PrinceCon 30 : A New Hope
A New Hope
Upon the ground lies an unassuming stone marker, half covered in vines and moss. Gently clearing its surface, you can make out the following weathered words:
Flitterin Sparrowhawk enjoyed life. She was a talented outdoorsman, brilliant archer, outspoken and generous friend, and courageous hero who inspired the rest of our unit to great deeds. Whether resting in camp or scouting the enemy position, she had a keen eye for that which is beautiful in the world. Flit was especially fond of flowers and ribbons, and would laugh with delight when we found an unusual color or interesting bloom. She saved our lives when the battalion was ordered to occupy a valley whose monstrous inhabitants were badly estimated by army intelligence. Expecting light resistance, we were flanked by surprise and very nearly surrounded. Our unit was forced into a narrow defile which afforded us temporary cover, but we knew that sooner or later umber hulks would be brought to bear on our position. Struggling with an injured wing, Flit scaled the canyon walls – too unstable for the heavier members of our unit – then half-ran, hopped, and flew back to headquarters, wrangled a better-prepared force from the commanding officer, and rushed back to our rescue. From then on, our unit marched with circlets of daisies on our heads, trailing strands of royal purple ribbons – gifts from the Fey King. Everywhere we went, monsters felt the sting of our arrows and knew death from our blades. Until…
She was cut down in her prime when the monstrous command severed the Fey branch from the Tree of Life, destroying Flitterin and all her noble kind. Sadly, I can truthfully say we will never see her like again. You have seen dozens of such memorials in your travels, and heard rumors that there exist thousands scattered across the disk of the world, each supposedly located some distance from the actual burials so as to frustrate monstrous curiosity-seekers of fey skeletons (and in the early days after the Battle of the Hub, the taxidermists who howled against the massive funeral pyres). You should be inured to the feeling of loss by now, but with each memorial read, must again fight down the sorrow of the remembered friend, and refocus and reforge those helpless feelings into the determination that fuels your hopeless quest for justice.
It has been 28 years since the disastrous Battle of the Hub, when Lord Taerth and his monstrous armies captured the Tree of Life. With the Tree as Taerth’s hostage, most of demihumanity was enslaved, and the years have not been kind. The stewardship of the land, once entrusted to the Council of Kings, fell to the corrupt hands of Taerth and the Monstrous Command. Pestilence and too many seasons of pillaging blighted places where orchards grew and wheat stretched toward the sun, and even the monstrous masters began to feel the effects of famine. All but the Noir Priesthood devoted to Taerth (who are still chanting praises of their dark lord) grew restless. To many, represented by the Umbra, we demihumans were at fault, and were subsequently deemed fit to be harvested for food as well as put to labor. We organized, openly resisted, and were broken and scattered by the Umbra under Taerth’s guidance. Leaders of this rebellion died of mysterious conditions, and rumors of Taerth’s growing powers spread. The Umbra continued their campaign of terror unabated.
We quietly reorganized under new leadership, hiding in the cracks of the world where the monsters themselves once fled. Aided by the Noorha, a network of monstrous spies and saboteurs who are sympathetic to our plight, we hope to remain a secondary worry in Taerth’s mind until the time is right. That time is now.
Taerth’s time spent on his throne carved into the Tree of Life has given him broad powers, but while the Tree is bowed to him, he in turn seems increasingly bound to the Tree. Taerth rarely travels beyond the bounds of the central isle, and even hesitates to stand from his throne, as if unwilling to break contact with the Tree.
Moreover, though Taerth dominates the demihuman Tree, he apparently does not enjoy similar control over Audrey, the Monstrous Tree… and this division has led to dissension. Monsters loyal to Taerth have clashed with those worried about a Taerth that dominates their own tree, and the direction of general monstrous opinion is slowly moving against him.