Below is an in-game letter that Viscount Nentres Rhydulf is writing to his uncle. This comes from a Burning Wheel Gold (BWG 🔍) campaign that I’m playing over Discord.
Nentres and the other Player Characters (PCs 🔍) had set out to Castle Umbria to convince the Duke of Umbria to join forces with Caer Debold to address the machinations of Caer Harth.
The following in game letter alludes to some of the scenes and situations of the first seven sessions. As of writing this letter, Nentres sits in his quarters, a prisoner of his own making to the Duke of Umbria.
How did he get there?
The cast of characters come from past relevant conversations. In the letter, I’ll mention them as Nentres would but reader be warned, the letter I wrote is on behalf of Viscount Nentres Rhydulf. I suspect not all of what they told me holds the fullest truth; for such a letter sent while hostage would most certainly be read by their captor.
And I know for certain that Lady Ma’ani had the most devious of intentions. After all one does not brew up a lethal poison while guest to the Duke of Umbria.
Of importance, I must let you reader know that from conversations with Viscount Nentres Rhydulf, his noble upbringing has engrained in him a most precarious of instinctive responses. First, when his rhetoric fails he lets those around him know of his nobility. And second, perhaps more damning to his cause, he never holds back on stating the ugly truth to those beneath him.
And while his firmly held goal, dare I say belief, is seeking to assemble his own court he lacks refinement and a softer touch, relying on what he deems as simply pointing out the logical and obvious. And what I know of Mercia, which is but a I trifle, I wager that it is rare for the governed to be suaded by logic; for to lead one must inspire, stoke the heart fires, and bind with tales of glory.
He and the other PCs had went with the captain of the guard to report to the Duke of Umbria that Priest Blake had been murdered. Arriving at court, a cast of Non-Player Characters (NPCs 🔍) met them :
- The Duke of Umbria
- The Duchess of Umbria
- The son of the Duke and Duchess, Earl Landon of Umberlake
- The younger daughter of the Duke and Duchess, Lady Kiera
- Everly, the court archivist
- Two altar boys, attendant to Nentres’s visit to the church
- The constable of Umbria
- The captain of the guard
Upon walking into the hall, Lady Kiera demanded that they arrest the PCs on word from court jester Westley of treachery most vile. As Lady Kiera spoke, the PCs looked out the windows through the driving rain and saw the court jester hurriedly and awkwardly hopping on a horse, bolting out of castle and into the night.
In this moment of accusation and professing, Viscount Nentres Rhydulf offered a bargain. He would submit to the Duke as hostage and prisoner in exchange for allowing Sir Vaughn (an accomplished horse rider) and Sergeant Berren (a fast sprinter) to be part of the chase for Westley; All so that they might face the accusor. And besides, why would someone innocent flee into the night during a torrential downpour.
Viscount Nentres tested haggling via Beginner’s Luck. The original proposed consequences were that the Duke would also detain Sir Vaughn and Sergeant Berren, preventing them from giving chase. But we modified the consequence so that on a failure Nentres’s conditions of detainment would be crude and beneath his station; success would allow for a privileged situation.
My goal in shifting the consequence away from blocking Sir Vaughn and Berren was to see them in a scene that was not at courtly antics, but instead gave them an opportunity for some more physical action. After all Sir Vaughn had affinity for horses and Berren had fleet of foot.
By luck, Nentres succeeded on their haggling test. So while captive he could enjoy the privileges of their rank and position. Which leads me to the in-game letter that I’m sharing with you on behalf of Viscount Nentres Rhydulf. You will find my notes in the marginalia, as this is my personal copy that I keep for my own records. I assure you the letter to Count Rhydulf contains no such marginalia, nor any of this preamble.
I, Viscount Nentres Rhydulf Born Noble → Student (City) → Custodian → Theologian , write this letter to apprise you of a situation grown ever more dire. Per your Eminence’s request, I and my entourage have travelled to Castle Umbria. Per the wishes of our Grace, the Jarl of Debold, and by writ of thine pen, we have sought to entreat with the court at Castle Umbria and seek audience with his Grace the Duke of Umbria. For these are our most dire of days.
Even now as I clutch this quill and wrestle these words to parchment, I bask in thy radiant wisdom for whom thou selected to send with me. My dearest cousin Alyse, brings her quick wit, familial bond, and understanding of etiquette Born Noble → Arcane Devotee → Painter → Court Sorcerer . And Lady Ma’ani, her knowledge and courtesy around courtly affairs has helped me see where I lack Born Noble → Young Lady → Lady → Student (of Poisons) . Sir Vaughn, though dim of wit, models valorous loyalty Village Born → Groom → Cavalryman → Knight . And while I questioned the wisdom of sending one so base as Sergeant Beren, I see now the blessing of having one who may so freely slop amongst the common folk Village Born → Runner → Foot Soldier → Sergeant , for a Duke is his people and while noble nuptials may birth the bond of kinship, it is the common folk whom are the boughs that buttress those bridal beds.
Our Grace, Jarl of Caer Debold, knew of the looming treachery of Caer Harth. And in their grace and wisdom they for a moment must have pierced the veiled mists and saw the shadows gathering. Yet even those grim portents our Grace saw were but shadowy harbingers of the unholy wedding of water and fire of which I’ve learned.
The Lord of Blessed Radiance revealed to Castle Umbria’s clergyman, Priest Blake, a vision of a sword piercing the mist and the eyes of the Jarl of Harth burning with a green desirous fire. And by confession of Harth’s own knight, Sir Blake Allard, I have learned that Caer Harth has allied with the vile Saxons and worse that the Jarl of Caer Harth has surrendered his very soul in some foul Fey bargain. Interesting that Nentres does not mention the murder of Priest Blake, I suspect he wishes not to disclose news of a traitor in the midst of Castle Umbria. News that he, Priest Blake, the court jester Westley, Sir Vaughn, and Berren learned about.
I sought the chapel where our Lord blessing Priest Blake a vision. There I walked the Stations of Illumination, kneeling pensive as I too prayed for such a blessing. I know for certain that Nentres is not faithful, and suspect that he was looking for clues around the traitor. My only companions the ever vigilant Sir Vaughn and Sergeant Berren. Mercifully the altar boys gave me space as I sought to share in the vision that so blessed Brother Blake. Nentres shared with me that he lingered longer than a normal cycle of the Stations of Illumination, and on my understanding of Umbrian religion those slated for execution slow walk through the cycle.
Ah, the captured knight, this alone is a tale I must write. For the young Earl of Umberlake and heir of Umbria, driven by passion and glory, sought to forge a kinship as only those of saddle and steel may do. Nentres spouted poetry to fan the flames of youthful valour and nudged the Earl into such a reckless action. It created a bond between Sir Vaughn, Berren, and the Earl. His Grace with emblazoned armor and mighty sword and the tested and true Sir Vaughn and Sergeant Berren set forth along the Thieves road to capture a knight of the Harth. They vanquished brigands whom most certainly were gifted reason and rein by the demon heart of the Harth. Passive voice? An interesting choice perhaps alluding to possible ensorcelment or constraint?
While his Grace took to his quest, I and those remaining met with the court of Umbria.
Know that the tales of Duchess Umbria’s hospitality, generosity, and beauty do little justice to the radiant jewel that is her Grace. Lady Ma’ani has conversed with Duchess Umbria, but Nentres includes this as flattery. But my quill fails me, as her Grace is not some adornment to bejewel her Duke. For in her Grace’s hospitality one finds a wisdom that must sprout from her noble born roots.
And of the young Lady Kiera, one so magnificent and resolved shall not remain long in the shadow of her Graces’s brother the Earl of Umbria. Lady Kiera is the second born of the Duke and Duchess of Umbria. With but one more summer, she shall grow and unfurl such majesty that even the mightiest trees of the forest shall offer homage. Her roots are deep and her limbs are of such supple beauty and strength. As the seasons pass, I foresee her adorned with such a glorious autumnal crown. I wrote about Circling up Lady Kiera in A Wonderful Cascade of Tests in Burning Wheel. At this point, I’m uncertain of Nentres’s objective. He demonstrates a petulance and arrogance of logic. Has his reflections lead him to consider his tempestuous responses?
What may I, but a lecturer and theologian, say that can rightly do justice to his Grace the Duke of Umbria. His Grace’s renowned prowess and chivalrous heart and deeds needs no retelling. Instead we shall leave this to the poets. I happen to know that Nentres is versed in poetry, so is this a call to read deeper?
I ask your Eminence to grant me but a dribble of spilled ink to share of the library at Castle Umbria. I hope even in this late hour to consult with the archivist Everly on matters of the Sword, Saxons, and Sidhe. An alliteration offered by Nentres? I know of the Fantasies of the Fey, but it’s riddled with lies and half-truths, written I’m sure to frighten or please, and with no concern for what is truth. Nentres told me that he had wracked his brain for anything Fey-wise but all he could recall was knowledge of the Fantasies of the Fey. There must be writings of yore from which we may draw further knowledge and wisdom. Yet for even in all of my days in Castle Umbria, I have had little opportunity to speak with Everly.
Yet all of this is but a preamble to why I write. For in this devil’s hour we have learned that the Harth seeks to march first on Castle Umbria. And thanks be to Sergeant Berren, for all soldiers soon recognize a murder of crows that herald a battle field frocked with peril. I don’t think frocked is a misspelling but perhaps a mutation a kenning known by Nentres? He has convinced Umbria’s good and sensible men to further bolster the defenses.
Yes, your Grace and dearest uncle, the walls of Umbria are to ever more strong and true, yet I fear that the vile devils-pack from the Harth and beyond shall crash as a poisonous wave upon the bulwark, sapping and salting even the deepest and mightiest roots of Umbria. And what the Saxon waves don’t lap and lash, the hellfires will certainly lick and catch. And I foresee that we too may be caught in that conflagration.
Your Eminence and my dearest uncle,
From my conversations with Nentres, he believes that
having humiliated his great uncle in court, that his great uncle keeps Nentres at a distance and moves Nentres as a pawn on the chessboard. And in this move, his uncle pushed Nentres to Castle Umbria. So perhaps, in writing this letter, Nentres is eschewing logic and rhetoric and bringing humility? What, I wonder, was the humiliation of his great uncle?
I look to thee and thy wisdom both of battles fought and won and of the winter tales of which thou oft tell. For we of Debold have harried Umbria, not as villains, but as right and virile siblings who toss and wrestle amongst ourselves to test our mettle, keep our wits sharp, and to strengthen a chivalrous and familial kinship that may easily wither were we to go our separate ways.
Perhaps your Eminence and his Grace the Duke of Umbria might don armor, mount steed, and ride together. Where thous swords splinter shields, pierce armor, cleave in twain thine enemies blades, and bring the mighty hubris to heel under the Radiant Eye of Our Lord. Is this a subtle allusion to Duke Umbria’s thus-concealed injury? May thous grandeur be a forging of another glorious tale of battle that your Eminence might bless me with its retelling, and from which I might turn spilled blood to ink and magnify both thine glory.
Duke Umbria and Jarl Debold are mighty oaks from the same sire wood. And while I doubt not their Graces’s robust and righteous vigour, a countless wave of axes approaches, lead by a demon-bound perversion. In the name of the Lord of Blessed Radiance, we must unite against this abomination and its horde. Were the mighty walls of Umbria to sink beneath the coming waves, what hope would Caer Debold have? A careful dance of Nentres, to speak well of both his captor and of his Jarl. Ah how easy that is when there is a common espoused enemy.
Though I am not a marshal of the battle field, I ask your Eminence to consider how we of Mercia may stand together to repel the very Devil itself. Let me for once not be at your Eminence’s feet listening to valorous tales of battles of yore, but if I may join your Eminence in the weaving and embossing of a tale of bravery, chivalry, and look to the greater Mercia as a source of strength and unity. Here Nentres is clearly appealing to the generous, boisterous, and chivalrous nature of those of the Caers.
Sincerely and most humbly,
Viscount Nentres Rhydulf
Postscript. Your Eminence, before I forget, a man by the name of Saburo, who practices the older ways, has asked that we of Debold and others meet at the Falcon Inn. There he should have more news regarding both Saxons and the Harth. We are to meet the day after the new moon of the unfurling leaf. That is about 5 days from the writing of this letter, and by my reckoning the beginning the 5th moon after the winter solstice.
I ask your Eminence for forgiveness and forbearance that in such uncertain and treacherous times securing passage
with of my retinue to the Falcon Inn may be beyond my ability.
He has a master horseman who could certainly ride to the Falcon Inn, but perhaps this is a most subtle hint that he does not have his freedom.
But I implore your Eminence, any news that we might receive of the Harth would certainly help our Grace’s noble cause.
I beg your Eminence to learn what Saburo offers. It is the tallest and oldest trees who first receive the rain, and in your Eminence’s wisdom, look to the withering flowers and saplings, those thirsting for a long overdue rain. And those trees whom have felt the lash of lightning still bear witness to the dangers of the coming tempest. Whom amongst wood and vale are in danger of the ruinous Harth firestorm?