CH 1: Senior Council
“His Imperial Majesty, Cauis Basileus Martialis XI, Emperor of the Golden Empire, High King of the Three Kingdoms and His Royal Highness, Aureus Basileus Martialis, Prince of the Three Kingdoms.
Grandmaster Rewalt stood with the rest of the council when the Emperor entered, the third prince at his side. The Emperor was noticed dressed down, bearing few of his usual court trappings. He did not even wear his crown. Dark, though grey-streaked hair, fell about his head and onto the shoulders of his embroidered doublet and his beard, immaculately trimmed framed a stately jaw. The man was handsome and dignified, wearing the cloak of his power and birth around him in a way that did more than any golden cloak or crown ever could.
In his hand, he carried the spear of Basileus, the most important piece of his regalia. The twenty-centimetre long spearhead was covered with a shroud of golden chiffon, a sign of peace. The blade was only bared in times of war and strife. Rewalt knew that the real reason that the blade was merely covered in chiffon was so that even a covered it would be partly visible through the diaphanous cloth. A literal thinly veiled threat to all who looked on it. At its base was fixed a large ruby of the same startling shade as blood.
The spear itself had a rather long and bloody history. It was the weapon of the original Basileus, founder of the Empire and man who led the revolution that toppled the world order. Basileus started life at the tail end of the Fourth Age as an unknown, unnamed slave of the Ancient Dorthon Empire. In that age, the Dorthon Empire covered nearly the entire continent and it was Basileus and his revolution that toppled it. When it was over, he took on the name he would come to be known by and founded a new empire on the ashes of the first, leading the world into a glorious fifth age.
Basileus prized weapon, the same spear that his descendant carried, was later gilt with gold and used as a symbol of power for his empire. Grandmaster Rewalt made it a point to never glance directly at it, lest its legend blind him. The spear of Basileus was a weapon that toppled an Empire and forged another. It led races, varied and many, in common cause. The thing had a weight to it that could break a man and a spirit that could rouse an army. In his heart, he could not help but wonder how it was that the Emperor could bear to hold it.
An age ago, the spear marked the leader of the ‘free world’. But then its vassals grew strong and seceded from The Golden Empire. Now, only four states remained under the rule of the Golden Throne.
With a legend like that, there had to be more to its ownership than mere inheritance. In fact, the title and rank of Emperor was only bestowed on someone who successfully proved he or she could wield the spear. Without it, you were naught but High King. There was an entire dark chapter of their history where not a single heir was ‘proved worthy’. It sparked a war that ironically enough was related to the topic the council had gathered to discuss.
The Emperor seated himself at the head of the council table with the prince following suit. Leaving the imperial spear floating at his side, he made a small gesture, granting them leave to take their seats as well.
“Lord Rewalt, we have gathered the council at your missive”, said the Emperor in his deep gravelly voice. “It is an odd hour for a meeting but we understand that yours is a matter of great import. Please…”
Put on the spot, Rewalt could only restack the items in front of him under the sharp eyes of everyone else on the council. The council itself had eleven primary members all of whom were present. At its head was the Emperor and sitting on either side of him was the Grand Marshall, leader of the Royal Army and the High Pontifex, the Royal Master of religious affairs. Following that were the Four Grandmasters. Himself, Grandmaster of the Adventurers’ Guild, The Grandmaster of the Merchants Guild, The Grandmaster of the Mages Guild and the Grandmaster of the Crafts Guild.
Last but not any less important were the Four Emissaries. Each Represented one of the territories under the Emperor’s rule; the Dwarven Kingdom in the Battle Hammer Mountains, the Giant Kingdom in Serun’s Chasm, the Fae Duchy in The Galronde and finally, the Empire’s sole remaining external territory, the Egion Dominion. The Golden Land itself was not counted because at its founding, it was marked as the heart of the new empire. Home of the free peoples. It was destined to be the land for everyone, including the lost territories.
“I bring good tidings today!” Rewalt said in an attempt to lighten the mood. Spontaneous and compulsory meetings never went well with anyone especially, when most would rather be in their beds at this moment. He could already see frowns on some faces.
“Just two days ago, a new dungeon was discovered in our lands!” he told them.
The effects of the news were immediate. Everyone was sitting up now. Before Rewalt could get another word in, he was drowning in questions.
“I’m coming to that!”
“What kind of dungeon is it?”
“How did you…?”
Rewalt had expected the news to have a considerable impact but not even he foresaw this. He was tried to speak, to answer their questions but failed. Suddenly, The Golden Spear let out a soft thrum and the hall was plunged into silence.
“Let Lord Rewalt say what he has to say first!” came the Emperor’s gravelly tone.
He was the only one not surprised by the news or eager for answers. That was because Rewalt had already briefed him about everything he knew about the new dungeon. It was he who decided the matter could not wait and made the decision of calling the impromptu council meeting.
Clearly his throat, Rewalt spoke to his now captive audience. “The dungeon was discovered in the north-east, a stone’s throw from The Galronde. It is in the no man’s land between the forest and the Battle Hammers.”
This land was a buffer zone intended initially to lessen the chance of conflict between the two parties. Neither of them could claim it was theirs. The Grandmaster of the Adventurers’ Guild made sure to stress this point so that neither the old dwarf who spoke for the Dwarven King or the Oread representing the Fae Duke would get any ideas about claiming it. Sorting out the matter of the dungeon would be stressful enough without either party fighting for principal rights.
“It was discovered by a team of adventurers who claimed to have followed a faerie to its entrance”, he added.
All eyes turned to the Oread and for a good reason. If it was discovered that her people had known about the dungeon and kept it to themselves so that they could explore it in secret, her duchy would have a lot of problems on their hands. Sensing the suspicion directed at her, she made to speak but Emperor waved her off. The enquiries would come later. Any guilt would be determined then. Additionally, Rewalt knew something that could excuse her people for the time being.
“All our initial surveys have failed to reveal any such fae in the area or even around the dungeon. However, there was some faerie artwork discovered inside the dungeon. It is possible that the adventurers were lured over by the dungeon pixie but for the moment we cannot be certain.
“The initial reports gave several conflicting details. For instance, it was described to be a mature dungeon but it had never been raided. Or that it was littered with outstanding art and yet, wild and untamed. Also, the dungeon had been named but the lore text on its loot referred to it as unknown. The only useful thing that gleaned from that report was that the dungeon was filled with riches and that the first party to delve in was nearly wiped out on the first floor.
“Let with no choice I sent the Warden of the East, Alec Gauwyn to the site to investigate! Warden Gauwyn was able to confirm some of the salient parts of the report. Additionally, he had a recording crystal on hand and was able to obtain some images of the dungeon”, Rewalt revealed. Picking up his communication talisman and a glowing crystal ball, he readied himself for the most important part of his presentation.