Vaher Castle is the primary residence of HM Queen Elizabelph, and is the main setting for all foul misdeeds and occurrences that the Queen creates. The castle is often considered the safest place in Vaheria. If that is, you are trying to keep others out. Should you be trying to escape, the building can quickly turn to become the most dangerous of places.
Today Vaher Castle is used as both the official residence of Queen Elizabelph's court, as well as a storehouse for many of the Queen’s most prized possessions, be they magical artefacts, items of clothing, or weaponry.
Originally built in a rather remote spot overlooking the valley of the Fell mountains, up until recently Vaher castle was inaccessible except by the few narrow dirt roads that lead to it. In recent years since the Queen has permitted the construction of stone roads and the use of automobiles in Vaheria, the castle has become a prominent feature of the Vaherian tourism landscape.
The castle is situated in the county of Fellshire and sits atop a cliff overlooking the nearby town of Pryley, which relies heavily on the royal presence for tourism to generate income for the town. The nearby River Gems flows through the valley and for centuries provided the castle with trade, quick transport, and a prominent security position due to the river's natural bend. The river also provided the jewels for much of the Queen's clothes and jewllery, as discarded scales from the merfolk that live in the waters are often used as sequins, hence the river's name.
Since commercial flight is forbidden in Vaheria, reaching the centre of Vaherian royalty is often a long and arduous task. The castle is considered one of the safest places in all the land; its proximity to the forest and Vaherian Fell mountains make it an easily defendable location. However these same features also cause the castle to be called isolated, imposing, and unfriendly by some.
Originally owned by a wealthy baron the castle was a defensive fortress and prison designed to keep the inhabitants of the eastern edge of Vaheria in check. The castle was originally much smaller than today, little more than a fort and curtain wall, but was greatly expanded by Elphaba when she made it her home, and then again more so when she made it her official home centuries later.
The castle was acquired by Elphaba during a hostile takeover sometime in the 14th century. After disposing of the original Tennants, Elphaba subsequently abandoned the place, preferring to live elsewhere. Records from the time show she could barely recall the somewhat gloomy little collection of towers on the edge of her realm. The castle was used for storage and left forgotten for hundreds of years. In the early 17th century Elphaba found the documents detailing her possession of the building, and the next few years were spent renovating and expanding the fortress into what is essentially the castle we see today. Elphaba spent little time at this castle for the next 230 years, preferring to spend her time travelling and maiming. When she did return to Vaheria, she would often stay in the far larger Palace of Pandemonium in the nation‘s capital.
By the time of the 1493 coup against the royal family, and the ensuing civil war (that resulted in the albeit short-lived Republic of Vaheria) Elphaba was forced to flee the Palace, as it was destroyed in a fire started under mysterious circumstances. During the civil war she made a tactical retreat to her only safe-house - the far off and forgotten castle in the eastern mountains. From this moment forward, Elphaba took up permanent residence at this forlorn fortress, and put plans into motion to defend the building.
Role During the Vaherian Civil WarEdit
During the civil war, the Queen restructured not just the castle itself, but also the surrounding mountainside. Originally the castle grounds were a part of the mountaintop, with a square courtyard in front of the main keep. This was a feature expanded on by Elphaba in the 15th century to provide more rooms and a space for formal gardens. During the civil war the courtyard and outer defensive walls of the castle were demolished, and Elphaba separated the castle from the mountain, by gouging a chasm into the mountain itself, forever separating the two. The resulting drop of more than 200ft was bridged by a single draw-bridge across the pit where the formal gardens once were. In a letter to her chief friend and rival Elphaba detailed “…that practicality must come before presentation. It is with regret that I partake of removing the gardens, for they were a source of relaxation and great prettieness [sic], however the defence of my home must come first.”
All that remained of the outer wall was the gatehouse and portcullis, which still stands to defend the bridge, and therefore the only means of access to the castle.
The castle itself was modified during this preparatory period, when the main tower was dramatically increased in height and equipped with more adequate defences, so as to provide a suitable location for a lookout to spot approaching armies or any angry mobs. The two towers which flank the main one were also remodelled to become guard towers. Their large gothic windows were bricked over and access to the rooms behind them was blocked off, they became essentially large staircases to the roof. Battlements were added to the walls and ramparts of the keep, and windows along the front of the castle were replaced with arrow slits.
Whilst this preparation did provide the castle with what would become it’s defining look, it also resulted in the destruction of much architecture and masonry of historical significance that would be of immense interest to modern scholars.
Perhaps what makes the loss of the medieval castle even more bittersweet, is the fact that it was never in any real danger of attack at all. The people of the republic ransacked and demolished the formal palace after the assassination of the royal family - the ruins then became the centre of their new government. This government decided they would not pursue Elphaba, they reasoned she never interfered with matters of state before, and left the ruling of Vaheria to the government. Unfortunately she didn‘t seem to care when anything bad happened to anybody, and in fact she actively encouraged it
through her own actions. As well as this, nobody on the council was even sure where she was. Perhaps the only person on the new government who knew where Elphaba might flee to was the self-proclaimed High Lord Oliver Cassner, who deemed it inappropriate to besiege her castle, as it was too remote and secure in its mountaintop position.
This proved to be a fatal mistake, as Elphaba did not react to this “affront against her lineage” with the indifference assumed by the government. Their error of judgement resulted in one of the bloodiest and most gruesome events in the history of Vaheria, when Elphaba herself “smote down the enemies of the Vaherian Crown with the wrath of the ancients”.
With the re-establishment of the monarchy, Vaher Castle became an international landmark, and was quickly adapted to fit its status as a Royal home and centre of government. A tall peaked roof was added to the main tower, and the two flanking towers were increased in height, to symbolize Elphaba’s rise above the troubles of the past. The great gothic windows had their glass restored to them, and the interior received a lavish restructuring, with many new rooms being constructed.
The castle remained the same except for a few small changes to the kitchen, until the nation received it’s biggest military threat since pre-Elphabian rule. The nearby country of Orfanistan began expanding it’s empire, and sought to make Vaheria a part of its realm. Since the Queen had long abolished a Privy Council or supporting government, on the grounds that she was immortal and no other person’s amount of experience could match her own, the people looked to her to save them from the soon-to-be invading armies of Sultan Sokhar.
During this time the castle was stripped of all interior fixtures and furnishings deemed 'unnecessary' and all artwork etc. was transferred to the safety of the nearby caves hidden high up in the Fell Mountains. When the Sokharian Armada was defeated the castle was restored to its former condition.
Present Day Edit
The castle remained little changed until the 21st century, when a series of incidents changed the look of castle Vaher forever. Today is it virtually unrecognisable as the former 'forlorn fortress' it once was. The current castle is the result of a fanciful restoration campaign undertaken after a disastrous fire and many decades of total neglect. It has been noted that modern "architects projected to it their own wistful interpretations of how a great Gothic castle should look".
2012 Bomb Plot EditOn the evening of the 12th Wheneverbruary 2012, the castle became the target of the newly-republican, anti-monarchist rebel Lyssa Starsmith. At 19:37 Starsmith took aim at the ancient building from a paddock in a nearby field. Using her rocket launcher, the L0-V3- CANNON 5000, Starsmith was able to decimate the ancient structure. In a matter of minutes the castle was reduced to nothing more than rubble and debris. Fortunately the Queen was not inside the building when the main structure collapsed; the court had left earlier that evening for the Westmistvale Palace.
A group of nearby campers travelling through Vaheria on their way out of New Babbage were the first to make statements about the explosion. An eyewitness, Ms. Ruth Hydraconis, gave the following account of the explosion:
"As we looked there came a terrible convulsion of the earth so that we seemed to rock to and fro and fell to our knees. At the same moment with a roar which seemed to shake the very heavens the whole castle and the rock and even the hill on which it stood seemed to rise into the air and scatter in fragments while a mighty cloud of black and yellow smoke volume on volume in rolling grandeur was shot upwards with inconceivable rapidity.
Then there was a stillness in nature as the echoes of that thunderous report seemed to come as with the hollow boom of a thunder-clap – the long reverberating roll which seems as though the floors of heaven shook. Then down in a mighty ruin falling whence they rose came the fragments that had been tossed skywards in the cataclysm. From where we stood it seemed as though the one fierce volcano burst had satisfied the need of nature and that the castle and the structure of the hill had sunk again into the void. We were so appalled with the suddenness and the grandeur that we forgot to think of ourselves."
It was later revealed Starsmith was hired by the Queen to destroy the castle, so she could claim the expenses of re-decorating and rebuilding on the insurance. As such, the Crown did not press charges.
Rebuilding began almost immediately, the Queen having created a detailed plan of what she wanted the new building to look like. Before the old one had even been destroyed. The newly-built castle was designed with the public in mind, as it was intended as part of the government's plan for Elizabelph to "open up" to her people, in ways not seen previously.
2013 Fire Edit
On 20th November 2013, Her Majesty announced the castle would be open to the public for touring, however an unfortunate fire started that same evening, causing the immediate closure of what was sure to be a popular tourist attraction. Any and all refunds for pre-booked tickets were denied and all proceeds from ticket sales went towards the rebuilding of the castle. It is understood the majority of the state apartments burned down. Many critics believe this was a case of insurance fraud, as the Queen's previous attempts to raise money to remodel her castle were unsuccessful. This theory is supported by a picture of the Queen setting fire to a portrait, which was accidentally posted to Lyssa Starsmith's twitter. It was quickly deleted.
The rebuilding work is still ongoing as of present, the 22nd November 2014. However, most of the larger, grander state rooms have been completed. It is mostly staff quarters that have yet to be rebuilt, or even cleaned. Many staff are known to complain about having to sleep on piles of ash and wreckage of the roof, which is now on the floors of their rooms.
After the fire Her Majesty made a speech at the annual 'Meeting of the Meals' which read:
"2013 is not a year one shall look back on with undiluted pleasure. Or any pleasure. In the words of one of my more sympathetic correspondents it has turned out to be 'jolly shit'. It is with great sadness that I must announce that Vaher Castle will not be open to the public any time soon. Having your home blown up and then burned down, by the same person, in the space of a year, is a jolly difficult thing to endure, and as such I need time to myselph, within the walls of my home. One hopes you understand. It doesn't matter really though, as your opinions don't matter, because I'm Queen and you're not."
A reporter for the Innsmouth Advertiser (D.M Foxclaw) who followed the story wrote in an article: "This move enabled the Queen to soften her image in the hearts of her loyal and devoted subjects, in a way opening up, without revealing anything about herselph or her home to them. This way she gets to keep her privacy, get a newly redecorated home, and play the victim. Smart old crone, there." Foxclaw was later arrested and imprisoned for referring to the Queen's countenance disparagingly.
State Apartments Edit
The current State Apartments of Vaher Castle are considered by some among some of the most outdated architecture for a royal palace. Referred to by critics as "a wasted opportunity to modernise both the public image of, and the very fabric of the Monarchy of Vaheria itselph" the archaic state rooms are nonetheless loved by Queen Elizabelph, and are exactly what she wants, and how she wants to present herselph and her sovereignty. Little was known of their appearance or number until relatively recently; once building work was finished the Queen began tweeting selphies on the royal twitter.
The apartments are furnished with some of the most exquisite artefacts and antiques in the crown collection. Many pieces are originals, collected by the sovereign over the centuries - such as the tapestries in the Great Hall, woven from gold and silver, the hundreds of books in the library, as well as the authentic weaponry that lines many of the palace walls.