Kingdom of Greatvale

The lands of the Greatvale

The lands of the Greatvale

The Kingdom of Greatvale was one of the Nine Ancient Realms that dominated the Greatvale region for over five thousand years until it was reorganized into the Greatvale Folkdeed.

Around 5450 PC, Wulfred of Dunburgh led a party of colonists from the Hidden Lands toward the Sunset Lands. After their expedition was blown off course in bad weather, and after surviving a shipwreck that nearly claimed the life of Wulfred, they arrived in Greatvale near what is now known as the Beacon in Fralin’s Deep.

Wulfred led the survivors of the expedition up the estuary they named the Great Tidewater to a site suitable for encampment.  It is said that upon seeing the site for the first time, Wulfred exclaimed, “Ah, here at last is a home for our people.” Thus was the place named “Folkhame.” Accounts vary as to when the term Greatvale was first used, as it is not entirely clear when the scope of the valley was realized.

Wulfred remained as leader of the colony until  his death, when he was succeeded by his son Cynric.  Neither Wulfred nor Cynric, despite being considered the founding members of a royal dynasty that would last thousands of years, were ever called “king” during their lifetimes.  The term that was used of Wulfred and his descendants was traditionally “Boroughreeve,” roughly equivalent to “mayor.”  By the middle of the Fifth Millennium PC, the term buriff had lost all exclusive association with the Borough of Folkhame and had come to refer to the lord, based in Folkhame, who ruled the lands of the vale surrounding the Tidewater.

The Unification of Greatvale

In 3792 PC, the Buriff of Folkhame had succeeded in subduing or outright conquering all the other regions of the valley and established one unified political entity.  The unification of the vale brought about a transformation in the culture of the region and the belief that a new era of civilization had been achieved.  With that change, the Buriff took on the title of cyning or “king”, a term translated from neighboring tongues for a concept that had in reality long existed in the vale.  With the unification of the valley, the Kingdom of Greatvale was born.

Dynastic History

The Kingdom of Greatvale was ruled over the millennia by a number of different dynasties, but all of them claimed descent from Wulfred in some fashion or another, and so according to the official chronicles of the Kingdom of Greatvale, the line of Wulfred continued throughout the entire monarchy.  Contemporary scholars doubt the claims of a number of the dynasties as to the bloodlines of Wulfred, but the question is not settled.

The End of the Monarchy

The final dynasty to sit on the throne of Greatvale, the Beornish Dynasty, was plagued by capricious rulers who often bordered on the brutish.  The Last King, Godwine III Beorncyning, was such an erratic and cruel leader that his reign led directly to the Long Campaign of 118-110 PC that ended the monarchy once and for all and established the Folkdeed of Greatvale.

The Patronage

The Patronage is located in the northeast portion of the Sunrise Lands, located at the confluence of the Fithalir and Adder Rivers. It is bounded on the north by the Barkeater Mountains, to the east by the Long River, to the west by the Saltmarshes, and to the south by the Fortress Mountains.

The lands of the Patronage and surrounding realms

The lands of the Patronage and surrounding realms

In the Third Century PC, in response to the continued commercial and economic growth of the Kingdom of Greatvale, Carmadh attempted to establish a number of colonies in a bid to become a continent spanning empire. King Azh-Azuza granted colonization rights to a number of companies that would agree to establish colonies of a certain size. A number of Carmadhi companies committed to founding colonies along the shores of the Fithalir River on the east coast of the sunrise lands.

In 247 PC, the first Carmadhi company, the Fithalir River Trading Company, established a colony at the mouth of the Fithalir on the Island of Many Hills. By the royal charter granted to each company, the head of the company, or Patroon, was granted lordship rights over a tract of land not to exceed ten leagues long (or five leagues long if on both sides of the river) and five leagues inland.  The families that agreed to settle on this patronage land, were in effect indentured servants for a period of fifteen years, during which all income generated went to the Patroon who forwarded a percentage on to the king in Carmadh.

In 223 PC, Ethif Zu’ujja founded the patronage of Fort Naranj near the juncture of the Fithalir and Adder Rivers.  The patronage established under Zu’ujja began to prosper immediately from the fur and lumber trade.  The fur trade was made even more lucrative by good relations Zu’ujja developed with the indigenous populations of the high forest and the lands south of the Barkeater Mountains. His son, Gikud Zu’ujja continued development of the patronage and by the beginning of the Second Century PC, the Zu’ujja Patronage was the wealthiest of all the Carmadhi patronages established along the Fithalir.  The patronage system was a great success for Carmadh, allowing them to grow in wealth and prestige among the realms of the Sunrise Lands and would likely have continued unabated but for the Catastrophe.

With the Catastrophe, much of the communication between Carmadh and their patronage colonies in the east was severed.  By the time the Lost Time was over, the Zu’ujja Patronage had managed to establish itself as the sole surviving patronage of the region, having conquered or purchased the other realms.  The records of this era (as with the records of so many other realms during the Lost Time) are fragmentary, but suggest that through a combination of military prowess and diplomatic cunning, The Zu’ujja patroons won control over the whole Fithalir Valley from the Island of Many Hills and the Great Isle in the south to the edge of the Barkeater Mountains in the north. Unverified reports suggest that the Zu’ujjas even entered into a pact with the Nine Related Tribes to the south that effectively surrounded the historic patronage of the Fithalir River Trading Company and led to its conquest. By the end of the Seventh Century AC, the Patronage (as it was now called), was in effective control of all the lands from the Long River to the east to Saltmarsh in the west.

The Patronage remains to this day one of the great economic powerhouses of the far east and continues to have strong economic ties with Carmadh, although Carmadh has never formally relinquished its claims on the lands of the historic patronages and as a result there are always rumors of conflict brewing.

 

The Long Campaign

The Long Campaign is the name given to the nine-year long civil war that removed the Last King of Greatvale and established the republic known as the Greatvale Folkdeed.

Background

The lands of the Greatvale

The lands of the Greatvale

In the year 120 PC, Archon Zajjasu of Carmadh celebrated the tenth year of his reign with a hunting party.  This hunting party attracted some of the great nobles and leaders of the western Sunrise Lands. Notably absent from the invitation was King Godwine III Beorncyning of Greatvale, though few were surprised by this, as relations between Carmadh and Greatvale were cool at the time. Zajjasu took his hunting party along the western side of the Kiting Mountains, the name by which Carmadh refers to the Westvale Mountains.  Toward the end of the expedition, Zajjasu led his party into the Deepwood, the forest to the south of the Westvale Mountains that marks the boundary between Carmadh and Greatvale. Although at this time the border had never been firmly established between the two realms, the woods were considered something of a “neutral zone” between the kingdoms, available for ordinary use by the people, but off limits for military or commercial use.

When Godwine became aware of Zajjasu’s party’s presence in the Deepwood, the slight of his non-invitation became insult.  He declared that Carmadh’s presence in the Deepwood was an affront to all of Greatvale and especially to the honor of his house. To announce his response, he spoke before the Ealdormoot, many of whom were skeptical, but since Godwine merely convened the gathering to declare his intention rather than seek their counsel, their opinions were largely irrelevant. This followed a long pattern of erratic behavior on the part of Godwine and his increasing indifference toward the opinions of the nobles and aristocrats who made up the Ealdormoot. On the first day of Lenctenmath 118 PC, Godwine led a great host out from Folkhame toward the Deepwood to engage Zajjasu and to secure the Deepwood once and for all as Greatvale territory.

On the way west, the army camped outside the town of Oxbridge, near the farm of Swithin Sceaphyrd, a commoner landholder.  During the encampment, the men of Godwine’s host resupplied themselves with the produce of Sceaphyrd’s farm, slaughtered his flocks, and at one point, seized his daughters for the “comfort” of the troops.  Sceaphyrd pleaded to the king for justice for his daughters and restitution for his lost crops and livestock.  The king rejected Sceaphyrd’s plea and sent him away. The king was reported to have said, “The problems of peasants are nothing when the honor of kings is at stake.”

Devastated, Sceaphyrd went to the Boroughmoot of Oxbridge and requested their aid.  The Boroughmoot authorized their Ealdorman, Hrothgar of Wildewood, himself a cousin to Godwine, to petition the King for mercy through the Ealdormoot. Ealdor Hrothgar was in Oxbridge at the time and agreed to speak to his cousin for restitution and return of the girls.

When Hrothgar appeared before the king, Godwine became so incensed that his judgment was being questioned, by his kin and his subjects, that he had Hrothgar arrested as a traitor and bound in irons.  He then dispatched a legion to raze Oxbridge to the ground as a “town in rebellion.” Swithun Sceaphyrd and his family were all executed as sympathizers to the Carmadh cause, though it is sometimes believed that one of his daughters escaped.  Every member of the Boroughmoot was nailed to the walls of Oxbridge before they were set on fire.

Leofric’s Rebellion

Leofric of Brandwyck, a Hundredman in Godwine’s army was witness to the razing of Oxbridge as he rode with some of his officers on sentry around the camp.  Having become convinced that the king, after a long history of erratic behavior, had in fact gone mad, he and his officers rode as fast as they could back to Folkhame with news of the destruction of Oxbridge.

The Ealdormoot was greatly distressed to hear the news, but opted to take no action—half of the members were either kin or appointees of the king. Many even criticized Leofric for raising the matter during a time of national crisis, a crisis, Leofric noted, that had been started by this same mad king. Leofric took the curious, and at the time, novel action of resigning his commission to the Ealdormoot rather than to the king, saying that his honor as a soldier would not allow him to continue to serve a king who was enemy to his own subjects.  He would not speak on behalf of his officers, but all of them followed suit and resigned before the Ealdormoot.

Leofric and his officers rode north headed toward Brandwyck.  En route they were intercepted by a rider who bore a surprising message: a number of the Ealdormen and -women shared Leofric’s concerns about the king and wished to meet with him.  A day later, in a back room at the Fly & Eel Inn, Leofric and his men met with Æthelræd of Whitshollow, Frithuswith of Northmarch, and Hereweald of Eoford. The members of the Ealdormoot told Leofric that they had had some concerns about the king for some time, noting that his edicts had grown more and more erratic and that this entire venture against Carmadh was forced down the Ealdormoot’s throat.  As the conversation went late into the night, the list of the king’s follies and crimes grew longer and longer as the Ealdors shared what they knew.  At each report, Leofric became more and more disturbed and agitated.

Finally, Æthelræd stated bluntly, “The king is insane,” to which Leofric famously replied: Se cyning is ne wodseoc; cyningscipe biđ wodseoc – ”The king is not insane; kingship is insane.” He went on to note the injustices perpetrated by practically every king after King Cynric I, even the kings they considered “good”, and noted that it was the entire structure that bred this kind of evil.  Some of his officers shared stories of horrors from neighboring realms.  And every once in a while one of the company would simply utter: “The king is not insane; kingship is insane.” As they paused at one point, simply to reflect on what had been said, Frithuswith sat forward in her chair and asked: “Who is Greatvale for, in the end? The King or the people?”

Leofric stood and announced his intention to continue his ride north and there to rally the people to declare a free state independent of the crown. The Ealdors agreed that they would return to Folkhame to try to discern how many of the Ealdormoot would support such action.

Leofric rode north to Brandwyck and shared with the Boroughmoot what had taken place in Oxbridge and the other reports of the king’s misdeeds. The Boroughmoot reacted with horror but were reluctant to take action. “What course do we have available to us?” one member reportedly asked. “Shall we set up for ourselves a king in the north against whom some later valiant son will have to rebel?” Leofric replied, “There will be no king in the north, and if the fates are with us, there will be no king in the south. Our task is to create a work of the people, a folkdeed.” The Boroughmoot affirmed the idea and on the 12th day of Blostmath 118 PC, the free and independent Folkdeed of Northvale was declared.  Leofric was offered the post of Lord Protector but declined, arguing that he could better support the new state as a general and pleaded with the Boroughmoot to govern as a council.  In later years, Leofric is reported to have said, “Had I taken the office, even though it have a different title, I would have been a king; and I had seen enough of kingship to know that I was not strong enough a man to resist its corruptions.”

Leofric went to the neighboring estates and holdfasts, personally appealing for support. It was said that such was Leofric’s passion, valor, and charm that he often persuaded people within the first minutes of his conversation with them.  Within a month the whole of the Northvale and the Northmarch had allied themselves with the fledgling state in Brandwyck.  Leofric proved an impressive commander and within a few weeks had established defenses for the new realm that were the rival of anything the Kingdom had ever produced.

The King’s March (118-116 PC)

When King Godwine was told of what had happened in Brandwyck he was outraged.  He quickly broke camp and returned to Folkhame with his entire army, save a couple of legions to guard the frontier, which he still believed was about to be invaded by Carmadh. When he arrived in Folkhame, he disbanded the Ealdormoot and placed many of the members under house arrest. Godwine believed that Brandwyck could never have done what it did without either aid or encouragement from the Ealdormoot and set out to determine who in the council had betrayed him.

While the Kingdom of Greatvale had never been anything remotely resembling a participatory democracy, the Ealdormoot had long been a respected advisory body, and helped the nobles to feel involved in the kingdom and giving them a sense of ownership.  Now, those same nobles were being rounded up and imprisoned by the king and his agents.  Æthelræd of Whitshollow was thrown into a dungeon and eventually died under torture.  Frithuswith of Northmarch and Hereweald of Eoford were able to escape Folkhame and were taken north by agents of Leofric.

The King's March

The King’s March

Godwine’s measures in Folkhame were brutal and achieved a measure of success; all dissension was quelled in the capital and when the Ealdormoot was eventually reconvened, it declared all of Godwine’s actions to be legal and necessary in defense of the realm.  They declared the Northvale and Northmarch as territories in rebellion and as traitors deserving of death. Any member of the Ealdormoot who was not in attendance or who would not sign a proxy letter was declared anathema and placed under an order of condemnation.

Godwine dismissed Folkhome’s boroughmoot and left a governor in charge of the city. Feeling that the situation in Folkhame had been stabilized, he took his army north into the surrounding countryside to root out rebel sympathizers. There was no method to the king’s effort to root out enemies of the crown.  At times he appeared to select targets on a whim, burning down farms and even entire villages because he knew they had to be part of this rebellion. For two years, Godwine’s army terrorized the central valley on either side of the Great Tidewater. Entreaties by the Ealdormoot to return to Folkhome and take his place on the throne were ignored. In all this time, Godwine made not one attempt to enter the lands that had declared independence.  All of his activity took place on land that was considered to be loyal. Over the course of the King’s March, it is believed that some 30,000 Greatvalers died at the hands of the king’s army.

The Siege of the North (116-114 PC)

Having been satisfied that the lands behind him were now free of treason, Godwine set his eyes on the north country.  In Sonnemath of 116, he led his host north along the Great Tidewater toward Brandwyck.  Leofric had by this time erected fortifications all along the ridge line, preserving the high vale territories, on which much grain could be grown, but also the mills of the the upper Tidewater.  Had Godwine marched north immediately, rather than needlessly terrorizing the southern and central countryside, he would have caught the Folkdeed in a much more disadvantaged state.

The siege of the north

The siege of the north

As it was, the king’s host was prevented from moving further up the valley; the fortifications were sufficient to hold Godwine’s advance but not to drive it back completely.  One of the great strengths of the Kingdom of Greatvale is that the entire geography is something of a fortress. The mountain that surround the valley are exceptionally difficult to cross in great numbers and the safe passes are few.  Godwine decided to use this to his advantage.  He decided to lay siege to Northvale and starve them out. He dispatched two legions to secure the passes to the north and northeast of the vale. In one case, he illegally sent troops over foreign soil to block the pass from the back end.

Leofric dispatched as many forces as he could to defend the passes from incursion, but knew he did not have enough strength to dislodge the king’s troops and maintain the defenses along his southern fortifications.  The Brandwyck boroughmoot established programs to store food as best as possible. Great storehouses were constructed for grain. A woman named Hilda, widow to Eadmund Fiscere, led a band of people north into the mountains to carve out great chunks of ice and bring them down into the vale by sledge. They placed these large pieces of ice in the ground and built structures over them.  These “Hilda’s Iceboxes” became huge storage centers for fish from Lake Sworetunga  and other perishable produce of the region. Initially, people were asked to sacrifice a meal a day to save on food and then two; by the end of the siege, these conditions would be considered feasting.

The winter of 116-115 PC was relatively mild with a late fall and an early spring. Food production was diminished but was still able to provide for the people of Northvale.  The winter of 115-114 PC was brutal and early frosts were hard on fruit trees.  The depth of the ice on Lake Sworetunga made fishing difficult and the yields of fish were much lower that year.  In addition, Godwine sent raiding parties across the frontier to set fire to fields just before harvest, devastating entire communities.  This, in turn, led to the development of the Folkeored, a mounted regiment who could patrol the farmlands and respond quickly to any reports of firing of fields.  The Folkeored was ultimately able to capture or kill most of those who came on raiding parties but not before those parties exacted a heavy toll.

Rebellion in the South (114 – 113 PC)

Ultimately, the rescue of the north did not come from Leofric’s armies or the Folkeored, but from the peoples of the south.  The siege on Northvale had had disastrous effects on the economies of the south, especially the trading and merchant fleets of Fralin’s Deep.  By the second century P.C., Greatvale had established itself as a seagoing, mercantile power in the region.  There was a high demand for the quality linen and much of the produce of the northern vale.  Godwine’s siege of the north had prevented any goods from leaving and the commercial interests of the south were suffering the effects.  The southern merchants had petitioned the king repeatedly through the Ealdormoot, but as with everything else, those petitions went unheeded.  As the siege dragged on, rumblings in the south that the king was no longer a protector of the realm but a maniac bent on punishment of those who defied him began to increase.  The horrors of the King’s March were now becoming more and more well-known as reports of the king’s indiscriminate justice began to travel the realm.

The rebellion in the south

The rebellion in the south

In Regenmath of 114, the boroughmoot of Fiscerehæfen declared itself independent of the crown even going so far as to declare themselves to be the folkdeed of Fiscerehæfen. Seven other coastal cities followed suit and before long were calling themselves the Folkdeed of Southvale. Town militias and other companies of volunteers were hastily put together and marched north to secure important roads and trade routes. One company marched into Wulfred’s Byland to secure important grain resources. When word of the southern rebellion reached Godwine in the north, he immediately pulled his forces back and marched on Folkhame. His advance was slowed by muddy roads and ironically by the lack of provisions in the central valley due to his harsh campaigning there two years before.

By the time Godwine reached Folkhame, the city had lost half its population to flight.  Tens of thousands streamed south into the lands of the Southvale Folkdeed. The governor whom Godwine had placed in charge of Folkhome after disbanding the city’s boroughmoot, ruled with an excessively heavy hand in an effort to quell any dissent. When Godwine got to Folkhame, he found it essentially plundered, as the city’s residents had taken everything of value they could, the most valuable thing being themselves as the city’s workforce.  Godwine executed his governor for incompetence and immediately dispatched his soldiers around the city to shore up the defenses and attain provision.

Godwine was still under the impression that his force was the strongest, and in strictly speaking numeric terms this may have been the case. But by this time, after four years of war that had done little to quell the northern rebellion and had succeeded in igniting a southern one, many in the royal army were demoralized.  In fact, so intent had Godwine been on quelling dissent in the broader population, that he had ignored the rising levels of dissatisfaction in his own forces.  In Hærfestmath of 114 PC, Osbeorn Swordsmith, a commander in the royal host, simply marched his legions out of the gates of Folkhame and defected en masse to the southern cause.  Osbeorn was a nobleman of a long-established house that prized honor, and like Leofric before him, decided that his honor would not allow him to serve a king who had become his subjects’ enemy.  According to the reports, took his legions outside the gates, stood before them and announced, “We are marching south to join in the defense of the southern lands from this monster of a king.  Any man who wishes to stay may do so without penalty.” According to those same reports, not a single soldier left.  Many have speculated as to why Osbeorn did not simply command his legions to take control of Folkhame itself and become king. Speculation has long focused on whether Osbeorn had the numbers to accomplish this task and has largely ignored the reality that to someone of Osbeorn’s background, such a betrayal would never have been honorable, whereas riding to the defense of an oppressed population (and one in sore need of experienced military leadership) was honorable.  One apocryphal report states that as they rode south, one of Osbeorn’s captains said to him, “The king truly is insane,” whereupon Osbeorn is said to have replied, “The king is not insane, kingship is insane.”

The Intervention (113-112 PC)

The ongoing crisis in Greatvale eventually became one of tremendous concern to the surrounding realms.  Godwine himself had never been popular and initially the rebellion brought comfort to some of the other powers in the region, especially to Zajjasu of Carmadh.  But as the conflict wore on, it became clear that the nature of the rebellion was a bigger threat than Godwine himself had ever been.  Two dissident realms had established themselves in the north and south of Greatvale and neither one had proclaimed a king. In fact, they had both declared themselves to be intentionally free of a king.  Fearing the political instability this might bring about in their own realms, the surrounding powers all sent expeditionary forces into Greatvale to shore up Godwine and help to quell the rebellions.

The intervention by foreign powers

The intervention by foreign powers

Initially, southern forces were taken aback by the foreign intervention, and heavy losses were suffered in the initial encounters, particularly in Wulfred’s Byland and in the south-east marches below the Eastvale Mountains.  However, Osbeorn led a force into the Byland and met Zajjasu’s forces at the edge of the Deepwood.  Osbeorn’s army routed Zajjasu completely and by the end of the engagement had secured the entirety of the Deepwood under southern control.  Some have speculated that Osbeorn took the Deepwood as an insult to Godwine who had precipitated the entire crisis when he had set out to do so five years earlier.

In the north, Leofric sent a host to engage an army attempting to invade through the Upgang Pass. Leofric sent a local militia commander named Weland who had impressed Leofric with his skill.  Weland was also from near the pass and his knowledge of the pass helped him to defeat a force that outnumbered his two-to-one.

Leofric himself took a great army and marched south toward Folkhame.  Godwine had foolishly believed that the intervention was turning the tide and so had sent two armies out of Folkhame to retake the south and west vales.  A separate force from Brandwyck intercepted Godwine’s western host and fought a battle there that, while not decisive, did cause the force to retreat back to Folkhame.  A second royalist force traveled along the Tidewater but was constantly harassed by southern forces as they made their way south and were never able to meet up with the interventionist forces as had been hoped.  In fact, the intervention only served to stoke the fires of rebellion among the towns and cities of Greatvale, for now it was clear that Godwine was in league with Greatvale’s enemies.  And while most were wise enough to realize that the foreign powers were doing this to advance their own interests, the symbolism of their king fighting alongside foreign forces to oppress his own people was too powerful to ignore and served to galvanize the entire rebellion.

On the 10th day of Midmath 112 PC, Godwine took his remaining forces from Folkhame and marched north to meet Leofric’s host that had been traveling south along the east shore of the Tidewater.

Campaign’s End (111-110 PC)

On the 15th day of Regenmath 111 PC, Godwine’s armies engaged Leofric’s host at the north ford of the Tidewater.  In a battle that lasted two days, Leofric defeated Godwine who took his army and fled west to the Westvale Mountains.  Leofric followed in pursuit, stopping only to establish a garrison at Folkhame.  Leofric left strict instruction that no one was to be harmed in the city, that the boroughmoot was to be restored to power and that the provision of the people’s material need should be a priority.  What few members of the Ealdormoot who remained convened at the same time and disavowed all the decrees against Leofric and Osbeorn that they had issued under Godwine’s direction.

The final battles of the Long Campaign

The final battles of the Long Campaign

Leofric continued west in pursuit of Godwine only to encounter another royalist force in the midvale. This force had been the one previously sent west and defeated by another northern army the previous year. This army was utterly destroyed.  Most of the soldiers fled dropping their weapons and casting off what armor they had as they ran.  Those who remained to fight were vastly outmatched by a better led army, and one with a far higher morale.  In fact, many of the residents of the region, remembering the King’s March, joined with Leofric’s forces as the battle raged or served as pickets around the battlefield, capturing fleeing royalist soldiers.

In the end, Leofric continued his march west with surprisingly few casualties. At the base of the Heofodbend Mountain, he was joined by the northern host and by Osbeorn’s army, returned from the Deepwood, minus a border garrison. Godwine had entrenched himself up the mountain at the Crown’s Keep and been joined by the remnants of another royalist host that had been sent into the south without success. Leofric and Osbeorn longed for war to be over, but they knew that an assault on the keep would be a disaster and would cost thousands of men.  The forces of north and south began to lay siege on the keep.

By Cyrtenmath, the siege was entering its sixth month without an end in sight.  Leofric and Osbeorn’s forces had constructed impressive siege equipment and were in the midst of planning a massive assault to take the keep and end the war once and for all when a strange visitor begged entrance into the camp.  An old man dressed simply in black sackcloth, begged an audience with the generals.  After having the man searched for any weapons, they admitted him into their presence.

He identified himself as Kyrion Halfmage of House Akkadon, the royal house of Carmadh, and a member of the Order of the Sun. He offered a solution to the impasse: the gates of the Crown Keep would open and the soldiers of Godwine’s army would be allowed to return to their homes in exchange for an oath of fealty to Leofric and Osbeorn.  Godwine himself would be allowed to live, but would spend his days in the Royal Crypt under the care of the Order of the Sun.  The Order of the Sun would be granted perpetual dominion over the crypt in exchange for the House of Wulfred dropping any claim to the throne of Greatvale. Leofric responded that the soldiers of Godwine’s army must swear oaths of fealty not to them but to the Ealdormoot of Greatvale.  Osbeorn insisted that all royal and noble houses drop claims to the throne of Greatvale and insisted that the throne itself accompany Godwine into the tomb.  Kyrion Halfmage was startled by these demands and replied, “Then who shall be king?” “No one,” was the joint reply. Halfmage agreed to the terms as laid out by Leofric and Osbeorn and left the camp.

Within a week’s time, the first of the defenders of Crown’s Keep began to emerge, each dropping their weapons as they descended the slope of the mountain, giving the place the name Spear’s Fall.  After the army was entirely disbanded, Kyrion Halfmage emerged from the keep with four attendants and another man now dressed only in black sackcloth.  As the man walked by, it was clear that this was Godwine III Beorcyning. Many of the soldiers of the combined armies spat on the ground as he walked by. Others shouted curses or hurled mud and dirt.  But no one unsheathed a sword or lowered a spear: Leofric and Osbeorn had been clear in their orders. Joining in the procession was a cart that had come from Folkhame, bearing the throne of the king.  The jeers for the chair were almost as loud as the jeers for Godwine and many of the soldiers offered grass to the oxen bearing the cart as a sign of camaraderie in the service of liberating the land of the king.

As the procession left the armies’ combined camp, Osbeorn asked his steward what food they had available to feast with. The steward replied that because they were preparing to break camp, most of the provisions had been stowed; all they had at hand were a few loaves of bread and some dates. Osbeorn replied, “There was never so sweet a feast as the one of bread and dates that we shall share tonight.”  He and Leofric shared this meal with their stewards, whom they insisted join them in the feast, not as servants, but as brothers-in-arms.

A special honor guard accompanied the men from the Order of the Sun on their long march to the Royal Crypt, both to protect them from harm and to ensure that they went inside. Once Kyrion and Godwine and their party entered the Tomb, the door was locked from the inside and the guard took position around the entrance.  A peasant girl brought a wreath to lay at the tomb. Reports vary but some claim this was Leafday Sceaphyrd, the youngest daughter of Swithin Sceaphyrd of Oxbridge.  When the soldiers asked her, “You’re not laying that wreath for Godwine, are you?” she replied, “No, for all those who lost their lives because of Godwine.” “Good,” said one soldier, “because that king was insane.” “No,” she replied, “Kingship is insane.”

Establishment of the Folkdeed of Greatvale

Leofric and Osbeorn returned to Folkhame but disbanded the bulk of their armies on the way, telling each man to return to his home, tend his flocks or fields. Only garrison forces were left to safeguard important locations. When Leofric and Osbeorn entered into the chambers of the Ealdormoot, they did so in civilian clothing, shocking the members of the Ealdormoot who had expected to find themselves under the thumb of their new liberators.

Seal of the Folkdeed of Greatvale: “The Ealdormoot and Folk of Greatvale: Justice, Truth, Equality”

Seal of the Folkdeed of Greatvale: “The Ealdormoot and Folk of Greatvale: Justice, Truth, Equality”

Leofric had summoned the members of the boroughmoot of Brandwyck, and Osbeorn those of Fiscerehæfen to participate in the session. Each delegation having been instructed to seek to extend the folkdeed across all the lands of Greatvale. Leofric stood before them and said, “My countrymen and women, the people of Greatvale are finally free of tyranny. Do not pick up the broken shards of the past; forge something new.  Now that all the royal and noble houses have quit their claims on the throne, Greatvale truly belongs to her people. You have an opportunity to give them a government worthy of their suffering and sacrifice.”

Over the ensuing weeks, the reorganization of Greatvale was deliberated and ultimately decided upon in the fashion it is known today.  Leofric and Osbeorn were elected the first two Rædgivers of the Folkdeed and Frithuswith was elected its first Witeger. The election of three nobles to these important posts at first appeared to undermine the Folkdeed’s assertion of equality, but many understood this as important buy-in by the nobles for the cause of the Folkdeed.  Leofric, Osbeorn, and Frithuswith were also the first to ritually disinherit their sons at the age of seventeen, establishing a custom for those who held the offices of Rædgiver and Witeger, a custom that would eventually also include the Ealdormoot, and finally, all of Greatvale.  Leofric and Osbeorn served out their terms before being succeeded by two commoners.  Leofric and Osbeorn would be elected to Rædgiver again over their careers in public life, but would only serve together for this first two-year period. Frithuswith, despite her frequent criticism of Leofric and Osbeorn in their roles as Rædgivers, would remain close friends with both men the rest of their lives.

Legacy of the Long Campaign

There were those who lamented the length of the war and the cost of life, but others were quick to note that the Long Campaign had given Greatvale sufficient time to let go of its past and to imagine something new.  The Long Campaign had also cemented anti-monarchist sentiment in the population, such that when the Ealdormoot placed the proposed plan before the people, few objected that it lacked a king. Others have noted that had the Folkdeed not been born in such circumstances and placed in the crucible of the Long Campaign, it could never have survived the Catastrophe or the Lost Time that followed.

The Calendar

The calendar is clearly of ancient origin.  It is a calendar of twelve months alternating between 29 and 30 days each followed by an intercalary month, usually nine days long. The calendar was originally a lunar calendar but has been adapted through the intercalary month to conform to the solar year.

Because of the intercalary month, the lunar cycle slips out of synch with the solar cycle.  However, the years on which the 1st Day of Ralialul (New Year’s Day) and the first day of a lunar month occur on the same day (about once every 19 years) are known as “Moon Years” and are considered especially sacred and/or lucky in many cultures.  In Greatvale, the New Year’s Day of a Moon Year is known as “Monanhælletung” meaning “Moon’s Greeting” and is a great feast day, as is the final day of the 12th Month, which is known as “Monanforthweg” or “Moon’s Departure”.

The fact that all the month names are in the Elder Tongue hints at its truly ancient origins.  In some realms, a local variation on the month names exists alongside the traditional names.

Month Name Meaning Greatvale Name No. of Days Approx. Gregorian
1 Ralialul Rain month Regenmath 29 March
2 Abulilul Lengthening Lenctenmath 30 April
3 Kinidulul Flowers month Blostmath 29 May
4 Ganadulul Trees month Treowmath 30 June
5 Shadjalul Sun month Sunnemath 29 July
6 Zozhalul Heat month Hæthemath 30 August
7 Etendelul Harvest month Hærfestmath 29 September
8 Oktotulul Leaves month Leafmath 30 October
9 Abumilul Shortening Cyrtenmath 29 November
10 Dunnolul Dark month Deorcmath 30 December
11 Lawalalul Snow month Snawmath 29 January
12 Othalul Wind month Windmath 30 February
Meralul Between month Midmath 9-12 [1]

[1] The length of the Meralul is calculated every year and is usually nine days long, but may be longer if the calendar has slipped out of alignment with the sun.

The Elder Folk

The Elder Folk were one of the primordial civilizations of the Hidden Lands. It is unclear whether the Elder Folk were once civilization or many.  The existence and near ubiquity of the Elder Tongue suggests that the Elder Folk who colonized the Sunrise and Sunset Lands were of one cultural stock.  However, the existence of some cultures and languages whose linguistic heritage is markedly different (e.g., Greatvale, Kastan’ose, Norrist) argues for a much more diverse ancestral group than is commonly supposed.

The Elder Folk civilization first appeared around 7000 PC and developed what they referred to as “the sciences”—written language, mathematics, architecture, bronze working, and agriculture; in short, all the technologies of civilization.  Although the Edler Folk invented writing, they left behind no written records of their history and much of what is known (or believed) about them is the stuff of legend.

They were reported to have been masters not only of the “sciences”, they were masters of the “arts”—more commonly known as magic.  The few stories that have survived from the two-thousand year period the Elder Folk were on the Hidden Lands present a complex and bizarre portrait of a people grounded in the ordinary and using the tools of the extraordinary.  It is said that they built simple cities of brick and stone that floated in the air, tethered by rope ladders to the ground.

Beginning in the the mid-sixth millennium PC, the Elder Folk began to explore the world and founded a number of colonies on both the Sunrise and Sunset Lands.  In a window that lasted about 500 years, waves of emigres left the Hidden Lands for these colonies on the shores of the Middling Sea.  Toward the end of this period, all contact with the Hidden Lands was cut off, including the location of the Hidden Lands themselves, an event usually assumed to be the result of magic.  There is a fair amount of debate as to whether the explorers and emigres were aware of some impending disaster or whether it caught them unawares. In any event, the lack of an enduring written record of the period has meant that any knowledge of the Elder Folk’s time in the Hidden Lands has been communicated only through legend.

The Beacon

The Ancient Beacon of Greatvale, also known as Cynric’s Light, Cynric’s Rock, or simply The Beacon, is a massive stone monolith on the southern tip of Wulfred’s Byland, which juts into Fralin’s Deep. The name “The Beacon” refers to both the monolith itself, as well as the light or lighthouse on top. It is both symbol of Greatvale’s economic power, serving as the most important lighthouse leading to Folkhame, and a bitter reminder of its monarchist roots, as it is home to the Tomb of the Elders, formerly known as the Tomb of the Kings or the Royal Crypt.

Legend holds that around 5450 PC, Wulfred of Dunburgh embarked with 5 ships and 400 settlers to join a colony in the newly discovered Sunset Lands. Wulfred was accompanied by his wife, Fralin, who was pregnant at the time of departure. A few weeks into the journey, a great storm from the west blew the ships off course and toward the Sunrise Lands. The storm thrashed the small fleet, sinking two ships and severely damaging the ship that Wulfred was on. The stress of the storm sent Fralin into labor as the remaining ships all but abandoned hope of survival.

A large wave crashed against Wulfred’s ship and the vessel began to break up. Though he tried desperately to reach Fralin below deck, the ship had already gone under, and he was left with no choice but to cling to a broken piece of the hull. For two days, Wulfred floated on his makeshift raft, mourning his wife and unborn child. On the third day, as Wulfred lay close to death, the storm broke, and a ray of sun shined through the clouds onto him. Wulfred managed to look up and saw a great rock with a fire burning on its top.

A small boat from one of Wulfred’s ships, which had been out searching for survivors, saw him in the light and moved quickly to rescue him. Two ships had found safety in a small inlet near the great rock. Hoping to attract help, or at least anyone who had survived the wrecks, members of the crew climbed the rock through the storm and nursed a fire on the top. Other crewmembers set out in small rowing boats, using the fire as a navigational aid.

Soon after they brought Wulfred aboard, a crewmember spotted another piece of debris that looked as though it had a person on it. While the boat rowed toward the debris, it appeared as though the person slipped into the water, leaving only dark figure on the raft. When the boat pulled along side, the crew was shocked to discover that the figure was in fact a baby wrapped in a blanket: Wulfred and Fralin’s baby. They assumed that Fralin had survived long enough to protect her child, and, having seen the boat approaching, finally let go. Wulfred, though still very weak, took the baby into his arms and discovered it was a boy. He called his son Cynric, after his beloved wife’s father.

The Beacon has been lit nearly continuously for all of The History, serving as the most important lighthouse in guiding ships through Fralin’s Deep up to the Great Tidewater. Sources differ on whether or not the Beacon remained lit during The Catastrophe and The Lost Time, though the official position of the Folkdeed is that the Beacon was never extinguished. Various taller structure have been built on top of the Beacon to increase the distance that it can be seen from, including the current Leofric Tower, named in honor of one of the Great Fathers of the Folkdeed. A small, secondary fire, however, is always maintained on the top of the actual Rock in honor of the Elder Folk.

The light itself is capable of being manipulated with dried plants and other chemicals to signal incoming vessels. The light is made approximately two times as bright while Greatvale is at war. Red light means that the city has barred ships for quarantine purposes.  Green light is shone for one week after the election of new Rædgivers. The light is dimmed significantly for one day following the death of a former Rædgiver, while the light is dimmed for one week if a Rædgiver dies in office. The light is only extinguished entirely if someone akin to a national icon dies. This honor has only been granted to eight people in the history of the Folkdeed, including Eadlin Lahwita.

Beneath the Beacon lies the Tomb of the Elders, where it is said the remains of Wulfred, Cynric, and their descendants, who became Kings and Queens of Greatvale, were entombed for millennia until the Long Campaign. The Tomb is maintained by the Order of the Sun, the only royal order that was left intact following the Long Campaign. Its members, extremely small in number, are drawn from the royal families of the other realms, all of whom are somehow related to old Kings of Greatvale. Usually unwanted sons or heirs of defeated foes are sent to live out their days in the Tomb, where members are forbidden from leaving once they enter. While the people of the Folkdeed, including the Witeger, near universally condemn this practice, the Ealdormoot has respected the covenant made with the Order at the Foundation of the Folkdeed.

Every year on Elder Folk Day, the Gaderungs escort two wreaths to the Beacon, where the Witeger lays them at the locked entrance. One is in honor Wulfred the Elder and his son Cynric, while the other is in memory of the victims of the Kings of Greatvale and in protest of the continued existence of the Order of the Sun. Once the wreaths are laid, the entrances is unlocked from the inside, and the wreath honoring Wulfred is taken while the other wreath is ignored. If the Order wishes to communicate with the Folkdeed, the previous years wreath, rotted and decayed, is set outside with a letter attached. The wreath is then brought to the Rædgivers, who burn it without reading the letter. Officially, no letter has ever been read or replied to, but there are rumors that this is not entirely accurate.

Fire Flies and Sorrow Eels

Spotted throughout The Hidden Lands are water sources inhabited by two animals involved in a symbiotic relationship, one fire-based, the other water-based. Both feed on a victim’s spirit if they come too close to an inhabited lake or river. Fire-based “insects”  lure victims in by distorting their reflection in the water as an image of their greatest desire – food, lovers, items, whatever – and when the creature reaches into the water for it, they immediately turn into water themselves. Their soul is devoured by the water-based creature therein. It feeds on the sorrowful memories of said victim and entering them into an eternity of reliving them, but discards the positive energy of that particular creature to feed the fire-based “flies.” However, if the “flies” ever actually touch the water, the entire water source and the creature therein will turn to a stunning gold-inlaid blue marble. If obtained, this marble is rumored to be the most precious item on the entire continent and is believed to heal all illness, grow any plant when buried, and even raise the dead or turn back time.

Many explorers and fortune-seekers have met their ends searching for – or attempting to outsmart – these creatures and the water sources they inhabit. One survivor of a exploring group reported that his entire outfit of 37 men and women fell victim to the enchanting images superimposing their reflections in the water and, upon attempt to retrieve them, were engulfed. A few even tried to escape, but according to his report, their stifled cries and desperate reaches for land appeared to be nothing but treacherous waves splashing on the rocky shores. Shortly after relaying the story to a stranger in a pub, the traveler lost his mind in mourning for his lost friends.

Images of the creatures are disputed among eyewitnesses and ancient documents uncovered throughout the land. The fire-based creatures are rumored to travel in swarms and to be very small, flighted, and warm to the touch — a key factor in their ability to lure victims toward the water at night when temperatures plummet below freezing. Some say their wings do not buzz, but hum – softly, and lyrically like a mother’s lullaby and often to a tune that is familiar or even meaningful to the victim. Once at the water’s edge, the victim instinctively looks into the water, expecting to see their own reflection, but actually visualizing the object of their deepest desire.

The water-based creature is even more mysterious since nobody has ever actually seen it. Drawings on scrolls and the walls of ancient mountainous cave settlements suggest that it is a long, eel-like creature with an enormous gaping mouth lined with long, grotesque, needle-like teeth. Because sorrow is never seen, but felt, the monster lacks eyes and instead has seventeen humanoid “arms” projecting from its face and neck, used for grabbing its victims in the water and shoving their weeping souls into its mouth. Legend has it that when victims seem immune to the charms of the firefly-like creatures, the water monster will wave its “arms” above the water to create the illusion that someone is drowning in an attempt to appeal to the heroic side of passersby. Legend also says that the fangs of this creature, when removed from the skull, collapse into ash that burns the skin of someone that has been dishonest, deceitful, or treacherous. Oftentimes, parents of the human race would use this story and wave skinny sticks or animal bones at their children to scare them into telling them the truth when they’ve gotten into mischief.

Eadlin Lahwita

In 942 AC, the Ealdormoot of the Greatdale Folkdeed authorized a military campaign against Carmadh over a trade dispute.  This action was criticized by Eadlin Lahwita, a thirty-two year old woman serving as Witeger at the time. In her estimation, this military action was unwise and likely to cause greater difficulties for the Folkdeed.

Because the war was popular with the people and the leaders of the government; it was likely to be waged even over Eadlin’s objections.  In spite of this, Rædgiver Derian Eoredmann ordered that Eadlin be arrested as a traitor and a threat to state security. He dispatched the elite Ealdorweard to take her and bring her to the Dread Prison in the Eastvale mountains.

Eadlin Lahwita offers bread and dates to the captain of the Ealdorweard.

Eadlin Lahwita offers bread and dates to the captain of the Ealdorweard.

When the soldiers of the Ealdorweard arrived at Eadlin’s home, she greeted them with a plate of bread and dates: the meal that the founders of the Folkdeed had shared after the Long Campaign to be rid of the Last King.  She said to them, “Brave sons of Greatvale, share with me this humble repast.  And then you may do as you must for the protection of the Folkdeed.” It is said that the soldiers took the bread and dates in silence and then, without uttering a word, left Eadlin in her home and returned to the Folk Keep where they slew Derian Eoredmann.

She served the remainder of her term as Witeger, and even helped guide Greatvale through the consequences of their campaign against Carmadh, which she had correctly foreseen.  After her tenure, rejecting calls for her to seek the position of Rædgiver, she returned to teaching law at the Boroughræden School for those seeking to earn their citizenship.

In Greatvale, she is seen as embodying the virtues of freedom of conscience and resistance to tyranny. She is also seen as a symbol of peacemaking and diplomacy instead of war. The name Eadlin remains one of the most popular names for girls in the Folkdeed to this day.

The Kastan’ose Civilizations

A Brief History of the Djunna, the Last Surviving Civilization of the Kastan’ose Valley

Compiled by Aelfwine Theodwita, Senior Historian of the Gaderung of Education, 1213 AC

The Kastan’ose Valley Civilizations represented a unique amalgamation of cultures in their golden era, from roughly 600 PC to 806 AC. Born from the gathering of several distinct nomadic tribes drawn to the Kastan’ose River and the rich vegetation of the surrounding Kastan’ose Valley, these civilizations were born not from the blood of conflict but rather from fires fueled by mercantile and aesthetic competition. For more than a millennium the Kastan’ose Valley contained some of the most materially affluent and culturally rich societies within memory; of more significance, however, they created what may be the most advanced cultural community to have ever claimed the Sunset Lands as home. While the Kastan’ose knew something of the vastness of the world (Lu’Amina as they called it) they held to the concept that to know one’s land was all that was needed to live a fulfilled live. Know the Kastan’ose Valley they did, for even at the height of their population, the densely packed Civilizations knew never to exploit their land beyond its limits to recover. Left undisturbed, the Kastan’ose Valley Civilizations would likely inhabit their homeland today. Instead, their end came from sword and swine…

To understand how they died, one must understand how they lived. The Kastan’ose Valley, which follows the Kastan’ose River due west for roughly 40 leagues after its birth in the snowcapped Mithulan Mountains, lies near the northwest coast of the Sunset Lands. The Valley was a natural breadbasket, with citrus trees lining both slopes and a thin grain called leshhni growing on the banks of the river. Birds and amphibious life was plentiful, and herds of a dog-sized rodent (the now extinct shna’mina) roamed the foothills nearest the Mithulan Mountains. It was here that nomadic tribes, at least thirty that we know of, began to settle in the Kastan’ose.

It is a rare thing to speak of a peaceful encounter when more than one people first meet. But the tribes that settled in the Kastan’ose found no need to engage in competition; both resources and land were plentiful for wandering groups that rarely accounted for more than several hundred. Interactions were fueled by curiosity, not survival. Soon, specialization occurred among the various groups. While all had enough to live comfortably, the resources of the Kastan’ose were not spread equally. The Djunna, settled near the beginning of the river at the foothills of the Mithulan, began to hunt and eventually herd the shna’mina. The meat soon became a delicacy throughout the Valley. Other tribes traded in citrus, or fish, or in the case of the northwestern most tribes the strong wood from the evergreens of coastal plains. These tribes remained separated geographically, and by localized customs, but became deeply intertwined economically.

As the languages of the Kastan’ose tribes began to meld, allowing for more efficient trade, the different ideals and myths of the once nomadic groups began to spread and intermingle. As mentioned earlier, there was a word for the world at large: Lu’Amina. Of much more importance, though, was the Lu’Kastani. The former translates to “our world,” the latter to “our land.” Knowledge of the Kastan’ose Valley was of the utmost importance to these tribes. To know the world beyond the slopes of the Valley was unimportant, and left to a handful of impetuous youths. To know the land surrounding the Kastan’ose River itself, specifically to understand how to draw her resources while focusing on conservation of the intertwined systems within the Valley, became the focus of their varying religions and philosophies. Regardless of the gods or spirits they worshiped, all people of Kastan’ose held this concept as central.

The Kastan’ose were among the few people to be unaffected by the Catastrophe, so isolated were they. The first contact the Kastan’ose had with an outside group was with the Mith’lani, or “men of stone,” in 806 AC. The Mith’lani, natives of the Mithulan Mountains, had developed a mighty war machine fighting off incursions from the barbarians to the east of the mountain range (located near what is now called the Bay of Fingers). While they were in truth men of flesh and bone their iron swords and simple plate armor fooled the Kastan’ose, who knew nothing in the way of metallurgy, into believing they were of the Mountain itself. The Mith’lani descended into the foothills near the beginning of the Kastan’ose River. The Djunna were overwhelmed; armed with nothing but the long throwing spears used to hunt shna’mina and with no armor of any kind, they surrendered within a few days of the invasion. The Mith’lani used their captives’ habitations as a forward barracks, and forced the Djunna to gather as many shna’mina as possible to be slaughtered for the army. Many Djunna resisted, as this order was tantamount to an assault on Lu’Kastani itself. It is estimated that for every five Djunna who lived before the invasion, three were killed in this first week. The rest submitted.

With a foothold in the Kastan’ose Valley the Mith’lani planned to march west and seize as much land as possible, possibly continuing past the valley to the coastal plain. This plan was halted by an unexpected unification of the Kastan’ose people. It seems the Mith’lani underestimated the importance the Valley itself held to the Kastan’ose people as a whole, regardless of their cultural differences. Despite their technological advantage, for three cycles of the Moon the Mith’lani were cheated their easy conquest by a people who knew their land as intimately as they knew themselves. This continued until the night of the third full moon, when the Vazj arrived from the Sunset Sea.

The coastal city states that existed en masse at the time were razed to the ground by these mysterious peoples. They quickly marched through the plains and into the Valley. Within a week from their arrival they had marched to the Mithulan Mountains themselves. The Kastan’ose and Mith’lani were killed in equal measure, a slaughter so immense that few details of these vile men (if they were men at all) exist today. It is believed that the Vazj marched east over the Mountains all the way to the coast of the Middling Sea. Whether they changed their direction to the north or south, or somehow departed into the Middling Sea, no one knows. They vanished as quickly as they arrived, leaving behind nary a single Vazj body or artifact, only death and destruction.

While the slaughter was immense, it was not complete. Of all those killed, it was the defenseless Djunna who survived. The exact reason is a matter of speculation; the most popular theories hold that the Djunna were able to hide in the thick forests where they were forced to hunt, or perhaps the Vazj showed uncharacteristic mercy and spared the defenseless slaves. For whatever reason, the Djunna were the only living women and men left in the Kastan’ose Valley. Lu’Kastani had not been spared such mercy, though, and what the Djunna inherited resembled in no way the fertile land settled by their ancestors.

The only detail of the Vazj army that we know of today is their use of some sort pig or boar as a war beast. They stood as high as a man’s breast and likely weighed as much as a warhorse. It is believed that the Vazj released them before their army moved forward; this stampeding juggernaut of gnashing teeth and goring tusks would cause massive damage to an enemy before the army itself ever arrived. Their existence is known primarily from the many skeletons buried in layers of rock and snow near the zenith of the Mithulan Mountains. It would seem they were not prepared for the bone-aching chill of the peaks.

Within the Kastan’ose Valley, however, they carried out their mission with horrifying efficiency. A land once composed of lush vegetation and thick groves set among rolling hills became a cesspool. The swine, and the army that followed, devoured or otherwise destroyed most of the intertwining systems of life that defined the Kastan’ose. The river was dammed by the felled forests, and today the Kastan’ose Valley is little more than a lifeless swamp interrupted by intermittent hills. The only plant still found in the area is the leshni grain. It is on this alone that the Djunna survive.

At the end of the invasion, over 400 years ago, nearly three thousand Djunna survived. Today, there are barely four hundred. They are a ghost, a vestigial reminder of a once great civilization. They are phantoms passing through a 40 league long graveyard.

Rumors spread through the northwest of the Sunset Lands, though, that could bring the Kastan’ose Valley back into the forefront of the land’s events. Civil war is brewing throughout the Duchy of Gurefren, the region’s main power, its political stability worn thin from expansion beyond the northern highlands into the plains and coasts surrounding the Kastan’ose River… To the west, in The Sunset Sea, strange ships are said to have docked on the Isles of Empty. It is said that these vessels carry not just men, but herds of beasts standing high as a man but with the girth of cattle. It is said they carry these tusked beasts by the score… and to the east, something stirs in the Mithulan Mountains, and on the tongues of all Djunna is repeated one phrase, Mishallan Shin’Amina: The World’s Bane.