Proper Name: Gran March
Ruler: His Most Resolute Magnitude, Magnus Vrianian, Commandant of Gran March (LG male human Wiz9 (evoker)/Clr3 of Heironeous)
Government: Feudal monarchy structured along military lines, with minor fealty to Keoland; overseeing current government in Bissel; noble houses and government are closely entwined with a militant quasi-religious knighthood, the Knights of the Watch; commandant chosen every five years by vote of nobles and knights
Major Towns: Hookhill (pop. 7,500), Shiboleth (pop. 5,900)
Provinces: Ten great baronies, two marches (eastern Dim Forest, Rushmoors), captured territory (Hochoch; see text)
Resources: Foodstuffs, cloth, copper, gems (III)
Coinage: [Modified Keoland] griffon (pp), lion (gp), eagle (ep), white owl (sp), heron (cp)
Population: 254, 600—Human 79% (SOf), Elf 8% (sylvan), Dwarf 5%, Halfling 3%, Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Half-orc 1%, Other 1%
Languages: Common, Keolandish, Elven, Dwarven
Alignments: LN*, LG, N
Religions: Heironeous, St. Cuthbert, Pholtus, Fharlanghn, Zilchus, Oeridian agricultural gods, Phyton, Obad-Hai
Allies: Keoland, Sterich, Bissel, Ulek states.
Enemies: Ket, nonhumans in Geoff and Crystalmists
Overview: Gran March occupies the fertile plains east of the expansive Dim Forest and west of the Lortmil Mountains, bounded by the northernmost fork of the Sheldomar River in the south. A poorly defined “open” border marks the north, where nobles often kept court in both Bissel and Gran March. These days, there seems to be little difference between the two governments, though the land within 30 miles north of Hookhill is considered part of Gran March proper. This territory also includes portions of Dim Forest and the Rushmoors, a haunted fen that has plagued the southern march for much of its long history.
The northern baronies enjoy a temperate, dry climate not unlike that found in Bissel. The south, however, is a land of dark mists and frequent showers, particularly near the forest and swamp.
Gran March is an exceptionally martial nation. At age fifteen, all fit males enter mandatory conscription for a period of up to seven years. Girls may join the rank and file, as well, though this is something of a modern development, and their participation is not seen as mandatory (though several influential women in the military hierarchy believe it should be). It is a testament to the national pride of the nation’s young people that many continue after their required service, and those who do not are generally members of local militias.
Internationally renown mailed cavalry forms the core of Gran March’s impressive army. Armed with lances, crossbows, and swords, these riders are the bane of giants inhabiting Geoff. The Knights of the Watch and Knights of Dispatch offer support and welcome tactical expertise. The total standing army includes more than eighteen thousand soldiers. At least three times as many trained troops can be called up within a single week.
History: Gran March is one of Keoland’s oldest holdings, tracing its history back more than nine hundred years. Legend holds that, after the defeat of Vecna and the dissolution of his empire (placed in the northern part of the Sheldomar Valley in some accounts), the nascent Keolandish crown created an order of knights in the frontier region. The Knights of the March were ordered to bring law to the land and to quell the warring of the native Flan factions. Eventually, the leader of the knighthood was named commandant of Gran March, a title that carried with it control of the land between the Rushmoors and Lortmils.
Life in Gran March was peaceful and safe, as few dared oppose the powerful commandant. When a perceived threat from within beset the nation, the Knights of the March sprung upon it fiercely and decisively. Sometimes, such reprisals came with little warning, often against seemingly upstanding members of the lesser aristocracy. The knights followed the secret teachings of their own inscrutable doctrine, and they showed no interest in explaining their actions to commoners.
The early 300s CY brought the Baklunish Brazen Horde to Ket, causing much consternation in the courts of the east and south. In order to protect his holdings against this Paynim threat, King Tavish I of Keoland ordered the foundation of the Knights of the Watch, built upon the basis of the Knights of the March and commanded by its leaders. This new, international knighthood quickly spread to Geoff, Bissel, and the heart of the empire, all the while retaining strong roots and key leadership in Gran March. Indeed, the commandant became titular ruler of the massive knighthood, as well as leader of his nation.
With the dawning of Keoland’s wars of aggression, in 350 CY, Gran March gained international notoriety as the primary staging ground for the Second Expeditionary Army, which invaded Veluna from the southwest. After the success of that campaign, the capital of Hookhill became an important caravan stop to points north, which served to increase the wealth of the province.
By 415 CY, life in Gran March had grown extraordinarily difficult, thanks in part to Commandant Berlikyn, a harsh ruler who demanded nothing less than the most of his citizens—the most labor, the most money, the most effort. The king in distant Niole Dra knew nothing of Berlikyn’s tactics, seeing only the impressive results. In appreciation, Tavish III appointed the commandant to be the supreme commander of all the northern provinces, which at the time included Gran March, Bissel, and much of Veluna. A period of bitter oppression reigned in the north until Berlikyn was slain in the Small War.
The death of the commandant of Gran March and the loss of Bissel and the Velunese territories to Furyondy forced a change in Keoland’s policy in the north. Aware that the local nobles would not tolerate a harsh commandant, the king allowed them to elect one of their own number to the position, and forevermore split the title from that of the “Marcher Lord,” titular head of the Knights of the Watch. The government and knighthood remained closely allied.
For much of the modern era, Gran March has existed as a prosperous trade center along Keoland’s northern merchant routes. Perhaps thanks to the influence of the Knights of the Watch, the nobles of Gran March have always enjoyed strong relations with their neighbors in Sterich and Bissel.
As continental war developed within the last decade, the armies of Gran March saw relatively little action. Signatories of the Treaty of Niole Dra, the nation sent a small army across the Lorridges in 584 CY, pledging to help Furyondy against Iuz. Months later, Commandant Petros was horrified by reports of whole armies of giants descending from the mountains to lay waste to Geoff and Sterich. He immediately sent the bulk of his remaining armies to the west, only weeks before the horsemen of Ket swarmed into Bissel.
Then, as Commandant Petros prepared to call his men from the Lost Lands of Sterich and Geoff, a grand convocation of the Knights of the Watch was called by the enigmatic Hugo of Geoff, the order’s Grandiose Imperial Wyvern. Nearly half of the knights abandoned their wartime posts to gather for three weeks of intense secret conferences in Thornward. The enormously frustrated Commandant Petros was invited to meet with the order’s leaders at the conclusion of the conferences.
The commandant abdicated his post within the week, naming as his replacement Magnus Vrianian, a high-ranking Knight of the Watch from Shiboleth. Vrianian left the bulk of his soldiers in the Lost Lands, but ordered a small force to the northern border, where Knights of the Watch led sneak attacks against the hated Baklunish inhabiting Bissel. Shortly after word of Beygraf Zoltan’s assassination, the armies of Gran March moved across the border, harrying those Baklunish who were slow in retreating. In Bissel, the knights attempted to help the people restructure their badly wounded society, even going so far as to appoint members of the Knights of the Watch to vacant positions of authority (without the consent of Bissel’s new margrave).
Thereafter, the commandant turned his full attention to the Lost Lands. Sterich was liberated in 588 CY, but war continues in Geoff. Perhaps the greatest victory in the latter came in the town of Hochoch, which was freed in 586 by a Gran March army. The town has since been all but annexed, and its leaders pay tribute to the commandant. It is likely Hochoch and the surrounding lands will officially be made a new great barony of Gran March before long.
Conflicts and Intrigues: Efforts to cut a road through the Dim Forest are encountering resistance from evil humanoid natives. A new menace has appeared in the Rushmoors. Former Commandant Petros has not been seen since a week after his abdication.
Great Kingdom: see Ahlissa, North Kingdom