A New Nation
Okay, the current ruler, King Ottanulf, was one of a number of warlords throughout Hilbensal who started off fighting as revolutionaries. The party wouldn’t necessarily know his precise background, but almost immediately after the Essalite government collapsed, the same warlords started fighting among themselves. Some of the warlords were native Hilben, some were Essalite expats whose families may have been living in Hilbensal for one generation, or whose family has been “in country” so long they’ve become practically natives. And some of the warlords were of other races and nationalities, mercenary leaders who decided ruling a piece of the new nation was better than being paid to fight its fights. What made King Ottanulf stand out a bit was that he was a great fighter, very accomplished in personal duels, and a good leader on the battlefield. Where he was most accomplished, however, was in his ability to recognize that this infighting was going to leave Hilbensal a shattered wreck with nothing left to rule over. Combining a bit of charm with his skill in personal combat, he used a carrot and stick approach to get some of the warlords to join him, with the help of people like Drophias, who seemed less interested in ruling and more interested in creating a stable government.
He finally pacified that last few warlords about a year ago. There wasn’t so much a ceremonial crowning of Ottanulf, rather the king’s a series of treaties signed by the warlords agreeing to his rule, and the king then occupied Stassenkeep. For the most part, the warlords were given land and fiefdoms in exchange for agreeing to King Ottanulf’s rule. What was not gotten from them, however, was any promise to enforce his rule, or his laws. The current level of peace, very fresh and fragile after four years of open warfare, exists because these former warlords have not taken up arms again. But they’ve also done very little to prevent bandits (and perhaps cultists….) from preying on the populace. Some have argued that the king should be responsible for enforcing order since he is the king, and a shrewd person would recognize that they know he doesn’t have the resources to do it, and this is a way for them to undermine his rule. Although Ottanulf still has his army, he has disbanded most of it since he couldn’t afford to continue housing and feeding them. That army now protects Stassenkeep and the royal lands around it, and is too small to enforce order throughout the kingdom. Of course, the king probably could use some of his men to enforce order, but he’s paranoid and probably right to think so.
Most average Hilben would know the basics of this. Having suffered through warfare, they now exist in a “peace” of sorts where armies may not kill you but crime is rampant. Many of the mercenary companies that filled Hilbensal during the fighting are now left without work and have turned to crime.
Not quite. I’ll lay it out, with reminders of some extra context your characters would probably know. I’ll number each stage to make it more clear.
1. General Auderat Bersandi, and his army of close to 10000 soldiers are camped at a fortress on Atroxes Neck. They aren’t moving from the spot, effectively preventing any outside force from entering Hilbensal, but also leaving the new nation with no official internal peacekeeping force. That’s why you all exist – mercenaries are the only tools the current rulers of Hilbensal have to enforce laws, keep the peace, etc.
2. The King sends a messenger directly to Bersandi, requesting that he take his army, or at least some of it, out of Atroxes Neck and into the kingdom to enforce the peace. Presumably so he can stop hiring mercenaries.
3. Bersandi, for reasons unknown to the party, sends his reply to the Lord Mayor rather than to the King.
4. The Lord Mayor is worried that, at best, he’ll be ostracized as the messenger of both Bersandi’s bad news and the recipient of an insult directed at the King, or, at worst, that the king will believe that Lord Mayor is somehow working with Bersandi to dethrone him. The current king hasn’t been there long (I haven’t worked this out, but maybe a year?) and the last five years have seen numerous factions merge, splinter, fight and ally. Anyone ruling the kingdom knows his position is tenuous and is likely to jealously guard against anyone they think has ambitions for the throne. Especially because the current king started out as just another warlord. The main difference is he recognized the benefits of cooperation early on, was good enough to defeat those who didn’t cooperate, and won enough trust to be given at least nominal rule of the kingdom.
Let me know if anything isn’t clear or doesn’t make sense to you.
Many know the story of the farmers who raided the granary of Lord Octavius last year, seeking relief for their families in the midst of a famine. Lord Octavius intended to sell the grain to Bersandi to feed his troops. Ottanulf responded by selling the farmers into slavery, but only after he had their wives and children boiled alive in front of them. It was said he was a just man, loyal to those who are loyal to him, but a hard man when someone crosses him.