The Iron League was forged in the fires of the Turmoil Between the Crowns and tempered in the blood of the Aerdi chivalry whose pennants carpeted the red-stained filed of the Battle of a Thousand Banners in 447 CY. There, before the walls of Irongate itself, the combined forces of the free peoples of the south crushed the hosts of the South Province.
As the pyres for the slain still burned, Irongate, Onnwal, Idee, and the dwur of the Iron Hills signed a pact of mutual aid and fraternity that came to be called the Iron League. Under its terms, each member was bound to protect and assist his fellows from the aggression of the Great Kingdom and the fell ambitions of the Overking.
In 448 CY, the Lords of the Isles pledged their oath to the League. Sunndi had to wait another seven years before rebels armed and aided the League rose up and slaughtered the Imperial garrisons and nobles loyal to Rauxes.
The Jade Mask
The South was now free – but it faced a determined foe with powerful armies that far outnumbered the combined forces of the free states. Where might of arms could not prevail, stealth and guile would redress the balance. The rulers of the Iron League states created a shadowy organization they called the Jade Mask, populating the group with some of the most skillful saboteurs, burglars and professional liars in all the southeast Flanaess.
A shadowy group known as the Twelve oversaw the Jade Mask. Comprised of two officials selected by the rulers of each member state of the League, the Twelve’s mandate was to act at their discretion to preserve the security and liberty of the states of the League by whatever means it deemed necessary. This they did with ruthless efficiency.
The Chain Sundered
The most dangerous threat to the Iron League came not from within, nor even from Aerdy. In 576 CY, the Mask’s agents reported the arrival of envoys from the Land of Purity in the courts of the south. Despite strenuous efforts, the Mask discovered little about either the newcomers or their homeland. While the number of agents that disappeared in the sweltering south troubled the Twelve, the War of the Golden League, a conflict pitting Aerdy and South Province against Nyrond, Almor and the Iron League, soon monopolized their attention. The enigmatic monks were forgotten.
Outfoxed by a far more effective and insidious spy network, the Twelve and their agents were among the first to fall beneath assassins’ knives when the Scarlet Brotherhood Struck during the Greyhawk Wars. The Chapters in Onnwal, Idee and the Isles were all but eliminated in a single night – in some cases by double agents striking from within. The headquarters of the League in Irongate saw the worst of the slaughter, with at least seven of the Twelve falling to agents of the Scarlet Sign.
Irongate was saved by her Lord Mayor Cobb Darg, who had not been blind to the tentacles of the Scarlet Brotherhood encroaching on his city. The following morning, the bodies of nearly 60 Brotherhood agents hanged from gibbets before the city hall, while three merchant vessels – and their hidden cargo of Brotherhood troops – blazed in the harbor. Though Irongate had been saved, the League was shattered. Disgraced and defeated, the Jade Mask faded into obscurity.
The League Reforged?
A small group of loyal Jade Mask agents declared themselves the new Twelve in Irongate in 585 CY, reaffirming the oath of the Iron League in the presence of Cobb Darg, a delegation of Sunndi nobles and representatives of the dwarven kingdoms of the Glorioles, Hestmark Highlands and Iron Hills. The leaders of this new Jade Mask promised to operate differently than the previous leaders, whose policies had failed so disastrously during the Greyhawk Wars. Many of the new Twelve belonged to a cult known as the masks of Johydee, who honored the so-called Hidden Empress of Oeridian myth who, through deception and guile, freed the race from the influence of evil gods centuries before the Great Migrations. The cult had been prevalent among the human members of the Jade Mask, but after the death of their more public companions, they stepped forward from the shadows to set new goals for the order.
Primary among these goals are the liberation of those League states still enslaved by the Brotherhood and the reformation of the Iron League as a military and political alliance. Another key goal is the defense of Oeridian peoples and heritage from the insidious peril of the Scarlet Brotherhood on one hand and from Ahlissa on the other. The Twelve and their agents realize that ultimate Brotherhood victory will mean the utter destruction of the Oeridian people. Masters of disguise in their own right, the Twelve easily see through the fair guise Overking Xavener presents to the world, beneath. According to the new Jade Mask, Xavener and his ilk are despoilers of the great destiny promised the Aerdi in Oeridian people than the Brotherhood.
The Twelve’s first move was to reform the Mask’s shattered chapters. In Onnwal, Jade Mask agents acted in concert with the forces of Free Onnwal, helping to bring about the Brewfest Rebellion of 586 CY. In Idee and the Lordship of the Isles, agents form a hidden but essential part of the resistance movements, especially among the oppressed Oeridian nobility of the Isles. In Sunndi, the Mast is active in rooting out Ahlissan spies as well as infiltrating its own agents across the long border with the United Kingdom to report on events in the courts of Kalstrand, Rel Astra, Eastfair and beyond.
The reformed Jade Mask has its critics. After years of disagreement, relations with Cobb Darg appearing strained. The Twelve wonder how the Lord Mayor uncovered the Brotherhood plot in his city when they did not and why he did nothing to warn them and the other member states. Some agents have begun delving into Darg’s enigmatic and largely unknown past. Rumors of tensions between the Mask and the archmage Bigby abound, but the particulars of the situation remain unknown.
Both King Hazendel and the dwur of the Iron Hills have expressed disquiet at the influence the Johydeens have had upon the Jade Mask, chafing at their placement of the preservation of Oeridians before all others. The Olvenking has pointed out the similarity in this outlook with that of the Scarlet Brotherhood, noting that it is the fate of fanatics to become that which they most despise. On such matters of criticism, the Jade Mask has maintained its usual, inscrutable silence.