In the Shadow of Princes
In the last adventure, Armand Vidal revealed his secret burden and the Vidal family’s ancestral tie to the artefact known as the Life Bringer/Death Bringer. This history is linked with the founding and greater history of Noirlan itself, as, according to Armand, the Life Bringer’s mysterious rejuvenating properties were the catalyst that made the coastal territories of Noirlan habitable after the Era of Poisoned Sea and Sky.
Armand’s story confirms that Noirlan was indeed, as popular legend tells, founded by a pair of half-brothers, Roderick and Konrad Vidal, in the year 403 PCE. The Vidals had migrated southward from Jersey after the Princes came to Merika and began their harsh dominion in the Stairway Tower of Manhattan. Terrified by news of the Princes’s growing empire to the north, the tribal peoples living on the Silent Sea coast soon banded with the Vidals to rebuild the ancient city of their ancestors upon the drowned ruins of old New Orleans. The Vidal brothers, having received the Life Bringer artefact from the Visitor known as Rook just prior to Rook’s disappearence from history, had used the Life Bringer as instructed and built up a “city on the edge of the sea” just as Rook had bade their mother, Ligeia Vidal.. After using the mysterious powers of the Life Bringer to restore the ecosystem of Noirlan for human habitation, they sealed the artefact in their mother’s tomb in the vaults beneath Castle Vidal lest it fall into the wrong hands and be used for malign purposes.
The original Vidals had believed that they alone possessed knowledge of the Life Bringer’s existence; however, over a century and a half after the founding of Noirlan, the Princes of the northern Shadow Empire confronted the scions of Vidal and demanded possession of the Life Bringer. This episode of Vidal family lore offers a unique account of events surrounding the Invasion of Noirlan in 560 PCE, the well known culmination of a military campaign led by the warlord Princes to subjugate the southern city-states of Merika. One of the ruling Princes, a ranking Tetrarch and apocalyptic prophet known as Brother Paulings, approached Siegfried Vidal, the then current head of the Vidal household, and offered him vast wealth and power in exchange for the Life Bringer. In exchange for obedience and compliance with this demand, The Princes would elevate him to the lower ranks of the Princes’s vast cadre of warlord potentates or even, perhaps, make Siegfried Vidal a high lord of the Merikas.
Siegfried refused and Paulings responded by deploying three Steel Legions to subdue Noirlan and compel Vidal to surrender the location of the prized artefact. Instead of capitulating, Siegfried approached the northern tribes of the Larada and sought the advice of the shamans who had assisted his ancestors in settling Noirlan nearly two centuries before. A Larada shaman known as Vayo agreed to help Siegfried bind the Life Bringer or, failing that, use it as a weapon against the Princes.
As the Steel Legions approached and Jolan Chastain, fabled warrior patriarch and founder of the long-esteemed House Chastain, was organizing the defence of the city, unbeknownst to all, Vayo and a few other “toxic shamans” were working under the guidance of Siegfried to reverse the vivifying effects of the Life Bringer. And the shamans succeeded: through their mastery of toxicity and latent radiation, the Larada transfigured the ultimate instrument of life into a potential weapon capable of lethal destruction.
In the ensuing battles, none realized that the war’s truly decisive factor was Siegfried and Vayo’s clandestine deployment of the Life Bringer against the Princes’s rearguard. As the forces led by Jolan Chastain fell upon the Princes’s vanguard, an engagement well-documented in the remembered history of the war, Siegfried, Vayo, and the shamans marched forward through the Louisiana brush and bayou with a Larada warband to deploy the weapon against their enemy’s reserve legions. The Princes were astonished to learn on the battlefield that the Life Bringer artefact now had the power to putrify flesh and drain life force from living matter. When Vayo cast the wasting forces of the artefact upon Brother Paulings’s master, the Hidden Emperor himself, the deathless Emperor was gravely wounded, his immortal body maimed and crippled with pain. Fearing for his own life, Paulings prepared to flee, as the weapon’s destructive ray fell upon the ranks of the Steel Legions, wasting flesh and rendering its victims mad with pain and primal rage. The beam had the secondary effect of generating spontaneous mutation in animal tissue, causing deformity and madness, an effect that has left a legacy of monstrosity in the Louisiana Marches, where mutated half-human beasts have roamed ever since.
Paulings and the Hidden Emperor rode away with the remains of their invasion force. In spite of their failed campaign, the Princes scoffed at the folly of Siegfried Vidal, who had saved his city and retained the Life Bringer by any and all means only to find he had corrupted the artefact beyond recovery. The once gleaming sphereoid, brimming with life and light, had now dimmed, marred by a swirling malignant darkness. The corrupted artefact was powerless to undo the damage Siegfried’s plan had inflicted on the natural wildlife of the Marches. With the near-divine touch of the Life Bringer seemingly lost forever, Siegfried renamed the artefact: Life Bringer was now “Death Bringer.” Subsequently, Siegfried Vidal fell into a deep depression. The invasion had been thwarted but at what cost? Siegfried, vowing to safeguard the weapon he had wrought, sealed the artefact in the Vidal crypts once more never to be unearthed again. There it has since lain for centuries, forgotten and unsought.
According to Armand Vidal, Orphea and Oliver Chastain’s parents, Syllyndra and Erdric, learned of the Death Bringer while exploring the Manhattan Stairway in the aftermath of the Battle of New York (978 PCE). The records of the now-deposed Princes revealed the role Siegfried Vidal, Vayo, and their instrumental use of the Death Bringer had played in ending the Subjugation War. The Chastains confronted Armand’s mother, Arvida Vidal, with this knowledge and won her confidence. The two families resolved to ally and share the burden of defending the secret of the Death Bringer.
Oliver “Marius” Chastain’s discovery of the secret and subsequent theft of the Death Bringer has set in motion an increasingly unstable chain of events. Having murdered his own parents in pursuit of the artefact, Marius will surely never stop until he possesses the Death Bringer again. And others like him will inevitably also learn of the artefact and its power, thus widening the severity of the crisis manyfold.
The only proposed solution lies in a voyage to the lost island of Golgolath, the mythic refuge of the being known as Rook. It is Vidal’s hope that the creator of the Life Bringer may be able to restore its powers and undo the corruption it has endured these long years. Coincidentally the party reveals its possession of ancient navigational charts and ongoing plans for an expedition to Golgolath to inspect some long unfinished expedition of the late Chastains, Erdric and Syllyndra.
Armand and the party are resolved: the expedition will go forth with a new purpose, to locate the lost legacy of Rook and restore the Life Bringer artefact.