Opting to take Boranax up on his advice, the party sits in on a briefing intended for the muckety-mucks of the Brelish government! The relevant contents are excerpted below.
The DM reserves the right to add more fluff to this, which shall be done soonish.
By: Dr. Rin Amekk, Kesan ir’Hemden Professor Emeritus of Politics and Government at Queen Wroann University
“The roots of the current crisis grow from the Succession Crisis of 980. Queen Wrella I died on 3 Zarantyr of that year as her kingdom entered its darkest hour. The Thrane general offensive of the second half of 979, dubbed “The Orrery of Fate”, had succeeded beyond almost of its planners’ dreams. Operation Little Sypheros had cracked open the Kaskenny Line which held the lower River Aundair, while its follow-on Operation Big Sypheros had destabilized the entire northern front, swept away all Aundairian resistance between the River Aundair and the gates of Thaliost, and put Thrane in control of the western shores of the entry to Scion’s Sound. Operations Nymm and Eyre, aimed at cutting off Fairhaven from the rest of the nation and effectively cutting it in half, were dangerously close to their final objectives of Areksul and Lathleer, being within a day’s march of the former and at the gates of the latter. Even in the south, Operations Vult and Deuce Vult – better remembered to the rest of Khorvaire as the Sixth and Seventh Battles of Larunor – were checked, but at the cost of a 300,000 casualties could not afford with the Thranes advancing on every front.”
“It was in the midst of this strategic meltdown that the Aundairian system of government imploded. Wrella I was a resourceful and imperious woman, ruling Aundair as an assertive executive who was determined to defend existing royal prerogatives and appropriate for herself new ones which might be needed to run the state as she saw necessary. Her government ran preferred to run roughshod over the other institutions of power in Aundair, especially the Estates-General and the Arcane Congress in its exercise of temporal powers. Despite her ministry’s intragovernmental abrasiveness, she was fairly popular, even amongst those who were the victims of her government’s abuse: Her three decades of rule were widely seen as a time of rising prosperity and good, if not always civil, governance. But she made more than her fair share of enemies, who would make their strength known in the days and weeks after her death.”
“The succession crisis began in earnest on 23 Zarantyr, when the Estates-General refused to authorize the coronation of Crown Princess Dimara Sanne Aurala ir’Wynarn (regnal Aurala I). Such refusals were, despite their appearance, not uncommon in the thousand year history of Aundair: They were, traditionally, the Estates way of airing their grievances against the previous monarch and perhaps wring a concession or two out of the monarchy. What made the denial of 23 Zarantyr unparalleled was that, for the first time, the Estates were rejecting an heir apparent on the basis of the heir’s character: The Estates objected to Crown Princess Dimara’s choice of husbands, a formerly high-ranking member of House Vadalis prior to his excoriation, and the risk of ‘contaminating’ the royal bloodline with future heirs who would potentially be barred from the throne by the Korth Edicts. Such fears were merely pretextual: What was truly of concern was that Dimara was of the same mold as her mother, with reportedly even keener political instincts and skills.”
“What motivated the succession crisis was equal measures of desperation and connivance. By 23 Zarantyr, the military situation had begun to stabilize: After months of hard fighting, Operations Nymm and Eyre finally spent their offensive impetuses and ground to a halt short of their marks; Karrnath’s Seventh (Berovian) Army had landed at Terrinport at the western terminus of what had been the Golden Arch Bridge, taking the pressure off of forces on the Thaliost Peninsula and allowing those which had been defeated and scattered to begin to regroup; and Operation Golden Meteor had gotten off to a rousing start by throwing back the Thranes the seven miles they had captured in the previous sixth months of campaigning before Larunor, with the triumphant encirclement of the Larunor Crusade just weeks ahead. But the stabilizing military situation gave voice to in the Estates was a scream of anguish. The horrible fighting of the 960s and 970s between Aundair and Thrane in what had once been part of Galifarian Thrane had produced more than four million dead, wounded, and missing on both sides and more than half of that between 975 and 980. It was felt, and not without good cause, that the nobility of the south had paid more than their fair share of blood and treasure for the Aundairian crown’s international ambitions. The south also found itself conveniently the only place that was not in the grips of an existential crisis: Twenty years of cyclical invasion had given it a political coherence in the face of adversity that the noble delegations from the heartlands north and south of Fairhaven and the overrun Thaliost Peninsula lacked.”
“Where the southern representatives of the Estates were driven by fear for their material and familial safety, the Arcane Congress’s role in engineering the succession crisis was far more deliberate. Since the start of the Last War, two factions within the Congress had vied for the soul of the institution. On one hand were the Internationalists, who sought to preserve the Congress’s mission since its founding by Galifar I: The regulation and advancement of the arcane sciences and their usages for the good of all of Khorvaire. This meant keeping the Congress from getting tied up politics generally, and especially the politics of the Last War. The other side, the Nationalists, saw the Congress as a temporal player little different from the other great land magnates in Aundair: The Congress, after all, was the municipal and county government for Arcanix and its suburbs, the former being a bustling city of one-and-a-half million. (The Arcane Congress was, in its capacity as the sovereign of the Duchy of Arcanix and its subsidiary counties, represented in the Estates-General.) The role of the Congress should not only be to win the war in a way favorable to Aundair, but to get involved in both Aundairian and international politics to promote the clearly superior governmental philosophies of magocracy. At the time of Wrella I’s death, the Nationalists were in ascendency and, more importantly, they had a willing ally in Adal Tyman Bokk ir’Wynarn, Wrella I’s forth-born child hell-bent on acquiring the throne for himself.”
“Between a politically unified south and a self-aggrandizing Arcane Congress, a list of demands was presented to Crown Princess Dimara as prerequisites for the Estates to recognize her ascent to the throne. They amounted to a radical rewriting of the Aundairian constitution: Executive power would be ensconced in a triumvirate of the crown and representatives of the Estates and Arcane Congress, with governmental portfolios and appointments being allotted on a carefully calculated percentage basis; the Congress would be recognized as an independent institution within the governmental framework, the equal of both the crown and Estates; and the Estates would be rechartered as a full-time legislature and given a co-equal role in Aundair’s fiscal management. In-exchange, the Estates would undertake internal reforms to remove the final feudal barriers to conscription and the full resources of the Arcane Congress would be put at the hands of the crown. For added emphasis, the point was made that if the Crown Princess proved unwilling to negotiate, the Estates would recognize the succession of Adal.”
“From the existing sources, it is difficult to ascertain what Crown Princess Dimara intended to do until 19 Olarune: By some accounts, she raged incessantly about the Estates’ temerity and would sooner have had Fairhaven occupied by Thranes than accede to their blackmail; by others, she was willing to take the bitter pill to get back to the more important work of ejecting the Thranes from her kingdom. On 19 Olarune, however, the situation changed dramatically, as Operation Golden Meteor – which had been launched without the crown’s authorization, as a “demonstration” of the alliance which the Arcane Congress and Estates were fronting – reached its zenith with the encirclement of the Larunor Crusade, routing of the remnants of the Southwestern Crusade, and the capture of more than a quarter-million Thrane prisoners. Operation Golden Meteor had produced the greatest Aundairian battlefield victory in a generation, if not the entire war: It would be impossible to resist the demands before Dimara after it. Though it is a credit to the future Aurala I’s political skills that she was not forced to accept all of the Estates’ demands: After several weeks of fierce internal debate with the Arcane Congress and mobilizing of the members of the Estates from Thrane-overrun territory desperate for any kind of counteroffensive, Dimara succeeded in driving the Estates to back down from their demand for the transformation of that body into a permanently convened legislature. In-exchange, Dimara accepted the ‘unity constitution’ and a ‘unity government’ under its power-sharing agreement, as well the recognition of the Arcane Congress’s equality of stature, and was crowned Queen Aurala I on 9 Therendor, 980.”
By: Col. Ihigo Retzen (Home Guard Intelligence), Maj. Boranax ir’Wynarn (King’s Citadel), Urik Tannan, Deputy Director of Intelligence Analysis (Dark Lanterns)
“From the available facts, it appears that the unity government is being dismembered by a well planned and well orchestrated coup d’main. The first phase of the process appears to have begun during the second two weeks of Olarune or the first of Therendor, though we cannot be precisely sure of the exact start date. Several mid-ranking officials in the Chancellories of Arcana, the Interior, and War were arrested on sundry charges of embezzlement, contraband trafficking, misappropriation of state resources, and other sundry crimes. These were followed by a wave of resignations and retirements from various military and civil posts, and followed by an even bigger round of arrests for plausible, if not entirely believable, slights against the state. What has been most striking has been that, in the churning cauldron of arrests, retirements, and resignations is that very few, if any, have been aligned with the ‘royalist’ wing of the Aundairian government and the efficiency with which organizational losses have been made good. To date, six cabinet ministers, twenty-two admirals, ninety-one generals, and one-hundred fifty-five agency heads and deputy cabinet ministers have resigned, retired, or been arrested. We have lost count of the number of those further down the organizational charts who have experienced churn. It can safely be assumed that in order to make these kinds of changes and keep the government from collapsing, that a good deal of preparatory work went into the purge prior to its commencing.
“The second phase of the purge appears to have begun on 28 Eyre. It was on that date that Aarott’s Presidium crashed under extremely mysterious circumstances. This act was credited by the Aundairian crown to a warforged and pair of dragons visiting a prisoner incarcerated aboard Aarott’s Presidium as a diversionary action to allow for the kidnapping of Princess Austasia Dimara Wreyna ir’Wynarn, then on holiday somewhere between Wroat and Hatheril at the behest of Crown Prince Adal. In the wake of the crash, the Crown Prince has been stripped of his title and is about to stand trial for his crimes. Sizable elements of the regular have been mobilized and recent reserve classes recalled in anticipation of this, should it provoke a negative reaction from Adal’s political allies.
“This all seems to be a deception promulgated for domestic consumption: Brelish customs authorities have no record of a royal delegation entering Breland through any of the expected ports of entry, nor is there any record of Princess Austasia’s being in Breland beyond her arrival and departure from Wroat. (A series of articles fed to the Times (of Wroat) chronicling her travels has been debunked as having originated from, and likely been fabricated by, the castellan of an estate on Brokenblade Island.) Furthermore, the Aundairians have made no official attempt to organize a search of the Wroat-Hatheril corridor, instead leaving it to adventurers and mercenaries motivated by the generous cash reward offered for Austasia’s return. While deceptive, the lie has provided a remarkably good excuse with which to depose the Crown Prince, whose show trial is now looming large.”
“The only pieces of evidence available to support the thesis that Adal kidnapped Austasia is the odd circumstances which prevailed in Terminus Station during the first weeks of Therendor. While the details are still sketchy and have been much stonewalled by House Orien, it appears that a squad-level detachment of Knights Phantom were operating within the station, searching for someone of import. House Orien has refused to comment one way or the other, and the only testimony we have is from a handful of witnesses who have been willing to come forward, suggesting a cover-up by either the Aundairians or House Orien. (The witnesses also mention the recurring role of an adventuring party who left a member of the Arcane Congress nude and unconscious on a rail platform, so they are not being treated as entirely credible.) If the Aundairians were searching for Princess Austasia, however, it suggests even more is going on than previously assumed, as that would have had Aundairian special forces in Sharn looking for a missing princess who would not be ‘kidnapped’ for another eight weeks.”
“Far more credible evidence exists that the crashing of Aarott’s Presidium was an event independent of the current political situation. Or, at the very least, that the Aundairian crown is attempting to repurpose it for its own political advantage. The Dark Lantern station-master in Fairhaven has managed to acquire transcripts of some of the interviews with survivors and interrogations of recaptured prisoners. They paint a markedly different picture than what is being spun by Fairhold: They speak of a riot breaking out and, in the commotion, the ‘perpetrators’ of the crime throwing themselves into the melee to protect the guards and/or try to restore order. They also speak of the unloading and detonating of a strange arcane device deep in the bowels of the prison during the riot: This conforms with our own intelligence assets crediting a Banishment bomb as the culprit in the preliminary drafts of the investigative report. They also speak of the riot being instigated, and the Banishment bomb being emplaced, by warforged bearing the emblem of a thirteen-spiked gauntlet: Without the opportunity to further interrogate the witnesses on this subject, it is impossible to say with certainty who or what the gauntlet symbolized. But at first blush, it bears a startlingly resemblance to the descriptions of the insignia of the Lord of Blades, warranting further investigation at the very least.”
“In light of the political advantages and evidence to the contrary, it is the official position of the Brelish intelligence community that Princess Austasia has not been kidnapped and that there is no evidence to indicate that she has been on Brelish soil during this past year. At this juncture, no insight can be provided as to why the Aundairian government continues to advance this theory, beyond that it is politically advantageous to Queen Aurala I if her daughter and heir apparent was kidnapped as an act of political retaliation. We can only offer one closing thesis: If we accept that our first position was incorrect – that Princess Austasia has, contrary to our best knowledge, infiltrated Brelish territory – then there is a possible reconciliation for the oddness at Terminus Station and the rationale of the kidnapping plot. If Austasia were to arrive in Breland at the start of Therendor, that would coincide with the purge beginning to have its bite, and the time when it would make the most sense for the heir apparent and most likely target of potential retaliation to go incommunicado. Whether the presence of Knight Phantoms in Sharn and Austasia’s subsequent appearance in Wroat were plots undertaken by different factions or all the work of the Aundairian crown cannot be speculated upon, but under this scenario it seems obvious that the ruse was coming apart by 28 Eyre, in which the perfect marriage of political opportunities were presented, as a new lies could be fashioned to explain Austasia’s being out of sight and simultaneously blame it on the last bastion of opposition in Fairhaven. But, this remains wholly conjecture, no matter how neatly it ties up certain loose threads.”