decimated – many of the mages had fallen early and rapidly in the battle, the targets of attacks from unseen hands from the other side of the veil. The noble families of the city had fared better, with their men better trained and armed, but several families had lost heirs, including some newly-inherited sons (leaving more daughters than usual to inherit the responsibilities of leading their clans). For the survivors, the battle felt as much of a defeat as it did a victory. Lacking the forces necessary to lay siege to Perth and with many dead to be buried and mourned, the decision was taken not to pursue the Perthian retreat immediately. Instead, Murdo and the Earls council sent groups of scouts out to harass the retreat and to gather such information as they could and report back. And they were right to worry; men from many of the clans loyal to Perth that had not been part of the original attack were gathering with the survivors of the attacking force and brigands from the south. It would take time for them to organise, but it seemed certain they were marshalling for another, larger, attack. Still, Dundee was not without its allies. Elaras pleas to the highland tribes had been persuasive and even now many were on their way to Dundee to support their beleaguered brothers. Dundee regrouped and repaired such as they could in the hopes that aid would arrive.

Two days later the Earl returned from the south, only two of his guards remaining. He bought words of hope – King Alexander had been greatly moved by the Earls pleas and those of his allies, and the king had resolved to set Scotland against the English tyranny and that of the Pope if need be. He also brought worse of despair – English forces had crossed over the boarder near Berwick two weeks before the attack on Dundee had begun and were pushing up through the boarder lands bringing death with them. By the time the Earl arrived back in Dundee he expected that they would be just days away from Stirling, and that the new King, with all the forces as he could muster, would shortly meet them on the field of battle. No doubt they would be outnumbered and out-equipped. All was not lost, however, the King too had allies, not least amongst them some powerful (old and cantankerous) mages who seemed to think they were protectors of this land. The implication was clear though; as the first snows of summer fell, war had come to all Scotland and, at least for the time being, Dundee could expect no direct aid from the king.

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NickSchurch

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