End of Season 8 General Report (Winter 2402-3) Part 4Antonio Mugello’s Letter Continued
From Alcente I will plot a course northwards. You, my lord, are almost certainly aware of the following news, but I include it so you might know that which I have learned here in Pavona. Earlier this week an emissary from Luccini arrived, missing the duke by a matter of days, and today departed in the hope of catching up with the duke upon the road. The emissary carries an invitation to King Ferronso III’s confirmation ceremony. The regent, Ferronso’s uncle Duke Ercole Perrotto, has apparently grown ill over the last few months, which most likely explains why the ceremony is being done at the earliest possible opportunity, to officially recognise the 15 year-old monarch as ruler in practise as well as name. King Ferronso III, the boy-king, son of the ‘Lion’ of Luccini, King Ferronso II, here seen in his family’s famous Palazzo di Luce
The ceremony will take place at the close of Spring, and it is presumed that all the neighbouring rulers will be invited, including the Reman Overlord Matuzzi, the arch-lector of Morr (whomsoever that is), Lord Alessio Falconi of Portomaggiori and various lesser nobles neighbouring Luccini, such as current Gonfalonieri of Ridraffa, perhaps even the commander of the VMC in Alcente. I cannot see how Duke Guidobaldo of Pavona can possibly attend considering the precarious and dire state of his realm, and it would seem a similar species of madness were Overlord Matuzzi to attend, what with the immediate threat presented by Razger Boulderguts’ double-army. I have heard it suggested, cruelly, that ‘old’ Matuzzi, along with other nobility, might use the invite as an excuse to escape danger during this time of troubles? He did, after all, previously divest himself of his proper authority simply to shirk the responsibility of rule.
King Ferronso’s sister, Princess Mariangella, two years younger than he and of an age to be betrothed, is likely to become the focus of a second political concern in Luccini. It occurs to me now that young Lord Silvano is unmarried, and might well be considered a very eligible candidate. Whether or not the proud Duke Guidobaldo would wish to promote alliance with a far away and relatively weak state such as Luccini, however, is another matter. Besides, Lord Silvano has yet to safely return from his perilous adventures.
Again, my lord, you are probably more informed concerning the following matter than myself, but I intend to be thorough in my report on Tilea, and so will proceed in the confidence that you will not take my words as worthless. Lord Alessio of Portomaggiore seems to have finally quelled the unrest infecting Raverno, by taking it under his military rule. As to why he should do so, I think it very likely that he harbours doubts concerning the VMC’s intentions. After all, it was the VMC who sent a force to raze Camponeffro to punish Raverno for its treatment of their ambassadors. Lord Alessio’s own realm apparently enjoys peaceful prosperity, the profits of which enabled him to send forces of various kinds to assist in both the war against Khurnag’s Waagh and the Vampires of the north. While all these mercenary expeditions failed, smashed and scattered against much greater foes, Portomaggiore has nevertheless extended its dominion, acquiring control of Raverno and thus gaining a dependent marche to hinder and absorb any landward attack. If Lord Alessio were similarly to gain lordship of Luccinni, Ridraffa and even (may all the gods shield you) your own Verezzo, he would possess a great and wealthy state indeed, with his beloved Portomaggiore effectively fortified by an outer ring of petty states. Considering his own forces have yet to be committed to any real conflict, it is no wild supposition to assume he commands an army of considerable strength, making him perhaps the most powerful, living Tilean lord in the realm, not including stranieri, vampiri or bruti. I tell you this not to conjure unnecessary fears, but rather to reveal what seems possible, perhaps likely, to such an observer as myself.
Although the story of it has no doubt travelled throughout Tilea, by your leave I shall tell you all that I have gleaned concerning the battle before Ebino. The battle was great indeed. Morr’s holy army, composed of Reman soldiers, mercenaries under long term contract to Remas, the mercenary army of Arabyans commanded by Gedik Mamidous (sent by Lord Alessio Falconi of Portomaggiore), and the Pavonan Lord Silvano (Duke Guidobaldo’s lone surviving son) had begun the construction of a huge fortified camp, at the heart of which stood a sanctified - if makeshift - shrine to Morr. The soldiers drilled and laboured, while the genius Angelo da Leoni attempted to convert his steam powered war-engine into a mobile ramp from which to assault the walls, and the throng of priests began chanting powerful prayers to weaken the necromantic magic holding the enemy forces in this world. But all was to no avail, for the vampire duchess’s army sallied forth unexpectedly, much larger than the Remans had believed it to be, containing truly monstrous and unnatural beasts and engines, and caught Morr’s army unprepared. Their camp incomplete, their mighty war machine weakened by the work being done upon it, and their army made up mostly of mercenary troops with little faith in Morr, all added together to cause disaster. The priests’ prayers, their suppliant rites barely begun, wrought little harm upon the foe, and the undead wreaked great slaughter.
A mere fraction of the arch-lector’s army survived to flee the field in disarray. Gedik Mamidous is rumoured to have escaped, along with perhaps half of his arabyans, as did Lord Silvano and the genius Master Angelo. The vampire duchess must surely have gained great strength from her enemy’s corpses, magically luring them from death to undeath and so into her service. It is said she is now establishing a mockery of the church of Morr, with lesser vampires masquerading as priests and mobs of shambling zombies gurgling foul hymns, claiming Nagash to be the god of gods.
Yet she has halted, and does not seem to have advanced any further south than Ebino. None (alive) can know what has delayed her, whether it is merely her own inclination and desires, or whether she has other obstacles to overcome before advancing further.
What few folk have been brave (or foolish) enough to remain in Viadaza now live in fear of what could come at any moment. Having only recently completed the horrible work of cleansing the city of corruption, they now face the prospect of Viadaza once more falling under the abominable rule of the unliving. The people of Urbimo are only a little less worried, having gained some reassurance from Viadaza being closer to the evil, thus acting as a buffer against the duchess’s reach, and that (as I have already mentioned) the soldiers of the Estalian Compagnia del Sole are currently quartered in the vicinity providing an accidental garrison of considerable strength. Needless to say, Capitano Bruno Mazallini’s soldiers have been warmly welcomed and generously provisioned, even to the hardship of the populace, who are happy to suffer hunger and even the usual ignominies that invariably accompany the presence of condottiere, in return for the presence of seasoned soldiers. The prospect of aching bellies, pilfered trinkets and a gaggle of disgraced damsels fades into insignificance compared to the horrors of conquest by the living dead!
As I explained earlier, there is no certainty regarding why the soldiers of the second Compagnia del Sole have returned to Tilea, only conflicting reports. Some say it is merely the fact that their Estalian contract has ended, and that they have returned either by order of their Estalian employers or because they want new employment in Tilea, where there is doubtless need for their aid. Whether or not they already have a new contract is uncertain, for it may be that they have several offers, or perhaps one offer yet to be signed and sealed. Some say that the arch-lector Calictus II invited them, and if so Captain Mazallini must now be wondering what to do. Perhaps the Reman Overlord Matuzzi, or whoever succeeds to the arch-lector’s throne, will re-affirm the offer of contract? Other suggestions concerning their new employer include Lord Alessio Falconi of Portomaggiore (who, after all, has previously employed such large mercenary companies, and who’s own state has remained relatively untouched, and consequently prosperous, by the wars recently ravaging the peninsula)? Or perhaps they are to serve Duke Guidobaldo, brought so low by the brutes of Campogrotta, and no doubt eager for revenge and to regain what he has lost? Still others believe that they are in the employ of whichever Bretonnian lord believes himself to be the heir of Ravola, where what little remains habitable is garrisoned by ogres; or the mountain dwarfs of Karak Borgo, whose rich trade with Tilea has ceased completely; or the VMC, perhaps the only employer with the resources to actually pay the no-doubt massive sums offered to gain the Compagnia’s service? All, however, is speculation, which is possibly just what Captain Mazallini and/or his employer want.
It is reliably reported that there is turmoil in the great city of Remas, for as so often during the election of a new arch lector, a variety of factions are clashing over the decision. Even in times of peace there can be much upset, and all the moreso when the whole of Tilea is threatened with ruin. In theory, Overlord Domenico Matuzzi governs the state with signorial authority, and could not only influence the choice but could also rule the city with a strong hand whilst the election occurred, but as he voluntarily handed over the reins of power to the arch-lector he has made himself a weak candidate for de facto ruler even now that Calictus is dead. It is commonly expected that the new arch lector will continue to rule both church and state. The Reman Captain-General Scaringella leads a force in the field, presumably in an attempt to prevent the tyrant Boulderguts’ double army troubling the city state, which limits his own ability to influence the government of the city or the election of the new arch-lector, and means the chances of him establishing martial rule are low.
The Church of Morr has yet to decide upon Calictus’ successor, a decision made difficult not only by the number of candidates (the foremost being the lectors of Verezzo and Viadaza, Luigi Grasica and Bernado Ugolini respectively) but also by the radicalisation of the church in response to the growing threat from the north. Powerful cults have formed, the populace swelling the number of their dedicati, with Sagranalian tendencies and more than a smattering of the Pavonan heresy of Morr Supreme, and their leaders, particularly Father Carradalio and his Disciplinati di Morr, are also jostling for the arch-lectorship.
I shall return at the last to matters of which I am more reliably informed. Razger Boulderguts, his ravenous army swollen in size by Mangler’s band of brutes, is hauling a massive train of loot, plundered from Trantio, Astiano and the villages of Pavona. Until now all that Duke Guidobaldo’s soldiers have been able to do is slow his progress a little and (by razing some of their own lands) deny him some of the spoils he would otherwise have taken. Pavona now lies bruised and battered, which may well be the future fate of Remas if Boulderguts cannot be stopped. The duke commands a large army, which I myself saw mustered and marching from the city, as well as other forces like those sent away from Viadaza by the arch-lector as a gesture of solidarity concerning the ogre threat. But is his army sufficiently strong to defeat the brute double army? If only Prince Girenzo of Trantio were still alive, and commanding his armies. If only Remas had not lost the bulk of its forces in the war to the north. Then a grand alliance indeed could have been formed. As things stand, it may well be that all these once great powers can do is scrape together sufficient forces to defend their walls, and give thanks to the gods that they can do so. Again and again I have heard it said that the brutes and the vampires must be in league, the first growing rich upon all that they can steal, and sated on all the flesh they can eat, so that the latter can then take possession of the wasted land left in the brutes’ wake, turning the rotting remnants of the ogres’ victims into servants. And so, evil is piled upon evil as one hell begets another.
Your humble servant, Antonio Mugello