Proper Name: Dominion of the Sea Barons Ruler: His Noble Prominence Basmajian Arras, Lord High Admiral of Asperdi, Commander of the Sea Barons (LE male human Ftr13)
Government: Independent feudal monarchy with hereditary leadership; a different noble family governs each island, but all owe fealty to Asperdi
Major Towns: Asperdi (pop. 8,100), Oakenheart (pop. 5,000)
Provinces: Three islands under government control, two islands not controlled
Resources: Seafaring technology and knowledge, shipbuilding supplies
Coinage: [Modified Aerdy] orb (pp), gold baron (gp), noble (ep), penny (sp), common (cp)
Population: 154,000—Human 79% (So), Halfling 9%, Elf 5%, Dwarf 3%, Gnome 2%, Half-elf 1%, Halforc 1%
Alignments: CN*, CE, NE, N
Religions: Procan, Xerbo, Osprem, Norebo, Syrul, Kurell, Nerull, Ralishaz, Celestian
Allies: Rel Astra, Ountsy, Roland
Enemies: Scarlet Brotherhood, Lordship of the Isles, Frost/Ice/Snow Barbarians, Lendore Isles (distrusted)
Overview: The sovereignty known commonly as the realm of the Sea Barons is located off the eastern coast of the Flanaess in the Solnor Ocean, separated from the Aerdi coastline by the Bay of Gates. These isles were among the last lands to be settled by the Aerdi, and were expressly established to provide the Great Kingdom with a naval power. The five major islands here include (from largest to smallest) Asperdi Isle, Oakenisle, Fairisle, Leastisle, and uninhabited (and possibly cursed) Serpent Isle. Each of the four main islands is ruled as a minor barony, the personal fief of an Aerdi lord who no longer pledges allegiance to the Malachite Throne. Asperdi Isle was once the headquarters of the Aerdi Admiralty during the height of the Great Kingdom, and it was the provincial capital of these lands. Today, the barons of Oakenisle and Fairisle are not subjects of Asperdi, but all three work closely together. Leastisle’s baron was overthrown in 584 CY, and the isle is in complete anarchy.
The four major isles of the Sea Barons are fertile and lush, even idyllic in the case of Fairisle. The climate is generally warm and mild most of the year, and while not tropical in nature, it can sometimes get very hot during the summer months. These islands are home to an abundance of resources, including fruits such as bananas, galda fruit, and figs, which fetch high prices on the mainland. Additionally, the waters surrounding the islands are rich in seafood, and the shellfish collected just off the shore of the islands are highly prized delicacies. Oakenisle is home to a unique species of oak that is generally regarded as the best available for shipbuilding. Oakenheart, the capital of the isle, accordingly sports highly renowned shipyards, where most of the matchless vessels of the Sea Barons are constructed and repaired. Most of the activity and trade of these islands revolves around the sea, and much of the population owes its livelihood to it. Temples to the god Procan are very prominent on these islands, though smaller shrines to Xerbo are not uncommon as well.
In the opinion of many of the rulers along the Solnor Coast, the Sea Barons are little better than the pirates and freebooters who they once fended off for the Great Kingdom. Slavery is sanctioned on the isles, and it is said that the Sea Barons would gladly take over the illicit southern trade of the Scarlet Brotherhood if given the opportunity. Currently, Lord Basmajian of Asperdi leads the Sea Barons, following the untimely death of Admiral Sencho Foy during the wars. The greatest threat to the Sea Barons remains the alliance between the Lordship of the Isles and the Scarlet Brotherhood. The rest of the Sea Barons are now bound in alliance to the Free Cities of the Solnor Compact, led by Rel Astra and its Lord Drax. The Sea Barons provide protection to these mainland ports by patrolling the waters along the coast in return for the ability to anchor in their harbors and trade goods in their markets.
Dangers of the Isles
Apart from barbarian raids, the isles of the Barons have their own hazards. Poisonous snakes are fairly common on most of the islands, with the deserted Serpent Isle infested with them. In the coastal waters, one of the nastiest hazards (and an excellent discouragement to diving for pearls or large clams) are the great rainbow-hued moray eels which are all too common. Their bites are vicious, and the moray will not release a victim from its jaws even when slain. However, the islanders take a symbolic revenge on this enemy by their tradition of roasting morays over charcoal fires during Brewfest and feasting on their flesh—which is an acquired taste, to put it mildly.
Sahuagin are the major sentient menace of the coastal waters. They do not organize themselves to do more than make opportunistic attacks on small fishing boats, but every year a score or more lives are lost to these predatory creatures. In the past two years, the sahuagin have grown more bold and even attacked a coaster recently, and some fear that someone, or something, is organizing and directing the creatures. Since their numbers, and home location, are unknown, this makes people increasingly anxious.
The waters and coastlines of the isles are not without their dangers. Strong cross-currents can send a small vessel with an inexperienced captain or fishing crew many miles out to sea, with generally northern currents flowing up from the warmer southern waters. Whirlpools or tsunami are, however, very rare events, and gale or storm force winds and massive downpours are not too common. However, most people recall the three-day storm of 578 CY, which some laughingly called “Hurricane Ivid.”
History: Early in the history of Aerdy, when the Aerdi expanded west from their holdings in the Flanmi basin, little attention was paid to naval pursuits in the Solnor. Most of the islands off the eastern coast of the Flanaess were either inhabited by Flan natives in the north or Suel colonists in the south, and these peoples posed little threat to the expansion of the dominant Aerdi on the continent. It was only centuries later, after the founding of the Great Kingdom, that the overkings sought to extend their dominion to the seas. The seasonal raids of northern Suel barbarians from the Thillonrian Peninsula were becoming more than a simple nuisance to the cities of the eastern Aerdi coast. In the south, past the Aerdi Sea, pirates of Suel extraction began harrying traffic between the Solnor and the Azure Sea with impunity. This could no longer be tolerated by the Malachite Throne, so the small Aerdy admiralty based in Rel Astra needed to be expanded.
The lands of the Sea Barons were among the last to be settled by the Oeridians, and here the folk are an Oeridian/Flan mix for the most part. For centuries, the isles enclosing the Bay of Gates across from the Gull Cliffs and the coastal cities of Roland and Ountsy were populated by primitive Flan tribesmen and some small number of Aerdi, notably dissidents from the mainland. However, early in the first century of the Great Kingdom, Overking Manshen decided to create baronies from the fertile isles and established the four Baronies; Asperd Isle, Oakenisle, Fairisle, and Leastisle. Oeridian colonists soon settled them while the court in Rauxes struggled with their administration. In 102 CY, House Garasteth laid claim to the isles, and open conflict threatened to break out between House Garasteth and House Atirr, from North Province. Overking Manshen’s wisdom was in full display when his solution to the problem was to conduct an open competition to settle the matter. He appointed four peers from the rival noble houses to the baronies of the four islands and instructed them to build fleets. The baron who was most successful at the naval exercises that ensued would be chosen to represent the entire realm as the lord high admiral of the Great Kingdom. Naval power, patrolling the coasts of the Great Kingdom from Bellport far to the south, was concentrated here, with the Lord High Admiral being determined from the outcome of a naval battle fought between the baronies. Baron Asperdi of Atirr won the post handily, and the largest island was named for him and his descendants. The headquarters of the Aerdi Admiralty was thereafter moved to Asperdi Isle, and the islands came to be known as the Dominion of the Sea Barons. Asperdi has become the largest town and center of power
in these isles.
With the naval power of the Sea Barons at the fore, the Aerdi captured the Lordship of the Isles in 168 CY by defeating the Suel of Duxchan. However, victories and glories for the Sea Barons over the next few centuries were few. Their typical lot was to battle the Suel barbarians on seasonal raids from the north. At the same time, their Duxchan rivals gained authority from the overking over the southern seas and the rich trade proceeding from Hepmonaland. However, as the purveyors of trade from distant parts of the kingdom to the large markets, primarily in Rel Astra and Pontylver, the Sea Barons still profited greatly.
In 448 CY, the Sea Barons suddenly gained sole authority over naval pursuits in the eastern Great Kingdom, following the affiliation of the Lordship of the Isles with the Iron League. Overnight, the prince of Sulward and the baron of Asperdi became nemeses instead of rivals, with the Aerdi Sea as their field of battle. More than a century and a half of conflict has ensued between the two powers, and while the names and faces have often changed, the contests are still hotly fought. The Sea Barons won the most recent encounter, the massive Battle of Medegia, fought in the Aerdi Sea in 572 CY. Now, the Duxchaners, with the resources of the Scarlet Brotherhood at their backs, have made a comeback. Two captains loyal to the Sea Barons were killed and replaced by agents of the Brotherhood in 587 CY. The spies were uncovered, but the Sea Barons are extremely concerned that they will be targeted by the Scarlet Ones to suffer the same fate. For that reason, they have allied with Lord Drax and the Free Cities of the Solnor Compact, keeping a close watch over the activities of their captains.
Lord Basmajian has worked hard since his accession during the wars to ensure that the fate that befell so many other nations is not shared by his own. He kept his fleets out of the Greyhawk Wars. With war far to the west, and Rauxes many hundreds of miles away, the old Lord High Admiral Sencho Foy could decide that the threats of the northern barbarians, clearly excited into a war-seeking frenzy, were too dangerous to ignore. Dispatching navies to Relmor Bay to fight Nyrond would be suicidal, especially with the overthrow of the Lordship of the Isles leaving the southern waters of the Aerdi Sea more dangerous than ever.
The old admiral suffered one of those sudden deaths so common among Aerdy rulers, and his replacement is a stern and hard man who has the support of the barons of the two remaining isles, Fairisle and Oakenisle. All are aware that they are faced with increased threats and unknowns. The northern barbarians, no longer at war on land, have more time and resources to spend raiding the Solnor Ocean. While coastal cities offer good targets, so do the wealthy lands of the Barons. To the south, the Scarlet Brotherhood has sent its spies and agents to Asperdi and Oakenheart. They have been rebuffed, but all the Barons fear that a naval invasion might be mounted on them from the Lordship of the Isles. Then there are the new elven lands of Lendore, an unknown. No threat seems to come from them, but due to the magical barriers around those isles, the Barons cannot know what is happening there, and this makes them insecure.
There are also divisions among the Sea Barons which heighten that insecurity. Most seriously, Leastisle fell to pirates and buccaneers at the end of the Greyhawk Wars. Most of these men were fleeing the eastern coastal cities of Aerdi, but they brought enough mercenaries and seapower to sack Vernport. They now sail widely, attacking any target which looks soft enough, from North Province to Hepmonaland. As yet, they have avoided any raids on the other isles of the Barons after one abortive attack against Port Elder. The Sea Barons lack the will to strike against the 8,000 or so ne’er-do-wells on Leastisle, again because they fear that the men and ships they might lose in such an action would leave them vulnerable to other enemies.
The other division is one of politics and temperament. Basmajian favors an alliance, or at least a truce, with the barbarians and Ratik. His argument is that this would remove the greatest threat to the Sea Barons, and leave them better able to handle the others. However, the Barons of the other isles do not agree. They point out that such an agreement might not go down well with the eastern Aerdi cities with which the Sea Barons trade.
In the case of Rel Astra, they might get away with it since barbarians rarely raid that far south. However, the Five of Roland, and the ruler of Ountsy, would certainly react badly, and the Sea Barons could ill-afford to lose those trade links. The temperamental division is with the younger sea captains and young bucks of the baronies, who are more aggressive and believe that, with their seapower still mostly preserved, the Barons should be more enthusiastic about raiding and piracy (not to mention retaking Leastisle). The old Medegian lands offer a soft target and the Barons raid there, but apart from the occasional foray into Hepmonaland to loot the spices, ivory, and furs which come from that vast land, that is about the limit of the Barons’ current exploits.
Basmajian and the other Barons want to keep their ships close to home for protection; the younger men want to sail the blue seas and oceans in search of adventure and bounty, freed as they now are from rulership by Rauxes.
Finally, Basmajian is well aware that there always has been rivalry between the Barons themselves, especially between Asperdi and Oakenheart. He has to be sure that he can count on the support of his fellows, rather than assassination by poison or dagger (the weapon he used to eliminate the previous lord high admiral, Sencho Foy).
In 584 CY, the Sea Barons were not prepared for the sacking and capture of the smallest of their realms, Leastisle, by marauders. These usurpers pale in comparison to the external threats that the remaining three barons face, and they are confident they will win back the small barony. However, they cannot afford the effort so long as the Scarlet Brotherhood’s threat in Duxchan exists, and so long as they lack a treaty with the barbarians of the north. For the time being, Vernport on Leastisle remains a free city, if a dangerous and anarchistic one.
Conflicts and Intrigues: The Sea Barons do not desire a permanent alliance with the Cities of the Solnor Compact, distrusting Drax’s motives, but they feign friendship. The Sea Barons fear assassination or worse by the Scarlet Brotherhood, and treat with strangers in their lands harshly. Expeditions launched to the mysterious south in the last few years have returned with tales of fantastic wonders and riches.