Ill Winds Over Verbobonc
A young noblewoman, beautiful and eligible, who works to return her land and its people to prosperity. She is a patron of sorts to our heroes.
A beautiful young lady of the Verboboncian aristocracy. She has gentle features, clear blue eyes, and long, wavy, honey-blonde hair that she prefers to wear loose. The coat of arms of a flaming sword and a shining gemstone is worn prominently on her garments, which are of sober colours but fine cloth and cut despite belonging to earlier fashions of the land. She customarily arms herself only with a finely crafted dagger.
The coat of arms of House Asbury, depicting the flaming sword and shining sapphire that are the heirlooms of her ancestors. The field of blue represents loyalty, chastity, truth, strength, and faith while the gold signifies generosity and elevation of the intellectual pursuits.
Her Most Honourable Lady, Elinor Treguard Andalarian Greensward, seventh Baronetess of Asbury is, perhaps fitting for the shining jewel on her device, a rare gem among the aristocracy. An embattled noblewoman from an old house that has long graced the firmament of Verboboncian society, she is distinctive for caring only about the regular folk of her land, who were crushed beneath the tyrannical heel of the Temple of Elemental Evil during the war of 569 CY. The people of Penwick and the lordship of Asbury have yet to recover from the disaster that befall their land, and the good lady seems resolved to do whatever she must to see them restored.
The heroes first met her in Verboektown, the Gnomish Quarter of Verbobonc, on the evening of the seventh of Flocktime during the low summer of 591 CY. Thanks to the gratitude and beneficence of Lady Haxx, for whom they had recently performed a great service, the adventurers were put up for the night at Jylee’s Inn, a noted hospice that is much favoured by the aristocracy, foreign dignitaries, and only the most wealthy of merchants. There they met a number of servants of the powerful, including those of Sir Rauth Towsend, Furyondian Knight of the Hart, Sir Harold Viscell, Knight Companion of the Velunan Order of the Shield, Olan Destroit, archpriest of Bishop Marquin Dorasie of Devarnish, Lord Simon Milinous, Knight Commander of Verbobonc and, of course, those of Lady Elinor. At length, Ruprect Windchester impressed her seneschal, Armount, concerning the qualifications of he and his friends, and they were invited to meet with the old soldier’s mistress.
Greatly fearful of the peril of her precarious financial position and what it meant for her people, Lady Elinor would then tell the heroes of the circumstances of her inheritance.
She was born in 568 CY, during the very midst of the worst of the Elemental Wars, to Lady Aluna Greensward, the sixth Baronetess of Asbury, and Kyllan Aldowayne Treguard, an adventurer of the New Gentry of Dyvers. Many among the hide-bound high society of Verbobonc were scandalised at the match, for the New Gentry are known to be little more than a merchant elite — practically commoners! However, the strong-mined Lady Aluna had served as a priestess of Ehlonna before she took up her inheritance, and she cared nothing for their disapproval, nor their feelings. Indeed, prior to taking Kyllan as her husband she had spurned a number of scions of the Verboboncian nobility.
It would seem her slight was not forgotten, for throughout the 1160s, as the Temple of Elemental Evil rose with great speed on the Gnarley verge, the Asbury lands found few friends among their neighbours to stand with them in their resistance. Soon the goodly folk of the village of the Hommlet to the south were brought under the yolk of the cult, and Aluna’s estate and the town of Penwick were next. Led by their lady, her brave husband, and his clever companion Armount, the people of Asbury fiercely resisted the rise of the First Temple. In this they were assisted by their stalwart friends and kin among the Milinous lands immediately to their north and, of course, their noble liege, Viscount Wilfrick, who was unfortunately ill-prepared for the rise of the evil cult. As to the rest of their peers, little help was forthcoming.
Much local blood was spent in defence of the Asbury border while Lord WIlfrick worked to pull his other vassals into a semblance of cohesion. A call for help was sent forth to Veluna and Furyondy, and the people of the land of Asbury had no choice but to hold on. Indeed, so depleted were they of fighting men that in 569 CY, when the Temple of Elemental Evil finally reached the apex of their strength, they had less than no hope of further resistance. Word reached both they and their enemies that Prince Thrommel of Furyondy was leading an army south to deal with the vile cult, and so the hand of the First Temple was forced. They marched to conquest, and the Lordship of Asbury stood in their way.
Knowing they could not hold the enemy long enough for the approaching Righteous Host to march to their rescue, Lady Aluna and Sir Kyllan trusted their baby into the hands of the reluctant Armount, who was tasked with taking her to safety and leading the evacuated folk of the baronetcy north to Verbobonc City. The lord and lady then asked their twelve mightiest warriors to stand with them on the bridge over Whistler’s Creek, determined to buy the safety of their loved ones with their lives. This they did for hours while their people fled towards the Righteous Host until finally, exhausted, they fell one by one before the might of the Horde of Elemental Evil. The people of Verbobonc remember their sacrifice with pride and shame; pride for their strength and courage and shame for their own lack of the same when it counted.
And yet, the Battle of Whistler’s Bridge is but a historical footnote next to what happened next. Asbury Manor was robbed of its treasures, and Penwick was sacked and razed by the advancing enemy, but later that very day the Righteous Host and the Elemental Horde finally met in a calamitous battle. Many champions on both sides fell, but the army of weal was ultimately victorious, and the fell forces of the Cult of Elemental Evil were smashed and put to flight. Prince Thrommel and his army continued their march south, first liberating the grateful folk of Hommlet and then pushing east to lay siege to the evil temple itself. Within a fortnight, Verbobonc was free once more.
But little did this help the poor folk of Penwick, nor the scattered thorps and farms throughout the rest of the Asbury lands. Stoically, they returned to their broken homes and began the long process of rebuilding, but except for what they could carry in a hurry, their wealth was gone. Even more than twenty years later, they have yet to rebuild to the point where they can stand recovered from their trials. For her part, Armount raised Lady Elinor as his ward, imparting to her his love of knowledge and all his memories of the goodness of her parents. A smart man, he invested what little gold was left to them and slowly rebuilt their fortune to a degree. However, it was the generous assistance of Lord Alerick Milinous that pulled House Asbury out of ruin. Alerick and his adventurous brother, Kilgrave, gave them loans with much deferred interest to help them rebuild, and in due course House Milinous would offer a stronger alliance to their neighbour — marriage between Alerick’s nephew and heir, Simon, to Lady Elinor. Although fully seven years her senior, the shy lad was immensely taken with the charismatic young girl, and they were soon betrothed in an alliance that promised to one day join their lands.
Armount, Seneschal to House Asbury and the surrogate parent of Lady Elinor.
The learned Armount proved to be an apt teacher for his youthful charge, tutoring her in history, music, and statecraft. In those areas where his skills were in deficit, he was careful to retain capable tutors in order to see that her education was complete. In honour of her late parents’ reverence for Ehlonna and the Old Faith however, Armount did respectfully decline the offers of assistance from Bishop Haufren of St. Cuthbert. Instead he saw that she grew up taking some of her spiritual instruction from friendly druids and bards of the Gnarley verge, and he made sure that she grew up knowing the value of the hard labours of the good people who owed her their taxes. She worked the fields and the herds alongside the local farmers, and learned firsthand the long toils of the few craftsmen that returned to Penwick after its devastation. Certainly owing to the empathy that has resulted from such an earthy upbringing, Lady Elinor has come to excel in the arts of diplomacy and politics, and she cares deeply for her humble and faithful people. She loves the arts, sponsoring many bards and performers (with her favour, if not the little coin she has left) with only a single favor asked in return, that being to teach her something new or unique, share a story of legend, or gift her peoples with a performance.
Due to her labours alongside her people she enjoys a justly deserved reputation for being beloved by the common folk of her lands. Indeed, her compassion and her charm is such that she has captured the hearts of many who are not her subjects, and she has made many friends throughout the viscounty, and not least among them is Viscount Langard himself. Sadly, her life is not without much hardship. Penwick struggles to rise from the ashes, and what little gold and silver the wise investments of Armount have been able to raise has largely gone to alleviating the troubles of her people.
Furthermore, the relationship between Lady Elinor and Simon Milinous is thought to have soured long ago, a situation made all the more onerous since she is still held hostage to the debts owed to his family. In 583 CY, as a starry-eyed young girl of fifteen, the infatuated lady had tearfully bid her betrothed safety and good fortune when he volunteered to ride off and fight for the beleaguered Kingdom of Furyondy against the hordes of the Old One. Sir Simon had only recently won his spurs among the Mounted Borderers, and he was eager to prove himself in the good company of the likes of Marakios Haxx, Willow Swan, and Jacque Kolgrim. No fewer than four hundred men-at-arms marched with the knights, hoping to do their part and win glory and honour on the field.
Simon, Eighth Baronet of Milinous, Knight-Commander of Verbobonc, and Knight Protector of Furyondy.
Few of them would return, and those who did spoke in hushed, haunted tones of legions of undead, demons, orcs, goblins, giants, and fell men who sought nothing less than the eradication of all good from the world. Worse, after covering themselves with much glory through participating in the breaking of the Siege of Chendl, news soon arrived that the army of Simon and Jacque fought and was vanquished by an elite force of soldiers from the Horned Lands. They were captured, and held in deplorable and tortuous conditions for months before Lord Alerick and Sir Kilgrave were able to raise a sufficient ransom. Sir Jacque returned, maimed and grievously injured, but Simon and many of his remaining men would not. In fact, they remained in the north for four more years, well after the Furyondian War of Reclamation had begun. And when Lady Elinor’s beloved did return in 587 CY, he was much scarred both physically and spiritually. The gentle and generous boy was gone, replaced by a veteran hardened and embittered by the horrors and privations of war and captivity.
Over the years that have followed, Simon rose to lordship of the Milinous lands after death claimed first his father in 588 and then his uncle in 590. He has proclaimed his love and devotion to Lady Elinor at every turn, but his splenetic ways, pitiless interpretation of the law, and lack of appreciation for the hardships of the common folk have turned her heart from him. In return, he has pressed for repayment of her debts, which has only further served to alienate the lady of Asbury even as it has choked off her options other than finally following through on their marriage. The gossip of Verbobonc holds that Lord Milinous cares more for her estate now than Elinor herself, for a union of their houses would leave him one of the largest landholders in all the viscounty.
It was with this plight in mind that Lady Elinor and Armount approached the heroes that evening at Jylee’s Inn, for a desperate hope had found its way into their hearts. A half-mad, much starved vagabond had wandered into Penwick of late, raving about a treasure strewn crypt in a bog on the Gnarley verge and reciting a riddle over and over to himself. The people had fed and watered him out of pity, intending to see him into the care of this temple or that. Then the old lunatic had produced a golden chalice to ask for another cup of wine – a treasure notably stamped with the shining gem and flaming sword of House Asbury! Could the treasure of her ancestors be within reach? Suddenly, Lady Elinor saw a possibility to repay her debts, deny Lord Milinous, and finally give her people a fighting chance to regain their feet.
All that remained was for people of the right quality to step forward and hunt down the treasure…