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The Summer Palace

Popular with: Akathia, Tarsikka, Athral Isle, Gaunt
Unpopular with: None
Less known by: Principalities of Verdien, Oresund
Archtypes, if any:NA
Variations, if any: There is an Athral Version of this which substitutes Nillan the Bloody, but is clearly meant to refer to King Sigmar. There is also a Gauntish version in which Haemon is Haemish the Cruel Thane, who refused to grant gifts to his warriors, and slaughters them instead. His land is eventually overrun and taken by trolls. The Tarsikkan version speaks to the excesses of the previous Tarsikkan Kings, and rather than a waste, has Shades and Shadow-beings erupting from his footsteps.

Once upon a time, in ancient Ton Isiq, there was a wily merchant(PC1). This merchant traded cruely and was known far and wide for their trickery and sly dealing. One day, as they traveled looking for new goods to trade, the merchant came upon a ruined mansion. The derelict was boarded up, and looked as though it had burned as well. Although it was in the middle of the city, everyone avoided it; people would not even look at it. Curious about why no one repaired what was clearly once a grand place, the merchant asked about the ruined building, yet citizens standing not ten feet from it denied even knowing it was there. The merchant still had to find new things to sell, but was so intrigued by the burned building, that she kept asking about it. People shunned the merchant, and believed her, and her questions, to be bad luck. Still the merchant did not give up.

Finally one day, a peasant(PC2) told the merchant the tale of the destroyed mansion in hushed tones.

“That was the Summer Palace of Haemon the Bloody.” The peasant rasped. “Marcus Haemon used to entertain noble guests there. He would hold grand galas for visiting dignitaries, with magnificent feasts. His dining table was quite famous; it was exquisitely carved, and stained in the blood of those who crossed him. Haemon called it the Red Table. Often he would hold great feasts at that table, in that palace, hosts of nobles bedecked and eating grandly there. Haemon used to slaughter prisoners as entertainment at his feasts, but other nobles and rulers did not find the same enjoyment in such spectacles that he did, and became hostile. So Haemon the Bloody swore never to shed blood at his galas again, and he never did. No, from then on he tied up his prisoners and laid them flat under the heavy wooden platform where his grand Red Table stood. Those feasting never knew it, but the servants did. I once was a server in the Summer Palace; I know the horrors Marcus Haemon carried out. It is true that no blood was shed, but as the dignitaries ate, the prisoners were slowly crushed and suffocated to death. I believe that table was powered by blood and death. I think it drew magic from the murders, and those who feasted upon the table drew strength and beauty from it.” The poor peasant shuddered and coughed, and when he finally recovered, turned and started to walk away.

“But wait!” the stricken merchant cried out. “What of the building? Marcus Haemon has not been heard of in some time! Did the people rise up and destroy Haemon for his atrocities?”

The peasant gave a gasping, wheezing chuckle that made their whole body shake. ”No.”

After another attack of mucus and phlegm, the peasant continued.

“Haemon the Bloody would not have been so easily defeated. No, he burned the building himself. He was losing favor with other nobles as his servants talked, and rumors of his continued horrific deeds spread. He decided the root was all of the poverty and vagrants that lived near his beautiful Summer Palace. So he invited all of the poor, the dirty, the homeless, the sick, and the undesirable of any sort to a banquet. He said he would rid the city of need by feeding all of the needy. The people were hesitant, but stories of the food being prepared spread quickly. Bouquets were being made, blankets woven, decorations cleaned and displayed, and it seemed as though the promise might be sincere. So the needy came. They feasted. They ate and drank and laughed until they were stuffed. Haemon the Bloody feasted with them, just to prove the food and drink were safe. After he had sampled many delectable desserts, Haemon excused himself to answer a call of nature. On the way, he locked the doors and the heavy storm shutters. He lit a raging fire without a second thought for the people inside, servant or poor. The fire must have been alchemical, for it quickly consumed the whole Palace, the Red Table, and everyone inside. Once the place was burned to a ruin, Haemon turned upon his heel and left the city. As he left, each footprint brought ruin and death, sickening the very land on which he trod. It was Marcus Haemon that started the land wasting away, and it is in the wastes he lives still, mummified in his own death and hate.”

So saying, the peasant turned away and, with a sudden convulsion, threw their coughing body on a spike of wood jutting up from the ruined Summer Palace, while the merchant looked on in stunned horror. Just as suddenly, her gaze was drawn by a golden cup sitting in the open ruins, on the cracked half of an enormous table. The merchant felt drawn to the cup, but knew if it was touched not even her ghost could leave the palace. She turned and ran, swearing to trade fairly thereafter. The merchant subsequently became known far and wide for her honesty and even dealing.