Friday, 8 September 2023

North Province, Part 1

  

“The soul becomes dyed with the colour of its thoughts.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

This Land is Cursed
This land is cursed. This land is evil. So it is said. So it would seem. Indeed, one can imagine why that belief found purchase, and why it persists. One need only survey its demesnes: Strong currents rip past its rocky shores, challenging those who seek refuge there; devastating storms batter its coasts; harsh winds howl; and roaring rivers scour the gaps between grim grey bluffs and boulders that roll as far as the eye can see.
Harsh. Strong. Grim. Grey. Fitting descriptions of both the land and its people. Each as unforgiving as the Ur-Flan that once reigned over it. Before the Oeridians came. Before the Oeridians were corrupted by it, in turn.
The druids of antiquity allied themselves with the sorcerous Ur-Flan, who once held whole tribes in bondage to their evil. The unspeakable rituals performed by the Ur-Flan went unchallenged by the druidic hierarchy of that era, so long as the former were not so prevalent in any region as to threaten the balance of nature. [LGG – 161]
Having seduced the druidical hierarchy, the Ur-Flan flourished.
Druids of Antiquity
[T]he Ur cults began to seize control of various Flan nations, expanding them into powerful and dangerous empires.
[OJ#22 – 43]
Eventually, they sought to challenge the dominion of the elves, themselves.
The tale of what is now called the Coldwood is a bitter one. The gray elves were once an introverted, studious and mystical society that lived harmoniously with nature; they sought no dominion within or without their homeland. They were very unlike the Ur-Flannae necromancers of Trask who repeatedly sent silver-tongued emissaries to the elven city, yearning for the magical power of the elves, until the day Fey Queen Sharafere banished them from her court. In a jealous rage, the Ur-Flannae brought to bear their magical might upon the city. Conjuring fiends, undead, and elemental forces from the outer planes, they laid siege to the city, night after night. Fire, acid and lighting erupted from the skies and the forest screamed in anguish, beckoning both forces to end the conflict. [OJ#22 – 46]
That Ur-Flan rage was match by another’s.
After watching his homeland become fouled by the Ur-Flannae siege for more than a fortnight, Darnakurian could take no more. […] Darnakurian slew thousands in a matter of hours. The great swathe of destruction his sword brought about ended in the horrific deaths of all he encountered, as he expunged the Ur-Flannae from the Coldwood forever. [OJ#22 – 46]
The Ur-Flan retreated from the Adri into the highlands that loomed over it, lands dominated by Suel barbarians.
Eventually, the Ur-Flan sorcerers waned in power and vanished. Some of their magical secrets are still preserved by the Old Faith. [LGG – 161]

Weakened and sparse in number, the Ur-Flan could not hope to withstand the coming of the Oeridians.
The fierce Oeridian tribes […] moved east, thrusting aside Flan and Suloise in their path. […]
For two centuries the Oerid and Suel battled each other and the fragmenting humanoid hordes for possession of the central area of the Flanaess, incidentally engaging the Flannish and demi-humans. […]
The success of the Oeridian domination of so much of the Flanaess was in part due to their friendliness towards the original demi-human peoples of the area – dwur, noniz, hobniz, olve – and their co-operation greatly strengthened the Oeridians. The willingness of the Flanae to join forces with the Oeridian armies also proved to be a considerable factor. Perhaps the biggest asset the Oeridians had, however, was the vileness of the Suloise – for the majority lied, stole, slew, and enslaved whenever they had inclination and opportunity. [Folio – 5]

The Fierce Oeridian Tribes

One would think that the Oeridians would tame the rocky highlands of the evil the Ur-Flan had presumably brought. But the Oeridians kept to the far more fertile southern plains.
The strongest tribe of the Oeridians, the Aerdi, settled the rich fields east of the Nyr Dyv and there founded the Kingdom of Aerdy, eventually to be renamed the Great Kingdom. [Folio – 5]
-217 CY
Kingdom of Aerdy
Founding of the Kingdom of Aerdy is a proclamation of the supremacy of the Oeridians.
[FTAR#1]
[S]ome 700-800 years ago, the strongest of the Oeridian tribes, the Aerdi, settled the rich lands to the east of the Nyr Dyv and founded the Kingdom of Aerdy. [Ivid – 3]
Oeridians: The Oeridians have skin tones ranging from tan to olive. They have hair which runs the gamut of color from honey-blonde to black, although brown and reddish brown are most common. Likewise, eye coloration is highly variable, although brown and gray are frequently seen in individuals [.] [Dragon #55 – 18]

c. -200 CY
Aerdy was too small to confine the Aerdi.
When the Aerdi moved north from their initial holdings between the lower Flanmi River and Aerdi Coast about eight hundred years ago, they were less interested in the vast lands of the Flan between the Adri forest and the Solnor Coast than they were in the south. [LGG – 73]
Adri Forest
The forest abounds with game, and it is carefully forested and maintained by those who dwell within its confines. The wood found here is generally employed for shipbuilding, spear shafts, bows, and arrows. Weapons common to the inhabitants include the longbow, battleaxe, and short spear. [Folio – 20]
Solnor Ocean: It is said the Solnor reaches for a thousand leagues and more eastwards. […] Great monsters dwell in the Solnor and sport in Grendep Bay when the sun warms the waters there. [Folio – 20]

All too soon, even the less fertile northern highlands lured the Aerdi. Those Ur-Flan who remained resisted their coming.
Other Celestial Houses, such as Naelax and Torquann, desired their own homelands and looked to the northlands. By all accounts, the Flan of these lands were vile and decadent. Worshiping dark powers and draconian overlords, they preyed upon their neighbors for centuries. These gentler folk were quick to ally with the Aerdi when their armies marched up the Flanmi River and conquered those Flan kingdoms in the fifth century OR. Most of these lands were soon consolidated as North Province of the Aerdy, with the Naelax in the primacy. [LGG – 73]
Naelax: Ruling Royal House, major landholders, noted for their penchant for building large-scale, formidable castles and fortifications—and for their vanity. [Ivid – 10]
They had need to. The Suel barbarians crouched north of the Teesar Torrent.
Teesar Torrent: An exceedingly swift river which rises In the North Province of the Great Kingdom and feeds the Harp below the Blemu Hills. [Folio – 26]
Blemu Hills: This chain of hills runs from a point about level with Belport southwards to the town of Knurl, the Teesar Torrent cutting their eastern verge. These hills form the southeastern boundary of the Bone March. At one time they were home to certain demi-human folk, but tribes of Celbit, Jebli, and Euroz now infest the place. [Folio – 22]
Wooden palisades soon dotted the landscape. Towers loomed, watchful against the return of the hated necromancers, and keeping watch over the gentle folk while they were at it.
But try as they might, they could never completely rid the north of the Ur-Flan.

-171 CY
The Ur-Flan were not easily uprooted. A blight never is.
A century and more of growth saw the Great Kingdom expand, with the Flan driven north and the Suloise driven south to the margins of the Densac Gulf. [Ivid – 3]
Chokestone
Chokestone
The site is that of a great battle between Aerdi men and a small Flan tribe in -171 CY. The Oeridians were easily triumphant, and an excessively brutal general ordered the torture and sacrifice of all surrendering Flan folk in thanks to Erythnul. The following day, the Aerdi army woke from its camp to find that the land for several square miles around had been stripped of vegetation. Only slate-like stone remained. As they trod upon the stone, it cracked as if it were brittle paper, releasing clouds of oily, choking smoke. Less than a third of the army managed to march away from the accursed area, and those who survived suffered lung infections and disease which brought their lives to very premature ends. [Ivid – 53]

-142 CY
The Flan were not the Ur-Flan – but the Aerdi would not be convinced otherwise. Someone had to be taken to task for the necromancers’ resistance. Had the gentler folk known what was to be their eventual fate, one wonders if they would have decided to aid the Oerid against the Ur-Flan.
Hextor
After eradicating most of the vestiges of the previous Flan culture, they founded the court at Eastfair in 503 OR (-142 CY), and began setting up a state heavily steeped in the dogma of Hextor.
[LGG – 73]
Hextor
Alignment: Lawful Evil
Priests of Hextor are trained in assassination, so that at the gain of six levels of clerical ability, one of assassin's skill is gained. Thereafter, every two levels of clerical skill gains one of assassin 's ability [.] [WoGG – 42]
Which then was their better master, the Ur-Flan or Hextor? We might never know, as all history speak of the benevolence of the new overlords.
The high history of the Aerdi people is a tale very long in the telling. Hundreds of warriors, mages, seers, and others are much more than footnotes to that history. Aerdi history before the founding of the Great Kingdom is a rich, fabulous tapestry; and the lands the Aerdi came upon were hardly bereft of legends, wonders, and luminaries of their own. [Ivid – 3]

-107 CY
Despite Aerdi censure, the Flan held true to their legends and lore, all belief to the contrary.
So too the Ur-Flan. They believed that if only they could strike a blow the Flan would see reason and rise up under their true masters.
[T]he founding of the order was an auspicious occasion. It occurred in the year 537 OR (-107 CY), when an attack upon the traveling train of the king of Aerdy was foiled by a group of young men, primarily woodsmen and farmers from a nearby village. Ur-Flan insurgents released a winged horror upon the royal tent city in an effort to assassinate the leader of their conquerors. The young men of the village thwarted the attack, at the cost of most of their lives. The king was so impressed with the courage of the survivors that he raised them up as his "Knight Protectors." [LGG – 157]
The Ur-Flan failed, not only to kill the king, but also to inspire their once supressed brethren to recall their (the Ur-Flan’s) greatness.

 -10 CY
As the Ur-Flan faded into supposed obscurity, the Aerdi marched on unto their manifest destiny.
After several decades of increasing growth, power, and prestige, Aerdy embarked upon a series of conquests, the greatest of which was the defeat of the Nyrondal cavalry squadrons at the Battle of a Fortnight's Length. Thereafter, Aerdy was known as the Great Kingdom, whose monarch held sway from the Sunndi swamplands in the south, westward to the Nyr Dyv, and from thence northwards through the Shield Lands and beyond the Tenh. [Folio – 5]
It soon looked as though they would conquer the whole of the world, if not just the Flanaess.

1 CY
Indeed, they very nearly did.
The Aerdy calendar dates from the crowning of the first overking, Nasran of the House of Cranden, in Rauxes in CY 1. Proclaiming universal peace, Nasran saw defeated Suloise and Flan—rebellious humanoid rabbles of no consequence and no threat to the vast might of Aerdy. [Ivid – 3]
The whole of the world could not stand before Oeridian might.
But was that might wholly Aerdi? Or even wholly Oeridian?
Great Kingdom: OS [Dragon #55 – 18]
Unmixed Oeridians, despite claims of the Great Kingdom, are most common in Furyondy, Perrenland, the Shield Lands, and in the east and south in North Province, Medegia, and Onnwal and Sunndi. [Dragon #55 – 18]

80 CY
As the Great Kingdom waxed, so did Naelax. Their central stronghold became a walled town, the wooden palisade impenetrable stone. Before long, its tall walls could not contain its fortune.
The Old City was built circa 80 CY [.] [Ivid – 47]

100 CY
Indeed, the good fortunes of Celestial Naelax raised their House above all others in the north.
By 100 CY, there were four such viceroys. One in Zelradton administered South Province (awarded to House Cranden), and a counterpart in Eastfair controlled North Province (awarded to House Naelax). [LGG – 23]
But the north was vast and still unsettled by the civilised. Too few castles controlled the hinterlands, unable to press back those Suel they had displaced.
When the Great Kingdom was young and the successors to Nasran began the westward expansion of their empire, the northern frontier quickly came to demand their notice. Seasonal raids from the Suel barbarians, which had been a nuisance for decades, suddenly tripled in size and frequency. The northernmost outpost of Johnsport and the coastal towns of Bellport and Kaport Bay became frequent and favorite targets. When it became increasingly clear that the herzog of North Province was unable to deal with the problem, Overking Manshen turned to his experienced field generals, veterans of campaigns in the west, to fortify the northern border of the realm, bypassing his ineffectual kinsman in Eastfair. [LGG – 36]

102 CY
The lesser Houses chaffed under the Greater, and were soon clambering for their own demesnes.
In 102 CY, House Garasteth laid claim to the [Asperdi] isles, and open conflict threatened to break out between House Garasteth and House Atirr, from North Province. [LGG – 99]

108 CY
Before long, the Suel’s hitherto dominion of the northern seas, and their most southerly settlements were under siege.
By autumn, after having been met with relatively light resistance, the Aerdi succeeded in uprooting most Fruztii encampments, and the foundations of a great stronghold were laid at Spinecastle. The Aerdi freed Johnsport in a pitched battle with the barbarians before the onset of winter. Sensing that this would be only the first phase of a long struggle, Aerdi commanders summoned thousands of contingents from North Province over the objections of the herzog, a Hextorian who had wanted to lead the forces into battle himself. [LGG – 36]

134 CY
Houses rise and fall within the Great Kingdom, as stars invariably ascend and descend. Naelax, apparently incapable of dealing with the northern barbarian problem, had fallen out of favour.
In 134 CY, the early Rax overkings inaugurated a series of actions that would ultimately lead to the downfall of their house some three centuries later. In that year, the ill-tempered Overking Toran I deposed the scion of Naelax from rulership of North Province, appointing in his place the leader of the smaller but rapidly rising House Atirr. [LGG – 73,74]
House Atirr ruled the province from its capital on the coast, eschewing Eastfair. The land experienced a brief renaissance under this enlightened leadership. However, this demotion was a slight that the Naelax would never forget. [LGG – 73]

166 CY
Herzog Atirr Aeodorich
Atirr, at present, was in ascension.
Old Baron Asperdi's young but powerful naval force from the Sea Barons was brought to bear on them, led by Lord Admiral Aeodorich of House Atirr, then accorded the finest naval captain of the time. […] This won greater fame and praise for the Aerdi admiral, who eventually rose to the throne of North Province some years later. [LGG – 71]
The Atirr ruled for nearly a century, reaching heights under the Herzog Atirr Aeodorich, a former head of the Aerdi admiralty and hero of the Duxchan Wars. [LGG – 73]

167 CY
Atirr, however favoured, was as unsuccessful in subduing the northern Barbarians as Naelax had been. Lesser houses, tasked with holding the line, paid the price.
Monduiz Dephaar was born in the North Province at Bellport in 167 CY, His family was one of many which fell victim to the seasonal raids of the Fruzlii on the Solnor Coast following the wresting of the Bone March and Ratik by the Aerdi as buffer states against these savage marauders a few decades earlier. [Dragon #291 – 93]

170s to 200 CY
Those displaced by the endless conflict had to make their way in the world, however high or low their origin.
Lord Dephaar survived to earn himself membership in the order of the Knight Protectors, which formed the primary vanguard against these raids. He fought beside such luminaries as Sir Forran Vir and Lord Kargoth. Dephaar soon became a veteran of these northern campaigns, a great and relentless warrior feared by the hardy Thillonrian invaders. As his victories against the Fruztii piled up, his reported atrocities were initially overlooked. Eventually, they could not be ignored and he was censured by the highest echelons of the Knight Protectors for violating their time-honored codes. Lord Dephaar went into self-imposed exile to the far north, vowing requital. He lived for a time among the Schnai, where he not only continued his campaign against the Fruztii but was also forced to learn the ways of the barbarians. [Dragon #291 – 93]

196 CY
Dephaar was not the only noble to find navigating the maze of Celestial politics challenging.
[I]n 196 CY, [Lady] Lorana [Kath of Naelax] was promised to Prince Movanich of House Attir, heir to the Herzogy of the North Province, in an effort by the Overking to heal the rift between the two then warring houses. But Movanich would not have her and spurned the marriage. Lady Kath was humiliated. She joined [Lord] Kargoth's mutinous retinue, indeed was one of its instigators [.] [Dragon #291 – 95]
Indeed, many families found it financially taxing. And perilous.
[T]he brothers Sir Maeril and Sir Farian of Lirtham […] were former Naelaxian nobleman whose family lost most of their possessions during the ascension of House Atirr to the Herzogy of the North Province in 134 CY. They overcame their meager circumstances to earn worthy places among the ranks of the Knight Protectors, ultimately siding with the ill-fated Lord Kargoth. [Dragon #291 – 97]

200s CY
Naelax, though, continued to thrive, regardless what woes might be borne by the lesser Houses.
Eastfair is divided into Old City and New City. [Ivid – 47]
[Eastfair was] greatly expanded in size during the third century when New City began to grow outside the original walls. Old City is now mostly the province of the poorer people, save for the complex of buildings known as "The Cyst," while New City contains the homes and workplaces of the well-off. [Ivid – 47]

203 CY
Whispered rumours passed from seditious lips to willing ears that the throne might be brought to task for its favouritism, for its insidious meddling in the affairs of the great families, for its playing one House against another. So too its nepotist institutions. It only stands to reason that the wronged, the dissatisfied, and the discontented would rally to whatever cause might arise.
[Lord Dephaar] returned south to Castle Fharlanst in 203 CY, when word spread around the kingdom that Lord Kargoth had decided to challenge the Council Gallant of the knighthood. Only then was the true horror of the traitorous paladin's plan visited upon Lord Dephaar, who had willingly joined his seditious circle. He has been a death knight ever since. [Dragon #291 – 93]
Dephaar was not the only one to fall from grace.
All told, thirteen of Kargoth’s cadre fell with him.
Saint Kargoth
The smoking bodies of thirteen Knight Protectors were strewn about the inner sanctum, which now resembled a charnel house. Their eyes had been cut from their faces, and Kargoth was nowhere to be found. Sir Benedor immediately suspected dark sorcery and moved quickly to examine the Orb in the center of the room. The young knight barely glanced at its rune-covered surface before the chamber began to stir.
A sudden coldness tore at his skin. One by one, the smoking, scorched bodies of the dead knights around him began to rise to their feet and fix their gaze upon him. Their armor and clothing were seared to their charred flesh. A preternatural glow emerged from their faces, where once had been eyes. Sir Benedor recognized instantly that these were no longer men, but fiends. These were the dreaded death knights, newly sired into the world. [Dragon #290 – 103]
[Lady Lorena] suffered the same fate as all the others [of Kargoth’s retinue] when the paladin unleashed a demonic horror on the Great Kingdom in 203 CY. The newly sired lady death knight returned to North Province following the upheaval. [Dragon #291 – 95]
All told, thirteen of Kargoth’s cadre fell with him.
The smoking bodies of thirteen Knight Protectors were strewn about the inner sanctum, which now resembled a charnel house. Their eyes had been cut from their faces, and Kargoth was nowhere to be found. Sir Benedor immediately suspected dark sorcery and moved quickly to examine the Orb in the center of the room. The young knight barely glanced at its rune-covered surface before the chamber began to stir.
A sudden coldness tore at his skin. One by one, the smoking, scorched bodies of the dead knights around him began to rise to their feet and fix their gaze upon him. Their armor and clothing were seared to their charred flesh. A preternatural glow emerged from their faces, where once had been eyes. Sir Benedor recognized instantly that these were no longer men, but fiends. These were the dreaded death knights, newly sired into the world. [Dragon #290 – 103]
The Great Kingdom would never be the same.

213 CY
One would never suspect that the Great Kingdom was capable of such evil. But it was.
Its days of shining splendor had come to an end.
The Great Kingdom reached its height over the next century under House Rax, with ambitious rulers such as the lines of Erhart and Toran. However, with the death in the spring of 213 CY of the Overking Jiranen, a sovereign who had reigned many years, succession became a matter of intrigue. His fatuous son Malev was uninterested in the office and proceeded to secretly auction it off to the highest bidder among his relatives. Malev did not care who took the throne, and it came as some surprise when his cousin Zelcor reportedly met his price. [LGG – 23]

223 CY
Indeed, before too long, not only had Naelax regained favour, but it also regained its seat of power. It did it the old-fashioned way: it bought its seat.
Herzog Movanich died mysteriously in 223 CY and House. Naelax once again ruled in Eastfair, while the Atirr were nearly persecuted out of existence over the next two centuries. [Dragon #291 – 95]
House Naelax finally regained the throne of North Province in 223 CY, after the untimely death of Herzog Atirr Movanich. Some say this was accomplished by paying off the heavily indebted Overking Zelcor I, who had no aversion to procuring his own berth over a decade earlier. [LGG – 74] 

Mid 250s CY
But even as Naelax rose, the Great Kingdom began its long, slow descent.
The Naelax grew powerful after the mid-250s CY, when their primary rival, the Heironean church, achieved independence in far-flung provinces such as Ferrond and the Shield Lands. Many of them withdrew from the increasingly decadent Great Kingdom, and no longer would these two rival orders contend equally for the attention of the Malachite Throne. [LGG – 73]

c. 300s CY
Despite the Great Kingdom’s descent, its legacy of evil would henceforth rise exponentially.
The Book of Darazell
This spellbook has a dark and evil history—a legacy that mirrors the land from where it came, the blighted Kingdom of Aerdy. Its spells were first put to paper sometime in the 4th Century by the assassin-wizard Darazell. Little is known of the history of this evil mage save the infamous and rare spells he perfected, especially his trademark Darazell’s noose. Darazell met an ironic fate when he himself was assassinated by unknown hands, his body found slumped over his beloved spellbook. […]
[T]he book was sold, bartered, stolen, lost and found from the See of Medegia to North Province and back over the next 200 or so years [.] [Dragon #243 – 92]

356 CY
The once Great Kingdom was by now only great in name. It was debauched, decadent, and rotten to the core. Those who could distanced themselves from its rot did so, and eventually would rid themselves of it, altogether.
The decisive phase in the break-up of this mighty empire can be dated precisely to 356 CY. In this year, the ruling Aerdi dynasty, the House of Rax, was sundered by an internal feud. The junior branch of the ruling house declared its lands free of the Overking's rule, and the kingdom of Nyrond was born.
The Overking reacted swiftly, amassing a great army to crush the seceders. But he had the misfortune of encountering a powerful Flan barbarian foray into the North Province of the Great Kingdom itself that same winter. [FtAA – 4]
[A] massive invasion by a unified host of Fruztii and Schnai threatened to overwhelm the nations and sweep into North Province in 356 CY. [LGG – 90]
[B]arbarians from the Thillonrian Peninsula raided the Great Kingdom's North Province, forcing the overking to divert troops from the western front. [LGG – 14]
The Overking's armies beat off the invasion, but were too weakened to assault Nyrond. [FtAA – 4]
The barony [Bone March] and the Great Kingdom averted disaster, but at the price of losing all of the province of Nyrond. [LGG – 90]

Was this invasion a happy happenstance? Or otherwise?
History does not speculate on whether the Suel barbarians who then surged south through Bone March and into North Province did so at the behest of Nyrond silver or by their own estimation of Aerdy's critical situation. Regardless, they presented the sitting overking with a difficult option: crush the rebellion in Nyrond or lose the whole of North Province. [LGG – 77]
What choice did the Overking have? He chose the North Province.

437 CY
Ivid I
Naelax was truly the mirror of the Kingdom in its spawning of Ivid I.
House Naelax reached its nadir in North Province with the rise of Herzog Ivid I of the North in the 430s CY. [LGG – 74]
The tale of the Great Kingdom of Aerdi begins almost 40 years prior to Iuz’s rise. In those days, the North Province was ruled by Prince Ivid, a charismatic and able-though thoroughly debauched-nobleman. Because decades of weak kingship under the House of Rax had eroded imperial power, nobles such as Prince Ivid grew bold in their claims, pressing demands upon the Malachite Throne. The kingship, weak as it was, folded beneath the pressure and the Great Kingdom plunged into the Turmoil Between Crowns. [Wars – 4]

Ivid was not content to sit upon his northern throne. Not when he could aspire to the Malachite Throne.
After the withdrawal of Nyrond from the Great Kingdom, the slide became precipitous. Buffoons and incompetents sat upon the Malachite Throne, and their mismanagement split apart the Celestial Houses. This period of degeneration culminated in the Turmoil Between Crowns, when the last Rax heir, Nalif, died in 437 CY at the hands of assassins from House Naelax. [LGG – 24]
When Nalif, the only remaining heir of Rax, was assassinated, a host of rival princes claimed right to the Malachite Throne. [Wars – 4]
Though commonly credited to Prince Ivid’s hand, no direct evidence links the future Overking to the assassination. [Wars – 25]

The herzog (great prince) of North Province, Ivid I, then laid claim to the throne. [LGG – 24]
Years of civil war ensued, and only the intercession of dispassionate houses such as Garasteth and Darmen brought about the final compromise. [LGG – 24]
Thus began the Turmoil Between Crowns [.] [Folio – 5]

446 CY
It would be no easy task for Ivid to claim the Malachite Throne. Nalif had many relatives. And the House of Rax was the house in ascension. For now. But that was no insurmountable obstacle.
No direct evidence links Ivid, ruler of the North Province at the time, with the assassination of the entire House of Rax in 446 CY. [FtAA – 4]
Prince Ivid solved the problem of succession by eliminating all contenders and leaving himself the sole surviving prince of blood. Thus, the House of Naelax achieved the throne and Prince Ivid became His Celestial Transcendency, Overking of Aerdy, Grand Prince hid. [Wars – 4]
The tyrannical Ivid I assumed the Malachite Throne at the price of granting greater autonomy to the provinces, notably Medegia, Rel Astra, and Almor. [LGG – 24]

Each would succumb in turn. Each had their price, after all. Money. Power. Influence. Autonomy.
REL ASTRA (City of)
They desperately seek close ties with Medegia and the Sea Barons to balance the weight of the Overking's kinsmen in North and South Province. It is reported that the Overking views these machinations with ill-concealed delight, for they are seen as check and balance, as the monarch fears his own at least as much as he distrusts others. [Folio – 14]

Be that as it may, Ivid’s North Province would forever be his most staunch ally.
When Ivid I finally assumed the Malachite Throne by 446 CY, North Province remained his closest ally and the chief possession of his cousins. [LGG – 73]
Blood is thicker than water, after all; especially when spilled.
The recalcitrant herzog of South Province was quickly deposed and replaced by a prince from House Naelax, who sought immediately to bring the southern insurgents back into line. In 446 CY, the herzog granted an audience to representatives of Irongate, who went to Zelradton to air their grievances. The offer turned out to be a ruse, and the ambassadors were imprisoned, tortured, and executed for Overking Ivid's enjoyment. The whole of the south arose again in violent rebellion, and one year later formed the Iron League and allied with Nyrond. [LGG – 24]

446 to 494 CY
One might expect that Ivid’s reign was wrought with tyranny. And terror. Probably because it was.
Ivid ruled for 48 years and, though he never regained control of his lost provinces, he bound the rest of Aerdi to him through fear and debauched reward. [Wars – 5]
One might expect then, that such terror would have brought on a certain Pax Naelaxia; but in that supposition one would be wrong.

449 CY
Momentous change beset the Great Kingdom. [FtAA – 5]
Civil war erupted in the Great Kingdom. The North Province, now ruled by Ivid's nephew, soon established independence, as did the wily Herzog of Ahlissa in the South Province. [FtAA – 5]
So much for “blood is thicker than water.” But we are talking about the Celestial Houses, after all. And spilled blood, as noted, is the thickest blood of all.
A nephew that Ivid left as steward of the North Province rebelled against his uncle and established his fief as a sovereign state. [Wars – 4]
The war would span the kingdom in its entirety, even unto the very door of the Malachite Throne.
The history of this second wave of civil war is even more confused and incomplete than that of the first. The sack of the University of Rauxes in 449 CY destroyed all imperial records of the war. [Wars – 4]

450 CY
How many died in that bloody civil war? We will never know. A great deal. So much so, in fact, that the conflict burned itself out quickly. All for naught. Ivid retained his throne, and the Celestial Houses, one after another, fell in line.
In Planting, CY 450, all houses agreed to accept Ivid as overking, and their leading princes paid homage along the Great Way in the Parade of Crowns. The House of Naelax was triumphant. [Ivid – 4]
And yet, however familiar the fa├žade appeared, the Great Kingdom emerged a very different kingdom, indeed.
Ivid may have won a kingdom, but he paid a high price. The South and North Provinces, and Medegia, became in effect semi-autonomous provinces of the Great Kingdom. [Ivid – 4]
North Province was ruled by the House of Naelax [.] [Ivid – 4]
However, that still left Ivid in control of most of the Great Kingdom in theory, and since Naelax held much of the lands in North Province, it made little difference in practice there at least. [Ivid – 14]

453 CY
It comes as no surprise that the good people of the kingdom pined for a happy ending in the civil war’s aftermath; even if they had to find that happy ending in old tales.
Goodmonth
By Gironi Boccanegra in 453 CY
This is a well-known collection of 100 popular short stories, derived from oral tradition, which were collected by Boccanegra and set in a framing story. The framing story deals with ten members of tine idle rich of Eastfair, paired into five couples, who decide to go on a trip while the local clerics try to stamp out an outbreak of plaque in town. They adjourn to a villa outside the city, where they eat, drink and engage in storytelling to pass the time for an entire month (which happens to be Goodmonth, hence the title). All the stories they tell deal with love in some manner, and some are quite bawdy. All the stories are also generally agreed to be both witty and entertaining. [Dragon #253 – 41]

486 CY
If the civil war taught Ivid anything, it was that good roads moved troops more efficiently than bad ones. And that castles lording over the landscape deterred uprisings, depending on who resided within them.
[T]he Castle Tax [was] introduced by Ivid I in CY 486. [Ivid – 18]
The tax was justified as a way of paying for new castles in North Province, where it could be claimed that they were needed to protect the electrum mines of Bellport from humanoid attacks. Of course, such castles were built in lands mostly owned by Naelax nobles. [Ivid – 18]
Ivid came to the conclusion that these new castles, inhabited by his kith and kin, aught to be paid by other Celestial Houses. This had the added benefit of impoverishing those other Houses, making it difficult to raise armies that might revolt against him.

494 CY
Ivid II
All good things come to an end. Ivid I eventually passed away, his Pax Naelaxia passing away with him.
Not to worry, surely his son would carry on his legacy….

494 to 497 CY
Then again, perhaps not.
Ivid II, survived only three years on the fiend-seeing throne. Unstable before his coronation, Ivid II quickly lapsed into raving dementia upon assuming the full regalia of office. [Wars – 5]

497 CY
Perhaps Ivid’s grandson’s reign would be better.
Madness did not bring Ivid II’s fall, however: he was slain by a son who desired the crown. Ivid III immediately followed his grandfather’s example, exterminating his blood kin so none could challenge him for the crown. [Wars – 5]
At least that lends a certain continuity to expectations….

490s CY
As to the peoples’ expectations….
GRANDWOOD FOREST
The Grandwood is perhaps the only part of the old Great Kingdom with some claim to being an enclave of the fair and good. It has been for over a century the refuge for those fleeing the cruelties of the Overking or the Herzog of North Province. [FtAA – 53]
The people had had enough of Pax Naelaxia… those who could flee, that is; those who could not… well… they had to endure what they had to endure.

Ivid III
500s CY
What had to be endured was far more taxing in some areas than in others. Enduring cruelties was one thing, being conscripted into the army or militia to protect those cruelties was quite another.
There is continual border warfare along the Teesar Torrent and in the Blemu Hills of Aerdy' s North Province, although some say that the Overking would gladly make peace with the humanoids to the north and enlist them in his own armies. [Folio – 9]
To be sure, Ivid III and House Naelax began to think that humanoid mercenaries might be more malleable, and loyal, than conscripted serfs.

523 CY
Genell is born.
Grenell has been a survivor all his 62 years. [Ivid – 58]
[The current year is 585 CY (Common Year). {Ivid – 3}]

550s CY
Ivid IV
Ivid III was getting on. He began to wonder which of his progeny might be worthy of carrying on his legacy. He decided that a “Darwinian” approach was in order. It had worked for him, after all….
When he reached advanced age, however, Ivid III declared that his surviving child would succeed him. The announcement unleashed a bloodbath of fratricide in his children’s velvet prison. The sole survivor became Ivid IV. [Wars – 5]
His survivor could not have been more disappointing.
Ivid IV’s reign accomplished little. The Overking excelled in debauchery, not administration. [Wars – 5]
Granted, all that debauchery set the stage for what was to come.
Ivid IV had been a prolific sire. [Wars – 26]
Ivid V had to dispose of 123 brothers and sisters
His grandson, on the other hand, was a chip off the old block!
Before his ascension could be assured, Ivid V had to dispose of 123 brothers and sisters. Though suckling babes proved easy prey, Ivid V's older brother easily matched him. For many years the pair waged a war of assassination and intrigue in their prison-palace before Ivid V prevailed. [Wars – 26]
Ivid V, set to work. Second among the Overking’s sons, Ivid V thought to simplify the appointment of an heir by exterminating his siblings. [Wars – 5]
Though Ivid V completed this task with skill and dispatch, his father still refused to yield the throne to him. [Wars – 5]
Ivid V realised that odd numbered Ivids were better emperors than even numbered ones.

554 CY
Grenell Naelax
Thus, Ivid V hurried on his eventual succession.
[Ivid V] hired the Overking’s latest favorite[concubine] to pour acid in the emperor’s ear. [Wars – 5]
Ivid IV should have seen that coming. But he was an even numbered Ivid, after all, so we shouldn’t judge him too harshly. Besides, Ivid V was certainly an Ivid.
Ivid V's role in the affair is doubtless: the new ruler boasted of the ruthless deed. Recognizing the danger of keeping a treacherous concubine on hand, however, Ivid V sentenced his accomplice to the Wheel of Pain. [Wars – 26]

555 CY
Grenell become Herzog of North Province.
He is 32 years old.
[Conjecture. There is no canonical date for his ascension that I am aware of, but he is mentioned in regard to the fall of Spinecastle, so I assume he had some experience in the role by then. Also: 555 is one number down from 666 in each column. Read into that what you will….]

556 CY
Ivid V
Was Ivid V a successful Ivid? He was, to begin with.
The Great Kingdom saw a brief, violent resurgence during the reign of Ivid V, who assumed the Malachite Throne in 556 CY. [LGG – 24]
Ivid V ascended to the Malachite Throne in Rauxes in CY 556 by the traditional manner of murdering his father and others who got in his way. This was accepted practice in many royal houses in Aerdi. The moral degeneracy which the House of Naelax actively encouraged had taken a firm rooting in Aerdi aristocracy. [Ivid – 4]
Ivid V ascended the throne and has held it for 28 years. [Wars – 5]

560 CY
Not long after Ivid and House Naelax contemplated whether to import humanoids into their country en mass, those very same humanoids came to the conclusion that they very much would like to live there.
In 560 CY, the humanoids of the Rakers began major forays into [the Bone March]. Turmoil within the Great Kingdom was so great that opposition to them could not be effectively mustered. Within four years, the orcs, gnolls, and ogres of the hills and mountains had swept across the lands in an orgy of pillage and slaughter. Rapacious and merciless, the humanoids attacked the North Province, the Theocracy of the Pale, Ratik (especially), and even Nyrond. [FtAA – 24]

561 CY
Given their initial successes, a great many orcs and gnolls concluded the very same thing, that they very much wished to live in Bone March and North Province.
[O]rcs and gnolls who first emerged from the Rakers en masse in 561 CY. These humanoid invaders swept across the march over the next two years and put most of its leaders to the sword. [Dragon #291 – 88]

563 CY
Herzog Grenell surely rushed a great many troops up to the Teesar Torrent to counter the orc’s and gnoll’s advance.
Invasion!
In 560 CY, the Great Kingdom's northernmost province Bone March was invaded by humanoids from the Rakers: it fell three years later and has been in a barbaric state since.
[PGtG – 10]
[Spinecastle] was sacked by surprise in 563 CY by marauding tribes of orcs and gnolls [.] [Dragon #291 – 88]
Presumably, this included Clement and his family, who sheltered at the impregnable Spinecastle until the final assault by the ores. The marquis, along with many of the surviving nobles and richest merchants of the land, held out hope for succor from Ratik or the North Province, but it never came. The city of Spinecastle fell suddenly and surprisingly to the invaders after a prolonged siege. Most rumors at the time indicated that the castle’s defenses were pierced from within, that dark and hidden ways unknown even to the residents of the castle were suddenly laid open from the depths. Whispers spoke of a dark betrayal, and this tragedy only served to confirm for some the notion that Spinecastle was cursed. [Dragon #291 – 88]
Perhaps Grenell sent more than troops to the Teesar Torrent….
Grenell
[I]n what is sure to go down as black betrayal if proven true, it has been whispered that Clement's defenses were compromised by none other than His Grace Grenell, herzog of North Province. As motive, one need look no further than his ambition to annex Bone March, expanding his holdings all the way to the Rakers. Centuries of hatred between House Naelax and House Vir undoubtedly played a role as well.
[LGG – 36]
Because all too soon, those very same orcs that had sacked Spinecastle marched into North Province, as guests, not as an invading army.
The importation of orcs and goblinoids began in earnest after the fall of Bone March, when Herzog Grenell, cousin to Ivid V, made a pact with the orc and gnoll chieftains who deposed Marquis Clement. It has become the suspicion of many that Grenell plotted the downfall of Clement in some way, for he was quick to ally with the nonhumans who soon took over the nation. [LGG – 74]
One wonders if House Naelax regretted that invitation?
An increasing number of humanoid mercenaries have been employed within Aerdy. Originally, their use was confined to the Naelax lands, and especially in the North Province, where Bone March humanoids are used as troops. [Ivid – 10]

The border between Bone March and North Province very soon became a very chaotic affair.
Following the collapse of the Bone March in 563 CY, Lord Dephaar carved out a small realm for himself surrounding his stronghold. He now rules over a mass of humanoids and bandits, who refer to him as the Dreadlord of the Hills. [Dragon #291 – 93]
By treaty, neither side sends any troops into an area of six miles either side of this border. [Ivid – 63]
North Province maintains plenty of spying keeps on the borders of Delglath's lands, however. [Ivid – 46]

One would think that being “close allies” with this new Bone March relieved North Province from requiring a great many troops patrolling its northern reaches; but that did not turn out to be the case.
Note that High Nordan is actually across a border to the Naelax lands, and a large garrison has grown up there in response to Delglath's priestly and undead forces which maintain a strong presence in these villages, though they do not practice the mass executions and animations which occur in the capital. [Ivid – 64]
When the Bone March was overrun with humanoids, Ratik began to court the Frost Barbarians, and formed an unlikely alliance with them to jointly raid the Bone March and North Province. [FtAA – 34]

576 CY
GREAT KINGDOM, THE (Kingdom of Aerdy)
Population: 5,000,000 (includes N. and S. Province and Medegia)
Demi-humans: Some (scattered on fringes of kingdom)
Humanoids: Some (mixture)
Both the North and South Provinces are under the suzerainty of Aerdi royal houses and are ruled almost as independent states. The troubles in the Bone March have caused the Herzog of the North to fall into line, as the difficulties with the Iron League brought his southern counterpart into closer co-operation with the Malachite Throne. [Folio – 10]

NORTH PROVINCE (The)
His Radiant Grace, the Herzog of the North Province (Assassin, 15th level)
Capital: Eastfair (pop. 29,100)
Population: 750,000
Demi-humans: Few
Humanoids: Some
Resources: foodstuffs, cloth, electrum
[Folio – 12]
North Province, the: Grenell, A 15 [WoGG – 17]
[In this early incarnation, Grenell is still an assassin.]

The Herzog of North Province is a cousin of the Overking, as evil as his kin, but certainly not as demented. The boundaries of this princely fief extend from the Blemu Hills to the coast of the Solnor Ocean, extending as far south as the Adri Forest, and well below the Trask River. The court at Eastfair is infamous for its debaucheries. Movement of Nyrond-Almor forces into the lower Bone March, and the capture of Knurl by these forces, coupled with continuing incursions by humanoids from across the Teesar Torrent, have troubled North Province. A punitive force of mercenaries was defeated in the hills above Belport recently, and it is now reported that the Herzog is seeking Imperial funding of a huge army to recapture the southern portion of Bone March. This force would undoubtedly contain both mercenary men-at-arms and humanoids enlisted from the upper portion of the march. [Folio – 13]
Trask River: The Trask flows eastwards through the North Province of the Great Kingdom to empty into the Solnor Ocean. The Town of Atirr at Its mouth is a busy seaport. [Folio – 26]

Grenell of House Naelax rules North Kingdom, and he is an utterly ruthless and cold-blooded monarch. Grenell's temporal authority is augmented by his dominance of the church of Hextor in the north, of which he is the titular head. The line of succession in North Kingdom is unclear, with many potential claimants to the throne; Grenell has no children of his own. Fawning Naelax princes abound in the debauched court of Eastfair. [LGG – 73]

There is but one region within North Province where Grenell does not appear to reign: the Adri Forest.
ADRI FOREST
Population: 25,000-
Demi-humans: Few
Humanoids: Few
This great area of ancient forest lies principally within the borders of the Great Kingdom, although its north-western tip (that part west of the Harp River) belongs to the Prelacy of Almor. [Folio – 20]
The Adri Forest
Some 25,000 people live within the forest, hunting its plentiful game and hewing the fine woods found there. This forest has historically been part of the North Province, with its western fringe beyond the Harp River part of Almor [.]
[T]he folk here have owed little allegiance to their imperial masters. They are now most preoccupied with the dual threats of the Bone March humanoids, who occupy an increasing swath of the northwestern forest, and North Province axemen out for a quick killing from destruction of the Adri. Previously, those from Aerdy were concerned with trade for the woods used for shipbuilding, spear shafts, bows, and arrows. [FtAA – 51]

North Province was not what it once was, but it is also not what it would one day be.
Either way, one wonders: aside from what dwells under the Adri canopy, North Province has never been a bastion of Good. Hextor reigns here, not Heironious. It’s descent into Evil can only deepen, until Grenell’s Kingdom of Aerdy can only mirror the preceding Ur-Flan’s all the more.


“In the end, it is impossible not to become what others believe you are.”
― Julius Caesar






One must always give credit where credit is due. This piece 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.
Special thanks to Jason Zavoda for his compiled index, “Greyhawkania,” an invaluable research tool.


The Art:
Kingdom of Aerdy heraldry, by Rajrani, adapted from World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
Hextor, by Adrian Smith, from Miniatures Handbook, 22003
Greyhawk map detail, by Darlene, from World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
Saint Kargoth, by Adam Rexin, from Dragon 290, 2001
Great Kingdom heraldry, from World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
North Province heraldry, from World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980

Sources:
1015 World of Greyhawk Boxed Set, 1983
2023 Greyhawk Adventures Hardback, 1988
1068 Greyhawk Wars Boxed Set, 1991
1064 From the Ashes Boxed Set, 1992
9025 World of Greyhawk Folio, 1980
9577 The Adventure Begins, 1998
9578 Player’s Guide to Greyhawk, 1998
11742 Gazetteer, 2000
11743 Living Greyhawk Gazeteer, 2000
WGR7 Ivid the Undying, 1995
Dragon Magazine 55,243,253,290,291
Oeth Journal #22
Greyhawkania, Jason Zavoda
The map of Anna B. Meyer

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff as always, David. Love me some North Kingdom shenanigans!

    ReplyDelete