Paved With Good Intentions
The massive project to build a unified system of roads between much of the major cities of the Compact is well intended and it's widely admired, even as many caution that such a project would almost certainly cut through land by the Compact in name only, and is effectively under the control of hostile Abandoned. In some cases, this has been generational, with large holdfasts deep in the wilderness that have been left alone by the Compact for so long they have been forgotten, and many have become regions that wise travelers simply avoid. The Great Road avoids these conspicuously in the Crownlands, perhaps due to more recent interaction with many of the different Abandoned tribes, but the road seems to actively court confrontation in the Oathlands- and it soon becomes apparent that courting a conflict with ancestral enemies is precisely what some Oathlands hardliners want. And one such example is what happens in the March of Greenwither, a Laurent vassal. The son of Marquis Marcel Beaucage is killed in one of the Abandoned raids traveling on the Great Road from Greenwither towards the Telmarch, and House Beaucage promptly calls its banners, with the statement that, "The time to end the Abandoned scourge in our lands is now." House Beaucage and its vassals immediately simultaneously hunt methodically through their lands, and put every man, woman and child to the sword that is not sworn to the Compact. In one large Abandoned holdfast called Hopehallow, at least two thousand are massacred, and House Beaucage celebrates this by proclaiming that Greenwither has been cleansed.
It quickly becomes apparent that while many of the Abandoned clans in the area war with one another, they also talk, and an army is of numerous clans is raised to respond. Coming from near the Greenwood, a large Abandoned force raids the county held by House Bellerive, a vassal of House Blackram. The Abandoned are driven back, and flee far north, pursued by Bellerive soldiers... and chase down the Great Road towards a disputed border, where both Bellerive claim the lands, and they are also claimed by House Threerivers, a county sworn to House Acheron. The Bellerive soldiers get into a skirmish and kill a patrol of House Threerivers, and the enraged Count Trevor Threerivers calls his banners, and immediately declares war upon Bellerive and invades, laying siege to their ancestral home at Last Bridge. Bellerive, of course, is united by marriage to the Marquis of House Decalmbre, a vassal of Farshaw, who immediately calls his banners, and goes to attack Threerivers lands, in the Northlands. Their troops, on the way, cross the lands of House Fireside, a Sanna vassal, and the border patrol for the county refuses the Decalmbre bannermen passage- who promptly attack and a heated battle ensues before the Decalmbre troops are driven back to regroup. The Seraph of Highrock, a particularly not well liked seraph who came to House Threerivers lands to 'convert the ungodly', preaches that all this came about because of unholy worship of spirits. He is promptly lynched.
And this is just the start of matters brewing between the Oathlands and the Northlands along the Great Road. News will, of course, begin to trickle in from elsewhere.
While most of the Lyceum would publicly describe conflict in the Oathlands as 'a matter of grave concern' and privately as 'hilarious', they unfortunately aren't free from spreading violence. The Kalslov, a servant house of House Volkov that bent the knee alongside of them, have been convinced by the new Seraph of Volkov Woods to convert to the Faith of the Pantheon and abandon shamanism entirely. Excited to study to become Mercies of Lagoma, a pilgrimage to Blancbier along the Great Road is planned. Almost entirely prodigals, the hundreds of hopeful new mercies come from the vassals of House Volkov, prodigals that bent the knee to Malvici in Southport, Truesworn of Esterhold, and escorted by several dozen templars from the city-state of Rivincita, a march sworn to Southport. They never make it to Blancbier. Somewhere on the Great Road as they pass through House Fournier's county of Cassyl, the entire party is attacked and massacred. While House Fournier, a Lyonesse vassal denies all responsibility and blames shavs, it seems unlikely as at least three dozen bodies were found hanged with a bloody sign near the bodies reading, "Suffer no shav or traitor to the Compact to live." The slain godsworn templar captain who was escorting the pilgrims among the dead was the brother of the Countess of the March of Rivincita, Marquessa Magdalena Daveiga, does not accept Fournier's claims, and immediately declares war on House Fournier and calls her banners.
Meanwhile, the wide plains controlled by House Groverfield, a march sworn to House Shepherd, have been attacked and burned by Abandoned of Clan Stormstorm who claim it was vengeance for their support of Duke Gregor 'the Butcher of Graypeak' Shepherd. House Groverfield is enraged, but particularly incensed because the Abandoned, who fled from near Shepherd lands due to the purges by Gregor, apparently are relatively near Gemecitta's march vassal of House Gallo, who express condolences but seem supremely disinterested in hunting down dreaded Wheat Destroyers of a particularly ridiculous name. When the Sword of Grover comes to House Gallo lands to demand justice, he drunkenly gets into a duel and kills the Sword of House Gallo after much words are exchanged. Things could have been settled better.
The Crownlands, eastern Northlands, or the Mourning Isles don't see an immediate uptick in Abandoned raids, which is much appreciated, though this hasn't spared them from all issues. The Valdossa Clan of Abandoned raiders were particularly nortorious several decades ago for sacking Wyndhall, the ancestral home of House Warwynd, a barony sworn to House Navegant. In decades since, House Warwynd attempted to hunt down the Valdossa and drive them from the Isles, with costly skirmishes killing two of the Baron of Wyndhall's sons, including one married to the cousin of the duke of Helianthus, the third ducal house of the Mourning Isles. It was believed the Valdossa had been completely eradicated and had paid for their crimes, but apparently the grandson of the old warchief had been an unknown thrall under House Thrax, and was released by the recent reforms forbidding inheriting war debts, and he fled the Isles to join his hiding clan near Crovane lands in the coastal Northlands.
The first the Islanders heard of Valdossa's survival was news that their new young leader had decided to bend the knee to House Crackneck, a county sworn to House Blackwood, as the hiding clan feared that the Great Road might bring war between Abandoned and the Compact. The new union would be sealed by marrying their new clanlord to the sister of the Count of Coastside, and the Baron of Wyndhall sent a threatening missive warning House Crackneck from accepting 'Valdossa criminals' as new vassals. House Crackneck ignored the warnings, proceeded to the marriage, and several hours into the night the entire wedding celebration dropped dead from poison... including the visiting Marquessa of House Longwood, a march sworn to House Bisland, who was a long time friend of the also now deceased Count of Coastside. House Warwynd in response to the murders have declared a week of celebration, House Helianthus said it was a sign of the lack of wisdom of allowing criminals to bend the knee and perhaps it was shavs responsible, and House Grimkin, a march sworn to House Grimhall, made a proclamation in Arx saying that the Northlanders, "apparently choked on Justice." This is not going over well with House Longwood and the surviving relatives of House Crackneck. Both houses have called their banners, and are looking to commission more ships.
The summary could be better. Northlands and Oathlands houses are invading one another, with ruthless purges of Abandoned (and prodigals) happening in the Oathlands. At least one Lycene house has declared war on the Oathlands and is looking to invade, while houses on both sides of the border are spoiling for a fight. Which came as a result of the murder of pilgrims, which has put the Faith in a frenzy, and templars mostly deciding who they should attack first. In the Crownlands, one minor raid is pushing a march and a Lycene house close to war after an ugly incident, and the murder of another Crownlands Marquessa along with a Northlands house puts the blame on the Mourning Isles, who maintain their innocence. And through it all, there's been a large surge in both Abandoned raids and those who are ruthlessly trying to crush them.
As emissaries from the Undying Empire, the Skykingdom of Cardia, and the Dune Kingdoms of Eurus watch on.
Among all else happening in the Compact, the ennoblement of a commoner could possibly pass notice among the peerage with so much distracting them. One might think so. Jyri Tersk, a prodigal kennelmaster of the Iron Guard, is liked and well respected among his fellow servants of the Crown, so under better conditions, most would use him as an example of one that shows their merit, even if the peerage might still disapprove of any noble raising up a prodigal, however worthy. But these are not really the best of times. A proclamation goes forth from the Count of Grayford, one of the sworn vassals of House Deepwood, whose Count Augustus Grayreeve had distinguished himself years ago in particularly brutal battles against the Gray Forest Abandoned while serving under House Bisland's called banners. The proclamation reads:
"When it became clear that our sworn liege, Marquessa Samantha Deepwood, was in fact a liar masquerading as a noble, we held our tongue, for the king himself forgave her. When House Riven married a prodigal, another old and proud house serving the same Deepwoods, again, we said nothing, as the blood our enemies intermarried into an old and proud house. And when a commoner family of merchants, the Merciers, who quarreled over vineyards and bushels of wheat and crass commerce were raised to nobles and given the title of House Whitehawk, again, we said nothing, out of deference to the Lady Dawn and those who followed her.
The Marquessa of Longwood is dead, assassinated treacherously by Thraxian scum so lost to honor that they broke guest right to do so, and our blood so thinned by prodigals and commoners that we are not already marching to war. The so called 'House Whitehawk' now marries one of its commoner-nobles, Lady Elora, to a Jyri Tersk. A prodigal! No, no more. We cannot remain silent on this. Until the Thraxians are brought to justice, until their lands are laid low, we cannot count ourselves as vassals to 'Ivy'. We cannot pay taxes to a pretender more concerned over the rights of prodigals and even Abandoned than the peerage. Not until she and all her vassals show that they truly understand noble honor, and see those who would strike at the Crownlands dead."
In effect, House Grayreeve, a vassal of House Deepwood, just renounced fealty and is in open rebellion until their concerns are addressed.
Before his untimely death, Prince Ettore Velenosa had been working on a large scale project to attempt to spread the discipleship of Mirrormasks beyond the Lyceum, with attempting to bring the same understanding and appreciation of the 13th to all parts of the Compact. While this stirred a great amount of theological debate, the practical effect was a number of mirrormasks surged as interested Faithful learned more, and many traveled to the Lyceum to study, and some friction with the Oathlands Orthodox. The Oathlands Orthodox of course accept Church dogma that the worship of the 13th is legitimate, while still being uncomfortable with the particulars of making doubt and questioning faith a fundamental practice. Still, everything seemed fine up until recently... when word spreads that at least a dozen mirrormasks were murdered in the Oathlands after leaving Fortezza di Iriscal on the way towards Lyon's Redoubt. News arrives of this almost precisely at the same time as word of Prince Ettore's death in Arx, which strikes many as more than a coincidence since the man once known as Mydas was responsible for the new advocacy of the 13th beyond the Lyceum.