Well met, my fellow Shadow Councillors.
It is time for you to learn more about Duke Ivan and his inner circle. As they say in the Greyhound Duchy: “à tout seigneur, tout honneur.” So let’s begin with the one we want to see on the imperial throne, the Lord of Griffin himself.
You shall know that Ivan was the second son of Duke Vassily of Griffin with his lady wife, Ilona, one of Duke Ekhard of Wolf’s daughters. Ivan’s older brother, Fedor, was destined to become the next Duke, while Ivan went to the seminar of Flammschrein, and then to Falcon’s Reach itself, to learn the ways of Elrath. But soon after Ivan’s thirteenth birthday, tragedy struck: both Vassily and Fedor were killed while hunting a bloodfrenzied Wyvern on the eastern borders. Devastated with grief, Ilona retired to an abbey to live the rest of her days shunned from the cruelty of the outside world.
Deprived of this luxury, Ivan had to become the new ruler of the Griffin Duchy. But he always kept a nagging suspicion that foul play had been involved in his father and brother’s deaths, and he kept looking for the truth – which is how I was eventually made his personal Spy Master, after many years of dutiful service to the Griffin dynasty. But that’s another story.
Ivan’s new title meant he had to study the art of the sword and both political and military strategy in Falcon’s Reach. These courses proved more to his liking than theological studies. He became good friends with the soon-to-become-Empress Maeve Falcon, and knew the first sparks of romance with Duke Seamus of Stag’s teenage daughter, Nolwenn – although these innocent escapades were soon obscured by the heavy responsibilities that now befell him as Duke. It is only years later that Ivan met Nolwenn again and could resume his gallant courtship of the Stag lady, although as you already know, a much darker misfortune would once again “eclipse” their relationship, if you’d be so kind as to forgive this rather tasteless pun. Not that this wooing would have necessarily led to a deeper commitment: Ivan refused all plans to marry. In fact, the Lord of Griffin has gained quite the reputation as a ladies’ man, and if he has a weakness, his love for women is it.
In any case, even back in the guiltless days of his youth Ivan had much on his plate: dealing with the family tragedy, walking the long and sinuous path of rule, and working hard to understand the true meaning of being a Duke. As it turned out, he was a natural born leader, and the peoples of Griffin, who had also loved the rather stern father Vassily, doubled their affection and hopes for the son. In Ivan’s first fifteen years of reign, he increased the influence of the Duchy of Griffin with bold and open commercial policies towards the neighbouring realms of the Elves, Orcs and Dwarves, as well as the Free Cities of Hammer Fall, Stormcliff and Listmoor. The Duchy of Griffin had grown wealthier and more powerful than at nearly any time in its history.
When the civil wars of Falcon succession broke out, many saw Ivan as the most intelligent solution to succeed Maeve of Falcon. He was amiable, a proven administrator of state, and possessed a piercing charisma. Though every Duchy could lay a blood claim, and the line of Stag had historically been considered the heir apparent, the choice of Ivan as the successor started gaining momentum, until war broke out. It quickly became ostensible that there would be no peaceful solution and that only the most powerful military leader would rule the bitter remnants of the Holy Falcon Empire. We are gathered in this Shadow Council to ensure this leader is Ivan.