King Gulbrand I
|King Gulbrand I|
|Full Name||Haakon Eivind Vidarstor|
|Date of Birth||10th February 274 AC|
|Date of Death||N/A (Considered to be 25th July 304 AC)|
|Claim to Fame||Last King of Arlora, Head of the Midnight Court|
King Gulbrand I of Arlora in any other time or place would have perhaps been a scholar king who ultimately would have never made the decisions he did which led to Arlora’s destruction. However, he did, and the repercussions of his actions still echo across the world. He had long been obsessed with the ruins scattered across the kingdom and beneath the capital, focusing on them heavily them for his entire, brief, kingship. He was the one, despite the polite urged from his dukes, which set Arlora on a war with Regalia where he ultimately used a secret weapon he’d learned after his time in the catacombs beneath his city. This summoned Estel to his location, the giant statue then transforming him and his entourage of guards into the Midnight Court before they all vanished. He has not been seen since, but he had better hope it remains that way as his actions of bringing about the Bone Horror Crisis have vilified him in the eyes of the Regalian Empire and even his own people.
Origins and Early Life
Haakon Eivind Vidarstor was born on the 10th of February, 274 AC to his father King Sigmundr Vidarstor II and his queen, Katja Vidarstor (before marriage Sandvik) in the capital city of Bryeport in the royal castle. He was also born with a sibling but the weaker son died shortly afterward due to a sickness of the lungs, and in the following years the queen was deemed to be unable to bear any more children. As a result, he grew up in a strict but loving family who wished to ensure his safety. The Old Gods Union of Water was very prevalent around him as much of the nobility worshipped it, but he was relatively unaffected by any of the other noble children’s tricks as he was a somber, loner child. He did, however, take to his studies well, particularly in history. By his tweens and early teens, he had grown obsessed with the past, venturing down to the ancient catacombs beneath the royal castle and the whole of Bryeport.
At 14, he never reported for dinner, and in the ensuing hours, it was determined he’d never returned from a plunge into the catacombs begun that afternoon. For an entire day, the King’s Guard combed the tunnels, simultaneously mapping them for safety reasons before they finally found the young prince unconscious in a tunnel junction that might have taken him deeper into the system. He was unconscious for three days, and in that time fluttered in and out of consciousness with his condition being blamed on exposure to Sulfur. Once he awoke, he never spoke about the event again as his parents harshly reprimanded him and forced him to give up his hobby of junior archeology. From then on, his parents pushed him into other areas of study, such as weaponry as he was soon a young Velheim man who needed to know such things. At the age of 18, his father moved him into the arena of the Torse-Arloran War.
As a commander, Gulbrand performed well but was ultimately there as a figurehead to the people to ensure them he was alright after rumors started to spread about his catacomb incident. During this time, he was shown tactics and leadership skills from the dukes, but he eventually turned to the sea as a naval commander. He was personally responsible at sea for sinking several Torse trading and war vessels with reportedly only one volley of cannon fire though Torse bitterly stated he used deceptive methods and fired plenty more than a single volley. From then on, he continued thee activities, traveling across Arlora to meet with dukes, possible Sol-Kvinne’s and attend to official princely duties. At the beginning of 302 AC however, the mantle of king passed to him as first his father died followed closely by his mother. That same year saw a lull in the almost ceaseless war between Arlora and Torse as many of their mercenary bands paid out of their contracts to fight in the First Songaskian War.
With his parent’s death, he now publicly returned to his study of history. However, he was jaded and quickly concluded that war was a dirty thing. This opinion was only exasperated by his yearly trip to the Frånfälle Katedrale, where hundreds of thousands of dead Arloran soldiers lay buried or memorialized. He walked in alone and went all the way to the back where the oldest bodies lay, being struck truly for just how long his people had been fighting. Sickened, he grew manic as felt Alu was pushed him somewhere to help end the war and was on his side. He became convinced that she also wanted to help him find a weapon from ancient times to end all war in his kingdom and finally have peace. Gulbrand and only his most trusted members of the King’s Guard began to plunge back into the catacombs, this time brazenly marching past the spot where he’d laid as a child and into the deepest parts of the underground ruins. In 304 AC, as the mercenaries returned and the First Songaskian War ended, Gulbrand reluctantly returned to the surface as the dukes were quite insistent now that he find a wife and produce an heir to be trained for future conflicts. However before such a process could begin, Estel and her army of Ohnark monstrosities from the Northern Expanse and his dukes pushed him into buying huge amounts of rare metals from Regalia as well as other materials to help protect the kingdom.
When the threat was apparently ended by Regalia at the Battle of Curag Fields, Gulbrand found himself with vast amounts of almost pointless material with Torse was no longer an active threat. Surprised, but internally shaken in his belief, he quickly organized to try and seize Torse border regions and institute a new, permanent peace. This plan was immediately crushed when his courtiers reported back with the news that Regalia had officially subjugated Torse despite its depopulation. In the following months, the Regalian Empire held firm at Gulbrand’s increasing attempts to gain land, further exasperated by their counter proposals which he could see would pave the way for his nation to also fall into Regalian hands. The Arlorans were close to winning the war, but Regalia stepping in had permanently delayed it, a situation considered by the King to be an insult to the Arloran people, an opinion he frequently conveyed to Regalian envoys. By late April, he had grown tired of talk and on the 26th when the latest diplomatic mission was sent to him; he ordered the coastal batteries to open fire on their ship. The foreign ship was sunk with several dozen sailors lost while the Imperial Navy escort returned fire, resulting in a firefight that had no clear victor with the Regalian vessels eventually withdrawing. With this, Arlora was now at war with the Regalian Empire.
Gulbrand had his dukes prepare their coastlines for a Regalian attack by sea while he took himself and again, his most trusted King’s Guard, deeper still into the ruins under the capital. He was now convinced that he was to end all war, and the weapon he sought would be down there. Whatever it was, he did find it as he calmly returned to the surface in mid-July, a week before Regalia’s invasion. He steeled the dukes for heavy losses, never revealing his hidden weapon which he knew might result in his dethronement. On July 25th, the Battle of Adelaar Cliffs began. He ultimately lost and surrendered himself, keeping his secret weapon in mind as he was led away to meet the Regalian commander. As he reached the edge of the Regalian Base Camp atop the cliffs through his own surrendering forces and victorious Regalians, Isldar riding upon Frost Wyverns came out of the sky. They tried to attack him but terrified of the sudden appearance of what was apparently a new foe; the Regalian cannons shot them out of the sky.
A few on the ground, however, understood what they were shouting in their strange tongue and tried to reach Gulbrand but it was too late. He spoke words with eyes closed and a wish within his mind. The giant statue Estel suddenly phased out of midair before him and he dropped to his knees as did his entourage, following their king. With her magic, she then raised them up and twisted them into creatures that looked like the Isldar but also not before releasing them down upon the ground. Proclaiming themselves the Midnight Court, he, Estel and his former guards vanished after she shot a massive beam of energy into the sky. He and two of his female guards later surfaced in the Regalian Sewers where they slipped into the Imperial Crypt and, unbeknownst to anyone aside from rats, began the Deathling Crisis in Regalia with strange magics at their fingertips. He has remained elusive since then, neither he nor the Midnight Court being seen in months.
Gulbrand was often a quiet man and held respect for those learned in their field. He particularly respected his dukes who had fended off attacks from Torse for sometimes decades before his arrival to the battlefield but also for the support they provided in his absence as a military ruler. He was a follower of the Union of Water like most of his kingdom and so death, as well as trickery, lay heavy on his mind. He was a practiced speaker and highly deceptive, competently lying to even his dukes in the days before the Battle of Adelaar Cliffs but also used his skills benevolently, to crack rare jokes with wordplay. He often asked few questions of people and preferred to let them speak to him, allowing him to perform other tasks and getting to know them through their speech. He had an insatiable appetite for knowledge and pursued that in conversation much of the time, enjoying to meet with scholars rather than warriors. Overall, he loved his country deeply, hated Torse with a passion and in the end probably hated Regalia so much that it blinded him to the danger of whatever he found down there in the catacombs.
Gulbrand wanted to end the ceaseless war that plagued Arlora and felt the ancient, mythical past of Arlora held the answer. In some respects, he did complete his life dream but ended up sacrificing himself to Estel to do so. He also became one of her chief servants along with his entire entourage, failing to achieve the wider all-war-ending power he sought from the ancients. Also, his actions cost possibly millions of lives as he summoned Estel from her prior location and she then unleashed the Bone Horror Crisis onto the world. Arlora also ceased to exist after this event, currently only inhabited by the Undead and Bone Horrors as the population that managed to survive has fled to the nearby New Ceardian Colonies.
Gulbrand never had any siblings as his mother was unable to bear any more children and his father stayed loyal to her. They both died soon after each other at the beginning of 302 AC. His extended family, sizable and mostly in military positions across the Kingdom were either killed in the Battle of Adelaar Cliffs, or the Bone Horror Crisis soon followed it. He ultimately ended the royal family line of Arlora, having never married and the Crisis killing what remaining relatives he had left.
- When he slipped in and out of consciousness on the nursing bed, the young Gulbrand often spoke of how the Forest People had spoken to him and shown him beautiful sights with his caretakers and family simply patting his hand and agreeing with him. The People were a natural part of Arloran mythology and was said to be a race that faded with the rise of the Ailor, so his parents simply agreed that it was part of the Sulfur poisoning.
- Gulbrand never married, though rumors of a tryst with one of his father’s King’s Guard and later, his own King’s Guard quietly persisted in the royal court. The other party, however, constantly changed between two people, a woman, and a man, and most assume this was just gossip.
- A small private expedition undertaken by elements from the New Ceardian Colonies in Essalonia entered Bryeport and the royal castle at the beginning of 306 AC where they were rumored to be greeted by an Undead guarding the entrance to the catacombs and later found documents Gulbrand wrote just before he went off to the front.