13th Kuthona, “Moonday” of the year 4711
Thickwood Estate, North wing, Roderick’s Cove, noon
It has been a morning of surprises. The battle seemed like order itself compared to the chaos which followed. My troops, if a militia of fishermen and farmers may be called that, were filled with the adrenaline of victory for a few hours, and then began to mill about, unsure of what to do. I had expected casualties on our side, but I had not considered the Orc casualties, nor that Orcs might surrender.
Arietta brought me the calculations soon after sunrise. Of the estimated 5500 troops on the battlefield, 1200 fled, along with a full company of worg-mounted (150) and a dragon. Another 950 remain at our mercy – 400 surrendered, 540 crippled in the battle. Over 3000 Orcs died last night. One of our men perished, an Ulfen warrior. A victory indeed, and yet so much death – it cannot be forgotten.
The Hawk clan retreated to the forests beyond the river, a few representatives remaining to parler. They saw my light, Shelyn’s light, they explained, and took it as a rally to battle. They have long hated the Orcs and the desecration they bring to the Hawk Clan’s holy hunting grounds. They swore allegiance to Roderick’s Cove and to me. Olivius, not wishing to be outdone, swore his allegiance for a third time and hailed me as a hero of legend, the most powerful Paladin he had met. But there will be time for diplomacy later.
For now, I have 940 Orc prisoners of war. We have not the resources to feed them but, as Arietta said, it would be foolish to let them go and re-join the war band. To begin with, all the orcs were stripped of their weapons and armour, and there crippled carried to the old Thornbridge manor, where blankets and fuel have been sent. All the spoils from the battlefield are being taken to the town hall for assessment and evaluation before the official dividing of the spoils. The Ulfen and the Hawk clan will want their share, and I will have everything done fairly. I do not wish to offend our new allies.
But the surprises continued. A few hours later, an enormous orc, perhaps seven feet tall, limped towards the gates of the city from the Thornbridge Manor. I intercepted his approach, and landed before him – he was wearing a hooded toga, and towered above even me. He lowered his hood to reveal grey-white skin and sapphire-blue eyes, deep with a wisdom I would not have expected from his kind.
I asked what he needed, and he knelt before me, naming himself “Wumanok Sarfu Lugdum”. He begged forgiveness for his actions, and those of his kindred (though he did not claim to have their allegiance or will), and pledged himself to me. I believe he expected retribution, but instead I asked what he wanted, and how I could help him; he taught me a lesson I shall not soon forget, for the dream he shared with me could have been delivered by Shelyn and Torag themselves.
His eyes have seen too much blood and death. He dreams now of creation, of building a city of orcs led, not by greed and destruction, but by honour. He dreams of swords raised for a noble cause, or else melted down into pitch forks; a place where animals are not slaughtered, but tended, and where the earth is not defiled, but cultivated.
Shelyn has sent me an emissary, a link to the Orcs. There was no evil in this man and his dream was as close to mine as made no difference. After all, he dreams of peace and prosperity for his people. He seeks enlightenment. I reached down, took his arm and praised Shelyn’s name; his wounds closed, and I pulled him to his feet.
I bid Wumanok walk with me as I approached the old Thornbridge Estate, where the Orcs were convalescing or imprisoned. We stepped in silence, for Wumanok was weak, and my mind was whirring like a mine-pump, trying to put together the words I had to say. If I said something wrong, if I offended them, then what I was planning could fail. Hells, it may still fail, for all I know – but I cannot not help but try.
The injured were all huddled together, ignored by the able-bodied, who moved amongst themselves and muttered darkly, or so it seemed to me. Wumanok told me they were discussing what they should do next. I asked him to translate what I had to say. Then I spread my wings and my arms, looked up to the heavens, and called upon Shelyn to heal the injured. Her light bathed the manor for a few seconds, and I heard croaks of astonishment as Orcs flexed their newly-healed limbs. The room fell silent, all eyes were upon me – I believe they expected some kind of retribution. And so I spoke:
“My name is Aurora, Duchess of Roderick’s Cove. I have been the vanquisher of necromancers. It was I who slayed Dic’Yien. I have killed ogres, Duargar, and the undead, and I have heard the voice of Shelyn, who is goodness and light, who is beauty and justice. I have acted in her name. But as Shelyn is merciful and just, so shall I endeavour to be. Any here who wish to leave, may do so – should you be foolish enough to face me in battle, then I pity your fate, for my Earthbreaker’s justice is swift and final, and I walk in fire.
But for any who wish to no longer live in fear, for those who love justice and hate oppression, for those who would live honourably within the law, there will be a place for you in Roderick’s Cove. That is my offer to you. Think well. Choose wisely.”
I have written it here, as well as I can remember it, for there was no one but the Orcs and I there. I turned and left before Wumanok had finished translating, for I did not wish for them to feel threatened into their choice. As the old soldier’s voice finished its litany, there were cries, and the sound of pounding upon the walls. Whether this was assent or madness, only time will tell me. A soul may be brought into the light – Ulden showed me that, and those who enact evil may only do so because they have lain too long in the darkness, without a candle to show them the way.
I walked amongst the Ulfen and healed their wounded. The city hall still stands for now, and Dereck is busy coordinating deployments, food resources, and the battlefield spoils. I stopped in with him, to see if anything needed my direct attention. He barraged me with questions about the Militia, the Orcs, the Ulfen and Isnur and geld and a hundred other things. These are questions which will keep for the afternoon. They do not need answering now, I hope, for I have no answers. I told him of my offer to the Orcs and he blanched. Perhaps my council will not agree with me that the Orcs can be redeemed. Arietta and Morden were there too – Morden is to go and scout around the Mine to see what remains of the Orc forces – I offered my aid, but he told me that he preferred a scouting party of one.
The city is in tatters – the barrages of the war-machines have torn holes, but have not defeated our hearts. We will rebuild. For that we will need lumbar and stone, but I cannot think of these things now. I feel like my skin is hot and cold at the same time. So much of Shelyn’s power has been channelled through me that my eyelids itch on the inside, and my bones feel heavy. For now I have returned to the Thickwood Estate, and Naiya has drawn me a boiling hot bath. Later I will attend to the city and its incessant questions. Later, I will be the Duchess again. Later…
Thickwood Estate, North wing, Roderick’s Cove, late evening
It was already evening when I awoke. Naiya had clearly tried and failed to knock, and was cautiously prodding me with a finger in as reverential a manner as was possible under the circumstances. She apologetically told me that my waiting room was becoming full; it was time to make all those decisions I had put off. Fortunately, at least, she brought me a rare steak before I had to face anybody, or I fear I should have lost my temper several times. Such actions rarely reflect well upon me, and tend to end messily.
Downstairs, around my table, waited almost every single person of importance currently in the city: Derek, Morden, Arietta, Zao, Chief of the Hawk Clan, Wumanok, Lady Mesma, Aasimus, Olivius and his sons. Fortunately Naiya had the foresight to provide them with food and drink and they appeared to be enjoying themselves. I sent first for the council to come up to my private chambers; after all, I would need their guidance in dealing with whatever requests the others may bring.
Instead of trying to deal with each member’s proposals or requests in turn, which last time proved so disastrous, I first asked them all to voice what they had come to say or request. This also gave me time to consider each problem, and how they might conflict.
Arietta: explained that the battlefield spoils had been gathered, and 50 militia had been posted up on the wall. Questions have already been raised about how long the militia may yet stand, and if they may be paid.
In terms of spoils, the Ulfen will require them (and, indeed, I already promised them as much), but the Hawk clan do not – they saw the battle as defending their own home. However the Hawk clan have requested a treaty between our peoples.
Morden: returned with the findings of his scouting mission. The Orc camp is severely depleted, and they seem to be packing up and departing. There has also been some significant internal strife and the Orcs appear to be turning upon one another, now their united foe has proved un-vanquishable. Morden counted around 600 Orcs in total. There remains lot of movement in and out of the mine, particularly the worg riders – although 50 have already left towards Belkzen.
There also remains the issue of 250 enslaved people waiting in the camp. The countryside around the mine is mostly plains, which allows for the fast movement of carts necessary for any rescue attempt.
Derek: has informed us that food remains an issue within the city, and within the next 5 days people will start needing food from the granary – our last acquisitions gives us a good edge, but they won’t last forever.
Having said that, however, the end of the battle and the siege means that, if the spoils are distributed through the soldiers, they will start having gold to spend, thus revitalising the economy. Trade will start up again. Receiving geld from the Ulfen, if they are to be a vassal state, will also fill the city’s coffers.
My own personal assets have suffered no blow, and production in the mine and forge is going well so far; for now there is no problem with my commands to focus on mining rather than building weapons, and training new blacksmiths.
Zao: voiced the warning that, although the city seems to be a stable position and the post-battle jollifications will keep morale up for the next few days, this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be organising and planning our next steps in terms of finding a guard from the city.
I decided to start with diplomatic matters.
The Ulfen: have sworn allegiance to me three times. After some deliberation (which also required fetching Elyron, and hearing him explain his tedious new tax system) we have decided to offer them a formalisation of this allegiance into vassal status. This will involve the collection of 20% geld (taxation), and they will be protected as a vassal of the Duchy of Melodie. However, we must request that all slaves are to become serfs beneath their previous masters. I have agreed to settle the financial debts myself. I will not have slaves in my kingdom, for what right has one sentient being to lay claim upon another?
Whether or not they accept vassal-status, they will receive spoil-share as equals, a fifth of the total, which is a larger share than they would expect and does honour to their battle prowess. In addition, Morden has recommended that I offer a gift of a unique, magical item to Olivius, to be presented at a banquet in honour of the battle. We may, of course, be eating the plates themselves by that point, but it does not do to dwell on these matters. Shelyn will provide.
The Hawk clan: have requested a treaty with the Duchy of Melodie. We propose that this involves a non-aggression pact, and a favourable trade agreement. In addition, we will offer them free reign on our lands, so long as they remain within the laws of the Duchy. We will also offer them a unique, magical gift to be presented at the aforementioned banquet.
Morden asked permission, which was authorised, to send envoys to every power in the valley with invitations for the banquet, even to nobles in the Duchy of Ravenmiur and in Riddlesport. He raised the point that diplomatic and trade relations will be necessary to the growth and stability of Roderick’s Cove. I trust his judgement.
Wumanok’s proposal came under review next – he would like to place a settlement within the Duchy of Melodie, exclusively of Orcs, under his rulership. He’s expecting around three hundred and twenty warriors to join him, not including their slaves and families. Elyron suggested that we “keep our friends close, but our enemies closer”, as the Varisian saying goes. If they wish to settle the land, he reasoned, why not evacuate the current settlement of the war band, and allow them to settle there. He raises a good point – it is far enough from the city to give ease to the folk of Roderick’s Cove, who may understandably feel nervous that such a settlement has been authorised. The country is good there – plenty of grassland to work and also the mine if they desire it. Once we open it up again, they can work for us, and generate tax for the city.
Next we discussed the militia, and the guards. It seems clear enough that the Militia should be paid for their service in gold, and stood down. It currently stands at 380, an unsupportable number in the long-term, and all those working men may be considered idle. Zao requests a guard complement of 50-100 men. Whilst I would eventually aim for a hundred, I think it foolish to swell the ranks so quickly, without Zao having a chance to properly vet all the entrants. I have instructed him to offer positions to those of the militia who showed promise. Once a guard of 50 has been trained and established, it can be grown at a more gradual rate, with apprenticeships and a training programme. Hopefully, by that point, the city may even have enough gold to pay them.
I suppose I must now broach Elyron’s taxation system, tedious though it is.
There are to be 3 taxes:
- Trade tax (paid at the city gates or at the harbour – imports and exports, to control import and export of goods). This will require officials to enforce.
- Business tax (paid by businesses in the city) based upon average estimated value of generated income per year, starting with the lowest possible and re-evaluating yearly. This will also require officials to enforce.
- Land tax – separated in bands based on the distance from centres of power and based on the units of the land, considered either residential, commercial, agricultural or industrial.
In other districts of the Duchy, for example in Isnur and in Wulfenor’s new village, the taxation system and percentages remain the same, but it is payable to the local lord. A percentage is then passed to the city. Apparently a standard percentage may range from 0%-30%. For now, I have deemed, in consultation with Elyron and Derek, that Melodie will claim 20% geld from our Lords, in addition to our ability to call to arms and request troops in times of need.
Once our internal matters were laid to rest, I invited our guests before the council individually. The audiences went, on the whole, very smoothly. Both the Ulfen and the Hawk Clan accepted, and indeed were honoured by, our proposals. They are small forces, but I am glad to count them amongst our allies. They would be formidable foe. Olivius particularly touched me, for he announced that he considers himself a Melodian – such a sweet name would please Shelyn herself, I hope.
Unsurprisingly, the negotiations with Wumanok were a little more difficult. Morden presented the terms we had constructed. The abolition of slavery seemed a sticking point amongst his people, and Wumanok mentioned that many of his followers would balk at this decision, though he himself declared that he was happy to work with us, as long as the mines are emptied from the current occupiers. He makes no claims upon the current riches of the mines, by which I assume means the dragon’s horde and the supplies left within the mines.
Wumanok was also able to tell us a little about what we may encounter beneath the ground, and the Orc forces we encountered thus far. They were organised, as far as I can tell, by the red dragon himself, but rallied around four Orc-kin leaders. Wumanok’s own leader was Gulda’an, the very ogre who fell beneath my Earthbreaker.
The mine holds dragon disciples, numbering less than two-score, as well as the dragon himself, and some kind of egg. It radiates immense amounts of heat and light, and is larger than a man – by his account I have reason to hope that it may be the missing piece from the Thassilonion tower in the harbour. It must be returned to its rightful place, for it has been described as a sun; such a beacon must light the town.
The mine goes at least three levels deep, all inhabited, and the mine-shafts themselves can be entered from the second floor. Apparently after a certain point, it becomes difficult for Orc-kin to move because the egg emanates such heat and light. I cannot imagine, however, that Morden or I should be too troubled by it.
At last our audiences are over, and the council has bid me farewell. It is late in the evening now, for we had not begun our discussions until after the sun was already set. I was gratified that Morden decided to remain beside me. I had Naiya run him a bath, for he has not yet washed and rested since the battle, and now I have finished my accounts here, I believe I shall join him..