Incomplete History of River's Rest
Incomplete History of River's Rest is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
Turtle Egg Island
The name River's Rest is believed to be a corruption of rhee v'reskha, a trollish term meaning "turtle egg." Some scholars speculate the name refers to a stretch of beach on Maelstrom Bay which may have been a nesting place for sea turtles in the past. No turtle nesting grounds have been reported on the island in recorded history, however. It is reasonable to conjecture the trollish appetite for turtle eggs destroyed the nesting sites. Other scholars, however, suggest the name simply reflects the fact that the island is shaped rather like a turtle's egg.
The Kingdom of Elanith and the Kannalan Empire
River's Rest is an easily defensible island located at the juncture of the wide Tempest River and the western sea. It is ideally situated and it was almost inevitable that River's Rest would become a thriving commercial community. The island's early history indicates it was inhabited primarily by merchants, naval forces and the military.
The small size of the island limited its value for some time. In the early years of the Kingdom of Elanith, however, the king granted tax and tariff exemptions to those enterprising merchants willing to build warehouses and docks on the mainland. The town of River's Rest quickly spilled over to both shores of the Tempest River. Shortly thereafter a common saying developed among the merchants of Elanith. The Tempest River, it was said, was the lifeblood of the kingdom and River's Rest was its heart.
At first ferries transported workers and buyers back and forth from the mainland to the island. Eventually the royal family commissioned the creation of four bridges-two to the north shore and two to the south shore. No contemporaneous paintings exist which depict the bridges, but the journals of merchants and travelers describe them as wondrous and breathtaking.
It was after the Kingdom of Elanith was incorporated into the Kannalan Empire that River's Rest reached the pinnacle of its existence. As the merchants became wealthier the town attracted artists, poets, bards, musicians, scientists and philosophers from the breadth of the Empire.
The Collapse of the Kannalan Empire
The town soon became known more for its architecture and art than for its merchants. A certain arrogance and snobbery grew among the citizens of River's Rest. They paid little attention to the political strife and military calamities which beset the Kannalan Empire. After all, they reasoned, what could possibly harm their great empire? What could possibly threaten their place within it? This attitude was shared by the royal families of the Kingdom of Elanith. When "invited" by the Emperor to "visit" the capitol city of Veng, they agreed without reservation.
The collapse of the great Kannalan Empire took place around 3961 M.E. It happened with alarming and unthinkable rapidity. The royal families of the Kingdom of Elanith disappeared (and were presumably killed) when the city of Veng fell to the invading barbarian and humanoid hordes. Like the other vassal kingdoms of the Kannalan Empire, Elanith appeared ready to crumble. However, a leader stepped forward. Jaboz Cannfort, a commander of one of the many citadels located throughout the kingdom, quietly and confidently took control of the standing forces of Elanith.
Cannfort led the army in a brilliant tactical retreat that slowed, then stopped the advancing armies of the barbarians and humanoids. Although the Kannalan Empire had fallen and most of the territory of the Kingdom of Elanith had been lost, Cannfort managed to retain control over the heart of the kingdom. The army and the people beseeched Cannfort to accept the crown of Elanith and declare himself king. Cannfort refused, however, saying he was content to remain the Commander of the Citadel.
The Citadel Era
Although Commander Cannfort stopped the main body of the invading barbarian and humanoid armies, the land remained in turmoil. Savage raids were frequently directed at farmsteads, monasteries and villages. Cannfort maintained a standing army and instituted a rotating peasant levy to respond to these border incursions. The town of River's Rest found itself under attack. The population living on the mainland were required to withdraw to the island itself. They could only watch as barbarians, trolls and orcs despoiled and burned their homes and warehouses. Even more discouraging was the discovery that they could not defend all four bridges leading to the island. On the orders of Commander Cannfort, they reluctantly destroyed three of the lovely bridges.
Unlike many military commanders Cannfort insisted on leading his forces in the field rather than from a safe position in the rear. Although the troops found this inspiring, it proved to be his downfall. During a raid in the spring of 3964 M.E., three years after the collapse of the Empire, a crossbow bolt struck Cannfort in the face, burying itself in his cheek below his left eye. Ten days later, after naming his successor, Cannfort drank mead laced with hemlock and died.
The name of Cannfort's successor is unknown. In fact, none of the succeeding Commanders of the Citadel are named in any historical record. It became traditional that as one Commander died and another was installed the successor would renounce his or her name and thereafter be known only by the title of Commander. More than the Commander's name was sacrificed; the ostensible leader of the Kingdom of Elanith was also required to abandon any property and titles as well as any family ties (or, if unmarried, any hope for a family). The Commander was expected to be dedicated only to maintaining the ever-shrinking kingdom.
One of the Commander's many responsibilities was to preserve the knowledge and culture of the Kingdom of Elanith. To this end the Citadel ceased to be a strictly military compound. A zoo was established on the grounds. Plants and herbs were sought out and cuttings were planted in a garden both for medicinal use and for research. A small center of alchemy was established and mages were given the opportunity to study their craft. The worship of Aeia, a minor deity who had long been a favorite among old Elanthians, was encouraged both to promote a sense of Elanthian solidarity and as a source of spiritual comfort.
The primary focus of the Commander, however, was always the border. Raids by barbarians, trolls and orcs continued unabated and became increasingly savage and frequent. Each Commander ruled over a slightly smaller domain than his predecessor. The standing army became increasingly despondent and dispirited. As morale waned, discipline weakened and the army of the Citadel became little better than the barbarians against whom they fought. This unfortunate trend continued until 4002 M.E. and the succession of the Last Commander.
The Last Commander of the Citadel
Little is known for certain of the background of this remarkable figure. There seems little doubt that he was not a native of the Kingdom of Elanith. Some claimed he was a Tehiri warrior from the Sea of Fire to the north; it was said he had fled his homeland after killing several people as a result of a blood vendetta. Others avowed he was a deserter from some other army, since he seemed uncommonly familiar with military tactics. Many believed him to be the illegitimate son of a powerful pirate lord of Kezmon Isle.
Regardless of his origins, he arrived at the Citadel as a young man. He brought with him only a sharp mind, a scarred body, a formidable blade and a willingness to fight. Only the latter quality was judged important at the time. He quickly proved his worth, showing himself to be a master of small unit tactics. With a cadre of hand-picked troops he began to take the battle to the enemy. On moonless nights they would slip behind the enemy lines and destroy supplies. Although they killed relatively few of the enemy...only those guarding the supply wagons...the raids were devastatingly effective. They demoralized the enemy and motivated the people of Elanith.
When he was named Commander his first task was to reorganize the troops. He divided the army into two battalions: a heavy battalion and a mobile battalion, each of which was comprised of three companies. Each company was represented by an insignia; the heavy battalions were represented by beasts of the land--a boar, a ram and a thrak; the mobile battalions were represented by birds of the air--a falcon, a hawk and an eagle. The Commander also assembled a Council of Mages to advise him on the tactical uses of magics.
The newfound pride of the army of the Citadel inspired victories, and victories against the barbarian and humanoid hordes attracted that most vital resource of any army--eager recruits. Warriors throughout the region flocked to the Citadel compound seeking to serve the Commander and strike a blow against the enemy.
Among those drawn to the Commander was a renowned war leader from one of the eastern tribal regions, a woman named Millah Pradapt. Her prowess at arms and skill at tactics brought Millah the trust of her Commander and the admiration of the troops. She rose to the rank of First Cord of the Falcon battalion, the swiftest of the mobile battalions. The Falcons seemed to be everywhere, engaging in lightning-quick skirmishes that left their enemies bloody, stunned and disheartened. Although they inflicted relatively light damage, the Falcons effectively tied up vital enemy resources; troops that would have been raiding and attacking the kingdom were instead either guarding against the Falcons or chasing hopelessly after them.
Millah Pradapt became a favorite of the Commander; it was generally assumed she was being groomed to be the next Commander. Millah, however, had no supporters on the Council of Mages. She refused to put her trust in magics, saying they were unreliable for her style of warfare. Falcon battalion, she said, had to be able to move quickly and quietly and to strike forcefully even without the aid of magics. She did not want her troops to come to rely on supernatural aids. Her outright rejection of magics not only led to resentment against her by the Council, it was also a serious source of contention between Millah and the Commander.
In the early spring of 4011 M.E. the Commander planned the first major offensive against the barbarian and humanoid armies since the fall of the Kannalan Empire. The first blow, deep behind enemy lines, was to be struck by the Falcons, under the leadership of Millah. As always, Millah refused all offers of magical assistance, even when strongly urged by the Commander. Late on the night before the Falcons were to deploy the Commander went to Millah's tent to order her to put aside her stubbornness and accept magical aids. He was never again seen alive. His body was found the next morning in Millah's tent, horribly wounded and mutilated.
The campaign against the enemy was indefinitely postponed and Millah was arrested by order of the Council of Mages. They accused her of killing the Commander during an argument over the use of magics. Millah denied it, claiming she hadn't seen the Commander that night. She said she'd spent the night visiting and reassuring her troops or sitting quietly by herself. Her troops testified in her behalf, stating such was Millah's habit before any deployment. The unit's Empaths stated their belief the wounds found on the Commander's body were unlikely to have been caused by a traditional weapon, they looked more like the work of some fell beast. Despite the testimony of her troops Millah was locked in the brig.
The Council of Mages Era
The Commander had died without naming a successor. Since the most likely candidate for the post was under arrest for murdering the Commander, the Council of Mages assumed "temporary" control over the remainder of the Kingdom of Elanith. A new Commander, they said, would be selected after the trial of Millah Pradapt. Millah, however, was never seen again.
The Council of Mages issued a statement claiming that Millah had escaped confinement and fled the territory. Rumors were rampant. Some claimed she had been seen boarding a smuggler's cutter bound for Kai Toka on Kezmon Isle. Others claimed she had fled north into the Sea of Fire where she was thought to have been killed by poisonous spiders. Many of Millah's former companions in arms believed she had been quietly slain in her cell by the Council of Mages...and that the assassination of the Commander had, in fact, also been a plot by the Council directed at her. The Commander, so the rumor went, simply had the ill fortune to be in her tent at the wrong time. The beast sent to kill Millah had killed him instead.
Once in control, the Council of Mages moved quickly to consolidate its power. Dissident troops were either dismissed from service and banished from the lands of Elanith or were arrested, tried, and executed (strangled with a bow string). The Council removed the drawbridge leading to the Citadel fortress, replacing it with a complex contraption designed to delay and restrict entrance into the fortress.
For the next half century the Council of Mages ruled the remnants of the once-powerful kingdom. However, conflicting philosophies, incompatible policy goals, racial animosities and clashes of personality and ego all served to divide the Council into constantly shifting factions. These internal conflicts crippled the Council's ability to act and govern effectively. This situation was exacerbated by the failure of the Council to include representatives of the army. The borders of the kingdom continued to steadily recede before the onslaught of the barbarian and humanoid enemy.
The Council of Mages responded to this growing crisis by relying less and less on military prowess and increasingly on the darker aspects of magic. They attempted to create new life and to create and control undead creatures. In both cases they were partially successful.
The turn to the darker arts also had the effect of frightening and alienating the citizens of River's Rest. The merchants were less and less inclined to provide goods and services for which they were likely never to be paid. The peasantry became increasingly reluctant to provide the manual labor needed to keep the Citadel compound running smoothly. When this proved disruptive the Council sent troops to River's Rest to order their cooperation and to punish the dissidents. The residents of the city, outraged, refused. The Council ordered the troops to kill the troublemakers. Four citizens were beheaded, but the rest remained steadfast in their refusal to cooperate. The troops balked at further killing and against orders returned to the Citadel compound. The following night several members of the city's leading families were killed and mutilated by baleful monsters. The citizens reluctantly began to return to their duties at the Citadel.
The Fall of the Citadel, Last Bastion of the Kingdom of Elanith
Catastrophe might have been averted had the Council of Mages been able to overcome their personal differences, abandon their dark practices, renew their relationship with local townsfolk and regain the respect of the troops. Indeed the strategic situation had actually improved...not due to any actions of the Council but simply through the workings of Time.
Nearly a century had passed since the collapse of the Kannalan Empire. The barbarians who had assisted the humanoids in the invasion of the Empire had almost entirely ceased their border raids against the reduced Kingdom of Elanith. Many barbarians had gradually become settlers with small farms of their own. For the most part the bands of orcs, not having the disposition to engage in prolonged warfare, either sought loot and booty elsewhere or returned to their homelands. This left marauding trolls as the primary adversaries of Elanith. They continued to raid and assault the kingdom with single-minded determination. That the kingdom was unable to contend with the depredations of unaided troll raiders demonstrates the scale of the ineptitude of the Council of Mages.
The problems faced by the Council served to deepen its internal strife. So mistrustful, jealous and resentful of each other were the Council members that Council sessions were rarely fully attended. Those sessions which took place generally dissolved into partisan bickering and little was ever decided or accomplished.
In 4058 M.E. circumstances changed radically. A small flotilla of krolvin pirates appeared in Maelstrom Bay. For once every member of the Council of Mages appeared in session. Characteristically, however, they could not reach a consensus on a course of action. A few wanted to withdraw the entire army from the border regions to protect the Citadel. Some advised reinforcing the heavy battalions with conscripts from the nearby villages and farmsteads. Two Council members suggested approaching the krolvin and negotiating a settlement, perhaps even enlisting them as mercenaries to fight against the trolls.
Unable to reach any consensus the Council of Mages elected to do nothing. The trolls, however, reached their own agreement with the krolvin and the two combined forces. In the late summer of 4058 a combined force of trolls and krolvin launched an assault on the island of River's Rest. The defenders managed to destroy the final bridge leading to the island, but could not prevent the krolvin pirates from ferrying bands of trolls across the river. The town was completely razed and burned to the ground. The few survivors fled to Fairport and Kezmon Isle.
Shortly thereafter the Citadel compound itself was placed under siege. The krolvin pirates, more adept than their trollish allies at traditional forms of warfare, built sturdy siege engines and battered the walls with stones and with magics of their own. Eventually the walls were breached and the krolvin and trolls swarmed into the Citadel compound. Fierce and desperate fighting took place as the invaders assaulted each of the buildings in the compound. The Citadel defenders, however, were overwhelmed and slain. Only one of the compound's buildings remained intact: the Citadel fortress.
The bridge leading to the Citadel fortress worked as planned. None of the invading krolvin or trolls managed to cross the bridge. Nonetheless, they continued to sack the buildings of the compound. The following day a small troop of krolvin pirates solved the puzzle of the bridge and reconnoitered the area. They found the fortress devoid of life. Aside from the corpses of a few guards, the building was empty. Traces of powerful magics were palpable, however, and so after briefly despoiling the building the krolvin and trolls withdrew.
The fate of the members of the Council of Mages remains open to speculation. It seems likely that while the army of the Citadel fought vainly to defend the compound the members of the Council fought amongst themselves. Did they all die? Did some escape and join the refugees heading to Fairport? Did some collaborate with the invaders? These questions remain unanswered.
River's Rest After the Fall
The troll-krolvin alliance disintegrated after the fall of the Citadel compound. The krolvin flotilla sailed away in search of other prey, leaving the island of River's Rest and the surrounding area in the hands of the trolls. Trolls are restless creatures, however, and not well suited to island life. They established their communities on the mainland, forsaking the island of River's Rest.
After some time people began to return to the island. Its new inhabitants were what one would expect to find on an isolated island in a troll-infested region; refugees who had been unable to escape downriver to Fairport, pirates seeking a quiet harbor, criminals and mutineers avoiding the grasp of the law, the insane who had been driven from other communities, religious zealots and idealists, half-breeds unwelcome in civilized society, and adventurers who sought anything of worth the trolls might not have discovered when the razed the once-proud town.
Gradually, a sort of settlement arose. It was nothing more than a ramshackle collection of shanties and shacks with a few waterside saloons built beside makeshift docks. There was no law, no formal organization, no recognized leader. It was merely a collective of outcasts and misfits scrabbling out some meager form of living.
The Kingdom of Torre
In response to the growing power of the Turamzzyrian Empire many warlords and minor potentates in the territory surrounding Maelstrom Bay agreed to enter into a coalition of some sort. In 4238 M.E. the Council of Fairport was held to determine the nature of that coalition. After much debate and argument a loose confederation was eventually formed. The confederation was governed by the Circle of Regents, which was composed of the seven most powerful local leaders.
The confederation proved to be unmanageable. However, it provided a political and economic environment that allowed one of the Circle of Regents to establish dominance over the others. Gardiel of Torre, ruler of the area around Fairport, used a combination of charm, manipulation, threats and economic inducements to become the most powerful of the Regents. In 4240 he was formally requested by the Regents to declare himself king. He accepted and the Kingdom of Torre was established.
Among Gardiel's first royal acts was to claim sovereignty over all the lands surrounding Maelstrom Bay. This included the island of River's Rest as well as a great deal of territory inhabited by a significant population of trolls. The councilors of the newly-crowned King of Torre advised him it was necessary to make an overt claim even though the territory may not actually be under their control. It was critical to establish a chain of documentation which would support any future claims against the territory. Trollish territorial claims, of course, could be ignored.
To bolster his claim Gardiel sent out a Royal Survey and Census party to certify the borders of his new kingdom. Despite the grand title, the Royal Survey and Census was primarily a military force. King Gardiel was at least as interested in demonstrating his authority to his new subjects as he was in marking the borders of his new kingdom. The military presence was also necessary to protect the surveyors and census-takers from the inconvenient troll population.
Among the locations surveyed was the island of River's Rest. Nearly two centuries had passed since the fall of the Citadel and the razing of the town. The survey party could find little evidence of the once-magnificent city. The census-takers discovered only a collection of shacks and huts inhabited by a small population of ne'er-do-wells and social outcasts. However, a small number of well-maintained docks were noted. Curiously, no sea craft were tied up to them.
The report of the first Royal Survey and Census indicated there was nothing worthy of royal interest in River's Rest. Many years would pass before a second survey and census was conducted.
River's Rest and the Grand Era of Piracy
Although pirates always have and always will exist, the grand era of piracy is considered to have taken place between around 4275 M.E. to 4325 M.E. The names Bloody Malovor, DeGaspard, Ketain of the Scars, and Oteska the Corsair have become legendary.
It is not surprising that such infamous seafaring outlaws, as well as many lesser known pirates, made use of the coves, marshes and estuaries in and around the island of River's Rest. The island, after all, had been repopulated in part by pirates (and other criminals and social outcasts). The new inhabitants of the island were notorious for their disregard for the law and their willingness to engage in or cover up shady activities.
The pirate most closely associated with River's Rest was Ketain of the Scars. Thought to have once been a galley slave (which would account for the scars said to crisscross his back) Ketain seemed to take perverse glee in his piracy. After capturing a ship transporting a shipment of brandy from Idolone to Kai Toka, Ketain insulted all Idolonians by claiming the liquor wasn't fit to drink. He used the brandy to set the merchant ship ablaze and announced the people of Kai Toka ought to consider him a hero for rescuing them from such swill. In 4288 M.E., only weeks after the cities of Waterford and Lolle unified to establish the Kingdom of Hendor, Ketain moored his flagship in a cove near River's Rest and led a flotilla of small river craft up the Tempest River to Waterford. There he and his pirates raided, robbed and burned many riverfront shops and warehouses, after which they fled back down the river. The raid brought Ketain only a modest financial reward, but earned him the distinction (about which he often bragged) of being the only person ever wanted for piracy by the inland Kingdom of Hendor.
Ketain's peculiar sense of humor eventually cost him his life. He had long desired to intercept and seize one of the quarterly shipments of tea which sailed from Fairport. The tea ships were rich prizes indeed; Torren tea was highly sought after. Ketain could easily sell the cargo illegally in a dozen different ports for huge profits. Unfortunately for Ketain, the tea ship was always escorted by a well-armed brig. Since he couldn't take the vessel at sea, Ketain boldly decided to take it in Fairport harbor. His plan was to dress his crew in Torren naval uniforms and to dress himself in the uniform of the King's Harbormaster. They would then simply slip quietly into Fairport, row out to the tea ship, and capture the unsuspecting crew.
After the disguises were finished, Ketain was so taken with them that he decided to play a practical joke on his own crewmen. He dressed in the harbormaster's uniform and recruited some local River's Rest smugglers to wear the Torren naval uniforms. Ketain then led them to his own ship, strode up the gangplank shouting that everybody on board was under arrest for piracy. In the resulting confusion one of his crewmen struck him over the head with a belaying pin. It was a fatal blow.
Ketain of the Scars was buried (along with a substantial, though allegedly cursed, treasure) on the island of River's Rest in 4293 M.E. Blackberries were planted to mark his grave. The blackberry brambles grew and spread. They now cover a large section of the eastern side of the island. Due in part to the legends and stories that revolved around people like Ketain, Malovor, Oteska, DeGaspard and others the Grand Era of Piracy would last almost another half century. The Turamzzyrian navy eventually succeeded in curtailing most major acts of piracy.
Turamzzyrian Annexation of Torre
As suggested by their ability to impede the spread of piracy, the power of the Turamzzyrian Empire continued to grow significantly. Town after town, kingdom after kingdom, tribe after tribe of barbarians fell to the mighty Turamzzyrian Empire.
The early kings of Torre vowed to resist any Turamzzyrian attempt to conquer their kingdom. Over time, however, it became clear the empire did not rely exclusively on the force of arms to conquer their enemies. Trade restrictions and economic sanctions proved to be as powerful as the Turamzzyrian military.
By 4417 M.E. emissaries from Emperor Jasdurel approached King Yamaus of Torre with an offer. In exchange for allowing Torre to be annexed by the empire Jasdurel would appoint Yamaus governor of Torre and permit him to retain his personal fortune. All economic sanctions imposed by the empire on Torre would be immediately lifted and advantageous trade arrangements would be negotiated. Unconfirmed rumors suggest Yamaus was informed that if he declined the emperor's generous offer and forced the empire to take Torre by military means, he would be gutted and his corpse hung upside down over Fairport's main gate.
Yamaus, ignoring the exhortations of his military advisers, gave in to the inevitable. He had the gates of Fairport opened to a caravan of Turamzzyrian merchants accompanied by a large and heavily-armed military escort. The Kingdom of Torre, after nearly two centuries, ceased to exist.
The change of government had a radical effect on River's Rest. The island's population at that time consisted primarily of malcontents, outcasts, brigands, smugglers and river pirates. They had largely been ignored by the kings of Torre, who had larger problems to concern them. Under the more structured and efficient Turamzzyrian bureaucracy, however, River's Rest attracted governmental attention.
A new survey and census conducted in the year of the annexation determined the population of the island was large enough to provide the customary imperial tribute and to contribute personnel to the Torren militia levy. Although the Turamzzyrian empire maintained a standing army, territorial militias were commonly used as support troops.
An imperial tribute collector was assigned to routinely visit River's Rest and exact an appropriate amount of tribute from the islanders. In addition, they were now required to provide the governor of Torre with 16 foot soldiers for a period of one month each year. The soldiers were expected to be properly outfitted and equipped, including a supply of food sufficient for their month of service.
The people of River's Rest accepted the fact that they were required to pay tribute to the king; they understood that the powerful always take from the weak. However, they deeply resented the requirement to serve in the emperor's militia. They sent the required number of foot soldiers to serve in the levy, but conspired to keep their best young men and women out of imperial service. The levy from River's Rest were invariably underfed, uniformly stupid, consistently sullen and hostile, and entirely hapless in the military arts. The commanders of the Torren militia came to expect little from the recruits of River's Rest.
The Turamzzyrian Resettlement Program
One of the easiest methods of incorporating a recently acquired territory into an existing empire is to settle the area with loyal citizens. In the early 4490s M.E. the Turamzzyrian empire instituted a resettlement program in the coastal lands around Maelstrom Bay. Imperial citizens were encouraged to relocate to these lands by offers of land, low interest merchant loans and imperial commercial contracts. Most of the newcomers settled in and around Fairport, the provincial capitol of Torre. Others with more entrepreneurial spirit chose to settle in River's Rest. Aware of the island's glorious past as a center of art and commerce, the new settlers were determined to restore River's Rest to its former greatness.
This plan did not find much approval among the island's existing inhabitants. Not only were they resentful of the fact that they had no voice in the matter, they knew it spelled the end of life as they knew it. The arrival of loyal imperial citizens and merchants also meant the coming of tax collectors, overseers, sheriffs, regulators. There would be no place for their casual lawlessness and freebooting.
Although a small resistance movement was formed by some of the more impulsive islanders, it had little effect on the resettlement program. For the most part the resettlement of River's Rest went smoothly. The river pirates, brigands and smugglers slowly abandoned the island and established themselves in smaller settlements in nearby coves and marshes. Many of the islanders who elected to stay found themselves evicted from their homes. The newcomers had been allowed to purchase parcels of property on the island and arrived bearing titles and deeds. The existing inhabitants had seen no need for such legal niceties; they had simply built shacks and shanties where they found room.
Gradually a new town began to grow. Because of its unique location River's Rest was the ideal location to transfer goods from river boats to seaworthy craft (and vice versa). Docks and warehouses sprang up. Homes and municipal buildings were constructed of stone instead of wood. Regular ferry service to and from the island was established for land travelers. Schools were built.
Although the newcomers remained a minority, they quickly established themselves as the leaders and power-brokers of a revitalized River's Rest. The old inhabitants, often derisively referred to as 'river rats' by the newcomers, found themselves shunted to the marshy edges of the island or into tiny alleyways. Perhaps the only benefit of the resettlement program realized by the "river rats" was that they were relieved of their part in the annual militia levy. The new ruling families of River's Rest saw the levy as an opportunity for their sons and daughters to make important contacts in the Torren military establishment.
River's Rest and the First Elven War
The conflict between the Turamzzyrian Empire and the Elven Nations was fought far to the east of River's Rest. Nevertheless, some islanders played a minor role in the war. Not surprisingly, their role was largely criminal in nature. During the war a small faction of elves, half-elves and sympathizers smuggled supplies, material and information from outside the empire up the Tempest River to the fringe of the Wyrdeep Forest.
Some smugglers were, of course, only in it for the money. Others were concerned with helping the Elven nations. Regardless of the motives of the smugglers, it was dangerous and risky work. A great many smugglers died playing their secret role in the war. In 4605 M.E. five smugglers were captured. Three were slow-gutted then hung upside down. The remaining two were not so fortunate. They were taken to be questioned under the direction of Emperor Krellove's personal Inquisitor. The questioning, said to have taken three days, was singularly loathsome and effective. Based on information provided by the smugglers Krellove dispatched a punitive force to River's Rest. The weight of the punishment fell almost entirely on the 'river rats.' Several homes and buildings in the Khan'kel Bazaar-a known haunt of malcontents-were destroyed. The troops seized all the men between the ages of 16 and 40 from the Bazaar and lined them up in the town commons. Every tenth man was beheaded.
Aid to the Elven Nations was radically reduced.
The Vicalle Mestyr Rebellion
The year 4715 saw the Turamzzyrian Empire in chaos. Emperor Feadros Rysus died and his heir was assassinated before he could be crowned. Vicalle Mestyr, the Countess of Torre, laid claim to the crown. This put her in open contention against Cassolus Chandrennin, Duke of Elstreth, the other prominent contender for the crown. Countess Vicalle called upon her loyal subjects to fight for her.
The Mestyr rebellion sparked a great deal of acrimony among the imperial citizens of River's Rest. Most supported Countess Vicalle, but few were willing to risk their lives or fortunes in joining her. Only five of the loyalist families openly supported her. In order to raise troops these five families offered enlistment bounties to the "river rats".
The "river rats" were entirely disinterested in the affairs of the imperial royal houses. Nonetheless, many of these adventurers, scoundrels and ne'er-do-wells saw an opportunity. Not only would they draw a regular stipend from their officers, war always offered a chance for profit to those with quick wits and few scruples. At the very least, they realized, there might be a chance for booty and plundering. Consequently the River's Rest Volunteers were formed. A troop of about one hundred and forty of the island's young men and women, led by officers from the five families, set off to Fairport to do their duty...to themselves, if not to their Countess.
The River's Rest Volunteers served with distinction in campaigns against Count Greythane of Trauntor (although two of the Volunteers were hung by one of Vicalle's quartermasters for unauthorized looting). However, the war turned into a stalemate. In 4717 the stalemate was broken when Vicalle was assassinated. The rebellion collapsed.
During the chaos following the discovery of Countess Vicalle's body, several of the River's Rest Volunteers abandoned their officers and sought out the quartermaster responsible for hanging their comrades. They took his keys and his life, and returned to River's Rest with their revenge and seven wagons containing supplies and a portion of the Countess' own spoils of war.
Shubai Dupril and the Kezmon Isle Incident
In 4790 M.E. krolvin corsairs staged a surprise attack on Kezmon Isle. Although this event had no direct impact on River's Rest it proved to have a significant effect on the island's history. The presence of Shubrai Dupril on Kezmon Isle in the spring of that year had far-reaching consequences.
The half-elf Shubrai Dupril was a descendant of one of the River's Rest Volunteers who made a fortune by murdering the quartermaster and stealing supplies during the Mestyr Rebellion. Although he ran a legitimate small trading company, Dupril remained true to his "river rat" heritage; the imperial tax collector believed him to be deeply involved in smuggling untaxed goods. It is rumored that at the time of the krolvin landing on Kezmon, Dupril was in Kai Dusque, a small port on the northern coast of the isle, delivering a shipment of untaxed Krestle whiskey. Dupril, in his later years, would only admit that he was visiting 'friends' on Kezmon Isle.
Regardless of Dupril's motives for being there, it was well for the town of Kai Dusque that he was. After the town council fled before the krolvin, Dupril organized the defense of the town (a fact which supports the smuggled whiskey theory; Dupril was well-known for his reluctance to abandon property before he'd been paid). Even more remarkable, Dupril sent riders to report the situation to officers of the Imperial Navy who were in port at Kai Toka.
Those officers, aware of Dupril's reputation, were skeptical about the report of a krolvin invasion. Why would a known smuggler from River's Rest request the aid of the Imperial Navy in defense of a town not his home? They assumed it was a ruse or a trap of some sort. Still, they had an obligation to investigate and so dispatched a brig and a sloop to Kai Dusque. When the sloop returned to verify the invasion the Navy responded with alacrity. As a result Kai Dusque was saved and only three villages were despoiled and sacked by the krolvin.
Shubrai Dupril was handsomely rewarded for his conduct both by the citizens of Kai Dusque and by the Duke of Kezmon himself. This incident established a warm relationship between the people of Kezmon Isle and those of River's Rest, a relationship that would eventually draw some of the residents of River's Rest to a violent death.
The River's Rest Irregulars of the Third Elven War
The island of River's Rest virtually ignored the Second Elven War (4770-4772 M.E.). The war was largely fought in areas inaccessible by boat from River's Rest and therefore of no interest to the island's smugglers. A few radical elves and half-elves expressed some fervor for the Ta'Nalfein cause, but even they limited their involvement to placing stone crocks in the various River's Rest taverns to collect money for the aid of the widows and orphans of Nalfein warriors. It should be noted that there is no indication that the silver actually found its way east to Ta'Nalfein. For the most part the Second Elven War passed without much notice in River's Rest. Not so the Third Elven War.
At the outset of the Third Elven War in 4841 M.E. Duke Nyrmont of Kezmon Isle issued a call to arms. Because of the harmony that existed between River's Rest and Kezmon Isle following the krolvin invasion of 4790 the Duke invited the people of River's Rest to join him. Many of River's Rest's ruling families accepted, as did a surprising number of "river rats." When Nyrmont and Sir Hughrond (who was known throughout the Empire as the Golden Knight of Kezmon Isle) set forth to do battle against Ta'Faendryl two hundred and twenty young men and women from River's Rest accompanied them. Thirty were officers from the leading imperial families, the rest were foot soldiers from the island's alleyways and marshlands.
Initially Nyrmont assigned the River's Rest contingent to serve under Sir Hughrond. Hughrond, however, was distressed by the unwillingness -- or inability -- of the officers of the River's Rest corps to maintain what he considered suitable military discipline. For their part, the "river rats" were reluctant to serve under anybody arrogant enough to allow himself to be referred to as "the Golden Knight." Nyrmont quickly realized his mistake and formed the River's Rest unit into an irregular force of scouts and spies, utilizing the "river rat" skills as smugglers and outlaws.
The River's Rest Irregulars set up ambushes, raided behind enemy lines and gathered intelligence (and, whenever possible, lined their own pockets with loot). Because their missions kept them away from the main body of the army none of the Irregulars were present at The Breaking, the ignominious defeat of the Imperial Army by the demonic forces of Ta'Faendryl. Sir Hughrond and many other famous lords were slain, the Imperial Army collapsed in the face of the opposing demon forces, and the remnants of the army fled from the battlefield in panic. The army reorganized at the stronghold at Creyth. The River's Rest Irregulars were left to find their own way to Creyth. Fewer than half made it. The fortress soon found itself under siege by the armies of Ta'Faendryl.
Duke Nyrmont assumed command of the army and held a council meeting to determine the army's course of action. Many argued for a determined last stand even if it resulted in nothing more than a glorious death. Others contended the wisest action was an organized retreat to a fortress stronger than Creyth. The officers of the River's Rest Irregulars were among those in favor of making at stand at Creyth. When the "river rats" heard the course of action proposed by their leaders they began to gather their meager belongings in their packs in preparation for leaving. Their officers ordered the men arrested for mutiny and cowardice.
Nyrmont, observing the disturbance, asked what they were doing. "There's a time to play the fish and a time to cut bait," said the one the Irregulars. "And this fish is too big." Nyrmont said he'd have no men at his side who didn't want to be there. He ordered the men be allowed to leave Creyth. To the outrage of his troops, Nyrmont thanked them for their service and saw to it they had sufficient food for their journey. A few of the River's Rest Irregulars, moved by Nyrmont's nobility, elected to stay in Creyth. The majority of 'river rats,' however, were unmoved by accusations of cowardice and faithlessness. They slipped out of the fortress at Creyth and slowly made their way home. Not long thereafter the Duke and his army also abandoned the fortress, escaping in the night through tunnels that had been dug in preparation for such a retreat.
In later years Nyrmont made conflicting statements about the role of the River's Rest Irregulars. On some occasions he would commend them for the vital role they played behind the lines. At other times he would castigate them for abandoning the fortress, suggesting that had they stayed the Imperial Army might have fared better.
The once amiable relationship between River's Rest and Kezmon Isle never recovered. In 4873 M.E., of course, Kezmon Isle itself disappeared during a terrible storm. Nyrmont, a bitter old man by then, disappeared with his home.
The Necromancer Syssanis
The end of the fifth millennium and the beginning of the sixth was a prosperous time for River's Rest. The town had grown considerably, attracting craftsmen and artisans of all races. The edicts discriminating against non-humans were generally ignored so long as their enterprises did not interfere with those of the favored imperial families. The relative peace in that part of the empire increased commercial traffic...and the silver flowed into River's Rest.
The prosperity extended even to some of the "river rats". Smuggling, brigandage and river piracy continued to be their primary sources of income, but their criminality had become almost regulated. The ruling merchant families had established covert agreements with the "river rats" to insure their shipments were spared. Many old "river rat" families built grand homes and began to move in the social circles dominated by the loyal imperial households. It was a golden time in River's Rest and the town seemed destined to be restored to its former glory.
Then in 5006 M.E. a necromancer known only as Syssanis established himself in an old keep in Oteska's Marsh, a few leagues upriver from River's Rest. The marsh, named for the pirate who had used the fens and bayous as a hideout eight centuries earlier, was still commonly used by smugglers. They were understandably suspicious of this newcomer. However, once they determined Syssanis was no threat to their illicit activities they ignored him. A few of the more desperate "river rats" were even employed by Syssanis as servants.
Smuggling can be a dangerous occupation. When an occasional smuggler who worked out of Oteska's Marsh disappeared little notice was taken. Eventually the number of missing smugglers became suspicious. The "river rats" sent a deputation to Syssanis' Keep to inquire if he knew anything about the disappearances. The deputation never returned.
The pragmatic smugglers of River's Rest abandoned Oteska's Marsh and found other places to conduct their activities. Soon undead creatures and fell beasts were seen stalking the moonlit fens of Oteska's Marsh. Wild rumors of bestial experiments conducted by Syssanis were passed by his servants in the markets and taverns. The mutilated bodies of roltons and kobolds were found on the mainland.
By late 5007 whatever was stalking Oteska's Marsh moved into River's Rest. Several of the more disreputable "river rats" living in the Khan'kel Bazaar went missing. The alleyway taverns began barring their doors at night. "river rats" kept their lanterns burning all night, resulting in several accidental fires. The ruling families no longer allowed their children to play outside unattended and called them inside before dark. Ferrymen refused to operate their boats after sunset.
In the spring of 5008, despite all the precautions taken, a child and a beloved servant of one of the loyalist families disappeared. Most of the servant's bloodless body was later recovered. Frightened and angry merchant families used their political influence to get Count Glavedd, the Torren governor, to send a band of soldiers to investigate.
The County troops ventured into Oteska's Marsh to question Syssanis. Like the deputation of smugglers some months earlier, the troops were never seen again. Glavedd sent a second mission...larger and better armed. Led by "river rat" volunteers they went deep into the marsh looking for Syssanis' Keep. Unnaturally thick fog appeared, confounding even the most experienced guides. As the troops made their way through the marsh they were ambushed by a host of undead creatures and warriors. The County soldiers were quickly overwhelmed and panicked. Many became confused by the fog and fled directly into bogs and quicksand. The "river rats" managed to lead the survivors out of the marsh.
Glavedd sent reinforcements. On two more occasions squads of Torren soldiers entered Oteska's Marsh only to fall victim to either the minions of Syssanis or the marsh itself. The "river rats" refused to lead another expedition into Oteska's Marsh. The troops, aware they could never negotiate the mysterious marshes and fens alone, withdrew to River's Rest to formulate a plan.
When the Torren soldiers withdrew the depredations stopped. Strange creatures and fiendish beings continued to prowl Oteska's Marsh, but no more people went missing and no more bodies were found. The commander of the Torren troops was satisfied with that result. Count Glavedd was relieved as well; he had other matters to concern him. So long as Syssanis restricted himself to Oteska's Marsh, Glavedd was content to let him conduct his experiments without interference.
The ruling families of River's Rest were outraged. They had been loyal supporters of Glavedd and the Turamzzyrian Empire, and Glavedd had let them down. They would not feel entirely safe until Syssanis had been eliminated. No amount of argument or complaint, however, could persuade Glavedd to order his troops back into the marsh. The "river rats" simply chose to avoid Oteska's Marsh.
The events in Oteska's Marsh and Glavedd's decision had far-reaching effects, however. Merchants who had been using River's Rest as a convenient point to transfer goods between river boats and deep sea craft became nervous and began to use Fairport as their transfer point. Many of the island's ruling families, discouraged by Glavedd's lack of support and the falling economy, shifted their homes and businesses from River's Rest to Fairport. The gradual abandonment of River's Rest was accelerated by an influx of orcs and trolls, who saw Glavedd's inability to deal with Syssanis as a sign of weakness.
In 5014 M.E. an intoxicated "river rat" made a tavern wager that he could make his way to Syssanis' Keep and return. He won the bet. The keep was empty. Syssanis had disappeared. Some people believed he had simply moved away but most assumed he had died, possibly set upon by beasts of his own creation. A local folk legend suggests Syssanis made the fatal error of kidnaping two popular young lovers and using them in his experiments, after which he was murdered in his sleep by his servants. All that can be said with certainty is that by the late summer of 5014 Syssanis no longer inhabited Oteska's Marsh.
With the revelation of Syssanis' disappearance the restoration of River's Rest as a consequential town might have revived. However, in 5018 M.E. an event took place which forever altered the future of the island. Small earth tremors were not uncommon in western Elanthia; major quakes, though, were exceedingly rare. The quake of 5018 was centered just east of the island of River's Rest. It is reported that the quake was felt as far away as Fairport and Waterford. The only significant damage, however, was in River's Rest.
Most of the town was leveled. The fine stone structures built by the merchant families collapsed and many were killed by falling debris. For the most part the "river rats" still lived in wooden buildings. Fewer were killed by their collapsing house, but many died in the resulting fires which raced through their neighborhoods (the quake struck in the late afternoon when the evening cooking fires were being lighted).
The most radical change, however, was in the Tempest River. The earth to the east of the island shifted dramatically in the quake, rising more than thirty feet high in some places. The Tempest Falls were born.
The falls, of course, had an immediate and profound impact on the economy of River's Rest. The island's primary commercial value was as a transfer station at which goods could be shifted between river boats and sea-going vessels. The newly-created Tempest Falls and rockslides upstream made commercial river travel to River's Rest unfeasible.
With their homes destroyed and their businesses ruined, the merchant families abandoned River's Rest, leaving it to the "river rats".
The Smuggling Wars
The Great Quake of 5018 M.E. and the birth of the Tempest Falls ruined River's Rest as a center of river piracy. The more dedicated river pirates simply relocated their activities farther upriver, closer to Waterford. Many, however, abandoned their traditional illicit occupation and took up another local favorite-smuggling.
River's Rest had been a haven for smugglers ever since the fall of the Citadel and the Kingdom of Elanith in 4058 M.E. To many "river rats" smuggling was considered an honorable craft and over the centuries a sort of hierarchy of smugglers had arisen. It was not as formalized as a guild, but certain informal rules existed and for the most part the smugglers abided by them. There are, after all, only a limited amount of goods to be smuggled. The informal arrangement between smugglers insured there was work for all with a minimum of antagonism.
The quake changed all that. The former river pirates, even if they were aware of the smugglers' traditions, did not feel bound by them. They felt free to engage in the smuggling of any product to any place at any time for any reasonable profit. The veteran smugglers attempted to stop them. So began what became known as the smuggling wars.
It was not war as it is commonly considered. For the most part it took place in the narrow alleyways and in the back rooms of taverns, in the warehouses along the docks, and in the marshes and fens. It consisted of furtive stabbings and assassinations, boats vandalized or set ablaze, barrels and crates of smuggled goods destroyed or stolen. The fighting was mean-spirited, savage, brutal and conducted entirely without any consideration of honor or dignity. Only one pitched battle took place, although it would be more accurately described as a drunken brawl. Nonetheless, it resulted in more than a dozen deaths.
In the end there were no clear winners, only survivors. Smuggling ceased to be a grand tradition and became just another common crime. The animosities sparked by the smuggling wars continue to this day.
River's Rest in the Modern Era
Following the devastation of the Great Quake and the debacle of Syssanis and Oteska's Marsh, the Counts of Torre tended to turn a blind eye toward River's Rest. They continued to collect the annual tribute to the Emperor and to periodically send troops to inspect the island and its environs, but for the most part they were content to let it quietly deteriorate.
This laissez-faire attitude has shifted somewhat with the discovery of a magical portal that links the south bank of the Tempest River with a small boat grounded near the town of Wehnimer's Landing far to the north. The origin of this portal is a topic rife with speculation. One popular theory is that the boat belonged to the necromancer Syssanis who wished to maintain a link with the area when he left Oteska's Marsh. A related school of thought agrees the boat belonged to Syssanis, but was used by his servants who fled the area after murdering him.
The portal has done much to rebuild the population of River's Rest. The town is gradually expanding. At present the town boasts a bank made of stone and a few small shops. In recent years the town has even established a rudimentary form of law enforcement.
The portal, however, is an important resource. It is unlikely it will be long ignored by Claybourne, the current Count of Torre, or by his masters in the Turamzzyrian Empire. The small island of River's Rest may once again become the focus of the attention of the great and the powerful.