Lodea, the setting for my campaign, sits just west of the ithsmus between two continents, each dominated by a different civilization. In the west is the Gondan Empire, which rules, directly or by proxy, nearly the entire continent. In the east are the Hevrian nations, some larger than others, but none anywhere near the side of Gond. Lodea is a part of the Hevrian civilization, united with it by a common religious, cultural, and linguistic history, despite the fact that it is much closer to Gond than to most Hevrian nations.
Hundreds of years ago, the Third Gondan Empire invaded Lodea, intending to incorporate it into its territory. Hevrians from dozens of lands rallied to the defense of their brother-nation and repelled the invaders at the Battle of Rossato. Ten kings or future kings took part, and it was this legendary engagement that earned Lodea the soubriquet "the Shield of Hevria."
The Gondans might have tried again, but they were soon faced by more troubles. Orcs, long ignored in the wilderness, began to invade previously peaceful parts of the Empire. This began a period of about twenty years in which Gond had other things to worry about than Lodea.
And then the plague came. Gond might have survived the orcs alone, but the plague devastated the countryside, making it impossible for Gond to keep up its armies. The Empire fell apart under pressure from the orcs, the depredations of the plague, and internal divisions.
Lodea and the other Hevrian nations didn't escape the orcs and the plague either. Orcs and dragons overran the Bekel, a mountainous region of dwarves kingdoms just north of Lodea, and the refugees, formerly rich and powerful clans, humbly pledged themselves to the service of human lords, mainly in Lodea. When the plague rose up in Gond, the Lodeans rejoiced -- until it began to strike them down as well. The plague, descending on the people "like a black wolf from the hills," as the chroniclers wrote, killed men, dwarves, elves, and gnomes alike. Even the orcs were cut down. The plague ravaged Gond and Hevria alike, and two civilizations crumbled, bringing in a dark age over the known world.
Eventually, over the centuries, order returned. The Fourth Gondan Empire emerged from the chaos and began to bring its former provinces under rule. The Hevrians continued as a patchwork of smaller nations, often squabbling amongst themselves, but united in their identity as Hevrians. And at long last, Gond's attention turned to Lodea again.
In the past year
In the spring of the year 849 (Hevrian Reconing), the Fourth Gondan Empire launched a surprise attack against Lodea. The Lodean monarch, King Gormondi, was mortally wounded in battle on the first day of the war. He dictated one last order to his personal priest, Hullon, entrusted it to a newly-knighted messenger, Sir Kerrals, and died.
Sir Kerrals was intercepted and murdered, somehow, and our heroes, the Circus Sophia, were initially suspected as the killers by the late king's spymaster, Lord Fels. But they convinced him of their innocence, discovered King Gormondi's last wish was and helped to fulfill it. Young Prince Miklo, a boy of ten years and Gormondi's heir, has underwent a sacred ritual to protect him from Gondan magic. The ritual has had the side effect of making him extremely hard to keep track of, except by members of his own family, and he often sneaks away from the royal castle and mingles with the common folk in some of the worst parts of the capital, Nalfavor.
A year later, Prince Miklo has been crowned as King Miklo. Lord Fels continues to employ the Circus Sophia for spywork and sabotage from time to time, and they have twice helped blunt Gondan attacks on Nalfavor. First they fomented a revolt among the lizard folk slaves who manned the oars of the Gondan galleys, depriving the enemy of river transport that they were counting on. And just recently, they infiltrated an occupied city in the north, Salnon, where the Gondans were building a golem they planned to use to smash the city walls of Nalfavor. The performers subverted the golem to Lodean control by inserting a magical scroll at a critical point in the process, and also stealing a horn that the Gondans had made as a backup control device. The Golem of Salnon now stands outside the western gate of Nalfavor, where it smashes any enemy of Lodea that dares to approach.
Rumor around town is that King Miklo snuck away to Salnon and personally stole the golem from the Gondans. That's the trouble with spy work -- you never get proper credit.
With the Gondan army in disarray, but the Lodeans unable to mount a siege to retake any of their cities, the war is effectively at a standoff. The Lodean court is now preoccupied with the annual expedition agains the orcs in the mountains to the north, one of the chief duties of the King. This will only be possible because of the many foreign knights who have flocked to Lodea from all over Hevria, hoping to relive the glory days and save Lodea from the Gondans once again. Since a decisive battle with the Gondans has proved elusive, most of them have decided to seek what booty they can find by fighting the orcs. The Regency Council has decided that the capital can spare the young king and a portion of his knights for a short foray into the mountains. They expect to return before the Gondans can recover themselves and threaten the capital again.
It is that this point that the most recent game session starts. Who knows, I may even get it posted tomorrow.