Upon Hidden Lore of the Flanaess: Forgotten Histories of the lands of Good
|Posted on Fri, January 11, 2008 by Dongul
|CruelSummerLord writes "History is the most powerful of tools,” Iquander noted, lighting his pipe. “What we remember and what we forget, will affect us both for better and for worse. It shapes who we are, our thoughts, our passions and our beliefs. In the right hands, it can be a tool of healing and reconciliation…and in the wrong hands, it can be an implement of hatred and bigotry.
Upon Hidden Lore of the Flanaess: Forgotten Histories of the lands of Good
The Savant was one of the most unusual taverns in the City of Greyhawk. Resembling a stately noble manor or library, its interior was a mazelike collection of small rooms and studies, whose walls were lined with books, desks and writing materials. The Savant was one of the favored taverns of the educated professors and sages who taught at Greyhawk’s renowned universities. Restricted to human males, the Savant was a place of intellectual discussion and exchange.
One middle-aged man advancing on the place was no exception. Tall and thin, with short, thick dark hair, inquisitive brown eyes, spindly limbs, and a scholarly air about him, the sage Iquander was Master Researcher and Sage of the Great Library of Greyhawk. Never without the magical stones orbiting his head, stones that enhanced his mind and increased his otherwise frail strength and body, Iquander was well-known among the Free City’s intellectual elite.
Striding into the Savant and ordering a chilled Sunndian wine, Iquander made his way to one of the many reclusive rooms where patrons were known to gather for intellectual debate and study. Three other men were waiting for him, middle-aged and elderly men and sages who were known as much for their tetchiness as their intelligence.
“Late again, Iquander?” huffed Teleus, the oldest of the group. Coughing irritably, the old man’s bushy white moustache twitched as he sipped some of the hot tea he had made to keep the unusually cold weather at bay.
“No, you’re always too early,” Iquander replied smoothly, sitting down and shaking hands with his fellows. “What is the subject of our discussion this week?”
“Skeletons in the closet,” chuckled Axalon, the youngest of the professors. “Exposing some of the less than savory secrets of the supposedly ‘good’ realms of the Flanaess. I myself have noted some very…interesting bits of information.”
“As have I,” stated the last of the group grimly, an older Flan named Tenmuriel. “Information that many of the kingdoms and countries of the Flanaess would as soon forget.”
“As you wish, then,” Iquander nodded. “Axalon, you chose the subject of this week’s debate, so it is over to you to begin.”
“Ah, Furyondy…Sterich…Onnwal…Nyrond…Ratik…those bastions of freedom, justice and equality!” Axalon laughed merrily. “They enjoy reputations as enlightened realms…but they do not earn them, you see. No, no, no!”
“So why do they not earn their reputations?” Teleus huffed.
“Women, my dear fellow,” Axalon replied, sipping his mead. “All of these realms have been-and are, for that matter-oppressive, repressive, suppressive to their women citizens! To be sure, equality is formal, and there are no discrimination in their laws, not even anymore in Ratik…but socially, women are treated, in many cases, as second-class citizens, as delicate creatures who must be protected at all times. Informally, they may not own property, are denied positions of authority, barred from various guilds and professions, refused admission to certain theaters, taverns and other entertainment establishments…”
“But does Ratik not now have a woman as its head of state?” Iquander asked.
“Only because there is no suitable male heir to take her place,” Axalon replied. “Women now have more acceptable social roles, but Ratik can hardly be said to be fair and equal, and still less to treat its women justly. The male lords, and their barbarian, dwarf and gnome allies, have little respect for her abilities, and mistrust her capacity to lead. Similarly, how often, in Furyondy, Nyrond or Onnwal, are women unable to claim the estates of their brothers or husbands, to enter various guilds of their own admission, and even in many cases to own property? Even in the Yeomanry, women are not permitted to vote, and it is unlikely that they ever will be.”
“Greyhawk is no better,” Tenmuriel noted. “The Savant denies entry to women and demihumans, women, elves and halflings are denied entry to the Guild of Mercenaries, and dwarves are barred from the Guild of Mintworkers.”
“So true, so true,” Axalon replied in a sing-song voice, “for all our pretensions to accepting the coins of all genders and races, we too deny certain citizens equal treatment, as do these realms. Not through our legal codes, as would the likes of the Aerdi lands, but more subtly.”
“Such as the manner human males, and to a lesser extent dwarven males, dominate socially in such lands as Irongate, Onnwal, the Yeomanry, Nyrond, Sterich, Perrenland and Raitk. As I understand it, it exists for halflings in the Duchy of Urnst as well, and for gnomes among the Perrenders, the Yeomen, the Irongatians, and the Ratikkans,” Iquander added.
“How ironic, then, that such supposedly oppressive places like the Pale, the Sea Princes, and Rel Astra treat their women better,” Teleus noted ironically, to which his companions had no reply. “The number of women who have risen to high rank, still less to the rank of theocrat, in the Palish church of Pholtus is striking indeed!”
“Ironic indeed,” Tenmuriel remarked, sipping his water. “May I speak next?”
“By all means,” Iquander invited.
“Consider then, the tales of the Flan,” Tenmuriel said slowly. “A complicated tale, to be sure, but one worth the listening.”
“That’s what we’re doing,” remarked Teleus dryly.
“At the time of what you call the Twin Cataclysms, the Flan had already suffered serious blows,” Tenmuriel began, an acid edge in his voice. “The depredations of Vecna and the Spidered Throne in the west, the Archmage Tzunk in the northlands with the Codex of the Infinite Planes, and the Ur-Flan and the Horned Ones in the central and eastern lands. Then, as the Suel and the Oeridians fled the destruction of the Baklunish Empire and Sueloise Imperium, they came into the Flanaess.”
Tenmuriel took another sip of water.
“They left in their wake a long and ugly legacy of territorial displacements, wars, and broken alliances and treaties. In Sterich and Keoland, we were attacked and displaced-according to some of the Flan elders, the Neheli of Keoland made alliances with the former followers of Vecna to gain the upper hand in their war with the Flan.”
“So that’s how they managed to win, even with Keoland’s long, rich tradition of military incompetence and defeat,” Axalon noted wryly.
“Considering Keoland’s subsequent military history, being defeated by every other power in the Sheldomar Valley, perhaps it is not so surprising,” Tenmuriel replied with a thin smile. “The Keoish sued for peace, and signed an appropriate treaty, but afterwards broke it when they gained the power they needed from their alliance with Vecna to strike the Flan down.”
“In what would become Sterich, the new arrivals had more success, utterly defeating and driving away those Flan who lived there, many of whom sought refuge in Geoff and the Yeomanry. Even today, although many of my people have returned to Sterich, there are still underlying tensions. Similarly, many of the wandering independent Flan still clash with the patrols of the Ulek states, Keoland, and Sterich as much as with the humanoids and other nonhuman threats.”
“Is that the only place these things happened?” Iquander asked.
“Certainly not,” Tenmuriel replied. “My people once prospered in places such as Onnwal, Sunndi, and Idee, but after suffering at the hands of the Ur-Flan, they then suffered at the hands of the invading Suel and Oeridians who allied with the Flan’s gnomish and dwarven enemies to drive most of them out of their homelands. Defeated and decimated first by the Aerdi, then the Onnwallians, Ideeans, and Sunnd, most of the Flan fled for the distant hills and forests, never to return. Most now only survive in the Headlands of Onnwal, living entirely separate from the other humans and their demihuman allies.”
“Damned Aerdi,” Teleus grumbled. “How bad were they?”
“It is one of the fascinating ironies of history that those who treated my people the worst emerged as the most goodly of folk in the modern era, while those who were the most kind have emerged as the most evil, in most cases. While the kingdom of Ahlissa was swiftly conquered and destroyed by the Aerdi, those who took over the northlands in fact proved saviors to many of the Flan, who suffered at the hands of draconic and necromantic Ur-Flan oppressors. It is in North Province, and now Northern Aerdy, that you will find the strongest and most prosperous Flan in the eastern lands.”
“In Urnst and Sunndi, the halflings and elves were quick to make peace and alliance with the invaders, seeing that the cause of the Flan was lost, and they would be slaughtered if they continued their struggle. So too did many of the gnomes of the Flinty Hills ally with Nyrond, an action that divided the gnomes bitterly among themselves, even as the Flan were scattered before the relentless assault of the Nyrondese. In what would become the Horned Empire, Iuz and the Bandit Kingdoms, there were mass rapes, murder and destruction of the Flan at the hands of the invaders.”
“Many homes and families destroyed, people scattered to the four winds…as occurred in the Northern Reaches and the Pale…and Furyondy, Bissel and the Shield Lands. Only in Geoff, the Yeomanry, Perrenland, and Veluna were our encounters with the new arrivals at all peaceful. Even today, as King Kimbertos struggles to make Keoland more egalitarian and just, and to treat with the Flan more fairly, he encounters fierce resistance among his own citizens, some of whom retreat to Sterich.”
“But…” Iquander began. “The people today, do they even know of these things? And the Suel, the Oeridians…they too had lost everything they had ever known, destroyed by the Cataclysms. They were
confused…scared…desperate…struggling to survive. And things have changed…”
“To an extent,” Tenmuriel replied, a faraway look in his eyes. “And things have changed in many ways for the Flan in places such as Furyondy and Keoland. But in other ways they have not-the hatred and the racism are in many ways more subtle, even as those wanderers among my people face the swords and spears of the Furyonds, the Nyrondese, the Onnwallians, the Ideeans, call them who you will. If what has happened is not the fault of those who now live, they have a responsibility to know the stories of the past.”
“So much for good and evil,” Teleus muttered, before finishing his stout and then leaving briefly to fetch another drink. “Then there are the times when supposed allies turn their swords on one another. I suppose you may have heard of the Nyrond-Onnwal war of 528-534 CY?”
“We have now,” Axalon chuckled. “Care to give us some more details?”
“The threat of the Great Kingdom was at a low ebb,” Teleus replied. “Nyrond and the Iron League states prospered greatly, and Onnwal was working diligently to build up its navy. To finance the expansion, it raised the fees for foreign vessels docking at Scant and those paying for passage and the protection of Onnwalian vessels from pirates and Aerdi raiders. Nyrondal merchants, angry at the tolls, complained to their king, and the king paid heed, not pleased at his navy not having access to Woolly Bay and the Azure Sea, and so he petitioned the Onnwalians to cease. Onnwal, angered by a long history of Nyrond using its economic and political muscle to intervene in its affairs, refused.”
“The resulting war lasted six years, breaking for a long time Onnwal’s naval power and was one of the factors in the South Province’s navy beginning its revival. Irongate and Idee were both blamed by Onnwal for its defeat, given that Nyrondal vessels were granted permission to dock at their ports, and given free reign to purchase suppliees. The Ideeans and Irongatians were said to have made a handsome profit, while their Onnwalian counterparts chafed at their szek and replaced him with his more pliant brother when he was killed in battle. The new szek, Ewerd Destron’s father, quickly made peace with Nyrond, but the scars among the Iron League remained for decades afterwards.”
“Ah, money,” Axalon laughed. “Gold and its power cause more trouble every hour.”
“Not just gold, mind you,” Teleus remarked, lighting a pipe. “Many of the Suel who traveled to the south to the Thillonrian Peninsula were scared, desperate, and starving, plagued by infighting and dissent. Many wanted to end their journeys, and settle in the southlands, while those most devoted to reviving the Suel Imperium’s lost heritage cast them out and continued on southwards. They had been fighting enemies human and nonhuman alike for years on end, and their nerves were on edge. They gathered in two major populations, one in Idee and one in Sunndi.”
“The Ideeans, including Oeridian allies among them, fought and defeated many of the demihumans, driving them away, even as the Sunndians made alliance with the hard-pressed elves, gnomes and halflings of the surrounding hills and mountains, fighting with them against the Ideeans, the dwarves of the Glorioles, and the humanoids and monsters of the surrounding lands.”
“What did they fight over?” Iquander asked in surprise.
“Farmland, mining and timber resources, furs, trade with surrounding states, the typical things humans battle over. Gold was a major factor, but not the only one. As Sunndi became allies with its demihuman neighbors, it clashed with Idee repeatedly. If I recall correctly, the Five Wars of Idee and Sunndi-three won by Idee, two by Sunndi-occurred in the last few decades before the Common Year system began, and its was their subsequent weakening that led to their defeat at the hands of the Aerdi.”
“You’d never know that today,” Axalon noted. “Surely now Idee is more tolerant and accepting, for all that so few demihumans live within its borders.”
“The Ideeans are nothing if not practical and pragmatic,” Teleus remarked. “When once they realized the errors of their past, they changed their laws and their characters to become more accepting of their demihuman neighbors, cooperating for the greater good with them against the Aerdi oppressors. Pragmatism it was that led Idee to play a founding role in the development of the Iron League, and pragmatism it was that led them to make peace with their former demihuman enemies.”
“Even then, the Idee-Sunndi War of 507-509 CY, which ended in a Sunndian victory and the rise to power of the Eddri family in Idee, was necessary to complete these social changes. It is believed, indeed, that the oppressiveness the Ideeans suffered under the Aerdi, and later under their own independent counts at first, contributed much towards their later desire to live and let live, and their acceptance of diversity and the friendly acceptance of all cultures and beliefs. If the Ideeans made many mistakes in their past, they took steps to correct and learn from them,” Teleus finished.
“Would that many of the other peoples of the Flanaess would do the same,” Tenmuriel grumbled. “The same goes for the Hateful Wars, I take it?”
“Those wars that pitted dwarf against dwarf, and dwarf against elf, and dwarf to manipulate gnome?” Teleus scoffed. “As if a dwarf could let go of a grudge…”
Axalon and Iquander looked curiously at their fellow sages.
“The Hateful Wars were about much more than driving the humanoids out of the Lortmil Mountains,” Teleus explained, taking another drink. “Many of the dwarves exploited the upheaval of the Wars to invade their fellow dwarves, settle old clan feuds, indulge their hatred of elvenkind, or drive their gnomish rivals away from the richest deposits of ore and precious stones. In later years, from 508 to 511 CY, more blood was shed between the demihuman races than in battle with the humanoids. Many of the wisest orc and hobgoblin chiefs, of course, exploited the hatred between dwarves to avert the total defeat of their tribes, and to reestablish themselves in the Lortmils.”
“And then, of course, there are the imperial ambitions of Nyrond and Furyondy. Iquander shall, I am sure, speak of Nyrond,” and here he looked archly at Iquander, who stared back impassively, “but the early imperial ambitions of Furyondy began with attempted invasions of the Shield Lands, a trend that would later be continued as Urnst and Nyrond each invaded in their turn. So began the rivalries between the Shield and the Knights of the Hart, as the Shield defeated the Hart in mortal combat and the Shield Lands stood victorious over Furyondy. Hence too began the revolt against the centralized monarchy established by King Thrommel I, that led to the decentralized system Furyondy has today.”
“The Knights of the Shield are not the Hart’s only rivals,” noted Axalon with a smile.
“Certainly not,” Teleus huffed in response. “They have been, and remain, at the heart of those Furyonds who seek the path of empire, and have many a sympathizer among noble and commoner alike. Hence also their loathing by the Knights of the Watch in Keoland, who the Hart bested in battle, and those Nyrondese who have also historically clashed with many of the Furyondian nobles. The Furyondian support of the armies and navies of Greyhawk and Urnst have provided useful checks against Nyrondal expansion to the west, especially with military advice from the Knights of the Hart, and thus many of the more imperial-minded Nyrondese despise the Hart.”
“And the Perrenders?” Tenmuriel asked.
“Contrary to most historical sources, the Aerdi were in truth harsh and cruel masters to the Perrenders, and their oppression grew worse still once Furyondy claimed Perrenland for its own after it seceded from the Great Kingdom. It was only then that the outrages of the Furyonds grew so intolerable that the Perrenders united to banish the Furyonds in a protracted war lasting from 254 to 276 CY, by which time Furyondy had been defeated by the Shield Lands and the costs of war grew intolerable for the people, giving many of the demihumans of the Yatils and the Vesve Forest, who were caught in the middle of the war, to forcibly bring an end to the conflict, unfortunately causing a rift between the Knights of the Hart and their dwarven allies to the west.”
“And what of the Shield Lands?” Iquander asked.
“Their stubborn resistance to all those who sought to dominate and destroy them meant that the Knights of the Shield would soon be left to fend for themselves against the Bandits and the Horned Empire. Their requests for assistance fell on deaf ears in Furyondy, Urnst, Greyhawk and Nyrond, and they were left to be slowly strangled. For all that they had come to the aid of their neighbors…their own arrogance, and their success against invaders ironically led to their downfall,” Teleus replied.
“Ah, but the Shield Landers were caught between the proverbial rock and the hard place,” Axalon noted, finishing his wine. “Had they accepted any Furyondian offers of aid, you know that they would have suffered annexation as the price for military help. A tragic end, to be sure. Alas for the Holy Shield; to perish against impossible odds, yet battling to the very last-methinks they would be honored to perish in such a manner, as would Earl Holmer most of all.”
“Forgotten history need not always be so dramatic, or come to so tragic an end,” Iquander noted, taking a drink of his beer. “The Flanaess is rife with much forgotten history that does not take part on so large a scale.”
“Then it is your turn, last of all, to speak,” Tenmuriel replied.
“Many are the alliances between human and demihuman that have been broken,” Iquander began, “and often for severely practical reasons. When Sunndi was conquered by Aerdy, many of the human Sunnd agreed to lay down their arms and be brought into the empire, hurting and angering many of their elven kin, who were sworn to fight to the last. In anger, it is said, one of the greatest elven lords, the father of Olvenking Hazendel, sundered the great stone on which the alliance was inscribed, and so the Sundered Stone now sits at the center of the Rieuwood, a monument to tragedies passed but not forgotten.”
“One can hardly blame the humans,” Teleus noted. “For how much longer could they stand to have their homes and their lives ravaged by the merciless swords of Aerdy? They could not retreat as far into the forests as could the elves.”
“And yet, in Onnwal, those dwarves who had joined with the Onnwallians to defeat the Flan of the Headlands soon found ready clients in the Aerdi, who were eager to pay for dwarven swords and shields. The Onnwal alliance was broken, and the dwarves made haste to ally with the Aerdi, sending their soldiers, especially their mighty mighty siege engineers, to crush the last Onnwallian resistance in 598 OR,” Iquander noted.
“Consider too, the rivalry between Urnst and Nyrond. When the County of Urnst was occupied by Nyrond, there was no real violence or physical oppression, but there was more subtle oppression; the nation's treasury looted by Nyrond, all the best positions and offices reserved for Nyrondese, Nyrondal visitors acting as if the locals were at their beck and call, simply walking into homes and shops for "services" and paying with Nyrondal coinage, forcing the hapless Urnstmen to pay the extortionate fees of the Nyrondal moneychangers. Even that, it must be said, pales in comparison to the looting and burning of the Theocracy of the Pale at the same time.”
Tenmuriel merely raised an eyebrow at this.
“As Keoland, under Tavish I, drew the other realms of the Sheldomar Valley under its banner, there was similar mistreatment of Geoff, Sterich, the lands that would become the Sea Princes, the Gran March, and the Uleks. Subtle discrimination, it was-looted treasuries, paying local merchants with Keoish coinage, shutting women and demihumans out of positions of power, and other such measures. Such was the power and personality of King Tavish I that these measures went largely unopposed, and even became popular in the Gran March, the Pomarj and Bissel, to the point where they were most enthusiastically accepted in those provinces. Indeed, it may have contributed to the social rot that caused Bissel to collapse during the Greyhawk Wars and convert en masse to the Baklunish faiths,” Iquander continued.
“Tavish’s influence, and his judicial reforms, remain strongest in Sterich, Keoland, the Principality of Ulek, and Gran March, where systems of ‘indentured servitude’ remain even today; criminals and debtors can be impressed into service to work off their debts, and their services can be bought and sold, although it is somewhat better than slavery in that they have specific codes and rights that must be adhered to,” Iquander noted.
“Less profit to be had, however,” noted Teleus.
“And that is why slavery is perfectly legal and open in Greyhawk, Dyvers, Ahlissa, Northern Aerdy, the Pomarj, the Sea Princes, the Lordship of the Isles, the Sea Barons, Rel Astra, the Bandit Kingdoms, Iuz, some parts of Perrenland, the Nomads, Blackmoor, the Horned Empire, and Stonehold. Anyone of any race may be bought and sold on the open market,” Iquander replied grimly.
“The nobles of many other lands, including Keoland, Nyrond and Urnst, engage in the slave trade, although this is flagrantly illegal in their realms. Nyrond also permits the enslavement of the Aerdi and only the Aerdi, which has been especially fruitful after the Greyhawk Wars since many Aerdi soldiers were captured as prisoners of war, and Nyrondal soldiers brought back Aerdi civilians as slaves. Young noblewomen now work as scullery maids, proud soldiers now dig ditches and clean out latrines,” Iquander continued.
“A grim fate indeed, although is it one that is deserved?” wondered Axalon.
“Some might say the same of Nyrond itself,” Iquander noted, “especially considering that the Duchy and the County of Urnst are now holding Nyrond’s debts to them like a heavy chain around its neck, as an excuse to meddle in its politics and give Nyrond a dose of its own medicine from the way it used to intervene in foreign politics itself before the wars. There is no small amount of frustration and anger felt by the Nyrondese at this, as you may imagine.”
“Humans,” Tenmuriel sighed. “We are always prepared to keep alive old grudges and hatreds, passing them on to the next generation, holding them for centuries.”
“Be thankful that we are not the elves,” Iquander replied archly. “Old tensions, grief and anger underlie the grief between the elven peoples. The elves of the Oytwood and the Dim Forest were, at one time, intermingled as one people, before they fell to a bitter succession feud over who would inherit the crown, between a sister and brother who bitterly feuded for their parents’ favor. Those elves of the Dim Forest sided with the daughter, those of the Oytwood with the son, and fractured into two kingdoms. Since then, they have engaged in wars over resources, allied on opposing sides of human conflicts, and united only to war upon the dwarves of the Crystalmists. They are but one example of the bitter and conflicted relationships of the elven race. Such potential, grace and power…lost in eternal conflict and sorrow.”
“Ah, the irony,” Axalon smiled, finishing his wine and standing up to leave. “History both forgotten and remembered has led to conflicts old and new, tensions and repressions that affect us to the present.”
“History is the most powerful of tools,” Iquander noted, lighting his pipe. “What we remember and what we forget, will affect us both for better and for worse. It shapes who we are, our thoughts, our passions and our beliefs. In the right hands, it can be a tool of healing and reconciliation…and in the wrong hands, it can be an implement of hatred and bigotry.”
His words stayed with the other sages as they left the Savant in silence."
||Average Score: 4.5