To my heroes,
It has been far too long since last we met, and I must apologize. Please allow me to offer an explanation, though I pray it does not sound as an excuse. After the Chancellor fell and the Emperor was taken to chains that fateful night; And when the battle which took to Travance ended and the armies withdrew from their fronts: the map lines were drawn. The Empire was in the process of licking its wounds, concocting new plots and maneuvers of ill design to retrieve their leader from the clutches of the Kingdom. This was presently known within Alleander and I, among others, were tasked with putting in fail safes to hinder and anticipate this looming threat. Imagine our surprise when the Duke himself was freed by his own machinations, and in the process ensuring our protector and leader was plunged into a seemingly never ending slumber. This upset of status quo threw both the Empire and Kingdom to relative chaos as they both scrambled for the next move, and how to anticipate the other. I won't bore you with the details of it, but let it be known that the fine people of the Kingdom of Kormyre worked tirelessly for months, and more than ever risked it all to gain insight on the enemies current path.
And yet, there was no counter-attack, no second invasion, no reigniting of the flames of our peoples in the bitter and brutal war in which we had just engaged. It seemed that peace had come between us, however dour and unfavorable it was received by both sides. The Empire moved their gaze towards Gaaldron, the cliff between our Kingdom and their Empire and the recent wound they had just recovered from still smarting with fresh memory. As it stands now, reports are that they are making plans to overtake Gaaldron's land for their own, and while there is not much I can say for fear of secrecy or misinformation, I will assure you all that the Kingdom is ensuring their watchful eye is upon the Empire at all times.
However, all this has not stopped the dealings we undergo with the Empire. Reports of scouting parties viewing each other from afar in broad daylight, forever waiting for the other to make the first move across the border. Dissent of civilians in their current status and location, attempting travel and to exchange citizenship either by legal argument or by dark cover of night. And, our current most pressing matter, the exchange of those imprisoned or otherwise deposed within the confines and borders of the opposing camps. I will not lie and claim us with great innocence. When the fighting stopped, the enemy which we had surrounded gave up their arms, and currently reside within our dungeons. My personal and long time ally, Naz'un Fraon has assured me that the prisoners of our war are not being mistreated by any means, though we are doing our best to ensure an uprising does not occur amongst them. I write with extreme sorrow: All of our offerings for prisoner exchange have fallen on deaf ears, receiving at best no response, and at worst disdainful glances(according to messenger reports).
However, recently an offer from the Empire itself has been delivered directly to our doorstep. In a normal case, we would respond in kind, as we have been expecting ransom for ransom, an exchange of soldiers. Yet, this is not so. The letter, which I have transcribed below, demands no prisoners of our own but land for the lives of our people. We are currently debating that which they request, wooded land just south of Wolfhaven. They have, offered many lives for this plot of land.
This negotiation I defer to you, my friends. I will be present and will lend ear to all voices, offering any aid or insight I can based upon inquiry. But I, and others, believe it is only right that those who put a stop to the Empire be those who meet them in this regard. Pray, make preparations. I will send messengers here to deliver and return any questions you may have and answers you require.
Lastly, let me make one thing extremely clear: According to our estimates, the Empire holds upwards of 2,000 of our people in chains. Reports claim around half of those are civilians. Since the war ended, our numbers have been counted as us having 3,407 soldiers of the Empire in our dungeons, all of which are soldiers. Any who did not take up arms against our kingdom have already been released to the Empire, or given new homes here if they have been proven to be defectors. The enemy is not being forthright with their dealings, despite our many offers of exchanging all for all.
Forever in your debt and service,
Councilor Elijah Crowley
Transcribed from the office of Councilor Crowley.
"Attention Fiends, Belied Countrymen, and Followers of the Usurper,
Though our borders remain without blood, our memory has not vanished of the atrocities committed by your country. We have not forgotten the honor that swelled in our hearts as we stood proudly with the Emperor against your onslaught. And we now remind you of your failure to entrap his most Esteemed Majesty within your deceitful grasp. His Highness Emperor Lucian Balliol has rightfully decided to show mercy upon the subjects you so wrongfully neglect.
Within our envoy we have 500 of your subjects with which we are willing to part. Soldiers which submitted to the might of our prowess, and civilians that with evil in their heart wish to return to their folly. These prisoners hold no place in our Empire. But in unending benevolence, his Mightiness has not ordered they be executed for their crimes against Arawyn itself.
Instead, we come bearing a most generous offer. South of our great territory of Wolfhaven, lies a wood draped against the cliff side which forces our neighboring. It is the northern most part of the forest which you call Frostknell. In exchange for land which is rightfully ours, we will deliver unto you traitors which are rightfully yours.
I will personally be seeing to these negotiations, along with my Honor Guard. I expect full compliance and attendance, along with quick response.
For the Glory of the Empire,
Lieutenant General Governor Horatio Hildegard."
I agree with my brother Victor. We cannot surrender Frostknell. Not only would it be strategically unsound, the lives of 500 cannot be allowed to outweigh the lives of the free people of Kormyre along with potential easier access to Winterdark. We must get our people back if possible. I hate thinking of them suffering needlessly at the hands of the Empire, but we have to think long term.
Keladry, would you be willing to investigate Frostknell further? I'd like to make a trip out there myself to see if more can be uncovered.
-Squire Reyna DelDragon
Kin's hand is done still athwarted by that skeleton-wizard so he is havin me write this from our room in a vacation destination station (they got real goose feathers here!): He heard that the prisoners they are exchanging are mostly common folk. Civilians and not soldiers. Welp, sounds like a tough call yall. Anythings the empire is given I've seen that they'll use to hurt people. Couldn't cotton much to that!
Your neighbor, Serr Thomas Bell
If you would like my help if you go again, perhaps I may offer some fresh eyes now that we know to look for something.
-March Warden Caelvan Renaith of Selendrias
Can you remind us of the current official standings between the Kingdom and the Empire? Is there still a state of open war between us or are we currently operating under a cease fire? Additionally, can you give us any information concerning relations between Gaaldron and New Gaaldron at the moment? I believe the later may pertain to the Empire's current plans.
Darius Goldmane, Lieutenant of the Baronial Guard
I made a trip into the Frostknell with Ser Winks, Ser Kanas, and Jeanne-Vierre. We got into the middle of the woods when we noticed it was suspiciously quiet. Not even the normal wilderness sounds of animals. Eventually we realized we were being watched. Winks managed to find tracks of around 8 people, but we were never able to get a good look at them. Once we moved further out and into an area where it had returned to normal, Kanas spoke with some of the local animals and they didn't know of anyone unusual living in the woods. Even the locals from some of the nearby towns didn't know of anything in those woods. So there is someone, or something, in those woods right now. But even with our team we couldn't get a good look at them. I'm sorry I couldn't get more.
Squire Keladry Aybara
Private of the Baronial Guard
Assuming that Elijah's information is accurate, this cannot be a purely military move. If they are truly preparing for war against Gaaldron they would be fools to invite conflict on two fronts, even given that they have had nearly 7 months to recover from the war as we have. It is possible that there is something in the Frostknell which they think will help them, and this should certainly be researched. It is equally possible that this is in preparation for some future military action. However there is another thing that this offer gives them: a double edged propaganda weapon.
If we don't take the offer, the Empire can claim that we do not value the lives of our citizens, which adds to the concept of our "unjust rule". Parading around the information that Kormyre values its land more than its people is a powerful propaganda weapon for them. It invigorates their citizens against us, and could possibly result in their captives being persuaded to change sides. It could even persuade other countries whom we deal with that perhaps Kormyre can no longer be trusted.
Unfortunately we are no better off if we take the deal. As Starling has pointed out, if we cede them land for 500 souls they will undoubtedly demand more for the next batch. More importantly, though, it makes it vastly more difficult for us to conduct operations against them in the future on that land. If our operatives are caught in land that is now rightfully theirs that too is a major propaganda weapon they can use.
It is important that we consider all possible ways the Empire may use this against us so that we may prepare for and attempt to counter them.
Darius Goldmane, Lieutenant of the Baronial Guard
Father Ephram, I am aware of the abilities granted to you from your devotion and faith. What I mean is; thoughts and prayers will not have the Gods reach out a swooping hand and shepherd a few thousand people to safety. The last time I talked faith was when the deities decided to manifest themselves in Travance to assist us with our Eden debacle. Had a SPLENDID discussion with Agaura. It would be my pleasure to share some ale with you the next time we are in town to do the same, albeit a lot more level-headed. Even though I don't agree, understanding all is my writ to live. Apologies for getting off-topic. Sincerely, Jeanne-Vierre Desmos
No. 1:1 for hostages would be more then generous given their lack of military performance. They are out of metaphysics. They are out of allies. They are arguing against themselves with this pitiable attempt to seize some fleeting advantage instead of seeking mercy.
Would it stand to just me, my counter-offer would be their unconditional surrender and in exchange they will not be driven into the mud and made to witness what comes next for all those who put faith in their treason. Shame, misery, and death can be quick, or it can be made to take a lifetime. In Service to the Kingdom Magistrate R.T.
Is it so that our thoughts point in the same direction? I, too, have considered a rescue mission as you have suggested above. Perhaps we should speak on the matter.
To allay any concerns that you might have, my Thoughts and Prayers have not been mere maybes or what-ifs. They have been highly effective. If you would like a demonstration of their effects I would be willing kindly to oblige. For although the gods have not guided your hands, they most certainly have provided mine with the tools necessary for such endeavors.
Fair enough Jackdaw. Semantics aside, you make a good argument. This 'Empire' is equally dangerous as they are scoundrels. That would be a hypocritical statement if it weren't for the fact they host a serious amount of our people where, instead of having to share their rations with, would have no problem seeing six feet under. This is power in of itself as they would understand we don't see eye to eye with the idea of human currency in this negotiation. Their tactic has an easier outing than ours and that is to their advantage. One could argue the validity of their true force with their claim to be a real 'Empire' and such. But, we then fall back into the what-ifs and maybes which leaves an unsettled variable we can not ignore. Furthermore, they are on the other side of this equation over anyone else for a reason. Albeit not that many notches above it, they are not some rag tag bunch of hooligans simply out for gold. I say Khala could be onto something in scouting the forests. I find it odd that some mystical thing is there that has gone unheard of until now, but we never know and we should have the skill set to determine that at the very least. Nonetheless, nothing changes on our end whether it's just land they want or indeed an ulterior motive in the works. It's safe to say my words here are based solely on conjecture, decent inference, and a -sliver- of wisdom. I'm no nobility nor a mouth of influence and never had land or people to rule over so it would be great to speak with those who've dealt with similar negotiations in the past.
Jeanne-Vierre Desmos, your comments aery poetic and I like your style, I have a minor quibble, which feels like a semantic argument, Technically speaking Heroes are people who perform great deeds, (amongst said great deeds being possessing the possibility of being resurrected.) If in all the stories you hear the hero dies, I honestly thinking you might be reading the wrong stories, I promise you there are a number of them out there where the main character wins and everyone gets saved. They're rare, the story and characters require an exceptional bit of effort, but they are out there. I am however, curious as to your suggestions. Your previous comments being that this offer of barter is not how we get our people back (I statement I agreed with) and that we should go to the enemies people in our dungeons to prove that the enemy are scoundrels of the highest order, unworthy of being followed, but also you believe them powerful enemies not to be underestimated. So pray tell, what shall we do against the mighty Empire (who is an Empire largely because they named themselves that, and thus far have conquered... a single barony that they got through a wish, and have successfully taken out a being as powerful as the Count whom has yet to be healed.) - Jackdaw
I have put another posting up on the boards, however I am looking for a small team of people to scout out the Frostknell with me. There are a few other plans that it seems are being put into action. Some are researching the General, others are looking to see if they can find info on any potential high priority hostages, and of course a negotiation team. There are others who know more than me about those things. I mostly want to go check out the woods and see if we can find anything that might give a reason why they want this particular piece of land. If you wish to join me, either take a message onto my other post or send me a raven. Squire Keladry Aybara
Private of the Baronial Guard
I've always had a problem naming ourselves this; Heroes are deemed as such because they never live to tell the tale themselves. Jackdaw, this is not the place to go on a whim with heroic feats with passion burning hotter than the sun. That always ends in a "valiant sacrifice of the innocent who have no intention of dying, but had no choice -for the greater good-" while we feast and celebrate. I can guarantee you that will happen here. Call them jerks, but they are an Empire for a reason and you quite obviously can not underestimate that in change for witty remarks. Father Donny/Father Ephrem, though I respect you, I do not see this a situation for prayers, maybes and what-ifs. No offense, but the gods haven't guided my hands to save countless lives in the past and I'm not ready to wait for an answer on how to free nearly 2,000 of our people and deal with nearly 3,500 subjects from the Empire while they obviously attempt to coerce us into this waste of time. We must proceed this empathetically as we are here and our neighbors there, suffering and looked down upon as if themselves considered currency. Sincerely, Jeanne-Vierre Desmos 'Three-eyed Raven' 'Humbled Silver Codpiece of Ostcliff'
My suggestion is that a "scout", preferably a high ranking individual known to the Empire should let themselves be seen moving around the area. if they want something there, this might force their hand into making a foolish move.
it might not even be a thing. it might be to feed or assist some druidic allies we don't know about or to shore up an infiltration route into the Empire that we haven't seen. I would caution about being too focused on the idea that there is a bauble there.
Personally if I got a letter like this, I'd begin plotting a daring and heroic rescue mission for the trapped people purely on the basis of how disgustingly pompous and insulting the wording of the letter is. That and they didn't even try to hide that they want the woods for some ill purpose. They might have well just written "It is the northern most part of the forest which you call Frostknell, but we call "definitely not for an evil scheme." Negotiating with enemies of the state for the lives of the innocent is one thing, but not when they're going to be complete jerks about it. If they are going to be evil jerks at least put some effort in. Plus once you pull off the dramatic and daring rescue you can tell stories about how dramatic and daring it was. Then they'd offer up another 500 hostages and have to be nice when they ask for the thing that is definitely not for an evil scheme. - Jackdaw (You know who I am)
Trust not the Empire who would not seek the release of their own people, but instead seek a plot of land to gain position and power. This is a difficult position in which we have been placed, as our Kingdom does indeed seek the safety and well-being of its people. The wisdom of the gods tell us that making a decision is easy; gathering all the information necessary is where the difficulty lies. I am in agreement with those who seek to gain more knowledge about this forest. I will offer any aid, both of my own or the resources of the Church of Light in Travance for such endeavors.
Still lies the matter of those of our own who are held captive. If only there were some means, diplomatic or otherwise, to gain their release.
Primus of the Church of Light in Travance.
Mister Desmos, I agree wholeheartedly with your thoughts.
Father Donny and Annora, absolutely, I agree the Frost-Knell should be searched and researched. I'm happy to begin looking into any records we may possess, but I'm confident I'll be more of an asset traipsing around a library than around the woodlands. Who can volunteer, or might be asked, to scout the actual forest?
Further, for all to consider: given that Lt. General Governor Hildegard has offered less than a quarter of the prisoners we know currently to be in Imperial hands, what will he ask for for the next 500 prisoners? How will his request escalate again for the next? And the next?
I believe we have a duty to save our subjects, but I mistrust that this is the way to do it.
- Squire Talaniel Starling, Viceroy of Drega'mire
No. Absolutely not. What a disappointingly immature letter to come from the 'great powers that be.' This speaks directly on how little they care for their own people imprisoned within our dungeons. We should take this letter straight to our prisoners. We should feed them until their bellies fat, clothe them in comfort as they would at home, displaying humility to enemies we once fought. They will see who we truly are and, after understanding the quite obvious stance their leaders have on their lives through that letter alone, feel disdain towards the lands that they once walked. We will ask these prisoners to consider what they really fight for, WHO they really fought for that inevitably landed them here. We will ask them once more to join us and provide land and safety as they should always have had. For we are no true evil. Not everyone will agree. And to that I say send them back. I'm not here to play with people's lives anymore and neither should any of you. It sickens me to see people, OUR PEOPLE, up for barter for land. We will get our people back. This is not the way. Sincerely, Jeanne-Vierre Desmos 'Three-eyed Raven' 'Humbled Silver Codpiece of Ostcliff'
Preserve us all, all those souls-sentient souls- in that tyrant's hands. If you be a praying person, say a prayer for them all.
We should scour that wood for anything source of power wise before making an answer, regardless the course we intend to take. Let them sweat a bit while we decide, and get a better lay of the land. Might force their hand if there is something there that they want, let them make a foolish move. If its elevated the woods can offer a good cover and materials for making siege engines. Were I an egotistical megalomaniac I'd use siege engines or cannon even if I wasn't intending a second invasion. This can cause casualties and demoralization before any assault or even as a terror tactic in its own right. extend what he can defend or bombard and deny us ground that might be usable in other ways-a buffer. He might also be looking to shore up any routes something-or someone might sneak in. He might see something we're not seeing. Balliol didn't have any special use for druidics, did he? No affinity, or allies among its practitioners?
Father Donald MacFhionnlaigh
As I am a noble of another nation, I will not give opinion on what you should do.
However, as a Knight of a nation that depends on the woods in my homeland I will offer my tactical advice based on my experience.
Woodlands offer many things. Wood for resources which many people in the countryside use to build and heat their homes. They offer game and wildlife that people use for food. They also offer a very good scouting position due to the ease that one can be concealed in the branches. Depending on how thick the wilderness is, it is easy to conceal numbers behind several rows of trees since you can not get an accurate count of people due to the lack of visibility from outside.
As a more personal note, any large forest is a wonderful area for Druids and Rangers,to gather. Trees are a natural conduit for our energies from Arawyn for meditation and reflection, at least in my experience, and ceding such a large forest would take that conduit from the Druids and Rangers of that area.
These are just my thoughts on benefits of Woodland in general, not on your choice strategically or morally.
-March Warden Caelvan Renaith of Selendrias