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 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.