Friday, 29 July 2022

History of the South, Part 14: A Presumption of War


“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.”
― George Orwell, 1984


A Cold War
One might expect that the end of a war was just that: an end to hostilities. One would be wrong in that regard. Ambition endures. Hot war cools to cold, and in that newly rejuvenated temperature, hostilities can endure for years, if not decades, until a spark renews its burning. But the victors had best not rest or fall victim to laxity, lest their woe begotten gains slip from their grasp, either by overconfidence, or too tight a grip.

586-589 CY
The Spindrifts had become a place of mystery. The human inhabitants had been evicted. A swirling band of fog that defied navigation circumnavigated the chain. One can only wonder what the elves are about within it. They brook no trespass. And their lips are tight when they do venture out, whether back to the mainland for unknown purpose, or out further onto the trackless sea.
In the years since the Greyhawk Wars, some of the surviving exiles have joined together with half-elven captains on the Medegian coast. It is an open secret that they are smugglers, willing to transport any cargo for a price. Several of these ships secretly accompanied the flotilla of the Sea Barons in their voyage over the Solnor in 586-589 CY. The Spindrift exiles were thought to be searching for the last members of the Council of Five, who had fled across the waves when the clerics of Sehanine usurped their authority. It is not clear what benefit they seek by contacting their deposed leaders, but the half-elves clearly wish to return to their birthplace and free it of the magical affliction of Sehanine. [LGG – 69,70]

587-591 CY
Xavener
The South Kingdom had spent what goodwill it might have had. Reydrich had had fiendish servitors, he had sided with Ivid, and invaded Sunndi and Idee. His forces had attacked and razed Almor.
But Reydrich was gone. In his place sat an oligarchy of its highest Houses; but it was Xavener who sat upon its seat of power. I am not Reydrich, he declared.
Today, the kingdom is a shadow of its former self, as wars of independence and centuries of conflict have sundered the once great empire. It is now colloquially referred to as the New Kingdom of Ahlissa, or more often just Ahlissa, borrowing the name of an ancient Flan realm that the Aerdy defeated to win these fecund southern lands during the migrations. [LGG – 21]
At one time these were the richest provinces of the Great Kingdom, but years of war have reduced much of the economy to tatters. The last five years were dutifully spent rebuilding infrastructure. [LGG – 21]
The people of these lands are largely an Oeridian-Suel mix; some orcs and goblinoids are here, but few elves, gnomes, and halflings exist except in the forests and hills. At one time these were the richest provinces of the Great Kingdom, but years of war have reduced much of the economy to tatters. The last five years were dutifully spent rebuilding infrastructure. [LGG – 21]

587 CY
Just as Grenell sought to consolidate his hold on the north of the sundered Great Kingdom, so too did the South Province, newly names Ahlissa.
The "Liberation" of Idee
The fall of Idee to South Province in 586 CY and the emergence of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa in the following year panicked many in Sunndi, who already felt threatened enough by the Scarlet Brotherhood's attempts to overthrow the realm from within. A few heavy-handed overtures by Ahlissa for the county to join their nascent empire did not help matters.
[LGG – 111]
Have no fear, the supposed gentle giant cooed, we have no wish to conquer. Yet they had, hadn’t they?
The citizens of Idee feared for their future under Ahlissa, but the oligarchy was not inclined to exact revenge on the rebel province, though looting was widespread. The main enemy was now the Scarlet Brotherhood, whose savage army was not equal to the task of defending itself against heavily armed, highly trained, highly motivated cavalry, infantry, and sorcery. As expected and feared, most of the leaders of the Scarlet Brotherhood here escaped, their whereabouts unknown even to this day. [TAB – 24, 25]
One would imagine that so powerful a nation as Ahlissa would have no need to fear the Scarlet Brotherhood. But in the wake of the war and Reydrich’s assassination, fear was far more powerful than martial might.
Two captains loyal to the Sea Barons were killed and replaced by agents of the Brotherhood in 587 CY. The spies were uncovered, but the Sea Barons are extremely concerned that they will be targeted by the Scarlet Ones to suffer the same fate. For that reason, they have allied with Lord Drax and the Free Cities of the Solnor Compact, keeping a close watch over the activities of their captains. [LGG – 100]
Suspicion reigned supreme. Lords scrutinized their most loyal castellans. Husbands their wives, their sons and daughters. Security tightened.

Fireseek
A secret meeting was held between surviving Oligarchs of Ahlissa and Prince Xavener in Kalstrand after the failed coup by the Scarlet Brotherhood. The South Province needed to unite. It needed a strong leader if it were to survive.
Prince Xavener and his Oligarchs consolidated their hold on this, their kinder, gentler Great Kingdom of Ahlissa.
Greater things were afoot in Ahlissa. A secret conference was held in the city of Kalstrand between Fireseek and Coldeven of 587 CY. The three surviving leaders od Ahlissa’s oligarchy met with Prince Xavener, the most powerful noble among the Aerdy Houses in the southern lands of the fallen Great Kingdom. Prince Xavener brough with him representatives from a broad alliance of other princes whose fiefs were largely untouched by the chaos or were at least able to ride out internal disorder caused by the Greyhawk Wars and their aftermath. These lands had survived decades of struggles between South Province, North Province, Rauxes, and the See of Medegia; their nobles were hard, practical, and ruthless. For all their feuding and infighting, they recognized that strength lay in unity, and they knew the rest of the Flanaess was dead-set against them. [TAB – 25]

Growfest
Secure in their autonomy, Xavener and his Oligarchs declared their nation free and secure.
During Growfest 587 CY, it was announced that these nobles and their Houses were allied in a new political body called the United Kingdom of Ahlissa. […] Prince Xavener was proclaimed the first Overking of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa [.] [TAB - 25]
It is now colloquially referred to as the New Kingdom of Ahlissa, or more often just Ahlissa, borrowing the name of an ancient Flan realm that the Aerdy defeated to win these fecund southern lands during the migrations. [LGG – 21]
Overking Xavener I rules the United Kingdom of Ahlissa (founded in 587) from his new capital of Kalstrand. [LGG – 16]

The first Overking of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa is the head of House Darmen, which has near-total control over mercantile activity in the realm. The Royal Guild of Merchants of Aerdy was formed by this house to manage its trade interests, and the guild today pours vast funds into Xavener’s treasury. Little is known about Xavener except what his court tells others. He is a superb leader and wry charismatic, but his enemies do not seem to survive long in Ahlissa, and it is apparent that some of his aider fear him very much. [PGTG – 26]

One would think that was the end of it. Grenell sat upon his throne in the north, and Xavener upon his in the south; with the cursed ruin of Rauxes in the middle.
Despite these great gains, Xavener cast a wary eye north, as surely as Grenell glared south.
Following the devastation of Rauxes in 586 CY, Grenell became the scion of House Naelax. Like his rival in the south, Grand Prince Xavener of House Darmen, the former herzog styles himself an overking, the head of a true empire. Grenell's assertion is taken much less seriously than Xavener's by most peers and royal houses of the former Great Kingdom. However, it is widely acknowledged that so long as they both exist, Grenell and Xavener threaten each other's claims to rule the true successor state of the Aerdi people. For the time being, the overking of Eastfair is too embroiled in his own affairs to make a concerted effort to settle the matter, and Xavener appears to have the upper hand. Everyone anticipates war. [LGG – 74]
Graf Reydrich
But things are never so simple, not when there are wizards afoot. Even as Xavener was crowned overking, Graf Reydrich appeared, demanding his kingdom returned, as though he had never died, indeed, as though he had never disappeared.
The old Kingdom of Ahlissa became the Principality of Ahlissa, whose capital remained at Zelradton; the title was a concession to the noble houses there who wished to honor Queen Ehlissa the Enchanter, who long ago ruled the area and for whom the fief was named. The surviving three members of the Ahlissan oligarchy were to be left in charge of the Principality and given the title of prince—until Graf Reydrich, believed assassinated the year before, reappeared at the royal ceremony of investiture in Zelradton.
Reydrich gave no explanation of his whereabouts in the past months, instead demanding with some heat that he retain control of "his" Ahlissa. The members of the Ahlissan oligarchy immediately declined to pursue their claim to nobility and were given minor titles and lands far removed from Ahlissa, at their request. Overking Xavener honored the graf's demands and invested him as the Prince of Ahlissa, also granting the archmage the position as Xavener's chief advisor on things sorcerous. However, it is said the Overking made certain demands on the archmage in return for rulership of Ahlissa, and Reydrich was in a fury over them, though he agreed to the conditions anyway. No satisfactory explanation for Reydrich's "death" and "resurrection" has been advanced (and none dare ask him about it). [TAB – 26]
Was this Reydrich? It was presumed he’d been assassinated by the Scarlet Brotherhood shortly after doing away with its spies, and boasting that he would march upon that secretive peninsula.
Few doubted that he was dead then; but they were not so sure, now.

One might hazard the opinion that the transfer of power was not without incident.
Overking Xavener’s reign over Ahlissa was threatened with turmoil early on when several nobles of House Naelax attempted to gain the throne by having their new liege murdered. Overking Xavener was unharmed and even made a public appearance shortly after the attempted assassination: he was in surprisingly good humor. The young Overking said the conspiracy had been detected before it could act, and he deflected questions about the fate of the conspirators. It soon became known that many important Naelax nobles in the new empire had suddenly vanished that very morning. The involvement of Prince Reydrich is suspected. The survivors of House Naelax were given an opportunity to reaffirm their loyalty to the Overking; all swore innocence in the plot and eternal faithfulness to the crown. The Overking said later he considered the matter closed. [TAB – 28]
There was talk that the price Reydrich’s return was paid with heavy coin, and that it was he who silenced those conspirators of his own House.
Would he have paid such coin? Indeed, he would. And mayhap he did; but few would voice such an opinion aloud.

Lord Drax of Rel Astra
Few of the Celestial Houses were keen to join this new Kingdom of Ahlissa. Or the Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy, either, for that matter.
The fall of the hated overking and Rauxes in 586 CY caused Lord Drax to sever ties with the Great Kingdom completely. When Grand Prince Xavener of Darmen organized the United Kingdom of Ahlissa the following year, Drax refused all appeals to join the empire, and he convinced many of his Garasteth peers to do the same. [LGG – 93]
Was living life under an undead king all that bad? Lord Drax didn’t think so.
Lord Drax styles himself an enlightened despot, despite the fact that he is undead (see later). By most accounts, he lives up to his reputation, as he can be harsh but also practical, intelligent, and controlled. He even has a dry sense of humor. He commands a large standing army and a navy the equal of any city's on the coast. He rules with austerity and wisdom, but also with a tight fist; he has little opposition within his realm. [LGG – 92]

What did Xavener do about this? Nothing. He had other, more pressing, concerns just then.
The Scarlet Brotherhood, for instance.
It is commonly believed that Brotherhood spies are thick in this region, though learned observers think far fewer spies are present than most people think. Overking Xavener has ordered a massive build-up of the decrepit imperial fleet, and he ordered the execution and imprisonment of several naval officers who allowed the fleet in Prymp to decay. Given that both Prymp and Naerie City are being upgraded and strengthened as seaports, the Scarlet Brotherhood cannot be happy about the situation. Conflicts with Brotherhood ships have already been reported, but the waters off Naerie (formerly Idee) are said to be swarming with monsters under the Brotherhood‘s control. Talk is heard in seaport taverns of possible raids against Kro Terlep in retaliation for Brotherhood piracy. [TAB – 28]

Almor, as we know it, had passed into history. Duke Szeffrin had laid waste to it. But he too had supposedly met his fate while sacking Rauxes after rumours indicated that Ivid was dead. Perhaps Ivid was not dead, after all. Then again, maybe Szeffrin wasn’t either.
It was only then that Lynward liberated what he could of that savaged nation. He desperately needed arable lands, and people to farm them. And even more importantly, he needed to secure his border from this new Kingdom of Ahlissa.
Nyrond has expanded east to annex the ruined and depopulated lands of Almor, destroyed by the Great Kingdom in the Greyhawk Wars[.] [TAB – 17]

589 CY
As one might expect, there were regions that declined inclusion in either Grenell’s or Xavener’s newly minted Great and United Kingdoms. If they had the power to do so, that is.
Rel Astra has a new defensive alliance with Ountsy and Roland (the Solnor Compact, signed in 589 CY), and it has very friendly relations with the Sea barons. [TAB – 29]

Growfest
King Hazendel
Few, in fact, seemed eager to join with these new nations rising from the ashes of the Great Kingdom, it would seem. Sunndi certainly had no desire to declare either fealty of suzerainty to Xavener’s benevolent United Kingdom.
Sunndi, the largest surviving member of the Iron League, became a kingdom in 589. [LGG – 16]
After long consideration and consultation, Count Hazendel (himself of a major noble house of the gray elves) declared in Growfest 589 CY that Sunndi had forevermore severed all ties with the Great Kingdom and its successor states and noble houses. Sunndi was made a kingdom of standing equal to Nyrond and Furyondy, a political act of no small importance. The few Aerdy-descended noble houses of Sunndi were ordered to rename themselves, and a Congress of Lords was appointed to advise Olvenking Hazendel the Defender. [LGG – 111]

Sunndi chose not to join the Kingdom of Alhissa in 6104 SD; it hopes that Dullstrand will join them. The Dullstranders fear retaliatory attacks from the Brotherhood should they do this, but members of the Scarlet Sign have no such plans. Sunndi served better as a buffer between the Great Kingdom and the peninsula; it can serve as well now that the Great Kingdom is replaced by the United Kingdom of Ahlissa. A strong Sunndi is preferable to a powerful Overking at their northern border. Dullstrand’s trade can be easily restricted by Brotherhood-controlled vessels from the Lordship of the Isles—and by spies. [SB – 7]

Dullstrand did not know this, of course; and it opted to declare allegiance to… itself, and no other. Although it had its preference of those it lent aid.
The independent town of Dullstrand, to the east, did not join the kingdom [of Sunndi] but continues to act as its ally in deed, if not in word. Hazendel hopes Dullstrand will join eventually and become Sunndi’s main seaport to the world, though Dullstranders fear this will invite retaliation from the Scarlet Brotherhood. (Infiltration of Dullstrand by the Brotherhood is rumored but unproven; the town now trades with the Lordship of the Isles without incident). [TAB – 29]
Prince Ingerskatti
An ally in deed, if capricious and self serving, but with Ingerskatti no more than a day’s sail away, unsure what might befall it should it commit to Sunndi.
Attempts to get Dullstrand to join the kingdom as its only seaport have met with failure, since the town's rulers make certain demands that Sunndi will not consider. [LGG – 112]
Dullstrand had reason to be cautious. The Kingdom of Shar might not have subsumed its demesne as it had the Lordship’s Isles, but that was no guarantee that it would not in future.
Fortifying Its Ports
In that same year [6104 SD], the Brotherhood fortified its closest Hepmonaland ports to help maintain the blockade of the Tilva Strait. A third was build farther south on the western Hepmonaland coast; this third port was largely created to move goods, slaves and recruits north.
[SB – 7]
Spindrift Sound itself is navigable, but shipping is menaced by the Scarlet Brotherhood and the activities of a few pirates based on the eastern Medegian coast. [LGG – 68]
The Brotherhood commands the southern seaways, with naval blockades in the shark-infested waters of the Tilva Strait, and in the so-called "Southern Gates" of the Azure Sea, between the Amedio Jungle and the Tilvanot Peninsula neat the Olman Isles. [LGG – 98]

This does not seem to deter the elves of the Spindrift Isles, who sail where they will, blockade or no blockade.
Next to nothing is known of events in the Spindrift Isles, though elven ships are often seen cruising the Aerdi and Oliatt Seas. [TAB – 29]
Elven vessels are sometimes seen to cross the Aerdi Sea in the direction of Lendore Isle, presumably shipping from secret ports cut beneath the Hestmark Cliffs. […] They will certainly intercept any seagoing craft that manages to bypass the barrier of magical mist that envelops these islands. Elven ships were also sighted farther east on the Solnor by Sea Barons' ships in the late 580s, perhaps exploring or trading with distant elf colonies. [LGG – 68]

Amedio Suel
One wonders how that can be, given that Solnorian shipping has not been sighted since the blockade was raised? It might be that the Order of the Scarlet Sign is showing cracks: Always riven with factions, the Brotherhood soon discovered that they themselves might harbour enemies within their fold.
Key Sea Princes and Hepmonaland holdings are being infiltrated by the so-called "Black Brotherhood," a sect devoted to entropy (Tharizdun). [LGG – 98]
The Black Brotherhood utilized Hepmonaland slave forces to run rampant through the streets of Monmurg).
The armies of the Brotherhood, or at least those offloaded in occupied ports to the north and west consist primarily of savage warriors from the southern jungles, soldiers who give no quarter, and who are said to indulge in ritual blood sacrifice. These forces are supplemented by orcs, hobgoblins, and other creatures. Many in the north speculate that the Brotherhood boasts a standing army within its own borders, but little is known for certain. Many nations have met the impressive navy of the Brotherhood, which as often as not is supported by "independent" ships ostensibly from the Lordship of the Isles. [LGG – 96]

The intense heat of summer, 589 CY, instilled a great fervor in the land among the slaves, the few remaining nobles, and even the ranks of the Herdsmen. Details remain clouded, but in that year, a great and ancient temple was discovered in the Hellfurnaces, near the Sea of Dust. For reasons known only among the principals, and surely the Brotherhood's leadership on the Tilvanot Peninsula, this discovery triggered a bitter schism between the western Herdsmen and their kin in Monmurg, which in turn triggered a brief war of assassination among the nation's Brotherhood leaders.
Several junior members, allied with the westerners, revealed themselves as the so-called Black Brotherhood. In the name of entropy, they triggered an armed revolt in the capital, leading brutish Hepmonaland soldiers through the streets of Monmurg. The action was crushed within a single day, but telling damage was done to the hierarchy of the Scarlet Brotherhood Herdsmen. The cry of revolution spread throughout the nation, and all descended into total chaos. [LGG – 102]

To the south, in the Hold of the Sea Princes, monks of the Scarlet Sign fell on each other in a bloody civil war in 589 CY. [WoGG 3e – 5]
The Black Brotherhood
[T]he Hold of the Sea Princes collapsed in a bloody civil war that began in 589 CY.
[LGG – 16]
Little is known about the exact events of the summer of 589 CY, but it is believed that a smoldering religious or political schism within the Brotherhood's hierarchy in the Hold turned into a violent internal war of assassination that threw the oppressive government into chaos. The conflict widened when several junior members of the Scarlet Brotherhood began an armed revolt in the capital, Monmurg, leading barbaric soldiers into the streets of the city to run riot. The revolt was put down within a day, but a general uprising among other slaves began quickly thereafter. Within weeks, the whole of the region was engulfed in widespread fighting, and there was a near-complete breakdown of civil order except in two of the largest cities (Port Toli and Monmurg) and the three islands (Flotsam, Jetsam, and Fairwind), where the Scarlet Brotherhood barely managed to keep its grip on the reins of power. Several astonished observers, present in the Hold as foreign spies, reported that the very mechanisms that the Scarlet Brotherhood used to undermine other realms were turned against the Brotherhood by its own people, with devastating effect. [TAB – 32]
The Scarlet defeated the Black Brotherhood. But only by a narrow margin.
[T]he Lordship of the Isles remains under the Scarlet Sign, and agents of the Brotherhood creep into courts across the Flanaess, sowing their evil plots. [LGG – 16]
The Brotherhood still controls key settlements in Monmurg, as well as Jetsom, Flotsom and Fairwind. [LGG – 102]
This is not to say that the Black Brotherhood was destroyed, because it most certainly was not.

Perhaps the Scarlet Brotherhood’s grip on its conquests is not as firm as they would lead others to believe. Perhaps they had overreached. Perhaps others had, as well: Turrosh Mak’s grip is tight, ruthless in fact; but limited in reach.
The area just south of the town [of Safeton] is littered with rusted weapons, fragments of armor, and goblin bones; a great battle was fought there in 589 CY, when a force of goblins attacked the city. [Slavers – 46]
Perhaps Mak could reach no further than he had?

Not all news is bad. Some is unexpected, even surprising. Three long years had passed before the Sea Baron Fleet returned from its expedition across the Solnor. The Barons had thought the fleet lost. Who can blame them? Few who had ventured far out onto that trackless sea had returned. Those who did vowed never to return. A great many thought this a foolhardy venture, and had said so. All protest was put aside upon their return.
A small fleet of ships set sail across the Solnor Ocean from Asperdi in 586 CY, returning in late 589 CY (missing several ships and many crewmen) with startling tales of the lands beyond the horizon. This has sparked great interest in a return voyage [….] [TAB – 29]

590 CY
As might Xavener’s and Grenell’s….
By 590 CY, Ahlissa’s expansion northward ran into the northern Great Kingdom’s southward expansion. [PGtG – 12]
Rumors flew in the fall of 590 CY that Northern Kingdom forces were seen in the uppermost regions of this march. Some nobles with holdings between Delaric and Rauxes have yet to declare allegiance to either Xavener or Grenell […] but they are under great pressure from both sides to do so quickly. [TAB – 27]
Or perhaps neither was ready to test his strength against the other, yet. If ever.
Currently, Ahlissa is a hotbed of cutthroat politics. [PGtG – 12]

It had been years since the war had ravaged the Flanaess. Their coffers remained depleted. Their peoples remained exhausted. And spent. Their borders shored, they needed time to consolidate their holds, and recoup what they might.
Some trade with Ahlissa through Hexpools, Kalstrand, and Nulhish began in 590 CY, though Sunndi and Ahlissan army units glare at each other across the Thelly and Grayflood Rivers. [TAB – 29]

It was only a matter of time before those who stood against their aggressors relaxed their grip on their swords and shields. They too needed to breathe and recoup.
Hazendel also has reaffirmed Sunndi's allegiance to and support of the Iron League, though only Irongate and the rebels in Onnwal remain as members. Despite the Iron League's anti-Aerdy stance, cautious trade began with Ahlissa through Hexpools, Kalstrand, and Nulbish in 590 CY. Attempts to get the independent port town of Dullstrand to join the kingdom have not yet worked out; infiltration of the town by the Scarlet Brotherhood is rumored but unproved, and the town continues to support Sunndi. [LGG – 111]

...From the Vast Swamp
Besides, Sunndi had other concerns than benevolent Ahlissa: Amphibious monsters from the Vast Swamp, aided by clerics of Wastri were raiding their southern plains. Captured raiders bore dire news when interrogated: Wastri might be contemplating an invasion. Hazenedel ordered increased fortification of the southeastern frontier upon being told what was learned.
Amphibious monsters from the Vast Swamp, aided by clerics of the toad-god Wastri, have raided the realm in increasing numbers since 590 CY. Interrogation of the clerics hinted that Wastri might be preparing for an invasion of southern Sunndi, an event that has occurred every fifteen to twenty years for centuries. Olvenking Hazendel has ordered more castles built on the southeastern frontier, and all existing castles and fortifications there and along the Pawluck River upgraded.   [LGG – 111]

The Port of Dullstrand
Surrounded by enemies, who then could Sunndi trade with? Wastri was bent on its destruction to the south, Idee had been absorbed by Ahlissa in the west. The only port open to it was Dullstrand.
Since the Lordship of the Isles guards the ways between the mainland of the Flanaess and the Tilva Strait as well as the shores of mysterious Hepmonaland, much income is derived from exacting levies from trading vessels passing through local waters. [LGG – 70]
Sunndi had little choice, it would seem.

Sunndi was not the only port vexed by Shar and its puppet. Few were willing to pay the tithes exacted by the Brotherhood for passage through the Tilva Strait, although many did. The price for that passage was frightfully high; so, it comes as no surprise that there were some adventurous souls who would attempt to circumnavigate Hepmonaland, if such a thing were possible. None had tried, as yet. How large was that mysterious continent? How far south did it plunge? It was time someone found out, they decided.
The people of Hardby were surprised when a caravel flying the colours of Rel Astra limped into harbour. They had not seen its like since 586 CY. Needless to say, they were gushing with questions, and eager for news of the Oljatt and Solnor seas.
The circumnavigation of Hepmonoland was shorter than expected. It was also far more dangerous than those who ventured the trip would ever have expected.
That summer [6105 SD], the appearance of a Rel Astran caravel in the central Flanaess surprised the Brotherhood. [SB – 7]
[The Solnor Pact] (Rel Astra, Ountsy, and Roland) have sought to break the iron grip the Scarlet Brotherhood has placed on trade with western lands by way of the Tilva Strait, but without success—until the astonishing appearance of a Rel Astran caravel at Hardby in 590 CY. The crewmen claimed to have sailed around Hepmonaland’s southern tip from the Oljatt Sea, battling their way through a blockade of Scarlet Brotherhood ships between the Olman Isles and the Tilbanot Peninsula and the Sea of Gearnat. They produced many strange spices, tools, jewels, clothes, and devices alleged to have been gained in trade with previously unknown kingdoms and peoples of this tropical land, which the Rel Astrans claimed was either a huge island or a very small continent. The ship’s left two months later for home but has not been heard from since. Despite the ship’s apparent loss, this new route is sure to be tried again by brave crews anytime soon. [TAB – 29]

Tightening the Blockade
The Brotherhood responded by tightening their blockade along the coasts of Hepmonoland; those foolish enough to endanger themselves on such a journey were welcome to try, but any who pass too close to areas the Brotherhood controlled would not live to brag of their exploits. If such voyages became commonplace, the Brotherhood would increase its blockade of the Olman Islands.
[SB – 7]
While the Scarlet brotherhood denied others passage they looked to trade with their neighbours. Through intermediaries, of course, seeing that few would trade with them directly.
While few ships of the Scarlet Brotherhood dock at few foreign ports, their junior partner, the Lordship of the Isles, successfully acts as a neutral intermediary; they trade with Nyrond and the Principality of Ulek; some have entered the Nyr Dyv. [SB – 7]

Turrosh Mak’s grip was slipping, even as the Scarlet Brotherhood was attempting to tighten theirs.
The men of Safeton retaliated against Cantona [in 590 CY] and succeeded in burning much of the town to the ground, but did not eradicate the orcs. [Slavers – 46]
The orcs built a thick rampart to bolster [Cantonia’s] wooden walls, which proved valuable when the Greyhawk Mountaineers attacked [the town] in 590 CY. While the attackers started fires that burned the log walls, towers, and buildings, the earthen rampart prevented the mountaineers from entering the town. [Slavers – 53]

Irongate and Mayor Cobb Darg extended support to the freedom movement in Onnwal.  Sister Kuranyie, ruling representative of the Scarlet Brotherhood in Scant, asked for relief forces to reconquer Onnwal.  The Brotherhood, being occupied elsewhere, has not granted her request.
His Honour Cobb Darg
In 590 CY, Cobb Darg extended his support to the freedom movement in Onnwal, but he is now being pushed to intervene directly to retake Scant. Close relations are maintained with Dwarfking Holgi Hirsute of the Iron Hills, who has no love of Ahlissa, as well as the new elven king of Sunndi, who still pledges his support to Irongate and remains its greatest ally.
[LGG – 58]
The Iron League was not what it was. Idee had already been reclaimed, but Onnwal had proved a tough for the Scarlet Brotherhood to crack, Sister Kuranyie has discovered. It might prove as difficult for Xavener, too.
The barbaric treatment of the populace [of Onnwal] by the Scarlet Brotherhood whet the cry for revenge, and a general revolt was launched in late 586 CY before the Brotherhood could crack down on the rebels. The countryside became a battleground during a brief, bitter struggle in which the freedom fighters drove the Scarlet Brotherhood back to the city of Scant. These insurgents have nearly convinced Lord Mayor Cobb Darg of Irongate that they can win back the whole land soon.
In late 590 CY, they garnered his official, though measured, support; Irongate now recognizes Destron's government in exile in exchange for the export of desperately needed supplies to the besieged capital of the Iron League. Sister Kuranyie (in hiding to prevent her assassination) has demanded a relief force from Kro Terlep to quash the rebellion. However, troubles for the Scarlet Brotherhood elsewhere have made her situation lose priority in the hierarchy, so long as control of the port of Scant is maintained. [LGG – 80]
One wonders what plans the Brotherhood have with Onnwal? It’s strategic position, commanding the Gearnat Strait alone makes it a prize worth keeping; so, why did they not send reinforcements? Were they displeased with Sister Kuranyie? Did they take measures, hitherto unmarked upon?
Onnwallers succeeded in recapturing the manor house of Count Cadwale and found butchered Brotherhood forces inside.
Since 586 CY, rebellious Onnwallers had tried to recapture [Cadwale] manor unsuccessfully, until a storm raging in off the Gearnat veiled their assault. Inside, they discovered a scene of unrivalled butchery amongst the Brotherhood's troops. Several of the Onnwallers remained inside overnight to investigate and were found dead the following morn. Both sides now avoid the area, unsure of what lurks below the house. [LGJ#0 – 12]

Rebellious Onnwallers

More importantly, what plots might the Brotherhood be planning?
And did those plans include a similar fate for Cobb Darg?
Cobb Darg, mayor of Irongate, is a curious one. The Brotherhood had tried to deal with him once before. And failed.
For a man, the Lord Mayor is unusually short […] and stocky, but his wile and wisdom is legendary. […] His wisdom comes from having lived before the Turmoil Between Crowns, secretly working as a member of the Iron League since before its inception—and indeed perhaps its founding. [Dragon #351 – 44]
The reason for his longevity is up for debate, but his wile and wisdom are not. If it were not for Darg, Irongate would most certainly have fallen, as Onnwal had.
Onnwal’s hope of liberation might lie with the cagey Darg.
In 590 CY, Cobb Darg extended his support to the freedom movement in Onnwal, but he is now being pushed to intervene directly to retake Scant. Close relations are maintained with Dwarfking Holgi Hirsute of the Iron Hills, who has no love of Ahlissa, as well as the new elven king of Sunndi, who still pledges his support to Irongate and remains its greatest ally. [LGG – 58]

Ongoing naval warfare breaks out between the Lordship of the Isles and the free ports on the Azure Sea, the latter supported Gradsul and the Iron League.
As of 590 CY, naval warfare has broken out between the free ports of the Azure Sea and the Lordship of the Isles. Ships of the Iron League and Gradsul now attack Lordship vessels on sight, especially those carrying slaves or cargo to and from the Sea Princes or Pomarj. Ingerskatti has won over the desperate prince of Ulek, gaining a port for himself at Gryrax. [LGG – 72]

Elven Ship
Even as the Scarlet Brotherhood began divesting itself of its most belligerent “colonies,” it continued its campaign to dominate the ports of the southern seas: Dullstrand, the Sea Barons, the Spindrift Isles.
They were less successful in that pursuit where the Spindrifts were concerned. Elven Ships from Lendore began sinking ships from the Lordship of the Isles.
Elf-crewed Lendorian ships have sunk three Lordship vessels in the last six months (a fact not widely publicized); their reasons for attacking are unknown. [LGG – 72]
Next to nothing is known of events in the Spindrift Isles, though elven ships are often seen cruising the Aerdi and Oliatt Seas. The fleet sent forth by the Sea Barons across the Solnor in 586-589 CY believes it saw elven ships on several occasions many hundreds of leagues from the Spindrifts. Were they exploring, or on regular runs to elven colonies elsewhere? An elven ship was seen in the Densac Gulf as well in 589 CY, and many wonder if the elves are allowed to pass through the straits or have managed to sneak through using magic. It is also possible the elves are rounding Hepmonaland as the Rel Astrans claim to have done. Many wonder what the Spindrift Isles have become under elven rule, and contact with the sea elves (as they are sometimes called) is hoped to occur soon. [TAB – 29]

Many wonder what might the See of Medegia had become, as well.
There was little news from the See; none really since Spidesa had disappeared into Ivid’s dungeons, and Ivid’s armies had defeated Osson.
Rumours abound: Medegia was overrun by fiends and undead, it was Hell on Oerth, that only fools ventured there, as none ever returned. All are inaccurate, if not entirely untrue. Rel Astran forces under Lord Drax had ventured there, and lived to tell the tale; if you call it life.
Drax is an animus. He was an obvious target for Ivid, given the power and wealth of Rel Astra and Drax's position as scion of a rival royal house. During the wars, Drax sent armies to Rauxes as Ivid asked, but the crucial event was the sack of Medegia and the subsequent attempt to loot Rel Astra itself by troops which had become overfond of slaughter and pillage. Obviously, Drax was furious about this and ordered his own troops in the overking's service to pillage and ruin as many of Ivid's supply lines as possible. Those orders were intercepted, and Drax was magically abducted; for once, there was no advance warning from his fiend-sage.
Ivid released Drax, assuring him that the imperial armies had attempted to loot Rel Astra from a fit of overexuberance and that their commanders had been suitably disposed of. Drax feigned understanding and alliance, but as soon as he returned to his city he began planning to overthrow the overking. He does not have any true natural allies in this. Other princes of his own house, Garasteth, are wary of the old tyrant. No one has ever truly known what Drax really thinks and believes, so no one has ever trusted him much. Drax's tactic, therefore, has been to accumulate as much wealth as possible to buy allies and resources, and to use the power he has to force others to accept him. [Ivid – 96]

Both Ahlissa and Rel Astra claim the chaotic lands of Medegia. As of 591 CY, forces from Rel Astra have captured nearly a quarter of the old See, and intend to hold it despite the efforts of Prince Gartrel of House Darmen in Pardue. Life in Medegia has been hard going, however, and many dreadful discoveries surface there every month. [LGG – 94]
Xavener
You would think that Xavener might have objected, far from pleased that another was laying claim to territories within his grasp; but Xavener was silent.
And no wonder:
Drax also lays claim to much of old Medegia, and here his claim is but a formality. These lands are in chaos and ferment, and Drax's claim is only to establish a precedent should some form of peace descend upon them. No one disputes the claim because no one cares. [Ivid – 96]
That said, Drax had become a force to be reckoned with.
Few cared, though.
Many of Drax's old concerns, when he was but the constable mayor of Rel Astra, have evaporated. Once, Drax had to seek alliances with the Sea Barons and Medegia to balance the oppressive forces of the overking in North and South Province. Now, with North Province seceded and mostly concerned with barbarians, humanoids, and Rinloru's madman ruler, that threat is gone. South Province has no interest in this far-away city. The Sea Barons come to him, rather than the other way around. [Ivid – 96]

They ought to care.
Just as Drax has strengthened his rulership to the point of tyranny, he has many fewer external political threats to worry him. [Ivid – 96]
Drax desires to absorb the Sea Barons into the Solnor Compact and create a new coastal Garasteth kingdom, with Rel Astra as its capital. Three agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood were hung from the walls of the old admiralty, following a fire at the docks last year. A mysterious group called the Dweomermasters took over the mages' guild and has made its power felt in Astran society. [LGG – 94]

591 CY
Just as Turrosh Mak’s grip upon the Wild Coast was faltering, rumours spread that a long-forgotten scourge of the past might have risen again.
The dreaded yellow-sails of the Slavers begin to terrorize the waters of the central Flanaess.  [Slavers – 120]
People were disappearing again.
This time the Slavers were better organized. They had spies in every port, aided by allies more powerful than any they had ever had when they first terrorized the southern seas.
Two months ago, a strange visitor arrived from the south. He rode a monstrous skeletal drider and bore a sealed letter from Stalman Klim, High Priest of the Earth Dragon. The visitor, a necromancer named Braxem, proposed an alliance with Klim in exchange for permission to use the numerous dead bodies available in the conquered Wild coast. In turn, the wizard would provide undead troops and magical assistance for the Slavers. Klim was impressed with the man’s forthrightness and power. He spoke on his behalf to the other Slaverlords, and they agreed. [Slavers – 63]

So too is the Scarlet Brotherhood’s hold faltering. The Duxchanders, always obstinate, chafed under the Scarlet Sign. Cracks were forming amid their lords, ever widening.
Many isle lords chafe at the rule of the Scarlet Brotherhood, despite the improved opportunity to take revenge on their longtime enemies, the Sea Barons. Certain Oeridian barons, as well as the counts of Jehlum and Luda, are covertly loyal to the Iron League and meet secretly on Temil. Mithral has been discovered on Ganode. [LGG – 72]

A magical missive from the Hold of the Sea Princes to the Scarlet Brotherhood, intercepted by a privateer of the Iron League, warns of a new leader in the Hold.  This man, Utavo the Wise, led a Touv slave rebellion in the town of Kusnir on the shores of Lake Spendlowe.
A magical communication to the Scarlet Brotherhood, intercepted by a privateer in service to the Iron League, warns of a new power in the chaotic Hold of the Sea Princes. A former Touv slave known as Utavo the Wise holds the southern Duchy of Berghof as a sanctuary for hundreds of freed slaves and so-called savages, imported by the Brotherhood during the Greyhawk Wars. Utavo and his men slew the Brotherhood agents in the lakeside town of Kusnir, and have sent peace envoys to the marodin, the inhuman lake-people who inhabit the depths of Lake Spendlowe. [LGJ#0 – 12]

Does anyone know what the elves of the Spindrifts are up to on their shrouded archipelago? No. None do. But for all their seclusion, they have taken a special interest in the shipping of the Kingdom of Shar and their allies.
Elf-crewed Lendorian ships have sunk three Lordship vessels in the last six months (a fact not widely publicized); their reasons for attacking are unknown. [LGG – 72]

Lord Drax's Ambition
Xavender’s hold on his United Kingdom is far more precarious than could have believed.
Rel Astran forces under Lord Drax had captured nearly a quarter of the old See of Medegia, something Xavender has been unable to accomplish.
Both Ahlissa and Rel Astra claim the chaotic lands of Medegia. As of 591 CY, forces from Rel Astra have captured nearly a quarter of the old See, and intend to hold it despite the efforts of Prince Gartrel of House Darmen in Pardue. Life in Medegia has been hard going, however, and many dreadful discoveries surface there every month. [LGG – 94]
Drax desires to absorb the Sea Barons into the Solnor Compact and create a new coastal Garasteth kingdom, with Rel Astra as its capital. [LGG – 94]
One wonders if this is why Xavender has sent out emissaries into the Flanaess.
Lately, an axis against the Lordship and its Scarlet Brotherhood allies is forming around the Azure Sea, and the sight in early 591 CY of a frigate flying the colors of the prince of Naerie (of Ahlissa), docked at Gradsul, should give them pause. [LGG – 72]
Could he be looking for allies for a conflict he knows might come, or what might be inevitable?


“In the face of pain there are no heroes.”
― George Orwell, 1984





One must always give credit where credit is due. This History is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable.
Thanks to Steven Wilson for his GREYCHRONDEX and to Keith Horsfield for his “Chronological History of Eastern Oerik.” Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.


The Art:
Xavener, by Vince Locke, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Amedio Suel, by Ken Frank/Charles Frank, from Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
Cobb Darg detail, by Joel Biske, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000
Elven Ship, by Joel Biske, from Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, 2000

Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
1043 The City of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1989
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1977
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1981
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11374 The Scarlet Brotherhood, 1999
11621 Slavers, 2000
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
Ivid the Undying, 1998
Dragon Magazine
OJ Oerth Journal, appearing on Greyhawk Online
LGJ et. al.
Greychrondex, Wilson, Steven B.
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The Map of Anna B Meyer

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