samwise writes "
Following the Death of Tavish IV the Lion Throne again passed to House Neheli. While a return to inward looking policies was needed, it came at a bad time, as a plague swept through the House, killing many, and leaving the survivors insane. What went wrong in House Neheli, and what impact did it have on the Kingdom Keoland?
The Return of House Neheli and the Plague of Madness
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The Lost Dynasty
The appellations given nearly tells the story by itself: the Listless, the Dilettante, and the Afflicted. The three Kings of House Neheli between Tavish the Weary and Kimbertos had their reigns defined by the plague.
Nyhan IV became King on the death of Tavish the Weary. He was expected to return Keoland to the quiet it had known during the Slumbering, focusing on rebuilding the infrastructure that had been disrupted during the later stages of the civil war. But Nyhan had little time to attend any affairs of state. Within the year the first cases appeared, and Nyhan began focusing his attention on the situation. Little was known about it, even as he arranged for House Secunforth to move to Salinmoor. Within a few years the plague began striking more and more nobles, and in 496 CY it appeared in Salinmoor as well. It was then that the rest of the Sheldomar was erupting in chaos. From 497-504 CY, the Grand Duchy of Geoff was torn by its own civil war, as the Count of Pregmere overthrew Duke Rohan III, then fought off several other claimants before his son took the seat as Rohan IV. While many suspected the involvement of the Knights of the Watch, the true source remains unknown to this day. What everyone does know is that Nyhan did nothing, ignoring requests for recognition from both sides, and leaving it to the Court to approve the last man standing as the holder of the seat. Meanwhile, beginning the next year and lasting until the end of his reign (498-510 CY), the Hateful Wars swept through the Lortmils. These genocidal campaigns by the demi-humans of the Lortmils, Celene and the Ulek states, against the humanoids of those mountains started when the Consort of the Queen of Celene was slain. The rise of the humanoids was directly the result of the expulsion of the Keoish garrisons in 461 CY, and many wondered if Keoland would answer a call for assistance. Nyhan barely acknowledged the conflict, allowing individual nobles to send whatever they felt inclined to, but seeming to ignore it completely himself. (Baron Anladon of the Axewood and Duke Sanduschar IV of Gradsul sent significant amounts, but nothing near what the Kingdom could have as a whole.) Finally, in 499 CY the followers of the True Faith in Ket besieged Thornward in Bissel for a year. Again, Nyhan ignored the situation, leaving it to the Knights of the Watch to spearhead the Keoish response, along with Furyondy and Veluna to provide the funds needed to upgrade the border fortifications to limit the raids that continued for decades afterwards.
Through all this Nyhan devoted himself to dealing with the plague. His efforts mattered little, as the plague continued unabated, doing little but distracting him from the Court. Into this vacuum at the Court stepped Lord Kharn (Ed. Note: The rulers of Middlemead are always known simply as Lord Kharn. This was the grandfather of the man who was Lord Kharn during most of the reign of Kimbertos.), rebuilding the power of the heartlands nobles after centuries, asserting increased privileges for provincial rulers, and decreasing the royal authority as much as possible.
After the death of Nyhan IV, his son Senestal III was elected King. Senestal had grown up in the shadow of the plague. Having seen numerous cousin die from it, and the family collapse, Senestal gave himself to pleasure. House Neheli would fall, but he would go out in style. While this led to the only significant accomplishment of his reign, restoring and expanding the Court at Niole Dra, it more than earned him the appellation of the Dilettante. When Prince Corond of Ulek requested aid in retaking the Pomarj from the humanoid survivors of the Hateful Wars that had taken it, Senestal replied that he was occupied with "affairs of state", and could not be bothered. His reign ended as it began, in one long celebration in Niole Dra.
Senestal’s children had perished of the plague, and the throne passed to his cousin Trevlyan. By now the plague had claimed more than half of House Neheli. Worse, Trevlyan himself was affected, leaving him barely capable of doing the few things left for the King with the Court and provincial rulers having taken over most tasks. His reign was even less remarkable for a lack of action by the Kingdom, and the years limped by until his death.
The Nature of the Madness
The origin of the plague is still unknown to most people. The general consensus is that began sometimes in the 480s CY, when a wizard of House Neheli was exploring the Rushmoors, searching for clues to life extending magic. While there, he contracted a disease that had a peculiar affinity for people able to use arcane magic. There is also speculation that the disease was somehow magically altered, either to affect such casters, or to somehow target people of the Neheli bloodline, and other speculation links this to the most popular source of afflictions in the north, the arch-lich Vecna. Whatever of this is true is likely only known to Mohrgyr.
The plague itself ran through three stages. In the earliest stages it causes nightmares and hallucinations, as it overstimulates the creative areas of the brain involved in manifesting arcane magic. This stage often proved the most dangerous to bystanders, as these images could actually manifest unleashing the horrors that a powerful arcane caster might have encountered on people nearby. This caused a great deal of chaos in dealing with the disease in the earliest years of the plague.
The second stage manifested as a wasting disease, their skin growing pale and clammy, their eyes sinking, and a low-level general pain spreading through their bodies. The similarities of these symptoms to that of certain undead creatures was not lost on the Neheli, and is what lead them to suspect the malign influence of Vecna.
In the final stage of the disease boils and ulcers would break out all over the body, and the pain increased until it drove the victims mad, many unleashing the few spells still available to them in a frenzy of destruction until they could be put down. Thousands of innocents died before this was recognized. When it was, most were killed once the final stage manifested, to prevent them from harming others.
As noted above, the disease primarily affected those capable of using arcane magic, with a particular preference for those having the Neheli bloodline. In the Duchy of Dorlin, that meant the nobility. It was different in Salinmoor.
The Plague in the South
In 496 CY the plague broke out in Salinmoor. It had undoubtedly been brought there when House Secunforth took over the Viscounty, either by someone in the Viscount’s family, or a member of his entourage. But something changed in the sweltering heat of the south. There the plague moved beyond the Viscount’s family and it swept through the general populace. Thousands died before any authorities realized it was the same plague that was decimating House Neheli in the north. And when they did, there was little they could do. Salinmoor was a backwater, without the resources available in Dorlin. It was only the nature of the disease itself that finally ended it.
While most commoners had no arcane talent, a few did. As in the north, their hallucinations could manifest during the first stage of the disease. This was perceived as witchcraft by the superstitious common people. During 501-502 a general reaction against anyone manifesting those symptoms erupted into a series of "witch" burnings. Despite affecting any commoners, it seems the disease still thrived best in those with arcane ability. With the deaths of those people, the plague slowly died out, as new infections ceased.
Mohrgyr and the Cure
As the plague continued to devastate House Neheli the Silent Ones began to take action, led by the Wyrd himself. While the disease could be delayed by certain treatments, and delayed by ample use of cure disease spells, even that could not fully cure it. Mohrgyr traced the disease to its source, but was unable to find any clues. He finally resolved on an extreme solution. Using magic, he excised the parts of the brain that enabled the use of arcane magic. Once they were gone, ordinary healing spells could eliminate the disease. Hundreds of infected people were treated. But while their lives were saved, their powers were destroyed, and with them a great deal of the inherent power of House Neheli. The House was shattered, with more than two-thirds of them dead, and most of the survivors mentally castrated. It would be years before the family would recoved. With the death of Trevlyan, the throne would pass from their control.
Kimbertos and the Aftermath
What remains is known to few other than Mohrgyr and a few leaders of House Neheli. For those familiar with the Sheldomar Timeline, this whole section is Silent Ones Secret.
With House Neheli dying, Mohrgyr saw the delicate political balance of the Kingdom dying with it. Without House Neheli as a balance, House Rhola would have none to oppose them and balance their expansionist tendencies. It was Mohrgyr who took the young Cedrian, the closest cousin of Trevlyan to the Silent Tower when he was just a baby to guard him from the plague, and raise him to lead House Neheli through the recovery. The Silent Ones educated Cedrian, preparing him for the tasks ahead of him.
The first came when Trevlyan manifested the final stages of the disease. Cedrian announced his retirement to the family estate, followed by his quiet death there over the winter. It had fallen to Cedrian to end his cousin’s life as gently as possible to save the family from the public disgrace of his madness. Cedrian gave his cousin a hero’s funeral.
The second came when it was time to choose a new King. House Neheli was in no shape to rule the Kingdom and rebuild itself. But they could not allow House Rhola to take the throne either during such a vulnerable period. It was Cedrian who chose an obscure relative of House Rhola, the little known ruler of a backwater Barony. And it was Cedrian who maneuvered Lord Kharn and his supporters into listening to the words of the unknown wizard who presented him as an alternative to the scions of either House Neheli or House Rhola as a candidate for King. It was Cedrian, breaking an eight century long accord to place Kimbertos Skotti Lizhal on the throne of Keoland. Kimbertos the Commoner would rule for a decade or two while Cedrian rebuilt House Neheli, and secured the throne for himself or his heir, keeping House Rhola in check until the Kingdom might again be strong enough for one of their imperial ploys.
But Kimbertos has remained for three decades. And Lashton proved to have "plans", for himself, plans that would involve the National Academy of Wizardry, and the lethal secrets hidden in Valadis. And most unforseen of anything, the Greyhawk Wars swept the Flanaess, and swept Keoland up in their wake.
Now Duke Luschan of House Rhola sees an opportunity to enter another imperial age, little more than a century after the death of Tavish the Weary.
Now Baron Markos Lizhal sees an opportunity to establish a Lizhal dynasty, succeeding his brother as King.
Now Lord Kharn sees an opportunity for a second Keogh King.
Now Baron Anladon sees a chance to change the direction of the Kingdom, guiding Kimbertos to another path.
Now Duke Cedrian wonders. Not merely if House Neheli will regain the throne, but what he has set in motion, and where it will lead.
And now Mohrgyr sits in the Silent Tower and watches the events unfold as he thinks back to a day now nearly two centuries gone when a man named Nemonhas walked away from the Lion Throne and into the Silent Tower and the Last Prophecy of Slerotin.