This place is foreign to us.

The air, the trees, the night, the people; all of it is strange, and new. The customs and the currency, the magic and the gods of this reality, we see with the eyes of men and women who have never seen them before. Understand: this world, this plane, is not our own.

We hail from Mayerling.

Across many lands and cultures, in all planes and worlds, the myth recurs of a Higher Reality, an ascendant place of fire and light, overflowing with music and beauty. Such a world is ours, and we would never have left it, but duty and honor give us with little choice...

Please, allow me to step back and explain.

The place we name home is a world united under one banner and one king. Our nation, Mayerling, has stood for five centuries, born out of the union of the House of Fai and the Brotherhood of Man. The dragon has two heads, as the saying goes. The two have intermingled, so that most members of Mayerling have a bit of fai blood in them somewhere.

Five hundred years Mayerling stood strong, and surely it would last five hundred more; or five thousand, or five hundred thousand. But an old empire is an unchanging one, and the king like his fathers before him keeps all the reins of power in his hand, his highest duty to maintain the state.

His son, the Crown Prince, is of a different mind. The conflicts between father and son are the stuff of legend. Not war, no; never anything as powerful and terrible as that... but there is no worse enmity than that between members of the same family.

Since its inception, Mayerling has been ruled under the absolute authority of the kingship, an unbroken line of sovereignty passed from father to son. It is this bloodline that joins man and fai, and the reverence and power in it which unite Mayerling's many nations, regions, cultures, and factions. Yet the king approaches his seventieth year, and he has but the one son. Should the throne ever sit empty, I fear to think what fate would befall our great empire.

Such is the uncertainty Mayerling now faces, for the Crown Prince is lost to us.

Of what actually occurred, there are as many rumors as there are voices to speak them. This alone is true: together he and the fai woman they call Mary have opened a downward gate, and left Mayerling behind to stray among these strange, shifting planes you call your own.

Some swear the Crown Prince left of his own choice, fleeing his father's traditionalist stubbornness, and that the chains of court cut too tight; others claim it was not duty that drove him out, but love for Mary that enticed him. (The world will always have its romantics.) Still others dare to whisper the king arranged for his banishment; or his quiet elimination. Did he leave of his own free will? Or was he driven out? Every man, woman, and child of Mayerling will give you a different answer.

As for me: I believe the fai woman, Mary, to be a sorceress. I believe she has ensared the Crown Prince with her magics, and her false charm; that she has ensorcelled him, and bewitched him into following her. Perhaps even into falling in love with her. Her ultimate goal, though, is not love, but Mayerling's ruin. When we find the Crown Prince, there shall we also find her, and I tell you now: my sword calls out her name, and I will be her end.

For this, too, is where our tale begins; we men and women of Mayerling, so far from home.

We are soldiers all, sworn in undying loyalty to uphold Crown and Empire and to defend the bloodline that rules it. I am a mere captain, of no special merit, junior to many officers of greater rank and prestige. But small hands may do great deeds, and change the course of empires.

No man can be commanded to open a downward gate. We chose this of our own volition, propelled by duty and honor - the honor of soldiers sworn to defend the bloodline of kings; the duty to step into the unknown, with no certainty that we shall ever be able to return. Descending through the planes is easy, understand... with that ability all of us are born. It is the power to climb back up again that we lack. We do not let ourselves be troubled by it too greatly. We will find the Crown Prince, or we will fail, and should we fail, there is no need to return.

When we arrived on this plane, we found ourselves in the hard lands the natives call the Southern Wastes: arid, brittle, hostile, and eager to test the mettle of our band. The humans here are suspicious, the elves reclusive, and everywhere goblins roam. Our first days were not easy.

By chance, luck, or fate, we stumbled upon Fort Oakenbrook, the fastness of the Oaken Guard. They have welcomed us newcomers and strangers to join with their ranks on the training fields, to hone our fighting skills and learn a little of these strange lands. It was here that we were first acquainted with Lord Sir Aeston, on whose lands Fort Oakenbrook stands. We have been honored to find such a man of good faith and strong leadership in these lands, and so pledge to assist him and his people, such as we may, and inasmuch as it does not interfere with our own quest.

This world is vast, with many lands and peoples, and will take long to explore. For now, we have taken up residence in Vinehaeven, under the watchful eye and guiding hand of Lord Sir Aeston, oft joining forces with the Oaken Guard as brothers in arms, and offering our services first as militia to Vinehaeven, and second as mercenaries to those peoples of the Realms who request our assistance.

Their calls for aid, their adventures and quests and triumphs, give us the opportunity to move from place to place, to speak with peasants and lords, warriors and knights, seers and mages... for we will never forget our mission. All places we journey, we chase the rumors of our Crown Prince's passing.

Captain Charwindle
October 13, Y.L. 2011