The Sins of Our Forefathers
In this Year of Our Lord Sixteen Hundred and Ten, Christendom stands beset by turmoil and change. Old certainties crumble in the face of new thinking in matters of faith, rulership and science. Common folk raise their heads from toil and prayer to dream of other things. In palaces and cathedrals, prince and bishop alike look on in apprehension, searching for any sign of rebellion so that it may be crushed at birth. This is a time of strife and ambition, of exploration and bloodshed, and what will come of it, no man can tell.
Good Queen Bess lies in a tomb in Westminster. With her passing the Tudor dynasty has come to an end, and a Scots King now wears the Crown of England. This Union of the Crowns has assured peace between the Kingdoms, and King James has pursued policies of peace with other nations, but his reign has been troubled. The Gunpowder Plot is merely the most famous scheme directed at his overthrow; many have been executed or imprisoned for plotting against the Crown, and even now Sir Walter Raleigh, famed navigator and explorer, languishes in the Tower, condemned for treason.
After years of savage violence, the Irish rebellion has been defeated, but there seems little chance of lasting peace. Unrest simmers in every corner, while the defeated Earls of Ulster have fled to the court of Spain and urge invasion to drive out the Protestant heresy. The Parliaments of England and Scotland have ordered a new wave of Plantations, seizing lands in the North to break the rebels’ power once and for all.
Across the Channel in France, the wounds of religious war have scarcely begun to heal. King Henri IV has made peace with Spain and proclaimed toleration of the Protestant Huguenots, but many on both sides doubt him. To the Huguenots, he is a traitor who abandoned his faith for Catholicism in order to take the throne, reputedly stating that Paris was worth a Mass. Some Catholics doubt the sincerity of his conversion and believe he is still a heretic at heart.
Forty years of war has won the seven Protestant provinces of the Dutch Republic a tenuous freedom from their Spanish overlords. A twelve year truce has been signed, but many fear that this is only a pause in the fighting, not a lasting peace. Dutch ships span the globe, from the Americas to Hindoostan and China, defying the claims of Spain and Portugal and bringing enormous wealth to a new class of merchants whose riches and power challenge the old order of nobility and fund new advances in art and science.
Among the German states, tensions and rivalries threaten to erupt at any moment. Protestant princes have won the right to practice their own faith, and impose it on their subjects, from the Catholic Habsburg Emperors, creating a patchwork of states loyal either to Pope or the memory of Martin Luther. For years, the Emperor has been distracted his wars with the Ottoman Turks, and with the power of the Empire weakened, there is little to curtail those of his subjects who would turn to arms in the cause of religion.
In spite of the Dutch revolt and the defeat of the Armada, Spain remains the great power of Christendom. The southern provinces of the Netherlands remain Catholic and loyal. The Spanish crown rules the southern half of Italy, and few of the northern Italian states can resist Spanish power. The wealth of the New World flows into the port of Seville, filling the Royal treasuries. This great wealth has allowed the Kings of Spain to make war against the Turks and half the nations of Europe, but has also drawn privateers and pirates in equal measure.
Across Europe, the struggle between Catholic idolatry and Protestant heresy touches every land, the hatreds it engenders only worsened by a century of bloodshed. The Inquisition seeks out heresy across the Catholic world, while the Order of Jesuits seeks to counter the Reformation and bring the savages of heathen lands into the Catholic fold. Meanwhile, Protestant Europe is itself divided. In Scandinavia and the Protestant states of the Empire, the followers of Martin Luther hold sway, while in the Dutch Republic, the Republic of the Swiss and Scotland it is the teachings of Jean Calvin that prevail. England charts its own course, seeking compromise and toleration with a Church that Catholics condemn as heretical and some Protestants see as tantamount to Papist. In every land, there are those who do not conform to the faith of their lords, either practicing in secret or inviting martyrdom to proclaim their conscience in public.
All the while, new learning and new science challenge the position of the Church as the source of all Truth. Giordano Bruno, burned as a heretic these ten years past, is only one victim of ecclesiastical retribution, but the new scholars continue to seek fresh discovery. Following in the footsteps of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe of Denmark challenged Aristotle’s view of unchanging universe, while in Italy Signor Galilei has turned one of the new telescopes toward the heavens and claimed to see moons around the planet Jupiter. Some hope that these men, and others like them seeking new learning in every field of study, while bring the betterment of all humanity, driving back the shadows of medieval superstition with the light of Reason and proving that there are no monsters lurking in the darkness.
You know better. You know that strange and evil things walk in the dark places of the world, and that there is no place so dark as the hearts of men. You have seen these things. You have fought them. And you have met the man they call the Puritan, Solomon Kane. Perhaps you fought beside him. Perhaps he saved you from such evils, and in return you now walk his path. Or perhaps he spared your life, in spite of your crimes, and offered you a chance to redeem yourself. To save your soul. Whatever the truth of your story, you are now a Wanderer yourself, seeking out evil wherever you can find it. Your path has brought you to the marshlands of Somerset, bound for a small market town.
There are two roads that lead to Torkertown…