Proper Name: United Kingdom of Ahlissa
Ruler: His Transcendent Imperial Majesty, Overking Xavener I, Grand Prince of Kalstrand, Crowned Head of House Darmen (NE male human Rog15)
Government: Feudal empire with hereditary rulership; principalities are loosely governed by monarch whose powers are limited by written agreements with major nobles
Major Towns: Carnifand (pop. 4,800), Hexpools (pop. 12,700), Innspa (pop. 12,200), Jalpa (pop. 22,900), Kalstrand (pop. 24,000), Naerie (pop. 6,300), Nulbish (pop. 17,100), Orred (pop. 5,800), Pardue (pop. 4,100), Prymp (pop. 17,400), Ralsand (pop. 2,500), Rel Deven (pop. 29,400), Sarndt (pop. 2,300), Torrich (pop. 27,500), Zelradton (pop. 12,900)
Provinces: Eight principalities, one grand principality, various marchlands, and numerous very small noble fiefs (counties, duchies, and baronies)
Resources: Foodstuffs, livestock, cloth, silver, copper, gold, iron products, timber, herbs, fine ale and beer, historical and magical knowledge
Coinage: [Modified Aerdy] nightingale (pp), crown (gp), noble (ep), penny (sp), common (cp)
Population: 3,836,100—Human 79% (OSf), Halfling 9%, Elf 5% (sylvan 90%), Dwarf 2%, Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Half-orc 1%, Orc 1%
Languages: Common, Old Oeridian, Orc, Halfling, Elven
Alignments: N, NE, LE*, LN, CE, CN, LG
Religions: Zilchus*, Hextor, Oeridian agricultural gods, Xerbo, Fharlanghn, Olidammara, Kord, Norebo, Ralishaz, Procan, Kurell, orc pantheon, halfling pantheon, Boccob, Wee Jas, Delleb, Syrul, various goblinoid gods, Rudd, elf pantheon
Enemies: Scarlet Brotherhood, North Kingdom, Iuz. Ahlissa is gravely distrusted by everyone else, particularly by all areas formerly a part of or adjacent to the old Great Kingdom. The Rhennee hate Ahlissa and do not travel there.
Overview: The United Kingdom of Ahlissa is the official title of the remainder of the central and southern lands that once comprised the vast Great Kingdom. At its height, the empire spanned the Flanaess from the Solnor Coast to the Fals Gap, from the Azure Sea in the south to the Icy Sea in the north, leaving its cultural imprint on every realm in between. Today, the kingdom is a shadow of its former self, as wars of independence and centuries of conflict have sundered the once great empire. It is now colloquially referred to as the New Kingdom of Ahlissa, or more often just Ahlissa, borrowing the name of an ancient Flan realm that the Aerdy defeated to win these fecund southern lands during the migrations.
Most of the territory of Ahlissa lies between the former South Province of the Great Kingdom and the Grandwood Forest; portions of it extend as far north as Innspa, near the Adri Forest. These lands are densely populated, with most of the citizenry clustered around a series of large river cities. The people of these lands are largely an Oeridian-Suel mix; some orcs and goblinoids are here, but few elves, gnomes, and halflings exist except in the forests and hills. At one time these were the richest provinces of the Great Kingdom, but years of war have reduced much of the economy to tatters. The last five years were dutifully spent rebuilding infrastructure.
These lands center around the vast, temperate plains formed by the Flanmi, Mikar, and Thelly river systems of the eastern Flanaess, which have for centuries nourished the Great Kingdom and its predecessor states. Most native predators were long ago exterminated by the Aerdi, though some survive on the wild plains far from the river valleys, where the majority of Ahlissa’s cultivated lands are found. The rivers of Ahlissa carry the products of the countryside to the large cities, which contain the markets of the kingdom and produce manufactured goods and services. The Adri and Grandwood are all that remain of a once vast deciduous forest that legends say met on the broad banks of the Flanmi. The Aerdi cut back the woods ages ago, and continue to reduce both forests, particularly the Adri, with aggressive logging and clearing for pastures and farmland. These central farmlands once grew vast amounts of grain to support the burgeoning populations of the kingdom, but the fields near the disputed borders now lie mostly fallow. Most large wildlife in the kingdom consists of grazing animals such as aurochs (wild cattle) and many sorts of deer and horses.
The whole of these lands is now ruled from a newly sired capital, Kalstrand, where Overking Xavener of House Darmen has established his royal court. Use of the term “Malachite Throne,” which once described the office of the overking, is now considered vulgar. House Darmen, the priesthood of Zilchus, and the Royal Guild of Merchants constitute the most dominant power block in the kingdom through their control of trade and administration of the cities.
The mandate given to Overking Xavener by these factions is very clear: They want him to reestablish Aerdy as the preeminent economic and political power in the Flanaess, avoiding further warfare at all costs. An enormous black market in medicines, weapons, clothing, livestock, and food threatens the legal economy, and Xavener has acted to tightly draw together the provinces under his banner by restoring the imperial hierarchy. His recent restructuring of the system of nobility, once top-heavy with princes of minor power, has created much ill will between lesser and greater noble houses for control of territory, taxes, and merchant traffic within Ahlissa and with outside states. Most of Ahlissa’s lords, however, are loyal to the new order because it has reduced the chaos and restored a sense of purpose to the kingdom.
The major political subdivisions of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa follow, with their capitals, rulers, and ruling Houses.
Adri Forest, Marchland of the, Innspa, Prince Molil (LN male human Fighter L9), House Naelax
Ahlissa, Principality of, Zelradton, Prince Reydrich (NE male human Wizard L20), House Naelax
Chathold, Marchland of, Rel Deven, Marquis Karn Serrand (LG male human Cleric of Rao L13), House Cranden
Grandwood Forest, Marchland of the, Torrich ,Princess Bersheba (CE female human Rogue L9), House Darmen
Innspa, Principality of, Innspa Princess Karasin (NE female human Wizard L10), House Garasteth
Jalpa, Principality of, Jalpa Prince Farland (LE male human Fighter L12), House Darmen
Kalstrand, Capital Principality of, Kalstrand (imperial capital), Overking Xavener I (NE male human Rogue L15), House Darmen
Medegia, Marchland of, Nulbish (to be moved to Pontylver once it is cleared of undead and rebuilt), Prince Gartrel (LE male human Fighter L10), House Darmen
Naerie, Principality of, Naerie, Prince Barzhaan (LN male human Fighter L13), House Haxx
Nulbish, Principality of, Nulbish, Prince Harnnad (NE male human Fighter L11), House Darmen
Rauxes, Marchland of, Carnifand (to be moved to Orred after marchland has been divided into smaller provinces), Baron Oswalden (NG male human Wizard L15), House Cranden (administrative caretaker until marchland’s future is decided)
Rel Deven, Principality of, Rel Deven, Prince Carwend (N male human Wizard L14), House Cranden
Torrich, Principality of, Torrich, Prince Dilweg (LE male human Wizard L16), House Darmen
History: The history of the United Kingdom of Ahlissa is essentially the history of the Great Kingdom. This tale begins more than twelve centuries ago, when Oeridian tribes wandering the vast central plains of Oerik beyond the Flanaess in the Far West were driven to the east by a series of raging conflicts that culminated in the infamous Twin Cataclysms of prehistory. These nomadic peoples were not very different, culturally speaking, from their neighbors the Flan, being superstitious, rustic, proud, and relatively primitive compared to the great empires of the Suel and Baklunish. Perhaps the proudest, most warlike, and powerful of these tribes were the Aerdi, their name meaning “sky people” in the old tongue. These clans worshiped powers of the Oerth and sky, and they read signs and portents in the heavens.
When the struggle between the Baklunish and Suloise empires threatened to engulf central Oerik, it was proclaimed that the destiny of the Aerdi and other Oeridians lay far to the east. So, 1,235 years ago, began The Great Migrations to which the modern reckoning of the Oeridians is dated. The tribes entered the Flanaess through the Fals Gap, where they first encountered the Flan. In time, the Aerdi arrived at the shores of the great eastern waters, their long journey at an end.
They named that vast ocean the Solnor (literally, “the birthplace of the sun”), and along its shores they founded a series of small states. These were largely tracts settled by individual noble houses of the Aerdi, such as the mystic Garasteth, the noble Cranden, the mercantile Darmen, the calculating Rax, and the militaristic Naelax. These small principalities accomplished little under their loose confederation, as they were individually unable to take on the Ur-Flan and Suel, so they quickly gathered under a single banner. In 428 OR (–216 CY), the scion of House Garasteth, Lord Mikar, became the first grand prince (equal to a king). He ruled a land now called the kingdom of Aerdy (“aer” meaning “sky” in Old Oeridian).
The Aerdi made their capital in Rel Astra, and spent the next few decades conquering the neighboring Flan and driving the Suel to the south. Due to the cooperative effort of the various Aerdi tribes settling in the Flanmi basin, they expanded quickly. First they conquered the Flan’s crumbling kingdom of Ahlissa in the southwest, then swept north to contend with other Oeridian tribes who had settled the Flanaess behind them. During the reign of Grand Prince Almor II, the Rax Aerdi defeated their Nyrondese rivals in the Battle of a Fortnight’s Length (535 OR, or –109 CY). Aerdy almost doubled in size and thereafter became known as the Great Kingdom, now a true empire.
It was the prudence of House Cranden that solidified the realm’s power structure over the next century. The Great Kingdom became a potent force for order and good in the Flanaess. In the year 645 OR (1 CY), Grand Prince Nasran declared universal peace in the empire, taking the new title of overking. Nasran was by all accounts a wise and dutiful ruler, and few openly begrudged him his claim. However, it quickly became clear to all the noble houses of the Aerdi that power in the Great Kingdom was being centralized in the hands of the rulers of Rauxes, and that the fortunes of the Great Kingdom would now rest with them. The needs and intrigues of the Celestial Houses would soon become subordinate to the politics of the Malachite Throne.
Nasran founded the See of Medegia and granted it to the faith of Pholtus. The Great Kingdom was quickly becoming too vast to effectively control from Rauxes, so the overkings appointed viceroys to rule the major provinces. The viceroys had near total autonomy within their realms to efficiently deal with local problems, answering only to the Malachite Throne. 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). The empire’s borders had by now reached all the way to the Fals Gap and the mountainous Quaglands. Manshen, the first Rax overking, divided these marklands in 100 CY, forming two vast provinces around the Nyr Dyv, one in the east and one in the west. The Viceroyalty of Nyrond, which eventually included Urnst, was ruled from Rel Mord by a junior branch of House Rax. A viceroy in Dyvers administered the Viceroyalty of Ferrond, including its Northern Reaches (now Perrenland and lands north and northeast of the Vesve Forest).
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.
During Zelcor’s coronation in Rauxes later that year, an ominous sign appeared in the sky, a complete eclipse of the noontime sun above the capital. The Royal Astrologers proclaimed it as a great portent, confirming the sign of a coming Age of Great Sorrow prophesied by Selvor the Younger fifteen years earlier. Overking Zelcor promptly abolished the astrologers’ order for trying to recreate earlier hysteria and banished the members to Rel Astra. So proceeded an inexorable decline that began as the rulers of House Rax became progressively neglectful, decadent, or dimwitted. Provinces began calving off the empire like icebergs into the sea, beginning with Ferrond in 254 CY. Many noble and good Aerdi were expatriated by these successions, leaving the heart of the kingdom to opportunists. By 356 CY, Overking Portillan could not even prevent his own cousin, the viceroy of Nyrond in Rel Mord, from breaking with the Malachite Throne and declaring his independence.
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. The herzog (great prince) of North Province, Ivid I, then laid claim to the throne. The herzog of South Province, Galssonan of House Cranden, broke with Rauxes and joined a widespread rebellion in the south. Years of civil war ensued, and only the intercession of dispassionate houses such as Garasteth and Darmen brought about the final compromise.
The tyrannical Ivid I assumed the Malachite Throne at the price of granting greater autonomy to the provinces, notably Medegia, Rel Astra, and Almor. 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.
The line of Ivid, comprising four more overkings, ruled the Great Kingdom for almost another century and half. They oversaw a fractured Great Kingdom, but they did so with iron fists and villainous glee. The Malachite Throne soon became known as the Fiend-Seeing Throne, and it was widely believed (with good reason) that the Ivid overkings consorted with evil outsiders. The faith of Hextor became the most prominent in the realm, and it laid claim to the See of Medegia, wresting it from the Zilchans who had held it for nearly two centuries after they had supplanted the Pholtans.
The Great Kingdom saw a brief, violent resurgence during the reign of Ivid V, who assumed the Malachite Throne in 556 CY. Despite creeping insanity, he ably defended his realm from the combined forces of the Golden League (579–580) and civil unrest during the Red Death Plague of 581. After years of political maneuvering and scheming, Ivid finally brought far-flung provinces together in an attempt to launch a great war to reestablish the former glory of the empire of the Aerdi. In 583 CY, Ivid launched an attack upon Nyrond, Almor, and the Iron League states, but the conflict served only to bring ruin to the heartlands of the Great Kingdom and destruction to many tens of thousands of citizens. Ivid made terrible enemies of his kinsmen. North Province declared independence from the Great Kingdom in 584 CY, dragging itself out of the Greyhawk Wars, and the empire shattered within weeks into many pieces.
The end came swiftly in 586 CY, when rivals for the throne, perhaps including the fiendish Duke Szeffrin of Almor, attacked the capital after hearing news indicating Ivid V had died or been deposed. Rauxes fell victim to a vast magical conflict that left the city in ruins and submerged in a region of distorted magical force with unpredictable effects. The final fate of Ivid V, the rivals for the Malachite Throne, and Rauxes’s citizens remains unknown. All central authority gone, the provinces of Aerdy went their own ways.
In the north, Ivid’s cousin, Herzog Grenell, founded the Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy and crowned himself overking, a title not used outside his own realm. He focused his energies entirely on defending and consolidating his new realm. In 587, most of the rest of the Great Kingdom re-formed in the south under the banner of House Darmen and began calling itself the United Kingdom of Ahlissa. Leading this effort was the scion of Darmen, a powerful prince from Kalstrand named Xavener, who assembled the surviving provinces into a new nation with his own House preeminent. Within four years, Ahlissa had expanded to share an undefined border with North Kingdom. Now, the two nations contend for the lands of central Aerdy and control of the future of the Aerdi people.
In 590 CY, Overking Xavener directed his kinsmen, assisted by the priesthood of Zilchus, to create a new path for the Windmarch, an ages-old annual trade route that once ran from Chathold downriver to Nulbish and Pontylver, then upriver all the way to Eastfair. The Windmarch survived even during the mad and murderous reign of the Ivids of House Naelax, but with the latter stages of the Greyhawk Wars and the collapse of the Great Kingdom the Windmarch ended, as travel became too unsafe for the merchants involved.
The overking intends for the new “Windmarch of Ahlissa” to strengthen trade within his empire, as well as the infrastructure (roads, bridges, mail routes, river traffic), the tax base, internal political ties, and the Ahlissan army. The army, including units from the principalities, has been directed to secure the new Windmarch route from bandits, renegade orcs and military units, troublesome minor nobles, outside aggression, the Scarlet Brotherhood, etc. The Windmarch is not meant to improve external trade; holding the empire together is a higher priority.
The first new Windmarch is scheduled to begin in Coldeven 591 CY in both Rel Deven and Hexpools, with merchants from both cities migrating to Kalstrand for Growfest, then on to Nulbish, Pardue, Sarndt, Torrich, Jalpa, Carnifand (during Brewfest), and Orred. From Orred, the merchants head for home in two groups, one going down river and the other heading overland. Merchants from Naerie and the Relmor coast must go to Rel Deven or Hexpools to join the great caravan, though some join the Windmarch elsewhere along the route. Much of the route lies along ancient, magical roads called the dirawein, built by the Aerdi and still functional. Clearing the dirawein of bandits is a major project.
Conflicts and Intrigues: Potentially explosive border disputes lie on every side of Ahlissa. Internal disorder and banditry is caused by orc ex-soldiers, renegade army units, gangs of thieves and smugglers, and hostile noble houses. Scarlet Brotherhood spies want to infiltrate and control regional governments and noble houses. A secret society called Midnight Darkness assassinates foreigners in Ahlissa seen as “interfering in Aerdy’s noble culture.”
Almor (see Nyrond)