War of Lords
Session 1: The Breath Before the Storm"
The day was clear and cool. Winter frost still clung to the dark green grass of the hills and the sun shone cold and white high in the southern sky. The plains of Verde de Lareaño were damp and slippery, and patches of mud had made walking treacherous.
Nevertheless, Lord Picarro had chosen this field to meet the invaders. His army stood poised at attention, their long lines making proud ranks on the gentle slopes of the plains and the banner of their house held high. Held opposite their number lay the army of Lord Kyle Romas, servant of House Talbert and High Priest for the Church of Light. Wearing the colors of gold on their armor, Lord Romas’ army seemed to glow with a strength of their own inner light and divinity. Their ranks, too, filled the plains magnificently and their numbers were quite advantageous over the Lord Picarro’s men.
Many were restless or eager to fight. Others, still, felt the initial worry of nervousness clutching at their hearts, their very stomach turning on itself at the sight of their enemy. Yet, either way, the impending battle and the sight of thousands of soldiers fielding against each other had gripped the moment in a hushed awe.
“My lord,” said Lord Picarro’s squire, “we are ready.”
Lord Picarro squinted at the line of troops splayed before his forces, measuring their details, their arrangement, and their spirits. Much was riding on this battle—a route of his forces here would mean that his little village of Engles, raided and ruined only three days ago, would not be the last to suffer that miserable fate. Much of what was to be done today, every word tarried and every sacrifice made, would dictate the future of his people, his house, and his family. To route the enemy this day would mean a reprieve of only a few months perhaps—Lord Romas’ forces were sizeable and his most powerful allies had yet to be brought to bear—but it would be those few precious months that Lord Picarro required to gather his allies. He prayed to the Lord of Light for anything to save his men and his lands this day, even at a score of diplomatic sacrifices; for if diplomacy failed him, and should his men fall, it would be the beginning of the end for his proud and noble house.
When Lord Picarro turned to this squire, he noticed the paleness in his complexion and the fear in his eyes.
“Are you frightened, young one?”
Raul was reluctant to answer honestly, but finally decided to be truthful with his lord. “Si, m’lord.”
Lord Picarro nodded. “As well as you should be. Every true warrior has to know fear, or else he will become sloppy and careless in the face of death. Today, a great many people are depending on us, and I fear for their sake as well. But let that not be a weakness—let that be your strength!”
His young squire slowly nodded his head. Resolve seem to fill his face and tighten his lips.
Lord Picarro smiled faintly at the boy’s courage and turned to face the field between their great armies where several small figures converged in the distance; his son among their number, they would decide if today was one of bloodshed or peace.
“Let us hope,” Picarro said quietly, “that all of us can see our wives and children this night. Godspeed, my son—let peace be your guide.”
“…the lands from the Verde de Lareaño to the forests of Alara are to be forfeited immediately. The villages and chapels within those lands are to be esteemed in the glory of the Lord of Light, and its people be put to the fields in service of Lord Romas. Lord Picarro will swear fealty and loyalty to Lord Romas and pay to him a bi-monthly tribute of no less than five hundred dragon pieces. In addition, his troops, his horses, and the whole of his military will be under the command of Lord Romas and myself.” Ser Soraño smiled when he had finished his reading, and continued. “Let it be known that the Lord of Light has blessed Lord Romas with both wisdom and mercy. In return for your loyalty, lands shall be granted for you in the south. The Pontiff will personally anoint Lord Picarro to a position of prestige in the church, and immediately shall the title of Guardian of the Light be granted to you, his son. (A great measure of honor, as you are well aware.) Let it also be known that the Lord Romas desires friendship and peace between our peoples—so highly does he desire this, that he offers up his youngest daughter, the beautiful Maid Dia, for marriage, along with all the titles, holdings, wealth, and claims that such a union would represent. In return for this generous offer, and to further solidify our bonds, Lord Picarro is to offer unto me one of his daughters, of his choosing, to be my bride, as well as a dowry do be discussed at a later time.”
When Ser Soraño finished, he licked his dry lips. Before he joined House Romas, he had been a part of House Picarro and had many times tried to woo Lord Picarro's daughters and find his favor. However, his arrogance, overbearing, and malevolence was all to apparent to Lord Picarro and he rejected all of his measures. Now a vassal to a new Lord in a convenient place of power, he would see to it that he not be denied.
The other who traveled to negotiations with him seemed much more calm, but alltogether mysterious. He was of the so-called "Goldenguard", the servants of the Church of Light and knights of power and reknown. Though a relatively new order, they had one great prestige and wealth in a somewhat small matter of time. His armor and bearing reflected the regality and majesty of the order-straight, true, and faithful to the last. However, none could make his bearing for his mask had covered his face from the beginning, and hardly a word or gesture was made by him. A so-called "black knight" in gold armor.
"Well, señors... what say you?"