Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities is an Official GemStone IV Document, and it is protected from editing.
There are in this world places upon the map which the currents of history are loathe to forget. Those events, which shape the history of a village or a city, return again and again in one form or another. The lives of men become the playthings of fate, the machinations of Gosaena. One such place exists along the coasts of the Great Western Sea, where the Cairnfang River concludes its westerly journey. A traveler today will find two cities separated only by a high wall from which banners of green and white extend in the ocean winds. They are sisters by the sea. Vornavis, originally a fort established over nine hundred years ago, has grown as the greatest port in the northwest of the Turamzzyrian Empire and as a barony of increasing influence and power. Solhaven carries a stigma from its founding as a fishing village, as a place where death came time and time again to its inhabitants. Not until the discovery of the Kraken nesting grounds was the settlement given the opportunity to flourish as a free port. Both of these cities have repeatedly faced annihilation by the armies of the Dark Alliance, followers of the Lornon Gods, dedicated to the destruction of men. However, before the men and women of Vornavis and Solhaven were placed upon the anvil of the Gods, they first had the challenges of the past to overcome.
The region that now comprises the Barony of Vornavis and the port of Solhaven, most likely was claimed by Ziristal, the northernmost city of the ill-fated Kannalan Empire. The Kannalan Empire, which once ruled as far north as the Cairnfang River and as far south as the Southron Wastes, was a multi-racial political entity that covered much, but not all, of the western half of the continent of Elanthia. Much of what was known of the empire has been lost since its collapse a thousand years ago. At the moment before its disintegration, the empire consisted of eleven great cities divided among giantmen, humans, and halflings. It is believed that the Emperor of the capital city Veng, ruled over separate political entities, such as the Kingdom of Elanith, presently the County of Torre.
It is possible that Ziristal, may have been the capital of a legendary giantman kingdom ruled over by a sovereign by the name of Telimnar. Marble ruins located in the present-day Stoneharrow Swale may be all that remains of one of the great Kannalan cities. Similar to certain territories of the Turamzzyrian Empire today, these entities were most likely absorbed into the Kannalan Empire through economic and militaristic expansion. It may be entirely possible that these cities originated in the era popularly known as the Age of Chaos, when elves were no longer able to exert control over the other races of the world. This would place the establishment of the Kannalan Empire between one thousand to two thousand years ago. When the empire collapsed in 3961 Imperial Reckoning (I.R), only four cities survived: River's Rest, Gor'nustre, Toullaire, and Kedshold. By the end of the forty-third century, only Toullaire survived. This center of magical study was then lost in the cataclysm of 4565 I.R. In the modern day, only fragments of the empire's language and culture survive within the borders of the Turamzzyrian Empire.
Despite the region's probable claim by the Kannalan Empire, no effort was made to settle the Cairnfang River outlet into the sea before its fall. The first settlement of the coastal area belonged not to man, nor giantmen or halfling, but to dwarf. Since the dispersal of the clans after the closing of Kalaza, many dwarves had wandered in search of new treasures buried in the earth. New cities were dug and new mines explored, many of which still remain today. Unfortunately, the dwarven settlement established in the present location of Solhaven does not.
The settlement was founded around 3725 I.R. by a group of dwarves composed of several clans. It can be surmised that within this group were dwarves most likely of the Roramnoak Clan, Toktrog Clan, Egrentek Clan, or Parkshnuum Clan, as these clans are most prevalent in the northwestern region of Elanthia. Naturally, the dwarves of the Toktrog would not have remained but moved on after the settlement was established. The site of the dwarven mining operation was chosen due to the appearance of gemstones along the beach shore, which in turn, drew the dwarves' attention to a series of caverns set into the cliffs that overlooked the bay. The dwarven explorers found gems and rock formations unlike they had ever discovered to the east and immediately resolved to mine them.
The location of the operation was an oddity. Situated close to the water and far from the familiar Dragonspine Mountains, the settlement belied a common dwarven preference for habitation. In part, this isolation prevented the settlement from growing to any significant size over the course of the five decades of its existence. The primary product of the mine was opals, which were heavily dispersed throughout the strata of the caverns. For trade to succeed with the dwarves, they must have established connections with the nearest populations, rather than rely entirely on dwarven traders traveling back and forth from the coast to the mountains. Dwarven convention has shown that they are more than happy to create trade pacts outside of their race. Thus it is likely that these dwarves had some contact with the Kannalan city of Ziristal. The fact that Ziristal made no known attempt to place the dwarves under its authority indicates that either the trade, while valuable for the dwarves, was not wealthy enough to draw much notice from Ziristal officials, or simply that Ziristal had no desire or ability to take control of the opal production. Regardless of Ziristal, disaster came for the dwarves fifty years later.
It is too often in our history that peoples and places simply cease to be. Be it from natural causes, such as drought, or less natural causes, villages, even cities, have been known to vanish in time. So it was with the dwarves by the sea, who went to bed a day before the disaster and awoke before Lorminstra's Gate. The simple mining village was erased for all but a handful of its residents.
The discovery was made by Toktrog dwarves in the fall of the 3775 I.R.. Temporary residents within the village, the Toktrogs had left to pursue a hunt on the great plateau above the cliffs. Their hunt had been successful and they had returned with the intention to share their trophies in a fine feast of meat and ale. However, the bustling mining operation they had left was no more upon their return. In its place was a scene of destruction and carnage. Dwarven bodies and their parts were strewn across the beach, and the sand was painted red with their blood. No evidence at the time indicated what had befallen the dwarves, and a lesser race, a less courageous race, would have fled the scene. Yet, the Toktrog dwarves remained. They gathered the dead of their brethren and entombed in a cave, sealing it with a large boulder. In the process, they discovered survivors. Those who had escaped such a fate were few. Their minds were burned by what they had experienced and their lips silenced. If confessed they did, to the events which occurred, it is unknown and unwritten. The nearby waterfalls, they named "Cascade of Tears," and then, in the shadow of the cliffs, which had become a dwarven tomb, the Toktrogs and the survivors left, never to return.
What the dwarves did not know then, and what the future inhabitants of the area learned later, was that the sands of the bay were a nesting place for the ferocious sea monsters known as kraken. Massive tentacled beast, the kraken is still a known danger to the port of Solhaven, and a common participant in the nightmares of the city's children. Its terrifyingly large beak, nestled at the apex of its limbs, is a construction worthy of Marlu. Yet, the next disaster which befell the area came not from the sea, but from the unknown.
The question of whether Ziristal was the city of a giantmen kingdom, has yet to be solved. What is known, is that in 3961 I.R. the Kannalan Empire collapsed as internal bickering weakened the imperial state to the point of placing it at the mercy of a terrible humanoid menace that came from the east. Like candles being snuffed out, city after city succumbed to the hordes. Survivors fled where they could. Some went south to Elstreth and the surviving Kannalan cities, others went west to River's Rest and to Tamzyrr. From Ziristal there fled many, lead curiously by elves, rather than the predominant races of the empire. Upon an island in the middle of the Cairnfang, northeast of present-day Vornavis, they established a defensive position. In time, a settlement and a castle were built. Their name as known to their elven brethren is lost to us, but its translation in the common tongue was "Wildwood."
For more than two centuries, the Wildwood family became the protectors of the survivors of Ziristal. They were practitioners of magic, though it appears wholly of a defensive sort. Their name might imply that they were originally of the Ardenai, those elves who have remained closest to the woods. In turn, their skill with magic and compassion for the other races might indicate the blood of Illistim. Regardless of which of the great elven houses the family claimed, it is indisputable that nary a more courageous and honorable elven line has dwelt west of the Dragonspine.
It was under the protective aegis of the Wildwoods, that a semblance of normality was returned to the refugees of the fallen city. While River's Rest, the last jewel of the Kannalan Empire, fell to the combined might of trolls and Krolvin, the settlement on the Cairnfang flourished. Farmers farmed, fishermen fished, and it appeared that the tragedy of one city might emerge as the hope for another. Yet, in these dark times, when the Order of Voln was established in the face of great evil, happiness could not escape notice. In the dark woods of the north, something wicked and sorcerous stirred. Little evidence remains to conclusively understand who or what gathered amongst the tall trees, but perhaps the center of this evil might well be the tower made of bone which resides atop a hill in the midst of the forest.
It is known today as Bonespear. A ghastly creation that reaches hungrily up into the sky, constructed from the ivory remains of thousands. It earned its name for the man who sought and lost control of power over a demonic entity. The price he paid was the loss of his physical form and a damned eternity trapped within the walls of the tower. The demon, Maleskari, escaped from imprisonment that the tower was designed to secure, and in the process, slew all those who had aided Bonespear in his research. Their ghosts remain to this day, trapped in the awful moments prior to their morbid fate. It is also their ghosts, which suggests the contemporary nature of the tower with the island settlement under the Wildwoods. The ghosts are of many races, humans and dwarves, and such multi-racial collaboration while most likely prevalent in the time of the Kannalan Empire, was not common for centuries later in the region until the success of the Freeport. Their failure in sorcery may have well been the origin of the dark forces that were attracted to the growing peace on the Cairnfang River.
The fate of the Wildwoods and the people they protected has been passed down to us through tales and through stories carved into the walls of the nearby sea caves. As the popular local legend of Solhaven and Vornavis claims, the island was attacked by a scourge from the woods that had gathered humanoids to its will. It was a magical battle, with mystical energies hurled at the defenses of the castle and village. The Wildwoods realized that they were not powerful enough to defeat their attackers, nor were the people and their descendants whom the family had led from the collapse of Ziristal. A decision was made to save as many lives as possible and the elven lords chose sacrifice as the means to accomplish this goal. In a maneuver that would make a Vaalor elf proud, the Wildwoods successfully managed the evacuation of the settlement to the south bank of the Cairnfang, while drawing in the attackers from the north bank. Once all who had escaped might, the survivors were made witnesses to the last great achievement of the Wildwoods. Across the island, a magical ward rose up and encased the spit of earth in the middle of the river behind an impenetrable shield. None could return to the island and none could leave it. In the year 4168 I.R., the Wildwoods had sealed themselves and their enemies within the settlement that bears their name to this very day.
The panels of the sea caves still exist for the bold adventurer to examine. They tell the story of a community brought under attack by dark figures that come from the woods. They offer the story of the settlement's attempt to prepare itself for war and the subsequent flight to the sea caves as a last place of refuge. It was most likely the survivors of the Wildwood settlement who found their lives saved deep in the darkness of the natural tunnels. It was they, the panels tell, who emerged later to bury the dead and to reestablish a new life. From their hands were built the beginnings of Solhaven and Vornavis. Upon the beach, the same which dwarves had settled centuries before, they founded a fishing village. On the high cliff above, should such a tragedy repeat itself, a fort was raised to protect those below. It was not the end of tragedy for the people by the sea, but it was the beginning of a future that continues on to this very day.
The peace of the Wildwoods had lasted two centuries, and it was for this same amount of time that peace graced the region. The fishing village flourished by the beaches of the bay. In the same time period, the Turamzzyrian Empire was founded under the reign of Selantha Anodheles. The last of the Kannalan cities were defeated in battle and destroyed or absorbed into the mantle of Tamzyrr. The greatest of the Kestrel emperors reigned. It was Chaston, who extended the empire to the east with the Barony of Highmount and protected the seas with an expanded Imperial Navy. With the ocean waves free of Krolvin and piracy, the path was laid down for the future expansion of trade out of the seaside fishing village.
Immuros the Road Builder, followed the death of Chaston, with the largest infrastructure development in the empire's history. His roads led to the outer migration from the Empire's core of thousands to settle the lands left barren since the fall of the Kannalan Empire. To the east, the south, and to the north, the people migrated in search of economic prosperity, and undoubtedly some found homes in the fortress city ruled by the Malwind family. Yet, when the first civil war broke out within the empire for rule of the Turamzzyrian Sun Throne, the two towns in the north remained free of involvement.
The history of how the Malwinds achieved predominance in Vornavis is still relegated to an unknown location in the archives of the city, but by 4410 I.R., the head of the family had assumed the title of baron. Though overwhelmingly a city of humans, the present tradition of respect and friendship with the other races, was first displayed in this same time period, if under sorrowful circumstances.
The world is ruled by natural cycles. The seasons come and go, by the blessings of the Arkati, and those things which live, die, and in turn, so are born new things to replace them. For that rule of nature, the kraken is also held, which the fishing village was made aware of by three consecutive years of destruction and death. By the close of the third incident, the Baron sent for sages from the East to uncover the mystery of the frighteningly annual occurrence. Wise men and women came and studied the beaches, still flecked with the opals of the long-forgotten dwarven mining camp. It was they who first deduced the presence of the kraken, and while unsure if the eggs had been laid many years ago or were formed from the actual sand, offered a solution. The sand had to be removed. Their recommendation was quickly implemented and over a period of 66 years, the beaches were reduced to rock and stone. In the process, the caverns which had been sealed centuries ago by the Toktrog dwarves were discovered.
It was in this matter that the Baron displayed regard for another race. Rather than pry open the caves, as often human curiosity would encourage, he sent messengers to the dwarven settlements in the east. Knowledge was then learned from a Roramnoak outpost of the history of the beaches and the cliffs above. The messenger returned with the tales of the tragedy that befell the dwarven camp, but also with dwarven assent to the continued inhabitance of the coastal area. Drawn to the scene of the ancient disaster were somber dwarves, who wished to look upon the place where their kin had been slaughtered. They brought with them the names that had been passed down through their lore of the nearby waterfalls of the Cairnfang, and of the cliffs above. The Cascade of Tears, they called the former, and "vorn ahvis" for the latter. In a remarkable display of consideration, both names were adopted by the current residents. Despite the argument over the translation of "vorn ahvis" as Dwarven for 'high tomb' or 'high sanctuary,' in time the people simply called their home, Vornavis.
In the year 4476 I.R., excavation of the beach was formally concluded. It was also decided at this time to open the sealed caverns and cleans them by religious means. Prior to this, the dwarves were invited back and their elders were treated with great courtesy and respect. The cleaning rituals were a matter of several days, during which some feared that the opening of the caverns might result in yet another calamity. These fears proved to be without warrant, and the caverns were formally cleansed by the clergy of Lord Eonake, by request of the dwarves. The effort that the Baron of Vornavis had placed in honoring the dwarves was repaid later with the arrival of a small contingent of the race who came to offer their assistance in the construction and expansion of the city.
As for the cliffs and their caverns, granite was laid down and lined up against the natural rock to prevent any future accumulations of sand. The present-day port of Solhaven and the city of Vornavis now rest above many of these caves. It was from this point that it is believed that a sect of Luukosians began their inhabitation of the caves, as previously they were sealed. What is known is that their presence had been in existence for many years. They have been present, at least prior to the time in Solhaven's history when the Mercantyle Guild formally came into power some two hundred years after the opening of the caverns. They present a dangerous threat to the population of the area and were most active in the recent wars of the Griffin Sword. Unfortunately, few know of the Luukosians' exact location within the caves, and even fewer have lived to speak of entering the serpentine abode. It is unknown if the current Baron will ever take effective action against the sect, but undoubtedly after the grievous terrors that his people and the citizens of Solhaven underwent, it would not be an unsupported action.
From the end of the 46th century through to the 47th, peace and prosperity prevailed throughout the region that was claimed by Vornavis. Despite the actions taken by the baron to cleanse the beaches of any future possible kraken attacks, the fishing village was slow to recover. Rumors and fears persisted that the tragedy might again repeat itself. It was not until 4596 I.R. that the population began to rise to the pre-attack levels, due entirely to a settlement program established by the baron. As Vornavis grew, its role and participation in coastal trade increased. Trade by land was virtually non-existent, as Vornavis existed on the periphery of the Turamzzyrian trade sphere. Only by sea could the city adequately and without much cost engage in trade with its southern neighbors.
Thus was born the idea for the settlement plan, to re-establish a community to support the sea trade for Vornavis. Part of the program involved the construction of wooden platforms over the now rocky shore bereft of sand. The port was then able to extend further off the cliffs and reach the bay with little difficulty. The infrastructure for trade was established and boosted the growth of pre-existing operations. From this point, the modern city of Solhaven was born, if not named.
The program succeeded beyond all expectations and the port and Vornavis experienced growth over the next two centuries. The Port, as it was commonly known at the time, while under the authority of the baron in Vornavis, lacked any direct civil involvement by its fortified protector on the cliffs. If the Baron assigned a representative to the Port it is unknown, but it is most certainly likely he would put in place a tax collecting infrastructure to ensure that Vornavis got its share out of the profitable trade. As a result, the merchants of the port formed their own civic organization. It was and remains known as the Mercantyle Guild. Over time, the Guild became the civic authority in the port, from as early as 4680 up through to 5103 I.R. They achieved this control by successfully petitioning the Baron for 'freeport' status. Undoubtedly, tribute would continue to flow to the coffers of Vornavis, but for all terms and purposes, the Port would be an independent city of its own rule and law. The Baron agreed to the plan.
In the same year, to increase the benefit of the large volume of trade, that now flowed from Vornavis and the Port south into the Turamzzyrian Empire, the Baron of Vornavis officially petitioned that his city and the freeport be annexed into the Empire. By order of the Baron, the Port was given the name Solhaven to make it more attractive to the imperial bureaucrats in Tamzyrr. The emperor at the time, Baeronnar Chandrennin II, accepted the petition. The rule of Baeronnar II was an increasingly unstable period for the Sun Throne. The Chandrennin dynasty, which had ruled since the rise of Levian Chandrennin some two hundred years, was on the brink of collapse. Despite the victorious outcome of the First Elven War and the profitable absorption of the former territories of the Kingdom of Hendor, the family's hold on the throne had become tenuous. In addition to the lands of Hendor, the Turamzzyrian Empire had also received the noble families who had fled their home's destruction by the Witch Winter. These families demanded the same power of influence over the Imperial Throne, as they had extended over the throne of Hendor in its feudal system. For Baeronnar, his vassals were quickly becoming threats to his position, and the influx of taxes from Solhaven and Vornavis would provide a beneficial boost to any future war expenses.
In the year, 4681 I.R., Baeronnar II accepted the Barony of Vornavis and the freeport into the Turamzzyrian Empire. As events unfolded beyond the border of Vornavis, the addition of the barony to the empire proved unable to stop the flow of history. Five years later, Baeronnar II, the last of the Chandrennin Dynasty, peacefully abdicated from his throne, rather than throw the empire into war. Unfortunately, the war still came, if only 30 years later. Vornavis, due to its far northern position, remained uninvolved with the conflict which remained primarily infighting between the core states of the empire. An event of more importance to Vornavis was the establishment of an imperial outpost to the far east of the barony in 4735 I.R. The city which grew up around this outpost became known as Jantalar.
Over just under a 150-year period, the outpost of Jantalar grew into a city and then was established as a barony within the Turamzzyrian Empire. Established to secure the northeastern corner of the Empire, Jantalar became a region characterized by human resistance and aggression against other races, particularly humanoids, and giantmen. This in turn nurtured a stronger-than-usual belief in human superiority over other races. The Jantalarian history of aggressive expansion and defense through military means also produced a more belligerent nature in its people. What they could not gain through peaceful means, they often sought to capture by force. The Barony of Vornavis, by contrast, had elected to develop a history of racial tolerance. The two baronies were destined for conflict.
The first case of the inevitable clash occurred in 4880 I.R. over a dispute concerning the prosperous silver trade that flowed from the independent city of Talador. Mined by dwarves of the Egrentek Clan at Zul Zybrano, the silver merchants carried their product through the territory of Jantalar which was sandwiched between Talador and Vornavis (Three years later, the city and future barony of Mestanir would be established in the wilderness between Vornavis and Jantalar). The trade had been the result of a silent agreement established with Vornavis ever since its honorable treatment of the dwarves in regard to the seaside tombs of the dwarven mining settlement. The trade had been taxed by Imperial authorities since Vornavis' inclusion into the empire. Nevertheless, Jantalar grew tired and jealous of watching the silver trade completely bypass their own territory and petitioned the Sun Throne in Tamzyrr for their own access to it. In addition, under the belief that the freeport of Solhaven attracted trade which should flow inland to Jantalar, the barony also demanded that the port's free status be revoked.
The Barony of Jantalar, while rich in plains and wood, lacked any access to minerals or gemstones. Their complaint rested on the fact that the dwarves, as a race, were unfairly choosing Vornavis over Jantalar. The complaint, however, did not hold enough water to convince Tamzyrr to demand the dwarves open their trade to the Jantalarians or affect the status of Solhaven. The Empire earned its tax regardless of who was involved with the trade and cared little for a minor trade squabble in its northern periphery. Left without official recourse, Jantalarian soldiers hassled dwarven traders as they passed through on their way to Vornavis, while the ruling family of Jantalar, the Hochstibs, plotted a new strategy to strengthen their barony.
Vornavis' and Solhaven's relative position in the empire began in this time period to quickly change from a city on the periphery to the center of a growing trade in the Elanthian northwest. In 4883 I.R., the Imperial city of Mestanir was established in the approximate center between Vornavis and Jantalar. Nine years later, a bold adventurer known as Rone Wehnimer, established a trading outpost to the north of Vornavis. Both of these communities grew rapidly as a system of trade in the north became increasingly more complex. It soon drew in economic ties with halfling and dwarven settlements in the North, and eventually, a crossroads for trade from the Elven Nations in the East. By the start of the Fiftieth century, Vornavis and Solhaven had become the top port in the northern part of the Turamzzyrian Empire.
The wealth which had begun to build in Solhaven and Vornavis made both a target for those who desired it. The Krolvin, a seafaring race, had long been a nuisance along the coastal regions of the Empire. Their last great raid on Turamzzyrian territory had occurred against the Isle of Kezmon in 4790 I.R. Otherwise, the Imperial Navy had reduced their forays into Imperial waters to a matter of insignificance in the face of the total sea-going trade. This changed significantly with the discovery of a Krolvin homeland in 4926 I.R. The Empress, Geleena Anodheles, elected to open diplomatic and economic discourse with the apish-like people. The Krolvin response was war.
The northern coastal reaches of the empire, long safe from the traditional enemies of the empire in the east, became the primary targets of Krolvin attacks. The attacks, which lasted the entirety of the sailing season from spring to autumn, ranged as far north as Wehnimer's Landing and as far south as Brisker's Cove in the County of Seareach. Solhaven was made a primary target, but the prosperity which the port and Vornavis had enjoyed for centuries allowed for the funding of a successful defense. While pockets of Krolvin remained after the conclusion of what became known as the Krolvin War, Vornavis was completely successful in denying the Krolvin any foothold in its territories. Undoubtedly, the war spurred the expansion and training of the Vornavian Guard. It was a development that became increasingly useful as over the next two centuries, Vornavis found itself pulled into a war with enemies both domestic and supernatural.
Another result of the wealth was that trade and profit began to supersede the enforcement of race-based decrees in various parts of the empire, such as Chaston's Edict. For Vornavis and Solhaven, this tolerant practice had been held for centuries, but for the first time, the two cities began to openly ignore the empire-wide laws. This was also significant for the people of Talador. By 5030 I.R., the main community of the dwarves had exhausted much of the silver mines and moved elsewhere, while humans had arrived to fill in the vacuum. As in Solhaven, the main leaders of the region were merchants, and it was a chosen leader of the merchant council who requested and received permission for Talador to join the Turamzzyrian Empire as a barony. Despite this designation, Talador was ruled exclusively by the Merchant Council, who supported a positive relationship with those dwarves who remained in Talador.
It was perhaps in this time period of prosperity just before the Krolvin War or after, that a sect of Fash'lo'nae established themselves in the wild woods of Cairnfang forest northeast of Vornavis and Solhaven. The leader and high priest of this sect was named Augustin Vespertinae. The temple they constructed in honor of the Grandfather lays now in ruins, covered by the growth of the forest. A legacy, however, remains of their efforts in the form of the Vesperti. An unnatural and wicked race, the Vesperti are a result of the magical hybridization of elves and bats. Resistant to most magics, the creatures turned upon their creators and wiped out the Fash'lo'nae sect. They still remain in the depths of the Cairnfang forest, a threat and challenge to any who would dare venture into their territory.
A greater threat, though, emerged in the 51st century. Rumored to be a hathlyn, his name was Lerep Hochstib, and he was the Baron of Jantalar.
The historians of the future will undoubtedly label the last 30 years as among the most violent in the recent records of the Turamzzyrian Empire. It began with the surprise invasion of the Barony of Talador by Jantalarian troops to capture the last remaining silver mine in the region. The victory was quick and complete with the magically weak Jantalarians assisted by a curious breed of mercenaries known as witchhunters. Officially, the Baron of Hochstib declared that Talador had been under the influence of dwarves, and so a threat to the empire.
While supporting records remain unfound, it is very probable that Baron Dunwith Malwind of Vornavis protested this action to the Northern Sentinel, Earl Weirlund of South Hendor. The dwarves of Talador had long been friends of Vornavis, and in addition, the Taladoran silver was a significant component of Vornavian trade. The Barony of Talador had little influence in the grander imperial scheme. Its mixed-racial population was ruled by merchants on the periphery of the empire. What noble families it possessed were of little consequence to those of other regions of the empire. Thus, the elder Sentinel found in favor of Hochstib, though not without a reprimand. However, the situation was further compounded by the ruling attitude of the current emperor, Hannelas Anodheles. Already on the throne for more than thirty-three years, age had caught up with the emperor who had expanded the magical college system of the empire. He remained silent without protest of Hochstib's actions. His heir, and future empress, Mynal'lyanna Anodheles, would actively support such maneuverings by Jantalar. Young and lethally ambitious, the Empress, upon ascension to the Sun Throne, proclaimed a policy of human superiority and promoted the expansion of Imperial military power. In Hochstib, she found an imperial nobleman willing and wanting to expand the empire by force and unite it under the banner of racial intolerance.
Against the wishes of Vornavis, Talador remained occupied as part of Jantalar. Hochstib then reinforced his good standing with the greater empire with the capture of Doggoroth's Keep, a former dwarven stronghold that had fallen years before to orcs. Single handily, Jantalar had wiped out one of the gravest threats to the Empire in the northeast. Meanwhile, the dwarves in occupied Talador refused to accept a subservient position to their human counterparts. Four years into the occupation, a power struggle developed between Jantalarian and dwarven gem merchants. It peaked with a short, but bloody conflict that left several humans slain. This overt act of violence by the dwarves against humans resulted in a barony-wide protest against the presence of non-humans. The Baron of Jantalar, in turn, took the opportunity to fully reinforce the Edict of Chaston. The result was that hundreds of non-humans were instantly declared criminals, and as such, were regarded as slaves to the Empire. From second-class citizens, the dwarves had been demeaned as chattel property.
The Northern Sentinel Weirlund then died in 5092 I.R. His opposition to Hochstib's expansionist desires had been all that had kept the Baron of Jantalar in his place. The sentinel dead, Hochstib launched an immediate attack on his western mineral-rich neighbor, the Barony of Mestanir. Jantalar was brutally repulsed. Though a small barony, Mestanir had developed schools of magic which had provided its army with enough spell casters to overpower Hochstib's mercenary witchhunters and devastate his troops. In the same year, Mynal'lyanna Anodheles came to the throne. Again, the lack of a well-situated ruling family proved fatal for a northern province in the Turamzzyrian Empire. Rather than protest Hochstib's aggressive actions, the Empress answered a plea for assistance from the Baron instead. So, it was then that for the first time, a little-known artifact was put into the field of battle, sent there by the Empress for the purpose of assisting the conquest of Mestanir. Its now infamous name was the Mandis Crystal.
The Mandis Crystal had a unique property, it absorbed the very mana from the region around it. In the process, it made the use of magic impossible. The spell casters of Mestanir, thus handicapped, were quickly overcome by a renewed attack by Jantalarian armies. Mestanir fell and the Barony of Vornavis suddenly found itself once again a direct neighbor to Jantalar. The Empress' decision to not appoint a new Northern Sentinel, much less her direct support of Jantalar, left little opportunity for the Baron of Vornavis to raise a protest against Jantalar's new intrusion. In response, Vornavis was left only to prepare for war. At the same time, the barony's main east-west trade was completely cut off.
Meanwhile, the dwarves in Talador, comprised mainly of the Egrentek Clan, refused to accept their slave status, and rebelled in 5094 I.R. The rebellion occurred spontaneously after the death of hundreds of dwarves at the order of the Baron of Jantalar. Hochstib, with his main armies in the west, decided to reaffirm to the dwarves his control over them and had commanded that a failed silver mine be destroyed with the dwarves inside. Dwarves of the Parkshnuum Clan retaliated, along with Egrentek survivors, and collapsed the surviving silver mine, killing hundreds of Jantalarian soldiers. It was a tit-for-tat engagement. The dwarves, that could, departed Talador. Later on, the same dwarves launched an attack on one of Hochstib's Mandis Crystals in Mestanir and managed to damage the valuable weapon of war. Jantalar, meanwhile, decided to retain its military focus on the west. Two years later, it declared war on its neighbor, the Barony of Vornavis.
The war began in 5096 I.R. with the surprise blockade of Solhaven by a fleet of pirates known collectively as the Sea Wolves. Paid with gemstones from Mestanir, the Sea Wolves were employed by the Baron of Jantalar to fully and finally cut off all trade going into Vornavis and Solhaven by sea. It effectively isolated the barony from its southern neighbors. Jantalar's grip on Mestanir had previously terminated Vornavis' east-west trade routes, as Hochstib planned to starve Vornavis before attempting a full-out invasion. In response, Baron Dunwith Malwind ordered the blazing of a trade path north to Wehnimer's Landing, a task that was helped by Toktrog dwarves, happy to assist work that benefited the enemies of Jantalar. The trail, now a main overland thoroughfare, was completed in a surprisingly short two years and opened a strong lifeline for Vornavis to the north.
Jantalar was quick to react and began with preparations to march on the trading outpost in the North. The occupation of Wehnimer's Landing would provide two benefits for Baron Hochstib's plans. First, it would cut off entirely Vornavis' only trade link to the outside world, which was part of Hochstib's original plan. Second, by raising the Jantalarian flag over the outpost, it dramatically extended to the north the territory claimed by the Turamzzyrian Empire and ruled over by Hochstib. At first glance, it seemed a win–win situation. Hochstib began by sending an envoy and his top knight, Sir Maldon Wellesbourne, to the region to begin preparations for the arrival of a main force of Jantalarian soldiers. The Baron's plan may have performed perfectly if it were not, for one thing, the betrayal of Wellesbourne.
Two years earlier, when Hochstib had destroyed the silver mine in Talador, by intent or accident, Wellesbourne's son had been inside. At what point did the man's loyalty turn to revenge in his heart is unknown, but upon the knight's arrival in Wehnimer's Landing, he immediately set about organizing a defense against Jantalar's ambitions. At that time, the Order of the Silver Gryphon was founded by Wellesbourne, who hoped that the presence of a noble class would be a political and military deterrent. In hindsight, with the manner in which Hochstib had treated the noble class in Talador and Mestanir, Wellesbourne's plan seemed destined to fail. Miraculously, it succeeded, if only in delaying the inevitable. The adventures of the Silver Gryphons are many, and perhaps another time can be explored in detail, but for now, all that will be said is that by their courageous actions, they helped to distract and delay Baron Hochstib from his domination of the north.
The war continued nevertheless. Under the protective cover of the Mandis Crystal, the Jantalarian army moved from Mestanir and into the eastern regions of Vornavian territory. A foothold was quickly established at a manor in the outlands of Vornavis, and there Jantalar halted, content to let Baron Malwind and his people suffer the effects of the trade blockade.
The question is then asked, why did Baron Malwind not move to expel Jantalar from his territory? There may be several answers. First, Jantalar had long built an army designed for invasion and occupation, while Vornavis had enjoyed an army equipped purely for the defense of the two cities. In the field, the Jantalarian host would have most certainly outnumbered any force that Vornavis put forward. In such a situation, the benefit for the smaller army lies in a defensive position. Malwind would gain nothing but defeat if he attacked Jantalar in the open. A second possibility is that Malwind simply wanted to time to build and train his army so it could take the offensive without a devastating defeat. The last and most likely answer is that in the year 5102 I.R. the freeport of Solhaven was embroiled in a religious war that led to its occupation by a Sheruvian army.
It cannot be understood for sure why the northlands have been the center of so much turmoil and conflict over the last 16 years. Though, when looked upon from a wider perspective, it has been a relatively quiet place for the last few centuries. The wars of the Turamzzyrian Empire have been almost entirely in the east and south. Regardless, in a region already traumatized by various calamities, the shattering of the Griffin Sword has become the definitive event of the century since the Battle of Elstreth many decades ago. As it is, this is not a telling of that war, but of its battles which involved the two cities of Vornavis and Solhaven.
The sword of Lorminstra was shattered suddenly and unexpectedly in the month of Jastatos, 5102 I.R. Divided into four pieces, scattered to the wind, the shards were sought after by forces of the Liabo and of the Lornon. Led by high acolytes, the armies of Sheru, Luukos, Mularos, and V'tull, known as the Dark Alliance, marched across Elanthia in a war that lasted for three years. The first battle and the discovery of the first piece of the Griffin sword occurred on the dwarven isle of Kharam Dzu, which involved a black flag V'tullian fleet. The piece was recovered by a woman, whom many regarded an ally of Liabo and of Solhaven. For several days, the shard was thought safe, but it was then learned that its possessor was a follower of Mularos. As time progressed, an angry resentment grew within the town over this betrayal. A mob formed and sought to recover the piece and trapped the woman on Market Bridge. In an act of fury, she was burned to death and in the process, the shard was tainted and so passed into the hands of evil.
Within days, the rumor spread that the second shard was in the vicinity of Solhaven and Vornavis and the forces of dark and light swarmed into the region. What machinations the evil forces had were kept secret until a massive explosion north of Solhaven induced a landslide that cut off the caravansary that Baron Malwind had ordered cut six years earlier. It was the first move by the High Priest of Sheru, Draezir.
In the fall season of that year, in the night sky, the sign of the Jackal hungrily gazed down upon Elanthia, and under this sign, Draezir's army attacked the freeport of Solhaven. The attack came swiftly and despite the best efforts of the defenders of the city, the Sheruvians quickly made inroads. Caught by surprise, Vornavis was only able to open its gates for refugees before slamming them shut again to keep their city safe from the invading Sheruvians. The Swan Guard was left to watch helplessly as their neighbor was overrun by darkness. On the 23rd of Jastatos, the banner of Jackal was raised over the city, and its people were subjugated to occupation.
The Sheruvian occupiers mockingly renamed their city Nighthaven. Great onyx statues of Jackals roamed the streets and slew all who they encountered. The light of the sun seemed vanquished from the port, but the light of hope remained brilliant in the resistance that quickly formed in response to the occupation. In only a week's time, and with the aid of a Paladin of Koar, known as Kendryth, the resistance struck back and overwhelmed the port's occupiers. The tyranny of Sheru was brought to an end and the city was liberated. Yet, the danger posed by Draezir and his army was not yet passed. Somewhere in the depths of the Cairnfang forest laid his camp, shrouded in a veil of magic.
A month passed and the two sides, that of Liabo and that of Lornon, uneasily regarded each other as both desperately searched for the second piece of the Griffin Sword. In the war of armies, the Liabo, enforced with many of the defenders of Solhaven, as well as other territories, moved first. Assisted by the powers of Ulstram, a prophet of Lorminstra, Draezir's camp was discovered and a surprise attack mounted against it. At the same time, the Sheruvian forces and their allies launched a counterattack on the camp of Lord Kendryth, and the dead numbered many on both sides. So it came to pass that as the fighting came to a lull, a cavern was discovered, and within it, the second shard of the sword.
The shard was then recovered by a woman ranger, who followed a dark path. As the first shard was turned over to the Lornon, so was the second. The war of the Griffin Sword then left the port and Vornavis, but after the passage of three years, it returned and unleashed unspeakable suffering upon the people who dared to call Solhaven and Vornavis home.
For a moment, peace returned to Vornavis and Solhaven but edged with the knowledge that in the east, a Jantalarian army lay waiting for the opportunity to finish its conquest of the north. The new year brought news of a grand tour by Empress Mynal'lyanna Anodheles, as the sovereign wished to travel the expanse of her empire. The young empress was at the height of her power. Her policies, though disliked by many of her neighbors had re-established the strength of the Turamzzyrian Empire. Yet at the same time, Empress Mynal'lyanna began a drastic shift in course Unknown upon the time of her arrival in Vornavis on the 31st of Lormestra, the Empress had decided to adopt a radical change. The change was announced two days later, the 2nd of Fashanos, a decree that the Empire would embrace a friendlier policy towards Ordlyn and Hathlyn.
It would have been an astounding reversal of thought for an empress who had established her power on the superiority of humans and offered up to Baron Hochstib one of the empire's most potent weapons, the Mandis Crystals. Thus, it was with great tragedy that the Empress Mynal'lyanna Anodheles, in the eleventh year of her reign, was assassinated on Baron's Bridge in the free port of Solhaven. At the same moment, the Freeport's fate was forever changed. Though protected by various magical wards, the lethal crossbow bolt which passed through these protections was laced with Luukosian deathwort, which denied any chance for her majesty's recovery. An investigation that spanned several regions of the empire was conducted by the Imperial Blades, Baron Malwind's personal guard, and the Mercantyle Guild. After several weeks, the investigation ended with the arrest of a renegade witch hunter, who despite capture kept her true motives to the end.
The motivation behind her assassination is not clear, but a main suspect does emerge after some consideration. Through the years of her reign, the Empress had adopted strategies that had increasingly worried and chaffed with the empire's non-human neighbors. One of the last empresses to aggressively assume a nationalist stance had been Selantha Anodheles II, and she had initiated the Third Elven War. Another source of possible belligerence came from the western dwarven clans. Mynal'lyanna's support for strengthening Chaston's Edict and allowing the enslavement of dwarves by the Baron of Jantalar had certainly brought ill will between her and the clans. Lastly, however, one suspect becomes far more culpable, the Lerep Hochstib, Baron of Jantalar.
Initially supported by the Empress, the last speech given to an imperial crowd had gone against everything that the Baron had fought and decreed over the last ten years. Without the support of the Empress, he would have most likely lost his control over the Mandis Crystals, which were a critical aspect of his military's success and strategy. Furthermore, the Empress may have then ordered the Baron to cease his war-making in the north and possibly even return sovereignty to the baronies of Mestanir and Talador. Hochstib had everything to lose and nothing to gain if the Empress remained alive. For the fact that the assassin was a witch hunter, a group exclusively employed by the Baron, increases the probability that it was the Baron. Furthermore, it became known that Hochstib was a fervent follower of Luukos, which by the assassin's use of Luukosian deathwort adds to the mountain of guilt. Hochstib was never arrested for the crime, he was killed before such could occur.
As for the Freeport, it became free no longer. Upon the death of the Empress, it was decided by Imperial authorities that the Mercantyle Guild could no longer provide the security necessary for an important port for the empire. After the succession of Aurmont Chandrennin Anodheles to the Imperial Throne, authority over Solhaven was then entrusted to a newly appointed Northern Sentinel, Eddric Jovery, Earl of North Hendor, and the city was for once and for all, a full member of the Turamzzyrian Empire. Though under the rule of the Sentinel of the North, the demands of security were placed with the Baron of Vornavis to provide troops to protect the city in the face of threats. It was not long after that the specter of such a threat rose.
In the lull after the succession of Emperor Aurmont Anodheles, the Baron of Jantalar sought to quickly and decisively end the war he had begun against Vornavis six years earlier. The pressure was building on Hochstib, as Aurmont had ordered the return of the Mandis Crystals. The Baron had to act and soon. The first feint occurred with an attack on the 12th of Olaesta by the Sea Wolves, who had grown impatient with blockading the port. Payment from the baron had failed to appear and the pirate fleet hoped to find payment from the wealth of Solhaven. It failed miserably. Perhaps hardened by the invasion of the Sheruvians the year before, or perhaps hurting from the apparent weakness at their inability to prevent the death of the Empress, the defenders of Solhaven viciously counter-attacked the fleet of ships that entered their harbor that spring evening. Of the seven ships that entered, three were ultimately sunk and the rest were captured. The pirates who survived the battle fled, their fierce reputation shattered, and their organization all but destroyed. The blockade of Solhaven had ended.
In response, Hochstib decided to flank his enemy and capture the one source of trade and support that Malwind had enjoyed since 5098 I.R., Wehnimer's Landing. His preparations began in the same month as the Sea Wolves' defeat and the battle began for the trading town two months later, led by his herald, Holswort Niffelheim. Over a period of a month, the self-titled Noble Army of Jantalar fought and then captured the town. The occupation, deemed by the Jantalarians as a moment of celebration for the townspeople, was brief however, lasting only as long as the battle to establish it. The move was opposed by the new Sentinel of the North, Earl Jovery. The Earl responded with the dispatch of a combined North Hendoran and Vornavian military force which overwhelmed and drove the Jantalarians back into Occupied Mestanir. This victory would not have been achievable if not for secret sorties led by the Silver Gryphons to destroy Hochstib's Mandis Crystals.
In desperation, Hochstib had turned towards Luukosian rituals to increase the power of the remaining Mandis Crystal, which involved human sacrifice. A by-product had been that the Baron, himself, had been damaged, covered in a crystalline skin. The last sortie to destroy the last crystal discovered him in such a form and before the Baron's honor guard could deny them the opportunity, the party fell upon Hochstib and slew him. The war between Vornavis and Jantalar ended with Lerep Hochstib's death. The barony fell into the possession of Hochstib's sister and while Mestanir and Talador remain occupied, there was peace for the people of Vornavis and Solhaven.
In the same time period that the Jantalarian war machine was brought to a halt, the Second War of the Griffin Sword raged on in the East. The elves, for the first time in centuries, fielded their armies against an enemy intent on the recovery of the third shard rumored to have fallen in the region. Battles were fought and a shard was discovered, which with great irony, was secreted to Solhaven, where it was passed along to one of the high priests of the Dark Alliance. Months followed and stories of the fourth and final piece of the Griffin Sword inexplicably wound themselves around the realm of Vornavis and Solhaven once again.
It became known that around the summer of 5104 I.R., the last shard inadvertently was discovered by dwarven miners in the Dragonspine. From them, the apparent useless metal was passed along until it fell into the hands of a Vornavian merchant. A man who cared more about gold than gods and silver than Solhaven kept the shard as a bargaining piece. He demanded a title, a well-blooded wife, and lands to rule as his own. Through this time, Solhaven and Vornavis underwent the fires of Lornon and suffered depravity after depravity with the passing of the months. First, there was Zerroth, who re-emerged from a supposed death as a monstrous beast of fire and fury. His armies laid siege to Solhaven, but her defenders overcame his strength. Then there came the Windwalker Eryael who had given his heart to Mularos.
Fairer than most women with a heritage in the East, Eryael perpetrated perhaps the most gruesome and terrible crimes against the people of Solhaven and Vornavis. Description cannot give a faithful representation of the obscenity this avatar created from the flesh and blood of men, women, and children. Little can be said that does not sound of origin in the nightmares of men, but that Eryael was defeated at last by a great company of men and women of the races of Elanith. By the power of the blind prophet Ulstram, they entered the Windwalker's mind and were it not the failing of the few to remain pure would have left Eryael dead that night. Instead, Eryael was sent into a deep everlasting sleep, unbroken until later unfortunate events. Behind Eryael there followed the Avatar of Luukos, Morvule.
His name is now writ across the breadth of Solhaven and Vornavis, in its cindered stones and the many gravestones that mourn children passed. Under Morvule's clawed hand, Solhaven fell to flames, despite the most valiant efforts of its defenders. In his greatest atrocity, the children of Solhaven and Vornavis were slain and raised again as an unholy army of the undead. It was this loss of a generation that finally convinced the merchant to pass the shard on to the allies of Liabo. The shard in hand, Ulstram forged a new sword with which he sought to defeat Morvule in a duel in the sky. Fate was not with the prophet of Lorminstra that night and Ulstram was struck down. As he fell, a great castle of darkness then appeared in the sky above Elanith, and for a precipitous moment, the world itself was threatened. Lo was night upon the land and Nighthaven came once again upon the people of Solhaven under the rule of Draezir.
The races of Elanith, however, had not forsaken their gods, nor had the Liabo forsaken them. To them, there came an angel of Gosaena, Sylvirria Azarielle, who claimed eternity itself as her domain. From the past, she came to right a wrong and offered unto the defenders a scythe of power. Then to the dark castle they ventured, carried aloft by the airship of the Illistimi Maluverre. Through various hallways, the brave and bold ventured and defeated the avatars who had for so many years plagued Elanthia, resurrected by the power of the Lornon victory. It was then that Morfell, the great betrayer of Lorminstra, came before them, and in hand the re-forged Griffin Sword. It was not enough against the weapon of forever and once and for all, the sword was destroyed. Balance was once more established, Lornon defeated, and all became right in the land of the many races.
Today, Solhaven and Vornavis remain the two cities by the sea. Their importance, despite the death and destruction experienced over the last decade, has not dwindled, but grown within the Turamzzyrian Empire. Bitter memories remain of those who had allied with the Lornon and the dark temples nestled beneath the streets of the bayside town. The two cities concerned more with healing their wounds has yet to seek address against those who sought earnestly the death of the Swan Guard and the destruction of the homes of so many. It is a turbulent time in Elanthia. A time of change and turmoil, where one born today may well have a greater chance of finding immortality in song and tale than any other since the days of the Drakes. Let the lobsters run, the North Market flow, and may the many and the more find yet a Haven and a home.
This lore document was written by GM Scribes