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Grand Duchy: Notables of the Northern Coast of the Arbonesse, Part II

Grand Duchy: Notables of the Northern Coast of the Arbonesse, Part II

Cropsey, Jasper Francis American, 1823 - 1900 Autumn - On the Hudson RiverAlong the 600-some miles of ruin-littered coastline of the northern Arbonesse, a hardy few—the desperate, sinister and brave—carve out an existence. Here are some of their stories.

Mother Superior of the Lost Abbey of Lada

A legend persists of the Lost Abbey of Lada, whose mother superior, the elf priestess Zarya, is a paragon of holiness and a beacon of hope in an otherwise lawless land. Storytellers have embellished the tale. Occupying a rise overlooking the sea known as Sunrise Mount, the abbey lighthouse guides ships, and its monastery serves as a bastion against dark forces. In addition to being a point of light, the abbey has preserved the treasures and ancient texts of the elvish kingdom that fell into the sea.

The abbey does exist, crookedly hanging onto a jutting rock 150 miles west of where the Neurabon River empties into the Western Ocean. It is difficult to reach. The landward approach is a treacherous, narrow path with sheer drops; by sea, it’s a winding channel that passes between submerged rocks and is home to many shipwrecks.

Contrary to the legends, the abbey long ago fell to the combined forces of Lada’s archrivals: the sister-deities Marena the Red, Sarastra of the Night, and the White Goddess. Isolated after the cataclysm, Zarya and her acolytes succumbed to the seductive promises of the three allied dark gods. They perpetuate the legend, always hoping to lure unsuspecting pilgrims, knowledge seekers, and adventurers to the abbey, posing as Lada’s faithful until the time comes to subvert them. Zarya is now a vampire in Marena’s service and her acolytes are producing copies of the Scarlet Commandments and other unholy texts.

Outpost of the “Oarsman”

Fewer than 70 miles east of the Tilted Tower, a bugbear pirate chieftain known only as the “Oarsman” maintains a hideout in a seacave that has room to keep a captured cog and his raiding oar-powered knorr. Viewed from the sea, the topography of the land masks the entrance to the seacave: a trick of light, shadow, and the beige hue of the exposed cliff face keeps it from being seen easily. Yet, under cloudy conditions, it can be found. The late captain of the cog stumbled into the cave as she sought shelter from a storm (the “Oarsman’s” pirate minions put her crew to the sword).

The cog was damaged in the storm, however. The Oarsman wants to make it seaworthy so he can go pirating on open waters, where the chance to take bigger prizes awaits. At present, his crew lacks the expertise to make these repairs. So the Oarsman continues as before, leading his goblinkin reavers on coastal raids.

“Lord” Batonos Malreeve

Once a devoted servant of the Imperatrix, the elf Batonos and his like-minded conspirators fled when his crimes of debauchery and theft were discovered. They eluded her justice and set off for the farthest reaches of the duchy, eventually establishing a holding in a complex of broken fortresses southwest of the Tilted Tower.

Batonos spent these hundreds of years creating a “family” several hundred strong, mostly children he sired from captives he’s taken. Now with several generations of sons and daughters of elves and elfmarked kin, he has secured his so-called barony” and proclaimed himself lord of this domain.

Visitors to the “barony” of Malreeve should be wary. He purports to possess a sense of honor, making a “pledge of peace” and insisting visitors reciprocate it. But he always conspires to take female visitors captive so he can add them to his family.

The Imperatrix is aware of all this. Pressing concerns at court, the internal politics of this situation, the fortress complex’s impressive defenses (magical and mundane), and the stinging memory of two botched attempts at taking Batonos prisoner, have, in sum, meant she will not make any more direct assaults on the fugitive. However, she is always willing to listen to suggestions of clandestine operations that will result in Batonos’s capture.

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