The Gynarchy of Hardby
While the Gynarch is the head of state in Hardby, the day-to-day details of maintaining order are handled members of the citizenry of Hardby. The Gynarch does direct external policy, and the Hardby City Guard and Marines answer directly to her. The security of Hardby is handled by a military council consisting of officers from the Greyhawk army, Mountaineer militia, the Hardby Marines and the Hardby City Guard. The Council of Guildmasters regulates trade policy. Many members of both councils are married into the Pharast extended family. The court of the Gynarch is still well respected by these councils, especially by members who have married into the late Nazar’s family. In fact, some of her most vociferous opponents have become some her most unnaturally loyal allies after marriages to the Gynarch’s nieces and cousins. One almost wondered if the often times reclusive Gynarch actually molded the policies of Hardby’s council through these marital ties. It remains to be seen how the councils will respond to the young Gynarch, who is unwed at this time.
Although termed a Despotrix, Hardby had been ruled by an alliance of merchants and rivermen, relying on brute force for their rule. During the war years, however, the Free City eliminated this form of rule by introducing first its Mountaineer Militia, using Hardby as a base for operations in the Abbor-Alz, and then the Hardby Marines. Now, Hardby is effectively ruled by a military council of Greyhawk men; it always paid tribute to Greyhawk for protection, and now, that protection has taken over rulership.
History: The Suel mage Ena Norbe founded the Gynarchy of Hardby. A follower of Wee las, Norbe grew up hearing tales of the folly of the men who caused the fall of the Suel Imperium. Thus when she founded her own settlement, she was determined that it would never suffer from the rash foolishness and brutal violence that characterized the rule of men. Norbe therefore decreed that only women would be allowed to rule Hardby.
The first Gynarch bore six daughters who, like their mother, became puissant mages. From them are descended the Six Great Families of Hardby that serve as the foundation of the gynarchy to this day. In the early centuries, the eldest woman among the Six Families became Gynarch upon the death of her predecessor. While this meant that the Gynarchs’ reigns were often short, it also ensured that their rule was tempered with the wisdom of age.
Between 254 and 551 CY, the title of Gynarch was hereditary within the family of Yragerne alone. As a result, in 539 CY, Zagig Yragerne became Hardby’s only Despot in his role as the Landgraf of Selintan. He afterward renounced the title, however, and the Gynarchs of the five remaining Families elected one of their number to serve as Supreme Gynarch and Despotrix until her death, a system that persists to this day.
The Gynarchs are drawn from five of the six original Families (Norbelos, Gerneskir, Jonnosh, Havelos, and Maynem) and a sixth family. Longland, elevated to replace the Yragerne when Zagig vanished in 421 CY, leaving no issue. There are never more than forty Gynarchs at one time. Each Family nominates six Gynarchs, while the reigning Despotrix chooses a further three Gynarchs as her personal advisors. Each Gynarch in turn chooses a Didatrix from the ranks of the Six Families, to act as her personal secretary, annalist, and herald. Most Gynarchs serve time as Didatrixes before gaining promotion.
Although the Gynarchy has had no official powers since the Merchants’ Coup of 517 CY, they have expressed their will in more subtle ways. When the Merchants’ Alliance took power, their leaders quickly found wives among the Six Families. Soon, the Despotrix found that her wishes would, in no time at all, become the Trade Council’s policy, often without even mentioning it to them directly. The pattern has repeated itself since Greyhawk took control of Hardby, and has earned the Despotrix widespread respect and deference among the Hardby Marines and Greyhawk Mountaineers much to the alarm of the Directing Oligarchy of Greyhawk City.
It is an open secret that Despotrix ilena is dying. Already, prospective successors are maneuvering for advantage. Chief amongst these is Gynarch Deirdre Longland, a doughty warrior in days past and., since the Greyhawk Wars, a champion of the church of Mayaheine. Deirdre holds the title of Justicar of Hardby, acting as the head of the city judiciary. Although she has the advantage of age, title, and experience, she is hampered by her lack of magical ability. Despotrixes past have usually been wizards.
Her main rival is Gynarch Aleeta Norbelos, who is not only a wizard and a judge, but the granddaughter of Despotrix Ilena. Though she is only 24, the young Gynarch is popular for her staunchly anti-Greyhawk stance, Deirdre, on the other hand, has spoken of the need for cooperation between Hardby and Greyhawk against the twin threats of Turrosh Mak and Rary the Traitor.
The struggle between the two has divided the Gynarchy and led some to propose a compromise candidate in the form of Bridara Norbelos of Hardfield (N female human Wizard L9) the eldest of the Gynarchs. This would be the ideal solution, if Bridara had not spent her life assiduously avoiding politics. Although the matter is moot while Ilena yet lives, everyone in Hardby knows that the issue will be decided sooner rather than later.