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    Brief History of the Knights of the Hart, Part 2 - High Forest Branch (350-460)
    Posted on Sat, May 25, 2002 by Dogadmin
    Kirt writes "In which is related the early years of the High Forest Branch, its near dissolution following the invasion of Perrenland, and its recovery under the guidance of Thiladorn Meneldor.

    Author: Kirt

    Part II - The High Forest Branch, CY 350 - 460

    by Kirt. Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

    The Early Years (CY 350 - 395)

    The King of Furyondy publicly revealed the Order of the Hart in the middle of the 4th Century CY. As has been previously discussed (1), the Order existed in secret long before then. It is known that several elves had favorable relationships with the Kings of Furyondy before the Order was made public, going back to Thrommel I, the First King. No reliable information exists for whether or not any elves were members of the Order before it was made public. At least two elves are considered strong candidates for having served in the secret Hart, however. One is a fighter-thief, and one a bard. Both were immediately knighted when the Order was made public, and both had traveled extensively in Furyondy and Veluna prior to that (2).

    When the King of Furyondy officially established the High Forest Branch of the Order, he chose twenty elves for members. These elves were of diverse backgrounds, abilities, and homelands. Although many of them had served elven nobility, most had had no formal training as knights (3). The majority hailed from the Vesve itself, but several came from Highfolk City or the Highfolk Vale. There was one Knight each from Verbobonc and from the section of the Gnarley Forest claimed by Furyondy.

    What these elves had in common was, first, that all were heroes of renown, and second, that all were favorably disposed toward Furyondy. Elven opinion about Furyondy at the time was divided. The elves agreed that King Thrommel and his descendents had been good men, and wise and just rulers. But many elves also believed that humanity was just too dangerous for elves to have extensive contact with. They felt that humans were, by their very nature, selfish, shortsighted, violent, and destructive. They preferred to deal with humanity as little as possible. Other elves were more hopeful about the future of humanity. They had noted how carefully Thrommel I had prepared his subject lands for their independence (1). They knew that there were many good humans. They believed that a policy of openness and sharing could help humanity mature. The original twenty members of the High Forest Branch were of this opinion. They accepted Furyondy’s self-appointed role as protector of the Vesve. They supported the efforts of the King to make the Lord Marshall of the Vesve his beholden subject. They were less individualistic than typical for their race, and saw the need for coordinated action between nations to preserve the freedom and goodness of the Marklands. In particular, they recognized that the continual raids by the nomads, bandits, and humanoids destabilized the human governments and spelled danger for the elves if allowed to succeed. These elven Knights sought to protect the new human nations so that they would have time to mature, advance in wisdom, and thus help to protect the elves.

    The King of Furyondy organized the High Forest Branch of the Knights not to serve their own country, but to serve his. Rather than a separate entity, he saw the elven Branch as being adjunct to the Furyondy Knights. The intended role of the elves was to assist Furyondian Knights and to serve as liaisons between the courts of the King, the Lord of the Highfolk, and those of other elven nobles. For example, the woodcraft of the elves was valuable in the wild northlands. Elven Knights made reconnaissance tours of the lands north and east of the Whyestil, checking on the “nobles” and noting where humanoids had recently settled or where bandits had made camp. The same elves later led parties of Furyondian Knights back to these locations to deal with the threats. Furyondian Knights traversing the Vesve were accompanied by an elven Knight to serve as guide, translator, and ambassador. When the King wanted advice on a secretly recovered magic item, he would ask the elven Knights to make discreet inquiries among their sorcerous kinspeople. The elves served as official channels to convey the opinions of the elven nobles to the King, and from the King back to the nobles.

    In such activities the elves passed the first decades of the existence of the High Forest Branch. The major turning point in the history of the Branch came at the end of the fourth century, with the invasion of the Hanse.

    Invasion, Crisis, Change, and Growth (CY 395 – 460)

    Furyondy and Veluna, like most feudal states, had social systems based on “primogeniture”. That is, the firstborn child was considered the principle heir (4). Other children received small cash inheritances upon maturity, generally only enough to pay for their training as warriors or priests (the only vocations suitable for nobility), or for their dowry (in the case of women). This left landless a large number of men and women who had been raised as nobility. Under the Great Kingdom, these landless warriors and parishless priests had been the driving force in expanding the empire. Their desire to gain their own holdings was easily channeled into wars of conquest. But by the end of the 4th Century CY, in contrast, Furyondy and Veluna had made no major territorial acquisitions for 150 years. Some land had always become available by bringing areas of wilderness within the nations under cultivation, but this was becoming rare. Landless knights were now common, and the Royal Army was full of highly born men and women who longed for fiefs of their own.

    This was the major force behind the invasion of the Hanse in CY 395: simple conquest to gain new lands. There were many other motivations, however. An increasing sense of nationalism recalled the days when the Hanse had paid tribute to the Great Kingdom. A kindred sense of brotherhood sought to return the numerous Oerid settlers in Schwartzenbruin to the fold of a decent, Oeridian-run country. For the Raoin priests, it was a chance to bring enlightened civilization to a backward, superstitious land. For the Heironeoun church, the martial energies of the brave Hanse nomads were being wasted in intertribal skirmishes when they could be united in glorious service to the King. An increasingly powerful merchant class, led by the priests of Zilchus, saw the prospects of profitable trade if the nomads of the Hanse could be tamed and organized.

    Merchants lent money to fund and equip the expedition, and to hire mercenaries. Landless nobles led the effort and borrowed troops from their landed relatives. Many human Knights of the Hart went along, believing that by expanding the Kingdom, they were serving the King and Archcleric (5). Some Knights were themselves landless, and in search of personal dominions. Others were there to serve as the eyes of the King, for he had ordered that the conquered peoples be treated fairly and governed justly.

    Although the Hansemen sometimes raided Veluna and Furyondy, they had always respected the demi-humans of their land and those of the Velverdyva and Sepia as well. While many of them were not good, few of them were evil. As preparations for the invasion continued, the elven Knights of the Hart protested to the King.

    “Is His Majesty truly a descendant of Thrommel?” they chided. “What has happened to the policy of freedom and self-determination?”

    “That policy applies”, the King responded, “to civilized Oeridfolk. Not to the barbarian Flan. Once the land has been civilized it may petition for its independence.”

    This simple, racist answer masked the King’s frustration at being unable to control his own subjects. Although he could see little wrong with the conquest of the fertile plains around Lake Quag, he doubted that the invasion would go as easily as promised. But the leaders of the planned invasion were free men and not even his vassals. There was little he could do to stop the invasion, aside from ordering the Hart not to assist and arresting certain Army commanders for desertion when they had overused their leaves. That would not stop the invasion; it would only cost more Ferrond lives. Had he opposed the invasion, his subjects would have clamored for an alternative target of conquest. Nothing in the north was worth controlling; nobles had been free to settle there for decades and few had chosen to. Expansion in the west would bring war with Keoland, and in the east with Nyrond. In the south, the Selintan (which contained the City of Greyhawk) would have been a great prize. But the King knew it would be folly to oppose the current Landgraf, the Archmage Zagig Yragerne (6). The King accepted the planned invasion as the best solution for the social problems created by primogeniture and a lengthy peace.

    The King’s response to their entreaties did not surprise the more cynical elvenfolk. But it shocked the elves of the Order of the Hart, who had been confident of their ability to make the King see reason. They had pledged their service to Furyondy in hopes of bettering the humans, and now they saw even their monarch fall prey to the idea of war as the simplest solution to a complex problem. Several elven Knights resigned their commissions as soon as they had heard of the King’s words.

    The joint invasion force passed without incident through the Velverdyva Valley and out onto the plains of the Quagflow. It met the forces of the Flan one at a time, in scattered bands, easily besting them all in its march on Schwartzenbruin. The magics of the High Priestess of Beory were powerful, but the city soon fell and she became the last of her line. By season’s end the invaders held all of the lower plains and they spent the winter pouring over maps, drawing the boundaries of their new baronies and bishoprics (7, 8).

    In the spring of CY 396, conquest turned to occupation as the Furyondian and Velunese noblemen began to mark out their fiefs and enserf the natives. The Flan priests and religious sites proved to be centers of a guerilla resistance movement among the conquered people. More elves resigned from the Hart when the new rulers began to tear down the monolithic stone circles. Still more left in later years, when the Velunese Knights of the Hart began escorting Flan priests back to Mitrik in chains (7). By CY 400, when the occupation was sundered, there were just five elves remaining in the High Forest Branch of the Knights of the Hart. It was rumored among the elves that one of the Knights who had forsaken the Order was instrumental in organizing elven scouts in the region of the upper Velverdyva. These scouts provided Perren with the reconnaissance information he needed to strike so effectively at the invaders and liberate his homeland (8).

    After the occupation had ended, the five remaining members of the High Forest Branch met privately with the King. They explained that they remained his loyal subjects, but believed that the Branch was doomed in its current form. So long as the Branch was subservient to Furyondy, the King would find no new members among the elves. The elves counseled the King to declare the independence of the Branch and allow the elves to recruit members and conduct missions without his direct supervision. After some reflection, the King agreed. He had little to lose and it seemed the only way to retain the valuable services of the elves. The King named one of the remaining elves (Thiladorn Meneldor) (9) to the position of Grand Master of the now independent Branch (10).

    Thiladorn had great plans for the Branch and he immediately set them into motion. He divided the four knights under him in two regions, based on their homelands. These became the Heartlands House, based in Flamingflower (for the time being), and the Highfolk House, based in Highfolk City. He charged the members with recruiting new knights and wooing back the old ones. Rather than a simple band of heroes, Thiladorn’s vision was to have each House with its own resources, income, troops, and knights-in-training. His goal was to create a force capable of defending elven interests in the region, as well as supporting Furyondy and the other states of the Marklands. His Branch would be capable of coordinated action across all the lands of the elves, whereas the local forces of the elven nobles had always been parochial. He began to solicit funds from elven and human nobles for his plans.

    As Thiladorn’s vision unfolded, the elves of the Branch continued to serve the King. They renewed their previous activity of monitoring nomads, bandits, and humanoids in the Northern Reaches. When the Short War with Keoland came (CY 438) (11), eight of the then twelve Branch members defended Verbobonc when the city was under siege. The elves appreciated Furyondy’s defense of Veluna, and of the demi-human communities in the Kron Hills and Lorridges. They were disappointed that Furyondy’s main objective in the war was the capture of Bissel (11).

    The annexation of Bissel meant that the Marklands once again shared a border with the Baklunish west. Thus, they were once again subject to yearly raids by Baklunish warbands. The elven Knights served as guides and scouts for the Furyondian forces deployed in Bissel.

    In these and similar missions the elves of the High Forest Branch served for sixty years, until the arrival of the Witch Queen and her demon-spawn son.

    Footnotes for Part II
    (1) See Part I of this series, on CanonFire!

    (2) The fighter-thief remains a Knight of the Hart to this day; the bard resigned his commission after the invasion of Perrenland.

    (3) DM’s should select appropriate classes and levels based upon their campaigns. My personal campaign uses a mix of 1st and 2nd edition classes with level limits as in Unearthed Arcana. In addition, elves in my campaign may progress without limit in four classes that are available only to elves and certain half-elves. Of these, the arathalian class has been described on Canonfire! In my campaign, the twenty original members of the High Forest Branch were Fighter-Mages (seven), arathalian (four), faroth (three), nolengol (two), and one each fighter-thief, bard, fighter-cleric (priest of Corellon), and cleric-ranger (priestess of Solonor).

    (4) Usually this was the firstborn son, even if an elder sister existed. The requisite for land-ownership was bearing arms in the service of the King. Occasionally, if the eldest child was a female who had trained as a warrior, she would be the primary heir.

    (5) “There is no love lost between [the Knights of the Hart] and…the rulers of Perrenland.” A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, p. 80

    (6) “[The descendants of the Landgraf of Selintan] ruled a growing domain which rose to considerable heights c. 375 CY under the rule of Zagig Yragerne (the so called Mad Archmage)…it came as no surprise when it was reported that Zagig Yragerne had mysteriously vanished after years of rule when no change or aging could be detected.”
    A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, pp. 23, 25.

    (7) For a more detailed account of the invasion and occupation, see my article “A
    Religious History of the Hanse”, on CanonFire!

    (8) “Attempts at expansion into Perrenland by Furyondy…were vigorously resisted by the inhabitants…These attempts…brought the various clans together in a loose association under the banner of the strongest of their number, Perren, c. 400 CY.” A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, p. 30.

    (9) In my campaign, Thiladorn was a ninth-level arathalian at the time and is currently 11th level. His name, in the Common tongue, means “Beech trees shining with the radiance of the heavens”.

    (10) Canon is ambiguous about the existence of rank and internal divisions among the Knights of the Hart. A Guide to the World of Greyhawk and From the Ashes do not specifically mention whether the Knights have leaders or not. The Marklands (p.11) says specifically “The Knights of the Heart have no formal leaders, and each knight is free to act alone or with other knights as their conscience and honor direct.” However, Greyhawk Wars speaks of a Lord Throstin as the leader of the Furyondy Knights, and Castle Hart gives detail of another leader.

    (11) A Guide to the World of Greyhawk, p. 19.

    Note: Furyondy"
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