The Dungeon Goats
The War of the Bloody Cloth
The War of the Bloody Cloth is the most recent, most costly, and most tragic of all the kingdom wars in human history. Its tale is long, dreadful, and filled with great heroics and great atrocities, the basics of which are covered here.
More than a century ago, before the outbreak of the war, the major kingdoms of Veretos were the ancient Heathrock, the noble Rosewater, the mighty Highguard, the vigilant Blackwatch, the savage Wolfsbane, the prosperous Fallcrest, and the dark kingdom of Dreadmoor. Each kingdom held a considerable part of the continent, and each maintained a large standing army, although most were dwarfed by the power of Highguard and their mighty knights. Trade relations deteriorated, diplomacy became little more than shouting matches, and travel for pleasure or business became scarce. The people were afraid, for they knew war was coming.
Yet they were not expecting it to start in such a horrific manner.
It started with a visit by some of the nobles of Rosewater to the Rottinger Castle of Dreadmoor, under the command of Captain Nulrick Sul and his garrison. The nobles were trying to negotiate the return of the castle to Rosewater hands, sighting the incident some 20 years past known as the Lily Harbor Affair, whereby a Dreadmoor armada, after being banished from Lily Harbor, took Castle Rottinger as payment for the insult. Amongst the Rosewater nobles was Lord Nelestor Pax, and his daughter, Miss Harmonia Pax. It was said that she was the most beautiful of all the maids in Rosewater, a kingdom forever renowned for its surpassingly beautiful women. Her radiance was immediately noticeable amongst the dregs and rabble of the Dreadmoor forces, and was keenly noticed by Captain Sul, who, though some 10 years her senior, developed a fatal attraction for the young Rosewater maid.
As was predicted, negotiations for the peaceful return of Castle Rottinger to Rosewater went sour, as Captain Sul and his Lieutenants would not accept anything less than another Rosewater castle to occupy. While Lord Pax and Captain Sul argued endlessly, Harmonia was exploring the castle, going wherever her free spirit willed her. Her exploration led her to the dungeons of Castle Rottinger, and there she found a prisoner, a handsome young knight named Sir William Terrenor of Highguard. He was taken over a month ago in a secret raid by Captain Sul on a Highguard caravan returning from Fallcrest lands. Though beaten and malnourished, William retained his good looks and cheerful demeanor, and Harmonia fell in love with the knight, and vowed to help him escape and live with him in his castle in Highguard.
Days passed, and Captain Sul grew weary of the negotiations, and began to pursue his interest in Harmonia. She spurned him at every advance, her secret love for Sir Terrenor burning brightly inside her. Eventually Captain Sul grew suspicious, and he began torturing Sir Terrenor, trying to burn the truth out of him. Sir Terrenor never caved, and one day the Captain left the cell door open. Harmonia seized her chance and broke his binds, but in his weakened state, he wasn’t able to make it very far. She escorted him to her bedroom, and there she hid him, nursing his wounds.
One night, in her room in a high tower of Castle Rottinger, Harmonia consummated her love with Sir Terrenor. Unfortunately, Captain Sul heard the noise of her pleasure. In a blind fury, he broke through the locks on her door, and found the two lying in bed, naked. He drew his sword, and cursed the two. William tried to defend his love, but in his weakened state, and unarmed, he was no match for the Captain. He threw Sir Terrenor aside, and went to Harmonia. She plead for her life, swearing that she would marry Captain Sul if he spared her and William, but the Captain did not listen. In the bed of her love, she died, Sir William Terrenor looking on in horror as Harmonia’s head was slowly separated from her body. The blood flooded on the sheets, staining them a dark red. The Captain took the head and Sir William, knocking him out and kicking him down the stairs of the tower. He took his forces, the head of Harmonia, and Sir William Terrenor, and fled the castle in the dead of night, headed toward the kingdom of Blackwatch. Lord Nelestor Pax soon thereafter went to his daughter’s room and found her headless body atop the bloody cloth that was her bed sheet. In a baleful scream, he vowed vengeance, and he swore that he would muster the entire forces of Rosewater and Highguard to hunt down and slaughter the evil Captain Sul and his men. Taking the sheet as a banner of his dismay and vendetta, he returned to Rosewater lands and set Castle Rottinger to the torch.
When Captain Sul arrived in Blackwatch lands, he sought out a council of the most powerful wizards, witches, and warlocks of the kingdom. He knew that he would be hunted, and so he needed a champion to defend himself. With unspeakable dark magic, a ritual was cast upon the still-living Sir William Terrenor. He was killed, then resurrected as a death knight, and for his phylactery Captain Sul chose the disembodied head of Harmonia. William came in to unlife with a burning hatred and pain, forever seething in his heart as he eternally felt the pain of his lost love. His lover’s head was placed on a large chain, which William was forced to wear around his neck at all times.
And so the good, handsome knight Sir William Terrenor was forever transformed in to Sir Terror, and even today that name makes the most steadfast knight quiver in his armor.
With the creation of Sir Terror, Captain Sul was able to cow the forces of Blackwatch in to joining Dreadmoor to defend against the oncoming onslaught. Lord Pax quickly rallied the forces of Rosewater and Highguard in to a righteous frenzy, and within a few months the forces of the combined kingdoms were ready to march on Dreadmoor. Leading the vanguard was Lord Pax himself, the bloody cloth flying its red-brown stain. Standing at the head of the defense of Dreadmoor was Sir Terror. And so began the War of the Bloody Cloth.
The war that would last 25 years.
At first, the other kingdoms stayed well out of the way of the bloody conflict, but they could not escape its disastrous spread. Fallcrest was raided by both Dreadmoor and Rosewater, and fought back relentlessly to protect its bountiful farmlands and lakes. Wolfsbane took the opportunity to rise up against Blackwatch, its traditional enemy since the days of the First Holy Kingdom. Only ancient Heathrock managed to remain untouched, until a desperate plea from Rosewater and the promise of untold riches enticed Heathrock to join under the Bloody Cloth banner.
The war lasted so long, that its origins became largely forgotten. The Bloody Cloth became a symbol and an ideal, rather than a reminder of atrocities. Both Lord Pax and Captain Sul were slain in the fighting, but Sir Terror remained, slaughtering thousands. Only when a cleric of Hergen by the name of Reverend Samuel sacrificed himself to entomb Sir Terror in a holy prison did the carnage diminish.
Heathrock joining the war sealed the fate of Dreadmoor. King Bariston Stormrager I took his forces deep in to the heart of Dreadmoor, burning and pillaging as they went. The few remaining lords surrendered, and Blackwatch quickly followed. Fallcrest praised Stormrager for freeing them from oppression, and Wolfsbane was quelled by Heathrock clerics and paladins, who turned many of the barbarians of that kingdom to the religion of Hergen. Rosewater and Highguard, strained from the toils of war, also bent in acknowledgement of Heathrock’s superiority. And so it was that the War of the Bloody Cloth united all the kingdoms, after they were each beaten or cowed by Heathrock. Representatives from the other six kingdoms met and proclaimed Bariston the High King, ruler over all the Old Kingdoms.
Since the end of the war, about 100 years ago, the kingdoms have rebuilt their former glory, except for Dreadmoor. The blackened lands still show the scars of war, and no king has been crowned in over a century, though some petty lords squabble for the title.
Few humans are alive today that were alive during the war, but the elves remember its atrocities, and are loath to talk about that horrible period of history.