Introduction by Tamurello
My quandary is… unusual, and particular to our city of Triskellian. As you are no doubt aware, our city is a HUB OF COMMERCE AND TRADE… throughout Calabria, the coin of the House Rinaldi, the DENAR, is freely accepted from the cold north coast of EPINIAN to the southern VIA SALUTIS… but as the ships come and go, and more people attend these shores, merchants find themselves in GREATER NEED of coins. True Denarii have become RARE.
I have always been one of FORESIGHT. Using my wits and a shrewd deal or two, I was able to obtain one of the rare MONEY-LENDER LICENSES authorized to the commoners of Triskellian. It was simple at first, if you have a KEEN WIT for ciphering, the SAGACITY to judge someone’s character, and the STRENGTH in your heart to follow through with the PROSECUTION for oath-breakers and the like.
I confess, I had become very SELF-CONFIDENT in my success, so much so that I was UNPREPARED for what was to come. …like most others in this city, I was one of the revelers at the wedding celebration of DON FIDELIO DE RINALDI. It was not transparent from his display at the parade just how far the Rinaldi had fallen from glory. Our glorious DON had married a FOREIGN PRINCESS in the hopes of securing off-shore allies. His new bride, the comely AMALSAND JAKOBA, had artful eyes that hinted of her own designs, the nature of which was not for polite speculation… but I digress.
The common folk REVELLED in the streets for the parade brought with it much viands and much wine, sponsored by their Lord and his new Lady. I, however, celebrated something more PERSONAL to me… for it seems our Lord was not as AFFLUENT as he let on. To finance his wedding parade, he had to borrow money, from a commoner… from me, TAMURELLO.
My glory was FLEETING. It was only a month later that the DIRE NEWS reached my ears… our Lord had declared DIVORCE from his new bride… and days later, he had been discovered SLAIN in his own manor house. COULD SUCH THINGS BE?
I am not without INFLUENCE or MEANS. My cousin was able to secure entrance to the manor for me. I personally needed to discover what REMAINED of the CENTURIES-OLD dynasty. I am no SPIRITUALIST or SEER, but even my untrained senses could detect that something BEYOND THIS MUNDANE WORLD had happened here, and that part of it still LINGERED in the shadows. EARNESTNESS bids me to declare that I had never been more TERRIFIED. The bloodstains yet remained. I was informed by the constables present that TWO BODIES had been found — one was OUR LORD’S, and the other his FIRST-BORN SON. Rumors were replaced by FACT. A dire revenge had been exacted. Although I saw the bodies with my own eyes, twisted and lifeless, I daresay that it is the countenance of the LADY AMALSAND that haunts me even MORE.
A pall fell over the city. What would the future hold for us? The constabulary assured us that justice would be served… and that the soul of our last lord would be put to rest. That, however, is only the SURFACE of the issue… for the common conceit was incorrect. The Rinaldi dynasty had NOT ended — the SECOND-BORN SON, FABRIZIO, was not found dead at the manor. I know this to be true, for we searched the entire grounds with no sign of him.
The OTHER NOBLE HOUSES descended upon the remnants of the house. They would hope to STRENGTHEN themselves by buying the land. So they came to the man who owned the liens — who is me, TAMURELLO. Would it be as simple for me to FORECLOSE on the estate! Alas, the lending laws are quite clear. I am not BLOODED, nor am I ENFRANCHISED — I am but a commoner. As long as the heir to the Rinaldi throne is thought to live, HE AND HE ALONE can sign over the estate.
Thus my money remains owed, and I am POWERLESS to act. And so, by quirk of fate, a common man such as myself has become a player in a MOST STRANGE GAME…
The True History of the Rinaldi Dynasty
“It is one thing to bring people under your yoke with a hand so strong that it makes them fear to break the word of your law. It is quite another office to convince them to travel your roads, even on the darkest night, under the aegis of your rule. The Rinaldi created a covenant of trust rather than of fear, and Calabria stands alone among all places of the world as a testament to the wisdom of these folk.”
— Alyosha Yenot —
The Rinaldi family is said to have come from ancient stock. Their family records have no mention of their arrival in Calabria. The Rinaldi maintain that they are the only ‘true’ inhabitants of the island and that they are single-handedly responsible for the demise of the Autarchs. As might be expected, the other great houses doubt this claim. However, this assertion does give the Rinaldi a certain credibility with the common people. Their business sense has brought them more wealth than any conquest could.
The founder of the Rinaldi dynasty, JON THE WISE, was a monarch to be respected and feared. Rumors abound that he knew something of the Autarch’s magics and he may have been one of their lineal descendants. Nearly three hundred years ago, a number of small noble land holdings rested gently in the area at the mouth of the Granvert river. These communities grew rapidly as the commerce between one another expanded. Jon was a merchant-king with an eye to growing his lands. He set out to convince the other vulpine nobles to join him. Those who saw the wisdom of his actions complied; those who did not were compelled. With those families further upriver, whom he could not reach easily, he established a mutual trading alliance.
The locale of the Rinaldi House allowed them to concentrate the wealth of Calabria. Jon’s small fiefdom quickly grew to include large land holdings and a fleet of ships that traveled up and down river. The rich farmland and mercantile finesse of the Rinaldi soon became legendary, their dynasty growing and prospering for many years. Early in their dominance of Calabria, the Rinaldi befriended many a minor house. By doing so, they created a network of those who believed in them and who would do business with them. It was rare to see a minor house with whom the Rinaldi would not strike a bargain and bring into their fold.
Thanks to their openness of commerce, their location, and their many allies, the 10th Don of Rinaldi, AMBROSI DE RINALDI, was able to found the city of Triskellian. The city’s simple marketplace and docks grew rapidly as Calabria’s wealth flowed downriver into their coffers.
Triskellian was threatened early on by a then minor house of the north, the DOLOREAUX. They did not wish to see the Rinaldi gain control of the other, older city of Calabria, the northern port of EPINIAN, which controlled the richest mines of the island. Silver, gold and gems produced in Epinian were legendary. The Doloreaux attempt to assualt Triskellian failed horribly when the CHEVERNAISE OF THE ROTHOS MOUNTAINS banded together to control the pass. (Some say the Chevernaise were urged to this action with Rinaldi coin.)
Once the Rothos pass was secure, the Rinaldi control of the Granvert and the Bay of Auvrich insured their destiny as the key shippers from Epinian to Triskellian and vice versa. The influx of northern wealth fueled the city’s growth and attracted all manner of followers. Minor houses begged for Rinaldi favor and even the Doloreaux opted for a war of money rather than a war of arms. For over a hundred years, the Rinaldi basked in the warmth of success. Triskellian grew to be a city worthy of great songs and monuments. To meet the needs of the growing populace, the Rinaldi engineered and constructed a sophisticated system of sewers and aqueducts. The Rinaldi’s power was such that they guaranteed the safety of any traveler from the Walls of Calabria to Triskellian along the ‘Safe Road’ or VIA SALUTIS.
The Time of Weeping (Tempestas Lacrimosus)
Though Triskellian prospered, there was a spectre looming over the Rinaldi clan. In the last years of the 14th Don, RAFAEL DE RINALDI, the city fell into disrepair and the citizens began to lose faith in the ruling House. Frequent storms off the eastern coast brought the shipping from Epinian to a halt. Sailors spoke of a sickness among the minor houses of the eastern plains. Gradually, the shipment of foodstuffs and grain diminished to a mere trickle. Banditry and looting became commonplace; the name “Via Salutis” became a cynical joke. A plague spread throughout the land, leaving its victims in writhing pain, and claiming the lives of many. The people of the surrounding fiefdoms became refugees, seeking shelter within the city.
The Martyrdom of Helloise
Don Rafael passed on, unpopular in death as he was in life. What is more interesting than his death, however, is the history of his nurse, HELLOISE. On the night of her master’s death, she experianced a revelation, which she perceived as a glowing white light that surrounded her body.
Don Rafael’s heir, the young CONSTANTIN, lay sick in his mother’s arms, crying for release from the plague that wracked his body. Nothing the apothecaries and scholars could produce could alleviate his affliction. The nurse, Helloise, gathered up the suffering child, and then glowed with the same white light that had touched her body once before. The child was cured.
Helloise wandered through the streets of Treskellian, curing all whom she touched in the same way. She walked from house to house for four days, healing all whom she could, but each day she felt her strength ebb. On the fifth day, she collapsed from exhaustion. When she awoke, she started again, knowing that every moment more people were dying from this plague that only she could stop.
That evening, she sank to her knees in sorrow and enervation, sick with the knowledge that, in this way, she would be unable to save everyone. Consumed with pity and selflessness, she prayed that this glowing white light should take her life in exchange for all the innocents who would perish by the plague. With that act, her body was wreathed in a flame that did not burn but rather it spread from where she knelt throughout the entire city. All who were touched by this miraculous flame found themselves cured. Once all were saved, Helloise collapsed and perished in the knowledge that her death brought others life.
It was by this act that ignited the worship of S’ALLUMER, the life-giving luminance. All who had been touched by the altruistic Helloise began to come together under the banner of the young Don. Don Constantin’s mother was declared the first Arch-Cardinal of the Church of S’allumer, and she spread the church’s work beyond the lands of Rinaldi. The Don commanded that a great Cathedrale be built upon the spot of Helloise’s ultimate sacrifice. The construction of the Cathedrale is the most ambitious engineering project in all of Calabria, beyond anything undertaken by the Rinaldi before or since. To support the great dome, a great spell was woven by the first apostles of the church, the power of which lasts to this day.
A Threat from the East
Fifty years later, the Avoirdupois made their challenge against the Rinaldi. During a decline of the Rinaldi’s ability to police the landscape and to levy taxes, the Avoirdupois had become a military power to be reckoned with, with sophisticated strongholds and quality arms. KING ETIENNE D’AVOIRDUPOIS had consolidated his hold over the lands to the east of the Paludestris with his capitol at CHALON SU SAULDRE. At this time, Etienne’s army was nigh-unstoppable in the plains, and his dominance over the River Sauldre was indisputable. His eyes turned to the wealth of Triskellian and its control of the Granvert and then back again to his own kingdom whose resources were limited to mere foodstuffs and soldiers.
With prudence and with force, the Avoirdupois swept down upon the Rinaldi, intent on the city. The Rinaldi troops were well-advised and well-prepared for the onslaught. The young Don Constantin led an alliance of the Rinaldi and a host of minor houses in the defense of Triskellian. The use of magic figured prominently. Elementalists were found in the ranks on both sides, and the Church of S’allumer lent their services to the Rinaldi defenders.
The relentless Avoirdupois pushed towards the city, undaunted by the Rinaldi defense, until their lines were within a league of the north and east gates, where they camped and began their siege. On the fifth day, King Etianne met with the Chamberlain of the Rinaldi court, CORRADO. The Chamberlain had orders to forestall the king and his plans to invade from the west, as it was evident even before the parley that nothing less than total surrender of the city would satisfy the Avoirdupois. However, there were strange portents in evidence.
For several nights before the parley, Etienne had dreams of a vulpine maiden dressed in purple robes standing in a field of emerald green. The vixen radiated light that was as pure as the noon sun over the Avoirdupois plains. At his banquet table one night, Etienne happened to mention the dream in passing, and Corrado replied that these dreams must surely be visions of Saint Helloise who had saved Triskellian from ruin half a century before. The chamberlain further suggested that this must be a good omen and that he and theirs would agree on a peace soon. That night, the king received word that his wife had fallen ill, and that his unborn child might be lost as all means to save her had been inneffective. Unable to sleep, the king broke off negotiation with the chamberlain and sent him back to Triskellian.
Word spread quickly throughout the city that the Queen of Avoirdupois had fallen ill and might not survive. Upon hearing the news, the ARCH-CARDINAL LUZIA, mother of Don Constantin, left the safety of the walls of Triskellian and entered the camp of King Etienne. Dazed by the glow of her presence, the knights of Avoirdupois dropped their weapons and stood clear of the path of Luzia. She entered the tent of the king, and what was spoken between them is unknown and unrecorded in the annals of history. What is known is that the next day, the seige was lifted and the Avoirdupois army had begun the long march back to the plains. The dawn of his arrival at Chalon su Saudlre, the Avoirdupois King and Queen (who had recovered) declared their conversion to the Church of S’allumer and their fealty to its greater good.