Mordred VIII is the King on the Snake and the last of the Serpentus bloodline. Born Edwin Serpentus and called Ned by his friends, he was the nephew of Mordred VII. Edwin is the first King is generations to lead an unidivded Kingdom on the Snake. His subject see him as a figure of hope, a man who can return them to prosperity and power amongst Yellowstone Nations.
Life Before Kingship
Edwin was born in the capitol of the Kingdom on the Snake in Idaho Falls, during the reign of Mordred VI. He was the son of the King's second son by a concubine. He grew up largely ignorant of the politics around him and was well educated by a ex-Follower of the Apocalypse tutor in the Kingdom's employ. While is father was somewhat distant, he did take Edwin on hunts and teach him how to shoot. Carefree and kindhearted, Edwin's status as the son of a concubine also gave him much greater freedom than the trueborn children of Serpentus. He would dress in servants clothes and explore Idaho Falls with a gang of castle children. He grew to know the situation of the common folk very well.
Edwin's grandfather was assassinated by poison at the great Festival of Nimue when Edwin was thirteen years old. His uncle immediately took Kingship, declared himself Mordred VII, and put the entire Serpentus family under house arrest. Edwin's father and trueborn elder brothers were quickly declared the murderers and were blinded and executed at the King's command. Edwin's mother was seized and taken into Mordred VII's harem. Edwin himself was imprisoned in the dungeons under the Fangs.
The Damned Brigade
After a year in the dungeons, Edwin was suddenly taken and herded away with other prisoners. He later learned that his uncle had incited another war with the Teton Protectorate, and had ordered the dungeons emptied to form a new Damned Brigade. Taken out of Idaho Falls to a training fort built to the north, the prisoners were branded, shaved, fitted with explosive collars and trained with cheap weaponry. Edwin took the name Ned as a cover. After being brutally trained for thirty days, they were sent into battle against a Tetonic force striking into the Kingdom's territory. Carefully positioned, the Damned Bridage was forced into a charge on the Tetonic flank armed only with knives and clubs. The melee was Edwin's first sight of battle, but it was soon interrupted by a counter charge. Two dozen Protectorate Heavy Lancers mounted on Diomedes warhorses crashed into the suicide battalion. Having evaded the initial impact of the charge, Edwin pulled the broken point of a lance from a corpse and thrust it into the flank of one of the horses. The mount fell on its side and the boy stabbed its stunned rider. Taking the rider's sidearm, he shot an enemy soldier in the back. Another lancer let out an enraged cry and thrust his spear at Edwin. Edwin jumped back and lost his footing, falling to the ground. The lancer urged his horse forward to trample the boy, but Edwin raised the gun and shot the beast. The horse reared back and fell, crushing its rider. The air was filled with fire and explosions, in a few moments the battle was over and Edwin was alone in a sea of carnage. He learned later that the Damned Brigade's charge had lured the Protectorate's Lancer directly into the Chosen Warrior's heavy guns. Edwin was the sole survivor from the Damned Brigade.
Propaganda and the Mason Family
Edwin's story was a golden propaganda opportunity. Taken back to Idaho Falls he was paraded around by Chosen Warriors. The fact that one boy armed with a knife had killed three of the Protectorate's most elite soldiers was held up as proof of the Kingdom's manifest destiny to reconquer the Snake River Valley. Edwin was taken before Mordred VII himself. His uncle did not recognize him, and Edwin could barely recognize his uncle. The man was skin and bones, a nervous tick making him wince at every loud noise. Calm and controlled, Edwin waited as the King exonerated him of all crimes. After the ceremony, another propaganda piece for the Kingdom, Edwin was taken into the custody of the large and powerful Mason Chosen Family to work as a squire. He served at the side of the Mason family's master Rodrick Mason for the bulk of the war with the Protectorate. Slowly, Rodrick became aware that Edwin was more than he seemed. Eventually he figured out Edwin's identity, but promised to keep it secret. He tutored the boy in rulership and politics, and waited for a day when he could act on his knowledge.
Mordred VII was assassinated by an unknown concubine and left no children to take his place. The Mason family held Edwin up as the true heir. The claim was challenged at first, but Edwin's mother had survived years in Mordred VII's court and confirmed his identity. His legitimacy now unquestioned, Edwin assumed the throne and the title Mordred VIII.
King on the Snake
Edwin immediately realized that the kingdom was balancing at the edge of a knife. The Masons had enthroned him and were his greatest supporters, but consequently their enemies became his enemies. Edwin made it clear that he would not allow nepotism, and although Rodrick was his closest advisor he showed no favoritism. One of his first acts was to retroactively declare his mother married to his father and thus grant her the title of Queen Mother. She is also a close advisor to him.
Edwin immediately became a symbol to his people of a pure, uncorrupted monarchy. After the tyrannical reign of his uncle, the masses looked to him with hope. He immediately responded in order to confirm these feelings. He halted expensive foreign adventures, lowered taxes, and decriminalized several minor offenses. He also increased the rights of serfs and laborers. While he cemented the goodwill of the people, some of the Chosen Families felt threatened by these changes. Edwin's primary political hurdle is to gain their trust and ensure the stability of his realm.
Edwin has attempted to abolish the damned brigades, or at least keep criminals with minor offenses out of them. However, the Damned Brigades are largely administered by the Chosen Families and thus he has had little success in this. Despite being the King and the last of his dynasty, Edwin is remains unmarried. He frequently courts the daughters of the Chosen Families, but has never made a decision. Edwin also disbanded the royal harem, declaring it a relic of less enlightened times. The lack of women in his personal life has led to persistent rumors among his enemies that he is impotent or even homosexual.
Edwin has made overtures of peace with the Teton Protectorate and its allies. He believes the perrenial wars with the Kingdom's only civilized neighbor is the primary reason for its decline. He wishes to take time to rebuild before even considering any military adventures. However, the attacks on the Protectorate from the Burned Hands have emboldened the hawks in the Chosen Families. Although Edwin has strictly forbidden it, some of the Chosen Families make unsanctioned raids into Lemhite territory or even as far as the Protectorate.