Kingmaker Reborn - Session 1

Adeline Châteaufoy hated being here.

The meeting room, known as the Crown Board Room, that the halfling matriarch found herself in was perhaps too opulent for her tastes, but she could appreciate the artistry in the architecture. No, it was the company she was currently with that turned her stomach.

Adeline was seated near the end of the long oval table where each Lord-Executor of the Lurindor territories, including herself, was seated. Her seating was not unexpected. As the leader of the territory that held out the longest from submitting to a unified Lurindor rule (on multiple occasions in Lurindor's long history), it was natural that she was ostracized as she was. Only the tenacity of her clan and the beleaguered halflings of Valderêve allowed the Rochefort territory a seat on Lurindor's Executive Cabinet.

Directly seated across from Adeline was Angrid Harkûr, the dwarven matriarch of Dol Harkûr and leader of the Harkûr Trade Guild. The dwarven city's desire for minimal interaction with the rest of Lurindor and absolute stance on neutrality landed her almost in the same position as Adeline. Although the two agreed on many things, Adeline could not rely on the dwarves as true allies. She knew, and understood, that Angrid would not hesitate to side against her if it meant the continued prosperity of Dol Harkûr.

Seated to her left was Giovanni Biancardi. Adeline actually did not mind Giovanni. Although still another human overlord over her people in the territory of Foycomté, Giovanni was known to actually embrace halfling lifestyle of simple prosperity. However, although he treats the halflings under his rule better than the others, Adeline had no doubt the man was just a profit-driven as the others.

Across from him was Bianca Dinovio of Santo Venito. From what Adeline could discern from her policies, it appeared that Bianca cared for the prosperity of the people living in her demesne just as much she cared for the prosperity of her own house. A nice sentiment if true, but halflings still did not get the same opportunities as others. Adeline suspected it was just a policy that happy customers and buying customers.

Now Enzio Montari, there was the scum that was the poster boy of everything Adeline stood against: a manipulative bastard that openly abuses her fellow halflings in Valdargent, running them practically as slaves in the silver mines, all in the name of profit. He was an enemy for sure.

Maria Sotillini of Mariporta was also a potential enemy. The old woman was tough and uncompromising. She was a true patriot and supporter of the current system. And she had the strongest fighting force in Lurindor at her beck and call.

Adeline knew that Dario Teredoro of Ferrocittà was greedy and ambitious. There had been many rumours of him managing to twist deals and contracts into unfairly favouring himself. Still, perhaps that greed may be of service to her, if she was careful.

Meanwhile, there was Cyrano Varano who controlled the demesne of Blébonté. Adeline knew that the man considered himself a true aristocrat, claiming relations to one of Lurindor's past noble families. While not cruel to his subjects, he had a reputation of being incredibly vain and self-centered, considering the mostly halfling population of Blébonté as his own personal subjects.

And then there was Florenza Regalia. Unlike the others, she controlled no territory. Instead, she was the chief executor of the Trade Regulation Authority, the closest thing that Lurindor has to law and order. As much as the vaunted TRA claims that it is completely neutral, it was no secret that the organization played the game of corporate politics just as much as the others.

Finally, there was the man who Adeline would considered as her primary foe: Niccolo Sovrani. He was not a man to be underestimated. After he had somehow engineered a flawless takeover of the remaining Amiatti assets, Sovrani had become the most powerful man in Lurindor.

And at the head of the table was an empty seat of the Crown-Executor of Lurindor. Once held by Vittoria Amiatti, Sovrani had the good graces to resist sitting there himself, at least until the legal issues to his claiming control of Lurindor were settled.

"The board had gone over your proposal, Lady Adeline," Sovrani declared. "It's certainly very ambitious, and equally interesting. Are you sure these are the terms you wish to agree with? "

"Indeed," Varano drawled. "As I understand it, Rochefort will be footing the entire bill, while the rest of us reap the profits."

"Rochefort will be satisfied with those terms," Adeline replied smoothly.

"What's the catch here, Châteaufoy?" Teredoro asked pointedly. "No one in Lurindor is that generous, not even you."

"No catch, Lord Teredoro. The profits may not be apparent nor immediate, but the endeavour is successful, the benefits of Rochefort will certainly outweigh the costs. All we desire is complete non-interference from Lurindor in how the endeavour is managed."

"You're up to something, aren't you, Rochefort?" Sotillini accused, glaring at Adeline.

The halfling woman kept her cool. "Everyone is always up to something in Lurindor," she retorted. "Question is, how can you profit from it?" She turned to Sovrani, the question more directed to him.

Niccolo smirked a little. "Despite our questions, the board is close to agreeing to your proposal. There is but one more thing you can do to get us to agree. I think you know what that is."

Adeline knew, just as she knew that despite what he said, only getting Sovrani's agreement would be necessary. She was apprehensive at the thought of it happening, but was comforted by the thought that if all went well, it would not matter.

"It is agreed then," Adeline declared. "The Executive Board will agree to the Viridian Marches project.

"And Rochefort will fully support the Sovrani claim to the Emerald Crown."

"Be it so known that the bearers of this charter has been charged by the Châteaufoy Trade House, acting upon the greater good and authority vested within them by the office of the Interim-Executor of the Emerald Crown, has granted the right of exploration and travel within the wilderness region known as the Evergreen Plains. Exploration should be limited to an area south of Onestrio's Trade Post down to the Greenbelt River, between the edges of the Draketooth Forest to the west, and the edge of the Old Arborfane Forest to the east. The carrier of this charter should also strive against banditry and other unlawful behavior to be encountered. The punishment for unrepentant banditry remains, as always, execution by sword or rope. So witnessed on this 1st day of Asmolan, 108th year of the Age of Reckoning, under watchful eye of the Lord-Executor of Rochefort and authority granted by Lord Niccolo Sovrani, current Interim-Executor of the Emerald Crown."
Lady Adeline Châteaufoy, addressing the assembly of expedition volunteers at Châteaufoy Manor, Rochefort, 1 Asmolan, 108 6A

It was the 108th year of the Sixth Age. Under the rule of the Amiatti Conglomerate, the merchant nation of Lurindor swiftly recovered from the devasatation of the Tyrant's World War from over a century ago. However, the entire Amiatti family and their immediate retainers all disappeared overnight. The second most powerful Trade House, the Sovrani Syndicate, deftly swooped in, and acquired the now-abandoned Amiatti assets. Now controlling the assets of two Trade Houses, the young Lord-Executor of the Syndicate, Niccolo Sovrani, claimed the position of Interim-Crown-Executor of Lurindor while the courts of the Trade Regulation Authority finalized his acquisition.

In light of Sovrani's efforts to consolidate his control of the nation, the Châteaufoy Trade House embarked on a new endeavour, one that they hoped would secure a prosperous future for the second-class halfling population of Lurindor. To this end, the halfling overseers of the trade territory of Rochefort announced to the public that they would sponsor four expeditions to explore, and eventually colonize, the untamed lands of the Viridian Marches.

For thousands of years, the lands bordering the south of Rochefort have exchanged hands between a multitude of disparate parties; the Châteaufoy endeavour would be but one of the latest attempts to claim this land rife with opportunities. Four groups answered the call to adventure.

The Crimson Falcon Company was a notable mercenary company in Lurindor, but of late, its founder and leader, Adrianna Falcone, felt the need to establish a legacy far more grounded than a group of soldiers-for-hire. Over a hundred soldiers strong, plus support personnel, with over two decades of combat experience, the Crimson Falcons were the best equipped expedition to tame the wild Ursan Highlands, and its numerous Storm Bear tribes.

Given the charter to the neighbouring Drakethorn Glades, the Drelevo Trade Company would be in prime position to control valuable trade routes to rich, foreign nations. Its leader, the young Rafael Drelevo, had only recently inherited the company from his recently deceased father, and seemed eager to establish himself outside of Lurindor. With his company's assets, paired with those of his new wife, Drelevo was perhaps the best supplied expedition of the four.

The Duloup expedition had perhaps the most significant local support. Theodore Duloup was someone the hafling inhabitants of Lurindor desperately needed: one of their own who broke past the system to gain fame and fortune on his own. With many years of adventures under his belt, Duloup had amassed wealth, skills, and strong companions at his side. Now, the halfling adventurer felt the need to settle done, and do something productive with his fortune. Taming the Thalamech Uplands, and expanding the halflings' sphere of influence seemed to be an appropriate goal. All he had to do was pacify the native centaur tribes that caused so much trouble along the southern border of Rochefort.

The last of the four expeditions was not much of an expedition at all. Unlike the others, they numbered only four, supplied with just the gear they had on them. They would explore the Evergreen Plains, and end the burgeoning bandit kingdom that threatened Rochefort's trade. As the region with the least valuable resources, and the most danger, few held any expectations of greatness from the Evergreen Company, as this group of four would be known.

Arina Seta Onda was a young, human woman, abandoned by her family for the misfortune that surrounded her. Her calamity carried with her to the family that took her in, the halfling Montplaisirs, for they met their end in a massive fire. Having lost her love in the blaze, Arina volunteered for the expedition. Heeding the whispers of her constant, mysterious companion Mister Angelcakes, it would be in this untamed land where she willb e reunited with her Marcelette, either in life, or death.

For the caelephilim Davona, it was the prospect of battling bandits that prompted her to sign up. Ever since her family fled the totalitarian Ashaki Empire, ever since her mother was killed by bandits, Davona burned with vengeance against outlaws. Wanting to follow in her late mother's footsteps and become a paladin of Kaï-den, Davona joined the Rochefort City Guard, becoming its youngest member, while she studied and trained at the local Temple of Kaï-den to become a paladin. Having passed the Trials, Davona resigned from the Guard, and eagerly volunteered to be part of the Evergreen Company.

The kitsune Cethin had seemingly joined the group on a whim. He never seemed to take things seriously. The fact that he could occasionally be seen whispering to a ring on his finger only added to his aura of oddness. Nonetheless, the mischevious kitsune easily got along well with his new companions.

The mysterious Jupus Thane was the most secretive of the group. The gnome's dourness seemed to go hand in hand with the faint air of sewer scent wafting from his presence. Few knew of what skills Jupus was capable of, even his new companions, but they did know at least that the gnome had a large dire rat as his constant companion. Said rat was presently waiting just outside of the Châteayfoy Manor, much to Jupus' annoyance.

Normally, such a ragtag band of disparate individuals of their like would be instantly dismissed for such a grand endeavour. However, there were no suitable volunteers forthcoming to tame the dangerous region that bordered most of the Rochefort southern border. In addition to the lack of candidates, the Châteaufoy matriarch, Lady Adeline, was reassured that the four young volunteers held no ties to any of the major trade houses. Châteaufoy would have the opportunity to become the main influence should the Evergreen Company succeed in forming a colony.

The new company would have a hard time going at it, as demonstrated by their interaction with Rafael Drelevo during the party after the delcaration ceremony and issuing of the charters at the Châteaufoy manor in Rochefort. The party was to serve not only as a celebration of the grand endeavour, but to also form connections between the four groups, and any other partues interested in investing in their future. Few would show any such interest in the Evergreen Company, however, a fact Drelevo was happy to point out.

"I had wondered who would be foolish enough to agree to the Evergreen expedition. If this your whole party, you might as well stay home," the young merchant lord had stated to them quite smugly.

The Evergreen Company, despite only just being formed, would not let such a statement rest unanswered. "Thanks for the advice, asshole, but the only thing I'd ever consider taking from you is haircut tips," Arina had bluntly retorted.

However, not all of their encounters were antagonistic. The Evergreen Company were approached by Theodore Duloup. The halfling adventurer saw something of himself in them, a reminder of his own youthful days of just starting on his first quests. Complimenting them on their bravery, Duloup offered them horses and several potions of cure light wounds at no cost, except for the hope for a future fruitful relationship between the two parties.

"Consider this a small investment, and a token of friendship," the experienced adventurer told them. "Besides, I'd rather have you as a close ally beside that fop."

And so, the Evergreen Company departed from Rochefort, having made a friend of one party, a rival with another, and completely dismissed by the last.

The Evergreen Company's destination was a small trade post known as "Onestrio's". It lied directly south of Rochefort, about two days ride by horse. Owned an operated by the married couple Onestrio and Sabina Lucelli, it had served as the main trade post for regional hunters and trappers to sell their goods and purchase supplies. Onestrio had been satisfied with what he had created; independence away from the burdens of the urban lifestyle, but not so far out of reach to not feel its benefits. However, over the past six months, such trade had been replaced with extortion. The bandits of the Evergreen Plains had finally expanded their territory this far north.

The Company's arrival received a rude welcome from the trade post's proprietor. Onestrio's wife Sabina apologized for the brusque greeting, explaining that her husband was stressed and upset by the brigands' recent shakedowns. Onestrio had hired guards from Rochefort who had yet to arrive. The fact that Rochefort had nonsensically sent people go claim new land before even securing the small piece of it already under civilized control further reinforced Onestrio's belief that his decision to escape the trappings of "lawful society" in favour of independent self-reliance was justified.

After familiarizing themselves with their new base of operations for the time being, the Evergreen Company got themselves up to speed on the current situation in the area. Over a bowl of hearty soup, Sabina explained to the newcomers that years ago, a powerful man known only as the Stag Lord rose to power, and beat all the bandits of the Evergreen Plains into serving under him. Although the bandits had left them alone for a while, six months ago, bandits of the Stag came to the trading post to take their goods and money. Since then, they have always arrived during the first week of each month to claim their tribute from the couple.

The Company agreed with each other that halting this extortion should be their first task, with Davona particularly eager to finally face down these brigands. They quickly gathered the details from the Lucellis, and learned the names of two of the bandit group's leaders: Ravenna, who was the Stag Lord's lieutenant in this area, and her second-in-command, Vico. They had started their extortion racket on the trade post over six months ago, suddenly showing up with a dozen other outlaws. That number remained the same when they returned the following month. However, the third and fourth months, only eight bandits returned, with only Vico in charge, and eventually that number lowered to six for the last two months. Onestrio suspected that the bandits had become lax with how easy their pickings were.

Over the next couple of days, the Evergreen Company made plans on a welcome party for the bandits. After familiarizing themselves with the trade post's layout and the surrounding area, the Company had only to wait a couple of days before they caught sight of half a dozen riders approaching at a leisurely pace from the south. The men were each heavily armed, and could not be mistaken for a hunter or trapper. These were certainly the bandits, and their casual approach bespoke of their lack of wariness.

The riders strode through the gate and into the trade post's inner yard. Only Onestrio could be seen, bent down fixing the wheel of a cart. The bandits dismounted, and a rough-looking man with a goatee, wearing a distinctive green cloak, strode ahead of them.

"Onestrio! Time for our usual business!" Vico called out. Onestrio stood up, and glared at the man, but Vico only smirked. "Come on, now. Don't make that face! Just show us the goods, and we don't have to play."

Vico's men chuckled. Onestrio grumbled, but led them to the storehouse. Two of the bandits sat down at the nearby long table, while the rest followed Vico to help carry the goods. Onestrio opened the door to the storehouse and stepped a few feet back.

"Speaking of play, where's that pretty little wife of yours? We could a little pick-me-up before we head back!" Vico remarked as he headed into the storehouse. His men laughed at that.

That was when the Evergreen Company sprang in action.

Cethin, who laid flat on the rampart's upper walkway, and Jupus, similarly posed atop the stable's roof, loosed their crossbow bolts and arrows at the bandits. From behind the stables emerged Davona, who ran to the gates and began pushing them closed.

At the same time, Arina leapt from behind the cart, and struck her rapier at the nearest bandit. She would occupy them while Davona sealed the only available exit. The Evergreen Company had no intention of letting any criminal escape.

"What the Nine Hell?!" one of the bandits cried out.

"It's an ambu-ack!" another shouted before being cut off by Cethin's bolt striking him in the chest.

Vico came stomping out of the storehouse. "What the Abyss is happening out here?!" the banidt leader shouted. He did not get far, as Jupus' trick arrow unfurled mid-air, amd wrapped around Vico's legs. The bandit fell face first into the dirt.

The battle was now in full swing. The bandits recovered from their surprise, and unslung their longbows, while Vico struggled to free himself from the trip arrow.

After securing the gates, Davona equipped her shield and drew her sword, and charged at the bandits. However, her targets saw her, and fired their bows first. Davona's armor protected her from much of the damage, but one arrow slipped through her armor's gaps into her shoulder, badly crippling it. The paladin fought through the intense pain, and continued her attack, cutting through the scrambling bandits.

Davona was struck by another painful blow as another deeply pierced her other shoulder. She could feel herself fading, but sheer determination kept her on her feet, still in the fight.

The bandits scrambled around the trading post yard, firing their longbows at their attackers. However, with blood streaming down from her splint mail, Davona charged at them, slashing and harrying. One by one, bandits were cut down. One of them panicked, and tried to flee, but took a crossbow bolt in the back by Cethin.

The battle was not completely one-sided. Vico proved why he was the leader as he succeeded in landing several well-placed shots on Jupus. However, the Evergreen Company was relentless. They closed in onto Vico, and cut him down. When the dust settled, all of the bandits were on the ground, unconscious and bleeding out.

"So, we're all good now, right?" Davona gasped. She was wobbly on her feet, and her lower half of her body was drenched with her own blood. "Great, I'm just going to fall unconscious now." And the paladin collapsed to the ground.

"I don't know about you folk, but I feel great!" Cethin quipped, walking around the cart from where he took cover. The kitsune was untouched.

Jupus just shook his head as he gingerly climbed down from the stable's roof. He held back any smart remark as he accepted Cethin's healing magic. He then proceeded to stabilize the bandits. He almost lost the last one, fumbling around with the man's wounds. Fortunately the bandit, he managed to stabilize on his own.

With his hands drenched with the man's blood, Jupus would then comment, not quite so confidently, "Er, yeah, I totally did that," Jupus said, his hands drenched with the man's blood.

The Evergreen Company had won the battle, the first of many to come. It was a satisfying start to their endeavour, but none of them could imagine web of plots they just stepped into.

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