Blood in the Water
L’Empereur Léon Alexandre du Montaigne XIV
The Sun King
Shortly after Léon reached his twelfth birthday, his father, King Léon Alexandre du Montaigne XIII, passed away, leaving the kingdom in the hands of the Queen, a selfcentered member of the Bisset family named Camille du Montaigne. She was more interested in the trappings of court and her own finances than raising a son, so Léon remained in the hands of his nursemaids until he reached his majority. In the meantime, his mother carried on an affair with the young Cardinal of Montaigne, Maurice d’Argeneau.
Over time, the Cardinal became the true ruler of Montaigne, and the Church’s influence reached a level unheard of since King Léon XI’s reign. The Cardinal lived extravagantly, barely bothering to conceal his relationship with the Queen, while Léon was forced to live in poverty, surrounded by the opulence of court. He ate table scraps, slept under ratty blankets, and wore nice clothing only when presented to the rest of the nobility.
On his eighteenth birthday, Léon put his hand around his mother’s shoulders, smiled sweetly at her, and said, “Mother, you have brought disgrace to the crown. It is time for you to retire from courtly life.” She was moved to a small country villa, where she lived out the rest of her life, bemoaning the loss of her extravagant lifestyle. She never saw Cardinal d’Argeneau again, and it is said that she cursed her son on her deathbed, swearing that he would never have a son to pass his throne on to. The Cardinal himself remained at court, but Léon not only ignored his advice, he often worked against it. Eventually, the Church’s voice in Montaigne was reduced to a whisper.
Léon’s life became a reaction against the enforced poverty of his youth. He no longer allowed people to tell him what to do, he indulged in every luxury, and when the country became prosperous thanks to the War of the Cross, he immediately raised taxes to support his habits.
Léon married his first wife at this time, a Montaigne peasant named Estelle who bore him five daughters before dying, apparently of natural causes. Léon loved her deeply, and married her against the wishes of the nobility, which destabilized his early rule. When she died eight years later, he believed her death to be murder, and he killed her doctors before recovering his senses. Even then, it seemed that he held onto her death as an insult the world had given him. He never married for love again.
His second wife, whom he married only a year after the death of his first, was a political match: the young and beloved princess of Castille, Rosa Velasquez del Sandoval du Montaigne. His new relationship with Castille was instrumental in stabilizing his power, repairing the damage done by his first marriage. When she died after giving birth to another three daughters, the King of Castille openly questioned the circumstances of her death, and insisted she be returned to Castille for burial. He even sent his son to petition for her return. The King refused, burying her body in the Montaigne family crypt. The Sandovals were forced to erect a memorial to her in their own family graveyard, and relations between the two countries suffered greatly.
Lastly, he married his third wife, a Vodacce Fate Witch, in 1647. She has borne him only one child — a daughter. After this final defeat, it seemed that Léon had finally given up hope for a son. After the debacle with Castille, he was reluctant to take any action against her, fearing to alienate one of his last political allies.
In 1664, King Léon XIV, growing ever more arrogant and dismissive of the Church of the Prophets, announced to the world that he was a sorcerer and that he intended to wield his magic openly. It was his birthright, and the Church had no right telling him that he could not use it. Sorcery was no longer a crime in Montaigne, and dozens of other nobles began using Porté openly once again. In 1666, the Inquisition, infuriated by the Hierophant’s lack of action, raised an army of fanatics and marched against the King of Montaigne. This battle was later known as Montegue’s Stand. During the attack, Léon was a nervous wreck. He hid in a secret room in the palace, where he was later found by Remy du Montaigne and given the news of Montaigne’s victory. Léon immediately promoted the man responsible —
Montegue — to the rank of General.
Léon emerged from these events with a sense of invincibility. He continued openly defying the Church’s wishes, converting Vaticine cathedrals to government buildings or even tearing them down. His ego went mad. Why not bring down the Church itself? he thought. Why not destroy the symbol of his frustrated childhood? He saw his dream becoming reality as several other royal families announced that they would no longer conceal their sorcery,
further weakening the Church’s position.
So when, during a visit to Montaigne to smooth over relationships, the Hierophant became ill and died, Léon took it as a sign that Theus favored him, not the Church. He declared himself Empereur, a Montaigne adaptation of the traditional title for the ruler of the Holy Republic — Imperator. Normally, only a Hierophant could bestow this honor, but with the Hierophant dead, there was none to stop Léon from claiming the title himself.
Within three months of the Hierophant’s death, Cardinal d’Argeneau, Léon’s old rival, vanished without a trace. Léon has since been seen openly wearing the man’s ring of
office, although no one dares question him about it. He grows ever more erratic in his behavior — some days paralyzed with guilt about the conditions in which the peasantry lives, other days inflicting ever harsher cruelties on them. Only his immense power and political savvy keep his enemies from pouncing on him. Meanwhile, most of the court waits for his faculties to weaken. Should he show any sign of vulnerability, they’ll be on him like starving wolves.
Of all the people at court, Léon truly trusts only his bodyguard, Remy. He has come to fear Montegue’s popularity, and never liked either his daughters or the other nobles at court, most of whom he’s certain are working to bring him down.
However, with his daughter Dominique pregnant, he feels that his chance for an heir has come at last. His grandson represents a way around the curse he seems to be under, and nothing is going to stop him from claiming it. He has even assigned three of his personal guards to watch over Dominique against her protests.