Victories in the Sheldomar Valley
In addition to the violence in the Hold of the Sea Princes, much else has taken place in the mighty Sheldomar Valley. The Earldom of Sterich was retaken from giant and humanoid armies in a long and brutal campaign from 585-588 CY. Keoland, Gran March, and the Duchy of Ulek supplied arms, mercenaries, and goods to the Sterish forces. The victors, however, have many problems to iron out, not the least of which are conflicting legal claims over the reconquered territory and struggles between nobles, generals, and rich landowners for a voice in Sterich’s reconstituted government. Sterich is in great debt to Keoland and other states, with little means at present to pay the price for its freedom except land grants (causing further legal problems). Clan disputes among local dwarves further hamper efforts to stabilize Sterich’s economy and society.
A vicious, low-grade war began in 588 CY to regain the “lost lands” of Geoff, but no quick resolution of this conflict is foreseen, as the soldiers and mercenaries who retook Sterich are exhausted from fighting. The semi-independent town of Hochoch was saved from humanoid invasion in a great battle here in 586 CY, won by the Knights of the Watch and soldiers from Gran March. The town was declared a “temporary” territory of Gran March until the situation around it was stabilized, but it seems that annexation of the town is almost certain. Hochoch and the Oytwood are the mustering points for raids into Geoff, and attempts are being made to reach many Geoffites and elves trapped in the Hornwood for the last few years. Gorna, however, is still in the hands of the giants and humanoids.
On the other side of the valley, Knights of Luna and soldiers from the other Ulek states now aid the Principality of Ulek in a counteroffensive being waged against the Orcish Empire in the eastern half of the principality. Fighting has not stopped here since 584 CY. Ulek has already retaken some land between the lower Lortmils and the Jewel River, and an attempted humanoid invasion of Celene in 586 CY was stopped dead. Many mercenaries are employed here, as Ulek is also backed by wealthy dwarves and gnomes in the Lortmils. Anger at Queen Yolande’s refusal to support the war in any fashion has led to a great decline in trade and communication with Celene by its neighbors.
The Kingdom of Celene is still officially neutral in all matters in the Flanaess, though some elves now openly disregard the orders of their queen and do as they please politically and militarily. Humans believe Celene is ripe for a military revolt or civil war, but there is no sign this is about to happen. Prince Melf, who has openly declared himself a Knight of Luna, is generally regarded as the leader of those elves who wish to fight evil in the Flanaess. Queen Yolande apparently carries on as if nothing were amiss, though news from this realm has been very scarce over the last decade.
The counteroffensive in the principality has made Narwell and Safeton less secure about their futures. Turrosh Mak has a habit of striking at new targets when unsuccessful in conquering old ones. The militarized northern Wild Coast suffers increasingly potent humanoid raids and aerial attacks by dragonnel riders. An orcish-human coastal navy has appeared, though it is not very powerful. Hardby, Safeton, and Greyhawk all fear a resurgence in Woolly Bay piracy, possibly supported by the Scarlet Brotherhood in Scant.
Little is known of events in some areas, such as the Valley of the Mage. The valley elves here have taken to slaying adventurers outright, but a few surviving (albeit foolish) explorers report seeing distant battles being fought in the valley involving unknown forces. Some believe the Mage himself has been killed, but divinations yield nothing on this matter. It is thought that an invasion of giants and humanoids took place here in 584 CY, but valley elves still hold the pass into the valley. The wizard Drawmij of the Circle of Eight still wishes to see the valley invaded and its ruler thrown down, but no one yet knows the root cause of his hatred.
Both Veluna and Gran March regarded Ket’s occupation of Bissel with undisguised loathing, especially in light of Beygraf Zoltan’s dealings with Iuz. In 587 CY, the beygraf was assassinated by one of his generals, who was repelled by Iuz’s overtures and feared the demigod would attempt to further subvert Ket’s government. In the power struggle that followed in Lopolla, several army units were withdrawn from Bissel to restore order at home. The new beygraf, Nadaid, was able to seize command just in time to prevent an attack on Bissel by Gran March, which had been waiting for a moment of weakness in which to strike. With war against Iuz burning once more in the north, both sides were eager to talk instead of fight.
After long and involved negotiations, Ket’s armies were withdrawn from Bissel. The border city of Thornward was declared a neutral zone, owned in full by no side. It is not an independent city since it is governed (if that is the right word) by delegated representatives from Ket, Bissel, Veluna, and Gran March, who oversee the tremendous flow of caravan and river traffic passing east and west here. Thornward is now notorious for its many checkpoints, cargo searches, corrupt officials, tariffs and bribes, diplomatic brawls, and paperwork; for a caravan to pass through here in less than a week is considered a miracle. Still, it is the primary gateway for all traffic between the Baklunish lands and the rest of the Flanaess.
Bissel’s new capital was chosen in 590 CY to be Pellak, a trade and farming town at the country’s center. Bissel’s own Knights of the Watch held a huge citadel called Oversight near this town; the fortress never fell to the Kettites despite being besieged for several years. The Knights of the Watch themselves have seen much action in the last few years in Sterich and Geoff, and their ranks and importance have expanded throughout the valley. A subgroup, the Knights of Dispatch, have formed and are also fighting.