The Carriage

The Herzgraf of Slothjemia, Shr Archibald Speedblade II, rarely travelled by any means other than the black dragon unless it was to visit foreign states. His black dragon was named Grizzilla, and she was the most revered of all of her kind in Slothjemia’s arsenal. The Herzgraf was extraordinarily fond of Grizzilla and it was with the greatest reluctance that he would utilize another means of transportation.

On this particular occasion the Herzgraf hadn’t been given any leeway. He was travelling from Jordrakenschloss, the capital of Slothjemia, to the spelljamming port of Jaggerholmschloss with his mother-in-law, Dowager Countess Tiffan von Slothjem. The occasion of this was the impending birth of Princess Lersha’s first child. While the Queen couldn’t make this journey as readily as any proud grandmother would want, she could send her husband and her own mother to make sure that Lersha was with family during this difficult time. Lersha was now the Archduchess of Maelonbourg and the Wenigzustand, a growing nation in the heart of the continent. It was a full month to travel overland to get there, or one could travel via the airship Kapriolen and make the trip in six days. Of course, there was a must faster way and that was to take a spelljammer which could make the trip in just a few hours. This was not only the fastest but the most secure method to get two of the most important people in the Empire to another country and that was precisely what the Queen had in mind. Her beloved husband and mother would travel to Maelonbourg aboard the RSV Lunar Scourge, the corvette that the navy had set aside for just this sort of duty.

To get to Jaggerholmschloss though the Herzgraf and the Dowager Countess would take a carriage. Not just any carriage, of course. This was the newest addition to the Imperial stable having been built over the winter months and delivered only recently to be put in the service of the royal family. It was longer than most carriages in order to allow the occupants more room and to provide a smoother ride. It was painted a glossy black that was so shiny that a person could see their face in it as if it was a mirror. Silver was the metal of choice for the trim, and the imperial coat of arms was emblazoned on each of the two doors. There was room for four footmen to ride outside of the main cabin, as well as the driver and two guards. Accompanying them was a second carriage that carried nothing but baggage for the trip and ten mounted guards from the Phantom Legion. The only other traveler for this trip was the Herzgraf’s squire, an elderly goblin named Fuller. The three of them left the capital early in the morning and the magnificent carriage and its entourage headed south to the village of Four Corners in the heart of the coreland swamps.

Along the way the three people in the carriage had themselves quite a lovely time. Fuller mainly spent time writing letters on behalf of his master which would be dispatched when the carriage stopped. Archibald and Tiffan spent the bulk of the trip to Four Corners talking about the current state of affairs in the country and the world in general. Tiffan had always enjoyed the company of her son-in-law, and yet had made quite the reputation of being indifferent if not outright hostile towards him in public. This wasn’t just the sort of good-natured joking that might take place in any family. Tiffan had a reason to be somewhat stand-offish with the Herzgraf and it all boiled down to good politics. Slothjemia was divided between traditional tribalists and more forward-thinking nobilists. The Herzgraf was a nobilist, and to raise her own reputation in the realm it suited Tiffan to lean more towards the tribalists. The irony of it wasn’t lost on the Herzgraf because when Tiffan had first married the late King Manfreidreich IV it was the tribalist faction that had been the most enraged. Archibald liked to remind her of this on the sly, when outsiders couldn’t eavesdrop. He’d frequently whisper things like “Sure, they cheer you for frowning at me, but weren’t they the same ones that wanted your head on a pike?” Tiffan would only glower but on the inside she was delighted and knew he was right.

Archibald adored his mother-in-law. Her public abuse was terrific fun and only served to heighten his own reputation as a man of infinite patience and calm demeanor. When they were alone or among just the family things were considerably warmer between the two of them. For all intents and purposes it was grand theater which they both took immense joy in. Tiffan was getting older and even though she was a half-elf her lifespan wasn’t going to get her many more years. The thought of losing her caused the whole family sorrow, and none more than the Herzgraf. So, this pleasant day riding in a luxurious carriage was for both of them one of the finest times either of them could have imagined.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world had other things in store for Slothjemia and her royal family. Before they could start out the next day’s leg of the journey there was an urgent message from the Queen. The Herzgraf was needed urgently by the Council of Schönbrunn and would have to go to the new western frontier at once. Grizzilla landed in the heart of the village and allowed her riders from the Phantom Legion to disembark while the Herzgraf once more geared up for war. As Tiffan climbed into the carriage by herself to continue on her trip to see her newest great-grandchild, she playfully called out, “I never approved of you, you know. Always remember that.”

The Herzgraf only smiled, and saluted sharply. “I love you too, mother.”

That was the last thing they said to one another. The Herzgraf and his squire climbed aboard Grizzilla and with their Phantom Legion contingent took wing and headed west. Tiffan in the glorious black carriage headed east with the mounted guards before and after. A couple hours later as the carriage began to climb the steep switchback road that led out of the swamp to the cliffs above there was a tremendous explosion. The carriage was blown into total oblivion, and the blast was so intense that it set fire to the baggage carriage and killed all but two of the mounted guards. Only three other people survived the explosion, and the Dowager Countess was incinerated into mere ash and the winds did the rest to scatter her all across the swamps below. Only after landing did the Herzgraf learn something had happened. The most lovable, cranky woman in the Slothjemian Empire had died.