Proper Name: March of Bissel
Ruler: His Lofty Grace, Larrangin, the Margrave of Bissel (LG male human Ftr9/Clr2 of Heironeous)
Government: Feudal monarchy owing fealty to Gran March and Veluna; monarch currently chosen by leadership of the Knights of the Watch under Gran March
Major Towns: Pellak (pop. 2,300); former capital, Thornward (see later), now held in common by several nations
Provinces: Twenty-six knight-baronies, eight townships, and one capital township (Pellak)
Resources: Foodstuffs, cloth, gold, gems (I)
Coinage: (Modified Keoland) griffon (pp), lion (gp), eagle (ep), stag (sp), roc (cp)
Population: 123,880—Human 82% (OSB), Dwarf 10% (mountain 57%, hill 43%), Elf 2% (sylvan), Halfling 2% (stout), Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Other 1%
Languages: Common, Baklunish dialects, Dwarven
Alignments: LG, LN*, N, NG
Religions: Heironeous, Zilchus, Fharlanghn, Geshtai, Rao, Istus
Allies: Gran March, Keoland, Veluna, Knights of the Watch, dwarves of the eastern Barrier Peaks, many mercenaries and adventuring bands; allies divided over many issues
Enemies: Ket, Iuz
Overview: Bissel is at the northernmost reach of the great Sheldomar Valley, on a broad plain bounded by the Barrier Peaks on the west and northwest, the Fals River on the northeast, and the Lorridges on the east. The irregular southern border lies about thirty miles north of Hookhill in Gran March. The northeastern edge of the Dim Forest is claimed and settled by Bisselite woodsmen. Spring flash floods along the Realstream in the west form the only major annual weather problem. Bissel has a temperate if rather dry climate, with the far west getting most of the rain. Its wildlife is greatly varied, and monsters often come down from the nearby mountains. A constant stream of caravans, messengers, and patrols moves along the country’s two major highways: Watchtower Road, running from the former capital, Thornward, to Hookhill near the Lorridges, and Fals Road, from Thornward to Mitrik along the Fals River. Barge traffic along the Fals to Mitrik has recovered since the Thornward Division, despite continuing quarrels over river tariffs and attacks on Ket’s barges by unknown persons.
The March of Bissel is a feudal monarchy owing fealty to Gran March and Veluna. The Knights of the Watch are currently the power behind the throne, under the direction of Gran March. The current ruler is His Lofty Grace, Larrangin, the Margrave of Bissel, chosen from and by the ranking member of the Knights of the Watch in Bissel.
Bissel is primarily populated by humans of Oeridian, Baklunish and Suel heritage, but the traditions of the Baklunish extend back in time most strongly. As a result, many of the common folk still speak a dialect of Baklunish in addition to Common. The Lorridges to the east are home to large numbers of gnomes, halflings, and hill dwarves, while the Barrier Peaks to the north and west also contribute to a sizeable population of mountain dwarves in those areas. Similarly, the Dim Forest to the south is home to a sizeable population of sylvan elves. There are also large numbers of humanoids in these outer regions, but thankfully, their presence in Bissel is extremely limited.
The geography of Bissel is split into 26 baronies. Each barony is self-supporting but owes allegiance to the Margrave. There are also nine independent townships. The townships are the focus of trade in Bissel and are much more densely populated than the baronies. In 590 CY the capital was relocated from Thornward to Pellak, a township in the southeast of Bissel. The town is in the shadow of Castle Oversight, where the Knights of the Watch are headquartered in Bissel.
Beruak Township, Lady Mayor Kynna Gezlari (LN female human (BS) Aristocrat L5)
Clunther Township, Lord Mayor Homyar Checaran (LG male human (S) Paladin L5/KotW L2)
Dimhaven Township, Lord Mayor Garrik Trucharge (NG male human (BOS) Druid of Geshtai L3/Fighter L2/Ranger L3)
Dountham Township, Lord Mayor Amal Del’Bothoff (N male human (BOS) Rogue L3/Expert L5)
Ebbernant Township, Lord Mayor Owais Bakhtyar (LN male human (B) Monk L3/Wizard L2)
Falsford Township, Lord Mayor Ildebad Korand (LN human male (O) Fighter L4/Cleric of Zilchus L2)
Pellak, Capital Township of, Lord Mayor Jacen Aldenvor (LN male human (OS) Aristocrat L5/Fighter L3)
Sareden Township, Lord Mayor Norran Silvermantle (NG stout halfling Wizard L5/Mage of the Arcane Order L2)
Wrekin Township, Lord Mayor Peradoo Schloppen (LN rock gnome Expert L4/Warrior L2)
Bandalar, Barony of, Lord Naziim Nanjari, The Baron of Bandalar (LN male human (B) Fighter L5)
Besselar, Barony of, Lord Darius Besselar, The Baron of Besselar (N male human (BOS) Aristocrat L8/Expert L6)
Burning Stalks, Barony of, Lady Elina Luchelyn, The Baroness of Burning Stalks (LG female human (OS) Paladin L5/KotW L3)
Cassiter, Barony of, Lord Camryn Fertuine, The Baron of Cassiter (N male human (S) Fighter L2/Rogue L3)
Cullen Drae, Barony of, Lord Thoeder Cullen, The Baron of Cullen Drae (LN male human (OS) Druid of Geshtai L5/Sorcerer L4)
Davoniya, Barony of, Lord Odovacar Marcomir III, The Baron of Davoniya (N male human (OS) Aristocrat L6/Rogue L7)
Dount, Barony of, Lord Elgar Checaran, The Baron of Dount (LG male human (S) Paladin L5/KotW L1)
Gerorgos, Barony of, Lady Ketzia Sanoose, The Baroness of Gerorgos (NG female human (O) Aristocrat L2/Bard L4)
Helbek, Barony of, Lord Alron Helbek, The Baron of Helbek (NG male human (O) Bard L2/Fighter L2/Ranger L5)
Sriniva (The Horsehills), Barony of, Lord Azad Srinivasan, The Baron of Sriniva, The Horselord (NG male human (B) Barbarian L5/Fighter L2/Ranger L2)
Jadarta, Barony of, Lord Salla al-Nasr, The Baron of Jadarta (NG male human (B) Fighter L6)
Khartizanum, Barony of, Lord Amiz Slaejin, The Baron of Khartizanum (LN male human (BS) Aristocrat L3/Fighter L3)
Kynneret, Barony of, Lord Wynn Ceanatis, The Baron of Kynneret (LN male human (S) Aristocrat L4/Wizard L4)
Menawyk, Barony of, Lord Albrecht True Sight, The Baron of Menawyk (LG male hill dwarf Fighter L6/Cleric of Heironeous L5)
Misty Hills, Barony of, Lady Imycina Trefeloess, The Baroness of Misty Hills (NG female human (O) Cleric of Johydee L5/Rogue L6)
Munderik, Barony of, Lord Dorse Bahlhun, The Baron of Munderik (LN male human (O) Fighter L5)
Nightwatch, Barony of, Lord Argwen Helinaut, Baron of Nightwatch (LG male human (BO) Cleric of Pelor L2/Fighter L3/Hunter of the Dead L3)
Paercium, Barony of, Lord Conri Sollus, The Baron of Paercium (LN male human (S) Fighter L2/Cleric of Heironeous L3)
Parulla, Barony of, Lord Zafar Rashehdra, The Baron of Parulla (LN male human (B) Aristocrat L7/Cleric of Istus L2)
Rhomstaff, Barony of, Lord Izhaar Rhomstaff, The Baron of Rhomstaff (LN male human (BOS) Wizard L9)
Saltrenhill, Barony of, Lord Mohtkar Saltren, The Baron of Saltrenhill (LG male human (BS) Fighter L3)
Skaglea, Barony of, Lord Gravin Skaglea, The Baron of Skaglea (NG male human (O) Fighter L7)
Skogend, Barony of, Lord Talek Erisvalt, The Baron of Skogend (NG male human (OS) Fighter L2/Ranger L5)
Swordfields, Barony of, Lord Steich Valiserat, The Baron of Swordfields [currently missing] (LN male human (OS) Fighter L7/Weapon Master L3)
Thornward Province, Barony of, Lord Norbert Kerenna, The Baron of Thornward Province, Knight of the Watch (LN male human (OS) Fighter L5/KotW L4)
Wintrigvale, Barony of, Lord Vadir Wintrig, The Baron of Wintrigvale (LN male human (BS) Aristocrat L3/Fighter L5)
Bissel has a very limited export trade. The passing trade between the nations of the Sheldomar Valley to the south, the Baklunish nations to the north and west, and Veluna and its allies to the east drives most of the economy. Some of the trade routes in Bissel have been in existence since the first humans moved into the eastern Flanaess generations ago. Thornward sits upon an ancient trade route between the Baklunish West, the Sheldomar Valley, and the rest of the Flanaess. Major roads connect Thornward with Hookhill in Gran March and Mitrik in Veluna, and the Fals River also hosts a great deal of mercantile traffic.
The strategic location of Bissel has made it a highly desirable area to control, leading to repeated warfare for control of the lands between Gran March and Keoland from the south, Veluna and Furyondy from the east, and Ket and the Baklunish lands from the north and west. Recent warfare with the nation of Ket has left many castles and fortifications destroyed, and Bissel’s famed Border Companies are in disarray. The Knights of the Watch constituted the basis of Bissel’s national defense in 591 CY, and, as a result, the influence of Gran March is everywhere. A national military, formed in Bissel in 592 CY, may reduce the influence of the Knights of the Watch in future years.
The most pressing issue since the end of the Bissel-Ket conflict is the control of Thornward and its lucrative trade. Under the current terms, the city is divided among Ket, Gran March, Veluna, and Bissel. All wish to lay a permanent claim to the city, but the prospect of a war with not one, but three other states over a single town has let calmer heads prevail for the time being.
Bissel’s four famed mercenary Border Companies are being reorganized and retrained after their defeat and disbanding during the Ketite occupation; they are not yet at their former strength. Many scouts and rangers are being sought for active duty in the north and west. A large castle-building project is underway along the southern banks of the Fals (Bissel’s new northern border) and along the neutral zone around Thornward. Ket destroyed many forts, minor castles, barracks, signal towers, and army bases when it invaded Bissel and later when it withdrew. These are being rebuilt, but work is very slow due to lack of funds. The massive Castle Oversight, at Pellak, has become the headquarters for Bissel’s branch of the Knights of the Watch. The influence of Gran March and the Watch is everywhere, particularly in the new margrave’s court. The eventual recovery of Thornward is a core goal of the government.
Thornward is a sprawling, heavily fortified city with a population of about six thousand, surrounded by numerous army camps (limited in size by treaty), further boosting its total population to about eleven thousand. The caravan and river traffic through Thornward is of staggering size; items are often available here that are found only in much larger cities. The atmosphere in the city is tense and political intrigue is thick, but mercantile activity is nonstop; the city is brightly lit all hours of the night to keep trade moving.
History: Bissel has long been the gateway between three worlds (the Baklunish West, the Sheldomar Valley, and the rest of the Flanaess), and as a result has been repeatedly invaded, conquered, and settled by a variety of Oeridian, Suloise, and Baklunish peoples. Some present-day villages and trade routes were established before the ancient Baklunish-Suloise Wars. The area shows the influences of many cultures, but the inhabitants tend to be untrusting of foreigners and keep to themselves. The land was eventually brought into Keoland (c. 302 CY), its troublesome peoples forcibly subdued by the Knights of the March. Keoish forces invaded Ket and Veluna from Thornward through 350–360 CY.
After suffering defeats in Ket during the Short War, Keoland pulled back and made Bissel the “Littlemark,” the kingdom’s northernmost domain. Thornward, now a town of respectable size, was established as its capital to check Ketite expansion south and east of Bramblewood Gap; it grew into a major trade center between Baklunish west and Oeridian/Suloise east. Bissel also profited greatly from trade between Keoland and Furyondy through the Fals River Pass, and Mitrik became the destination of much overland and river traffic. Knights of the Watch have had much influence here over the last 190 years, serving in the margrave’s court and armies.
Bissel was conquered by the combined forces of Furyondy and Veluna in 438 CY, which ended Keoish influence in western Veluna. The throne in Chendl kept Bissel’s office of the margrave, but replaced the ruling family with nobles sympathetic to the affairs of the east.
Distance from the Furyondian capital left Bissel practically independent, a state of existence that was made official with great celebration in 477 CY, after Margrave Rollo and his personal guard courageously defended the visiting King Hugh III of Furyondy from a small army of jebli. A grateful king declared Bissel a “march palatine” within days of his daring
At this time, there was a change in government in Ket, and a conservative-militant faction with strong ties to the military came to power. This group whipped up war fever with tales of Keoland’s invasion in the mid–300s. Ket attacked Thornward and besieged it for a year (499 CY), then continued to raid into Bissel and Veluna off and on for the next eight decades. Bissel withstood the attacks and remained independent, with the considerable support of Keoland, Furyondy, and Veluna.
The lure of fighting, political instability, and wealthy merchant lords led to an influx in adventurers, spies and mercenaries. An attempted insurrection by necromancers in 580 CY, possibly tied to the plight of a disgraced, evil wizard-lord known as Evard, led to harsh suppression of fringe groups and zealous punishment of treason and sedition. A general sense of distrust and self-defeatism emerged in Bissel, no doubt encouraged by certain powers that wished to see the nation fall.
In Goodmonth 584 CY, Ketite cavalry attacked Bissel’s watchtowers along the Fals River at the northern end of Bramblewood Gap. Without many of the mercenaries within its Border Companies, who had traveled south and east to battle the Pomarj and Iuz, Bissel fell by mid-Harvester. Ket, encouraged by the Old One, forced Bissel’s surrender after the fall of Thornward. The archfiend and the westerners had hoped to use the old margrave, Walgar, a ranger of some renown, as a puppet, but pride would not allow it. After giving up his lands, the aged ruler committed ritual suicide.
Graf Imran Tendulkar, a Baklunish religious warrior, took a soft hand to rulership as Walgar’s replacement. He and his men attempted (often in vain) to convert the Bisselites to western religions, all the while waiting patiently for the land to accept its new governors. Other nations, understanding Bissel’s strategic importance, attempted to break Ket’s hold. In a succession of battles, Veluna drove invading forces from the neck of the Fals River Pass and Highfolk gnomes defeated Ketite forces in the Northern Lorridges. Further advances into the nation were halted by Ketite horsemen, often with assistance from the remnants of Bissel’s disbanded Border Companies, now bankrolled by western interests.
Beygraf Zoltan’s assassination in 587 CY and the resulting change in Ket’s government led to a new policy regarding Bissel. Nadaid, Zoltan’s statefavored replacement, withdrew most of his troops from Bissel to deal with chaos in Lopolla, then began peace negotiations with the west, much to the frustration of battle-hungry Gran March war bands gathered at Bissel’s southern border.
Negotiations lasted from 587–589 CY, resulting in the controversial Thornward Division, by which Bissel’s capital was lost and made a neutral city held and governed in common by Ket, Veluna, Gran March, and Bissel. Ket completely withdrew its armies, taking control of all Bisselite forts, towns, and lands north of the Bramblewood Gap.
In delayed reaction to Graf Imran’s proselytizing, dozens of Baklunish temples were burned to the ground in the last four years. Anger is common in the land; the Knights of the Watch have seen their ranks swell considerably.
In 590 CY, Bissel declared the central farming and trading town of Pellak as its new capital. Commanders of the invigorated Knights of the Watch look over the burgeoning town from the ramparts of the nearby Castle Oversight, watching the northern horizon.
Conflicts and Intrigues: Intense, bitter rivalry exists between Ket and Bissel, Veluna, and Gran March over Thornward and the merchant traffic there. Rivalry between Gran March and Veluna grows over Bissel’s loyalties. Individuals loyal to Iuz plot evil deeds. Bandits, goblins, orcs, and strange monsters from the Barrier Peaks and Dim Forest trouble the west. Knights of the Watch whisper that valley elves, disguised as humans, spy on or steal from certain towns.