The Grand Plot
Please be warned that this document does contain spoilers, i.e., information of which you (the PC) should not be aware at the beginning of the game. Some of the information may not be discovered at all in the course of the game unless you play as a certain character or take certain actions.
The back story (in summary) runs like this:
- 1898 : Zosimus and Rachel Hearthstone conceive their first child, Morgan.
- 1900 : Morgan is abducted by the elves of ______ Forest, who substitute a Changeling in her place. Zosimus is enraged, and attacks them in search of his daughter, slaughtering many elves in the process. In retribution, the elves curse him, so that he should never again conceive a child.
- 1901 : The Changeling child is raised as a Hearthstone. Desperate for a blood-heir, Zosimus attempts many magical methods for having a child, finally constructing Lucifer, an homunculus. He gives up the search for his lost daughter, convinced that it could not be accomplished without razing the whole forest, likely killing her.
- 1902 : Lucifer develops rapidly, but it becomes apparent that he is mentally unbalanced. Morgan develops slowly, and Zosimus fears that she, too, is developmentally retarded. He is distraught.
- 1903 : Zosimus travels to the Middle East in search of a solution. He makes a deal with the goddess Astarte: he will give up the rest of his life, if he can be fruitful enough to secure the Hearthstone lineage, and live to see his children become adults. Astarte consents.
- 1904 : Rhea is born, Harold is born.
- 1906 : Arthur is born.
- 1907 : Elizabeth is born.
- 1907-1927 : Zosimus and Rachel raise their children, who all manifest amazing powers, the result, likely, of the divine assistance rendered to their births. They all receive heavy instruction in the use of magic.
- 1927 : It is time for Zosimus to pay his debt. Astarte sends him a sickness which will destroy his body, but leave his spirit for her to command. Zosimus is torn, but at first accedes to his word, and allows the sickness to wrack him. The children learn of his illness, and those who were absent return to the Estate, jockeying for position. Inwardly appalled at his children's behaviour, Zosimus decides that they are not yet ready for him to leave, and that, combined with a natural aversion to pain and desire for self-preservation, cause him to use his magic to throw off Astarte's control of him. Astarte, enraged, decides that if Zosimus neglects his half of the bargain, she will take back hers, and for the remainder of the game, she and her agents will attempt to destroy the children (yes, Morgan and Lucifer too: the goal is primarily to destroy Zosimus' will, which is best accomplished by destroying all his children. Zosimus begins to recover (though he is still very ill), and begins actively trying to subvert Astarte. The children, unaware of all this, are still jockeying. It is at this point that the game begins.
The bulk of the game consists of trying to gain more influence than your siblings, so that when Zosimus dies, you will be head of the family. This goal, acquiring influence, continues to remain core to the game, however, the ends towards which you are doing so change. There are two major plot points for most of the characters, and they are necessary, i.e., although the timing of them is still up in the air, they will happen no matter what the character does (short of some drastic actions which would just be too difficult to work around, such as the assassination of all your siblings).
The first is the discovery that your father is not really dying, and has been employing powerful healing magic. In fact, it seems that with this magic, he could easily live another sixty years. The siblings split into two camps: some (led by Harold, of course, unless he's a PC, in which case led by who-knows-who) seek to kill him, or at least prevent his magic from functioning. The others try to prevent this.
The second is the discovery of the deal between Astarte and Zosimus, and Zosimus' breaking of this deal (which is why the PCs have been targetted by occasional assassination attempts, something which has doubtless been getting on their nerves). The children again split into two camps, some try to force Zosimus to accede to Astarte's will, the others help Zosimus resist Astarte.
The end of the game will likely be a confrontation with either Zosimus or Astarte, depending on the actions he has taken so far.
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