Shards of the Crown
Shards of the Crown
Gather round hatchlings, I’ll tell you a story before bedtime, it’s our story. The tale of how we all came to live here together, of how North Stead was born. It wasn’t a simple matter by any stretch of the imagination and like most births it proved more than a little bit messy.
Age of the Badger
Humans are one of the most resourceful things you’ll find in the whole wide world. They’re not as hearty as dwarves, as old as the elves, or pretty as we Kenku, but they are clever. When you only get a handful of sand in your life’s hourglass you’ve got to be, else you’ll end up with nothing more than a few flowers on your grave at the end. Bicamus was a fine example of it. If you paid attention during your history lessons you’d know he was our first king, the founder of our city. Back in those days though he was just a man like any other, and not an especially lucky one at that.
When he walked to world where we sit now was naught but grass and hill shadowed beneath the mountains. Dwarves tolerated the presence of a few scattered human settlements over their head, mostly because the men paid them a healthy tribute. All in all it was a good arrangement for the both of them. Unfortunately Avandra must have blinked because their luck didn’t last more than a few years.
Trolls. Great, ugly, ravenous trolls began roving all over the countryside gobbling up little ones and livestock. No one was safe! At first it was just a few sheep vanishing troll gullets, but soon enough the dwarves were seeing the blighters wandering into their tunnels as well. Everyone assumed it was just a few hungry beasts wandering out of a cave, but they were wrong lads. It was a troll army! More than you or I could count. The hills were alive with them and the stink they put up was said to drive men to their knees. Don’t ask me where they came from, no one has ever been able to puzzle that one out. All anyone knew about the beasties was that they were hungry, and they were surly.
Now the dwarves were ready to march to war, in fact they did just that, but the humans were quite another matter. Most of them fled asses and elbows for the Pelor’s cloak, leaving only a handful to defend their homes. Why die for land that belonged to the dwarves in the first place? They left them to defend it. All told less than four hundred men and women took up arms against the trolls.
Bicamus was one of those men. He rallied the troops and commanded the human army in the Battle of Three Fields.Hmm? Why did they call it that? Because the trolls took it into their head to charge into the human villages in an all or none attack, they fought in crops as high as a bugbear’s eye. The whole thing was a bloody mess but Bicamus and his held their own. They bled those trolls for two days and didn’t lose an inch of ground.
Of course it was the dwarves who won the day. They charged down from their mountains hammer and hell in hand to put the monsters to task. The humans had managed to make an easier matter of it for them though, and kept their homes standing while they were at it. Gorn Blackhammer, he was the king of the Dwarves in those days, lead the first charge. Seems he was a bit surprised to find men already fighting in the fields before he bothered to show up. Ha!
It took a bit of doing but the trolls were killed for the most part, a few slinked off into the wilds to lick their wounds. Old Backhammer was so impressed with Bicamus and the men who’d fought beside him that day he gave them a gift. He titled Bicamus the king of all the lands he’d been a tenant on since he was a boy, King Bicamus, can you imagine? He couldn’t. Turned old Blackhammer down flat. His army had other ideas though. Hoisted him up on their shoulders and charged him to the inn they did. By the time all the barrels were emptied the land had a new king and a new name. They settled on calling it North Stead. That’s your home.
The new king was canny for his first try, he decided to choose a few of his best to help him. Plucked five of the smartest, toughest bastards that were ever spit out onto this ground to be his advisors. Then he settled on building his few scattered villages into a proper city. Ordered a few temples to be built and he broke ground on more buildings than anyone had ever dreamed. Settlers poured in from all over and before long they’d worked up a proper banner for the town. A flag of a badger on a field of green and red flew over the fine house they’d built for Bicamus and his family. The townspeople said they’d chosen that as his symbol because he’d been such a tenacious old solider during the battle.
From there things got a bit dull. Old Bicamus set the groundwork for making his town into a city, he married, had a few little ones, and fought a few more fights to hold what he’d built. He died a white haired old one and the whole city cried to see their friend passing. Swords held high the troops marched his body through the streets and they put his bones to rest in a nice patch of soil. It was the end of Bicamus, but we’re still a long road to go before we get to the end of the story.
Age of the Owl
Cato son of Bicamus was the first to inherit the title of King of North Stead. His father had left quite a legacy for his son to take up, and the by didn’t disappoint. He wasn’t the scrapper his old man had been but he was even cleverer. Decided to build a temple to Ioun, and carry on with the projects his father hadn’t managed to see put to an end. His reign wasn’t terribly exciting truth be told. He might have been smart, and diligent but the boy spent a bit too much time with is nose buried in scrolls for my taste. Not fitting of a king.
Don’t think for an instant that he had an easy time of it. More folks tried to put a dagger in his back by the time he was twelve than you’d care to think. Our neighbors saw North Stead as a ripe plum and Cato was the only thing standing between them and a mouthful of it. He outsmarted them all though. Married Gorn’s daughter he did. Ha! Now anyone who tried to kill Cato would tangle with Gorn for the favor, needless to say the attempts on his life came to an end.
By that time most of the men who Bicamus had chosen for his council had died or retired, it was uncertain who should take their places. Or if the council should even continue. Cato helped set down the new order. One of the seats would be filled by a representative from the temples, another by the captain of the guard, and the remaining seats would be filled by representatives chosen by the people. He said it was his wish to keep the king aware of what his subjects thought and wished for.
Even clever kings can’t outsmart time it seems. Cato reigned for nearly seventy years of peace and growth before passing quietly in his bed, much the same as his father before him. After he’d gone clerics of Ioun petitioned the city council to build a temple in the city, everyone agreed he would have loved the idea.
Age of the Bear
To this day Nerva is the favorite king of near every dwarf whose ever lived in North Stead. As a boy he spent time in King Blackhammer’s court learning the ways of dwarves, more than one person thought he’d have been happier if he’d been born there. More often than not he was off on a hunting trip, on maneuvers with the troops, or sleeping like a wintered bear. Still he wasn’t a lazy king. He put sinew to the task of seeing the Temple of Erathis completed, something that neither Bicamus nor Cato had managed.
Now while Nerva was off killing boars and making merry with his cousins on Moradin’s Spine someone had to run the day to day affairs of our city. He was the one who figured out what to do with that. Appointed the first lord Mayor of North Stead. Lots of folks said it was to give him an easier life, but it turned out to be a much quicker way to rule.
It was during his reign that we saw the return of the surviving trolls who had been absent since the Battle of Three Fields. They’d taken up some caves and been breeding to get their numbers up again. When a few hundred of the blighters marched up to our walls slavering for blood most would have been only too happy to let the dwarves handle it. Not Nerva though, he rallied his troops and went out to face them. The trolls stood their ground but it was a poor match, Nerva ground most of them beneath his boot and drove the rest back where they’d come from.
From then on each year the trolls would return, no matter how many had died the last year, they’d try to rip North Stead apart one brick at a time. Each time they’d be crushed under pike, sword, and arrow. Nerva ordered a festival after they’d been driven off, it’s an odd thing to celebrate but folks look forward to it these days. The third king’s reign ended abruptly when he fell from his horse during a hunting trip and broke his neck. His body was carried back to the city and entombed next to his father and grandfather.
Age of the Songbird
The only queen North Stead ever had wasn’t one for the fuss of battle or the dirt of the road like the kings had been. She was one for the comforts of home and quiet evenings spent by the hearth. It was her mission to turn the city into something more than a trading post, a barracks, and a library.
To that end she set out to draw artisans to settle within the city, something that hadn’t been happening much up to that point. Her first step was to build a temple to Corellon, it drew a few elves, musicians, actors, and artists. Something the city had been missing in large quantity up to that point. The new elven settlers asked for a few more temples to honor their gods and she was only too happy to give them what they wanted.
The new queen also set herself to the task of building a proper palace for future rulers. Up until then they’d all lived in the old manor house Bicamus had built, but Aurelia thought it was time for something new. A fine house she made for herself too. All towers and bridges with pretty little stonework. Inside she draped tapestries on every wall, carpets on every floor, and ordered the best of everything she could afford. It was costly but the new coins being poured in by renewed trade and settlement more than made up for it.
It was a time of peace and plenty for everyone, most folks enjoyed the shows the queen put on most everyday. A few thought her a silly girl playing at queen but they were decent enough to let her have her day. She reigned for seventy-five years, longer than any of her predecessors, before passing away.
Age of the Hound
Mojer inherited a true kingdom. Everything his people needed has been built by his predecessors and the people he ruled were content with their lot. The earliest years of his time in the throne were spent signing new treaties and trade agreements. He proved a level headed and popular king, but he would be remembered for the hard years ahead more than all else.
We’d seen our share of bandits looking to make war on what they thought would be an easy target. Our soldiers fought trolls each year and the outcome was always the same. They were familiar with the ways of war. Everything they’d learned about war was useless in the face of Simil the Blue. Story goes they called him that because he’d gone cold inside and if you looked close enough at him you’d see his skin was a bit blue.
Simil had raised a hoard and set to raiding, he’d taken it into his head that North Stead should be his. He was of a mind to make it his too. On Troll Eve during the tenth year of Mojer’s rule Simil made his first attack, near two hundred dragons flew overhead snatching people up and raining fire down from above. Before our troops could put up a defense the trolls were clawing at our gates as well. It was a long night of death, violence, and treachery. One of the gates was opened by a guard who Simil had bought with coins and women. Trolls marched through the streets and the dragons retreated to let them have at us for a bit. That was their first mistake.
Mojer finally managed to rally the city guard and the citizens to battle and he put the beasts to task. The trolls and dragons had devastated his forces by the time he’d put down the last of the green bastards but it was a long way from over. The dragons didn’t return at first and when they heard the sound of an avalanche coming from Moradin’s Spine it became clear why. They’d blocked the only pass between North Stead and their dwarven allies. The city was on it’s own.
For five years Simil and Mojer made a long bloody war against one another, both men leading the charge against one another every battle. Like a drake and a hound trying to tear one another’s throats out. Neither side managed to make a true victory of it though. Simil’s dragons gave him a distinct advantage but his troops couldn’t bring down the walls so North Stead managed to struggle on.
It was the enemy who finally proposed a peace treaty much to everyone’s surprise. Mojer rode out to meet him outside the city and discuss the terms and he returned with an arrow through his throat. The soldiers cried out for bloody revenge by the Lord Mayor and the captain of the guard managed to keep them in check. Mojer’s son was only a boy when his father died and it was decided that the mayor would take up control of the army until he came of age.
Age of the Stag
The War of the lance carried on throughout the new king’s youth but he took no part in it. The council made certain he was well cared for and educated safe behind walls of stone and sword, in the hopes that he would lead them. Still everyone knew the war was going badly for our side.
When he came of age Rosh didn’t lead the armies as he advisor’s hoped he would. Instead he spent his evenings with doxies in the palace or in the theaters Queen Aurelia had built during her reign. He also began building temples. Hoping to end the war he turned to some of the wicked gods and commissioned six temples be built to honor them. Temples devoted to Bane, Torog, Zehir, Asmodeus, and Vecna were erected in quick order. Rosh made a great ceremony of being blessed at each of his new temples before taking up the sword against Simil.
The new king didn’t prove to be even a fraction of the military commander his father had been. In the end fifteen years of war were what finished of Simil and his dragons rather than our forces. His troops had long since lost interest in this long war and he suffered horrific desertion. In a last ditch effort to seize power he led his remaining forces on a last raid against the very palace. It ended in disaster for him. The dragons were riddled with arrows before they’d made it over the outer wall and they died in the streets. Simil was captured and Rosh ordered him taken to the newly built temple of Torog. That was the last anyone ever saw of him. The king hosted banquets and proclaimed that the gods had shown him their favor by ending the war.
After the war Rosh settled on marrying a member of his council, she’d helped guide him through the war. If folks objected to a priestess of Zehir marrying their king than they were at least smart enough to keep their traps shut about it. Their marriage produced two male heirs right smart. The king demanded that the eldest of them be named Bicamus II in honor of his ancestor, on the day of his birth he proclaimed that his son would lead them into a new age of strength and prosperity.
It was a fever that finally took the throne from Rosh. I’ve heard stories that he drank something foul in the temple of Asmodeus to garner the pit god’s favor and it put an end to him.
Age of the Ram
Bicamus II is without a doubt the worse king North Stead ever had. He was cowardly and overindulgent to a fault. The people’s needs came far behind his own throughout his reign. From the day he too the throne he ignored the advice of his counselors and did just what suited him. Within a few years the cities coffers were nearly empty, the troops were going unpaid, taxes were choking the people, and everyone was cursing his name within two years of his reign.
Where did all the money go? Parties. Bicamus II choked the city with streamers and cake. He spared no expense in reminding us of his lineage and invested a fortune in hiring historians to prove the honorable status of the blood in his veins.
There was one thing the new king did right though, he put his younger brother Isum on the council. He head his own reasons for doing so of course. It was his hope that Isum would ensure the council didn’t impede his celebrations or try to organize any attempts to wrest control of the city from him. This was his worst blunder by far though.
Young Isum had the people’s ear and he knew his brother had gone mad with power, and he intended to put the insanity to an end. He began planning a coup with the council, the king still commanded enough loyalty that open war would be a costly affair. Besides which they had no desire to strike down any innocents.
One rainy night they made their assault during Bicamus II birthday, he’d organized a grand ball in his own honor and their entry to the palace proved to be a simple matter. The councilors managed to fight off the palace guards long enough fro Isum to enter his brother’s chambers and execute the king. Afterwards the council held session with the mayo to debate what step should be taken next. A debate raged as to whether or not Isum should take up the crown as the next king, an idea he spoke out against. It was his decision to abolish the monarchy his ancestor had sired in the interest of the people. Citizens demanded that Isum serve as their leader in some regard so he was appointed the first Duke of North Stead, a title which his children would inherit.
When the monarchy fell things took a turn for the better. Isum used his new position to help guide the people in reconstruction and establishing order once more. The council and the mayor took up even more responsibility looking to the duke as a deciding vote and their voice to the people. In times of war the duke also served as the commander of their troops.