Thursday 26 August 2021

d6 Paltry Monarchs of the Stoker Counties

The archetype of the Deep Country King has been romanticised from the loftiest opera houses to the filthiest dockyard drinking songs.

A heap of pampered bulge. Dripping mutton-leg in one hand, the other wrapped around a courtesan. At once a jovial host and petty persecutor. Slow to rise, fast to proclaim. A fat paragon and beloved laughing-stock to their subjects. 

Is there actually any truth to all this? Should the Modern Bastiard not be above such spitting-down on our country cousins? In search of the real monarchs of those simple lands, I ventured to the Stoker Counties. 

Here there was at least an effort to embrace industry, but instead of rising to the electrical heights of Bastion, they fell backward into their own shadow. There is a small trade with Bastion, mostly in low-grade coal and peat, hauled for weeks on bankburst canals by thick-set ponies. Barely enough to keep a refrigerator running for the night, but I suppose it's a tradition that holds a certain pride for these sorts. 

Queen Azblanche I of Payle, Blessed Watcher of the Roads and Protector of All Seas

I expected my travels would mostly land me in overfurnished courts and sweat-drenched halls, but upon my arrival to Payle I was hurried into a personal meeting with their Queen. She sat in a white stone pavilion, among broadleaf shade and trickling fountains. She smiled at me as you would a late night visitor to your doorstep, urging me to make myself at home but always asking of my next destination. Though we are nowhere near the ocean, she made constant references to my upcoming voyage, and the potential hazards if All Seas are not treated with respect. 

As conversation turned to silence I felt a certain calm, then a shortness of breath, followed by a dark pressure about my body. I'm ashamed to confess that I excused myself and made immediate plans for our ongoing journey. 

King Topet II of the Nethermier, Warlord of the Great Gathering

This is more what I was expecting. I arrived to a field of high-pointed tents, gaudy in clashing colours, each flanked with overflowing armsracks of bills, glaives, and pole-bows. As I was ushered between tents I was met with a parade of ostentatiously dressed officers, each more booming and theatric than the last. I was told of the King's strategic prowess, their martial ferocity, and the great legacy of their bloodline. It seems the current war is focused on just about every neighbouring people that does not already serve in this patchwork army. 

Finally, I was invited to watch the King dine at sunset, as did a crowd of brightly armoured knights. He entered, youthful and pale, with a bowl of red stew under one arm. As he moved about the room he greeted each soldier by name, recalled some past glory together, and fed them a handful of stew before moving on. As he came to me, he spoke my name clearly, and recalled a moment that I certainly remember sharing with him, although I had met him just today. As the stringy meat and cupreous gravy passed my lips I suddenly felt at home. I knew that I would die for him, and he for me. 

After some firm persuasion, my travelling companions urged me away from the camp under moonlight, but I still think of him and the war to come. 


Queen Yxby III of Leyerset, First, Third, and Last

At last, a palace of sorts! Though not one as I had expected on this journey. A casteline treehouse of knotted wood polished to a mahogany shine, and no clear method of access. 

This mining town had apparently given up their trade, letting their contract with Bastion expire, instead embracing lives of pure devotion to the Queen. This left the town itself rather desperate, with each of their crop of mastodian potatoes having to feed multiple households. The thick, barklike peels are most prized, I hear, called "flesh of the Queen". Despite this hunger, no local would accept a share of the tinned rations we brought in. It seems that their hunger is a price for the immortality of their Queen, who I was repeatedly told I could not meet. 

Of course, I would not be so easily defeated. In a quiet moment under the late afternoon sun, I followed a servant into the woods, hoping to glimpse a secret means of climbing to the palace, but instead they just went deeper, the lush forest turning to dead trees and dry air. Then all of a sudden I saw her, a humanoid torso projecting from a fallen tree. As she began to writhe, so too did the exposed roots and splintered branches of her tree. The servant donned the queen with fruit and flowers, describing the poverty that her subjects were living under, eliciting a contented sigh from the monarch. Then, her eyes slowly opened and her red gaze met mine, sending me fleeing to the nearest road and onto our next host. 

Queen Ormellion IV the Three-Crowned of Fayerelk, Hoggerly, and Evengarr 

This young Queen, I was told, holds the glory of three crowns, finally uniting three realms that share a bloody history of mutual animosity. 

Her grey palace sits alone, with no other settlement in sight. In truth, my route here could barely be described as a road, barely more than a beaten footpath across dry plains. 

Yet, her court was full. Musicians rejoice of this new peace, and representatives from all three realms drink and smoke together, full of self-congratulation. 

The Queen sits alone, her three crowns hung at her side, her head buried in a book. I was told by a wrinkled steward that I could ask her just three questions, yet our conversation stretched on for hours. Each question I asked about her lands was met with vagaries or monosyllables, but in turn she asked me everything I knew of other lands. Of course we spoke of Bastion, but she seemed especially interested in the other monarchs and their struggles. At first I thought her ambitious, considering future conquests, but instead I left pitying her apparent boredom reached at such a young age, and the feeling that she considers her triumphant position not rightly earned through adequate struggle. 
Grand Prince Krysopel V of Urwall 

At a braided junction of canals, Urwall is a rare beacon of order out in Deep Country. Its grand ramparts are dotted with tunnels for narrowboats and barges, and the people flourish from the extortionate tolls taken in return for passage. I saw more than one boatman hauled from their craft and thrown into a dungeon for refusing to pay. 

The town itself is packed with people of some modernity! Like an adorable country imitation of Bastion. I felt quite at home if not for the incomprehensible dialect and that specific country odour. 

The Prince held an open court once a week, and the queue for entry encircled his red-brick palace. Eventually I was granted an audience, and explained my exploration of country monarchs. The Prince uttered some vague poetry on the nature of jealousy, then took me on a personal tour of their palace. As each crudely-luxurious chamber was revealed to me, the Prince asked if I had seen such things in Bastion. Of course I indulged his pride, but I suspect he saw through me. Before I left he asked me which city was greater, Urwall or Bastion. Before I could answer he stopped me and had me escorted outside the city walls, returning to his fawning subjects. 

King Jezuli VI of the Vacant Realm

After I had met all five monarchs in our itinerary we set a course for Bastion. Yet, as is so often the way out here, the road home appeared quite different than that we took here. We found our little expedition wandering between great hills that we had not seen before, with the sun somehow always at our backs. With some reluctance, I stopped to ask a hermit for directions. 

Upon closer inspection he was not alone, but sat with a sleeping child, playing them a gentle lullaby on a weather-beaten harp. 

He explained that we were truly lost, and no journey back to Bastion was possible at this time. We had to wait for the Sun to be right, which may never happen. He claimed to be building a kingdom of his own, and we were welcome to stay if we swore our fealty. Of course we left the man, pressing onward as best we could, but each day of travel brought us back to his hill. 

If this correspondence reaches Bastion, I hope my writings prove informative for countryphiles, and I urge you not to seek us out. We have a place under our King now, and his realm will continue to grow until even Bastion bows to its rightful ruler. 


  1. The first-person narration is a nice touch.

  2. I’ve always had trouble suspending my disbelief when it comes to Bastionland’s setting, but this makes the world feel a lot more believable and gives me a sense of how I would portray the relationship between Bastion and Deep Country.