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.
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.