Rulership and Law of the Great Kingdom
The historical principle of rulership was strongly linked to land ownership: the overking was technically the only man able to make dispensation of land grants, but was also often only acknowledging existing ownership within royal houses by so doing. Thus, the overking’s power was total in theory, but constrained in practice.
- Laws of the Great Kingdom
- Judges of the Sessions
- The Court of Essence
- Law Enforcement in the Great Kingdom
This is the basic principle of Aerdi rulership—it can also be seen in ex-Aerdy lands such as Furyondy. This principle was compromised after the civil war, when Ivid I was forced in effect, though this was never formally acknowledged in treaty, to allow the rulers of the North and South Provinces, and Medegia, to act as the final authorities for dealing with landholdings in those lands. The pretense was maintained that Ivid still held this right over all lands, while in practice it devolved wholly to the provincial rulers who no longer presented formal petitions to be rubber-stamped by the overking. However, that still left Ivid in control of most of the Great Kingdom in theory, and since Naelax held much of the lands in North Province, it made little difference in practice there at least.
While the Ruling Royal House is hereditary (passing from Cranden to Rax-Nyrond by proclamation of one overking, and to Naelax by assassination), a complex power game has been played out between the royal houses. Ultimately, the overking needed the backing of at least a sizable minority of royal house leaders (landowning princes) for any major actions he might take, such as waging war.
There never has been any element of a written treaty or constitution here; everything was done by mutual understandings and acceptance of the realities of power. The House of Naelax changed this. Gradually, Naelax came to rule by fear. The overkings regarded the other royal houses as pawns to be trifled with, or simply dominated and ordered to do what was wished. The use of humanoid mercenaries, the priesthood of Hextor, and the employ of fiends provided the muscle and magic to force their policies home. During the Turmoil between Crowns, important princes of other royal houses looked at Prince Ivid’s strength and decided to accept the inevitable. They thought they could accept a peace and plan together for the future, perhaps deposing Ivid when the opportunity arose.
Ivid’s use of tanar’ri assassins, ritual sorceries, and superbly-commanded orcish armies—with Hextor’s priests in the vanguard—taught them differently. When anyone dared raise a hand against the overking, the response could be swift and crushingly decisive. The House of Naelax ruled Aerdy with a fist of iron. The kingdom changed from an aristocracy to a dictatorship.
Ivid I also instituted a policy, which his descendants followed, of confiscating the land of princes who did not yield the appropriate tax revenues. Usually, Ivid’s own chancellors and tax gatherers cooked the books to make sure that taxes did not appear to have been paid. Ivid’s typical strategy was to dispatch an army to seize the lands, overthrow the offending prince, and then place the territory in “royal trust.” Monies from the lands were then distributed throughout the royal houses (with Naelax taking the lion’s share). A crony or puppet of the overking would administer the lands as a “protector.”
Ivid was able to get away with this because he was very crafty concerning who to target, avoiding anyone truly powerful or with strong alliances. Further, because part of the proceeds went to royal houses which otherwise would not have had any of the bounty of the seized lands, organized opposition didn’t materialize. Some of the “protectors” remain autonomous minor local rulers in Aerdy today.
Following the secession of Almor, Ivid I also had drawn up the infamous Sedition Proclamations which tied the provinces of the land more closely to the crown through a complex set of laws involving liegemen oaths, taxes and tithes to be paid to the crown, regulation of tolls on rivers and major roads, reciprocal obligations regarding calls upon armies, appointment of the now-notorious judges of the sessions, and the like. It was some time before princes realized exactly what these laws did. Taken as a whole, the laws brought more and more of everyday life under the scrutiny and control of the overking. Since the overking was later able to claim that Ahlissan independence was thwarted by these laws, again they did not inspire the revolt they might have.
The Naelax overkings also established a network of spies and assassins whose loyalty to the malachite throne was never in much doubt. Fiends, other conjured extra-planar beings, distant relatives of the overking, priestlings of Hextor and other dark powers gave the Naelax overkings a firm grip on their dominion.
Still, the overkings did not have complete control; Aerdy is too huge for that (covering far in excess of a million square miles). But what the House of Naelax did stamp out, beyond doubt, was any significant, organized opposition to its rulership.
And one must return to the sheer power of the fear the House of Naelax generated. The terrors of the Screaming Column and the Endless Death were only the most lurid visible symbols of the overking’s clear power to make any who opposed him suffer the most appalling torments imaginable.
To these facts must be added the genius of the House of Naelax. The divide-and-rule principle allied to a brilliant flair for making sure none could feel secure of their position, no matter how powerful they might be. How Naelax has handled the priesthood of Hextor, as described below, is a classic example of this.
Carl Sargent. Greyhawk Adventures, Ivid the Undying, 1995