Every Czech has been to Šumava. Five times as a kid, three times camping... and you've never seen any knights? Well, of course you haven't. Ordinary people like you don't know anything. There's a lot of people and things living amongst us that you wouldn't believe. The bouncer in the club is actually a troll; your rubbish gets collected by ghouls. That's just the way it is in cities and few people notice; it's a hidden world.
But if you want true adventure and courage in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown? Well, then you need to go to the true, hidden Šumava.  

 

 

People are seemingly living their normal lives in its towns and villages, but they are all subjects of the Lords of the Rose.
Šumava is filled with old forts and castles that belong to knights, lords, and dukes. Like candles in the dark, they divide the necessary world of ski lifts and hotels from the world of secret places, paths in the night, and unknown horrors and miracles.
One such fort is Grimness.
Once proud, it has been damaged by ravages of time - but still it is home to Lord Albert Tomáš of Grimness and his court.

 

 

It is a place where you can still hear songs of the knights with roses on their shields.
A place to remember heroic deeds of the past - and prepare for those that are yet to come.
A place where knights dry their coats, repair their armour, sharpen their swords, and refill their ammo.
A place filled with the smell of roast meat for the feasts and the cheerful chatter of ladies.
A place where duty, oath, and honour mean everything.
A place getting ready for a great tournament on All Hallows Eve.

 

 

  • April 2020 - sign up starts
  • 5.-8.11. 2020 - 7th run of Knights’ Song:
  • first international run

"My lord, allow me to be the one to accompany your daughter on the venture to the sacred grove," said the young knight kneeling in the middle of a spacious hall.
"Husband, you know very well that he has failed you before, more than once," whispered the lord's wife from behind the throne. "You cannot give him a task of such import!"
Then the voice of an old crone cut through the hall: "My lord, why does your wife require this young handsome knight to stay at the castle? Do you know what takes place in her chambers behind closed doors? The man has served you well and you will find none better to accompany your daughter."

 

 Knights' Song will transport you to the Czech region of Šumava

but not its boring, mundane form, where you'd go to lie on the beaches around Lipno or hike around a few tame hills.
Our Šumava is full of magic, miracles, and despair.
It is a land full of empty houses and clearings where only a few stones show the outlines of past villages.
The world of Our Kind. Knights with revolvers and swords on their belts; fair maidens and magical creatures. They all live amongst us and it is no coincidence that their society is a reflection of ours.
The international run will be the 7th run of the game altogether, and the game will be fully in English.


What do we want?
- To embody the essence of chivalric tales, even though this will not be a historical larp. Medieval knights are an inspiration, not the goal.
- To connect the Arthurian legend with contemporary elements; just like authors did in the past.
- To provide an aesthetically interesting experience, with a creative combination of modern and fairytale visuals. We believe that will make our tournaments and other parts of the game all the more intense.


What will this game give you?

For the fighting characters, a lot of hard fighting and physical conflicts where your boffer fighting skills will matter.
For our non-fighting characters, intrigue, struggles for power and influence, collecting allies and resources, where your choices can help you to victory or lead you to failure.
Strong relationships and powerful romance.
Character selection regardless of any off-game characteristics (gender, appearance, ethnicity or gender).
A detailed pre-written character, scripted NPC encounters, letters and in-game materials.
Plot twists, surprises and sudden changes.


What will this game NOT give you?


A transparent structure where you are fully in charge of your character’s fate.
Space for off-game calibration with your co-players during the game.
Physical romance, close intimacy or erotic play.
Complex meta-techniques for fighting or intrigue - your real skills and choices will matter to some extent.
A lot of physical comfort or a hotel-like standard.
A professional service; we are a volunteer-led organization.


 What can you look forward to?
A world of epic ballads where time did not stop. Where good is fighting against evil, oaths are truly binding, and honour means more than life.
So what if our knights have swapped steel for Kevlar and wear camo blouses under ornamental breastplates?
Even the forest demons have adapted and left their ancient hollowed oaks for abandoned border fortifications.
 The fort of Grimness is hosting a great tournament and companies from far and wide have come to measure their strengths against one another and fight for the affections of the ladies.  But all of them must bear their burdens and their restless hearts match the restless woods around Grimness. And so the armed companies must set off for expeditions, battling for every remaining clearing of their fading domain.

 

Game style

His blood was gushing out of wounds, which burned with poison from primitive spears.
He wanted to give up. Turn back. Go home... to his beloved. To his comrades. To his lord who needed his counsel. He longed for life.
But living and knowing he'd failed? With shame and contempt?
He gripped the hilt of his sword even harder and fired three flares.
He gave a clear message to the goblins that he was still there, ready to fight.
And to his brothers - that they were not to wait for him and never to forget him.

 

Knights' Song is an action-packed fantasy fairy tale content larp for 35 players.
The most important parts of the game include: an autumnal atmosphere; a physically demanding game; and telling stories which give you structure, but not a clear path through that structure.
All the characters are pre-written by the organizers, with a clearly given past, initial relationships, and main topics. How they develop is entirely up to the players.
The game is not historical and does not strive to re-enact any historical periods.
You can see a few photos from the game’s previous, Czech runs here.

 

Unease

He stopped, panting heavily. He was alone. It was still pouring and the display of his watch showed it was two hours before dawn. He pressed his lips together.
"Don't be afraid," whispered the voice of his beloved. Markétka. His beloved, whom they buried two weeks ago.

Even the mightiest heroes must carry their burden in the form of misfortunes that they suffered or conflicts that haunt them. Our game is no different. Every character carries their own unease, which will be present throughout their story. It is up to every player how they will deal with it and what closure they will find. We will also try to give every player at least two major twists that will provide a new point of view.
This unease is partly carried by the non-transparent structure of the game. You as a player know what your character’s main problem is and that you need to deal with it somehow. However, the game will provide unexpected plot twists and changes. Sometimes, things that you have been striving for will not work out because of unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes, victory will be yanked from your hand. It may happen both through scripted events coming from the game and through the actions of your co-players. All this is part of the unease of Grimness. Your role as players lies not in determining the exact fate of your character, but in reacting to any changes, news, and betrayals in a way consistent with your story and your own unease. 
An example of unease could be Tristan's conflict between loyalty to his lord and his love to his wife Isolde.

 

Atmosphere

The radio crackled. "Flame," the voice from it said.
"Flame!" shouted all the men as one. That was their signal. Then a beam of light from the sacred floodlight broke through the darkness and the knights finally saw the face of the monster that faced them. Apart from its twelve hideous legs, the sudden light showed the silhouette of an unnaturally beautiful woman.
For about two seconds. Then it started to sizzle.
The monster screamed and charged at them.

 

 Nostalgia, red leaves, smoke from the campfire, mist, the taste of roast apples. The game is centred around the fall atmosphere of a fairytale fort, for all the senses, communicated through the visuals, music, smell, and touch.
We also intentionally connect fairytale motives with modern elements. The goal is to create an environment full of heroism and ancient stories about the fight of good and evil.
What does that mean? - for example companies of knights in scratched steel armour with Kevlar parts, carrying their painted shields, fighting against monsters in the night with spears and pistols, aided by floodlights.

 

 

Fighting

 The hammer struck him and he fell to his knees. His head was filled with pain. He was wearing a helmet, but the blow almost broke his neck - as he was falling, he thanked God under his breath that he wore a back protector. He now saw the ogre double, but in a lot of detail. Rotten and broken teeth; hair sticking out in tufts; cancerous growths on his neck; every line of the tattoo on his chest.
He focused on a spot right above his left nipple, where the tattoo artist did quite a good job with a flying buzzard.
The second blow of the hammer knocked him over, face down. He realized he was losing control over his body.
If the third blow came...
... he would have to rely on his comrades-in-arms,
He waited, breathing in the smell of the moor.

 

 
An important part of the game for fighting characters will be armed conflicts. It is important to be prepared that the fighting will be quite hard and physically demanding. You will fight by actually hitting people with replica weapons, as one would expect at for example most boffer battles. Your characters’ fighting skills will therefore reflect yours.
 We will be using softened replicas of swords and spears and acoustic guns. Swords and spears have unsoftened wooden handles and softened blades (made of foam, duct tape, and laminate cores). Shields (only for the champion characters) are made of wood.
The knights' weapons and armour are adapted for harder fights, meaning all fighters will always be wearing at least a helmet and torso protection for every battle. Armour generally consists of a combination of padded hoods, steel helmets, steel breastplates, Kevlar protective gear, chainmail, and gloves.
 If you aren't sure a weekend in armour is your thing, consider choosing a non-fighting character instead.

 

Roles and gender

Her eyes passed him over like he was nothing and focused on the knights who were soon to stand against him. She even smiled at Jan Jaremiáš.
He had loved her for three years.
Three years ago, he professed his chivalric love undying to her.
He thought of her with devotion every time he made love - and today she didn't even smile at him? Well, then he would prove his worth.
Today he must win. He put on his helmet and weighed his sword and shield in his hands.
If not today, then next year.

 

The world of Knights' Song wants to explore the stories of chivalric ballads and Arthurian mythology with their archetypes and stereotypes, their ideals of courtly love, and their often strict and ritualized social division. For these reasons, our larp works with a very clear system of gender separation for the characters. The aim is to create deep and interesting stories of different forms of power, duty and virtue, with archetypes we have seen and read about countless times, including their aspects conditioned by gender and a rigidly structured society.
That being said, it is important for us that players can choose their characters regardless of any off-game characteristics - age, appearance, ethnicity, or gender. We are all in favour of people playing different genders than their own. You simply choose the type of character whose story you most want to explore. All groups will have interesting content and we see them as equal in terms of what amount of fun they offer. While we understand that sexism is a topic that some prefer not to play on, for us it is a way to explore stories from the source material, including the gender-related aspects that we find interesting.
What does this separation mean? Only men can be knights and only men can bear arms or become worldly leaders. Only women can be Venerable Sisters, imbued with miracles and magic, or witches, granted magical powers by Šumava itself. Women are also ladies of the court, who carry the bulk of intrigue and political play at the fort - while knights generally shun politics and scheming. The game’s story contains no female knights making their way in the man’s world – while our ladies fight to be respected in their own right and power, no characters will aim to break the system of gender separation, as it is a cornerstone of the world. 
Female characters overall will have fewer expeditions outside the bounds of the fort, although Venerable Sisters and witches will still have plenty. There will be special NPC encounters and additional content for any characters that do not attend expeditions. 


If you’d like to sidestep the issue of gender in the game altogether, we also have one special group of warrior characters who are animals. These players will wear animal masks and the characters have no gender - human characters will not ask nor care whether they are male or female. They will simply see them as animals. While the animal characters will face some stigma for being animals, different from others, nobody will discriminate against them for their gender or lack thereof.


Romance is very important in the game, but it’s only chivalric romance. You can expect a kiss
on the hand or a lifted veil - but that's all that will happen at Grimness.

 


Šumava and its tongues

In reality, Šumava is a region in Western Bohemia, a mountain range, and a national park. It is also known as Bohemian Forest or Böhmerwald in German and reaches into Germany and Austria. It has one of the last primeval forests in the Czech Republic and is well known to most Czechs; a place of local folklore, pop culture, and legend. 


Our Šumava is somewhat specific - not only is it magical, home to knights and demons, but its names also work a bit differently than in reality. The knights come from real places around Šumava - real villages, living or abandoned - and our world refers to real places, from the famous historical town of Krumlov to the Lipno Dam. But, to make the names more usable and meaningful for our international players, we have decided to transpose some of them into English, while keeping the Czech names of the knights. 
In our Šumava, Sir Vít Lukáš, with his very Czech name, simply hails from Snowglade. Some locals might call this snowy glade Sněžná, but that is of no import at the court of knights. Nobody questions that, just as nobody questions the fact that Snowglade is in the Czech lands - in our game, Czech will be replaced by English, and so the poetic and often meaningful names of our places are replaced by their English equivalents, while keeping some others in Czech. If you want to know more about the place a character is from, simply click on the attached link.

 

 

Groups

 The characters are divided into several groups, which are somewhat similar to families. They have lived through the last years together, seen much good and evil, and have important relationships with each other.
 At the same time, every character has relations to characters outside of their group, including positive ones. We have done our best to make the game as interconnected as possible.
Companies are especially important for the tournament and they serve as a basic unit for battles. Sometimes, multiple companies will set off for one expedition, but they will not get randomly mixed.
 We will introduce our groups one by one, from the smallest one to the biggest. Each short description also starts with a (sometimes paraphrased) quote from a chivalric story or song.

 

Non player characters

Knights' Song aims to experiment with its approach to non-player roles. We would like our NPCs to enjoy their game fully and get a strong experience. 
We want to provide space for people who just want to bash some heads and do some shooting, as well as those who want to be a bit more creative. We will adapt our general approach to NPCs to that goal. Before each encounter, you will get a methodology which will tell you what has to happen and what your encounter's atmosphere should look like, as well as some additional suggestions, giving you a rough structure. The final shape of the scene will be up to you. We will also try to supply you with props, scene design, special effects, and other ways for you to build your scenes as you like them.
Similarly, many battles and conflicts in the game do not have a given result. Quite on the contrary, we want most fights to really test the players' abilities and the result of the conflict will have an effect on where their story goes. At the same time, you will never have to worry about ending somebody's game prematurely.
 Example: The company of Knight Captain Sladký was charged with holding a key crossroads against goblin hordes, until a village was evacuated. If Sladký wins, everything is fine. But if Sladký and their company are defeated and have to retreat, that doesn't mean all the characters die. They lose, the villagers get slaughtered, and they have to live with the shame. The goal is not to make the game competitive, but to add an element of uncertainty and authenticity to the game.
At the same time, that means our volunteers need to be capable of proactively looking for tasks and carrying them out and some self-reliance in building their encounters, as well as reasonably resistant to chaos. We may also occasionally ask them to help with some small chores.
Coming as an NPC is completely free and we will provide you with food, accommodation, costumes, weapons, and armour, as well as some travel compensation.

 

Shades

In our story, the people of Grimness will spend a great deal of time together, both during their expeditions into the woods and at their tourneys and feasts at the fort. But even the bravest knight, even the most magnanimous lady, everyone needs a moment all on their own.

With their prayers, with their memories, with their visions…
… and with their Unease and its Shades.

Shades are the embodiments of human desires and fears, worries and dreams, past and future. They show you the darkest corners of your soul - all the memories you’d prefer to forget, all the wishes you never made. They are not your enemies - they are part of you.
Every player will have a time when they go to pray in their game. In their prayer, the Shades will speak to them and show them important moments from their lives; their decisions, defeats, and weaknesses. The players of Shades will get their methodology before the game, somewhat similar to the NPC methodologies, which will allow them to prepare and direct these scenes for other players.
Our Shades will have a game somewhat separate from both NPCs and players; in their scenes, they will address some of the darkest topics of our characters, making their game quite mentally demanding; and they will not have any stories of their own. At the same time, they will have a lot of creative freedom and agency in their scene and will be able to form major scenes for the players. 
There will be two Shades, creating the scenes together in collaboration. Because they will be spending a lot of time together, we prefer it if Shades sign up in couples. These roles are up for a voluntary contribution.

Company of Knight Captain Jan Valerián of Lindenvale

Every land has its heroes; every land has its past; and the lord of every land was once a simple knight who had his own company.
Many years ago, in the beginning of the nineties, a truly exceptional company was led by Sir Albert Tomáš of Grimness, who today rules the fort of Grimness.
Jan Valerián of Lindenvale was his closest lieutenant, who could bring cheer everywhere he went and dispel even the worst fears.
Karel Ignác of Grimness, Albert's younger cousin, was perhaps the strongest warrior in the land. He could stop a whole vanguard of furious goblins and there was no tournament that he didn't win.
And Berbrown? Berbrown spent decades at Grimness as the lowest indentured servant, but when Albert Tomáš married, he granted his good friend freedom.
But time went on. Albert Tomáš became lord of Grimness, had a beautiful wedding and his three friends enjoyed his hospitality. They stayed close to his court and life was good. Then came new births and deaths, new songs and stories.
And ten years ago came that one fateful night. On the eve of the glorious fall tournament, Albert Tomáš of Grimness exiled his own son Martin Jan. But Martin Jan did not leave alone. He was accompanied on his path, wandering through Šumava, by Berbrown, Karel Ignác, and Jan Valerián. Stories of their adventures sometimes reached even Grimness. Stories of how they stopped the spread of vampires in Bluemoor or how they found new, undiscovered parts of Šumava. And, most importantly, the story of how they were the first knights who found the Long Lake Folk and established relations with them. Archduke Vilém II even personally rewarded them for this deed!
The heroes of past songs and today's rumour are finally coming home now. What welcome is awaiting them?

Characters

Knight Captain Jan Valerián of Lindenvale

“Why do you laugh?” asked the demon and sunk his claw in the knight’s chest.
“I laugh because this is the Lord’s will. I laugh because life is good. I laugh because you have entered my circle and you are in my power. Now go back from whence you came!”

 
Some knights prevail thanks to the strength of their arms; some rely on exceptional wit or agility; and some simply survive. Jan Valerián's strength is his faith. Not only his faith in Christ but also his faith that the sun will rise again in the morning; that every situation can end well; and that every smile counts.
Of course, he is not lost in a battle either and he can come up with many an ambush; he is still one of the most experienced warriors in the land and a man who has survived countless adventures.
His life of wandering and travel has brought him friends in many domains, amongst many of Šumava's creatures. Yet when coming back to Grimness, he is a bit like a stranger and a bit like a living legend - and how can a man live up to such an image? How can he not fail?

Sir Berbrown

But many did not understand why he vowed to undertake such a cruel punishment willingly. Knight and barons asked him whether he loved his master so little.
He replied that he loved his master so much that he would accept his justice.

When Berbrown crawled to Grimness as a little cub and asked for sanctuary, they had to spend many years proving their worth with hard work. When Albert Tomáš was six, Berbrown was given to them as a servant, guardian, and toy.
Under a different master, this would mean years of the worst humiliation, but for Albert Tomáš, Berbrown soon became not only a servant and a teddy to hug and cuddle (only allowed to Albert Tomáš; Berbrown would bite off any other hand that dared do that!) but also an advisor and perhaps even friend.
They never expected to be free. But once they gained his freedom, they were always very moderate in using it: they stayed at the court, were made a knight, and always stood by the side of the lords of Grimness. That is not to say that they are always peaceful and friendly. Especially when the nights grow longer and the winter creeps closer, they can be irritable, moody, and have no good words to spare. Inappropriate jokes from anybody but their friends can always make them very angry indeed. And their friends are often happy to wait for Berbrown to knock any jokers into the mud before they intervene.

 


Sir Karel Ignác of Grimness

“‘Lo, here is a knight against you for the love of Sir Launcelot.’
And there he slew two with one spear and ten with his sword.”

It is said that Karel Ignác could have been the lord of Grimness himself, but he bent the knee before his cousin and let Albert Tomáš become the ruler of the land instead.
And is that any surprise? It is said that Karel Ignác was struck by some terrible catastrophe, which broke his will to rule. And his nature may never have been that of a leader: a calm, sober, and good companion, yes, but a natural leader? Never. Instead, he became a true warrior, standing by his cousin's side.
They had great adventures ahead of them. What Karel lacked in ambition, he made up for in the strength of his arms and the swiftness of his legs. At eighteen he won his first tournament, ridiculing his opponent and injuring him so badly that he was bedridden for a month, with broken ribs, a broken arm and a thousand smaller bruises and cuts. Thus, he found a lifelong friend: his defeated opponent was Jan Valerián. The company did many heroic deeds and grew up together. Karel Ignác did not travel anywhere near as much as Jan Valerián, but unlike Berbrown, he did sometimes leave Grimness.
His return home can mean many things: perhaps it will reopen old wounds; perhaps bring reconciliation. But it will definitely worry his competitors because Karel Ignác is carrying a champion's shield and will represent his company in the tournament.

Martin Jan

“Now Merlin,’ said Arthur, ‘say whether this lad shall be a good knight or no.’ 
‘Yea, sir, he ought to be a good knight, for he is comen of as good a man as any is alive, and of king’s blood.’”

Martin Jan was born of the first marriage of Lord Albert Tomáš of Grimness. He found it very, very hard to cope with the loss of his mother and his father’s marriage to a new wife, and he has always been a divisive character. Some loved him for his brightness and his sweet, attentive nature - he would always bring flowers to even the lowest of kitchen maids and always remembered to wish a good night to the men at arms. Those were his good days - but as he grew closer to adolescence, his good days grew scarcer and the pimply youth started talking back, swearing, and ordering people around more and more. When his father exiled him from Grimness, some say its people were relieved.
But often we only realize that something is important for us when we have lost it.  After some time, people only remembered the good of Martin Jan and when they heard the first stories of the company's spectacular expeditions and battles, many lower nobles and servants started secretly looking forward to the day the young master came back.
Content warning: Please note Martin Jan’s story includes the topics of sexual assault and incest.

Company of Knight Captain Slavomír Markvart of Morrowdale

After Martin Jan and the three knights left, Albert Tomáš's fort was only quiet for a short while. Now, new heroes could rise - and the best of them all was Slavomír Markvart of Morrowdale. Slavomír Markvart always went where Albert Tomáš sent him; always carried his head high on the front lines. At sixteen he became a knight; at twenty-five, he was a Knight Captain. His company was a sanctuary for those who wanted to prove their worth despite their lower birth.
And prove themselves they did. Many a goblin lair they burned down; many a border fortification they returned under Albert Tomáš's rule. The halls of Grimness are bedecked by the treasures brought by Slavomír Markvart's knights.
And oh, their brotherhood! "Duty, honour, fraternity." That has always been their motto and each of Slavomír's men would face any danger for their Knight Captain. Slavomír himself would then always bow before the wisdom of his lord, Albert Tomáš.
Perhaps that is why the lord of Sychravo chose this company to save Jasmína, a maid imprisoned in the sharpest thornbush. Albert Tomáš decided Jasmína would marry Swindler, a former knight who lost his honour while saving the fort. But his story can wait.
The company returned. Nothing can last forever and Slavomír Markvart had to run out of his luck and strength at some point. The story of our glorious tourney will start when Slavomír Markvart's company returns - sadly, without its leader.
Yet grief cannot overshadow the tourney or other duties. They will mourn their leader; they will honour their leader; and they will remember his story. But their service goes on.

Sir Ctibor Čeněk of Bluemoor

“Well, Dinadan,’ said Sir Tristram, ‘I was never called coward or now of no earthly knight in my life; and wit thou well, sir, I call myself never the more coward though Sir Launcelot gave me a fall, for I outcept him of all knights.   And doubt ye not Sir Dinadan, and Sir Launcelot have a quarrel good, he is too over good for any knight that now is living; and yet of his sufferance, largess, bounty, and courtesy, I call him knight peerless;’”

The champion's crest is worn by the dejected and sorrowful Sir Ctibor Čeněk of Bluemoor. He was Slavomír Markvart's confidant, and, though he is somewhat older, trusted friend. Ctibor Čeněk is a seasoned warrior whose strength has not left him, said to never lose his head in battle. Rumours say that he knows no fear. Some might say that he is too simple to be afraid, while others will mournfully explain that a man who has nothing to lose has nothing to fear. And truly: Ctibor Čeněk has never married and sired no children. And his house... Bluemoor was forgotten.
The tourney was perhaps to be his last chance to shine; to show the world what he is worth; and perhaps to catch the eye of some nice, sweet girl. But now? Whatever he does, he will always fight in the shadow of Slavomír Markvart's death; the tragedy will always burn brighter than any victory. And so many worries. Who other than Ctibor Čeněk should deal with all of Slavomír's worldly ties? Who else is to hold his widow's hand and tell her the terrible news?

 

Venerable Kunhuta

“Fair Father Jesu Christ, take it not for no sin though I help the good man which hath great need of help.”

Venerable Sisters have been travelling with knights since time immemorial. They provide hope when the knights' hearts sink; bandages and good medicine when they fall; and there are some monsters which can be defeated by them, women who bear no arms but whose hands can perform miracles.
Out of all the Venerable Sisters, Kunhuta is one of the most popular. A sweet woman with a quiet voice and a great longing for adventure; one who spends more time on the road than many knights. That is apparent at the first glance: her nose has been broken several times over; her once smooth face is full of scars and burns; her fingers twisted from being snapped.
And yet her hands are still just as swift when it comes to counting the beads on her rosary, tying bandages, or performing exorcisms. Kunhuta must know very well that her service will soon devour her whole and take her life. Nevertheless, she never strays from her path.

 


Matěj Zachariáš of Ashworth

“‘My fair lords, I thank you all of your coming into this country with me, but we came too late, and that shall repent me while I live, but against death may no man rebel.” 

Since he was a little boy, Matěj Zachariáš has always longed for great adventures, slaying monsters, and glory. When he set off for battle for the first time, he was drunk on romantic ideals of heroic deeds. A great deal of time has passed since then. Matěj has seen many an adventure and been through the darkest corners of Šumava. But none of that has brought him peace. What started as a desire for adventure slowly transformed into a longing for something he could never get. The world around him kept changing, his friends kept dying, and he kept getting older. He hasn't seen more than fifty summers, but in his heart and eyes, he is the oldest of all the knights.
It's as if he was cursed! He has gone through seven companies in his life - and none of the previous ones have ended any well; not much remains of them today. He himself has danced with Death more than once: feverish weeks in bed; infected wounds; long, painful days spent crawling, dragging his leg, clutching broken ribs after missions deep into uncharted territories. He survived. The first chance to do more than survive may have been Slavomír Markvart's company. Slavomír chose him himself, despite his reputation as a bearer of ill luck. And what luck did it bring him?
The unluckiest knight, Matěj the Stormcrow will have to face his own demons and death itself. Will he prevail?

 


Jasmína

I met a lady in the meads,
    Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
    And her eyes were wild.

Many legends were told of Jasmína at Grimness. Perhaps a year ago, perhaps a decade, she was enchanted and imprisoned amongst a thousand thorns, guarded by strange gaolers, and held by a magical power, away from the world.  When her portrait was brought to Grimness, Albert Tomáš had it placed in the hall as a reminder that beauty does not always mean happiness for a woman.
And when Swindler lost his original name and his honour while saving Grimness, Albert Tomáš took pity on him and promised he would give him a wife for his past deeds. Then Swindler played and sang the saddest song that anybody has ever heard from him; a song of how his body and soul longed to see the enchanted maid Jasmína. And the lord of Grimness sent Slavomír Markvart's company to retrieve her.
Yet those who expected a fragile, doe-eyed maiden from the painting were perhaps a bit mistaken. Jasmína is beautiful and Jasmína is fragile, but her dress and her manner clearly say that Jasmína is also a witch.  Now, there is nothing wrong about that - but what other secrets might the girl from the painting be hiding? Her charming face means good news for the men of Grimness, especially Swindler. But what will her arrival mean for the women?

František

"His frock was simple, but clean and mended. His house was plain but served its purpose. His rifle was well-oiled - and his eyes were like a deep abyss."

Jasmína is not the only one who only came to Slavomír Markvart's company recently. František is no knight, but considering his visage of a well-armed trapper, it's clear he knows the area and can survive in the woods. At least that is what one would think from the number of weapons he carries: he has at least one for every situation, and who knows how many more are hiding in his camo vest?
But at the first glance, you will not be struck by his gear or his dress, or even how easily he can lead the group through the woods. His hands and face are covered with bandages slowly soaking through with blood - or something even worse. What kind of tracker did the knights bring? And what price will they have to pay for his services?

 


Vít Lukáš of Snowglade

"Here I stand, and I cannot do otherwise, for I have been wronged."

Snowglade is a fortified station, which now lies just outside of the boundaries of the domain of Grimness. In the past it used to belong to the lords of Grimness, but when Albert Tomáš came to power, he exchanged it with the lord of the Moorland for the Bogland tower. Life in Snowglade was not easy: it was far away from other settlements, which made its people self-reliant and unused to travelling to Moorland or Grimness.
Its location on a tall hill made it easily defensible, but its people suffered all the more from cold and the beating wind. On one side, it neighbours with a long stretch of abandoned woods, going all the way down to the cursed Lipno Dam, which often brings large groups of goblins. Its territory also includes an old moor, ruled by powers older than the castles of the Rose. Of course, every single knight's settlement must endure hardship.
But Vít Lukáš is truly an embodiment of how cruel the fate of Snowglade was. He lost his father as a child and the old lord of Grimness appointed his mother Anežka regent of the station. She was an exceptional woman: of course she never bore arms, but her endurance and her ability to gauge the trustworthiness of every man ensured Snowglade's survival. Vít Lukáš grew up to be an ideal knight: he slayed his first enemy at fourteen. When he reached twenty, people expected him to be put in charge of Snowglade, although it was only an unwritten custom and not his right. But the lord of Moorland, counselled by the Venerable Sisters, decided Vít Lukáš would have to wait. That was last year.
This winter changed everything. In winter, Vít Lukáš came to Grimness, accompanied by only a handful of men, and begged Albert Tomáš for an audience - but he was refused. Vít went back home with only two new volunteers and three boxes of ammunition.
A week later, Snowglade was hit by the biggest goblin raid in a generation, only surviving with the help of the Lord in Heaven and Šumava the Allmother. Anežka of Snowglade fell that night and Vít Lukáš only appeared at Grimness many months later, as a knight in the company of Knight Captain Markvart of Morrowdale. At first, they only knew him by his armour: his handsome face was scarred and seemingly much older and he wore a strange contraption tied to his mouth at all times, helping him to breathe.
It is said that he has sworn three oaths - and he will only accept his place as the steward of Snowglade from the lord of Moorland once he has fulfilled them all.

 

The Court

Two decades have passed since Albert Tomáš became lord of Grimness. There is still talk of the heroic deeds that he performed with his company before he took up his title. When he finally took his seat on the humble throne and accepted the sacred arms of his house, it marked the start of a time that many remember as a time of miracles.
The court only knew grief after the death of his first wife, but the arrival of Regina quickly bade it farewell. Courtiers were also relieved when Martin Jan left, ten years ago. Yet on the eve of the glorious tourney, strange guests are coming to the fort and all know that another chapter of the great history of Grimness will soon come to an end.
The court is mainly a place of intrigue, chivalric love, and dastardly betrayals. In our stories, cunning, deception, but also cool-headed wisdom belong mainly to female characters. Witches vie for ever more power and fair maids for the best groom. Married ladies are tormented by forbidden love, while remaining faithful to their duty and their house. Knights compete for honour and glory, and with the help of their wives, they strive for the opportunity to take part in the most important expeditions and move up in the world. All the while, old curses, glorious history, and times of darkness loom overhead like storm clouds.

Albert Tomáš of Grimness

“And so anon was the coronation made. And there was he sworn unto his lords and the commons for to be a true king, to stand with true justice from thenceforth the days of this life.”

  Albert might have a few grey hairs, but apart from that and a few wrinkles, nobody would guess his real age. He may have been stronger and swifter in his youth, but today he is the epitome of a seasoned warrior and leader who has prevailed through countless challenges. In his youth... one would hardly imagine him without Jan Valerián, Berbrown, and Karel Ignác. They have been through many wild and terrifying adventures. They were not separated even when Albert took up his new duties as a ruler - on the contrary, they stood by his side and became godfathers to Martin Jan.
Then Martin Jan's mother died and Albert sunk into gloom. Yet his grief was soon completely forgotten thanks to Regina, who also gave him a beloved daughter, Hana. After a short night, the sun came back to Sychravo and all was good.
Of course, then Martin Jan grew up and tensions grew with him - until they exploded ten years ago. The exile that was supposed to humiliate Martin Jan, drive him out, and perhaps even destroy him completely, did almost the opposite. Albert’s old friends abandoned him and left to accompany his son. Now he is coming back.
A challenge lies in the air. Albert Tomáš is not going to give up his domain, he is not going to bow his head, and he will have to think twice before he decides on how to deal with his fallen son. Yet he will always have the glorious court of Grimness on his side, led by his beloved Regina, the most virtuous lady of the land.

 

Abbess Kateřina

 “Stay your flow for only  a moment, ye sands of time. Full of wonder was the life that brought me here - and only a few lines remain to be written.”

 Kateřina is a wise woman nearing the end of her journey. She has lived an eventful life filled with service to God and care for her neighbour. She has survived the Communist persecution of the church and in the end, she found her peaceful place here, at Grimness. She was present when all the young people of the fort were born and helped raise most of them. She is leading the local Venerable Sisters, but her time is running out and she knows that. Her game is about finding the right successor and about passing on what she knows to the next generation. There is also one thing she never accomplished: finding a knight truly worthy of the Holy Grail, which may be hidden somewhere in the woods around Grimness. So far, even the most hopeful have failed. If Kateřina is to leave in peace, she will also have to do something about the curse of the house of Hardenwick.
The role of Venerable Kateřina is quite specific. She is a very wise and powerful woman, but she will often have to be the bearer of ill news.Michael

 “To find beauty in the sad, hope in the midst of loss, and dignity  in failure is great poetic art.”

  Michael wields great magical power. Or he at least did wield it in his prime. Well, that's what people say anyway - or rather it's what he says whenever anybody takes pity on him and listens to him. And what does he tell people about his power?
That he never got anything served to him on a silver platter; quite on the contrary. As a child, he was a poor orphan in Šumava; a vagabond without a home. Sometimes he'd beg for food; on the less successful day he'd steal. But then he wandered up to the Black Mill and everything changed. He became an apprentice and learned not only hard labour, but also magic. 
It was known that nobody ever left the Black Mill - every apprentice found their death there, unless they managed to defeat the Master and take his place. But Michael was obviously not like other apprentices. Rumour has it that the Black Mill still stands somewhere in Šumava, but sometimes after the war, Michael appeared again and became a loyal servant of the lords of Grimness. His difficult childhood taught him playing by others' rules would not bring him any happiness, and so he climbed over the backs of other apprentices to freedom. It's better not to know how much he dirtied his hands in the process. One thing is certain: shortly after the war, he already had a reputation as a wizard, which was quite rare in a land where magic usually only opened its gates to women. His magic, however, did not draw on the forces of nature and old tradition, but on books and mystical words. Then he reached a diplomatic agreement with the Witch of Šumava and his power kept growing.
Well, at least that's what the filthy old wreck, who is only at court because of Albert Tomáš's pity or sentimentality, claims.
Nobody can recall the last time he has taken part in an expedition. Some say that it's because he is too old for such ventures, while others claim that his magical power has left him altogether and he would not be of any use. Now he is retired at the fort, getting ready for the scrap heap. Sometimes he helps out with a few chores, sometimes he gives out some unsolicited advice, and he is allowed a place on the far end of the lord's table. Will Michael's eyes ever light up with hope for the future, or will he drown in the glory of old stories?

Swindler

 “‘As for a knight I will make you,’ and therewith smote him in the neck with the sword, saying, ‘Be ye a good knight, and so I pray to God so ye may be, and if ye be of prowess and of worthiness ye shall be a knight of the Table Round.”

 If there was any knight in the company of Laurenc František of Richston that you could always rely on with any task, it was Swindler. A good man, a decent fighter, a brave heart, and an excellent singer and musician whose songs often told the stories of his company's great adventures. But that was in the past, when Swindler bore a different name - before the fateful night when he lost his honour and everything else with it. Let's get back to that later though. 
Swindler may not have been the best swordsman and his shots missed the target more often than his comrades-in-arms would like, but when push came to shove, everybody would be happy to have him by their side. They all knew Swindler would rather risk his own neck than leave any of them behind. He lived for chivalry, honour, duty, and his loyal service. And with all that service, expeditions into unknown lands, and battles with Šumava's wild creatures, he never really found the time to get a wife, settle down, and build a place he could call home.
Then the night that destroyed his life came. A spectre appeared before the gates of the fort and tormented all of its inhabitants with its unnatural shrieks. Lord Albert sent out his best man against it: Knight Captain Laurenc František. But Sir Laurenc failed shamefully and refused to come out. Instead, the gates opened for Swindler. Only two things are certain: Firstly, Swindler defeated the spectre. Secondly, he did it in a way so despicable and dishonourable that he could not call himself a knight any longer. And thus, he could not bear his old name. For the first time in a long time, the people of Grimness had a good night's sleep - but in the morning, nobody would look Swindler in the eye. That night, Swindler lost his honour and his name.
Today, he is a dishonourable former knight, who entertains others with his music, but clearly sees the contempt in their eyes. He has no honour, he has no name, and at meals he has the place of a lowest servant. How long will he live on this edge? How long will his lord allow him to keep his sword?
The Abbess has already said that the decision must be made by the end of the tourney. Either, Swindler will gain honour and a name, or he will become a court jester, its lowest servant.
Yet Albert Tomáš is a wise ruler. Though he was the one to strip Swindler of his honours and his rank and banish him to the lowest place at the table, he also swore he would find him a new name. There is only one way for Swindler to get that: by marriage. But no house, no matter how far away, can accept a dishonoured man, for they would tarnish themselves and all the generations of their ancestors... and so the lord of Grimness decided to send his knights to fetch the enchanted maid Jasmína. She can give Swindler a new name and honour, and she obviously has no family of her own, because otherwise they would have saved her from her fate. Jasmína must accept Swindler willingly, however.
 For the role of Swindler, you need to know how to play a musical instrument that you can bring with you, although you definitely don't need to be a pro. You'll be expected to play a few bits in the evening.

 

Tadeáš (of Hardenwick)

Waves in low tide,
Sons of the night
And my memories echo back again.
Stranger that I am
In my own land
where no one will remember my name.

Tadeáš's original full name was Tadeáš Jiří of Hardenwick. Yet the name of Hardenwick has not been used at this fort for a long time. Tadeáš is the last descendant of the old house of Hardenwick, which originally ruled here at Grimness in the past. Then his ancestors tried to gain more power and broke their oath to the Lords of the Rose, and only Albert Tomáš stopped the whole thing from turning into a complete tragedy. In exchange, Albert's family was granted the rule over Grimness by the Lords of the Rose, while Tadeáš's family fell into disgrace. The traitors were executed and the rest of the family lost their titles and had to serve the new lords of the fort - or more specifically, that was true for the only survivor, Tadeáš's mother.
All that happened many years ago. Now, Tadeáš is the last of his house, tolerated at Grimness as a common man at arms. He had no part in the past betrayal, as he hadn't even been born yet, but still he must face many hardships in his difficult service. The hardships are not dealt to him only by the lords of Grimness - the ghosts of his ancestors still live in the walls of the fort and they are not willing to give up their claim. Tadeáš often hears their voices, their admonitions, and old hatreds. 
Perhaps he could simply go somewhere else... but if he decided to leave the fort or if he even died, the house of Hardenwick would lose its last claim to Grimness. And the ghosts are obviously not willing to let that happen. The curse of his house binds him to Grimness, as if he also were a ghost, doomed to wander its halls. The court is benevolent towards him, but he will never be accepted as one of their own; that can never happen. Tadeáš is trying so hard, though! For example, he has been dedicating a lot of care, love, and respect to Hana of Grimness, making sure she is happy and has everything she wants. She has been repaying his service with friendship, though considerably less warmly than Tadeáš would like.
It is clear that under the current circumstances, neither of them are going to have a good future. Will they be able to change their unfortunate fates?

Marianna

Well, maybe I'm a crook
For stealing your heart away
Yeah, maybe I'm a crook
For not caring for it.

There have been many powerful witches in Šumava, but none have risen to power as swiftly as Mariann. She is not much more than forty, which is very young for a witch, yet there is no doubt that she is at her most powerful. No doubt that there is no mightier witch at Grimness than her. Perhaps serving at a remote fort somewhere in Šumava might even be slightly beneath her? She could be weaving her spells and intrigue for Duke Petr Vok at Frymburk, or she might even find a place at the court of Archduke Vilém or in Prague. But still she stays at Grimness and there has not been any witch powerful enough to challenge her. She has also replaced Michael in his place at the lord's side, long ago.

But Marianna's power also brings trouble. The peak is a lonely place, and the peak of magical power especially so. Of course, Marianna can handle any danger, but her friendships at Grimness only go skin deep - she might only be close to Alena of Richston. And when it comes to men - well, most witches never marry.
Her power, too, will soon be tried. Marianna has always been a confident witch and now, at her best, she can squash many an evil spirit. Yet now she can sense a perfect storm coming, with enemies closing down on all sides. And she cannot yield a single step; she cannot show even the smallest sign of weakness.

Regina of Grimness

Oh the nights are long
But life is longer still
Oh the nights are long
But the sun’s coming over the hill

Some women are born as delicate maids who wait demurely for their knight to find and marry them. Other women don't wait; they go towards their knight, knowing what they want and how to get it. Regina is definitely one of the latter. She might not be the most beautiful of all women, but when it comes to wit, determination, and charm that can enchant many a man, she leaves them all in the dust. If anybody thinks that Regina only married Albert, the lord of Grimness due to luck, they don't know her very well. Regina knew well that the role of the lady of Grimness meant a privileged position and she spared no effort to get what she wanted. 
Yet that does not mean she doesn't love her husband. She soon bore him a beautiful daughter, Hana, the pearl of her eye. For Martin Jan, Albert's son from his first marriage, however, she had no love to spare. Sadly, her instinct proved right - Martin committed a foul deed which almost destroyed their family, cast the boy himself into exile, and robbed Hana of any chance for a good future. Regina has tried to find some dignified position for her daughter at the fort despite that, but Hana's wondrous prospects as the most talented Venerable Sister in years were done for. Despite these challenges, Albert and Regina's marriage served as an example of a harmonic relationship for many and both still had many years ahead of them.
Yet in the last months, she has been plagued with an unknown illness. She has visited several hospitals, spent a week in the care of the Duke of Frymburk's best doctors, and went through various tests, but no medical professional could tell what was wrong with her or how to treat it. The Venerable Sisters also spent many days and nights studying their tomes, but found no solution for Regina. In the end, only Marianna could speak of a cure - and even she could only tell it would need to be found and its rough location.
Laurenc František, who'd just emerged from his humiliation with the spectre, did not hesitate and set off, together with Venerable Eliška, equipped with ancient knowledge. The expedition of Laurenc František of Richston is now Albert and Regina's only hope. 
Regina's declining health has not stopped her from managing the domain of Grimness. Quite on the contrary: now that Regina is painfully aware that life is short, she is doing everything she can to make things work as she wants them. She therefore did not yield a bit when the stubborn Tereza of Morrowdale, the wife of the legendary Knight Captain Slavomír Markvart, came to Grimness. The two ladies soon came to resent each other as only two powerful women used to having their way can.
None can then imagine Regina's humiliation when Albert Tomáš - perhaps to spare her fragile health, perhaps at Slavomír Markvart's behest - decided that Lady of Morrowdale would be the first lady of the upcoming great tourney! A demanding role, to be sure; but also an honour that almost always belongs to the lady of the fort that hosts the tourney.
As if that was not enough, she will also have to contend with the return of Martin Jan - Albert's son from his first marriage, who sullied her daughter's honour and destroyed her life. One injustice after another. But Regina never forgets; she has her method and her weapons. Her time will come.

Tereza of Morrowdale

 "Ah ! Marianson, my beauteous dame,
Where is your lord and master gone"
"My lord rides to the battle-plain ;
I know not if he'll come again."
"Ah ! Marianson, my lady fair.
Lend me your rings of gold so rare."
"In the iron chest beside my bed
You'll find the rings," she sweetly said.

Tereza of Morrowdale used to be the fairest maid of the court and the gem of every tourney. Many were in love with her and now she is not only one of the most beautiful ladies, but more importantly the most successful. In the end, her heart chose Slavomír Markvart and their marriage was the event of the decade. At their wedding, many a handkerchief was ruined by tears and many a boy and young man felt his face burn with jealousy.
Tereza quickly got used to her position and to the power that being Slavomír's wife gave her. Whenever she wanted anything, she could easily make her husband take care of it. And when she asked for something, the other party would often rather comply than risk a possible conflict with the famous Knight Captain.
Slavomír did gradually start spending more and more time outside of their fort, but Tereza did not notice in the least and it changed nothing about her demands when he was present. That did not change even when they came to stay at Grimness at guests. Perhaps the only one who never yielded an inch of ground to the whims of the Lady of Morrowdale was Regina of Grimness. Soon, the ladies developed great resentment for one another and they never miss an opportunity to humiliate or even harm the other. Regina almost burst with rage when some time ago, Lady Tereza used her connections to make sure she would be named the First Lady of the Great Tourney. This honour that has always been reserved for the lady of the fort that hosted the tourney now belongs to a lady from one of the smaller villages! Tereza of Morrowdale simply always knew how to secure a fairy tale life. Well, that is all over now.
The company of Lord of Morrowdale is now returning from another expedition, but the sorrowful knights are coming back without the fallen Slavomír. How will Tereza deal with the loss? Suddenly, she will be reduced to a mere widow of a mighty man and it is certain that those who were afraid to stand up to her as long as she stood under Slavomír's protection will now pay her back... It is high time for Tereza to remember the times and battles of old.

Hana of Grimness

 “‘Wit ye well ye shall not scare me. As for world’s shame, now Jesu defend me; and as for my distress, it is welcome whatsoever it be that God sends me.”

  Hana is the daughter of Albert Tomáš and Regina of Grimness. A coddled child with a clearly outlined future - a good marriage with one of the best knights of Šumava. The knights were well aware of the excellent match they could have in Hana and did their best to keep her happy since she was a child. But then the first twist came. The Venerable Sisters agreed that Hana was more talented than most women they have ever seen - and Regina and Albert were very happy to hear their daughter was to be exceptional.
Grown-ups might plan for many things to happen, but youthful passion can be reckless, foolish, and often very, very dark. Within one night, the barely eighteen-year-old Hana lost all the dreams of her future, and on the very same night, Martin Jan left Grimness for ten years.
Ten years, in which she could have married like any other woman. Ten years that she spent dreaming about a career as a Venerable Sister and bearing the pressure and injustices of her own father. Her only sanctuary was her mother Regina and her loyal friend Tadeáš, who vowed to serve her faithfully. Ten long years of waiting and tension, as she aged and the world flew around her, forgetting to take her with. Many a time she has helped the Venerable Sisters; often she would stand in for her parents at meetings; and more than once she sneaked out into the woods to find out what was going on in Šumava.
Now the time of waiting is coming to an end. The Great Tourney is starting tomorrow, and Hana of Grimness will stand as one of its most beautiful ladies; as the living embodiment of patience and womanly power. Yet every single path that unfolds before her is thorny and full of pain.


Content warning: Please note Hana’s story will include themes of sexual assault and incest.

 

Barbora of Woodford

Then for pure anger and for great love of fair Igraine the King Uther fell sick. So came to the King Uther Sir Ulfius, a noble knight, and asked the King why he was sick.
‘I shall tell thee,’ said the King. ‘I am sick for anger and for love of fair Igraine, that I may not be whole.’

Barbora is a young and fair maid from a rich and honourable house that has no male heir. She is the one all the single men and boys in the area desire. And she can have her pick. There are several knights at the fort who could be good husbands to her. Yet Barbora keeps them all in suspense. One time she let herself be seen with one; another time with another; but then at a tourney, she gave her kerchief to a third. She spends a lot of time with Tereza, who stood before a similar decision a generation earlier and scored a definitive victory - and Barbora wants to be just as lucky. 
Yet only Barbora truly knows how important this choice is, for her and only her. With the sword of destiny hanging over her head, she is well aware that choosing her husband badly will not only mean an unhappy life. It is much simpler than that: a bad choice will cost her her life; and perhaps not only hers. That is one of the reasons why Barbora has been putting off her decisions, keeping all her suitors on their toes at once.
Her story will therefore be focused on her fear of choosing from too many options, and on her ability to accept all the consequences that come with the big decision. Yet it will inevitably also bring disappointment, and the sorrow and resentment of those suitors she eventually rejects, after keeping them hopeful for so long. And most importantly, primarily, it is a great romantic story; the story of a woman courted by all those around her, worshipped and adored.

Gabriel Dominik of Richston

“Wherefore I will make here a vow, that tomorrow, without longer abiding, I shall labour in the quest of the Sangrail, and that I shall hold me out a twelvemonth and a day, or more if need be, and never shall I return unto the court again till I have seen it.”

Gabriel was lucky. He was born as the son of the best swordsman, Sir Laurenc František. Well, at least most of his friends think that's lucky. But Gabriel is now well aware that the path of Laurenc's son is thorny, rather than rosy. Any time he made a mistake or indulged in boyish shenanigans, he was reprimanded - it was shameful for the son of Laurenc František to do something like that! And any time he succeeded, it was taken for granted. He was the son of Laurenc František, after all! Many have also often said that he always had everything easy and never had to work hard for his achievements because of who his father was.
Gabriel, though, decided not to give any cause for this kind of talk. He started working on bettering himself, training every day to become the best swordsman he could be. As soon as he got old enough to make the other knights take him along for expeditions to Šumava's dark and uncharted corners, he stood on the front lines, not showing his fear in the least. Soon his determination, valour, and skill with a sword started to show and Gabriel gradually started gaining the respect and appreciation of others. But still, the praise he heard most often was: "If you keep going on like that, you might be just as good as your father one day."
Perhaps Gabriel Dominik wants to prove that he is much better than his father. When the spectre of the White Lady stood before the gates and Laurenc František failed, Gabriel left his company and said he would rather fight by the side of his lord Albert Tomáš than in the company of his father. And Albert Tomáš appreciated Gabriel's fearlessness. He named him the Court's champion, allowing him to prove his strength in the upcoming tourney.
There is one more path that he will have to set off for, to prove he is pure of heart. The path his father failed to walk to the end; the path that his mother Alena so wishes him to succeed on.

 

Alena of Richston

And oh, poor Atlas
The world's a beast of a burden
You've been holding on a long time
And all this longing

Alena has always been close to the spiritual world and her family expected her to join the ranks of the Venerable Sisters. She remained a fervent believer even when she eventually became the good wife of Laurenc František of Richston, the best knight of Grimness. She soon gave her husband a son, Gabriel Dominik, the joy of his family and the whole court.
Alena supported Laurenc in failure and grief and shared his joy when he won. Yet when he refused to obey Albert's order, she was very upset and it is said that before Laurenc František swore to leave for his expedition, she refused to say a single word to him.
Alena knows how to achieve her goals, and she doesn't always rely on silence. She is close to the Venerable Sisters, but her best friend is Marianna and Alena often helps her with her spells. She writes many letters every week and at the same time, almost nobody really knows what she did before she became Laurenc František's wife. She only came to the fort as a beautiful, mature woman, whose thin scars and gaunt figure showed she had been through a lot. After the arrival of the Animals' company led by Jan Sladký of Hojsa's Watch, more of her past will show. Alena is tied to the Animals with much more than one might expect from a lady of the court.

 

Company of Knight Captain Jan Sladký of Hojsa's Watch

Some companies don't have a story of many years spent together, filled with glorious deeds for the Lords of the Rose. The company brought by Knight Captain Jan Sladký is a curious one: animal-like figures bearing arms, who in many cases served different masters not long ago. Only the epaulets granted to Jan Sladký by the Duke of Frymburk himself opened the gates of Grimness to them. Only the knights' traditional hospitality and the customs of the glorious tourney will allow them to stay.
But why did they come? To prove themselves and create bonds with their new comrades-in-arms? To boast their inhuman strength in the tourney? Or were they perhaps charged with some great task by the Duke himself?

Knight Captain Jan Sladký of Hojsa's Watch

I was there by a forecast near slain, but as Jesu provided me I escaped all their malice and treason.

The company's commander and one of the most seasoned warriors in all of Šumava. Jan Sladký comes from a long line of guardians of the Czech border. Their family has been protecting the kingdom for generations, since the end of the seventeenth century. As guardians, they never asked who they were guarding for. They stood on their watch against the Ottomans and Prussians; they made sure only the right people got into the Hapsburg lands and caught snuff smugglers; and when the First Republic was founded, they secured its borders. When the mobilization came, they manned the fortifications and awaited the worst - and later, when the socialist republic bound its borders in barbed wire, they kept guarding them as well.
Jan Sladký has broken some of their family's traditions. They walk the world wearing the dog's head from their family crest - and when they were young, it shortly got them locked up in an Enclosure. They went through the war with Prague and when the Farm was established, they became one of its guards. They spent twenty years rising through the ranks, becoming one of the Farm's highest military commanders. And then, perhaps for the first time in their family's long history, they abandoned their post together with their most faithful followers. They went off the grid for a few weeks - and reappeared as the Duke of Frymburk's Knight Captain, wearing the title of Hojsa's Watch, which was long kept vacant by Albert Tomáš.

 

Slithers

"Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can. Lord, grant me the wisdom to know the difference."

 At first glance, Slithers might well pass as human: their body is hidden in a long robe and their face is covered by a hood. But their arrival with Jan Sladký's company made their allegiance clear. When their hood uncovered a helmet and the helmet showed their scaly face; when it turned out how crooked the hands holding their mighty hammer truly are, then it became clear what kind of creature Slithers is.
The men of the Rose were quite surprised to see an Animal monk, or perhaps even priest. Knights and Animals do not talk of faith very often - while every single knight is a good and devoted Christian and reveres all the saints, the Mother of God, and of course also Šumava the Allmother, Animals are much more diverse. They can be anything from good and godly Christians to complete heathens and infidels. But nobody knows Slithers, nobody has heard of them, and nobody can say a good word of them. The Venerable Sisters and others cannot help but wonder out loud: is it an Animal that has been imbued with the gift of faith and granted a priestly vestment? Or are they a human being, who was cursed for some especially terrible deed and given the terrible face of a snake?

Lynx

In what distant deeps or skies, 
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?

Some Animals are simply wild by nature and Lynx - well, Lynx is a specific case even for Animals. They don't attack everything that moves, no, that's not the problem. But their eyes are the eyes of a hunter, sizing you up, obviously finding your weaknesses and ways that they could knock you down, stick a knife between your ribs and tear your flesh with sharp claws and teeth. And then they smile, lick their mouth and politely ask for a bowl of porridge and maybe some meat on the side. A cute kitty; a silky murderer.
Some have heard stories of Lynx's youth. Apparently, they were raised by Badger himself - but nobody remembers how the knight came to be their warden. People just know that the whole upbringing did not end any well and brought them both shame for many years.
Now, there is something strange about Lynx; something new. It's not just the obvious endless teasing and rivalry with Koko. It's not just their silence and distance from Badger, or their obvious devotion to Sladký. Now, Lynx can also be quiet and slowly listen to Slithers hissing, or let Bleeter lean on them when the need comes. They keep their coat and armour meticulously clean, as if every detail was to say that Lynx is a good squire now; and perhaps a knight too, soon. Can Lynx step out of the shadow of a woodland beast?

 

Koko

Slaves to the system there's no way out
Slaves to the system do you have a shout
You've got to beat the bastards and beat 'em now
Sick of policies putting me down

Koko is not from around here. When push came to shove after the second war, Koko's father clearly stood on the side of the revolution and the Triumvirate and went to build a better world. They bought their whole family glamours and everything went fine. Then Koko grew up - and what first started as light drinking, listening to banned music, and your standard rebellious adolescence, soon grew into an open war - with the family and with politics. 
Koko partied with whores, puked on the statue of Stalin, tried to steal Gottwald's embalmed corpse, and broke into the radio building, aiming to lighten up the broadcast with some Sex Pistols and their own band, the Kokonauts. Sadly, the nation never got to hear hits such as "Let's fuck dead fairies" or "Prince charming is a dick and a commie" and this time, Koko was really and truly screwed.  
They threw them out from the police academy and their life after that took a new shape: they wandered around the streets drinking, worked as a roadie at illegal concerts, and the more they were getting beaten up and the more they lost money and contacts, the more their glamour faded. And so they ended up in an Enclosure.
Koko's life in the Enclosure wasn't easy. It's not that anything would try to kill them, but they had basically no ability to hunt or obtain food any other way than by ordering in a restaurant or at least rummaging through some bins. They had to rely on the help of others and some occasional stealing, which they hated. 
When the next war and the revolution came, Koko stepped up. They even wrote an ode to the Lords of the Rose "Green like weed, red like a cock". It didn't catch on. What did catch on was Koko as a fighter. Their years on the street and their natural strength and stamina meant they were a formidable warrior, and for an Animal, they really knew their way around human weapons. They were also driven by one relentless force: their hate for the rulers who fucked up their life and robbed them of their beloved freedom.
When the war with Prague ended, they came to the Farm and found their calling. They were still themselves, but they also found a job that they could be useful and good at: Koko became one of the first Farm guards, and they were much more a police officer than a soldier. As a police officer, they were sometimes a bit unorthodox and nobody could make them deal with infractions such as disturbing the peace, but on small things they could find an agreement that would suit everybody and with the big shit, they got pissed off enough for it to work. They put on some weight, settled down, and worked.
Then the bees' uprising came and something broke in them. It's hard to say what went wrong, but Koko clearly demanded the harshest punishments for Goldilocks and her gang. But the culprits were pardoned - and when Sladký ripped off his badge and left, Koko went with them. It's not really clear what they left behind and what was driving them forward. They're also not that friendly with the other Animals: they always measure themselves up against Lynx, they make fun of Slithers, occasionally prank Sladký, and never stop throwing sarcastic gags at Bleeter and Badger.
Will Koko find another breakthrough and a new meaning of life here, like they did once at the Farm, or will they keep floating through life on a river of booze?

Bleeter

There's triumph in the room
When that old imperator, Death
By faith is overcome.

 

Bleeter will catch your eye at first glance. Not because of their size (although the horns help), but mainly due to their gear. Their coat is laden with explosives; all their weapons are equipped with strange devices and attachments; and they exude a strange smell combining sulphur and other, unidentifiable chemicals. Their improvised equipment, based on their deep understanding of technology plus a dash of necessary insanity, gives them an advantage in battle that makes up for their obvious lack of training and strength.
Their peculiar gadgets and homemade enhancements also seem to be what's keeping their body together. A metal patch here, a few strings there, plus a strange tube in their face. Bleeter only came to the Farm in recent years and nobody can tell where they came from, why, and who accompanied them. They mostly just helped the Farm guards with their gear, reloaded their ammo and sometimes patched up their wounds. It was therefore all the more surprising that Bleeter joined Sladký when they left the Farm. Their departure, with a huge rifle on their back, several cleavers, and a limping leg on broken hooves, surprised not only all the Animals, but perhaps even Bleeter themselves. In any case, their path goes on - and from what they sometimes say, it seems they are after revenge.

Sir Badger of Bogland

“Go thou to the good knight of this castle, and tell him here is come an errant knight to joust with him.”

 Since they have joined forces in the war against Prague, the knights of the Rose have been closer to the Animals than anybody else of Our Kind, and one can often see them embracing like cousins. Cousins. Not brothers. There is still some distance, and the servants of the Rose are often repelled not only by the Animals' figures, but also their souls and natures. The Animals' bodies often hide twisted passions, uncontrollable rage, and hatred without a name. And there are no greater champions of all these traits than Badger.
They haven't always been an Animal, but they were cursed for their terrible deeds. But that never stopped them. While other badgers might be content hugging trees in the highlands, the knight of Bogland still dives into carefully planned expeditions - and then loses all control.
Badger is a known grouch who never laughs - or only for a cruel reason. That makes their laughter and joy in the last days all the more disconcerting - they have been finding ample opportunity for jokes since they have left the Farm.

 

Company of Knight Captain Laurenc František of Richston

DThe company's leader, Laurenc František of Richston gained his fame in the battle of Millbrook, when he and eight other knights with their squires held off Prague's reinforcements for so long that the remainder of the enemy lines fell apart in the meantime. And while the ten heroes eventually lost their battle for the West Hill, Prague had to sound a retreat. Only two of them survived - Sir Laurenc and a squire, Tomáš. And even then only because their enemies thought them dead.
The two later became inseparable. Thanks to his unflagging hard work, Laurenc soon became a swordsman who has no match. He might not be the strongest, but when sword met sword, he has always won. Tomáš, then, had no special skills in battle (though he can shoot and fight), but he found a different gift. He could learn any language, understand any gesture, and get along with everyone. So while Laurenc often boasted of his nobility, valour, and skill so much that he angered others, Tomáš always managed to smooth everything over.
Well, almost everything. A month ago, Laurenc angered his lord. When the fort was haunted by the White Lady, the knight of Richston disobeyed a direct order and could not face the spectre in front of the gates. And who did come out in his place? Well, that is not talked about in polite society. A topic that is talked about is that after, some good knights left Laurenc, and suddenly his company only consisted of himself and the faithful Tomáš.
Yet to be fair: when the wife of the lord of Grimness fell ill and neither Paracetamol nor antibiotics proved helpful, Laurenc did not hesitate, took up arms, and set out to find the answer accompanied by only Tomáš and the young Venerable Eliška.

 

The People of Grimness

Knight Captain Laurenc František of Richston

 “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”

DFor twenty years, Laurenc František of Richston proved his honour. Twenty years of battles and deeds; a happy marriage with the good Lady Alena; one good son; one ward; and dozens of fallen enemies. But glory, and especially honour, those are fickle companions, and fragile like the thinnest glass. Then Laurenc František, a legendary swordsman, feared at every tourney, hesitated when it came to obeying his lord's order - and his subordinate had to do it instead. On that day, Laurenc František lost most of his honour. On the same day, three of his comrades-in-arms left him. Firstly, the one who ventured outside the gates, whose name is no more. Secondly Tadeáš, his ward. And most importantly Gabriel Dominik of Richston, his own son!
When Laurenc, Tomáš, and Eliška left in their search for the cure, some hoped it would be an easy way to an honourable death. But now, to at least his wife's great joy, Laurenc is coming back with some truly, truly strange companions.

 

Tomáš of Stayley

“If you can avoid battle with honour, do so. If you must strike, strike hard. There is nothing in between”

TTomáš is exceptionally talented in many things. Languages, diplomacy, tracking, etiquette, and trade are all his strong suit. Yet his greatest talent is no doubt his insurmountable ability to get into trouble.
He was in trouble in kindergarten, when he couldn't explain why he had all of the other children's shoes. He sold them sand for them.
He was in trouble at school when he had adventures on the way to the supplies closet, accidentally finding gas masks, a motorboat, and a sleeping gargoyle in the school's cellar. Using a strange combination of the first and the second, he managed to wake the third.
And then on holiday, after he graduated from the grammar school in Písek, he went for a random hike in the woods around his native Vimperk... and well, it was a truly convoluted series of coincidences which led him to fighting for his life, wearing a coat with the crest of the Rose, defending West Hill, outnumbered, against Prague. On the corpse heap, he discovered not only his talent for surviving, but also a true friend. Since then, nothing could separate Laurenc and his eternal squire and negotiator Tomáš. Tomáš stayed despite his master's disgrace and now when they are returning from the woods, triumphant, he is the one who knows best how to talk to their peculiar companions.

Venerable Eliška

It'll take a lot more than words and guns
A whole lot more than riches and muscle
The hands of the many must join as one
And together we'll cross the river
 

Every Venerable sister has to end her training, her preparations, and her stay at the fort one day, and set off into the real world. Eliška was only supposed to do that a few years later, but when she saw how her Abbess failed in curing the lady of Grimness, she packed her things and secretly waited for the first expedition that would go off in search of a cure. And she wasn't picky!
She obviously did not fare that great on the road -  and those who remember Eliška might know why. She has always been very bright, and perfectly capable of sewing up wounds, brewing potions, or administering medication. Yet it has never been easy to imagine her in the wilderness, far away from warm water, a comfortable bed, or a cooked meal, because one could hardly find a less practical person than Eliška. And in a land where the woods can bring much more than a common cold or a stumble over a tree stump, girls like Eliška are the first ones to die.
Nevertheless, Venerable Eliška came back. Tired, perhaps a bit shaken, but full of energy. She will need it - her young shoulders will need to bear the guilt and weaknesses of others. She will surely stumble - but will she fall?

 

Long Lake Folk

 When the company of Knight Captain Jan Valerián discovered the Long Lake Folk, the news spread like wildfire. They apparently live in four tribes, each with a different manner of dress and different pagan gods, but they regularly meet, trade goods, and celebrate major holidays. Once they surely spoke Czech, but their language gradually shifted through their long isolation; it got simple, and many knights might say it degenerated. They use a whole range of their own vocabulary; they only speak in simple sentences and use all kinds of gestures, jumping, and sometimes even draw on the ground. In principle, they know of guns, but they are much more at home with improvised bows and crossbows or spears. They wear practical, but simple clothing, which changes completely with the season. Sometimes it looks like shirts and shorts, at other times like ancient camo with a pine needle pattern. Some wear lillies on their clothing, while others prefer red scarves. For battle, they don armour from thickly quilted cloth reinforced with tyres and reused metal scraps. In general, their gear is much lighter and more primitive than that of the knights.
Archduke Vilém II himself extended his protection to them and ordered that they should be traded and negotiated with and helped, but not integrated into his domain yet. Perhaps that is because a step like that would cause a response from Prague; perhaps he just doesn't want to let a horde of such people into his lands. Knights see them as exotic, but still people - their backwards, less clever, and less civilized brothers.

 

Spark

“The last time I felt like this
I was in the wilderness and the canyon was on fire
And I stood on the mountain
In the night and I watched it burn”
 

Spark is coming to Grimness as a flicker of hope - most have lost faith that the lady of the fort could still be helped. But then came a message that Laurenc František of Richston's expedition had succeeded after all; that they are bringing a girl with feathers in her hair who is bringing a cure. These are truly good news. Yet Venerable Eliška soon noticed that the girl of the Long Lake Folk has a mysterious, and somewhat worrying power. Anywhere she lies, the grass seems to make a bed; while others bleed as thorns tear their clothes, the branches part for Spark, letting her pass unharmed. The knights also found it suspicious how the otherwise untrusting shaman was happy to let her young apprentice go with them. Soon they understood that the girl would not be easy to handle - Spark is stubborn and now, away from her tribe's watchful eye, she is quickly getting out of control. Did the old shaman perhaps send her out to let the world wisen her up? Or did she just want to get rid of the unmanageable little savage? And how will the pagan tied to the forces of nature be accepted by the good Christians of Grimness?

 

Talon

 “That justice is the one thing you should always find
You got to saddle up your boys, you got to draw a hard line
When the gun smoke settles we'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back at the local saloon”
 

Every young warrior must undergo the trial of acceptance before others in the tribe accept him as a man grown. Yet the path of the young Talon is different. The infallible shaman's prophecy states that the son of the mighty Rikitan will perform great deeds for the tribe and save it from an unseen strange threat. But there is a catch: for that to happen, he must become a man according to the rules of outlanders. Yes, Talon is going to Grimness to take part in the tourney and to earn his spurs as a knight; the first knight of the Long Lake. The young rover will therefore have to deal with challenges that others have spent years preparing for. And even if he succeeds, there is another challenge: the new environment will inevitably change him. Will he even want to go back home?
Talon will fight as champion for the company of Laurenc František of Richston.

 

Acorn

“This whole world is a foreign land
We swallow the moon but we don't know our own hand
We're running with the case but we ain't got the gold
Yet we're trying to leave something behind”

 Acorn was sent out to Grimness by the tribe's chief to accompany the young ones, and he is the best guide one could imagine. The ageing hunter is as old as the Lipno Dam itself, yet he does not command much respect of his tribesmen or wear a vest full of trophies. Quite on the contrary: something horrible must have happened and this voyage might be Acorn's punishment.
Acorn knows much about Šumava's secrets - and many of the secrets of its people. Yet he will have to face the civilized world and guide the youths through a jungle more treacherous than any forest. A jungle of intrigue.

 

Practical

When

5th - 8th November 2020 International run (all in English)

The game will take place from Thursday afternoon until Saturday night and it will be followed by a post-game party. Before the game starts, we will go through a few, fairly minimalist workshops, oriented mainly on safety. We will start playing on Thursday night, so please make sure you come to the game well rested.

 

Where

The Rančířov military space near Jihlava (GPS: 49.3664242N, 15.5740219E)

You will be sleeping in former military facilities, which have bunk beds, electricity, running water, and functional toilets. However, don't expect much privacy or hot showers. The communal sleeping rooms are fairly cramped and people will need to bring their own sleeping bags. This is not a camping event, but please also don't expect a hotel, or even youth hostel level of comfort.
We will provide full catering, including a vegetarian version for all meals and do our best to provide gluten-free and lactose-free options. In case of more complicated diets, players may be asked to bring some food of their own.

 

Who

The game has no strictly defined target group - it is for anybody who is 18 or more, speaks English and is interested in the topic.

Do you like chivalric stories?
Interesting fights for small groups?
Do you like dark fairy tales and light horror?
Roasting potatoes by the fire and venturing into mystical places?
If you said YES at least once, the game is very probably for you!

 

The game costs 250 EUR. For this price, every participant will get their character and all written materials, a full costume (without shoes), all armour, plot-relevant props, and weapons including ammo, as well as accommodation and food for the whole event. We will also provide transportation from the nearest city - Jihlava.
It may be possible for you to use your own armour, at least partly - this is especially the case for underlayers and helmets. Please contact us if you want to use this option at knightsong@rolling.cz. Players need to bring their own sleeping equipment for sleeping on beds - if that is a problem for anyone, we can lend some equipment to you for a small fee.

Deposit

There is an additional deposit of 20 EUR. We will be happy to return it to you, as long as you come on time on Thursday and help with the cleanup on Saturday and Sunday.

What is NOT part of the price, however, is a professional service. Rolling is a purely volunteer-run organization. Nobody is making any profit and any money that is left gets invested back into our games. We rely on the help of our volunteers as NPCs, and on the support of our players. At Grimness, you will occasionally be asked to help with a chore or two during the game. Outside of the game, there will be some chores (such as the cleanup) where you can pick whether to take part or let us keep your deposit to pay for the necessary work.

The accessibility of our game varies by role. While fighting characters will need to be able to walk longer distances (2-3 longer walks a day, sometimes in the dark) in armour, sometimes run and do a lot of physically demanding fighting, and champions will have to do even more fighting on top of that, non-fighting characters will only need to be able to spend bigger parts of the day outside in the cold and take one or two shorter walks every day.
At the same time, the comfort level will be fairly low, with no showers and communal sleeping. The site is sadly not accessible to wheelchair users or people with major mobility problems. If you want to know whether the larp is suitable for you, please write to us at: knightsong@rolling.cz
As this website might suggest, the larp includes a lot of text and some need to remember names. One character can be around 20 pages long and there are some longer texts on the side. While you can keep everything printed with you and nobody will be testing you about names and factoids, if reading large chunks of text and remembering some names sounds horrible, this game might not be for you.
The game will be in English. You don’t need to be a native speaker or a pro, but to take part, you need to have a good level of communication skills and comprehension in the language. Being able to read the full website without any trouble and to imagine that you talk about similar topics is a good sign.
The game is only open to people who are 18 or older and only non-fighting characters are suitable for pregnant people.

 

The safety of our players matters to us a lot. The game is fairly physically demanding and uses a lot of physical fighting. We try to ensure our players’ safety by providing a briefing for all fighting characters, as well as protective equipment and a medic on site. At the same time, we will also be relying on you - to pick a character that truly suits your needs and preferences; to follow all safety precautions; to remain sensible even in the heat of battle. At the same time, if physical conflict doesn’t seem attractive, you need only pick one of the characters that will stay far away from it.
A chivalric ballad filled with unease can get fairly dark, and so the game deals with some heavy topics. Characters’ backstories and some scenes in the game will therefore work with the topics of murder, loss of loved ones, suffering and death of children, bullying, body-shaming (centered on character, not player!), incest, and in some few cases, sexual assault. These topics will not pertain to all characters, but they may get publicly talked about or played on during the game. You will always have the possibility to leave the scene or stop the game. 
At the same time, scripted scenes that come from us (meaning NPC-led scenes) and deal with very dark topics directly will have trigger warnings, allowing you to opt out beforehand. Characters that are centered around these topics will have trigger warnings in the character description. When signing up, you can of course also comment that you don’t want a character that directly focuses on some of these topics, but do keep in mind that we can never guarantee you will not encounter them at all.
The game also has a mechanism that will allow you to leave it at any time and there will be consultants available to you in case you need to talk about any problems off-game. 

 

Sign up

The signup is opened! 

The first sign up period runs from 16.4. do 30.4., after that we will inform you about what happens next and will try to prepare casting.

Sign up for players is here.

Sign up for Shades is open here.

Sign up for volunteers of all kinds is open here.

 

 

Contact

 For any questions, please write to: knightsong@rolling.cz
 Rolling, association for development of role-playing and education games
Fučíkova 283
411 55 Terezín
Identification number: 02296802