"Emperor Norton was far from a perfect man, despite what the volksongs and chroniclers would have you think.  His path to glory very nearly wasn't.  He had wisely oiled the wood that was his house to protect it from the weather, but he failed to treat its inside, and it rotted beneath its shiny veneer.  The same year he revealed his ascension to swordsaint, he very nearly fell to pauper, the wood cracking and collapsing from within, eaten away by the termites he had failed to excise due to his own lack of determination." ~ excerpt from 'Building an Empire' by Nico Talia.



Arriotoli brought was confusing news. The news didn't come from The Northlands, it was brought by Massa. He said a rebellion had broken out within Lorist's domain which drew the three legions back home. Massa and the men had also returned.

However, because of their loot and the distance they had to travel, they would only be home in the middle of the following year. Preparations were already made for the unit to stay over in the imperial capital for the winter and the following rainy season. But they would bring with them a considerable haul. They'd also only suffered a few casualties for it. In total, they were bringing home three thousand gold Fordes.

Lorist had no comment, nor was he interested in their wealth. He was only concerned with the rebellion. Unfortunately, he only had what little Massa had mentioned in his letter.

"Arri, remind me again, the servant you sent to check on the situation was turned back, right? So the first local defense legion cut off all contact with the continent?" asked he.

"Yes," Arriotoli nodded, "Metropoulos' floating bridge has been disassembled. Only two ferries connect the two banks but they've been prevented from crossing. Their explanation is that they've cut off The Northlands for you to recover, until you do, no one will be allowed to cross."

Did something really happen?

Lorist stroked his beard, half an inch long by now. His reflection reminded him of the ancient general Zhang Fei. Arriatoli missed her brother. She'd not received word from either her sister or her aunt this month. She'd tried to send several, but none were allowed to cross the river. She made sure to quell any suspicions of Lorist being with her, she kept asking if anyone knew where he was.

She'd only come to Lorist once her letter were returned. He'd not thought it strange at the time. He'd given Belnick command of the forces when he left, and trusted he was acting in the best interests of the house. The lockdown made sense as well, since the Union's hunting parties would naturally gravitate to The Northlands; it was the natural place for Lorist to flee too to recover, after all. The news Arriatoli brought, however, put everything in a new light. Something massive was happening.

What did Massa mean when he said His Majesty didn't like it that the three legions were heading home? Don't tell me he started this? Impossible, he's stupid, but no fool. I'm a swordsaint, going against me is suicide and he knows it.

No matter how much he thought about it, Lorist couldn't understand what was going on. Belnick would never betray him, and he trusted no one more than Charade. Ovidis used to be a bandit, but he was one of Lorist's most loyal subordinates. And Furybear's headquarters was there, surely they would have uncovered any untoward goings-on long before anything could have gotten this bad.

Well, fretting over it from a distance would solve nothing. Reidy had to return and find out what was happening. Lorist had recovered enough that he didn't need Reidy for the rest of his recovery, so the kid could go and find out what was going on. He was also quite clearly bothered by this; refused to marry Sunirulu despite the two getting along so well.

Reidy departed the morning after he received his mission. His little wannebe lover cried her eyes out as she watched him leave, but he didn't stop even once. He would head to Silowas and take a ship home from there. It would take him at least three months to reach harbor. Just two months later, though, he burst through the door to the cabin amidst a blizzard with Tarkel.

Tarkel carefully explained what had transpired. When news of Lorist's injury reached home, everyone grieve for him, but excited at the same time. Their lord was a swordsaint, so of course they were happy. If only he hadn't gone and gotten himself injured. Charade deployed to Wild Husbandry to fill in the gap Josk and Loze left when they marched off. Their departure left quite the mess.

They disappeared completely, leaving 500 thousand migrants untended, all of whom now had to be watched over by just two legions. Poor Freiyar and Els could barely sleep, they just didn't have the manpower to keep everything under control. Charade sent them one of the second garrison legion's divisions. Only one was now left defending Ragebear. Charade had Belnick lock down the river to make it easier to defend with their understaffed forces.

After the assassination attempt in the capital and Lorist's escape, all contact was lost with him and Reidy. Shuss and Jinolio successfully led their pursuers away, but they caused trouble in Ragebear when they realised Lorist wasn't there. Xanthi was present, luckily, and, together with Shuss and Engelich, they drove the blademasters off. They couldn't however, keep word of Lorist's disappearance from spreading, however.

Hansk invited Belnick to a banquet under the guise of finding out where Lorist was. During the banquet, held at the Bastide, Hansk suggested they make Lysecott the acting Lord until they knew where Lorist was. Belnick refused, but was quickly captured. It turned out Hansk had been prepared for his refusal; he'd employed two blademasters to help with his rebellion. He rallied his subordinates and co-conspirators to the bastide and declared Lysecott the house's head before marching on Ragebear.

"Wait, I thought I removed everyone with such inclinations from our forces. How did Hansk rallie forces to his side?"

"You didn't clean out the constabulary, Your Grace," said Tarkel.

Of course! The constabulary was made up of retired soldiers. The old coots naturally had loyalties to the old guard! Many of the constabulary's high-command came directly from the bastide's old guard! They were undyingly loyal to the house, but Lorist was only one member of the house, their loyalty wasn't necessarily to him directly. They felt marginalized in the greater house Lorist had established, so they would of course gravitate to having an heir from the bastide itself. Lysecott was the perfect candidate!

Lorist's face turned violet.

"DId Charade not take care of this?"

"They were the first ones outside the bastide to be captured. This whole thing was very carefully planned."

Hansk marched on Ragebear once he had control of the local defense legion. Ovidis held his ground however, and fortified the city with the division he had at hand. Charade and Spiel tried to convince Hansk to step down. They warned that when Lorist returned to find the dominion in this state, Hansk and everyone involved in this rebellion would be put to the sword. But he would not listen. If Kedan hadn't placated Hansk and agreed to make Lysecott the next duke, he might have hanged the two on the spot.

Hansk considered Charade a crook. He saw him as the source of all the current house's malaise.

"What the fuck is Hansk thinking?!" Lorist yelled, "Hansk can win as many fights as he wants, he can take as much of the dominion as he wants, it will all turn to dust when I return! All he's doing is making his fate worse and worse when I return!"

"He's asked the king to officially declare Lysecott regent. He promised the three legions would return to the frontlines if the king did this. He plans to let Lysecott stand by the king's side. If the king backs him as your heir, there will be little you can do to change it, he will be all but guaranteed to inherit your title and lands one day. If possible, he even wants the king to split your demesne in two. You'll have the lands you conquered, but Lysecott will have rule over the ancestral homeland of the house."