Proper Name: Theocracy of the Pale
Ruler: His Worshipful Mercy, Theocrat Ogon Tillit, Supreme Prelate of the Pale (LN male human Clr16 of Pholtus)
Government: Theocracy administered in the name of the god Pholtus; clerics hold all government positions
Major Towns: Eltison (pop. 15,400), Hawkburgh (pop. 12,400), Hatherleigh (pop. 24,500), Holdworthy (pop. 16,700), Landrigard (pop. 7,800), Ogburg (pop. 17,400), Rakervale (pop. 13,700), Stradsett (pop. 10,900), Wintershiven (pop. 39,900)
Provinces: Twenty-seven city wards and low dioceses divided unevenly among nine archdioceses
Resources: Foodstuffs, copper, gems (IV)
Coinage: Bright (pp), gold glory (gp), silver sun (ep), silver moon (sp), basic (cp)
Population: 395,000—Human 96% (FO), Halfling 2%, Elf 1%, Other 1%
Languages: Common, Flan
Alignments: LN*, LG, LE
Religions: Pholtus*, all other religions suppressed (however, secret offerings made to Beory, Phyton, and Oeridian agricultural gods by many farmers in the countryside)
Allies: Many Pholtan churches across the Flanaess, certain Tenh nobles who converted to Pholtus and aim to rule Tenh as a subject state of the Pale
Enemies: Iuz, Stonehold, all orcs, goblinoids, and giants; all other states and peoples of the Flanaess are regarded as pagans or heretics, minor enemies of the Pale by default; wizards are suspect by default as they often worship other gods; all religions with criminal or evil aspects are especially hostile
Overview: The Pale is a moderately sized realm located in the shadows of the Rakers, bordered by the Phostwood and the Gamboge in the west. These forests are shared with the duchy of Tenh and Nyrond, respectively, while the mountains in the east form an almost impassable barrier to Ratik and Bone March on the Solnor Coast. The Pale is ruled from the city of Wintershiven by a religious bureaucracy with direct command over the military, law enforcement, economics and trade, and nearly every other aspect of life in the kingdom. The clerical hierarchy rules the land in the name of the god Pholtus and the most powerful of their number, the theocrat, is said to be chosen by their god to hold the Throne of the Sun for his lifetime. He is selected from the ruling body known as the Council of the Nine, which assembles four times a year in Wintershiven to advise the theocrat. The intolerance of its rulers has become legendary, and the Pale is generally perceived as having territorial ambitions on all its neighbors. This may be true, but the society cannot always be so easily categorized.
Winters in the Pale are harsh and unforgiving and the land and its people seem to reflect this attitude. Only two seasons exist in the Pale (it is said): the unbearable winter and the barely bearable “summer,” when crops are grown with difficulty. A sizable portion of the population herds animals instead. Food is also imported from other realms.
The Pale is composed of nine large provinces, surrounding a like number of cities that serve as regional capitals, each controlled by a prelate who sits on the Council of the Nine. The population is about evenly divided between people of relatively unmixed Oeridian and Flan stock. The Flan are considered lowborn by the Aerdi upper class, and intermarriage is rare. Oddly, the Flan are thought of as the comelier race by all, but they hold fast to “pagan” teachings despised by the Pholtus-worshiping Oeridians. The former frequently eschew the large cities of the Pale, where they often work as servants and day laborers, preferring the countryside and the opportunity to work their own family farms. A few Palish families include half-elves, particularly in the south.
The society has been relatively closed for the last two centuries, and this stagnation largely has been attributed to the class structure and the pervasive prejudice of its leadership. The Pale has been living under an inquisition for more than two centuries, since Nyrond first invaded the country. Evil priesthoods and hostile cults are actively routed out and destroyed, while other faiths are suppressed. Mages and other so-called “consorts of demons” are closely watched in the Pale and must be careful not to draw too much unwanted attention. The Templars of the Church Militant work within the religious and military hierarchies, and are charged with conducting the inquisition. The roaming High Legates are given great authority and are much feared in the Pale for their ability to put someone to the Question.
Despite these unpleasant aspects, Good exists in the Pale. Monasteries near the western woods and in the eastern foothills of the Rakers have some of the most impressive libraries and respected philosophers around. The city of Ogburg in the southeast is a prodigious trading center and its leaders display unusual tolerance for outsiders. Many dissidents can speak more freely here than elsewhere. Finally, the soldiery of the Pale is among the best trained and most disciplined in the Flanaess, and the borders are well patrolled and defended, making travel within the Pale among the most peaceful in the Flanaess, though the Trolls Fens on the northern frontier remain a constant bane.
History: Centuries before the founding of the Pale, when the Great Kingdom spanned nearly the length and breadth of the Flanaess, the church of Pholtus had the appointed task of administering the courts for the realm on behalf of the overking and the Celestial Houses. Its highest ranking member was given the title of Holy Censor and granted a fief to administer from the old city of Mentrey in Medegia, where judges of the law from all faiths were trained and appointed. When the order of Pholtus fell out of favor with the overkings of House Rax in the mid–third century CY, it was largely due to the perception that its leaders were attempting to impose their doctrine on the kingdom and create a theocracy through their control of the courts. While this may have been true of some its more outspoken leaders, the accusation undoubtedly owed more to the apathy of the Pholtans to the evolving politics at court. So it was with the near concurrence of all other sects, that its highest ranking cleric was removed from the Holy Censoriate by Overking Toran II in 252 CY and replaced with the priesthood of Zilchus, which was then closely allied with the Houses of Rax and Darmen. This was considered a reasonable compromise, as no consensus could ever be achieved between the faiths of Heironeous and Hextor, the most individually powerful sects of the Great Kingdom at the time.
In the aftermath of this episode, many of the most zealous members of the faith of Pholtus began abandoning the heartlands of Aerdy, citing religious persecution and rising decadence in the empire, accelerated by the withdrawal of Ferrond in 254 CY. While there was some truth to their claims, these were largely exaggerations and considered by most the protestations of a group suffering waning power and influence.
Most of these religious emigrants traveled through provincial Nyrond, eventually settling in the western valleys of the Rakers in the Flan hinterlands. These lands were desired by few, being at the very frontiers of the Great Kingdom and located in the severe climes of the north. Here these Aerdi clerics and devout followers made a home for themselves among the native Flan, who held an old semi-independent realm to the northwest in a place called Tenh. These early pioneers struggled greatly against the depredations of a harsh land and its denizens to carve out a nation for themselves, calling it the Pale and dedicating it to their god.
Fighting along with these early settlers and helping to tame the northern border was Ceril the Relentless, now greatly revered as a patron saint of the nation. He founded the Council of the Nine, which organized the government of the early nation and chose the first theocrat from their number in 342 CY. Together, they fashioned a government in accordance with their strict interpretations of doctrine. The Palish considered themselves far removed from the politics of the overking and his court, whom they continued to fear and mistrust despite their separation.
This concern proved to be short-lived, for by 356 CY the winds of change swept across the empire. The viceroy at Rel Mord, kin of the Rax overking in Rauxes, broke with the throne and founded an independent kingdom in Nyrond. Circumstances allowed the act to go relatively unchallenged, and the new king by his own writ claimed Urnst, Tenh, the Pale, and a good portion of the Bandit Kingdoms. Most of these states resisted such claims. The Pale affirmed its independence from the Great Kingdom that same year, and the nascent king of Nyrond turned loose his armies upon what he considered to be provinces in rebellion. These forces zealously set about bringing the states into line.
In the Pale, they were rebuffed by the local leaders and in a tragic turn the regional capital of Wintershiven was consumed in a fire. Hostilities ended quickly, but the bitterness the event created proved to be long enduring. Wintershiven would be rebuilt 20 leagues to the north, closer to the Yol, but was no longer a capital. The Pale remained a subject of Nyrond and was occupied for almost a century, though the theocrat and the religious bureaucracy were permitted to retain a degree of home rule.
It was at the Great Council of Rel Mord in 450 CY that the Pholtans of the Pale eventually won their complete independence from Nyrond. Emissaries of the theocrat were instrumental in persuading the king of Nyrond, then Dunstan I, to agree to total and unconditional self-determination for the supplicant states in exchange for assurances of mutual aid and protection. The date is still celebrated as a national holiday in the Pale as Emancipation Day.
Soon after the liberation, the templars of the Pale were incorporated as the Church Militant to supplement the standing military’s ability to deal with “threats to the faith.” The Pale has since entered a dark phase from which it has not yet emerged. For the last century and a half, the Pale has closely guarded its sovereignty. It refused to honor pleas for aid not required of formal alliances, so the Pale did not involve itself in the Greyhawk Wars against either Iuz or the Great Kingdom, though it clearly despised the villainy of both empires. Much to the chagrin of its neighbors, who suffered greatly during the wars, the Pale found itself in a powerful position in the central Flanaess and could exercise some of its long-standing territorial ambitions.
When Lynwerd gained the throne of Nyrond, the Pale renewed its effort to annex the northlands of that kingdom, hoping to cajole the new monarch into giving them up. Thus far, the young king has stood up to the shrill ambassadors who lobby his throne. Because much of its military is engaged elsewhere, the Pale has made no attempt to invade the south, despite its harsh verbal attacks.
Three years ago, with an army at full strength and an additional force including thousands of refugee converts from the Tenh at the fore, Theocrat Ogon Tillit sponsored an invasion of the ruined duchy, to both gain territory and throw back Iuz’s forces, clearly perceived as the number-one threat to the Pale’s future existence. Eastern Tenh was taken back, and both banks of the Yol are now under Palish control.
Unbeknownst to the populace, Tillit was injured in 588 CY, when he personally led one of the early battles in the Tenh. While he survived the attack, his wounds have not healed; in fact, they have worsened during the last two years, and his attendants think he might not survive till Richfest. The Council of the Nine is aware of his condition, and the clandestine politicking to replace Tillit on the Throne of the Sun has already begun.
Conflicts and Intrigues: Urban populations are grossly swollen with Tenh refugees, and plans to resettle them are bogged down. Popular support for an invasion of Nyrond is waning. Conservative Prelate Theoman Baslett of Landrigard and the progressive Prelate Maximillian Thace of Ogburg are leading candidates to replace the ailing theocrat. Troll invasions from the fens have tripled in size amid reports of a new “Troll King.”