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Alternate setting for Ierendi v2.0

by Sharon Dornhoff

As yet another sideline to my ongoing Hollow Moon speculations, I'm pleased to announce that I may have done the impossible: I've come up with a viable alternate history for that most-frivolously-designed of all Gazetteer nations, Ierendi. One that actually fits into the KW's European-style setting -- unlike the implausible Hawai'i motif which Gaz4 gave it, which is thousands of miles and a few tech-levels out of place -- and meshes with what's known about the wider history of the region. Wonder of wonders, it might even (gasp) make some sense!

Yes, having a land of volcanic, tropical islands off the coast of the temperate-zone Known World isn't very logical. Yes, it's ridiculous to claim a nation of Stone Age Makai could remain culturally untouched by the outside world for two-and-a-half millennia, temporary Nithian depredations notwithstanding. And yes, running a whole island-chain as a laid-back tourist trap seems pretty silly ... especially given that every other offshore island in the Sea of Dread has been gobbled up and exploited by land-hungry Minrothaddan or Thyatian colonists. (And I don't know if anyone else has noticed this ... but you just can't SAY "Ierendi" in Hawai'ian: it's got an "r" and a "d" in it!)

But what if there's a whole epoch of Ierendian history, which never showed up in the Gaz4 vacation brochure...? History, that shows how Ierendi's veneer as a "pristine island paradise" is merely a tourist-pandering whitewash...? What if the roots of the Ierendi isles aren't in Oahu or the Big Island, but in the KW's grand and sometimes-sinister cultures of the past -- Taymora, Nithia, and the Traldar -- which would make these islands, not a displaced Hawaii, but Mystara's version of the REAL European island tourist-venues: the historic (and much more dungeon-friendly) Greek Isles of the Aegean Sea...?

Granted, some folks may like having Hawaii in their campaigns. Some might even like having Ricardo Montalban and Burt Reynolds there, as cameos (Immortals know why... ugh!). But for a totally new, totally non-canon spin on Ierendi, here's my version of how its history COULD have happened:

2500 BC: The Taymora human civilisation arises on Brun's southern coast. Its culture resembles that of Babylon, and is dominated by powerful nosferatu monarchs. As necromancers of great power, they hoard the corpses of their subjects as other leaders might hoard weapons; one such corpse-barracks is established on the coastline, at an upland site which will one day become Elegy Island. (from Mystaros' Taymora, modified)

2400 BC: One of the Taymoran nosferatu learns of a family of hereditary human albinos, living among his subjects. Intrigued by their ghostly appearance, he conscripts them as palace slaves, and soon finds that their light-sensitive pink eyes are better-adapted to serve, in his dim-lit halls*, than other humans'. He interbreeds his pale servants with normal slaves, discovering that their condition is a dominant trait which is passed on to all their children. (new)

(* - IRL albinism doesn't really work like this; if anything, albino humans tend to have eyesight which is weaker than average. However, this is a mutation induced by residual fallout from the GRoF, and isn't necessarily the same thing as clinical albinism in the real world.)

2200 BC: The albinoid slave-clan has grown much larger, thanks to Taymoran monarchs' eagerness to possess such "fashionable" and keen-eyed palace attendants. Their superior night-vision, and inability to walk in daylight without suffering severe sunburns -- although a mundane genetic trait -- are viewed as a mark of undeath by other humans in their culture. Ostracised by their fellow humans and treated as mere cattle (albeit prize cattle) by their masters, the pigmentless slaves are tolerated only by the few Aquarendi who visit Taymoran ports for trade; in deference to the elves' tolerance, they begin calling themselves by the aquatic elven name of "albarendi", meaning 'white ones'. (new)

1750 BC: Devastating earthquakes destroy the Taymoran culture and shatter the coastline, stranding humans and Malpheggi lizard men on large offshore islands. Surviving nosferatu abandon the region, as do the 'normal' Taymoran humans. The albarendi are left behind by their untrusting fellows, to fend for themselves. There are NO MAKAI in the area, at this time; rather, the centre of Makai culture is hundreds of miles away, on the lesser islands of the eastern Thanegioth Archipelago. (HW boxed set, modified)

1700 BC: The albarendi have established modest communities on the largest surviving island, fishing for a living and devising new building techniques to construct homes out of sand. They have occasional trade relations with the lizard men, but no formal government beyond village elders. Because the islands' two species, reptilian and human, are active at different times -- one by day and the other by night -- the Malpheggi and albarendi cultures seldom come into conflict. (new)

1650 BC: More earthquakes break up the islands into the modern 10 Ierendi isles. Now totally cut off by the sea, the corpse-barracks on Elegy Island is shunned by the albarendi. (HW boxed set, expanded)

Another strange island also forms at this time, seeming to rise out of the sea fully-formed and vegetated. Explorers find this mysterious isle to be home to pure white birds and apes. The albarendi naturally take the animals' coloration -- so much like their own! -- for an omen that the creatures are sacred to their own people, so protecting these beasts from harm becomes a tenet of the local religion. (Gaz4, modified)

1400 BC: The Traldar culture arises in present-day Karameikos. Aggressive pirates and explorers, they raid surrounding nations, including the western islands' albarendi. They drive the eerie 'white ones' from Safari Island and several of the smaller isles, establishing colonies there (and beginning the M-Aegean phase of Ierendi history). Small walled cities are built to keep out the hostile Malpheggi, who continue to harass the Traldar for many years; Traldar pottery, metalwork, and architecture all leave their mark on the eastern islands, while the albarendi migrate to the safety of Ierendi Island. (new)

Large numbers of olive trees are planted on the lowland isles by the Traldar, giving rise to an oil trade for which the Ierendi of today is still known. Traldar ships, sailing to deliver loads of olive oil and other trade goods, occasionally sink, scattering amphoras and precious cultural artifacts upon the seabed for future adventurers or merrow to recover. (new)

1300 BC: Relations between the albarendi and the newcomers have settled down, now that the Traldar finally realise the albinos are humans and not some sort of dead-white, night-prowling ghost. The two cultures trade and exchange ideas with one another. The Traldar tradition of hero-worship is picked up by the 'white ones', while the fiery aggressiveness of the immigrants cools down, thanks to the easy living the islands have to offer. The Malpheggi tribes become estranged from the albarendi and now view both human cultures as intruders upon "their" islands, but are too few to attack both the Traldar and albarendi, so withdraw to the interior jungles. (new)

1100 BC: Nithians colonise the Minrothad isles to the east. Because the island-Traldar are sure to fight ferociously to keep their freedom, Minroth deems it unwise to extend his reach too far west, and keeps his followers out of Ierendi. (HW boxed set, expanded)

1000 BC: Gnoll invaders pour into Karameikos and begin assailing the mainland Traldar. Emboldened by their ancestors' success at making the Nithians back off, and no longer hardened to the cruel realities of the warfare their legends glorify, the island Traldar travel in droves to offer their assistance to their distant kin (and key trading partners) ... only to be overwhelmed by gnollish hordes which -- contrary to their overblown folk tales -- really CAN'T be overcome with naught but a keen blade and a bold heart! Survivors return to Ierendi; fearing the gnolls may not stop on the coast, some of them gather their families and join King Milen on the exodus to Davania. (HW boxed set, modified)

With the Traldar warriors of the islands decimated or departed, the albarendi reclaim much of their former territory. Over several generations, intermarriage between the groups allows the 'white ones' to absorb their one-time enemies, their own albinoid traits being dominant over Traldar pigmentation. In the centuries to follow, rising superstition among mainland Traladarans will make it impossible for the now-albino Traldar islanders to rejoin the other branch of Halav's people. (new)

Nithians colonise several Makai-populated islands in the Thanegioth Archipelago. To preserve Makai culture, many intact tribes are sent to the Hollow World; others are subjugated by the Nithians and forced to work (ugh!) for a living, but retain the memories and stories of their carefree existence before the colonisation. (HW boxed set, modified)

680 BC: Turned to evil by the corrupting influence of Thanatos, the Nithian Pharaoh orders his armies to seize back the breakaway colonies of Minrothad ... and Ierendi too, while they're at it! The Imperial forces which arrive soon claim the coastlines; however, they aren't very effective in the larger islands' dense jungles, where the dimness gives the night-sighted albinos an advantage. The resulting struggle between albarendi and invader lasts for decades, and leaves many old Traldar cities and albarendi sand-villages in ruins from Nithian troops' occupation, Nithian mages' spell-practice (many walls destroyed or buildings buried), and overall neglect. Tide-washed sands and volcanic ash will eventually conceal many of these desolated communities, but a few remain exposed on Ierendi beaches and bluffs for hundreds of years, even into the Gazetteer era.(new)

Unbeknownst to anyone, the Malpheggi lizard men -- who are content to sit back and watch the Nithians and albarendi/Traldar kill each other, or to hire out as mercenaries for one side or the other as opportunities arise -- pick up a parasitic infestation from the Pharaoh's troops. A nuisance to humans, this plague will eventually prove unstoppable, and deadly, among the reptilians. (HW boxed set, modified)

Realising that the corrupted Nithians won't be content with leaving the western islands' 'white ones' alone, as the Traldar did, the Immortals transport several villages of albarendi to the Hollow Moon, where their unusual culture can be preserved. They are placed on the Haemus Isles of the Great Spindrift Sea, but soon spread out to populate other lands; nocturnal humans being so rare, they are the first human culture ever to arrive in the setting. (new for the HM ... and now you all know why I was thinking about this stuff! ;-D)

651 BC: The Nithian forces finally succeed in suppressing the last pockets of albarendi resistance. Generations of oppression follow for the albarendi, as brutal Nithian death-priests arrive to investigate Elegy Island's ruins, and many islanders are carted off as "freaks" for Pharaoh's private sideshows. The albino population rapidly declines, until only a few thousand remain by the end of the Nithians' reign. (new)

634 BC: Priests of Orisis -- driven into hiding by the Pharaoh's conversion to Entropy -- learn of the Thanatos-cult's interest in Elegy Island, and fear what horrors such legions of animated dead might be capable of if aroused. Smuggled onto the islands by defiant albarendi, they successfully foil the death cultists' efforts to raise up the ancient Taymoran dead as an army of Entropy. They mark the island with the Great Seal of Orisis, the better to bind its dead at their rest. Because of this heroic act, and their sacred duty to preserve the Seal, the cult of Orisis is later allowed to survive in Ierendi -- albeit without much of a history -- by the Immortals, even after all other traces of Nithia have been destroyed or erased by the Spell of Oblivion. (new)

500 BC: As part of their efforts to destroy Nithia, the Immortals send messages to the last surviving Malpheggi shamans, telling them it was Nithians who brought the plague, which is killing their race, to Ierendi. In a dying act of vengeance, the lizard-folk simultaneously assault every outpost of Nithians on the islands, wiping them out. (HW boxed set)

The grateful albarendi reclaim their freedom and join in the fighting, but can no more prevent their Malpheggi saviours from succumbing to the disease than the reptilians' own shamans could. (HW boxed set, modified)

Leery of the Malpheggi plague (which they don't realise is harmless to humans), and worried that slain Nithians may return in undeath (they'd worshipped Thanatos, after all!), the albarendi move the rebellion's fallen to Elegy Island, where infection won't spread and the GSoO can keep any potential undead in check. From this point on, all of Ierendi's dead will routinely be laid to rest on that island. (new)

post-500 BC: Although free, the 'white ones' have lost so many of their number and so much of their spirit to the Nithians that they regress to a village existence, forsaking much of the knowledge and sophistication brought to them by the Traldar. They soon become isolationists and "wreckers", who discourage ships from ever approaching their shores by luring those which come too close onto deadly coral reefs with false beacons in the night. Sketchy reports from sailors, of glimpsed ghost-white figures and an island of human bones (Elegy), convince the Traladarans and other superstitious peoples that Ierendi is haunted or cursed. Sceptical would-be explorers' divinations concerning this alleged realm of undead seem to confirm this -- Elegy really IS full of undead, though the fact that the Great Seal confines such creatures is never enquired about -- and no serious efforts to colonise the "islands of ghosts" are made by the peoples of this era. (new)

230 BC: A new outbreak of warfare between tritons (ancestors of the Undersea tritons) and devilfish, in waters near the Thanegioth Archipelago, make fishing in the region extremely dangerous for the "civilised" Makai (who were freed by Nithia's disappearance, also). Recalling tales of other islands to the north, which they've heard from tribes which emigrated from there to the Island of Dread*, they begin searching for a new place to live. Finding Ierendi to be sparsely populated, and similar to their homeland, they migrate en masse from Thanegioth -- which is becoming too warlike for them, in any case -- to the albarendi islands. (new)

Because the Makai are nothing like the dreaded outsiders the albarendi have feared, and their tools and weapons are obviously too meagre to pose a threat, the newcomers rapidly ingratiate themselves with the 'white ones', picking up some of their language and religion. The Makai then resume the kind of idyllic existence their ancestors led nearly a thousand years in the past. (new)

(* - These could be the Pearl Islands, if you think the Thanegioth natives from X1 are Tanagoro-descended, or a garbled description of the mainland if you consider them Neathar or Oltec. The Makai themselves, being dark-skinned, are probably NOT pure ethnic Neathar, despite the HW boxed set's having grouped them together with the Neathar tribes; given their culture and happy-go-lucky attitude, they might be more remnants of the original Oltecs ... or perhaps they're a cross between Neathar and the as-yet-unknown ancestors of the Karimari!)

Despite surface appearances, the Makai of this era are a LOT more sophisticated than those of the Hollow World or the pre-conquest Thanegioth Archipelago. They have a king, unlike HW Makai (but like the IRL native Hawai'ians), and they are also quite familiar with metalwork and can construct full-sized sailing ships. They don't let themselves forget about their old Nithian masters' technology; they simply opt not to employ it, in their daily lives. Thus, while they sometimes look like easy pickings to foreign powers, they are able to retain their independence for nearly eight centuries. (new)

Reinvigorated by the Makai and their contagious cheerfulness, the albarendi begin rebuilding their society. Since they are now so few, they congregate on one island (the one they're still on in AC 1000... although I can't recall which one that is, dang it!), leaving the rest of Ierendi to the newcomers. Although they will interact peacefully with the Makai and eventually with other outsiders, a habitual timidity thereafter keeps most albarendi on their single island: they never again build up a large population. (new)

500 AC: Explorers from Marilenev, guided westward by ancient tales of the island Traldar, investigate the rumoured 'hauntings' of Ierendi and discover only the friendly Makai, plus a small number of ultra-pale humans who definitely aren't ghosts. Commerce between the islands and mainland begins anew, and a few Traladarans settle on Safari Island. They recruit albarendi historians, to show them the ruins of the old Traldar cities. (new)

570 AC: Halflings settle several of the Ierendi islands after establishing peaceful ties with the Makai, and open shipbuilding industries there. The "modern" history of Ierendi begins. (HW boxed set)

586 AC: The Thyatians, in need of funds and resources, conquer the Ierendi islands and seize the shipbuilding facilities. Many of the forces which take part in the conquest are followers of Vanya, and -- because Traldar and Milenians seem too alike for comfort, and Vanya despises the latter -- are contemptuous of the stories which Traladarans in their grandfathers' time had spouted about "glorious Traldar ruins from ancient days". Upon discovering there really ARE such ruins on Safari Island and others, the Thyatians pig-headedly suppress the evidence, denouncing the very idea that anyone but Makai had ever lived in Ierendi. (new)

602 AC: Mad Creeg is crowned king of Ierendi after leading a rebellion of prisoners against the Thyatians. Because the islands' independence is precarious at first -- if the rebellion isn't rubbed in its face, Thyatis will write off the loss, but to cause it too much embarrassment would incite an invasion -- he humours the touchy superpower in the years to come, by keeping any archaeological research on Safari Island very, very quiet. (new)

775 AC: Ierendi's king and Council of Lords is ousted after a popular uprising. Based on ancient Traldar ideals passed down by the albarendi, the people of the islands establish a democracy in which the king is elected to office. Years later, the same ideals motivate the establishment of a Council of Citizens, and Traldar-style hero-worship plays a big part in the decision to make Ierendi's crown available to adventurers. (Gaz4, modified)

927 AC: The Great Merger. Darokin's merchant clans join together, re-forming Darokin as a powerful, unified nation. With this change, the cost of shipping goods to Sind via Darokinian caravans drops, and Ierendi's market for trade shrinks dramatically. The islands soon enter an economic slump. (new)

935 AC: To offset the lost trade, Ierendi begins touting itself as the premiere tourist destination in the Known World. The darker facts of the islands' past -- the Makai flight from a war-torn Thanegioth, the Malpheggi plague, Nithian atrocities and the Taymoran corpse-stockpiles on Elegy Island, among others -- are written out of Ierendian history books, in favour of a tempting fiction of peaceful and pristine beaches, quaint aboriginal (yeah, right!) customs, and a dash of piratical romance. In lieu of archeo-tourism, which would alienate too many potential Thyatian customers, one of the islands' more eccentric mages proposes using the ruins of Safari Island as the setting for phoney "adventure tours", the better to hide telltale evidence of Traldar greatness in plain sight. ("What? You say you found a two thousand year old pot with 'The Song Of Halav' depicted on it...? Oh, grow up -- it's just a prop!") Even the crown is made into just another bit of tourist-bait, as Ierendians commence to lie through their teeth, ingratiate themselves with wannabee "adventurers", and fleece the rest of the world for all it's worth. (Okay, so maybe they're not TOTALLY unlike the HW Makai.... ;-D)

So there's one possible way to turn Ierendi from Hawaii to the Greek Isles. Suddenly, we've got genuine ruins hiding under the facades on Safari Island, there's links between Elegy Island and the old empires of the post-Blackmoor era, and I've even got some nocturnal humans for the Hollow Moon! All it asks, is that we assume that Gaz4 is really more of a player's aid than one for DMs -- that it's as much of a B.S. "tourist brochure" as the cover blurbs make it sound like -- and its "true history" is about as accurate as the one shadow elven parents tell their kids. Given that the Ierendi gazetteer was written years before we even knew there'd BEEN a Taymora, or that Nithia had had a colony on the islands, or even that the Traldar were M-Greek (!), it's probably not out of line in the least, to revamp the islands' history in light of these revelations. Certainly, it's a lot less anachronistic to have the Sea of Dread resemble the Aegean than the central Pacific, and the tourist-trap motif is just as appropriate for Santorini as Maui anyway.

And besides ... anything's gotta be better than Hervé Villechez as a halfling. ;-)