Ill Winds Over Verbobonc
His Most Honourable Sir, Simon, Eighth Baronet of Milinous, Knight-Captain of the Mounted Borders, and Knight Protector of Furyondy. This war hero, apparently much changed by his trials, has become a tyrant of a lord.
Standing well over six feet in height, this grim, scarred nobleman wears an air of authority and menace. Dark of hair and eye, with heavy brows, he is given to brooding and aloofness, but he still remains quite handsome despite his cold demeanour and the cruel scars that mar his cheek, chin, and neck. His eyes are unsettling, for they are cold, calculating, and without remorse or mercy. He favours muted colours to suit his perpetually black mood, and goes armed with a sword and dagger that both seem to have seen much use. The badge of a rampant black griffon on a field of azure is worn at his breast and on his sleeves.
The coat of arms of Sir Simon, eighth baronet of Milinous
(Expanded from the character as presented in Living Greyhawk Verbobonc: Journal of the Wanderer, p. 10).
Hailing from a noble family that has protected the rich farmlands on the south-easterly approaches to the city of Verbobonc for centuries, Sir Simon is one of the most noteworthy lords in all the viscounty. The Milinous family was once known for their formidable griffon cavalry, hence their heraldic device, but in recent decades their stable of the formidable beasts has dwindled to less than a handful.
Simon Milinous is bona fide war hero, well known for his courage and brilliant leadership on the Furyondian front of the Greyhawk Wars and the Great Northern Crusade several years later. In addition to the bounty of his fecund and prosperous lands, he returned from those conflicts with much booty taken from his vanquished enemies and the reward of lands in Furyondy granted in thanks for his service. Evidently a canny fellow, he has parlayed that fortune into further riches by acting as a money-lender and patron for various business ventures. He coasts upon his justly deserved reputation, perhaps intuiting that the good will it has generated will disguise the fact that his loans are often predatory, and his peasants endure draconian laws and hefty taxes. Sir Simon is fantastically wealthy, but the Milinous lands, once known to be a bucolic and friendly place, now labour under a pall of oppression.
And yet, it was not always so.
Simon was once known for his shy and gentle ways at court and his daring and courageous (but at that time largely untested) talents on the field. From his earliest years he was destined to be a knight, the next in a long line of knights who have served the viscounty and its people. He was marked as someone to watch, with his natural gifts only enhanced by the benefits of his father’s knowledge of statecraft and business and his uncle’s experience with warcraft and the wider world. Upon first meeting the luminous Elinor Asbury when they were youths, he was quietly but instantly smitten with her despite the fact that she was seven years his junior. Aware that she was orphaned, he assumed the role of the chivalrous and protective squire; he accompanied the young lady on social outings, wore her favours when jousting with other squires, looked for any excuse to visit her near Penwick or invite her to his own home at Griffon Manor, and wrote her utterly dreadful poetry.
As a boy of eight, Simon had watched his father Alerick and uncle Kilgrave ride off with Viscount Wilfrick to fight at the Battle of Emridy Meadows, and he also saw them return safe, covered with glory and honour. They filled his head with tales of valour from their role in the viscounty’s finest hour, and impressed upon him that it was his destiny too to undertake such daring deeds. Simon wanted to be worthy of them, and also of Elinor, with whom he grew more enamoured with each passing year. His father and Armount, the seneschal and guardian of the Asbury heir, recognised that a good match was made and they eventually made an alliance with an eye towards encouraging a betrothal of the youths. As part of the agreement, Lord Milinous loaned Armount a fortune to help rebuild the village of Penwick, which had been shattered by the Horde of Elemental Evil years before and never recovered.
By the time Simon was twenty-one he was eager, perhaps too eager, to do his part for the cause of weal and the people of Verbobonc. As many young nobles do, Simon would join the Mounted Borderers, cutting his teeth in battle against bandits on the Gnarley verge and humanoid and giant incursions from isolated valleys of the Kron. In one such fracas, he would earn his spurs by single-handedly slaying an ogre chieftain, and then win the hearts of the commoners by donating his considerable share of the spoils to the needy. His reputation was made, not just as a valiant knight and leader, but also a compassionate and generous lord. And yet, he was hungry for more action to prove himself to his family and to Lady Elinor, who was now coming of age herself and was easily impressed by courageous deeds.
He would have his chance.
In 582 CY the conflict that would later be deemed the Greyhawk Wars broke out. All across the Flanaess, tyrants marched on the lands of their neighbours, and good men and women rose to meet them in battle.
In the middle of the year Iuz the Old, Fiend of the North, marshalled his armies, subborned the Horned Society and crushed the Shield Lands. The northern provinces of Furyondy were soon beleaguered as well, and envoys were sent south seeking aid and alliances. While Verbobonc was free of immediate danger, many remembered how Prince Thrommel of Fairwain had raised an army in the hour of their own need. Sir Simon determined that he should join the army being assembled by Lord Marakios Haxx and Sir Jacque Kolgrim, but before he left the young knight reaffirmed his love for Lady Elinor and asked for her hand in marriage. She reciprocated his feelings and their betrothal was announced, and joyous celebrations were held at Griffon Manor and Asbury Manor. Viscount Wilfrick gave his blessings for the betrothal and also gave Simon leave of his duties with the Mounted Borderers to seek a position in the great wars to the north.
He left Griffon Manor under the banner of His Most Honorable Sir Jacque in early 583, taking with him a hundred Milinous men-at-arms to join the battle to see the Furyondian capital liberated from siege. He left a shining example of a kind compassionate man very much in love with Lady Elinor Asbury and with the respect of his people, who cheered he and his men as they marched north to join the fray.
By the end of his first year in battle under the flag of Furyondy, Sir Simon was elevated in rank to Knight Bannerette for gallantry, thus earning the right to fly his own banner in battle and gather men to serve under it. However, early in 584, tragedy befell his company when he was wounded and taken prisoner while protecting the fallen Sir Kolgrim in a battle. Under the leadership of Marshal Lord Grundwell, their task was to form a front in the County of Crystalreach so that enemy reinforcements would be prevented from reaching the Siege of Redoubt. Although the army in which they fought was routed, their sacrifice also blunted the advance of the the Old One’s vaunted Legion of Black Death and a company of elite cavalry from the Horned Lands, thus securing the time needed to break the siege of the great castle of Kalinstren. Sir Milinous and Sir Kolgrim were captured by the cavalry of the Horned Lands, and dragged off to the dungeons of Molag.
Their captor, Captain Ryjenus by name, seemed to take a personal interest in torturing and interrogating the two Verboboncian knights and the handful of men who were captured alongside them. For the remainder of the war they languished, their sanity tested by the horrors, privations, and brutality they endured, before the ransom raised by Simon’s father, Lord Alerick, secured their release. Sir Kolgrim, maimed and broken, was returned to Verbobonc by a number of Simon’s less able retainers, there to languish in pain and infirmity all his remaining years. For his part, apparently embittered from his experiences and obsessed with revenge on his captors, Sir Simon refused to return. Instead he built a small stronghold just south of the Flare Line in Crystalreach, some thirty miles from Morsten. The wooden keep was on land that was given by the grateful crown in reward for his service, making Sir Simon now a lord in both Verbobonc in Furyondy. He reinforced his little stronghold. regathered some of his surviving men and more veterans to his banner, and preparing for the renewal of hostilities that everyone knew would come.
When the Great Northern Crusade was launched in 586, Sir Simon’s Company of the Black Griffon distinguished themselves with victory after victory as Furyondy reclaimed those parts of Crystalreach and Kalinstren that were lost in the Greyhawk Wars. With each victory, Lord Simon’s men sustained greater and greater losses, but still the young noble pushed forward and he elected to return to Verbobonc City only after destroying the enemy cavalry unit that had taken he and his men prisoner years before. Sir Simon still carries Captain Ryjenus’ magical greatsword; a trophy of battle and a potent weapon, it is a reminder to he and his men of the power of hate, will, and discipline. His victories on the Northern Crusade have ensured his reputation as one of the finest captains in the western Flanaess, and they also secured him membership as a knight bannerette in King Belvor IV’s newest order of chivalry, the Knight-Protectors of Furyondy.
Upon returning to Verbobonc after the death of Lord Alerick in 588, Sir Simon’s disposition was found to have changed greatly. Many said that he would come back into his own after the marriage and children but Lady Elinor, who had waited for him more than five years, was not pleased with his change of heart. His lack of tolerance and kindness together with his harsh interpretation of Verbobonc’s feudal laws caused them to separate further and further until eventually, Lady Asbury distanced herself from the betrothal altogether. For his part, Lord Milinous sunk further into his solitude and his dark moods, and his people appear to have suffered more for it.
For years he used House Asbury’s debts to House Milinous as leverage to force the marriage to go forward, pressuring Elinor to proceed so that her people did not suffer for defaulting on the debt. However, this failed in the summer of 591 when Lady Asbury was able to recover her family’s lost treasury with the aid of kind adventurers among the Company of the Silver Spear. It would seem that now the she is free of her debt, she might break off the betrothal at any time, and Sir Simon scrambles for a way to regain his leverage. Needless to say, the Silver Spears are not at all welcome in Milinous lands.
Without the comfort of Elinor’s arms, it would seem that Sir Simon has thrown himself into his lordly duties. The loyal people of his lands have been shackled with heavy taxes and draconian punishments for even simple offences against the viscount’s laws. He also renewed his commitment to the Mounted Borderers and swiftly rose to the rank of Knight-Captain, second in the eastern viscounty only to his peer, Waldgraf Corbin Deleveau, and not even that worthy lord would dare interfere with Simon in his own lands. He drills his own men mercilessly, and the bonsdmen of House Milinous are among the most able of any among the commoners of the standing army of Verbobonc. His reputation also makes him a shoo-in to succeed Baron Rollof Augustin as Provost of Verbobonc, and Simon actively campaigns to encourage the old man to retire.
For all his faults and trauma Simon Milinous is a very strong military leader, believing that might grants right and that nobility is won and maintained by the use of a sword. He has little tolerance of any race other than humans and disdains gnomes and elves. Little raises his ire more than evidence of the forces of the Old One about, and he will slay any orc on sight should they have the temerity to enter his lands. He does not necessarily attack half-orcs immediately, for they have shown themselves useful in combat with the right amount of discipline, and he recognises that many of them are the product of violent conception. To his thinking, if they can rise above their origins to grow strong and self-sufficient, the half-orc makes a natural soldier. To be weak in his presence is to be unseen forever. Warriors and some adventurers that believe in martial discipline are welcome in his camp as long as they show him complete loyalty and deference.
He is never found in public without at least a half-dozen grizzled, scarred, veteran men-at-arms at his side. Of the hundred warriors that went north with him almost a decade ago, scarcely more than a dozen remain, but scores more flocked to his banner during the Great Northern Crusade. They are all hard men and women, inured by the trials of war, and they follow his word as if it was law. And indeed it is, for to break the trust and loyalty that House Milinous places in a warrior means death, immediately and without mercy.