Living Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Aerdy East, Part 4
|Posted on Mon, July 12, 2004 by Farcluun
|CruelSummerLord writes "
At last, from Rel Astra to Sunndi...
Living Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Aerdy East, Part 4
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REL ASTRA AND THE SOLNOR COMPACT"
The city of Rel Astra, the first grand city that the Flanaess had seen since the Migrations, has always been the heartland of Aerdi culture, for good or for ill. Putting even Greyhawk and Dyvers to shame with its magnificient splendor, being the artistic and cultural mainstay of Aerdy long after the imperial capital was moved to Rauxes. It stands as an eternal monument to both the monumental successes and catastrophic failures of the Aerdi people.
The city contributed its share of men and wealth to the war effort against the hated Golden League, and Lord Drax himself took the field, using spell and mace to destroy all who stood before him. The great successes of Aerdy’s military power brought enormous wealth, prestige, and glory to the old city, although it too would suffer when the army’s command structure fell apart during the wars, and the Great Kingdom collapsed into anarchy. The city was put to siege by renegade soldiers bent on looting it, and Drax was another of those unfortunate souls who would receive the “undying gift” of being transformed into an animus. Both the city and its ruler survived these disasters in good shape, though they severed all ties to the disintegrating kingdom in fury and disgust at the infighting that was tearing the realm apart.
Now fully independent, Rel Astra has gathered the smaller cities of the Aerdy coasts of Roland and Ounsty under its banner. Many of those who suffered in the collapse of the Great Kingdom, rich and poor alike, traveled to the city, bringing their wealth, talent and magic with them. Drax adamantly refused to join either the Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy or the United Kingdom of Ahlissa, distrusting and hating both overkings almost as much as he hated his old liege, Ivid V.
Rel Astra played a major role in the affairs of the Flanaess when adventurers from the west came calling in search of the fabled Crook of Rao. This holy artifiact, used to banish all the lower planar horrors summoned by the forces of evil in an event known as the Flight of Fiends, had fallen into the possession of the Fiend-Sage, the bestial demon who acts as counselor to Drax. How he got his hands on it is unknown, but he managed to study it and ward himself against its effects when most of its vile kin were banished from the Flanaess.
Society and Culture: As one might expect, the people of Rel Astra, particularly the fabulously wealthy nobility, consider themselves the wellspring of all the ideas and art of the Flanaess. Their home is thought to be the birthplace of modern civilization, seeing as how the empire that sprang from its bosom encompassed half the known world, changing it forever. Certainly the city’s art galleries, music halls, museums, magic academies, and architectural wonders are unrivalled by any other city in the Flanaess, and its people have wealth to rival their counterparts in Greyhawk and Dyvers.
For all its refinement and charm, however, Rel Astra is still a city of the Aerdi, and their beliefs permeate society as a whole. The wealthy elites, from every Celestial House, endlessly wage war on one another in games of diplomacy and wit, using whatever means necessary to discredit their opponents and gain the respect (and fear) of their peers. Their social functions are filled with disdain, contempt and nastiness, as each social clique tries to expand its standing at the expense of its enemies. Debauchery, drugs, orgies, and other disgusting practices are common among these people.
Despite the rot at the highest levels of society, the everyday people enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, provided they are Aerdi and were born in Rel Astra. The laws are designed to blatantly favor the wealthy and powerful, with few civil rights accorded to poorer folk by comparision. Slavery is accepted as a legitimate business, and any person who does not own at least three slaves is considered to be of the lower class. There is a strict hierarchical pecking order in the city-the wealthy dominate the middle-class, and both of these dominate the poor.
On the other hand, however, the people as a whole are surprisingly tolerant of others, given that so many different races, religions and philosophies pass through the city’s gates on a daily basis. It is fairly easy for even the poorest of adventurers and peasants to enter into the city’s Foreign Quarter, or even to travel to the High Quarter if they are so inclined.
Anyone, whether human or demihuman, wizard or warrior, can make long-lasting friendships and valuable contacts among both the upper and lower classes, and enter into social interaction with them easily. Despite the aforementioned social hierarchy, transition between its various levels can be done by anyone who shows determination and brass, provided they are accepted and sponsored by wealthy elites in good standing.
Military Structure: Rel Astra can field an impressive phalanx of cavalry and foot, roughly one thousand of each. Several thousand levies and militia can also be summoned, of surprisingly good training and morale. All races are represented in the armed forces, fulfilling their expected roles.
While the Astran navy is no match for that of the Sea Barons, it is most impressive nonetheless, easily the equal of Irongate and the superior of Nyrond. The Astran elites can and will pay vast sums of money for excellent ships from any naval power, whether the Sea Barons, Sea Princes, or others.
Ruler: Lord Drax appeared before the wars as a man who seemed very thin and sickly-he could suffer from dizziness and coughing spasms if he overexerted himself, though his magic alleviated the worst of these. While tall and imposing, with thick black hair arranged in a short but elegant cut, he was very slender, moving about excitedly, almost feverishly.
In spite of his physical frailty, he had a sharp and cunning mind, and could wield a mace with great skill, using magic to strike blows with the force of a giant. He enjoyed playing up his weakness, using it to lull enemies into a false sense of security, and to make rival nobles come to false conclusions about him. While not averse to blowing enemies apart with a fireball, he vastly preferred subtle spells involving invisibility, illusion, ventriloquism, or pushing in a deceitful manner, making his enemies outthink themselves.
Despite his own private amusement at such things, he only used them in his private life, in the games with other nobles. He spoke directly and bluntly to his counselors when ruling, being able to perfectly balance his own personal interests with the wishes and desires of the various factions under him. He survived as ruler because everyone wanted him as the head, knowing full well that if he were to be replaced, his successor would likely not take heed of their wishes so well.
Drax was not without compassion; he knew the advantages of giving certain benefits to the people in order to maintain his hold on power. He could and did indulge in acts of charity and kindness for the poor-though he never let such things undermine his reputation as a strong leader. He did not hesitate to crush the loudest dissenters and rebels mercilessly, only offering clemency and his ear to less-vocal associates who behaved themselves.
Once he has transformed into an animus, Lord Drax’s mood will have soured. While he can still restrain his temper, he no longer attends many public functions, knowing full well that displaying his volatile mood in public could cause problems for him down the road. That said, he takes a twisted delight in scaring people with his newfound powers. Using his thin limbs to perform impossible feats of strength, terrifying people with his touch, and commanding mindless undead as his personal servants are all things he does, along with his traditional activities, to put people off their guard and make them think twice about crossing him.
Foreign Relations: Rel Astra dominates Ountsy and Roland, the cities it took under its wing when forming the Solnor Compact after the collapse of the Great Kingdom. While they have a certain amount of autonomy for local matters, it is Rel Astra that makes the decisions concerning all foreign affairs. As such, these two junior partners have a certain distaste for the larger city, though they both know they now rely on it economically and militarily.
The Sea Barons are the city’s primary trading partner, though neither realm holds much affection for the other. They are allies only by necessity, as they both seem to be surrounded by enemies. Contact between the courts of the two realms is minimal at best. Before the Greyhawk Wars, Rel Astra was a valued partner of Lendore Isle in both trade and politics, and the city has become the new home of most of the Lendore exiles. The See of Medegia, when it existed, was another valued ally in the continual power struggles of the Great Kingdom.
Other than in the Grandwood, Rel Astra is surrounded by realms that it does not trust, and are only related to it on matters of trade, and not of diplomacy. The Scarlet Brotherhood’s designs on Rel Astra are known to Drax, as the advantages the Scarlet Sign would have in controlling the city. Ahlissa, the Lordship of the Isles, and the states of the Iron League are all deeply distruted by Rel Astra, and it regards Northern Aerdy and the barbarians of the far north as nothing less than deadly enemies, though these realms still trade with it.
Most of the good people of the Grandwood have no love for the hedonistic culture of Rel Astra, although they can and do act as allies of the city when the situation requires it. Ahlissa has claimed the wood as its own, and the free peoples therein are counting on Rel Astra for support against them. Other than this, the two realms have little contact, apart from trade.
SCARLET BROTHERHOOD, EMPIRE OF
The Scarlet Brotherhood were, before the Greyhawk Wars, a peaceful, introverted power on the distant southern Tilvanot Peninsula, west of the Lordship of the Isles. It was inhabited by a race of Suel humans who pursued a strict monastic discipline, the workings of which they did not reveal to outsiders. Seemingly a peaceful nation of farmers who called themselves the Scarlet Brotherhood, they conducted grain trade with Sunndi and enterprising merchants of the Flanaess’s naval powers, but otherwise seemed to have no interest in the outside world.
This, of course, was the image that the Brotherhood wanted to cultivate. In 573 CY, they began sending ambassadors to the realms of the south, offering their services as diplomats and trading partners to governments both good and evil. They and their followers wove their way into the societies of these nations, until such time as they were ready to strike.
Their goal was simple: To make all realms of the Flanaess dominated by the Suel, and to make them pledge allegiance to the Great and Hidden Empire of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Ruled and controlled by the Suel people, the new empire would be a re-creation of the ancient Suel Imperium, destroyed in the Twin Cataclysms. The Suel would reign supreme-all other races would be used as slaves and second-class citizens, fit only to serve their superiors.
The Brotherhood used assassination, social stigma, and outright invasion to realize their twisted dreams. Bloodthirsty savages from the southern jungles, exotic tropical monsters, and strictly disciplined monks consisted of the physical attacking force. Realms hard-pressed by war against other enemies would also have to deal with the Brotherhood’s assault on their towns and cities.
Those agents of the Brotherhood who had come to positions of power in their assigned nations used much more subtle means to convert their realms to the Brotherhood’s agenda. They used their power and influence to try and make the country’s Suel population its ruling class, before treacherously aligning it with the imperial homeland in the south.
The Sea Princes were swiftly defeated by the Brotherhood’s armies and assassins, with sympathetic Sueloise taking over the government in a matter of weeks. The Lordship of the Isles was seized in a bloodless coup, as the Suel there were quite willing to listen to the Brotherhood’s honeyed words. Sunndi, Onnwal and Idee would all have been seized, but for the murderous invasion of the Great Kingdom that was as much a danger to the Brotherhood as the native peoples of these realms. Lord Mayor Cobb Darg of Irongate, the only ruler to realize the true nature of the Brotherhood’s agents, cleverly outwitted them.
The Sea Princes and the Lordship of the Isles are now fully Suel-controlled nations, ostensibly independent, but ultimately answering to the Brotherhood and its capital of Hesuel Ilshar. Undercover agents of the Scarlet Sign continue their work in Sunndi, Urnst, Ahlissa, the Sea Barons, the realms of the northern barbarians, and elsewhere, a secret network whose tendrils continue to expand further and further into the Flanaess…
Society and Culture: The Scarlet Brotherhood is not averse to using direct armed invasion to take over a realm, though it prefers subtle takeover, something that is less costly and far more effective in the long run.
Subverting a realm begins by making contact with those Suel of any given realm, and offering them a chance at true power, and to reclaim “their racial birthrights.” Those Sueloise who responded favorable to the Brotherhood would then act to gain commercial and political power in their realms, attempting to change the nation’s alignment and laws to favor the Suel, making that race the country’s ruling class.
Eventually, with the Suel in control of the realm’s government and economy, the Brotherhood would tie the new realm to the homeland of the Tilvanot Peninsula and the imperial capital of Hesuel Ilshar in the south. This process could take years, but the Brotherhood are patient…endlessly patient.
Taking over a realm this way is not a question of tearing up its established social structure and political system-rather, the goal is to make those Sueloise who work for the Brotherhood the realm’s ruling elites. This transition could be made very smoothly If the Sueloise dominate a given country and are open to what the Brotherhood-the Lordship of the Isles, for example, became a Scarlet Realm in a matter of months, the population willingly accepting their new position in the Great and Hidden Empire. If resistance is offered by the non-human, non-Suel population, then the Brotherhood’s armies can be dispatched to put paid to them.
In the Sea Princes, the Brotherhood had murdered those princes of the “wrong” races, and those Suel lords who would not cooperate, and giving their titles and lands to Suel people who had aided the Brotherhood in its takeover. The Brotherhood’s savages were then dispatched to defeat the Sea Princes’ army and cement the Brotherhood’s hold over the realm.
If Nyrond were taken over, then the realm would remain a kingdom with a centralized monarchy that wielded strong control over the feudal lords; but only those of Sueloise descent could be king or duke in this regime. If the Pale were taken over, then the religious, dogmatic structure of the state would remain, but Pholtus would be replaced by a Sueloise god, and only people of that race could serve in the ruling church. If Greyhawk were taken over, then only the Suel could be members of the Directing Oligarchy, guildmasters, high priests, or wealthy nobles, even if the basic form of the government remained unchanged. All non-Suel would be relegated to the lower classes of these realms.
Ironically, the Brotherhood accepts visitors and traders of non-Suel descent within its realms, but these cannot expect to have the same legal protections that a Sueloise visitor expect. Native non-Suel are not necessarily treated harshly and brutally (though they can be, as in the case of the Sea Princes), but their Suel masters can do almost anything they like to them. The basic legal code of a given realm will remain, only modified to favor the Suel elites over other humans or demihumans.
The Suel monk who rules any given realm as king, prince, mayor, etc. has almost unlimited authority in his realm, subject to his country’s laws, of course. But they must obey any and all commands of the Father of Obedience based in Hesuel Ilshar. The Father usually does not issue orders relating to national policy-these commands have more to do with the work of the Brotherhood as it relates to foreign powers and enemies. The Father may direct a nation to rally its forces in support of another realm, or to send assassins to kill the ruler of an unconquered realm, but he would not issue commands related to trade or social government solely within the nation.
The actual homeland of the Brotherhood, on the Tilvanot Peninsula, is fully governed by the Scarlet Sign; only members of that organization may serve in the imperial government based in Hesuel Ilshar. This government dispatches representatives to other cities and villages, such as Kro Terlep and Ekul, which are ruled by lords appointed by the central government, although these lords need not be Brotherhood members.
Local rulers are charged with overseeing grain shipments back to Hesuel Ilshar, collecting taxes, and enforcing the central government’s laws. They may not make their own laws or violate the orders of the Scarlet monks who speak for the government-they are simply local administrators, much like the sheriffs of certain northern kingdoms. They may issue commands to the citizens of their towns, but these may be overridden at any time by Scarlet monks who come from the main government.
Canon describes the organization of the Brotherhood itself well enough, but how does this fit into government? Each level of the Brotherhood’s hierarchy dominates the one below it. Thus, Scarlet thieves, or “cousins” can only command local lords. Assassins, or “nephews” can command both. Monks may command all three. The Elder Cousin and Foster Nephew also act as links from the elites among the monks to their own orders. (This system only applies to the homeland-none of these have anything to do with foreign nations under the Brotherhood’s control.)
The order of the monks, and their leader, the Father of Obedience, are the final arbiters of authority in the homeland-they can do almost anything they wish in ordinary civic life, and are the ones charged with the day-to-day affairs of running the Homeland. They answer only to the Father of Obedience himself.
The Father of Obedience, in short, has absolute power over anyone and everyone within his empire. While even the kings and princes of conquered realms, and the monks who rule the homeland, must heed his commands, he usually concerns himself with furthering the Brotherhood’s agenda as a whole, rather than wasting his time with national administration or policy decisions. He is the nerve center who considers all the Brotherhood’s plots and secrets, how each affects the other, and what measures of force or trickery are needed to take over a realm which is not yet under the Brotherhood’s yoke.
All of the above, however, should not lead the reader to conclude that the Brotherhood is free of internatl strife, power struggles, personal greed and ambition, corruption, religious and family feuds, and jealousy; just like any other organization, secret or real. This can and is exploited by daring adventurers who oppose the Scarlet Sign’s activities; its undercover agents are not guaranteed of success!
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that the Scarlet Brotherhood as a whole do not worship Dread Tharizdun. It is a darkly amusing twist of irony that the Brotherhood is feared by its enemies to be worshipping what is, in fact its greatest threat. Apart from internal conflicts, the Brotherhood’s worst enemy is the Black Brotherhood, a secret sect within the organization devoted to destroying everything, and returning all to Tharizdun’s dark void. The Black Brotherhood’s members have no interest in a Suel empire; they pretend to be working for their red-robed masters, but in truth they are trying to subvert and sabotage the Scarlet Sign, to acquire its powers and resources for its own ends.
Military Structure: The Brotherhood’s armies of jungle savages, humanoids, and giants are usually poorly equipped and trained, but this matters not to their red-robed masters. The main attack forces of the Brotherhood are usually meant as cannon fodder, to put down resistance by non-Suel in a conquered realm. They also serve to distract the authorities of a realm that the Brotherhood is in the midst of conquering, and are worthless in a conventional tactical war; even the secondary units of Idee and Onnwal did quite well against them. The Brotherhood expects them to die en masse, absorbing the strength of its enemies while its true agents work behind the scenes…
Ruler: Korenth Zan, the Grand Master of Flowers of the Scarlet Brotherhood, is a thin, gaunt, manikin-like thing. His body and limbs are elongated far beyond what any normal man should have, and his skin is as white as freshly-fallen snow. A thick mane of milk-white hair falls down to his feet, seeming to wrap his narrow, sunken face in an ethereal mist. Twin eyes of purple flame seem to simmer from within his skull, twinkling with an inner light that magnifies his aura of ancient times and forbidden knowledge.
Zan is the last living member of the old royal house of the Suel Imperium. His goal is to re-create his dead empire, and ensure that it lasts literally forever. Totally convinced of the supremacy of the Suel, he believes they are the chosen people of the gods, meant to dominate the whole of the Oerth. He has no problems with allowing his subject states to govern themselves and maintain their own cultural mores to a large degree, though in all cases the Suel and their ideals must be dominant.
A refined artist and gardener, Zan is a master at gardening and tending the rare plants of the southlands. He also enjoys playing as many as six games of chess with his underlings at once. His incredible intelligence and cold, calm memory allows him to think as many as forty moves ahead of each of his opponents, allowing him to win every time. When he desires to meditate in peace, he will indulge on his hookah, inhaling the fumes of ancient plants, brought from the ruins of his empire, that are otherwise lost to the world. Any who dare disturb him during these rests are subjected to tortures that would make even the crueles Stoneholder retch.
Cold as ice, he never betrays a single emotion or overt reaction, always speaking in the same flat monotone. Usually speaking only Ancient Sueloise, he will not communicate in any other tongue, using magic to make himself known to those of other races, on those occasions when he deigns to talk to them. His memory is literally perfect, enhanced by magic-he can recall, word for word, the words on every page of a book, even if he read it centuries ago. Zan, quite literally, never forgets.
Zan gives authority to his underlings as described above, but he has the power to do anything he wishes in his domains at any time, regardless of what the consequences of his actions may be. His word, quite literally, is god-given law in the lands of the Scarlet Brotherhood. He maintains this authority through the ruthless execution of his enemies, and his personal charisma and magnetism. Neither of these, however, can prevent the feuds and schisms between individual members that plague the Brotherhood. Nonetheless, he is, quite literally, the great mind of the Brotherhood and its actions-he cannot be removed from power, save through death.
Foreign Relations: Prior to the Greyhawk Wars, the Scarlet Brotherhood had no diplomatic relations with any other state, save the occasional trading missions with Sunndi and Dullstrand. Explorers and traders who came to their lands were welcomed and treated fairly, if indifferently. Places like Ekul and Hesuel Ilshar were closed to foreigners, with only Kro Terlep open to them.
With the Brotherhood’s true colors exposed, it has become the avowed enemy of every other Flanaess state ruled by non-Suel humans or demihumans. Its client states of the Lordship of the Isles and the Sea Princes were its only major allies and trading partners, though it had contact and relations with the Frost and Snow Barbarians.
Other realms with a major Suel population, such as Urnst, Ratik, the Ice Barbarians or the Sea Barons, also have sympathizers within their borders who act as the Brotherhood’s agents. Despite their Suel populations, however, both the Sea Barons and the Ice Barbarians loathe the Scarlet Sign with a passion.
All other states and realms are considered to be the Brotherhoods’ enemies, and they allow no members of the Scarlet Brotherhood within their territories, harshly punishing any who are caught. Despite this, daring merchants and nobles still have contact and trade with the Brotherhood, whose cities are now fully open to all. Even non-Suel are allowed, though these are subject to continual harassment and discrimination, as one might expect.
SEA BARONS, DOMINION OF
The island holdings of the Sea Barons have long been a haven for those pirates and freebooters of the eastern seas, acting as the de facto naval power of the Great Kingdom. They acted as privateers for the Great Kingdom for decades, plundering the trade of the Iron League and clashing with their traditional enemiesin the Lordship of the Isles. They also battled independent pirate gangs on the Solnor coast who received aid from the Lordship, or harassed the Great Kingdom’s own shipping. They became very wealthy through their monopoly on the Great Kingdom’s trade, and also in their battles against the barbarians of the north and their enemies to the south.
The Sea Barons were little touched by the Greyhawk Wars, as their fleets did not take part in it, except for some clashing with the Snow Barbarians and the Lordship of the Isles. They did not suffer so much at the hands of the Scarlet Brotherhood as did their enemies in the Iron League, although the Brotherhood’s attacks caused them to lose control of the seaport of Vernport on Leastisle, the smallest of the government-controlled realms. In an unfortunate incident, Sencho Foy, the High Admiral of the Barons, choked to death on a fishbone lodged in his throat. His nephew Basmajian Arras took over as the new leader, and managed to prevent the rest of his realm from fallng into anarchy.
In the post-war years, the Sea Barons have been among the first to begin exploration of the Flanaess as a whole. A large flotilla, traveling from 586 to 589 CY, is exploring the vast southern Solnor, eschewing the realm of Fire-land in the northern waters, now being colonized by the Snow Barbarians. The peoples and powers they will have made contact with are truly astonishing, and some whisper at the vast power the Barons may acquire through interaction with these new nations…
Society and Culture: The Aerdi made much more of a cultural impact on the Sea Barons than they did on the Lordship of the Isles to the south. The nation’s population remained mostly Suel, though they quickly adopted the Aerdi model of a strict hierarchy and social order. Women and demihumans were suppressed, and the Great Kingdom’s slave trade was extended to these realms.
In modern times, however, the strict social order degenerated into a realm with an established pecking order similar to that of a pirate band or thieves’ guild, where advancement was guaranteed to those who could kill their superiors, take over the vacant positions, and hold them against all future comers. The various gangs of pirates, thieves, nobles, and other scalawags all squabble for control in this social order, which has a very high turnover rate due to the constant murders, duels for control, and intrigues for power that go on. The laws of the realm are very fluid and vary from island to island. The rulings of those in charge are also arbitrary and ad hoc, with no thought given to legal precedent whatever.
Despite all this chaos, there are certain conventions that have been established over time. The realm is divided into four separate islands, each ruled by a noble family. Each one works with the other freely when debating matters of national importance, such as the navy, relations with other countries, matters of foreign trade, and so forth. However, each family tends strictly to its own domestic affairs, having no say in how any of the other families rule their own island holdings.
Despite the power-grabbing going on in each island realm concerning local and commercial matters, every faction knows better than to disobey the rulings of their island’s noble family. The families’s authority in their islands is almost unlimited, being checked only by the most influential commoners and the needs of the nation as a whole, which can override any domestic considerations the families may have.
Below all the squabbling are the simple fishermen and common folk of the islands. These people are actually fairly well-off, compared to their counterparts in the Great Kingdom proper, and many of them will enter into the web of intrigue that dominates their society as soon as they are able. Those families who do not wish to get involved in such affairs, and simply tend to their boats or shops, will happily serve all sides in a given conflict. They will also work with whichever faction gains power over them, serving honestly and devotedly. If their masters should fall, they will just as easily shift their loyalties to the new people in power.
One of the most interesting conventions, then, that has developed in the realm of the Sea Barons has been to leave the “innocent” common folk out of the realm’s power struggles. The commoners, in turn, will willingly serve whoever their master is, provided he treats them as he is expected to.
Military Structure: Before the Greyhawk Wars, it was a matter of fierce debate among naval experts as to whether the Sea Princes or Sea Barons had the finest navy in the Flanaess, though the Princes were more generally supported in these debates. Now, with the fall of that realm, the Sea Barons are the undisputed naval masters of the Flanaess.
The island domain of Oakenhart offers the finest wood for shipbuilding known to man, and the Barons put it to good use. They have constructed what is far and away the fastest, strongest, best crewed, best captained, and best provided naval force in all of Oerik, and quite possibly all of Oerth. While the Snow Barbarians are also great seafarers, and conduct regular raids against the Barons, the latter win almost every face-to-face naval battle they wage against their northern enemies. Raids against the Sea Barons by the barbarians has declined of late, due to the overwhelming success of the Sea Barons in defending against them.
Ruler: Lord High Admiral Sencho Foy was the stereotypical pirate; rude, crude, and vulgar. Tall and broad-shouldered, with greasy, tangled black hair and a matching beard, Foy had a hook on his left hand, a peg below his right knee, and enough scars against man and monster alike for a hundred of his crew. He walked with a rolling gait acquired from decades spent aboard ship, and he perpetually reeked of grog and sea salt. Known to wield a cutlass, a falchion, or his hooked left hand with frightful accuracy and skill in combat, he was a dangerous opponent with them all. Foy also had a wide variety of tricks and techniques for fighting everything from sahuagin to giant squid.
The High Admiral was greatly feared by all, even his fellow nobles, for he had a fearsome temper and a morbid sense of humor, often making a show out of his cuss-filled sailor talk, or his disgusting eating habits. He would invite people to laugh at him, and then gut them with his hook in a fury. Quick to anger and not so quick to forgive, he would personally keelhaul anyone who dared to steal from him or insult him to his face.
These were his habits when drunk on grog or rum-when sober, he was much more eloquent and even civil, though he remained as wicked a scalawag as any in all his realm. In his more lucid moments, he would write rousing seafarer’s poetry, and go for solitary swims between the islands of his realm using his cloak of the manta ray. While a savage brute, he was also known to dump excess amounts of piratical treasure, usually copper and silver, at orphanages and poorhouses…in secret, of course.
Basmarjian Arras, Sencho Foy’s nephew on his wife’s side, took over his uncle’s realm after the latter choked to death on a fishbone during the Greyhawk Wars. While only in his early to mid twenties, he is already a master swordsman, able to use a cutlass in one hand and a falchion in the other with perfect ease. Shorter and slimmer than his late uncle, Arras has a noble and aristocratic air around him, of genteel authority and honor, even if he is no better than most of his kinsmen.
Sencho Foy would freely drink with and distritbute plunder to his underlings, gaining their loyalty and friendship. Arras, on the other hand, has dramatically increased the plunder taxes on the pirates in his realm-they must now turn over half of all their plunder to the national treasury, in addition to all the old income taxes and trading tariffs used by his predecessors. This causes no small amount of resentment among the captains, but most of them pay anyway. The new High Admiral is the lover of a very powerful sorceress, who derives great pleasure from killing wayward captains and destroying their ships with fire and lightning. Diviners in his employ also inform him of any cheats or holdouts.
While highly unpopular among his people, Arras is obeyed and feared by all those in his reach-he is, if anything, even more cruel and mean-spirited than his uncle. He personally tortures those who cross him, and he lacks the charitable instincts towards the poor that made Foy popular among the underclass. He is known to enjoy a debauched, hedonistic lifestyle to excess, rivaling that of the nobles of Eastfair.
Foreign Relations: Although the Sea Barons are hardly loved or admired by all those on the Solnor Coast, they are regarded as valuable trading partners and guardians of the trade routes nonetheless. Before the Greyhawk Wars, they conducted sea trade through the Great Kingdom and also carried on commerce with Keoland, the Sea Princes, and many of the states of the Nyr Dyv. In a post-Wars setting, they will also have opened trade with Nyrond and the Iron League states, as these realms are now the enemies of the Lordship of the Isles.
The Lordship, as one might expect, is the greatest enemy of the Sea Barons. The Lordship has not yet recovered from the humiliation of the Battle of Medegia, and they clash with the Barons endlessly as a result. The Ice and Snow Barbarians raid the Sea Barons annually, although they have suffered several embarrassing defeats as of late, and their raiding has become more frequent.
As for the Spindrift/Lendore Isles, the Sea Barons traded freely with Lendore Isle, though the latter never really trusted the Barons. The new elven holy ground in the Spindrifts is distrusted by the Barons, and they avoid it.
SPINDRIFT ISLES or LENDORE ISLES, DOMAIN OF
The Spindrift Isles were long one of the most isolated realms in the Flanaess. Said to be settled and ruled by elves, these islands played no part in the larger politics of Aerdy, except to repel its invasions, and the assaults of the Snow Barbarians, the Sea Barons, or the Lordship of the Isles. No trade was conducted by the elves, and they had no diplomatic relations with any humans.
Only one band of humans who traveled to the Spindrifts was ever heard from again-a small band of refugees led by the mighty wizard Lendore. Travelling from the ruins of the Suel Imperium, Lendore convinced the Council of Five, the elven rulers of the islands, to give him the southernmost isle as a home for his people, called Lendore Isle in memory of its founder. These humans then established contact with their neighbors, protected from attacks by the same magical defenses used by the elves, with whom they maintained friendly, if distant, ties.
When the Greyhawk Wars struck, the humans of Lendore Isle suffered a terrible loss. Elven clerics of Sehanine Moonbow had toppled the Council of Five. They were preparing to convert the elven islands to become holy ground for the race as a whole, a base from which the church and the People of the Testing could carry out their self-appointed mission to reunite the elven race. The people of Lendore Isle had to leave the only home they had ever known, with the elves caring nothing for where they would go or how they would survive.
It was a bloodless coup, the elves using powerful illusion and dream magic to overcome resistance. Many of the humans escaped through the Gate of Glass, a magical shrine created by Lendore before his death, but the elves eventually closed this portal. They then exiled the humans to the surrounding realms, being allowed to keep only those belongings they could carry on their backs.
The exiles of Lendore Isle now nurture a bitter hatred for the People of the Testing and the church of Sehanine, being forced to eke out a living in Rel Astra, the Sea Barons, Northern Aerdy, or Ahlissa. Some elves who were expelled from the islands for siding with the humans joined them. Angry at their kinsmen, they set about trying to track down the deposed Council of Five, allying with the humans in an effort to retake their homeland. They have sent envoys to Celene pleading for aid, although the response of the gray elven kingdom has apparently not yet come.
As for the Spindrift Isles themselves, they were collectively renamed the Lendore Isles, and became surrounded by mystical fogs and bizarre illusions. Only the elves’ own ships could pass through these barriers without harm, all others simply finding themselves back where they started after they emerged from the fog. Some enterprising elves from other realms attempted to make contact with the now-holy Lendore Isles, and they were the first converts to the People and their quest to bring all the elven peoples of the world back under one banner. No human, or elf sympathetic to humans, has ever been able to visit the strange, magical world these islands have become…
Society and Culture: The old human culture of Lendore Isle was friendly and forebearing, although insular and wary of strangers, given that most of their non-elven neighbors were as ready to plunder them as trade with them. Despite this, they were cheerful and honest, accepting everyone as equals without thought to race or gender. They cared nothing for affairs beyond their shores, simply being content to farm, trade and fish without a care in the world.
They had little unifying culture or grand sense of national identity, leaving such grandiose claims to other peoples. Although aware of the rowdy dispositions of their immediate neighbors, they were naïve about distant cultures, eager to hear any and all tales of these distant lands, whether fabricated or real.
The Council of Seven that ruled them were good and generous people, selected by election, each one representing one of the Isle’s major towns. Anyone could present himself for election, and these politicians were by far the most honest and open of their kind in all the Flanaess. Civil strife, what little of it there was, was resolved by calm discussion and mediation, not violence or argument.
After their exile, the humans of Lendore Isle have become very bitter and resentful. While they keep their sense of honor and charity, their outlook on life has changed greatly. Some have a sense of sad despondency about them, while others are angry and hateful, desiring to retake their homeland by any means possible. They bear no ill will towards elves as a whole, and remain friendly with those olve that joined them on their exodus from the Spindrifts, directing their blame towards the People of the Testing in particular rather than the elven race as a whole.
The Gate of Glass was a magical shrine of pure crystal, located just outside Lo Reltarma. In physical form, it was no larger than a simple guard fort, with a pair of crystal doors in the center of its peak that seemingly opened to nowhere, allowing one to pass through it freely. Appearing as if painstakingly It was painstakingly crafted by a master glazier, its fluted curves and blue-white shine sang of loving magic, a thing of beauty, that absorbed the very light of the sun, moons stars and reflected them from within its depths.
The Gate was the holiest place of all for the people of Lo Reltarma, Lendore Isle’s capital city. They prayed for guidance at its base, performed marriage and funeral ceremonies in front of the arch, and gathered there on the last day of each year to celebrate Lendore’s foresight. The doors at the center of the Gate’s top seemed to go to nowhere, a person being able to pass through from one side. However, the Gate was said to have magical powers, being able to connect to planes and worlds far beyond this reality.
Despite the temptations of such power, it was never activated save by Lendore himself-he warned his people that if they tried to use the Gate, save in the direst emergencies, they would never return through it. Lendore was the only person to ever do so. Claiming he was on a journey to seek wisdom, knowledge, and power, the old wizard promised that he would return for his children when the Final Calamity came to strike them down.
The exiling of the people of Lendore Isle seemed to be the direst emergency possible, and so they used the Gate to flee, without waiting for Lendore. The elves eventually deactivated it, but by that time half of the island’s population had passed through its doors.
What the people found was truly astonishing-the Gate took them not to any far-off plane or land, but to a magical stronghold that floated in the sky above the islands. The one who greeted them was Lendore himself, no longer flesh and blood, but a planetar, come back to his followers at the time of their direst need, keeping his promise.
Now, the spirit Lendore and his people are attempting to retake their homelands, allied with those elves that remain loyal to the Council of Five. What they will do with the People of the Testing should they succeed is unknown-for the People are not malevolent servants of evil themselves, and have as much lost heritage to reclaim as do their rivals.
The old elven communities of the Spindrift Isles lived not in towns or villages, but in magical groves that existed by the grace of the Seldarine themselves. These groves connected to the holy planes where the elven gods lived-the evergreen forest of Corellon Larethian, the starlit realm of Sehanine, or the fountains and lakes of Hanali Celanil. Magical animals and spirit creatures dwelled freely among the elves, who existed in peace and harmony. Indeed, it was one of the most beautiful and harmonious places on all of Oerth, exceeding even the beauty of Enstad in Celene.
The elves here were “ruled” by five powerful elven wizards, who were supported by nobles of all the elven races (except the drow, of course) and elven clergy of all the holy gods. The Council of Five, as these elven mages were known, did not direct any of the actual affairs in their homeland, but acted as mediators among their race, attempting to resolve its disputes and heal its schisms. They had contact with elven realms all around the world, including the estranged kingdom of Miranda in far-off Orannia. Any elf could come and live here in peace, without judgement, without question. Humans and other races who attempted to invade these islands or intrude upon them were not killed, for the elves bore no ill will against any other race-they were merely imprisoned. Those humans of good alignment were cast into a magic sleep, and sent home with no memory of where they had been or how they got home. Those of evil alignment were simply killed.
Why, then, did the People of the Testing cast out these leaders of the elven race, and seize Lendore Isle for themselves? They did so because they had apparently grown impatient with the slowness of the Council to reconcile the differences of the elven people, and believed that Sehanine and Corellon wanted them to take a more active hand in making the elven peoples one again. So they banished the Council and its sympathizers, who were forced to flee over the Solnor to Miranda, where they now reside.
The islands themselves have changed from the peaceful sanctuaries of nature they once were-now the islands have become a world of perpetual starlit night, accented in colors of cerulean, lilac, azure, and indigo. Half-imagined dreams and visions seem to hint at something good and right, a hidden truth that exists on the edge of consciousness, always just out of reach. There is no evil in this world, nor any hatred or malice towards other races. The People are not evil, and do not hate humans or other races-they simply feel they must do whatever is necessary to accomplish their mission. There is simply a feeling of mysticism and silent harmony, that is attuned to the spirits of the elven people.
Life in this phantasmal world is very strange, but not unfamiliar to the outside world. The church of Sehanine has full control over the islands. Each island is governed by a cleric, who is advised by community elders and the People of the Testing. Though they need not take this advice into consideration when making their decisions, the clerics generally act on what they feel is best for the community, and not for selfish gain or the thrill of power.
Each of these clerics forms a council that advises the high priest of Sehanine, who rules the island as a whole and is said to be able to journey to Sehanine’s realm as he wills. He enjoys unlimited power over the whole community, though he does not abuse it. Not concerned with the daily affairs of community life, he is more concerned with directing his mission to rebuild the unity of the elven people. Elves from any race community are welcome to visit or stay permanently, though the Lendore Isles have no room for any of their people who carry on with humans, or are considered enemies of their cause. Other than this, grugach are the equals of gray elves in the realm’s social hierarchy.
Daily life among the elves carries on much as it did before the seizing of power by the People, though there is now a strong emphasis on elven unity, as opposed to simple reconciliation. Those that work to recruit other elves and “bring them home” have the greatest status in the community, though there is no discrimination in general.
Those few humans that have remained on the southern Lendore Isle (as opposed to the Lendore Isles as a whole) as servants to the elves are a protected underclass. Though they wield no power in society, any abuses against them or their families are swiftly punished-it is as if the elves, having taken the humans’ home, do not wish to take away their dignity and basic rights as well. They cannot learn Lendorian Elven, the tongue spoken by the elven people in their daily routine, and so must keep silent in public places unless an elf speaks to them in Common. (Why Lendore Isle was taken from the humans is unknown, though it is theorized that the People need all five islands to carry on their duties, as the islands are all mystically connected.)
Military Structure: The elven clergy that rule the Lendore Isles have no formal military force, although its sailing vessels are of excellent quality, second only to those of the Sea Barons. These ships are typically fast merchantmen and pinnaces that use sophisticated elven archery, mages casting fireballs and lightning bolts to defeat the enemy. They also use illusion and misdirection magic to avoid enemies rather than face them in open combat-the elves are not particularly skilled at shipboard melee combat.
The islands are defended by more illusions and spellcastings which serve to confound and deceive invaders. They are surrounded by fogs which act to send invaders in a wide circle-after sailing for two days, they will emerge from the clouds at the same spot where they entered. Those foolish enough to ignore this first warning and re-enter for a second try will be attacked by progressively more dangerous illusions, all the way up to weirds and phantasmal killers. Only elf-crewed ships may pass through these mists unharmed-although the elves may also lower their defenses for those non-elves they might wish to allow to visit.
Ruler: Anfaren Silverbrow, the high priest of Sehanine Moonbow and the ruler of the Lendore Isles, is a tall, white-skinned creature whose pale hair seems to shine with the light of the stars itself. With one eye as white as Luna and the other as blue as Celene, he is a strange, almost alien thing, dressed in crimson robes and bearing a silver sword. He exudes an aura of age, wisdom and mysticism, able to hypnotize those he gazes at with one eye, while keeping the other in a faraway look that seems to extend far beyond the horizon.
Silverbrow is truly and deeply committed to the reuniting of the elven race, sundered so long ago by his goddess’s mistakes. As such, he carries an aura both of sadness and determination, though he has suppressed all emotions beneath an icy demeanor borne of centuries of work.
Silverbrow does not bear any innate malice or hatred towards humans or other non-elven races, but he cares nothing for their fates when carrying out his goals. While he took no pleasure in expelling the humans of Lendore he does not regret doing it in order to fulfill the task given to him by his goddess. Like all the People, he cares for the prosperity of the elven race and nothing more; non-elven races are mere obstacles, to be dealt with as needed.
If the elven priest has any weakness, it is his dilemma over those elves who reject those of the Seldarine who preach separation from the other races, and seek still to make alliance and friendship with these peoples. He truly loves the elves of Miranda, his opponents in Celene, and any other elf who opposes the People’s goals, but his duty commands him to do whatever necessary to eliminate all opposition to his goals. The pain and suffering this causes among his already-fractured race grieves him deeply, and in this way he is torn between his duty and his heart.
Foreign Relations: As one might expect, the Lendore Isles are feared and distrusted by all their human neighbors, and even the hardy barbarians of the north give it a wide berth when raiding. The various elven communities of the Flanaess are divided on it-some support the goals of the People, if not its methods. Others are fully opposed to the whole idea. A third faction fully advocates shunning man and dwarf, returning to the home that Sehanine promised so long ago.
The only true enemies of the People and their nation are the human and elven refugees they ousted when seizing power. Those elves that remain loyal to the Council of Five, and the humans allied with Lendor in his floating sanctuary, are still trying to figure out a way to break through the magical barriers protecting the islands. They lack the funds to make themselves a true threat, and have turned to smuggling and adventuring to raise money for their cause. They wish to retake their homes and restore them to the old ways, and banish those traitors who allowed the People to seize power.
Celene and Queen Yolande may be the key factor in this drama-Yolande wields more influence on her race as a whole than any other elf, and she is currently undecided as to which faction of her court to support. The Knights of Luna demand she support the humans who want to retake their home. The People of the Testing seek her aid in re-uniting the scattered elven communities and spreading word of their work to other elves around the world. Her silence on the issue may be all the answer she will give.
SUNNDI, KINGDOM OF
The County of Sunndi was long known as a calming and moderating influence on its hotheaded allies in the Iron League. A state whose reputation for justice, fairness and freedom rivaled that of Veluna or Geoff, Sunndi was known as a land of peace, where race and nationality were given small concern. Man and elf lived together in harmony, surrounded by the dwarves and gnomes of the Hestmark and Hollow Highlands.
Like its fellow states of the Iron League, Sunndi suffered at the hands of Herzog Chelor and his forces during the Greyhawk Wars. The whole nation seemed to be lost, its forces on the verge of defeat, until the arrival of Commandant Osson of Almor. His mission objectives in shambles, but his forces still strong, Osson defeated Chelor’s forces at the Battle of the Rieuwood. The alliances between man and elf showed themselves again, and for the better.
While Sunndi had been ravaged by the conflict, her fate was still better than that of the ruined realms of Almor, Nyrond or Onnwal. She clung to her independence and demihuman alliances, though her economy was fragile and she was surrounded by potential enemies. The Scarlet Brotherhood was making inroads among the realm’s Suel, offering them promises of greatness if they converted Sunndi to its “rightful” form as a Suel kingdom. Ahlissa had openly attempted to court certain Sunndian nobles, and the monsters of the Spine Ridge and Vast Swamp were a perpetual threat.
Cut off from his allies, isolated and alone, Count Hazendel took the only step he could think of; he declared his realm to be a full kingdom, coming into its own to rival Ahlissa, Keoland, Furyondy, and Nyrond. This news came as a shock to everyone, enemy and ally alike. But Hazendel knows he has made the right decision. His people have come of age since the Wars, and it is now time for them to show the world what they can do…
Society and Culture: Free of slavery, or major racial or sexual discrimination, the people of Sunndi have kindness and warmth comparable to that of Veluna, Highfolk or Geoff. They have a strong sense of community based around individual freedoms; laws are lax and few as in Idee, although the people have a tendency to smile less and work harder, perhaps due to the harships they encounter from living near the Vast Swamp. Altough the hills, forest and marshes of Sunndi are beautiful, life can be very hard going, and its people grim and withdrawn, despite the goodness of their hearts.
Strangers are not necessarily welcome in Sunndi, as many visitors are suspected of being spies for Aerdy, Ahlissa, or the toad-god Wastri of the southern Vast Swamp. Like the demihumans of the surrounding hills and forests, the Sunnd often remain quiet and reserved when dealing with outsiders, though if these people prove their valor and good morals, the locals will be their friends for life. Saving the life of a man automatically guarantees his friendship, while charitable donations to the poor are approved by all.
Sunndi is officially ruled by a gray-elven royal family, in the classic feudal manner with the king dispensing power and authority to the counts, who then dispense it to barons, and so forth. Every rank of noble appoints three of their number to speak for them at the Congress of Lords. This gathering cannot override the king’s decisions or proclamations, though the convention has developed that the king will seek the opinions of the lords before he makes major declarations of war, raises new taxes, and so forth. The general spirit of cooperation between races has only intensified as the country seems surrounded by enemies.
Matters of social rank and prestige are given little heed among the people here-the lords just happen to be those of the common folk who happen to be the wealthiest of their communities. The unfair treatment of peasants is something harshly punished by the whole community, who will impose social sanctions on the offending lords.
The Hestmark Highlands and Rieuwood are considered part of Sunndi, though the people who live there generally tend to keep to themselves, paying taxes to the Crown but not sending lords to the Congress, as they are more concerned with dealing with the hazards of their homelands than international affairs. Regardless, the Crown still sends representatives to them when issues of national importance are discussed, and the people usually respond in kind, though they are under no obligation to do so.
Military Structure: The armies of Sunndi have had to be strictly limited due to the losses suffered against South Province in the Greyhawk Wars, but also because of the strained royal treasuries. The Iron Hills and Hestmark Highlands both contribute wealth to alleviate these pressures, however, and this output has increased because of Ahlissa’s ever-growing power.
Although limited in number, the soldiers of Sunndi are generally very well-equipped and trained, in racially separate companies. Human and dwarven heavy foot carrying battleaxe and broadsword, dressed in banded mail, patrol the frontiers, and light infantry bearing studded leather, bardiches, spears and slings watch the hills. Human and elven foresters in leather, carrying bow and sword, and groups of human and gnome light infantry and siege engineers round out the realm’s forces. The only major weakness of Sunndi’s army is cavalry-most of the horse is medium or light and, except for the nobles and their equirries, poorly trained.
Ruler: Count (Olvenking after the Wars) Hazendel is a typical specimen of his race, being tall and thin, with forest-green eyes and star-silver hair. A faint tint of blue reflects off his skin, a quirk of the gray elves in this part of the world. Never without his longsword, he cuts a dashing figure in his amazing enchanted elven chain mail, the only suit of its kind in this part of the world. He wears a green or purple cloak, depending on his current needs, at all times. This cloak and its many pockets hold the material components for his spells. Not a fighter of major skill, he nonetheless is never without his longsword, a weapon he may use, despite being a priest, by his god Trithereon.
Clerics of Trithereon are generally portrayed as anarchy-loving troublemakers. This is true of some of the more radical factions of the church, though Hazendel prefers to take a different road-encouraging everyone to find their own path in life, working with others to help them with their own difficulties. Hazendel is happy to correct the misconceptions anyone may have surrounding his faith. He is generally quick-witted, friendly, and a kindly soul, perhaps to a fault. He feels that the responsibilities of all his people fall on his shoulders, and it must be his duty to protect them from all the evil that surrounds them. As a result, he tends to push himself too hard until he nearly breaks down.
The pressure on Hazendel comes from a desire to help his fellow man, and never to hurt them. He would gladly bury the hatchet with the Aerdi, if he were convinced that his one-time enemies would show good faith. He has tested the waters in this way by allowing trade between his own realm, and some of the more morally inclined members of House Darmen in Ahlissa. Despite his idealism, Hazendel knows the world turns on hard coin, and his realm needs it to maintain its status in the world.
Foreign Relations: Cautious trade between Sunndi and Ahlissa has begun, despite the anger that refugees from Idee who fled to the former have displayed. Few people in Sunndi are, however, so foolish as to think that Overking Xavener’s intentions are as good and noble as he would like to present them. Ahlissan merchants are allowed into Sunndian towns and trading posts, though they are carefully watched for any signs of spying.
As part of the Iron League, Sunndi maintained strong relations with Onnwal, Irongate, Almor, Nyrond, Idee, and the Lordship of the Isles. While ties to the first four of these remain intact, the destruction of Idee and the takeover of the Lordship of the Isles by the Scarlet Brotherhood has ended all contact between itself and Sunndi.
Sunndi fears the Scarlet Brotherhood almost as much as Ahlissa, fearing their subversion of Sueloise citizens, and the damage they might do to the social fabric of the realm. Despite this, trade merchants very rarely travel to and from the Scarlet Brotherhood’s lands to the south, though interaction and conversation remain brief on both sides.
While Sunndi has strong relations with the demihumans to the east and west, the dwarven kingdom of the Glorioles views Sunndi and its culture of racial interaction with distaste, if not contempt. The dwarves of these mountains are very isolationist, disliking only elves more than humans. They have promised military service to their neighbors in case of war, though they otherwise keep no contact with Sunndi, the other dwarves, or the elves of the region.
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|Re: Living Greyhawk Gazetteer Addendum: The Aerdy East, Part 4 (Score: 1)|
by Tedra (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Mon, July 12, 2004
(User Info | Send a Message | Journal) http://myweb.cableone.net/tedra
|W00T! I've been waiting to see what you had to say about Sunndi! Do I even need to say yet again how excellent of an article this is? ;) A fantastic series!|