On the death of Merik Elendsa

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Eder
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On the death of Merik Elendsa

#1 Post by Eder » Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:15 am

When one sees Kaldor at the beginning of 720, ready to explode into a civil war at the death of the king, it's easy to think: "Alas, why did that old fool Miginath create this dangerous situation, by refusing to name a proper heir?" The real answer, is, of course, that this is an ideal situation for an rpg setting.

But there is actually another answer. Let's backtrack one year, and look at Kaldor at the beginning of 719. The situation is vastly different: among other things Merik Elendsa, sheriff of Osel (with experience fighting the Pagaelin) and brother to the king (albeit 10 years his junior) is still alive, and in my opinion the succession council would have no hesitation whatsoever about converging on him.

In this sense in 719 both Conwan's oath, and Maldan's lack of recognition are assets towards the stability of the kingdom, since they "weaken" the next two best candidates making it far harder for them to challenge Merik's accession to the throne. It could very well be that it's by Miginath's own request to his cousin Troda Dariune that Conwan's appeal to see his oath annulled is still "under negotiation". And if we turn to Maldan, we know that he squired (fighting with distinction the Pagaelin) under Merik, which means several things. First, that Miginath held his younger brother in good esteem, enough to trust him with his firstborn despite a somewhat dangerous posting. Second, that Merik is effectively Maldan's foster-father, and one of the few figures to whom Maldan could be loyal. Third, since Merik is childless, it would probably be fitting for him to adopt Maldan as a son... which would make Maladan a much better candidate for the throne once Merik dies.

The death of Merik completely changes the game. Suddenly, the kingdom is vulnerable to Miginath's own demise, which means that the "bindings" on Conwan and Maldan from assets have turned into liabilities. One, and in fact just one, should be lifted; which puts a lot of pressure on all those involved -- the king, and the church (let's not forget that if Kaldor sees a civil war as a consequence of their haggling too long with Conwan, the first to be exceedingly displeased with them will be their own deity, protector of the feudal order).

Now, it's quite tricky, which explains while the situation is unresolved, and might remain so for months, even a year perhaps. Among other things because Conwan's binding can be lifted (only) by the Serekela, and Maldan can be recognized (only) by the king, and they must coordinate. And there are human factors involves: it's obvious that Miginath likes his son, but he also obviously has faith in Conwan, or he would not have made him a Sheriff -- while the church has reason to dislike both Maldan and Conwan. And there are many other parties who have serious stakes in the whole matter. But I do think that something would be done about it within another year at most, since everyone would feel enormous pressures to come to a resolution before Miginath dies (of course, a quick death by Miginath, or other events like the death of the designated heir, could still leave Kaldor in chaos): most parties, if not all, will end up losing in a succession crisis.

In other words, while it’s easy to imagine the 720 situation as one of equilibrium that is likely to change (catastrophically) only upon Miginath’s death, I posit that the situation was one of relative equilibrium until Merik’s death, and is now already heavily in flux and likely to change soon in any case.

What do you think? What would you do if you were one of the many parties involved, in particular the king, the Laranian church (and Troda Dariune), Maldan, Conwan etc.? One assumption I am making, if it's relevant, is that the succession council must reach not majority, but rough consensus, i.e. everyone, or almost everyone that matters must agree (of course, once you are the only one left who disagrees, it's probably advantageous for you to fall in line, perhaps in exchange for some concessions -- which unless too onerous are probably advantageous for the rest of the clan to grant).

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#2 Post by Munin » Tue Aug 08, 2017 9:46 am

Whoa. I never thought of it in the context of Merik Elendsa still being alive. That wraps up (or at least explains) a bunch of seemingly loose ends very nicely.

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#3 Post by pfstrack » Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:10 pm

Yes, I agree with your analysis of the origin of the crisis and that it is a recent one. A year ago, there was no crisis because Merik was heir. Miginath probably had some quiet agreement with Merik to take care of his bastard sons after Miginath's death, and did nothing to promote the other potential heirs because he didn't want to undermine Merik's position.

I am not sure, though, that the crisis will resolve quickly. Miginath is now old and sick, and probably completely torn by his options. Unlike Merik, Miginath has no assurances the Conwan would support his sons as Merik would have. I don't think Miginath and Conwan are that close. I think Conwan has his position mostly to keep the rest of the Elendsa's happy and to act as a counterbalance to Cheselyne (whom Miginath hates).

As much as he would like to promote his own sons, Miginath knows the Elendsa clan and the major nobles would oppose a bastard assuming the throne. Furthermore, years of almost-but-not-quite recognition for Maldan has made the king's eldest son both ambitious and bitter, and Miginath must fear how he might act as king.

Miginath also can't chose a competent outsider like Orsin Firith because that would enrage both his sons and the Elendsa clan. He has no real good choices, and no longer has the fortitude to work his way to a decision. I think Miginath's self-deceptive dithering is perfectly understandable, and that there is a good chance he will die before making a choice.

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#4 Post by Targan » Tue Aug 08, 2017 3:19 pm

pfstrack wrote:
Tue Aug 08, 2017 12:10 pm
I think Miginath's self-deceptive dithering is perfectly understandable, and that there is a good chance he will die before making a choice.
So true. There's no shortage of people in history who were faced with obvious choices and easily predicted outcomes but who failed to make a timely decision.
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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#5 Post by MDMann » Tue Aug 08, 2017 5:20 pm

I agree, Merik’s death throws the whole thing.

Personally, I like a conspiracy between Miginath and Dariune. They learnt some time ago about Kaphin being an agent of Melderyn. The king was incensed (naturally) but unwilling to put her over. They kept things from her and put plans in place to shafts Melderyn upon his death, within reason. It's a risky strategy and relies totally upon Balim.

As for the church. I follow the majority view that there are busy negotiations with Conwan, who's resisting. They weren't that urgent until Merik’s death, but now are. He's still the best candidate for them but they can extract major concessions.
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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#6 Post by Sageryne » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:07 am

Hi Eder,

Nice analysis. I have never thought much about Merik. I would love to see someone (wink) develop his history a little more. Do we know how he died? The only indication I could find was that according to the geneology table he did not die a violent death.

Why was he unmarried (at 57 years old)? Did he have any lovers or bastard children floating around? Ah, the possibility for intrigue abounds!

Merik adds many new possible intrigues to Kaldor and the succession crisis, even in death. It just goes to show that even more than 30 years after being published, there are still new and interesting angles to be discovered in the Harn publications.

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#7 Post by Rothesay » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:48 am

Some time ago I was asked (by whom I do not recall) to do a set of arms for Prince Merik. The concept was that he had applied to Miginath to use the mark of cadency for a fourth son on the Elendsa arms but had been refused. Merik then registered a separate set of arms incorporating the martlet as a charge, ostensibly with royal approval. I have no idea what the person here had in mind for his campaign, but this is what I came up with following those specs:

Elendsa Merik.png
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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#8 Post by MDMann » Wed Aug 09, 2017 3:58 am

I've always had him as gay, which I got from somewhere. The Jedes or Asolade fanon I think.
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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#9 Post by Rothesay » Wed Aug 09, 2017 8:32 am

I cannot speak to that. The purple fox is purely innocent. :D

The blazon, BTW, would be:

Sable, an acorn slipped & leaved gold. In canton, argent, a martlet gules.
Crest: A fox sejant purpure.
Registry: Holy Oak, ?.

I don't know what the intended date of registry was, presumably when the kerfuffle over the cadency came about. I would leave that to the GM. 8)

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#10 Post by DucatiDon » Fri Aug 11, 2017 8:04 am

In my PHarn Merik was assassinated My players learned that the death was not natural which started their spiral into the Succession crisis.

IIRC the other Elendsa, the Abbot, also died violently around the same time frame.

The implication being that "someone" was ensuring the succession went a certain way.....

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#11 Post by 9ofSwords » Mon Aug 14, 2017 3:47 am

The only thing I've seen stated about his death (can't remember where) is that it was completely unexpected. He was hail and hardy, and just dropped dead.

If you want it to be murder, and not by arcane means, then poison is your best bet. I'm thinking Gaethipa, because it causes convulsions and death in seconds. It was perhaps delivered by a very small blade or needle embedded somewhere in Merik's clothing/armor/saddle such that he accidentally stabbed himself with it.
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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#12 Post by Krazma » Mon Aug 14, 2017 5:48 am

9ofSwords wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 3:47 am
The only thing I've seen stated about his death (can't remember where) is that it was completely unexpected. He was hail and hardy, and just dropped dead.
IMC, he wasn't expected to die, but it wasn't like he just dropped dead mysteriously. He suffered a brief but fatal illness (tetanus) during the summer of 719. Whether that illness was the result of natural causes or some nefarious mischief is currently unknown, but the general presumption is the former.

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#13 Post by 9ofSwords » Mon Aug 14, 2017 6:40 am

Krazma, I like your approach. Indeed, just because someone dies "suddenly" doesn't mean it must happen in seconds. What's more, given that there is no mention anywhere of suspicions regarding Merik's death, it should be explainable by purely natural causes ( . . . And that's just what THEY want you to think). Like you, I may be tempted to leave it at natural causes . . . but just for argument sake, does anyone imagine that being poisoned with Gaethipa might simulate a purely natural cause of death?
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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#14 Post by Krazma » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:02 am

Gaethipa (or White Death, as the prepared poison is known -- see Potions 13) is a white paste/gum that would probably be noticed if the body was examined, and readily identified.

Goodheart (see Potions 33) is also a possibility, perhaps mixed with a suitable wine to mask the coloration and flavor. An overdose essentially triggers a heart attack. Again, a skilled examiner could probably detect it, though less readily than gaethipa.

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#15 Post by Leitchy » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:14 am

But sometimes it *is* just a sudden, unexplained death.

From real life, a work colleague's eldest son's girlfriend died six months ago. She was sixteen. She was in peak physical fitness (a gymnast), in the prime of life, and had everything going for her. She suddenly collapsed at training and never woke up; the autopsy revealed an embolism. Totally unexpected, and completely devastating to both families.

So while Merik may have been as fit as a fiddle, when your time is up, it's up and you are gone!

My advice as a GM is, unless you need to decided ahead of time so you can design the game around it, leave as many cause of death possibilities open for as long you can. It keeps the players guessing, and gives you as much freedom as possible. Plus, is it really important? Or is the fact that he's no longer around important? Will finding the cause of death change the political situation in Kaldor? Probably not, so why bother?

Unless it forms a solid basis for your game, of course. :)
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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#16 Post by pfstrack » Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:49 am

In my pHarn Merik died of heart failure. Not outrageous for someone of his age, but still possibly a victim of a clever and subtle poisoner, as Krazma suggested. It is generally assumed, though, that he died of natural causes.

And since hasn't been mentioned in the thread yet, I feel the need to point out that Miginath's sister Lenera (Orsin Firith's mother) also died in 719.

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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#17 Post by 9ofSwords » Mon Aug 14, 2017 12:03 pm

Leitchy wrote:
Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:14 am
Will finding the cause of death change the political situation in Kaldor? Probably not, so why bother?
I'm toying with the idea of having Merik murdered at the behest of Maldan Harabor's wife and/or son, so yes a revelation on that order might change the political situation in Kaldor.

But the point is well-taken, as Eder was originally calling attention to the fact that there really wasn't much of a succession crisis, until Merik's death, and that, as recent as it was, there are good reasons to imagine that Miginath will not succeed in taking wise action before he dies.
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Re: On the death of Merik Elendsa

#18 Post by Anborn » Mon Aug 14, 2017 2:09 pm

Hats of to Eder! This is such a good analysis. It completely changes the events leading up the KSC.

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