samwise writes "Although Vecna was brought low by Kas before the Kingdom of Keoland came into being, two wars have been fought against the legacy of the Whispered One in Sheldomar. Those wars left indelible marks on the character and culture of the Sheldomar, and the political fallout from them echoes down to the present, more than half a millennium after the last (human) veteran of them died.
The Yaheetes and Tyrus: The Wars Against the Hand and the Eye in the Sheldomar
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Prelude - The Fall of the Whispered One
At the time of the Twin Cataclysms Vecna, Lord of the Spidered Throne, ruled an irregular empire based in the northern Sheldomar Valley. The capital is believed to have been near the site of the present day capital of the Gran March, the city of Shibboleth. The Neheli had barely crossed to the Sheldomar River and come to an "arrangement" with the ancient lich when his Lieutenant, Kas the Bloody-Handed, threw down his master in an act of treachery that freed the valley from his evil. But in that act he unleashed a potentially greater evil that plagues the world to this day. While Vecna disappeared for centuries until he managed his apotheosis, two relics of his body were left behind - one hand and one eye survived his destruction. In those two a whispering essence of the dreaded lich remained, waiting to corrupt any who would dare to wield their dark power. Sages of the Neheli found the relics in the ruins of his capital, and took them to the Silent Tower, where the Wyrd of the Silent Ones stored them away lest any be foolish enough to try them. Seventeen years later the Malhel attacked the Silent Tower and carried off the relics, along with other items of power, and disappeared into the vastness of the Dreadwood. Thus would begin the journey of the relics across the Flanaess, and thus were sown the seeds of the two great wars that Keoland would fight against the relics and the spirit of Vecna.
The Insurrection of the Yaheetes
The Yaheetes had once been a major Flan Tribe, ruling most of the area that would later be occupied by the Rhola. They had opposed Vecna’s rule and had their nation thrown down by Kas, their cities razed, and their people driven into the woodlands to eke out a living as best they could. Many were enslaved by Firstcomers, and by the time of the founding of Gradsul they were barely surviving. The Rhola made a significant effort to incorporate the Yaheetes into their new nation, both the Principality of Gradsul, and later the Kingdom of Keoland, but for the most part they refused to be mere farmers where once they had ruled. The majority of the survivors remained in the forests, away from Rholan control, but also away from Rholan protection. Although they were able to establish some villages and towns, particularly as the Rhola cleared the Firstcomers in the House Wars, their number continued to dwindle, and their resentment of all of the pale-skinned interlopers increased as the decades passed. When the opportunity arrived, they were ripe for revolution.
Nolhast the Unforgiven
Little is known about the first man to wield the Hand and Eye. Lost in the birth records of the House of Linth is an entry for a Nolhast being born shortly after the migrations. And other records from the Yeomanry speak of an apprentice to Vecna so despised for his cruelty that he was called "the Unforgiven" as those who he preyed upon to extend his life called him damned for all eternity for his acts. If they are the same man then he came to the service of Asberdies shortly after that one had seized power in the Yeomanry. He was a scholar, and knew many forgotten secrets that were of great use to Asberdies in his rule and his quest for immortality. But even as he shared what he knew with Asberdies, he scoured the records, and listened to the accounts, of the lich. With that knowledge he was able to penetrate the guardians and wards on Valadis, and returned with many items for his master. But two he kept for himself - the Hand and Eye. Seeing in them the resurrection of his House to the power they felt they were entitled to, equal to, indeed greater than, that of the Rhola or Neheli, he maimed himself and affixed them, completing his damnation. His lust for vengeance made him easily prey for their whispered messages of evil. They led him to the Yaheetes in -203 CY.
Despite the intense mutual hatred they had for each other, the Linth were virulently racist, and the Yaheetes had no use for another pale-skinned slave master, the power of the Hand and Eye united them. Where once the Yaheetes had rejected Vecna and been brought low for their refusal, they now embraced his relics, seeing in them a chance at salvation, a chance to raise themselves to again rule their hereditary lands. To Nolhast, the Hand and Eye promised the destruction of the Rhola by the Yaheetes. The despised sub-humans would destroy the equally despised rivals who had ground his House into the dirt, denying them their birthright.
For a decade the Hand and Eye guided Nolhast and the Yaheetes in preparations for war on the Rhola. They stockpiled weapons, and uncovered magical stores left hidden by Vecna two centuries earlier. They also started a cult to the Maimed Lord, and clerics of Vecna soon held positions of power and authority among the Yaheetes. All was proceeding according to plan, when a chance visit by Luschan II to an unprotected family estate provided an opportunity that was too great for Nolhast to pass up. His hatred had grown so great that he could not suffer such a symbol of his enemies in his territory. With a small force he attacked the estate, slaughtering Luschan II and most of his family. Although premature that became the signal for the uprising to begin. The Yaheetes revealed their power, and began a campaign to "free" their land. They slaughtered every Suel they came across, whenever possible after the most obscene of torments. Thousands died in the initial onslaught, and the entire Kingdom was staggered by the savagery.
One of the few survivors of the attack was a nephew of Luschan II who was elected king as Malv II. He rallied the Kingdom, and led his troops personally. At first the true nature of the uprising was poorly understood, and Malv sought merely to subdue what he thought was a simple rebellion of oppressed peasants. Only as they advanced and discovered evidence of the atrocities, and as secured areas constantly rose against them, did they come to appreciate what was really going on. The final key was when they discovered an altar dedicated to Vecna. After that, Malv accepted that there was no other option. Instead of a war of suppression it became a war of survival, instead of one of conquest, it became one of genocide. Every Yaheete village was wiped out to the last child. No prisoners were taken except for interrogation. Malv also rallied the Kingdom, making it clear that if the Yaheetes managed to defeat the Rhola they would fall on the rest of the Kingdom with even greater savagery. The Keogh responded immediately, mobilizing their forces, and striking from the north, driving deep into the lands of the Yaheetes before they were prepared. But the Neheli delayed, asking for more information, and advising caution while the nature of their adversary was thoroughly investigated. It was only after certain incidents, and an increasing use of necromancy as the war turned against Nolhast and the Yaheetes that the Neheli finally committed major forces, the Silent Ones accompanying their armies into the field. They were the ones who advised that certain bodies be burned to prevent their being turned against the Keoish troops again, and their action finally brought the war to a close.
In the final battle, Malv threw the combined forces of the Kingdom, Rhola, Neheli, Keogh, Olve, Noniz, and Hobniz, against the last stronghold of the Yaheetes. There, at long last, Nolhast took the field with the Hand and the Eye. The slaughter was incredible, both among the troops and the nobility of the Kingdom providing magical support. In the end, the defenders were slaughtered, but one thing marred the final triumph - nowhere among the dead could any trace of Nolhast be found. His body was gone, and with it the Hand and Eye.
The war had lasted for just over thirty years. By the end, more than a quarter of the population of the Duchy of Gradsul was dead, not counting the Yaheetes who were as close as exterminated as the Keoish forces could manage. The forces of the rest of the Kingdom returned home, not to glory, but to nightmares of the horrors they had witnessed, and the atrocities they had been forced to commit. There would be no need for laws against necromancy in the Kingdom while any lived. Anyone foolish enough to even consider such would have been dead before he finished bragging. The Silent Ones could do not better in establishing a fear and distaste of magic than Nolhast and the Yaheetes had achieved with their campaign. But Malv was not satisfied. In that last stronghold the records of Nolhast were found and brought to him before any of the Neheli could destroy them. In them, he read what Nolhast had learned - of their deal with Vecna before the founding of the Kingdom, of their discovery of the Hand and Eye, and of the Malhel stealing it from the Silent Tower. In a private meeting he confronted their leaders and made it clear that he held them responsible for the death visited on the Kingdom and his family in particular. He then directed their attention to the lands north of the Sheldomar River, the heart of Vecna’s Empire, and the wild tribes of Flan now living there. The Neheli would remove them, and the threat they presented to the Kingdom, or he would expose their culpability in the Court, and let those who had suffered seek whatever justice they wished. The Neheli agreed, and organized the Knights of the March, drawn from the ranks of the most religiously zealous within the Duchy of Dorlin, and sent them north with orders to subdue the area by any means they saw fit, and to eliminate any trace of the worship of Vecna, or any practices of the necromancies preferred by him. The new order embraced their task with such enthusiasm that there is little trace of Flan blood in the inhabitants of the Gran March to this day. As well, the legacy and responsibility of the suppression of the very name of Vecna is still entrusted to the Knights of the Malagari three-quarters if a millennium later.
The War Against Tyrus
The Firstcomers of the Pomarj
The area around the Drachensgrabs, was one of the transit points during the Suel migrations. Following the end of the House Wars in Keoland, a variety of lesser Suel Houses held the area, chief among them House Suenha, whose name was given to the hills before the older Flan name was revived in later centuries. Though they managed to dominate the local Flan, they were already fragmented from being forced out of the main Sheldomar Valley, and broken further by the struggles for the Pomarj. Their social order collapsed, and they had not managed to organize beyond the level of small towns in the two and half centuries before the coming of Vecna II, the worship of Beltar dominating the area being a major contributor. Among a people gaining infamy for treachery and cruelty, the Suel of the Pomarj added a sullen decadence and thorough corruption.
The Heir of the Whispered Lord
How the Hand and Eye survived the final battle of the Yaheetes and came to the Pomarj is unknown. Some sages assert that when Nolhast was slain the relics animated his body, and had it make its way to the forsaken hills of that peninsula. There, the relics spent long years hidden from all sight until found by a fleeing Flan slave. Taking them, they became objects of a fearful cult deep in the hills, one or the other being wielded by a cultist from time to time. Finally one of them dared both of the relics. He had wielded one for years, and on the death of the wielder of the other, he claimed it, maiming himself a second time to claim their combined power. They assisted him in expanding his magical knowledge, and within a few years he was powerful enough to begin the conquest of the region. He chose as his capital Tyrus, the lead town of the Suenha, and it fell swiftly to his magical might and the masses of freed slaves that followed him. Over the next decade, he extended his power, subduing the region, but keeping his identity quiet. Surprisingly, he didn’t alter the social order, leaving his own people as slaves. It suited the twisted sense of humor of the relics, and provided them with a dual source of recruits. From the Flan slaves he could take the strongest, eager to be freed from the brutal servitude, and more eager to revenge themselves on any Suel they might have the chance to. From the Suel overseers, he took a levy of children, raised to be fanatical servants of Vecna, and convinced that any who did not submit were fit only for death. They formed a corps of berserkers, ready to be unleashed when their master was ready.
The War Begins
By -72 CY rumors had made their way across the Lortmils to the Court at Niole Dra. The Silent Ones, who had made a study of the records taken from the stronghold of Nolhast the Unforgiven believed the Hand and Eye had reappeared. They advised Duke Senestal, and he pushed for action in the Court, demanding that the rumors be investigated. But the King, Lanchaster the Wise, refused. Over his objections the Court ordered a ship to sail to Tyrus, and look for the truth. Sanduchar III, Duke of Gradsul, son and heir of the King, would lead the mission, taking along a group of commissioners, and a company of his finest troops. Upon docking at Tyrus they were greeted cordially, escorted to the town square, and in a bloody ceremony, ritually sacrificed by the wielder of the Hand and Eye who proclaimed himself Vecna II, heir and successor to the Lord of the Spidered Throne. He then maimed the commissioners, removing a hand and eye from each, and ordered them to return to Niole Dra and inform the Court to submit while they had the chance.
Back in Niole Dra, Duke Senestal of the Neheli demanded war. The Kingdom could not allow Vecna to live, never mind that vengeance was needed for the insult. Despite hearing of the manner of his son’s death, Lanchaster the Wise still refused, and advised peace, declaring that nothing but sorrow could come of a war at this time. As the debates in the Court dragged on, many wondered how he could retain his detachment, and some worried if perhaps he had not been granted some insight from an unknown source. The questions became moot when after one break he failed to reappear and was discovered dead. Duke Senestal immediately blamed it on an act of Vecna II, but the Court was paralyzed by the sudden death of the King.
Into this void of indecision Vecna II moved. He gathered his army and led them out of the Suenha Hill to the town of Courwood, the easternmost outpost of the Rhola. Taking it by storm, he dared the narrow defiles of the Celene Pass, crossed the Lortmils, and fell on Junre, threatening Niole Dra. The Court finally acted, electing Duke Senestal as King, and beginning to mobilize. Senestal feared Vecna II was coming directly for Niole Dra, so he ordered the armies to gather there. But the Hand and Eye had other plans. They desired vengeance for their last defeat, and were fired by the blood Sanduchar III. The army of Vecna II turned south, traveling along the Kewl River. By the time Senestal realized an attack on Niole Dra was not imminent, they had passed the juncture with the Sheldomar River, and Gradsul lay open to them.
Panicking, Senestal led the half of the army that had gathered south, hoping to relieve Gradsul before it fell, even dreaming of catching Vecna’s army between his forces and those of Gradsul. But again the Hand and Eye proved to be a step ahead of him. His army had paused, and when Senestal passed the confluence with the Kewl they found the hordes arrayed before them, waiting. Outnumbered, with the magic of Vecna II readied against him, Senestal prepared for his death. Then, beyond any precedent, the Wyrd of the Silent Tower appeared, and challenged Vecna II in his camp. Few could witness the battle through the magical energies unleashed, energies on scale not seen since the betrayal of Kas. In the confusion, Senestal led his forces out of the trap, and south to Gradsul to link up with the fully prepared armies of the Rhola. The army of Vecna II turned, and retreated across the lower hills of the Lortmils, abandoning the attack when Vecna II was no longer able to lead it in person. When the rest of the Keoish army arrived from the north, the new Wyrd declared himself to Senestal.
At this juncture, it would be critical to secure a land route across the lower Lortmils, both to pursue the retreating army, and to ensure supply. Emissaries were sent to the Dwur, and their leader, the Olinstaad, was asked for permission for troops to pass, and a supply road to be built. Although suspicious, he was convinced when the grandson of Lanchaster the Wise, the new Duke of Gradsul, Lanchaster III, told him of the death of his father at the hands of Vecna II. Fear, even of a relic wielding lich lord, was not something to impress a Dwur. Vengeance for a murdered father was, and he not only granted permission, but agreed to march with the young Duke, as he had known Sanduchar III himself, and was pleased to be able to help the son fulfill his duties.
The Blood-Soaked Hills
For nearly a decade the armies of Keoland, aided by the Dwur of the Lortmils, fought their way to Tyrus, first across the lower Lortmils, then through the Suenha Hills. Many times they were forced into confusion as the forces of Vecna II appeared behind them, having traveled underground for many miles before popping out of caves, and attacking from the rear. Senestal II lead the armies personally, and was in the field for virtually his entire reign. He returned to Niole Dra for less than a month each year, and that only to ask the court for more troops and more funds to support them.
As the war progressed, the battles increased in savagery. But this time the animated dead were minor compared to the horror of the Suel guard. Heedless of their safety, many little more than children, they threw themselves as the Keoish armies, taking a horrible toll before being brought down. The Flan warriors fought nearly as hard, convinced that defeat meant a return to slavery. One thing was different from the war with the Yaheetes. As the settlements were liberated the people showed no interest in supporting their erstwhile liege any further. The Flan, freed of slavery and the savior who had left them slaves, left the region completely, seeking freedom anywhere. The Suel, while naturally upset at the loss of their slaves, were satisfied to be freed of Vecna II and the levy of their children he demanded, and were content to wait for his overthrow before considering revolution against their new conquerors.
The Keoish armies and Senestal had another significant advantage - the seers of the Silent Ones. Although few in number, and not always acting openly, they took an active part in this campaign. As noted above, they had identified the signs of the relics even before the war began. Once it began they assisted the King, forming small strike teams that struck deep behind the lines, disrupting the plans of the relics. They also identified many of the same tactics used during the Insurrection of the Yaheetes, and were able to advise Senestal when they were going to be used, warning him to burn certain bodies to prevent their rising again, or being raised to be sent against him. This was the first time the Silent Ones took the field so openly, and in such great numbers, in support of the Kingdom since the time of Mandros, and their aid was instrumental in bringing the war to a close in such a short period of time.
In the ninth year of the campaign the armies of Keoland stood before Tyrus. For the next month they battered the walls down, preparing for the battle they knew would come. But not in any way they expected. The dying stroke of Vecna II had one target - the leaders of his enemies. With the walls fallen, the last survivors didn’t wait, but attacked, surging forth from the ruins. The Flan forced a path through the common troops to the camps of the knights, and last berserkers fell upon them, led by Vecna II himself. Nearly half the nobles with the army fell in that last battle, including the heirs of five provincial rulers. Also falling on the field was Senestal II, slain by Vecna II before the Wyrd and the Silent Ones could respond to save him. They unleashed a fury of magical force and Vecna II, along with the Hand and the Eye, disappeared within it, and were never found.
Although shorter than the Insurrection of the Yaheetes, the Tyrus War had been almost as costly. Thousands were dead, and the loss of most of a generation of leaders left the Kingdom staggering to recover. Worse, aside from the victory, nothing lasting was gained. Although the new King tried to establish settlers in the region, they believed the area, particularly by Tyrus, was cursed, and most returned home within a few years. Further, despite their close association during the war, Lanchaster III was elected as the new King, he was unable to secure a full and lasting alliance with the Olinstaad of the Lortmils Dwur. Although their losses had not been severe, both the Flan and Suel troops of Vecna II preferred to slay their fellow humans, the Dwur had seen the dark side of the Neheli during the campaigns, and it would take many more years to convince them to trust the royal partners of the Rhola. In the end, the prediction of Lanchaster the Wise had been fulfilled - nothing but sorrow came of the war. His own family would pay even more for waiting another half century before opposing the Toli again, and the Kingdom as a whole was becoming worn down of war after war every other generation, and just over a century remained before they would reject it completely and the Slumbering would begin."