Thursday, October 4, 2012

Bettellyn: Strengths & Foibles -- Pt. III

Continued from Part II.  Click Here for the previous article.

 
Bettellyn went from being an enclave of pariahs to a feared realm.  Its people’s mood often swings from siege-mentality to obnoxious chest-thumping, world-defying arrogance.  For centuries, while it grew as a kingdom, local powers allied against Bettellyn and its strange cults.  Eventually, they lost that fight and were wholly absorbed by the expanding theocracy.  Conquests stopped at the present borders when Bettellyn, economically and demographically drained, accepted to pay homage to the Imperial Throne.

Bettellyn’s main strategy today is to spread the faith abroad as a way to maintain peace.  Of course, this does not sit well with immediate neighbors who see it as a grass-roots effort to evict local aristocracy and extend the theocracy’s boundaries.  Randel is the most hostile on many levels, and simply slammed their northern border shut.  Vertiloch watches its borders with an arcane vigilance, so far thwarting unwanted missionary efforts.  Mountains separating Bettellyn from Theranderol eased the latter’s task of keeping the problem under control.  Bettellyn remains a staunch supporter of the Imperial House and, to avoid jeopardizing this relationship, focused its efforts on Foresthome.  Frictions between the two realms have been growing steadily ever since.

Both Eriadna and the Great Council see Bettellyn as a major military asset and one that is more disciplined and controllable than Randel’s.  As embarrassing as the missionary effort may be, Vertiloch’s role is to prevent conflict among client realms.  Open war between its vassals bears the risk of the conflict widening.  Neither Randel nor Bettellyn have true allies, but their opponents could experience trouble with rivals trying to take advantage of a major clash.  Revolts are another peril.  Lack of stability, loss of income, and forced intervention of imperial troops at home are signals inviting more trouble offshore.  Thyatis and Glantri would, without a doubt, rejoice and stir the pot as much as possible.  A breakaway of Bellissarian realms would be catastrophic.  As a result, the empire will try to prevent wars at all costs. 

Since Theranderol relates directly to the House of Thera, it remains wholly aligned with Empress Eriadna.  On the other hand, in the face of Randel’s ominous presence, sympathies also lie with neighboring Arogansa and mysterious Eadrin as regards a defensive league.  Although Eadrin has largely managed to avoid Bettellyn’s influence, Arogansa is a different story.  Its population of serfs has proven unusually partial to the appeal of The Seven, earning them even more oppression from their overseers.  So far, this policy hasn’t helped much and proselytism persists amid carnival overtones.  People in Haven found the idea of archons as immortal patrons to have a certain charm, but in the end, really don’t care.  Archons don’t seem to produce much of beauty, other than their followers' cathedrals and basilicas, but then again, so does Haven.  Life goes on.


Bettellyn Army Troops Archons
Bettellyn's diplomatic trump card is, of course, its military.  From a strategic standpoint, when fully manned, its defensive layout includes 5,000 (troops or HD-worth of troops) in Uffacos in the northeast, and about as much in each of Leweo, Isoin, and Helms-Hold in the south.  Forts and castles at best house about a thousand troops each.  Minor defenses hold the peaceful southwest.  Aside from small garrisons in each town and village for civil order and law enforcement, most of the land forces otherwise remain quartered in and around Citadel.  Their duties are to head off monster raids from the western ranges, drill, kill whatever crawls out of the depths beneath Citadel, drill, participate in royal pageantry, drill, enforce the Queen’s Law, pray, and drill some more.  Half of that force moves to the Prelacy of Llyn in the winter to bivouac outside the town of Dheys.

Bettellyn Alphatia Ships Galleys Skyships Subs Submersibles 
The navy, despite its 126 vessels, is generally scattered about the realm.  One half is often at sea, on missions for the empire, typically including all sailing ships and 22 skyships.  To be accurate 31 of the small sailing ships are in fact skyships; 19 of the small galleys are submersibles.

Leweo and Brocto are the two main naval bases, with Weitara standing as a lesser third.  Their responsibility is the integrity of marine coasts and surveying ships sailing to and from Randel in particular.  Large galleys and submersibles handle the bulk of this work.  Small galleys typically patrol rivers and operate from inland towns.  A larger flotilla under the monarchy’s direct control patrols the Llyn River from Dheys to Llyn Lake.  The two war galleys and some of the subs from Corona Castle and Devouts’ Gate patrol Llyn Lake.  Galleys hailing from Uffacos keep watch over the East Llyn River.

Finally, nine remaining skyships patrol the western border with virgin Imperial Territories, and the edges of the Grey Mountains and Hammer Hills.  The latter are rigged to fight dragons, relying on ballistae fitted with grappling hooks and harpoons to tangle and tear through their wings.  Combat bays are located throughout these ships, including their undersides.  Masts are collapsed and long spikes cranked outward during battle to dissuade dragons from grabbing on.  Spellcasters are always at hand, ready to suppress fire damage.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!



Order of the True Blood: its supporters include a handful of individual members from the oldest Alphatian families.  They deplore the presence of non-wizards among upper ranks of Bettellyn society, and other individuals of a lesser pedigree.  They believe that it is their own burden to educate the lesser ones in the ways of wizardry.  It is the natural order of the universe that those who understand its mysteries lead and protect those who cannot.  In this they disagree with the established clergy.  They feel they hold the truth since The Seven chose Alphatians—blue-blooded-wizards—to protect and promote the faith.  Queen Llynara is a member.

The Obsidian Spear: thoroughly evil psychopaths, its minions developed the innate ability to pass themselves off as lawful.  Although their true inner selves never change, they may “exchange” an aura of lawfulness from someone nearby with their own.  They can resort to this subterfuge once a day and for a short duration—long enough to dodge any detection magic that would otherwise reveal their alignment.  The ability requires serial sacrifices involving torture, mutilation, and the death of innocents.  Their ultimate goal is to set up proponents of lawfulness against one another and destroy Bettellyn’s orderly society from within.  These criminals are usually of ancient Cypric origins.

The Sanctuary: is a gang whose activities include murder, banditry, and vandalism, usually with some political overtones.  It is in fact a secret branch of the Silver Cord—Bettellyn’s secret police.  It is set up to attract and expose seditious elements of the population and foreign spies.  It is a massive, ongoing sting operation.  Their methods are designed to infuriate the population against a common enemy, usually Randel.  Nefarious deeds are perpetrated for the “greater good of all,” and require from Sanctuary members constant acts of contrition.

The Will of Sabbaiah: members of this discreet political clique wish the resumption of full-blown warfare.  They resent the political tangle of being a vassal of the empire and sending valorous warriors abroad at Eriadna’s whim.  They feel that all portents of chaos should be stricken down once and for all—meaning Randel, at least initially.  Nothing short of complete hegemony in mainland Alphatia will satisfy them.  The Imperial Throne must belong to faithfuls of The Seven.  It is their belief that Sabbaiah will lead them to victory, as he always did before.  Clerics of Sabbaiah and military leaders form this group’s backbone.  Cardinal-Prince Llynroth is a member.

Brotherhood of the Flaming Heart: it includes a small number of high-level ecclesiastics from the Grand Cathedral of the Shroud.  They are convinced, based upon their outer-planar research, that the Shroud of the Unborn did in fact sheathe Samarion’s lifeless remains—not an avatar of his or any other mortal manifestation.  It is theoretically impossible for an immortal to be destroyed, yet their evidence seems uncontroversial.  While they endeavor to unveil and prevent whatever happened (or will happen, to be more accurate) their other concern is to prevent anyone else from learning about this because it could destroy the cults of The Seven.  They will try to permanently silence anyone who knows too much.  Mystics remain at the brotherhood’s service to perform all necessary deeds.

The Golden Boys (and Girls): this association of young nobles, upwardly mobile and hip to a fault, regroups a collection of upstarts as debonair as they are successful in business, military prowess, magic-use, faith, politics, and courtship.  They’ve got it all.  In truth, key members of this public association are polymorphed lawful dragons.  The latter all have in common that they hail from other parts of mainland Alphatia or Bellissaria, and that their credentials are magnificent fakes.  These phony nobles are thought to have left their native lands to embrace the faith of The Seven, and have resettled at Citadel or the main towns ten or fifteen years earlier.  Their goal is to infiltrate Bettellyn’s society to influence its policies and unveil its clergy’s well-kept secrets in hopes to put an end to the deep-seated bitterness prevailing between the theocracy and Randel.

The Watchers: this sect of benevolent non-spellcasters believe that Holy Revelations should be shared with the people.  In their opinion The Seven did not make these prophecies for just a minority.  Their strategy is to spy on globe-trotting mystics.  The truth is that this group has fallen prey to Entropic Immortals.  Minions of Masauwu possess the leaders in a scheme to unveil the revelations’ nature and any new developments—which Ixion had deliberately failed to communicate to Entropic Immortals.  Once a group of mystics uncovers something new, watchers report the event.  Leaders then quietly seek out the mystics involved, isolate them, and magically torture them to reveal what they know.  Occasionally, they may sacrifice their own hosts and possess captured mystics instead.  Pawns of Masauwu either are wizards using magic-jar spells, or powerful monsters.  Most rely on amulets of protection vs. crystal balls and ESP and various other magical items to hide their alignments and escape notice.

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