Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday Sneak: Valbois

So, this is the part of the Atlas I've been spending my time developing, for two reasons. The first is because I'm confounded by how to easily convey calendrical and time-telling information (which is the next chronologically relevant part of the Atlas) but the second is because I have a real life party playing in this area, soon.

I'm so far up my own ass when it comes to the 10th Age that I can no longer tell what makes sense only to me and what qualifies as comprehensible to the uninitiated, so if this is just a vast wall of weird lore that has no context and is totally incomprehensible... feel free to let me know by comment or otherwise.

Valbois, the Vale of the Wood

History of Valbois

The history of the wooded valley is intertwined inextricably with the Duchy of Paix and the Milean Empire. Long before it was inhabited by men it was part of the ancient Gigantine kingdom known as Rhûn which has lent its name to geography around the duchy. During the time when the Avars fled Zesh and arrived within the borders of Rhûn the kingdom was already suffering collapse. The aging stone giant kingdom could not withstand the pressures of time for they were a warlike people who had spent the greater part of their strength on wars with each other and the great giant kingdoms of the lowlands such as Umbrinol and Thuros. Their people were dying off and slowly turning to stone, and so the forested shores of the Rhûnnic coast were left empty save for elves and fair folk.

Throughout the period known as the First and Second Empires the region remained uninhabited. The elves left, after a time, as the coast was exposed to the depredations of raiders and reavers from the high seas (and besides, relations with the Greatwood spoiled in the later imperial periods) and the land was left for human settlement. That was many centuries ago, long before the modern age.

Since that time, men have dwelled in the valley lands between the Gold Hook and Giantspire mountains. Mostly townships and loosely affiliated tribes of Mercantine descent, the region was wild for many years until the foundation of the Kingdom of Pax in the 9th Age. Valbois was incorporated into that kingdom and, in the year IX.260 rule of Pax passed from the so called Usurper-king, Talaster Valmont, to his sister’s daughter, Melea of Floris who was ruler of Valbois. She built the first palace at Casselflor, then known as Floraine, and founded the dynasty of the Florian Kings who ruled from that place.

Colandrus III and the Fall of Pax
Colandrus III, son of Calor de Floris, heir to the Kingdoms of Pax and Rûn, Count of Floraine and Lord of the Valleylands, was the most famous king of Pax—and its last. He was beloved by his people and proved to be a cunning war leader as well as a prudent jurist: He destroyed the neighboring Kingdom of Avaria in a series of wars but also commissioned a codification of Paxaine law and grammars, establishing the earliest corpus of what is now known as High Varan, the language of the civilized Avars.

He was also a centralizer, robbing his barons of their powers and slaving them to the will of the throne. He styled himself as an emperor of old and many of his noblemen feared that he intended to march on Miles itself and be crowned by the Lawkeeper. If he was victorious they would be marginalized as their hated foe was made into an emperor; if he failed, he would lead Pax into ruin and darkness. They hatched a plan to dispose of the king, relying on a particularly fickle ally: a Heimiran monk named Tancredus who worked within the abbey within the Florian Castle. Tancredus was High Cellarer of the abbey and provided the ale and mead for the court of the Paxaine king. It was a simple matter for him to slip a powerful poison into the king’s cup. By the time Colandrus’ cupbearer was dead of the poison it was already too late for he had imbibed the drink himself—the notorious vitriol known as the Sword of Byblos.

The monks were cursed by Heimir for their betrayal of his orders, damned to wander the walks of the castle as tortured undead who can neither die nor live again, or so the legends will have it. With Colandrus’ death, the kingdom was shaken by dynastic challenges. The barons tore at each other’s throats, lesser lords murdering their greaters, while the council of conspirators tried vainly to hold the kingdom together. Within twenty years, Pax was no more. Reavers again plied the coasts and honest men either left or sheltered in the deep dark woods. Wood elves returned to the land, and all was left to go to seed.

Peppin Longshanks and New Avaria
North of Pax, north even of the Lamp Country, there lies a great swathe of wilderness called the Lonely Lands that serves as the frontier of the empire with the goblins, the Haugrund, and the grasslands of Umbrinol. In X.93 a young adventurer called Peppin Longshanks consolidated the Lonely Lands into what would become the heart of New Avaria. Within three years he had swept through the Lamp Country and Dirkshire all the way to Bataille, which he claimed as his capitol as the emperors of the Second Empire had. Pax (by now spelled ‘Paix’) was conquered and claimed as part of Novam Avariam.

Valbois Resettled
In X.121 the count of Bataille gave a letter-patent to four adventurers (the Shield of Paix) to bring order to the chaotic southern shores of the Rhûn peninsula. For seven years they fought off Refuser raids, Meirenian colonists, orcs, kobolds, and anyone else who got in their way. The wood elves of the Vaillain Forest joined them. They installed barons in seats of power, particularly making use of old imperial ruins from which to project their might.

The Shield finally established a permanent residence at Chevalles in X.128. Valbois was named a shire. Rather than rebuild the Florian Keep, however, the new sheriff chose to rule from the town of Lacmor. Rumor has it that he (Talmont Lacmor was his name and title) was terrified of the Florian ruin, convinced as he was that it was haunted by the spirits of those who were slain there.

Thyrnesse and the Empire
The old empire was divided by this into three great kingdoms (Thyrnesse having long ago absorbed the eastern seaholds of Mermarche): Westreth, New Avaria, and Thyrnesse. All three kingdoms survived for three hundred and nineteen years and would still be standing today if it had not been for the actions of the few wizards known as the Conclave. These powerful magi determined in the year X.412 that the bloody internecine wars between the three imperial heritors had to end. They simultaneously deposed the kings of each land and chose a cadet branch of the Westrethen noble family to sit in Miles. Since that day the Kingdom of Pax has been known as the Duchy of Paix, a part of the greater kingdom.
The Duke of Paix was chosen by lot from the baronial assembly of the duchy. A minor lord of Pontmer was drawn to be Duke and he surrendered his manor at Atourner to build Palais Vulir on the River Cochon, shadowed by the Giantspires.

In X.500 the king of Thyrnesse, Tamerin III Galoen, declared himself emperor and renamed himself Elsoín, which was a title used by the emperors of old. Today, the Duchy is ruled by Elena Paix from her seat at Palais Vulir, across the low-lying Liitus Mountains from Valbois.

Marcellus the Mendicant and the Thiermont
In the year X.426, while King Aras’ cousin Prince Haiden was ravaging Westreth, one of the Black Order came to Valbois. He was followed by several of the Wandering Faithful of Vaela and was given, by the sheriff at Lakewatch, possession of some inhospitable land high in the Liitus range. Marcellus transformed this mountaintop into a stronghold of the Mendicant Order and opened a pass to Alomont and L’orien on the far side. To this day it is not uncommon to see wandering members of the Black Order patrolling the roads to keep them safe.

The Great Orc War
Fifty years ago, in X.458, the orcs of the Gold Hook mountains united beneath a single aurkenoz, or over-chief. This was during the time of Duke Auregard Paix, and he sent out a call for aid. The dwarven excavations on the Auruxol side of the mountains had driven the orcs into a frothing rage. King Velas dispatched his son, Tamerin III (who now reigns as emperor) to give aid to the Paixaine. The first place the orcs struck was Valbois, thundering into the valley and laying waste to many of its unfortified places.

Duke Auregard’s call was answered by many sellswords, chiefly Laras the Bold who, for his part in the war, was granted the barony of Valbois and rulership over Casselflor which he made his seat. His son, Roger de Cassel, now rules the wooded valley from the newly rebuilt imperial fortress in Casselflor. Yet the ruins of the Florian Keep still frown down from their hilltop, no more than a rod away, reminding the Barons de Cassel of the grim past that once gripped this land.

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