Bringing Out Your Dead
The ancient fiefdom of Vineghast has known many decades of peace. Its verdant landscape holds broad swaths of tall grass and damp towers of virgin forest. Fresh lakes are well-stocked with fish. Small game and fowl flock and burrow and feed upon the lush greenery.
Tiny villages – simple and peaceful and in want of little – dot the edges of the many rivers. The people are happy in almost every way. They go about their lives unmolested and (in almost all things) unpunished. The King – The Silver Defender, Edgar VIII – has reigned for 29 years; each of them just as peaceful and prosperous as the 47 under his father.
Edgar, and the people of Vineghast, have but a single worry in their lives: the dead cannot be found. No new coffins are brought to the cemeteries. Royal tombs are not stocked with new urns, nor are fresh crosses planted in the grounds behind quaint chapels. For 40 years it has been this way.
In all the times before, death functioned as it should. Throughout the entire history of Vineghast – from the nearly-forgotten age of Helflum Bronzewing to the Purple Coup of the Barbarian Hordes – the weak, old, and unlucky would reach their ends and be buried. Not so now.
Those who die in the wilderness from heat, or cold, or random accident are gone before the scavengers of the air and bugs of the ground can feast on the body. The village elder who passes quietly in his sleep is gone before the shades are lifted in the morning. The wrap of cloth is empty long before a grieving father has time to place his stillborn child in the ground.
Some say: tendrils of liquid-night reach like roots from the ground and pull the corpses into the bosom of the earth to be cracked by stones and burned by magma.
Some say: Mother Gaia simply nestles the bodies against her bosom and whisks them off to their well-deserved rest amidst a chorus of blasting horns and angels’ voices.
Some say: the bodies are carried upon beds of mist, through the sky, to the crumbling keeps and shadowed caves that lie in the cracks and crevices of the grand mountains to the West.
No one really knows for sure, but Edgar has grown weary of this mystery in recent years. He longs to polish out this one last blemish from what is otherwise the perfection of his reign. He sleeps fitfully, and grows morose, and takes to drink. At long last, he can no longer stand for his fiefdom to be lorded over by this living nightmare, this unnatural thing, this dark arcana; it must be lorded by himself and only himself.
He assembles his most loyal knights – three great men who follow the King willfully, blindly, absolutely in all things. They are named The Order of Complete Light and each is tattooed upon his forehead with the Sign of the Cross. Each is given a sword from the royal vault and a shield blessed by the Bishop and his virgin daughter.
They are all gold and steel and unwavering faith. Yet, the players are NOT these men.