The roads between the scattered villages and forts in the Shrouded Lands are long, dark, and rarely safe. Between the monsters, the humanoid raiders, and the Shroud, few people leave the walls and bonfires of their villages. Still, goods and people need to move, messages need to be sent, and there is no place so isolated that it doesn’t hunger for news and the occasional stranger’s face.
Luckily for the Shrouded Lands, there are bands who travel the roads and trails. Some are traveling traders, some are hunters or rangers, but most belong to caravans belonging to the Kingsmen. A party of Kingsmen are called such because they tell tales and perform shows and acts, and the most popular tales are those of the High King, in the time before the Shrouding.
A caravan of Kingsmen brings news, trade goods, and entertainment to the isolated towns. Just as importantly, they bring messages and mail, and provide a common touchstone to the places they visit. People join caravans to see new faces, and drop out again if they find a place they’d like to stay. More than anything, the Kingsmen bring hope to those who live in the Shrouded Lands, with their tales of better times, of daring deeds and great heroes casting down monsters vast and terrible. They remind the villagers that they are not alone in the world, and that there are others out there, like them, getting by and surviving.
Finally, those who stay with the caravans for a long time are those who live in a hard and dangerous world. Caravans are ripe targets for monsters and raiders, and the Shroud is always lurking on the fringes waiting for them to grow careless. Because of this the people of the villages have come to see a Kingsman or Kingswoman as a reckless and hardy bunch – it is not unheard of for them to take on dangerous jobs, guarding villages or hunting down monsters.
In short, they are the perfect traveling home for a band of daring adventurers. Our heroes belong to Master Iscalion’s Troupe.
The people who make up Kingsmen, at least those who do so for life, tend to be the people who don’t fit in anywhere. Some bands are little more than groups of cutpurses and whores with a thin veneer of respectability, and even the respectable ones tend to be filled with the daring and the strange. Strange humanoids and exotic creatures are sometimes part of the show. They live dangerous and violent lives, and some of the larger and more reckless groups travel into areas of the Shroud, exploring and treasure-hunting.
For all of these reasons, Kingsmen are welcomed when they come to town – entertainment, news, and the occasional ready sword are handy to keep around – but they are kept at arm’s length at all times. Generally, if there are walls, they camp outside of them.
Bands of Kingsmen, in turn, can be insular, bearing an “us against the world” attitude. New blood and hangers-on have to prove their worth and trustworthiness – at least, within the “family” of the troupe – before they are really welcomed and made part of the troupe. And all the gods help you if, once welcomed, you betray that trust.
On With the Show
Actors and actresses do not have the same stigma attached to their profession that their real-life medieval counterparts did. Villagers no doubt find them strange and different, but they do not belong to an underclass. No one assumes that an actress sells her body. People may lock up their silver – or their daughters! – when troupe of Kingsmen is in town, but most people find their life glamourous and dangerous, and the Kingsmen to be dashing rogues.
The shows that the Kingsmen put on are pretty sparse by our real-world standards – there are generally only three to five actors playing a number of parts, much of the action is narrated rather than performed, and props and costumes are a minimalist affair. They closer resemble cooperative storytelling with the occasional mock sword fight thrown in.