akavir writes "
129 years have passed since the end of the Greyhawk Wars. The realms of the Flanaess have changed much in the generations since, as the great battles and terrible tragedies, the acts of heroism and cruel betrayals that shaped the land had passed into history and legend. Yet their effects and consequences are still being felt to this day. And now, as the realms of the Flanaess stand on the edge of a new age, ancient conflicts and hatred continue to make themselves known.
Dawn of a New Age - CY 706
--Authors note: This essay makes an educated guess as to what the Flanaess might look like 129 years after the signing of the treaty of Greyhawk, based in information in the Living Greyhawk gazetteer and Oerth journal, along with various articles from the Canonfire website, with a particular focus on Nyrond, Ahlissa and the Eastern Flanaess. I would also like to acknowledge woesinger, and his article "the Flaenaess in CY 645" for inspiring me to write this piece.
129 years have passed since the end of the Greyhawk Wars. The realms of the Flanaess have changed much in the generations since, as the great battles and terrible tragedies, the acts of heroism and cruel betrayals that shaped the land had passed into history and legend. Yet their effects and consequences are still being felt to this day. And now, as the realms of the Flanaess stand on the edge of a new age, ancient conflicts and hatred continue to make themselves known.
--A Brief History of the Last Century
As the common Year 587 closed, there were many across the Flanaess who looked towards the future with dread. Great events had reshaped the land over the last generation at the cost of many lives, and many feared what new calamities might be over the horizon. For while the forces of weal still stood strong, that of evil seemed more powerful than ever. Yet non, wizard, king or commoner, could have predicted what was coming next. The Pillars of the Oerth had only begin to shake.
In spring of 589, amazing news sped across the Flanaess. A band of adventurers called the Brotherhood of Sorrow, aided it is claimed by an avatar of Pelor himself, made their way to Dorakaa in secret. Though all but one of their number died in the effort, they accomplished their goal, binding Iuz the Old to an ancient artifact, Slerotin's Reliquary, a magical prison so powerful it could even withstand the power of an enraged god. With the aid of Pelor it was hurled away from Oerth and far across the planes, disappearing deep into astral regions unknown even to the gods. Iuz the Old was banished from Oerth, hopefully never to return.
His task completed, the avatar of Pelor returned to his celestial home, while the lone survivor of the Brotherhood returned home to Furyondy. Iuz's empire rapidly collapsed. Those who hoped this would user in a new age of peace in the Northern Reaches were sadly disappointed, as local factions turned on each other and decades of unrest followed.
The enseing decades saw the deaths of many lords and notables who had come to prominence during the Greyhawk Wars. King Belvor of Furyondy was the first to fall, dying only days after news of the Banishment of Iuz reached Chendl, breathing his last with a smile on his face. As he died without an heir, the Noble Council quickly assumed power. Furyondy soon entered a period of decline and political instability as feuding between the noble houses wracked the land. Meanwhile Duke Karll of the Duchy of Urnst fell in battle during a raid from the Bright Lands. He was succeeded by is nephew Ellis, a bitter and paranoid man. In the neighboring County of Urnst, the countess Belissica ruled until her sixty-first year, dying unmarried. Her successor was a cousin, Alvor, a cautious man who declared the County's neutrality. Both Urnst states turned inward, entering a period of relative isolation and economic prosperity.
In the far west, the Wars of the Mahdi raged for the better part of three decades, as the Paynim tribes strove to subdue the other Baklunish states in the name of their leader, heralded as the true son of Al'Akbar. Ull was subjugated, and the armies of the Mahdi overran half of Tusmit. Ket was invaded, but fierce resistance from the Ketites slowed their progress, aid by the exhortation of the mullahs of the true faith who denounced the Mahdi as an imposter. Matters became even more confusing when Sultan Murad of Zeif appeared in public clutching a magical jacinth, said to be the one granted to his ancestors by the Sultan of the Waters all those centuries ago. The leaders of the Exalted and True Faiths immediately acknowledged as the true heir to the Baklunish Empire, perhaps preferring Zeifish rule to that of an unwashed steppe nomad. Claims by the Paynims that the jacinth was a forgery were dismissed by the Diwan as the rantings of madmen. War continued unabated for a generation, until the Mahdi died. He was succeeded by his chief lieutenant Zoraf, though not without some dissension amongst the Paynims, many of whom felt the Mahdi's nephew Umar had the rightful claim. Though peace was never formally declared, combat as dwindled to little more the frontier raids as both sides sought to consolidate their gains. Half of Tusmit is now under Paynim rule, and they maintain a loose control of Ket as far as Lopolla. Ull remains under occupation. The threat of the Mahdi drove the Ekbiri into the arms of the Sultan, who quickly married his son to the daughter of the caliph. When Murad died, his successor Iskander became ruler of both countries, Sultan and Caliph. He quickly seized control of the northern half of Tusmit not under Paynim rule, but then faced difficulties, as decades of war have bled the Baklunish West of wealth and manpower.
In 590, King Kimbertos Skotti of Keoland summoned representatives from the Ulek States, Gran March, Bissel, the Knights of the Watch, Celene, Sterich, the Yeomanry and Celene to a council at Niole Dra. The purpose; to discuss the various calamities afflicting the Sheldomar region, in particular the giants occupation of Geoff and the Scarlet Brotherhoods continued control of the Hold of the Sea Princes. Geoffite exiles made a passionate plea for aid in liberating their homeland. Moved by their stories, the representatives agreed to put aside their differences and form an alliance with the purpose of liberating Geoff from giantish oppression (with the notable exception of Celene, whose emissary returned home after declaring the elves neutral in this and all future conflicts.) In the spring of the following year a massive army gathered along the western banks of the Javan. Keoish forces formed the largest, but contingents came from other allies as well. The Bisselites, concerned with the Paynim invasion of Ket, send only a single unit, but one comprised entirely of veterans and experiences warriors; known as the Iron Company, it would soon be known as one of the finest military formations in the world. Under the command of King Kimbertos, this Army of Liberation crossed the Javan and attacked every giantish stronghold they could find. Seven thousand allied soldiers fell in battle, but they slaughtered hundreds of giants and countless numbers of orcs. By the end of summer, the giantish leader Mogthrasir lay dead, and the remnants of his forces were fleeing back into the Crystalmists, though pockets of resistance remained in more remote areas for years to come. The aged Duke Owen was reinstalled amidst the ruins of Gorna, while Geoffite refugees returned home, seeking to rebuild their ruined land.
That winter, the victorious allies met again at Niole Dra, flush with success. King Kimbertos proposed to liberate the Hold of the Sea Princes, but the other realms were reluctant. Instead, the decision was made that the alliance they had formed the previous year should not be wasted, and instead reconstituted as a permanent league for the self-defense of its members. Thus the Sheldomar League was proclaimed in the winter of 591, each member pledging its forces to the protection of the others, with meetings to be held every three years at a different location. Despite often rancorous disputes between its members, it has proven itself a force for stability in the Far West.
The city of Greyhawk continued to prosper under the rule of Nerof Gasgal. The Banishment of Iuz and the political instability that followed opened many opportunities to the merchants of the Jewel of the Flanaess. Rebellions by disaffected elements in Hardby and Safeton were swiftly put down, and the governing of these cities placed firmly in the hands of the Directing Oligarchy. The first few decades of the Seventh Century were golden ones for Greyhawk. When Nerof Gasgal died in 610, the citizens erected a monument in his honor. Afterward the mayoralty passed between various members of the Oligarchy, who ruled more or less competently, even as the population of the city almost doubles.
However, a growing divide between rich and poor led to increased social unrest, culminating in the Window Riots of 652, when non-Guild workers in the city protested their lack of representation. The revolt was put down, though not without some bloodshed, and the authority of the Oligarchy was badly compromised. In desperation they turned to one of the most prominent citizens of the city, Piero Demilac. The son of a Shield Lander refugee and his Greyhawk-born wife, Piero rose from dire poverty to immense wealth and influence, founding the Demilac Bank, which soon opened branches across the Flanaess. Though a man of power, he maintained close links to the lower classes, and was thus able to call on support from both sides. Elected as Mayor in 652, he held the post for a consecutive three terms, instigating much needed reforms. A cautious man who kept a low profile, he died in office as was much mourned.
His successor was his son Alberon, elected to the mayoralty by popular acclaim, despite the resistance of the aristocracy, who feared the institution would become hereditary. In 675 a plot led to his brief imprisonment, but infighting amongst the Oligachy over who should succeed weakened their position, and a band of his supporters were able to free him. He swiftly turned the tables on his enemies, imprisoning them at various places outside the city walls and appointing a new Oligarchy composed of his henchmen. Though retaining the title of Lord Mayor, he ruled with unquestioned authority. Greyhawk's wealth and influence grew (as did that of the Demilac Bank, which was now practically synonymous with the city). Alberon oversaw a reform of the coinage, which led to Greyhawk money becoming the most trusted in the world. He was also known as a great patron of the arts, and soon Greyhawk became the site of a remarkable cultural flowering. Literature, painting, sculpture, drama, all flourished under his reign. Not for nothing was Alberon known as "the Magnificent."
To the east, the Palish occupation of Tenh was initially strengthened by the Banishment of Iuz, but then fell into disarray upmn the death of Ogron Tillit in 598. The contest to choose his successor bogged down into mutual acrimony between Prelates Theomen Baslett and Maximilian Thrace, all but paralyzing the Pale. In the end the progressive Thrace was chosen by a hair-thin majority. The ten years that followed were tumultuous ones, as every attempt by Theocrat Thrace to reform the faith were opposed doggedly by the conservatives. During this time much of the Pales holdings in Tenh were lost as the returned Duke Ehyeh, and then his son Halyah, recovered much of their domain. In 609, Theocrat Thrace was assassinated by a fanatic. Baslett assumed power, but was immediately challenged by the progressives, who accused him of having a hand in it. During the tumult, a Pholtan priest named Malvad Berrn, disgusted by misrule and ungodliness, nailed a list of 56 theses to the door of the temple in Ogberg. For this Baslett had him arrested, but a mob of supporters rescued him before he could be executed.
Civil war began in the Pale. When it was over, a third of the population would be dead. Meanwhile, the Tenha evicted the remaining Palish forces and set about healing their wounded land.
Despite various plots and rebellions, King Lynwerd of Nyrond remained firmly on his throne. Under his reign Nyrond recovered much of its former strength, and he left in in a better state upon his death in 622. Nyrondal control over Almor was strengthened, and in 610 the province was reconstituted as a Principality under the rule of the Crown Prince or Princess. Rebellion in the Celadon was resolved when Rel Mord granted the woodmen a measure of autonomy, thus stablizing the western regions. Tensions with the Ahlissans remained high and in 609 a skirmish along the Harp nearly led to open war. Swift diplomacy averted this calamity and a treaty was signed that resolved many of the grievances between the two sides. Ahlissa recognized Nyronds claim to the western part of Almor in return for Rel Mord relaxing certain restrictions on her merchants. Both sides agreed to demilitarize the line of the Harp, maintaining only token forces. Both realms had good reason to come to terms: Nyrond was still weak from the wars against Ivid, while Overking Xavener had troubles of his own to the north. This, the Treaty of Innspa, secured peace for generations between the two sides. With the threat of war lessened along its eastern borders, Nyrond's recovery picked up.
By the time Lynwerd the Redeemer died, much of the debt to the Urnst States was repaid, with the balance delivered a year later. Lynwerds heir, Queen Carline, inherited a realm largely healed from the scars of war, and she was determined to keep it that way. The following century was one of growth as Nyrondal interests expanded across the world. Mithat grew into one of the largest and wealthiest ports of the Flanaess as trade with lands beyond the Azure exploded. In 626, a Nyrondal fleet joined the Iron League in assaulting Scarlet Brotherhood control of the Densac Gulf. Onnwal was blockaded, and Brotherhood ships were hounded across the seas. The city of Narisban in the Olman Isles was captured in a bloody assault and formally annexed to the Nyrondal crown despite protests from their allies. With passage through the Densac secured, Nyrondal merchants expanded their reach across the known world, setting up trade stations, and founding colonies.
Queen Carline soon redeemed herself in the eyes of her allies by provided enormous amounts of aid to the rebels in Onnwal. By 630 the last Scarlet Brotherhood holdouts were overrun and Scant was free. Jian Destron, by now an old man, was acclaimed as Szek, with an even older Rakehell Chert as his first minister. Plans were made for Onnwal to formally rejoin the Iron League, only to be scuttled by threats from Overking Xavener. Instead, Onnwal proclaimed its neutrality, with Scant as an open city. The little realm soon became known as a hotbed of intrigue as agents from a dozen realms mingled with adventurers seeking to make their fortunes.
The Scarlet Sign suffered even more reverses in the years that followed. The Hold of the Sea Princes was lost as the region fell into anarchy. Onnwal was lost. Control over the Lordship of the Isles became contested when in 636 a Rel Astran flotilla sacked Sulward. Attempts to recapture it failed, and rebellion seethed on Duxchan and Mahan. Brotherhood agents attempted to suppress the unrest, only to be recalled home by the most troublesome of news: strife within the Tilvanot itself. Rebellion had broken out amongst the numberless slaves laboring on the jungle plantations. Their leader was a former mercenary from Stoneheim named Gaeta, who was captured by the forces of Turrosh Mak. He and countless other prisoners were sold to the Brotherhood as slaves and carried off to the Tilvanot, where he was forced to fight as a gladiator. Now, under his leadership, thousands of slaves broke free of their shackles and turned them into swords. The Brotherhood was caught completely off guard. Three armies sent to suppress them were defeated, after which the rebel slaves captured and burned Kro Terlep. They then turned inland, marching on Heruel Ilshar, but running out of food chose not to besiege it. Instead, Gaeta and his followers crossed the Spine Ridge to the southern jungles of the Tilvanot Peninsula, capturing Ekul and killing every Suloise they could find. With no hope of returning to their homelands, Gaeta and his people took the southern part of the Tilvanot for their own, proclaiming the Kingdom of Gaetala, after their leader whom them acclaimed as King. And alliance was quickly formed with city states in Hepmonaland, who had also expelled the Scarlet brothers and were eager for revenge. Seven times did the brotherhood send an army to subdue the newly-born realm, and seven times were they hurled back.
Overking Xavener of Ahlissa died in 627 after a reign of fortyyears, the majority of which were spent securing his domains. With the signing of the treaty of Innspa, he put aside any ambitions he may have held towards Nyrond, turning instead to the continued unrest throughout much of Ahlissa, along with the continued conflict with the North Kingdom and Solnor Compact. Throughout the 590's Ahlissan forces focused on restoring order to the land. Bandits were hunted down, rebellion crushed, the roads made safe again. And in the process, the power of House Darmen increased, with intransigent lords replaced by one cousin after another of the Overking. Many of Xaveners victories were won without bloodshed, the seemingly bottomless vaults of Kalstrand buying off many would-be rebel lords. (The fact that many of those so bought soon after suffered "accidents" was not considered worth mentioning.) To his face, Xavener was known variously as The Magnificent, The Saviour, The Great...but behind his back he was called The Spider, for it was said his webs were spun everywhere. By all accounts Xavener himself was pleased with this. Certainly there was little going on in his realm that he didn't know about.
After the signing of the Treaty of Innspa, Ahlissa troops stationed in the east were shifted westwards. rumors were rife about their intentions, with many suspecting the Overking was about to settle accounts with Rel Astra once and for all. Then, to everyone surprise, thirty thousand Ahlissa troops appeared along the western banks of the Flanmi, striking into the North Kingdom. Grenell's men were caught by surprise and desperate fighting ensued. By the end of 611 all lands south and west of the Flanmi were firmly in Ahlissa's grasp. Yet no attempt was made to cross: the Imperial Council was against it and Xavener knew it conquest of the lands beyond would be prohibitively expensive in money and lives. Instead, the border was fortified, while Ahlissan agents slipped across armed with bags of gold and orders to stir up strife and rebellion, hoping to accomplish by subterfuge what they could not by force of arms. The new acquired lands were parceled out amongst members of House Darmen and their supporters.
Despite his successes Overking Xavener's reign was marked by a number scandals, and one serious strategic setback. In 596, his third youngest daughter Marella shocked the realm by running off with a common adventurer named Raymer Longfoot. This episode quick escalated into a major diplomatic incident when it emerged that the young man in question was none other than the bastard son of King Lynwerd of Nyrond, lately escaped from the witches of the Gnatmarsh who hoped to use him for their own purposes. Over the next ten years the young couple wandered across the lands of the Azure Sea - pursued by agents of both their fathers as well as a dozen other powers eager to get their hands on them - and then beyond, making their way across the Sea of the Dragon-Kings and ultimately to the legendary realm of Erypt. When they returned to the Flanaess a decade later, it was on a ship with silken sails enchanted to be full of wind even if the wind was not blowing, a hold full of treasure, and a crew of men from the other side of Oerik. On the way back to Rel Mord, Raymer stopped at the Gnatmarsh, where he settled accounts with the witches. His royal father welcomed the couple as heroes, and sages from across the Flanaess competed with one another to interview them and examine the artifacts brought back from the Utter West. the King bestowed upon them the Barony of Woodwych, vacant since the previous holder died without an heir and far away from the border with Ahlissa, under the condition that they stay put from now on.
In 612, Xavener's younger brother, Prince Karralak of Strand, was forced to flee when evidence of a crime committed in his youth came to light. As a boy he had assaulted the daughter of the Prince of Torrich, which her brother Dilweg had since used a means of blackmail. Eventually Dilweg tired of the scheme and exposed Karralak's offense to the Imperial Council. Prince Karralak fled one step ahead of arrest and found sanctuary in the city of Irongate, which was all too happy to welcome him. This affair was a grave embarrassment to the Overking, not the least of which because, before his disgrace, Karrelak was the Speaker of the Council. Dilweg claimed his place, and for a year the loyalties of House Darmen were divided, until Prince Dilweg died after a fall from his horse during a hunt.(Rumors of assassins with poisoned crossbows helping him along were ruthlessly squelched.) After stewing for a few more months, Karralak was allowed back and resumed his position, now firmly under the thumb of his royal brother.
The strain of this scandal was no doubt eased somewhat by the happy news of a son born to the Queen-Consort Rachern the same year. Given the name Kaldared after the founder of House Darmen, he grew up into a sickly boy. Rumors claimed the Queen had struck some bargain with certain practitioners of dark magic in change for a son, though none dared voice this publicly.
Since the victory along the Flanmi, Ahlissan agents had been hard at work stirring up rebellion in the North Kingdom. They succeeded...too well. In 616, a revolt began along the Trask River valley, sparked it was claimed by the murder of a fugitive priest of Pelor at the hands of Hextorites. Though Ahlissan gold helped pay for armaments, the revolt quickly spun beyond their control as underground congregations of Pelor, Heironeous and Tritherion joined forces and assumed control. Before long the rebellion spread across the country. Grenell's men were routed in every engagement. The priesthood of Hextor was particularly targeted and the temples of the Herald of Hell were torched across the land. Grenell himself suffered a major defeat at Bellport. He fled back to Eastfair with the remnants of his army, only to find the gates of the city closed by order of the High Priest of Hextor, who betrayed his king without a second thought. Grenell was then slain by a paladin in the service of Heironeous. Eastfair was besieged, but the rebels didn't have the resources to take it and soon retired.
The North Kingdom was thus divided. Atiir, Kaport Bay and Bellport fell under the control of the followers of Pelor, Tritherion and Heireoneous respectively. They swiftly formed a confederation, declaring themselves as the Free Cities of Northern Aerdy. All cults sworn to evil were purged as the inhabitants rededicated themselves to the purpose of weal. Eastfair remained under the control of the Hextorites, who ran the region as a theocracy. Delaric declared itself an independent city unaffiliated with any other power. Winetha, menaced by the undead around Rinloru, joined the Solnor Compact. All of these were determined to keep the Ahlissans at bay.
In 627, Overking Xavener died. Though more feared than loved, even his enemies spoke of him with respect as a man who restored order after years of chaos. The crown passed to his teenage son Kaldared. Unfortunately, he was completely insane, suffering from hallucinations and mad spates of dementia where he attacked anyone around him. After his coronation a regency was declared, with his three remaining sisters and uncle Karralak ruling the kingdom between them. Despite their dislike for one another, their loyalty to House Darmen ensured stability. Kaldared died a few years later, though not before fathering a son of his own on a noble daughter forced to marry him (the means by which this was accomplished the source of much ribald humor...) Named Porivan, the child grew up watched by nursemaids. This period, known to later historians as The Long Regency, ended in 660 when Porivan reached his majority and ruthlessly deposed the two remaining regents, assuming power as Overking in his own right...and his own ambitions...
COMMON YEAR 706 - The State of the World.
The Baklunish West
With the death of Iskander the Mighty in 706, the lands of Zeif and Ekbir face a new and uncertain future. Barley fourteen when he succeeded his father Murad, Iskander proved himself a brave warrior who drove back every Paynim army sent by the Mahdi. Moreover his stern moral righteousness and sense of justice did much to reconcile the Zeifans and Ekbiri. Leader of both the Exalted and True Faiths praised him, though he showed favor to neither. Even the Mahdi was said to had respected him as worthy and honorable opponent. His reign lasted so long that he outlived his eldest son. Now his grandson Baz'aral is on the throne, himself an old man in his late fifties facing new challenges. Ekbiri nobles demand greater autonomy, with some even whispering for independence. The Sultans authority over northern Tusmit remains weak. The Komali increasingly harass Zeif's ships along the Dramidj, while Tiger Nomad raids in northern Ekbir increase.
The only consolation is that the Paynim enemy is facing problems of their own. With the death of Zoraf in 682, the claim of Umar was revived. A council was called of all Paynim chieftains and after much debate they again overlooked the descendants of Umar in favor of another, choosing a tribal leader named Hamad. Much bad feeling resulted from this, and the Successors of the Mahdi find it increasingly difficult to hold together a unwieldy coalition of feuding tribes. Those from the southern parts of the Dry Steppes in particular increasingly favor the cause of the House of Umar, and emissaries sent south return empty handed...if they return at all.
The Bitter North
A new Ilkhan has arisen among the Tiger Nomad, Hubedai the Cruel, who gained power after arranging the death of his father and all four of his elder brothers. At his birth a shaman prophesised that he would be a warrior equal to Ogobanuk, leader of the Relentless Horde of the past, and has since then thirsted for conquest. Now that the lands of the Chakyik are firmly under his control, he turns his head westwards towards the lands of the Wolf Nomads. War is brewing on the northern steppes.
The Western Nyr Dyv
Furyondy's long period of decline has come firmly to and end with the ascension of King Symeon II of House Tyneman, whose Father gained the throne after the previous occupant of House Jakartai died died without an heir. Though Symeon I proved himself an ineffectual ruler, his son is made of sterner stuff. Only twenty-five, he has taken measures to bring the Noble Council to heel once and for all. Power is being centralized in Chendl, while the right of great lords to maintain their own private armies has been curtailed. For the first time in a century, Furyondy has a strong King, and the once over-mighty Noble Council can do little more than dance attendance to his whim.
And Symeons eye is turned towards the north, where the wreckage of Iuz's Empire presents a tempting prospect. Currently great sums of money are being spent building a fleet on Whyestil Lake, with the purpose of transporting an army across to capture Dorakaa. To this end an alliance is being sought with the Shield Lands, though thus far they are reluctant to get involved. In addition, Symeon has also shocked the world by taking as his queen the younger sister of the King of Nyrond, a move that has caused some concern in the Urnst states and Ahlissa.
The Shield Lands have long recovered from their defeat at the hands of Iuz. From Admundsfort that have recovered all of their former lands and added much of the former domain of the Horned Society as well. At present they are focused on rooting out groups of Nerull worshipers, who continue their nefarious ways despite the best efforts of the Knights.
Alberon the Magnificent died in 699, to be succeeded by his son Zeranno. Much like his father in taste, if not in judgement, Zeranno had disdained the title of Mayor, choosing instead to declare himself Prince of Greyhawk. Though a great patron of the arts he has little love for financial matters, and the business of the Demilac bank is starting to suffer as a result. The ambitions of Furyondy's new king are a cause of some concern in the region, and recently a delegation from Dyvers arrived to talk about an alliance.
The Sheldomar Valley
After over a century and despite constant bickering, the Sheldomar League remains strong, as do the problems that beset it.
With help from the League, the Principality of Ulek has regained all of the land lost to the Pomarj. Turrosh Mak had been dead for over seventy years, and though his name still evokes terror in the surrounding lands, those who came after him lack his vision. Today the Pomarj is a welter of feuding orc and goblin tribes, with bandits and slavers operating from the ruins of port towns. Raids along the borders are commonplace and several times the Princes of Ulek have petitioned their allies in the League to mount an invasion, a proposal that is met with considerable reluctance by the others.
In Keoland, King Andron of House Neheli has just enjoyed the jubilee celebrating fifteen years on the throne. Yet behind the celebrations, serious minds are concerned about the situation in what used to be known as the Hold of the Sea Princes. After a century of anarchy, various warlords have begun imposing a rough sort of order. Around Hokar a band of mercenaries calling themselves the Red Companions have established themselves, while two other strong men are in place at Westkeep and Monmurg respectively. Little remains of the former rulers of the place, the population comprised largely of a polyglot mix of former slaves and their descendants. More worrying to Niole Dra are reports that pirate groups have established themselves on Flotsam and Jetsom isles and have begun raiding shipping in the Azure Sea.
Bissel has regained Thornward after eighty years of control by Keoland and the Knights of the Watch. From this they keep a wary eye on the situation in Ket, long cut off from the other Baklunish lands by the Paynims. Recently, emissaries from the Beygraf had met with the Margrave, offering to set aside centuries of enmity and petitioning the League for membership and protection. The matter is scheduled to be discussed when the league meets in the fall at Pellak.
Meanwhile, events in Geoff are threatening a rift between that realm and the Knights of the Watch. The new crowned Duke Rohan VI has taken measures to reduce the influence of the Knights in his realm, replacing officials known to have tied to the order and restricting their activities within his borders. The Duke has been denounced by several prominent sympathizers, though the Watchers leadership remains silent on the matter. It is thought this is the consequence of recent corruption scandals involving prominent members of the order in Gorna.
The Former Empire of Iuz
The reputation of the region has not improved since the Banishment. With the disappearance of the Old One, his former empire quickly because a byword for lawlessness as various factions and would-be warlords fought it out for supremacy while outside realms carved pieces pieces for themselves.
The lands from Dorakaa all the way to the Howling Hills are a mad patchwork of robber barons, bandit chiefs and roving bands of orcs, all at war with each other and the world. Word of Symeon's impending invasion has done little to change this. The old capital itself is a ruin, inhabited only by vagabonds, and in the winter goblins seeking respite from the cold.
The Rovers of the Barrens have regained much of their former lands, through they have to contend with the large numbers of orcs still infesting it. Recently, meetings with envoys from Tenh has led to talk of an alliance of sorts. Meanwhile the bandits around the Rift canyon have returned to their old ways. For the last thirty years their main enemies have been the Shield Lands to the west and the Tenha to the east. In 658, a Tenha force captured Rookroost, whole in 671 another army seized Stoink. The Duke of Tenh now controls all lands west of the Artonsemay as far as the edge of the Felreev, and all lands north of the Zumker to the Bluff Hills. Already these lands are being settled with Tenha colonists, who work their plows with swords close at hand in case of raids. Tenh is increasingly a power to be reckoned with in the North. The lands lost to Stonehold were regained in the 640's, and since then skirmishing between the two has continued.
The alliance between the Fruzii and Ratik remains in effect, strengthened every generation by bonds of marriage. This has given them an advantage over their cousins among the Snow and Ice barbarians, though never enough to actually dominate. Increasingly, the attention of the Rhizians is drawn across the sea to the continent of Fireland, where a number of colonies have been founded.
Old Aerdy east (The former Great Kingdom)
Overking Porivan has ruled for 46 years. Though a man in his sixties, he still moves with the energy of someone half that age. A handsome youth, he has matured into a man of seemingly dignified bearing...which hides well the Darmen ruthlessness he inherited in full measure.
Upon reaching his majority at sixteen, Porivan locked up his remaining aunts and great-uncle. The great goal in his early reign was to reduce the power of the Imperial Council and other Princely houses, so that he could rule unquestioned. And in this he had proven himself successful. Disdaining men of noble blood, he raised new men from the middle classes, men with talent and ambition, but with no power base of their own and thus totally dependent on him. Thus their loyalty could be assured. Popwer was transferred from the Principalities to Kalstrand, with every title and position of authority becoming a gift of the Overking. He also ordered the total rebuilding of the Imperial Palace turning it into a vehicle for the display of his power. All Princes and nobles of high rank were required by royal decree to live in Kalstrand, attending their Overking, and were also ordered to spend whatever funds were necessary to maintain themselves in a style befitting their rank. Their days are filled with elaborate ceremonial, court pageantry at the center of which is the Overking, their nights with petty gossip and intrigue, even as Porivan and his ministers made sure to keep any real power from their hands.
It didn't long for the fortunes of the high aristocracy to be drained, and reduced to penury they are forced to turn to their Royal master for air, receiving from his hand an endless stream of gifts, pensions and profitable offices, thus tying them to him more closely. As a result, the Imperial Council has lost nearly all its authority, composed as it is of men beholden to the Overking. The only other power in the land is the Guild of Merchants, and here too Porivan displayed his genius, showering its leaders with praise and honors and granting them wide privileges, in particular over matters of trade with lands beyond the Flanaess.
So great is the Glory of the Overking that men have begun calling him the Star King of Ahlissa, after the three glowing stars that are his personal sigil. The splendor of his court is known across the world, his authority is unquestioned. Yet Porivan is known something else as well as well; his boundless lechery. To day he has had no less than seven official mistresses and over dozen minor ones, on whom he has fathered no less that thirty-four illegitimate children, in addition to the three gotten on his Queen-Consort. Stories are told across the Flanaess of the beauty of his women, and the non-stop scheming and intrigue by various noble houses to get him to notice their daughters.
Yet behind the glowing facade lies an iron will and a unquenchable thirst for power. Porrvan has made it his mission in life to restore to Ahlissa all the lands of the former Great Kingdom. While his ancestor Xavener may have preferred gold and patience, Porivan will use war as well. For the first twenty years of his reign, his attention was focused on the Solnor Compact. Matters were helped in this regard when, in 663, the animus Lord Drax abruptly disappeared from Rel Astra. He turned up alone two days later before the temple of Pelor in Atirr, falling to his knees before the High Priest and begging to be freed from an undead life he never wanted and could no longer abide. The High Priest granted his request.
Without Drax's leadership, the Solnor Compact quickly lost its way. In 665, Ahlissa declared war. Winetha fell quickly, and Roland was placed under siege, saved only by an attack from the undead around Rinloru. Meanwhile a massive army moved into the disputed lands of Medegia, driving back Rel Astran forces. The remaining cities of the Compact quickly came to terms. Ahlissa supremacy in Medegia was recognized and Winetha annexed. Over the next ten years, Ahlissan diplomacy worked on Ountsy, whose lord was overthrown by a pro-Porivan coup in 671. Meanwhile an army lay siege to Rinloru, bringing and end to the lich lord and the undead scourge that had plagues the region since the days of Ivid. Finally, in 689, Rel Astra capitulated.
An offer was made to the Sea Barons, offering them a degree of autonomy in return for their loyalty. Oakenheart and the southern isles accepted, but Asperdi refused and has since become a firm enemy of Ahlissan interests.
Now Porivan's eyes are turning to the former North Kingdom. Delanic continues to profess its independence, but pro-Ahlissan factions within its walls claim annexation is only a matter of time. The Free Cities are resolute in their determination to remain free, but they are all to aware of the power the Overking can throw against them and are busy recruiting mercenaries from across the known world in preparation. Any thought of allying themselves with the Hextorites of Eastfair is out of the question.
Under Porivans patronage, the Royal Guild of Merchants has expanded their reach across the world. Ahlissan galleons now trade in land far from the Flanaess, bringing back wealth and goods unheard of. Yet no matter where they go, it seems all to often than the Nyrondals have gotten there first, and there have been many clashes between their merchants in strange cities far from home. This is mirrored with creased tension at home. Though the line of the Harp remains demilitarized, agents from both sides clash in the shadows. Ahlissan envoys tempt the loyalties of Nyronds border lords with promises of gold and protection, while spies dispatched from Rel Mord so the same on the eastern bank. There is also fear amongst the Iron League, who wonder if they will be next on the Star Kings list of conquests.
Old Aerdy West (Nyrond and its surroundings)
The last hundred years have been good ones for Nyrond. The horrors of the Greyhawk Wars are now part of an increasingly distant history, and while the past is remembered with respect, the Nyrondal people look towards the future with hope and expectation.
In 652, Queen Carline died, leaving the realm in the hands of her only son Lynwerd II. He continued the policies of his mother and grandfather and for fifteen years ruled the realm wisely and well. However, despite the best of efforst of physicians, clerics and wizards, no children were born to him and his Queen, and upon his death in 667 the throne in Rel Mord threatened to stand vacant for lack of an heir. Lynwerd II, eager to avoid the civil turmoil this might bring, spent the final years of his reign choosing a successor . Though there were any number of Rax cousins with a claim, it was his wish that the Crown of Nyrond remain firmly in the hands of direct descendants of his illustrious grandfather Lynwerd the Redeemer. To that end, he selected a most surprising candidate, Dunstan of Nariban. It was a choice that raised many eyebrows and caused no small amount of protest, for Dunstan was the grandson of the legendary adventurers Raymer and Marella. His father, Gerrold of Woodwych, was their eldest son, and a national hero in his own right, having participated as a young man in the campaigns that swept the Scarlet Brotherhood from the Azure Sea, and personally leading the assault on Narisban that brought that city under Nyrondal control. For his bravery he was rewarded with the governorship of that island city, where he'd not only distinguished himself by ruling with justice, but even took a local woman of Olman descent as his wife. This last was the main objection against Dunstan, as he spent the bulk of his childhood in the southern isles, only returning to his homeland in his teens, his mixed parentage plain to see in his features. Yet he was intelligent, honest, had proven himself a capable soldier and administrator and was a direct descendent of the Redeemer. His coronation passed without incident, and though grumbling amongst the rest of the aristocracy continued for much of his reign, he faced no serious challenges to his rule (aided in no small part by a strategic marriage to the daughter of the Duke of Korenflass.) Nyrond prospered during his realm, though there was great concern about the chaos wrought by the Palish civil wars spilling across the border, as well as the growing ambition of the Star King to the east. He also granted a charter to the Grand Trading Company of Merchant-Adventurers in Mithat, giving them the authority to oversee Nyronds growing trade with the lands beyond the Flanaess, a move that was not met with universal acclaim.
Dunstan V died in 705. Now a new King sits the throne, his son Nasran. At 21, he is the youngest monarch to rule Nyrond for almost three centuries, and those who know him say he is filled with a restless energy. A tall, muscular young man, he was educated by the finest scholars, speaks a dozen languages , and is exceptionally intelligent. Determined to leave his mark on history and raise his land to the preeminence he feels it deserves. Already he has caused a stir in chanceries across the Flanaess by marrying his sister to the new King of Furyondy. The two young monarchs, both a like in age and temperament, have begun exploring the possibility of an alliance, a truly monumental proposition.
Nasran has also proven himself as a patron of the arts and scholars. Artists and poets from across the Flanaess flock to the court in Rel Mord, bringing forth new and exciting techniques and styles. He has plans to establish a new university in his ancestral holding of Woodwych, giving generous patronage to scholars, in hopes that their discoveries will benefit the realm. Nor do his interests lie only within the borders of Nyrond itself. A quarter Olman in ancestry, he has shown a keen interest in the lands beyond the Flanaess. As a boy he eagerly read everything he could about his ancestors Raymer and Marella and their wanderings across the world. Now, as King, he meets regularly with the merchant princes who trade with those same lands, their ships crossing the boundless seas to places that even now seem more myth than real. Trade with the outer lands has brought much wealth into Nyrond, and nowhere is this more evident than in Mithat, where the population has more than tripled over the last century. Protecting this trade and expanding it is a top priority for the new King, and the leaders of the Grand Company enjoy his favor.
Rel Mord is ablaze with pageantry and brilliance, while out in the country new roads are being driven through fields and forests. New industries arise, fueling an expanding merchant class, while scholars and poets gather in taverns and coffee houses, their minds fired by a new and restless energy permeating the land. Yet troubles gather on the horizon. There are grumblings that perhaps the King is too close to the Grand Company at the expense of independent merchants who resent its near monopoly on trade with the Utter West. Some members of the high aristocracy have never accepted the fact that his father became king, and whispers in back rooms speak of what might happen should the King die without an heir, for he is yet unmarried. Unthinkable of course...but even so, calculating minds consider the possibilities.
Beyond the borders like both dangers and opportunities. The civil in the Pale didn't end so much as it burned itself out. After decades of war, the Pale is now effectively divided between Berrnians in the south and Baslettites in the north. Each faction has proclaimed its own Theocrat, and while currently exhausted from the decades of war, it is only a matter of time before they begin fighting again. Further north, the ambitions of Duke Naryenha of Tenh are a cause for concern. Having annexed a wide swath of Iuz's old empire, many wonder where Tenha ambitions might turn next. Rumors speak of a possible attack on Stonehold, revenge for the invasions of a hundred years earlier. But there is also the chance that the Duke might turn south to the gravely weakened Pale. Already his envoys have been seen in Wintershiven, and if his troops cross the Yol they will conflict with Nyrondal interests in the area.
And then there is Ahlissa. For a hundred years the Treaty of Innspa has kept the peace, yet there is little love between the two realms. And increasingly their interests are colliding. Spies from both sides duel with one another along the line of the Harp. A recent scandal in which a number of border lords were caught taking bribes from Ahlissan smugglers has caused outrage in Rel Mord. In distant lands beyond the Flanaess, Nyrondal and Ahlissa commercial interests clash, causing howls of protest in their capitals back home. Accusations of piracy, theft and in some cases outright murder are being made with growing frequency.
Moreover, the successes of the Star King in seizing the former lands of Aerdy is a cause for concern. As long as the Overkings in Kalstrand were distracted by the Solnor Compact and the former lands of the North Kingdom, Nyrond could breath easy. But now Rel Astra has fallen, and Porivan's armies are poised to cross the Flanmi. Should they succeed, his eyes might very well turn south and east. Already emissaries from Irongate and Sunndi have come to Rel Mord, seeking assurances. Onnwal, which has maintained a grudging neutrality since the days of Xavener, is considering rejoining the Iron League, something that would no doubt bring down the Overkings wrath and spark a war across the eastern Flanaess.
And so the young king and his adviser's work to protect Nyronds position. Plans are underway for an expedition to seize the port of Blue in the Pomarj, to secure the passage of Nyrondal ships through the Sea of Gearnat. Aid is being sent in secret to the Free Cities of Northern Ahlissa, and emissaries travel by night across the Flinty Hills to Bone March. Other envoys have been sent to Leukish to negotiate a royal marriage between King Nasran and the daughter of the Duke of Urnst. Should it take place, the Urnst states would be firmly tied to Nyrond, and combined with his sister's marriage to King Symeon of Furyondy, Nasran would stand at the center of a mighty alliance stretching across the central Flanaess, which will make even the Star King in Kalstrand hesitate.
And to protect Nyrondal mercantile interests beyond the Flanaess, the King has granted the Grand Company the right to raise troops as needed to protect their holdings in foreign lands, both from the Ahlissans, and if need by from local rivals...
Beyond the Flanaess
The Scarlet Brotherhood is a shadow of its former self. Its network of spies and intrigue is now largely a memory, its influence now confined to the northern half of the Tilvanot Peninsula. Attempts to rebuild its network are thwarted by neighboring lands, who still remember the horrors inflicted by their agents even a hundred years later. Despair and apathy are commonplace, and the strict discipline of the past is increasingly a distant memory.
Along the southern coast of the Tilvanot, the realm of Gaetala continues to defy all attempts to destroy it. The population is descended in large part from the rebel slaves of seventy years before, their numbers bolstered by new arrivals escaped from jungle plantations. No Suloise remain south of the Spiny Ridge. A rudimentary state is forming, but this remains a rough and brutal land where law is written at sword point more often than not. Gaeta's grandson Galda rules as best he can, but at times it seems only the fear of conquest by the Scarlet Brotherhood holds the young realm together,
As the year 706 begins, rumors from across the world arrive in the Flanaess. A new power has arisen in Hepmonaland, uniting the disparate city-states of that land. There is war in the Utter West, stories of vast armies stretching to the horizon. Traders returning eastwards speak of dragons stirring on high peaks and ancient empires clashing. In the summer of 706, a ship drops anchor in the port of Safeton, battered by a long and dangerous voyage. On board are a pair of men from a land distant and unknown to the Flanaess and seeking refuge and a new start. Among their possessions is a jar filled with a mysterious black powder which explodes with great force when touched by fire...