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The History of Ierendi and Minrothad part 3by Simone Neri from Threshold Magazine issue 5
The History of Ierendi and Minrothad
Part 3: The Age of Pirate Kings and the Birth of the Minrothad Guilds
by Simone Neri (Zendrolion)
In the two previous issues of “Threshold” we have delved into the most ancient history of the archipelagos known as Ierendi and Minrothad, in the northern Sea of Dread. We have learned about the islands’ first inhabitants, ancient civilizations, and native cultures, following their history until well after the dawn of the age spawned by the coronation of the first Emperor of Thyatis, when both archipelagos fell under the control of the Thyatian Empire, and up to the 6th century AC, when they managed - albeit in different ways - to acquire their own independence as sovereign nations. In this third installment of “The History of Ierendi and Minrothad” we will learn about the 7th and 8th centuries AC, which saw the beginnings and development of the Kingdom of Ierendi, and the formation of the Minrothad Guilds.
The Seventh and Eighth Centuries
The 7th and 8th centuries were a time of consolidation and internal transformation for the Colony Islands’ trading combine, and for the newly-created Kingdom of Ierendi. Both areas experimented with a change of political structure or a reshuffling of social classes to power; in the Ierendian case amidst serious internal turmoil and in both cases with results which produced increased internal stability.
With the Ierendian rebellion and internal upheaval in the Five Shires, Thyatian political and trading power - despite various failed efforts to reestablish it - waned from this part of the Known World, this allowed the rise of the two new trading and maritime-oriented powers of Minrothad and Ierendi, which imposed themselves over competitors both old and new - and each other. Their rivalry, from this age onward, will dominate trade and international relations in the Sea of Dread for the time to come.
The Ierendi Islands during the Age of the Pirate Kings
The birth of the Kingdom of Ierendi under the rule of Mad Creeg marks in the Ierendian history the beginning of the so-called “Age of the Pirate Kings” (AC 602-735). In this age Ierendi was ruled by kings who were directly descended from the kingdom’s founder, the former pirate Mad Creeg; they also continued the tradition of their ancestor by sponsoring piratical activities and even becoming pirates themselves on occasion. These kings, ruling from Ierendi town, held theoretically absolute power, but were actually advised by a number of the most influential and powerful pirate captains, plantation owners, and financial stakeholders. Kings have always needed to satisfy and take into account their interests because of the weak power of the crown which depended on their support. After a few decades, it became evident that Ierendi was a kingdom in name only, as the country was de facto ruled as an oligarchy.
During this time the kingdom evolved from an anarchic, barely-controlled island domain, considered a hostile haven for criminals and cast-offs by other countries, to a more stable state with a growing bureaucracy, a reputation for sea fighting prowess, and as a more-or-less reliable trade partner. Only the human government of Minrothad recognized Mad Creeg’s title and kingdom as early as AC 603. During the initial stages of its existence, the kingdom experienced various attempts by mainland powers - the Thyatian Empire and the Five Shires - to bring it under their influence again. Unexpectedly, Ierendi’s miscellaneous ruling class managed to humble the ambitions of those foreign powers and to bring an independent Ierendi into the modern age.
From an economic and social point of view, the independence did not alter the structure of the archipelago that much. Most plantation- and mine-owners of Thyatian origin who had become rich through exploitation of convict labor fled to Thyatis during the rebellion; their lands and properties went in the hands of the allies of Mad Creeg and the rebellion leaders who had helped the former pirate and supported his rise to kingship. Thus a new landowner generation, mostly made up of former prisoners, was born.
Pirates had helped the success of the rebellion, and many others, flocked in great number to the newly-born kingdom during the reign of Mad Creeg; most of them continued to practice piracy - sometimes even against their compatriots’ ships - but some started to implement their piracy profits with regular trade activities.
The shipbuilding facilities which had produced so many ships for the Thyatian navy in the last years slowly fell into disuse, after an attempt by Mad Creeg to keep them working. The lack of Thyatian shipwrights and the common view of the facilities as symbols of Thyatian oppression made their activity decrease, and they reverted to the status of small shipyards, mostly manned by halflings, as they had been in the first years of their existence.
It’s worth noting that, contrary to what one may think, the Kingdom of Ierendi continued to use slave labor. Mad Creeg had freed all the prisoners and convicts kept in the islands, and had formally declared illegal the enslavement of the archipelago’s natives and the keeping of anyone as a servant against the latter’s will. But the real situation was very different. Work on plantations was still done by slaves, captured from nearby vulnerable coastal areas like those of the Atruaghin Lands, the Barren Plain or the Serpent Peninsula. Often pirates brought slaves bought from Thyatian markets to the islands, and sold them to plantation owners - while the most cruel and daring pirates even raided the most isolated reaches of Ierendi Islands’ own coasts to capture Makai and sell them to landowners with properties far away from the capital. As slave labor was not enough, plantation owners began to hire Makai labor, binding them with disadvantageous contracts, paying them in kind, and thus submitting them to a sort of indentured servitude.
Still, during the new regime, the Makai usually fared better than earlier; slavery and pirate raids still troubled them sometimes, but not anywhere near the way they had done in the previous centuries. As long as a Makai lived within his or her clan or tribe, things went on more or less well: he needed not fear to be dispossessed by the Thyatians and he lived in a realm whose laws allowed him to mostly do as he pleased. If a Makai - as many did after the rebellion - went to search employment in a plantation or in one of the growing towns, his or her life could suddenly experiment an unpleasing turn, as Makai both in the plantations and in the urban communities ended up doing the most humiliating, wearing, and poorly-paid tasks. So, in those first centuries of the Kingdom of Ierendi, the Makai continued to be perceived as backward, second-class subjects by other Ierendian inhabitants. This unavoidably sparked some conflicts between “settlers” and Makai.
As for the other minority, the halflings, they became one of the most economically active factions of the new kingdom, pursuing trade, piracy, crafting, and even becoming landowners. Most of the halflings who felt some degree of affection to the Shires had left on the eve of Thyatian conquest or immediately afterwards. Those who had stayed were mostly independent-minded halflings (and often former criminals in the Shires) who had no wish to fall again under the rule of the Five Shires, so they supported and favored the development of an independent Kingdom of Ierendi, even when this risked to bring the realm into conflict with the Hin motherland.
The Reign of Mad Creeg
Mad Creeg’s long reign (AC 602-637) was a time of consolidation for his newly-born kingdom. The intelligence and charisma of the former rebellion leader helped to mediate between the various factions - pirate captains, landowners, Makai tribes, merchants, halfling clans, and so on - which threatened to rip the country apart without the immediate external threat of the Thyatian Empire. Many of the leaders of the various factions, in fact, were bound to Mad Creeg one way or another due to events during the rebellion; most of them were not willing to go against him, and these individuals formed an effective power block which helped to keep united such a heterogeneous country as Ierendi.
Nevertheless, the king had also to resort to harsher ways when his mediation skills and sheer persuasion or blackmail did not work. In a couple of cases Mad Creeg showed no mercy toward his supposed friends or allies when they turned against him. This happened in AC 607 with the execution of Ortwin Silverhook, his former fellow prisoner and mate during their days as pirates, who had ignored the king’s order to avoid attacks against the Minrothaddan lands; Also in AC 621, when the Makaka and Aoli tribes of Makai rebelled against the way their kinsmen were treated in the kingdom, the unrest was quelled violently.
In international relations, Mad Creeg had to face the wish of the Five Shires to win their former cast-off colonies back for themselves. Many halflings who had contributed to the improvement of these colonies now lived in the Shires, and even if the new regime which had taken power after the High Sheriff’s ousting was a more liberal one, it nevertheless considered those colonies as rightful Hin possessions. Mad Creeg had no intention of giving those settlements back - just because this would have meant falling under the influence of the Five Shires - and rejected all offers from the Shires aimed at buying them back. He also felt strong thanks to the support of most Ierendian Hins, mostly former criminals and cast-offs much more inclined to live under a freeway realm such as Mad Creeg’s Ierendi than under the Shires. On the other hand, the Five Shires refused to recognize Creeg’s royal title unless the former halfling colonies were given back to the Hins.
After some years of failed diplomatic negotiations, the Shires resorted to force to win back the colonies, and war was declared in AC 606. Cleverly, Mad Creeg negotiated the financial support of the humans of Trader’s Isle in exchange for the suspension of pirate activity in their waters and the allowance to pass undisturbed through the archipelago toward western markets. The war lasted a couple of years until AC 608, and was fought mostly between the two nations’ pirates; land actions were limited to the brief Hin occupation of Ierendi town (AC 607), to the Hin invasion of Fletcher Island and to the subsequent Battle of Natula which liberated it (AC 606). On the other hand, sea raids on coastal communities were plentiful, in particular on the Shire Coast. The Five Shires’ government, which had hoped for an uprising of Ierendi’s halfling population in its favor, found itself fighting a war which was unpopular at home (many Shires’ halflings felt sympathies for the Ierendian peoples who had fought the Thyatians) and its difficulties increased when it had to face an internal uprising of the landowners faction who wanted to restore the previous regime in the Shires. In AC 608 the Shires agreed to a treaty which left Ierendi in possession of the colonies in exchange for a monetary compensation to be paid during the next twenty years. Also, the Shires had to recognize the Kingdom of Ierendi as a sovereign nation. Nevertheless, relations between the Shires and Ierendi continued to be tense during the reign of Mad Creeg, and clashes between the two nations’ pirates continued at sea for the time being.
Another very important event happened during the reign of Mad Creeg, that was the settlement of a group of Alphatian wizards on Honor Island. In AC 629, a group of sorcerers fleeing from the Alphatian Empire1 came to Ierendi and asked the king permission to settle an uninhabited island dominated by an active volcano which were the remains of the ancient Kikianu Caldera’s cone; only a few goblin clans roamed that barren rocky isle in the middle of the archipelago. Mad Creeg struck a deal with these mages, allowing them to settle what would become Honor Island in exchange to their help in defending the archipelago from outside attacks; Creeg also consented to issue a prohibition for anyone else to land on the island without the mages’ permission. Thus the mages settled Honor Island, ruthlessly enslaved the goblins, built their port of Filtot and soon earned a reputation of absolute secrecy and mystery, executing and killing anyone violating their privacy. No one, not even the king, ever knew what the sorcerers were doing on the island, nor why they wished to settle on that undesirable island, but the crown was intrigued by the magic items the Alphatian mages brought as gifts. In the course of the years, the secretive wizards of Honor Island became the subject of local rumors, which began to speculate about what kind of horrible experiments and forbidden rituals were taking place in their unaccessible haven.
The Matrongle Dynasty Begins
Mad Creeg led a wild private life, enjoying the company of a lot of concubines and at least three of them for a certain time could be considered his “wives”, even if he did never formally marry. The first of them, a Makai girl named Kaikala, had given birth to a son called Black Toes (Manahiwa in Makai tongue) in AC 609. Creeg reveled in the infighting caused by the presence of multiple concubines and children, and enjoyed the way all of them struggled to get his favor. Around AC 630, however, realizing the kingdom needed an able leadership after his demise, he chose to raise Black Toes as his successor on the throne; in the following years, besides teaching Black Toes the ways of ruling, Mad Creeg ensured that the most influential peoples of Ierendi would transfer their fealty from him to his successor once he himself would have passed away.
Mad Creeg ultimately died in AC 637 and Black Toes was hailed as the second King of Ierendi, at the age of 28. The new king was quite learned, if compared to the rest of Ierendi’s ruling elite, and had a vision of turning the ragtag realm of former criminals born after the rebellion into a modern nation governed by the rule of law. He was also a smart and practical man, however, and realized that trying to force such a change on his subjects would only led to growing tensions, so during his reign he enacted small and gradual reforms with the aim of favoring and benefiting the most modern elements of the Ierendian society, such as honest merchants or landowners who treated the Makai with respect, over pirates and exploiters.
To set a first example of civilized behavior to his subjects, Black Toes decided to formally marry. He chose a native woman of the Flaem Highlands, far to the north, called Kerhy Matrongle. Historians speculate that his choice of Kerhy over other women belonging to influential Ierendian families was influenced by the sorcerers of Honor Island and has something to do with the help they lended to Black Toes later on.2
Black Toes had nevertheless to face opposition from a couple of his siblings who were not willing to see him bypass their right to sit on Ierendi’s throne. Despite Mad Creeg’s best efforts there were factions still interested in setting their own puppet king on the throne. The so-called War of the Siblings (AC 637-639) raged in the archipelago for a couple of years; Thyatian money was behind one faction, while another was directly aided by the Five Shires (to whom cession of half of the former colonies had been offered). Black Toes, however, was able to keep the fealty of the native Makai (thanks to the efforts of his mother), and to get support from the Minrothaddans of Trader’s Isle and, most importantly, from the Alphatian wizards of Honor Island. In AC 639, after the defeat of the Five Shires’ navy in the Battle of Seagull Reefs, he was victorious over the other factions, and again in full control of the kingdom. Internal unrest in the Shires also brought to power a faction which favoured an alliance with the Kingdom of Ierendi, so enmity between the two nations ceased after the War of the Sibling and the Shires never again contested Ierendian sovereignty over the old cast-off colonies.
After the war, a grand crowning ceremony took place in Ierendi in AC 639, in which Black Toes wore the crown of Ierendi together with his wife, whose surname he took as his own, thus setting the start of the Matrongle dynasty.3
As soon as peace was regained, the king began to introduce in his realm what his father had not deemed necessary or had judged untimely for his time: formal institutions and a set of realm-wide laws. His first step toward this goal was to transform the loose assembly of relatives, cronies, allies, and influential individuals who periodically advised the king into a formal council of individuals representing the most important interests in the country or the king’s most valuable and expert advisors. Thus in AC 642 the Council of Lords was born. During Black Toes’ reign the Council was still very much formed by trusted henchmen and faithful captains of the king, but gradually it became more and more the place where the most important families of Ierendi limited and corrected, when necessary, the crown’s policies.
This reform process was halted by one of the most dangerous challenges the Kingdom of Ierendi had faced in its history. After the victory of Black Toes in the Siblings’ War, Thyatis - which still did not recognize the kingdom as a sovereign nation - had not abandoned hopes to bring Ierendi back under imperial rule, especially after the ascension of a new, young, and aggressive emperor to the Thyatian throne in AC 643. The empire chose not to renew the truce which was in place since the end of the rebellion in AC 602, and hastily prepared a naval expedition to reconquer the archipelago. Minrothaddan money again helped Ierendi to field a sizeable fleet, while the Shires allowed “volunteer” captains (i.e. pirates paid by the Shires’ treasury) to join the battle against Thyatis. However, unknown to the Thyatians, Black Toes could count on a strong ally: the wizards of Honor Island. The mages were true to their vow to help defending Ierendi against foreign powers, and fielded their own war fleet on the side of Black Toes. The Thyatian expedition, which had been hastily-prepared and was poorly-led, penetrated undisturbed into the Ierendian waters before being attacked and utterly defeated in the Battle of Honor (AC 644); later that year, another naval expedition sailed from Thyatis and again this was defeated in the Battle of Utter Strait. The magic of the Honor Island mages was instrumental for the achievement of these victories. The kingdom was safe, the king had earned his own glory fighting at sea, but most importantly the Thyatian government finally agreed to sign a peace treaty with Ierendi in Crossbones (AC 645), recognizing the archipelago as an independent kingdom and the royal title of its kings.
The military success gave Black Toes the support he needed to carry on his reforms. In AC 650 he decreed the opening of a naval school in the capital to train sailors and marines in seamanship and fighting at sea. Then, in AC 653, he issued the so-called Matrongle Code, a set of laws inspired by the juridical traditions of Darokin and Thyatis. The king knew well that it would have taken years to change the wild ways of his Ierendian subjects, but was confident that his code - which regulated succession, inheritance, trials, and taxation - could provide a guideline for the conduct of the future generations. The Code is still considered the foundation of Ierendian law today - even if later lawmakers did not always stand true to the clarity of the Matrongle Code.
The Successors of Black Toes
Black Toes died in AC 663.4 His wife Kerhy - perhaps backed by the mysterious wizards of Honor Island - assumed regency for their son Jan, who took the throne only after his mother’s death in AC 670, when already 32 years old. Black Toes’ successors learnt from him the lesson that Ierendi’s independence depended on the kingdom’s ability to field a powerful fleet, and spent efforts and money to build a sizeable and strong Ierendian navy. Jan, started a program of fleet-building and successfully completed it in AC 681, when the Ierendian navy was deemed capable of defending the archipelago by itself. Besides this, Black Toes’ successors did not follow the same moral principles as their ancestor did: they strongly supported piracy in order to discourage the activity of foreign merchant fleets into Ierendian waters. This, however, brought the kingdom intermittently into naval conflict with neighboring coastal nations, such as the Five Shires, the Minrothaddans of Trader’s Isle, and the Traladaran states. King Jan himself died in AC 684, in one of these sea battles.
Also, the growing size and strength of the Ierendian fleet allowed the crown to offer the services of a part of her navy for hire during conflicts between other sea powers. Alongside piracy, the selling of mercenary services became one of the main sources of profits for the Ierendian treasury. The kings of this age used this as a way to keep balance among the sea nations of the Sea of Dread, lending support under payment to sides whose victory would disadvantage their most dangerous opponents.
During the reign of Queen Halia (AC 684-701), Black Toes’ oldest surviving child, the Ierendian fleet was considered one of the most dangerous and reckless navies of the Sea of Dread, and its captains had a reputation of ruthlessness and bloodthirstiness. In AC 691, Halia reorganized the fleet and renamed it the Royal Navy. In that same year, the wizards of Honor Island and the crown entered into secret negotiations with the Supreme Symposium of Gnomish Syndicates, an underground international organization linking the major gnomish communities in the Known World.5 Their aim was to exchange some magical knowledge of the Honor Island’s mages with techno-magical devices of the gnomes which might be used to improve the power of the Royal Navy. The agreement led to the development and construction of the famous Honor Island’s “fire-ships”, the powerful, fire elemental-driven warships which still today represent the main asset of Ierendi for the kingdom’s supremacy in its territorial waters; their construction was carried on in the sheltered harbor of Filtot, on Honor Island, and the knowledge about the existence of those “fire-ships” did not reach the general public.
The end of the 7th century AC brought also some changes in the international situation. The unification of the Colony Islands into the Minrothad Guilds in the same year, AC 691, worried the kingdom; as the Minrothad confederation consolidated and began challenging Ierendi’s control over the western sea routes. Some years later the Council of Lords persuaded Queen Halia to act ruthlessly in order to halt the strengthening of the eastern neighbor. Thus in AC 700 assassins secretly sent by Queen Halia killed Minrothad’s “Second Uniter”, Gregus Verdier, during a sea voyage, masquerading the whole happening as a sea accident.
But this move had been carried out too late, and did not stop the raise of the Guilds as a trade and naval power. Quite the contrary, Minrothad’s Guildmasters decided to react to Verdier’s assassination through the aggressive pursuit of sea trade within Ierendi’s very own sphere of interest. Also, a third competitor entered the fray; the Thyatian Empire, in fact, having rebuilt its fleet after the defeats suffered in the past century and thanks to a prolonged time of peace with Alphatia on its eastern borders, felt confident enough to try to challenge Minrothad’s rising trade prominence and to cripple Ierendi’s naval power. This threefold struggle sparkled the so-called Corsair Wars in AC 701.
The Birth of the Minrothad Guilds
In the 7th century AC, the prosperity of the Colony Islands’ trading combine further increased, taking advantage of their neutrality in the wars which raged between the two eastern empires of Thyatis and Alphatia, and also managing to keep a low profile in Thyatis’ attempt to keep control over the Ierendi Islands. In fact, the combine’s allies were mostly interested in reducing the empire’s power in the Sea of Dread, and were more than happy to secretly lend some money to Mad Creeg and his rebellion against Thyatis in order to help the western archipelago to free itself from Thyatian rule. That same money would have fueled Black Toes’ hasty construction of a fleet to counter the Thyatian invasion of AC 644. After this defeat, even if Thyatis was still the main naval power of the Sea of Dread, it seemed quite unlikely - barring a decisive military effort - that the empire could restore its political dominance over the two archipelagos. Thus, competition between the two island realms and the empire transferred to the trade field.
A weak and disunited Ierendi was the future the elites of the Colony Islands has envisioned for the western archipelago, but things did not go exactly as they wished. Ierendi became quite stable internally during the second half of the 7th century AC, and the kingdom’s traders and pirates put the other merchant fleets of the Sea of Dread under some pressure - first and foremost the Colony Islands’ one.
Of the Colony Islands under Thyatian control in this age, Terentias fared quite well from an economic point of view, preserving closer ties both to Thyatis and to the other islands of the archipelago. The other two, North Island and the barren Fire Island, had lost any attractiveness for Thyatis since the loss of the Ierendi province, and were left to themselves. The villages in North Island began to rule themselves autonomously after about AC 615, despite the island being still formally part of the Thyatian Empire. In AC 625, a mysterious character known as “Lord Ingram” - a lycanthrope able to change into a monstrous hog - took control of North Island, terrorizing the local villages with the help of dozens of fellow lycanthropes and becoming known as the “Devil Swine”.6 According to lycanthropy scholars, this is the first recorded case of devil swine lycanthropy in the Known World (two years before the strain had been discovered in Alphatia). Lord Ingram ruled North Island for some years, until a Traladaran were-hunter by the name of Viktor Tschorba destroyed him in AC 628.
The Drive Behind the Confederation
Competition from Ierendi was one of the main drives behind the process of political transformation which changed the Colony Islands’ trading combine to a confederation. This political change was being increasingly advocated by the most wealthy and powerful elites of the various islands. These elites were made up by families and clans whose economic interests extended to the activities and the markets of two or more islands, and who wanted to remove any restraint still left to trade between the islands; moreover, they believed that the only effective way to protect the islands against Ierendian pirates and a resurgence of Thyatian power was an united fleet and army for the whole Colony Islands.
These clans and families had become very powerful in the archipelago, and gathered around them a large number of minor client families. This way, they formed true factions which controlled whole areas of political and trading life. Their main instrument of control were the various trade guilds which, through monopoly over a trade area, allowed them to make their sphere of influence nearly impervious to outside interference. Gradually, due to unbeatable competition over trade and prices, most minor families were obliged to ally with one of the most powerful ones. The system slowly increased the oligarchic and plutocratic traits of the Colony Islands’ government.
Initiative toward a political change came from the most conservative and aloof members of the trading combine, that is the wood elves of Alfeisle. While their cousins the water elves had always been an enterprising lot both in trade, exploration, and relations with other cultures, the wood elves had kept quite close to their traditional lifestyle. They had to come to terms with the circumstances of their life on an island, and accept trade with outsiders - something which had led them to establish closer relations with the water elves and welcome individual traders in their lands. But the traditional clannish structure of the wood elven society had been preserved through the years and, despite some periods of union toward a common goal (such as the foundation of Verdon was), for most of the time each clanmaster ruled his or her clan without any special consideration of the wood elves as a whole.
The increase of trade in wood elves’ products (which the other Colony Islands’ peoples needed for their ships), however, forced a number of change-oriented wood elven clanmasters to establish common trade policies to organize production and selling of their crafts and goods. Thus, the clanmasters’ interest in trade and in other islands’ activities increased, and they were inevitably drawn into the political field - but they did not fare well in this field because no strong alliance or united political faction backed the various clanmasters’ requests or proposals.
The Career of Gregus Verdier
So, even among the conservative wood elves, a faction pushing to establish closer ties among the various clans emerged. One of the leading personalities of this faction was a young and progressive wood elf Gregus Verdier,7 who belonged to the oldest and most influential clan. Gregus had spent part of his youth among the water elves, had been from time to time on the other islands, and had visited the mainland coastal countries. Taking the reins of the family timber and woodworking activities, he established ties with many halfling and human families of Open Isle and Trader’s Isle, becoming a sort of unofficial representative of the wood elves’ clans at the meeting with other members of the combine.
Gregus was persuaded of the necessity of a closer union not only among the wood elves’ clans, but among the other members of the combine as well. In AC 646, he scored his first great political success when he managed to convince other wood elf clanmasters to approve his idea to establish joint government institutions for the whole wood elven clans, to support with much more effectiveness the wood elves’ trading and political interests.
From AC 660 on, Gregus began to cultivate friendships and alliances with individuals and families who advocated the closer union among the Minrothaddans, the halflings, and the water elves. Actually he was edifying the political foundations for his subsequent aims, gathering enough support to win his battle against the families who did not understand that the future of the Colony Islands depended on their unification as confederates. The increasing aggressivity of Ierendian pirates under the successors of King Black Toes, and the rebuilding of the Thyatian sea power were instrumental in bringing to his faction the additional support he needed.
At the end of AC 690, the time was ripe for his goal to come true. Gregus, who by now had become the most influential individual in the Colony Islands, summoned a meeting of the representatives of the various islands’ governments in the city of Minrothad, on Trader’s Isle. After much debate, the confederation reform proposed by Gregus was approved and it became effective in AC 691.
The Reform of the “Second Uniter”
The reform turned the trading combine into a true confederation. Each of its members - the halflings of Open Isle, the human domains in Trader’s Isle (plus the attached, sparsely populated Fortress and Blackrock islands), the water elves, and the wood elves - was allowed to rule itself in internal affairs as he saw fit. But the reform also established a confederated government which ruled over inter-islands relations and affairs, international policies, and general trade policies. Basically, the whole system was governed like a network of main and associated guilds.
The main body of the confederated government, the General Council of Guilds and Estates, was seated in the city of Minrothad, which substituted the existing General Estates of the Minrothaddan government.8 The General Council was an assembly formed by representatives of the various political (domains, clans, cities and towns) and economic entities (guilds) which gathered in the capital two times a year and held legislative power and also the right to decide on most important issues for the confederation - peace and war, general taxation, and so on.
Day-to-day executive power was however put in the hands of a smaller assembly, called the “Council of Dread” (from the old name of Trader’s Isle in elven tongue). The Council of Dread was formed by the guildmasters of the four Family Guilds, which represented the point of the whole pyramid of the government. Each Family Guild was both the leading family of an ethnic group or island from a political point of view, and had monopoly over one or more trade areas through control of a number of lesser guilds. The four leading families - the Minrothaddan Corser, the water elf Meditor, the wood elf Verdier, and the halfling Quickhand - were thus both the head of the most powerful guild networks and the political leaders of the confederation.
As lesser interests and families - represented at the General Council - were generally tied to or allied with one of these families, chance of conflicts between the General Council and the Council of Dread were minimal. Also, the General Council still preserved enough power to represent the true ruling body of the government, so most political debate went on there and the assembly was in no way overshadowed by the Council of Dread.
Gregus’ reform also instituted the need for a confederation-financed navy and army, which would replace the old, ineffective local armies and fleets, while the islands’ governments had the duty to provide local peace and security through town watches and police forces.
The reform marked the birth of the Minrothad Guilds, the new name of the confederation which put an emphasis on the nation’s trading nature. Gregus was hailed as the one who had carried on the unification process started by Hadric Corser back in AC 488, and given the honorific title of “Second Uniter”.
The Minrothad Guilds’ raise, however, worried the nearby Ierendian crown, who feared that an united confederation in the Colony Islands might successfully challenge Ierendian primacy in this region of the Sea of Dread. Before allowing the work of the “Second Uniter” to consolidate, Queen Halia of Ierendi decided to have Gregus Verdier assassinated. The Ierendian agents carried out their duty in AC 700, when Verdier disappeared during a sea voyage - they were able to masquerade the happening as an incident at sea, but the shrewd guildmasters of Minrothad secretly managed to learn who the true mandator of the assassination was. From that moment, the guildmasters knew that their chance to see the confederation prosper relied on how much they could challenge Ierendi’s aggressiveness and ruthlessness.
The Corsair Wars (701-726)
The Corsair Wars was a three-decades time of endemic privateer and pirate activity at sea, mostly carried out by the Kingdom of Ierendi, the Minrothad Guilds, and the Thyatian Empire.9 The conflict represented an increase in piratical activity, now supported by those realms’ navies, in regard to the preceding two decades which had seen the raise of Ierendian pirate actions. Even if there were no formal declarations of war, the three powers were locked into an unofficial struggle to achieve dominance or preserve their power in the northern region of the Sea of Dread. Other minor powers, such as the Five Shires, took occasionally part to the wars. In general, these thirty years were an unsafe and dangerous time for all sea trade routes crossing the waters around the northern archipelagos of the Sea of Dread.
A Threefold Conflict on the Sea Begins
The conflict sparkled in AC 701 when a well-escorted Minrothaddan merchant convoy was attacked by a flotilla of Ierendian privateers east of Safari Island; the attack was repelled with heavy losses, and this convinced the Ierendian government that a stronger stance would be needed to restrain the Guilds’ trade. The Guildmasters of Minrothad, on the other hand, had already begun to man their ships with elven wizards, and to accompany their merchant ships with warships. From this point on, war on the sea escalated.
The Thyatian Empire entered the fray dispatching its own privateer fleets, which most often were vessels of the imperial navy going to action without showing the empire’s banners. The Thyatian government wanted to put to use the time of relative peace with Alphatia to reassert its control over the western archipelagos, destroying the naval and trade power they had acquired in the past century.
The Guilds had to fight on two fronts - against Ierendi in the west and against Thyatis in the east - and were on the point of collapsing when their best effort did not manage to shield their trade from the foreign corsairs’ plunderings. The Guilds had to withstand terrible moments, such as the bombardment of Harbortown by Ierendian pirates (AC 708) and the sack of Malfton by a fleet of Thyatian privateers (AC 710); after this event only Alfeisle - thanks to the elves’ magic - was partially shielded from the Thyatians’ raids, while all other islands of the Minrothad chain suffered because of them.
So, in that same AC 710, the Guildmasters approved the decision of some enterprising sea captains to establish a Minrothaddan Privateer Guild to counter the attacks of Thyatian privateers in their waters. The Guild sponsored the use of a new ship design, which allowed for greater speed at sea while still preserving enough room for a sizeable cargo; these new ships could carry on both trade and pirate actions at the same time. So the season of Minrothaddan piracy started.
The Battle of Midpoint and its Aftermath
As the Thyatians were getting the upper hand, their attacks against Ierendian ships became more frequent. King Michelozzo of Ierendi was worried enough to reduce attacks against Minrothaddan shipping in order to preserve his ships in case of Thyatian invasion. Eventually, the Thyatian government decided that it was time for an attempt to lure the Ierendian navy into combat and break the kingdom’s sea power. In AC 713, a privateer fleet supplemented by vessels of the imperial navy sailing without banner bypassed from the south the Colony Islands with the aim to penetrate into Ierendian waters and head for Ierendi town itself. South of Trader’s Isle, the fleet was hit by a storm which disrupted its tight formation and made some ships (most of those carrying supplies) lose track with the main group; the Thyatian commander decided to go on, with the aim to attack Aloysius Island in order to resupply and regroup the fleet there. Unfortunately for him, the Ierendian Royal Navy, together with the powerful “fire-ships” of Honor Island - which were brought to proper battle for the first time - had swiftly sailed against the Thyatians and met them between Utter Island and the Aloysius Reefs. The Battle of Midpoint (AC 713) was an utter defeat for the Thyatians; even if still superior in number, caught by surprise by the Ierendians’ daring move and by the sheer power of the “fire-ships”, the Thyatian fleet lost more than half of their ships (sunk or captured by the Ierendians).10 Even worse, the rest of the dispersed Thyatian squadron was chased by the Royal Navy into Minrothaddan waters and to avoid capture had to flee south into the high sea - where some additional ships were lost due to bad weather.
As news of the battle reached mainland courts, the fame of the Royal Navy soared and it came to be considered the most powerful fleet of the Sea of Dread. Most importantly, thanks to this victory King Michelozzo now could impose his own terms on the Minrothad Guilds, threatening to carry on the war against them. The two sea powers signed an agreement in the city of Minrothad in AC 714, which basically ousted Minrothaddan ships from western trade routes in exchange for the halt of Ierendian piracy against the Guilds.
From the signing of the agreement, the Minrothaddans could freely devote itself to repel Thyatian privateer attacks without having to look at their back. The vessels of the Privateer Guild rapidly got the upper hand and began systematically raiding the slower Thyatian merchantmen, crippling the empire’s westward trade. Thyatis was also experiencing serious problems in the far south, where a seaborne guerrilla war was going on in the Davanian Shallows between the empire and the underwater merrow Kingdom of Twaelar; the commitment of most of the empire’s ships against Ierendi and Minrothad left Thyatis’ Davanian colonies undefended and the contact with these faraway settlements was slowly severed.
The Treaty of Bayville and the End of the War
Ierendian privateers got the opportunity to hit the Thyatian ships as well after the agreement of AC 714. In AC 717 a combined Ierendian and Minrothaddan privateer fleet captured Crossbones, which was the main base of the Thyatian corsairs. With this additional setback, Thyatian efforts to reestablish the empire’s prominence in the western Sea of Dread waned, as did any chance to bring back Minrothad or Ierendi under Thyatian control. The Thyatian government tried to get Terentias back through diplomacy, but ongoing difficulties on the Davanian area spurred Ierendi and Minrothad to make no concessions. In AC 720, foreseeing a new conflict against Alphatia (which effectively broke out in AC 726), the empire agreed to sign the treaty of Bayville, ceding Terentias, North Island, and Fire Island to the Minrothad Guilds, halting any privateering action, and opening trade with its Davanian colonies to Ierendi.11
After the treaty of Bayville, open privateering actions formally ceased, but piracy was still carried on in peripheral areas of the Sea of Dread. Ierendi appeared to be the real winner of this war, but the kingdom did not manage to capitalize this success and become a dominant sea power. Nevertheless, it was able to carry on unscrupulous actions to dissuade any other nation to challenge its primacy. The most striking of those actions was the attack against the newly-built Sindhi navy - carried on by a pirate flotilla (in which a future king of Ierendi, Artalus Rackham,12 also fought) and backed both by Ierendi and by Minrothad - which was completely destroyed in the Battle of Jaibul in AC 726. The Sindhi fleet had in fact returned from her maiden voyage to Tanakumba, on Thanegia Island; the two sea powers wanted to cut at the root any possible competition against their control of sea routes to the west, and they were successful. This battle is usually considered the final act of the time of sea conflicts known as the Corsair Wars.
The Corsair Wars are remembered in pirate stories for a strange event called “The Vanishing”, that is the disappearance without trace of an unprecedented number of pirate crews and vessels from the waters of the northern Sea of Dread. Disappearances especially hit halfling and human crews, and took place mostly in the first years of the war. The stories give no consistent explanation of this relatively widespread phenomenon, but some old pirate still thinks that the vanished crews might have been called by the Immortals of the sea to serve them in a sort of “pirate paradise”.13
The Ierendi and Colony islands during the 7th and 8th Centuries
Ierendi between Conservatorism and Transformation
King Donatello “the Black” took the Ierendian throne after his father Michelozzo’s death in AC 718; the new king earned great fame at the beginning of his rule by bringing to a successful conclusion the Corsair Wars, thus raising the kingdom to a rank never reached by his predecessors. His reign (AC 718-735) also coincided with a time of social and economic transformation in Ierendi. While the crown’s main activities continued to be piracy and mercenary services, agriculture and trade were quickly developing due to Ierendi’s raise as the local power.
Families descended from the followers of Mad Creeg, who had seized local plantations, had gradually become quite rich and plantations’ products represented a big slice of the country’s economy. Most of the families sitting in the Council of Lords - who at that time were called the “First Families” - owned plantations, besides some investments they might have in other areas. More and more during the last quarter of the 7th century AC and the first of the 8th, the First Families managed to place their members in positions of power, and to control the policy of the kingdom as a whole in their favor.
It may be also worth noting that during the reign of the last Matrongle king, a Minrothaddan immigrant by the name of Tomia began preaching a new cult called the People’s Temple, which soon numbered many followers among both the settler-descended population and the native Makai. This sect would raise in the next centuries to become the main cult worshipped in the Kingdom of Ierendi.14
The Crown during the struggle between the First Families and the Merchants
On the other hand, the gradual transformation of the kingdom from a pirate haven to a civilized nation with international relations which had to be cultivated, moved an increasing number of investments from piracy to regular trade. The number of those “New Money” families belonging to the merchant class - whose members were indeed in many cases former pirates and smugglers - was still quite small and not near as powerful as the landowners of the First Families. Kings Michelozzo and Donatello still favored the former because the increase of trade would bring more money in the kingdom’s treasury through dues and tariffs. Due to their growing economic influence, some New Money families began to ask for admission to the Council of Lords.
It was not long before the struggle between the First Families power block and the rising influence of the merchant class manifested itself in the political arena. Faithful to his vision of Ierendi as a trade power in the fashion the Minrothad Guilds were trying to become again, King Donatello was ruthless against attempt by the First Families to hamper the rise of the merchants - during his reign more than a few opposing family heads and leaders belonging to the First Families faction were exiled or put to death under charges of treason. This brutal reaction against the opposition of a part of the Ierendian “aristocracy” earned the king the nickname of “the Black”. The king also admitted to the Council of Lords some individuals belonging to the New Money families, trying to break the back of the First Families’ power. Nevertheless the latter, being some of the oldest families of the country, controlled many other areas, such as the bureaucracy and local garrisons, so the king had to avoid taking too radical measures against them for fear of a coup.
Also, the crown needed money after the decades of the Corsair Wars, and the merchant class was still too small to be the only source of financing for the king. Donatello did not want to depend on the First Families anymore, so he drastically cut the moneylending activity those families traditionally did toward the crown. The king also hated having to depend on foreign credit, but he had to because the kingdom needed infrastructures to improve trade, as the merchants were asking, and because Donatello wanted to pursue further project to expand Ierendian power.
King Donatello’s Davanian Armada
The most ambitious project during this time was the conquest of the Thyatian colonies on the Davanian coast. The empire, due to the Corsair Wars and mostly to the war against the merrow Kingdom of Twaelar, had effectively lost nearly all contact with its trade posts and colonies scattered on the coast of northern Davania, from the Green Coast to the Thratian lands. Donatello decided to fill the power vacuum left by the Thyatians and to begin a colonial enterprise which, starting from the conquest of the former Thyatian holdings, would have lead to impose Ierendian control over the whole northern coast of Davania. The expedition, to be led by the king himself, was planned with great expenses, boarding supplies and marines, and sailed southward in the spring of AC 735.
Some weeks later, tragic news reached the capital: the Ierendian armada had encountered a horrible hurricane near the Yavdlom coast, which had dispersed much of the fleet and had sunk many vessels. The king’s flagship, the Indomitable, had lost contact with the coast during the hurricane, and was nowhere to be seen. What was left of the armada limped back to Ierendi.
King Donatello at the moment of his disappearance at sea had no legitimate heir. Nevertheless, Donatello’s bastard sons - on the ground that Black Toes himself was an illegitimate son of Mad Creeg - claimed the throne, but were challenged by the two other branches of the Matrongle family which descended from Halia, the former queen and younger daughter of Black Toes. A bloody feud between the various branches of the Matrongle, called the “Matrongle Succession War” by other families, ensued and lasted several years (AC 735-744), effectively bringing the family to economic decline and political marginalization.15
The Start of the Forty Years’ Terror
The Council of Lords, however, mostly made up by representatives of the First Families, took the opportunity of the death of Donatello to enact a quick coup and seize the government into its own hands. The aim of the Lords was to deprive the rising merchant class of the power it had acquired under Donatello, and to establish firm control over the realm. In late AC 735 the Council proclaimed the settlement of a regency council until a new king was chosen. Then the Lords began a quick and harsh repression aimed at ousting all the personalities who had been chosen by Donatello from the Council of Lords, the government, navy and bureaucracy and substituted them with men faithful to the landowners’ cause. They then imposed a set of strict laws regulating trade - including the formations of special state-financed companies which unfairly challenged Ierendi’s native merchants - trying to damage as much as possible the merchant class. The Council also established martial law in Ierendi and other towns to quell dissension and unrest by merchants - resulting in a vast sequence of arrests, exiles, executions, and confiscations.
In Ierendian history, this time is known as the Forty Years’ Terror (AC 735-775).16 In the first years after the Council of Lords’ takeover, many merchants and commoners were forced to flee the country to avoid persecution. Many of them settled in the Five Shires and in Darokin’s coastal cities of Tenobar and Athenos, which thanks to the immigration of these seafaring experts could begin their rise as minor trading powers. In AC 736, after having consolidated their hold over the kingdom, the Council of Lords finally chose Artalus Rackham, the privateer hero of the Battle of Jaibul back in AC 726, as king. King Artalus, or ‘Art’ as he was called by the common people, did not belong to one of the First Families, but was a very popular figure and embodied the ideal of the Ierendian hero. Indeed, the choice of the Council of Lords had not fallen on him without a reason, for - even if this was not publicly known - he had also close ties with some of the most important landowning families, and before receiving the crown accepted to align his decisions to the wishes of the Council.
The Reign of King ‘Art’
With the defeat of the opposers from the merchant class, the Council allowed King ‘Art’ to moderate the repressive climate established in the first years after Donatello’s disappearance. This increased his popularity and made him appear merciful and just, as did the decrease of taxes levied on the settlers’ lower classes (but not on the Makai). All this contributed to build the image of a time of internal prosperity during the reign of Artalus, despite the fact that Ierendian trade - due to the destruction of Donatello’s armada and the anti-merchant policies of the Council of Lords - began to be successfully challenged by the rise of the dynamic Minrothaddan economy.
Artalus also continued to approve piratical activity on foreign navies - in particular the Minrothaddan navy - and organized the land forces of the kingdom into the Royal Brigade, regulating the way in which both it and the Royal Navy sold their mercenary services to foreign nations. During his reign the king financed explorers to precisely chart many minor islands of the Sea of Dread - some of which were settled with small forts and resupply stations - and also started a program of undersea exploration to discover underwater resources which might be interesting for the kingdom’s crafts or trades.
This type of intrusion in the Sunlit Sea worried the merrows and the tritons who lived under the waves. The nomadic merrows, in particular, were angered by the indiscriminate penetration of Ierendian explorers in some of their sacred underwater shrines, and started a series of raids against the Ierendian ships. Some families within the Council of Lords, led by the Teach family, voiced against the king’s policy which threatened to disrupt Ierendi’s cordial relations with the merrows and to endanger the kingdom’s trade.
King ‘Art’ did not listen to these warnings, but his policy came to a sudden end in AC 748 when, during one of the explorations he was overseeing himself, a violent storm caught his ship, sinking him and all his crew - indeed it was rumored that the death of the king had been arranged by the merrows themselves. The death of the king overturned the balance within the Council of Lords in favor of the Teach faction; moreover, the family was known to have deals with the merrows of the Sunlit Sea. To avoid stirring up the merrows’ anger, the Council of Lords decided to bypass the legitimate successors of Artalus to the throne - his daughter Yolanda, and his nephews - choosing instead as the new king the head of the Teach family, Thaddeus, nicknamed “Fish-Eye”.
The Teach Kings
The first act of the new king was to sign the famous “Treaty of Eternal Friendship” between the Kingdom of Ierendi and the representatives of the most influential nomad merrow tribes of the Sunlit Sea (AC 748). The treaty banned any exploitment of underwater resources by the kingdom, and forbid underwater exploration and plunder in the areas the merrow held as sacred; in exchange, the merrows agreed to help the Royal Navy in the defense of the archipelago, serving as scouts for the navy and agreeing to supplement it with their sea cavalry in times of need. The treaty is still one of the pillars of the kingdom’s defense system today. After the treaty, trade with the merrows flourished, as Ierendian traders brought to the surface the riches of the merrows and - through them - of the tritons of the Sunlit Sea.
King Thaddeus was able to establish a short dynasty when in AC 762 he was succeeded - after the Council of Lords gave its assent - by his son Varaldo. During the latter half of the reign of Artalus and during the reign of the two Teach kings, the merchant class started to recover from the harsher earlier times of the Terror. This was due to the gradual loosening of the repressive policies of the Council, and to a revival of trade that was brought about not only by the Teach monarchs’ trade with the underwater dwellers of the Sunlit Sea, but also by the First Families’ own interest in trading surplus resources they produced in plantations, mines, and so on. The social and political climate was still quite calm until the end of the reign of King Varaldo, when the first signs of discontent from the merchant class took the form of public complaints against the Council of Lords’ absolute power. The merchants also voiced themselves against the fact the the Council actually had chosen and controlled the last three kings - they wanted that the king might rule without being a puppet of the Council. But the Council of Lords now was divided about what reaction to take; some of its members, like the Van Hoorn, Alexander, and Teach families, opposed a renewal of the oppressive policies which had characterized the first years of the Terror.
Besides the growing social unrest and the declining trade power of Ierendi in favor of that of the Minrothad Guilds, another internal problem should have worried the landowning families and the Teach kings - that is the decisive worsening of the treatment of the Makai laborers in the plantations and mines. The native people of the archipelago had always been considered second-class subjects in the Kingdom of Ierendi - there were no influential people, landowners, merchants or government officials (not to speak of Council of Lords members) of Makai ethnicity. Many Makai continued to live in rural villages or in their traditional tribes, but over the course of years even more of them moved to plantations and towns to search for a work and were forced to submit to very poor working conditions. The situation got worse during the Forty Years’ Terror, when the landowning First Families went on to exploit even more harshly the Makai labor, keeping them in conditions which were not very much different from those of the less numerous foreign slaves. In fact, many landowners began to rely more and more on Makai labor because it was cheaper than slave labor. Slaves had to be bought, while Makai could be forced to work in mines or plantations and they could still be paid with the same food, drink, and lodge that a landowner gave to a slave. Following the reign of the second Teach king, isolated episodes of Makai resistance and agitation multiplied, but the Council of Lords gave free hand to the landowners in putting them down in the way they saw more fitting - whipping, brutal punitions, and even executions that would serve as a warning to would-be rebels.
Unrest Growing under King Willem’s Rule
King Varaldo and his two sons died in an accidental fire which destroyed the royal castle in the capital in AC 769. There were rumors that the most conservative Council members were responsible for the planning and enacting of the king’s death, making it look like an accident - all because the king had shown intentions of opening the Council seats to some of the “New Money” families. The Council tried to calm the growing unrest through the choice of Willem Van Hoorn as the new king. The Van Hoorn were one of the most trade-oriented of the First Families, had a reputation of piracy which made them quite popular figures in Ierendi, and Willem was also very young (just 33 years old when raised to the throne). The people were not foiled, however, and pointed to the fact that the new king had still been chosen by the Council of Lords, who - this was the circulating rumor - had arranged the death of Varaldo and his sons in order to make Willem king for some obscure purpose.
King Willem tried to distract the people’s attention by opening a renewed season of piratical raids mostly directed against the Minrothad Guilds, whose competition in sea trade had increased during the Terror and had by now overcome the kingdom’s trading influence. This revealed to be an hazardous choice, because the Minrothad fleet had improved its size and quality in the past decades, and responded to the Ierendian privateering raids with an ultimatum and then with war in AC 772. Minrothaddan diplomacy was also able to bring into the fray the Darokinian Duchy of Malpheggi, whose coastal towns of Athenos and Tenobar hosted a sizeable minority of Ierendian exiles who had fled the kingdom during the Forty Years’ Terror. The war saw some initial success of Ierendi on the sea, but in AC 774 some of the coastal Traladaran states and the Five Shires entered the war on Minrothaddan side in order to inflict a decisive blow to the Ierendian pirates. Despite losses and some defeats, this blow did not come - but neither could the kingdom continue such a war against all its neighboring nations. King Willem had to come to terms in the Peace of Vlaad (AC 775): Ierendi had to stop sponsoring piracy against the other nations, to cede a few minor northern islets to the Five Shires, and had to pay reparations for the damage done to their shipping in the first half of the war. Ierendi had suffered its first, effective defeat, which would prove fatal to the king’s and the Council’s political position at home.
The Merchant Uprising and the End of the Terror
The lost war against Minrothad and its allies put the kingdom’s treasury under pressure because the treaty signed at Vlaad required the Ierendian crown to pay reparations to the victorious countries. King Willem asked the Council of Lords for a contribution from the richest land owning families of Ierendi to replenish the kingdom’s coffers, but the majority of the Council was made up of First Families which owned plantations and saw this as an attempt by the trade-oriented First Families - like the Van Hoorn - to damage them within the Council. So no contribution was approved and the king resorted to levy additional taxes on the merchant middle class and on the lower class.
In the last years the merchants had voiced against the Council of Lords’ excessive power, against its control over the kings’ election and policy, against its closure to “New Money” families17 and against trade policies which depressed native merchants which only made Minrothaddan competitors stronger. King Willem’s decision to renew piracy and go to war against Minrothad further damaged trade in this region of the Sea of Dread, adding to the merchants’ discontent. Also, King Willem had started an expensive building project to raise a new royal palace after the previous one had been destroyed in the fire which had killed his predecessor. Now, the Council and the king were again imposing taxes on the merchant and lower classes instead of contributing at least in part themselves to the sum, and without even thinking to stop the expensive building project. A growing discontent was also circulating among soldiers and seamen, many of which came from middle or lower class families, and who had seen their wages irregularly paid or reduced in the last months due to the war and to the financial difficulties of the crown.
All put together, it was enough for an outright uprising of the merchant class, and indeed the crown’s decision about taxation was the spark which started the fire. When heralds cried the taxation decree in the streets of the capital, agitation among the common people spread in the city, while only some units of Ierendi’s garrisons - despite orders to quell the uprising - actually intervened; a couple of them even sympathized with the common people. The most daring of the “New Money” families took the lead of the movement and were able enough to direct it against the Council’s and King Willem’s government. A true city conflict ensued, with some city blocks controlled by the rebels and some others in the hands of the Council’s forces. The Council attempted to bide its time, proclaiming intentions to open the government to new families, all the while trying to recall troops from other towns and islands. The tide was broken when some commoners broke into King Willem’s residence and assassinated him. Then the Council, under pressure by the moderate “New Money” families and fearing the degeneration of the uprising into a lower class riot, agreed to come to terms and impose limits on its own power.
The agreement granted a number of “New Money” families a seat in the Council of Lords, a fair and equitable taxation, the transformation of the monarchy into a diarchy with one king and one queen (not necessarily married) who watched one over another,18 and the change of both crowns from hereditary (even if actually the Council had chosen all the kings who ruled during the Terror) to elective. It also established that the election of the king and queen, who still ruled for life, should be done by the Assembly of the People, a gathering of family heads belonging to the merchant and lesser landowning classes and chosen by popular acclamation.
The Merchant Uprising of AC 775 marks an important moment in Ierendian history. Not only did it mark the end of the Forty Years’ Terror and of the First Families’ unchecked rule, but also the beginning of the alliance - though still uneasy - between the old First Families and the “New Money” ones, an event which gave birth to the oligarchic power block - formed by rich landowning and merchant families - which still rules Ierendi today.
The Elective Monarchs up to the Reform of AC 790
Despite the Council of Lords’ resistance, the “New Money” families managed to obtain the candidature of Rena Longkeel as of one the two monarchs; she was the scion of one of the oldest Ierendian halfling clans and was widely popular with the lower classes, having served for many years as quartermaster on several ships of the country. Rena’s election as queen was engineered to quell the lower classes’ continued agitation, out of fear that the merchant class’ uprising may pave the way to further social revolution - which the merchants themselves did not want. The agreement between the First and the “New Money” families indeed granted each faction the election of one of the two monarchs, in order to keep balance between the two power blocks.
Rena reigned from AC 775 to AC 787, together with two different kings - Saviero Samnios19 (AC 775-784), member of one of the First Families with mining interests, and Jerome Alvine (AC 784-786), belonging to an old family who owned extensive plantations around Port Siers - but the queen’s popularity made her stand out above her colleagues. Rena’s reign was successful in calming down the agitation of the lower classes, and also brought an end to the open hostilities between the First Families and the “New Money” ones. Underground intrigue continued to oppose her faction to the old aristocracy, however, and she feared that the most conservative faction among the First Families might try to have her removed (or killed) at her first show of weakness. This is why the queen tried to preserve her popularity during her whole reign, making sure that the “New Money” faction of the Council of Lords enacted a series of laws and measures to improve the living conditions of the lower classes in the capital. During the course of her reign, the enmity she harbored toward the First Families grew, even pushing her to imagine the very overthrow of the Council of Lords and its substitution with a popular assembly - something, however, she realized was unachievable given the present situation.
Under Rena, work on the new royal palace started by late King Willem was put in motion again, but - in order to save money and avoid upsetting the lower classes with unnecessary expenses - the initial project was reduced and the size of the original building reconsidered. The palace was nevertheless completed in AC 785.
Sadly, Rena’s reign is mostly remembered for the tragedy which struck Port Siers in AC 786, when the Mount Haumea volcano erupted; besides being hit by the expulsion of cinders and lava and smoke, the town of Port Siers was overwhelmed by a black cloud of burning ash which descended down the slopes of the volcano - the whole population was killed in less than an hour, among them was King Jerome whose family possessions were located near the town.
Recovery from the disaster delayed elections for the next king to AC 787, but as intrigues were being weaved to choose King Jerome’s successor, Queen Rena decided to abdicate after having negotiated with the Council the awarding to her family, the Longkeels, of a seat in the Council of Lords. Elections for the two monarchs were thus both held in AC 787, bringing to the throne Derwin Eddington - the head of a “New Money”, trade-oriented family with Darokinian heritage, which had only entered the Council a couple of decades ago - and Craina Mykelios, belonging to one of the First Families which managed the capital’s shipyards.
The oligarchy which ruled Ierendi seemed fated to suffer another jolt in AC 790, when it was discovered that Queen Craina had diverted funds from the treasury in order to pay the huge debts she had contracted with foreign moneylenders due to her lavish expenses in feasts, luxuries, and pleasures she held in her villa in the capital’s countryside. Discontent was again running high among the lower classes, and some radical groups already were talking about the necessity of another uprising. The queen found herself in a difficult position, since she had also to face the anger of most of the Council of Lords’ members (even among the First Families). When the mob attacked one of the Mykelios’ shipyards, the oligarchy realized it had to act quickly.
United by the common goal to preserve power, and by the common fear of the lower classes’ uprising, the members of the Council of Lords decreed the removal of the queen from the throne, and the expulsion of her family, the Mykelios, from the Council itself. The queen and some of her closest advisors fled to Athenos before being caught by the mob. King Derwin, who had took part in a couple of the feasts held at the queen’s mansion, was forced to abdicate as well. Then the Council of Lords publicly declared that a reform bill was being prepared, with an intention to abolish lifelong monarchy and transform the Assembly of the People into a permanent institution in order to grant the people a place where to make their voice heard. The lower classes were content of this announcement and cherished.
The reform was approved during the autumn of that same year. The diarchy - one king and one queen - was declared to be elective on yearly basis, and nearly emptied of any real power besides the representative one. The reform also established the Council of Citizens to replace the Assembly of the People: the new body was formed by the heads of the most influential families in Ierendi, and new members were admitted only under request (if they fulfilled census requirements) or through cooptation; the Council of Citizens was summoned one time per year to elect the two monarchs, and also had the power to elect new members to the Council of Lords whenever the need arose (i.e. when a Council family died out or for some reason left its seat at the Council vacant).
The oligarchy had foiled the chance of a popular revolution, which would have definitely been removed by the growth of Ierendian internal prosperity during the 9th century AC. The alliance between the First Families representing the old aristocracy, and the “New Money” families representing the last century newcomers, had won and was in full control of the institutional machine. The Council of Lords had preserved almost all the power it had held since the beginning of the Terror - albeit shared between a wider range of families - and the other body which should have balanced it, the Council of Citizens, actually was made up by the representatives of minor landowning and trading families with more or less the same interests as the more powerful Council of Lords families. The social and economic block made up by the high and high-middle classes would thus take the reins of the kingdom and lead it through a gradual economic rise during the next two centuries.
1 According to GAZ4 they were “refugees from an Alphatian subject nation southeast of the Isle of Dawn”; this means that they might have come from one of the Alatian Islands. Possibly they were a losing faction during one of Alphatia’s internal squabbles between magic-users; given their aptitude for fire magics, and their Common Alphatian ancestry (their skin tone is described in GAZ4 as “deep, bronzed tan”), they might even be somehow linked with the Followers of Fire or the Flaems. Note also that their choice to settle Honor Island was due to the fact that they already knew of the existence of a gate to the Plane of Fire there.
2 Further speculation about this link can be found in Ierendian Government and Aristocracy by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” issue no. 3, pages 52-53.
3 This “second crowning” has been devised to solve a discrepancy found in GAZ4. On page 4 it is said that “Three years after Black Toes assumed the throne [AC 637, that is at the death of Mad Creeg], he established the Council of Lords”, but in the timeline on page 5 the Council is established only in AC 642, thus five years after Black Toes’ ascension. The “second crowning” inserted here happens in AC 639, so it somewhat saves both of GAZ4’s sentences.
4 This article uses the list of Ierendian kings and queens, and the chronology of their reigns, found in Ierendian Government and Aristocracy by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” issue no. 3, page 44.
5 To learn more about the Symposium, look at The Demography of Ierendi and Minrothad, in “Threshold” issue no. 3, sidebar on pages 141-143.
6 The story of Lord Ingram is briefly mentioned in PC4 Night Howlers, DM’s Guide, page 4, where he is said to have “ruled a small island nation in the Sea of Dread”, without specifying which one. I decided to set his story in North Island. The character of Tschorba was my creation as well.
7 According to the GAZ9, Dungeon Master’s Booklet, page 6, Gregus was born in AC 601. This means that he would have enacted his first reforms when he was only 45 years old - an age which, by elven standards, is still halfway from adulthood. Perhaps the GAZ fails to address a correct conversion between elven and human age (the guidelines for which are found in GAZ5), so Gregus could be considered an elf of an age equivalent to that of a 45-years old human - which means he had around 430 years when he enacted his first reforms in AC 646, thus being born around AC 217.
8 In my article The Demography of Ierendi and Minrothad, in “Threshold” no. 3, pages 153-154, this assembly was wrongly called the General Council of Guilds and States.
9 The Corsair Wars were created by the author as an attempt to link together the foreseeable reaction of Ierendi to the unification of Minrothad (GAZ9 only mentioned the assassination of Gregus Verdier), the campaign of privateer attacks carried on by Thyatis against Minrothad “in the early 8th century” (GAZ9, Dungeon Master’s Booklet, page 12), the more famous defeat of the Thyatian “patrol” (GAZ4) or “privateer probe” (Hollow World Campaign Setting, Dawn of the Emperors) against Ierendi in AC 713, and the pirate attack against Sindhi newly-built navy in AC 726 (Champions of Mystara).
11 The loss of Terentias as a consequence of this war was taken from [http://pandius.com/thy_hist.html, History of the Thyatian People (by J. Ruhland)]; I modified some details to make it fit better with the rest of the article.
12 For additional information about this character, see Ierendian Government and Aristocracy by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” issue no. 3, pages 44 and 54.
13 These disappearances were actually caused by Immortal Korotiku, which transplanted a number of pirates crews in the Merry Pirate Seas in the Hollow World; I took the name indicating this event - “The Vanishing” - from [http://pandius.com/AIGV1.pdf, Alternate Ierendi Gazetteer: The Pirate Kingdom of Ierendi (AM2) (by J.W. Biles)].
14 The establishment of the People’s Temple in the 8th century AC has been guessed by the author on the basis of GAZ4’s text.
15 The “Matrongle Succession War” was taken from Ierendian Government and Aristocracy by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” issue no. 3, pages 52-53.
16 The death at sea of Donatello Matrongle, and the Forty Years’ Terror were borrowed from [http://pandius.com/daro.html, Thoughts on Darokin, and http://pandius.com/thanegio.html, The Thanegioth Archipelago (both by J. Mishler)]. I have reworked a little the circumstances of Donatello’s expedition, though.
17 This was not totally true, because in the last few years the Council of Lords had co-opted a very few “New Money” families into the assembly in an attempt to quell the merchant discontent; an example of such families were the Eddingtons, who were admitted to the Council in AC 765 (see Ierendian Government and Aristocracy, by G. Agosta, in “Threshold” issue no. 3, page 47).
18 I decided to change this detail from G. Agosta’s Ierendian Government and Aristocracy, in “Threshold” issue no. 3, because GAZ4, page 5, states: “775 AC After a major uprising of merchants, the Council of Lords agrees to limitations on its power, and to the popular democratic election of the king and queen”.
19 The surnames Samnios and Mykelios (below) were taken from [http://pandius.com/AIGV1.pdf, Alternate Ierendi Gazetteer: The Pirate Kingdom of Ierendi (AM2) (by J.W. Biles)], albeit placed in a different historical context.