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The History of Ierendi and Minrothad part 4by Simone Neri from Threshold Magazine issue 6
The History of Ierendi and Minrothad
Part 4: The Island Realms in the Modern Age
by Simone Neri (Zendrolion)
Here we come to the fourth and final part of our in-depth history of the archipelagos of Ierendi and Minrothad. In this last installment we will read how the Kingdom of Ierendi came out of the internal turmoils of the 8th century AC to become the tourist haven we know today, and what kind of long-lasting political changes were introduced in the flourishing trade power of Minrothad in the 9th century.
The Ninth and Tenth Centuries
The last two centuries were a time of prosperity and economic expansion for both island countries. Strong oligarchies made up of wealthy landowning and merchant families had finally seized power and were successfully keeping it, making both realms quite politically stable; both oligarchies, tough, did not assumed a conservative attitude, and proved their willingness to adapt their respective realm’s institutions to the gradually-changing social and economic landscape; both Minrothad and Ierendi experimented important reform processes which would impress on the two realms the features they still preserve to this day.
Apart from some sporadic conflicts, the last two centuries were mostly a time of peace at sea and between the Sea of Dread nations, which saw a decisive increase of trade, use and discovery of new trade routes, and a lessening of privateer and pirate activity which lasted until the second half of the 10th century AC, when it again began to rise.
The Kingdom of Ierendi’s internal turmoil in the latter half of the previous century had ensured the success of the attempt by the guildmasters of Minrothad to challenge the neighbor’s primacy. By the beginning of the 9th century AC, the Minrothad Guilds were starting their rise in sea trade which would continue, despite some challenges and times of depression, to this day.
Thanks to their economic prosperity, a common feature of the two realms in the last two centuries was immigration, which both island nations favored, bringing new resources inside their borders and making great profits from the businesses tied to them. However, while Minrothad’s oligarchy reacted to the influx of immigrants with the closure of its borders for a long period of time, Ierendi was much more welcoming toward them, becoming one of the most appealing destinations for upper class tourism in the Known World.
A Liberal Paradise for Adventurers
The last two centuries have been an age of consolidation and economic rise in Ierendi, marked by decisive progressive reform, such as abolition of slavery, by policies favorable to immigration, and by the development of the new tourism activities which made the country further famous among the rest of the Known World nations. This is not to say that the oligarchy ruling the kingdom did not have to face dangerous challenges, one of which tested the stability of the realm only a couple of decades after the reform of AC 790.
The Great Makai Uprising
The two decades after the end of the Forty Years’ Terror had been marked by the gradual opening of the ruling Ierendian oligarchy to access by other, recently-risen families; the old, small cadre of families which made up the old oligarchy now had enlarged, including a greater number of families -- it was still an oligarchy, but the struggle which the merchants had won against the First Families had given the population the impression that the country was undertaking a liberal and more democratic course. The following years were characterized by a very stable social climate. with the upper middle class firmly in control of the government and the rest of the people happy with this course of things.
However, there was a relevant fraction of the islands’ population which was not content at all: the native Makai. Since the kingdom’s proclamation of independence from Thyatis, the Makai had always been considered backward, ignorant, and second class subjects in Ierendi. While some of them preserved a tribal lifestyle in the wilderness or in small rural and fishing villages, many had gone to search for a job in the towns and in the plantations and mines, where they had been forced to accept very hard and unprotected working conditions, mostly to undertake heavy and wearing labor. They enjoyed little better condition than slaves, but their lives still went on with great difficulty. Their conditions had further worsened during the Forty Years’ Terror, when the shrinkage of Ierendian trade had led to a decrease of the slave population in the islands, with the obvious consequence that plantations and mines owners had to rely more on Makai labor. Gradually and inevitably, the Makai workers began to be subjected to the same working conditions of the slave population. Worse, the new liberal course which characterized Ierendian policies after AC 790 had done nothing to lessen the burden of Makai servitude, under which laborers were obliged to accept payment in food and goods in quantity barely sufficient to ensure their survival, were subject to an unbearable work pace, could not leave the place where they worked, and had to suffer inhumane punishments at the slightest offense or work decrease. To make things even worse, some plantation and mine owners had begun to raid the islands’ interior to capture members of isolated Makai tribes in order to replenish the supply of slaves and workforce at their disposal.
Despite some signals of Makai unrest in various areas of Ierendi Island, the Council of Lords largely ignored the issue. A small faction of the Council of Citizens, however, starting from AC 798 began advocating for a better treatment of the Makai and the slaves. The faction grew to a sizeable minority of the Council of Citizens in the course of a few years, and fierce debates took place between the conservative families - who wanted to keep things as they were now -, the progressive ones - who wanted to establish firm rules regulating slavery and protecting the Makai from being considered slaves - and the abolitionist ones - who voiced for the total abolition of slavery. Nothing concrete, however, was decided, and Makai unrest raised.
In AC 812, in the north-western region of Ierendi Island, one of the by then usual raids against Makai tribes to seize slaves led to the capture of a local warrior’s young wife. This Makai, named Kekipa, gathered a number of fighting men from his tribe and led a rescue counterattack against the landowner who held the girl. The landowner and his entourage were killed by the rebels, and Kekipa’s wife was freed alongside all other slaves and Makai held there. Nearby local plantation owners were worried about this event, and put together a mercenary force to capture Kekipa, kill him as an example, and take back all the freed slaves. But Kekipa tactical use of terrain led to the disastrous defeat of the mercenary army, to further raids against the local landowners, and to the appeal of the latter to Ierendi’s government. This marked the beginning of what would become the Great Makai Uprising (AC 812-818)1.
The Council of Lords did not hesitate to address the problem, and sent an army to crush the rebels, but it was again defeated near Mount Kununuroa in AC 813. By this time, thousands of Makai workers and slaves had joined Kekipi’s warband, which grew to the size of a true and threatening army. The rebels were also being joined by freed slaves of foreign nationality which had no means to leave Ierendi other than fighting their way out of the island alongside Kekipa, and many Makai warriors from the wilderness tribes who saw the rebellion as a way to halt and turn back the settlers’ penetration into their lands and the seizing of their resources.
The uprising widened to cover much of central and western Ierendi Island, and rebellion outbreaks happened on Elegy and Fletcher islands as well. The Ierendian navy and privateers did not allow an easy flight from the Island, but as the government seemed unable to stem or quell the uprising, harsher tactics began to be used against Kekipa’s followers - swift and ruthless naval raids against coastal Makai villages, execution of captured rebels, and other brutal practices. As the rebel Makai responded to these tactics with equal ruthlessness, the war became fiercer and more savage.
In AC 816, Kekipa’s wife and firstborn were slaughtered during one of Ierendi’s punitive expeditions against the villages which supported the rebels. Kekipa’s sorrow for the loss was overwhelming, and changed the rebel leader’s attitude toward his own life and the goal of the conflict - now he did not want to end Makai slavery, he wanted revenge. Kekipa appealed to a number of old Makai shamans who practiced traditional necromantic magics, and asked them to raise undead creatures from killed enemies to bolster the ranks of his army. Zombies, ghouls, and wights joined the rebel army, much to the disquietude of fellow rebels. Kekipa himself became aloof, surrounded only by his shamans, and started practicing gruesome necromantic rituals. Dissension grew among the other Makai rebel chiefs about the new direction the uprising had taken under Kekipa’s leadership; many decided to ignore Kekipa’s orders and fight on their own. This hampered the coordination of the rebel attacks, and weakened the rebellion’s overall war effort.
In AC 817, Kekipa led an undead army to besiege Northkeep, where the commander of the raid which had brought to the death of his family was in command. The keep fell after a short siege, and the occupants were slaughtered to the last man, not even sparing the civilian population, nor women and children. The Massacre of Northkeep was a major Ierendian setback during the uprising, but paradoxically was the one which helped turn the tide of the war.
When news of the massacre reached other rebel chiefs, the uprising definitively fragmented. Many warriors returned to their villages and abandoned the fight altogether, others condemned Kekipa’s actions as a shame for the whole Makai population. There were also some who instrumentally wanted to exploit the success at Northkeep to bring the rebellion to a victorious end. The majority of the rebel chiefs, however, by now was against Kekipa.
The Council of Lords took the opportunity offered by the fragmentation of the uprising to pass a decree which granted pardon to common rebels (not including rebel chiefs) for the crimes done during the rebellion if they deposed arms within a month. At the same time, the Council passed a second decree which obliged a slave-owner to take care of his slaves’ health, shelter, and clothing, and to give them enough food and drink to sustain themselves well. The same decree forbid the enslavement of Makai natives born as freemen in the Ierendi Islands.
After some weeks, the uprising had lost many of its followers thanks to the two decrees and to the failure of the rebellion’s leadership. Not a few rebel warbands continued to oppose the Ierendian government, though, but in the turn of an year they were crushed with extreme ruthlessness, with most of them being executed and women and children sold again as slaves. Kekipa’s undead army was finally stopped in the Battle of the Hiehie Hills in AC 818, when the army personally led by King Konal Marley trapped it between two low hills and destroyed the whole host thanks to the help of a contingent of Honor Island mages. Kekipa’s body was never found, though, and some tales hold that he might still “live” today as an undead creature.
The Abolition of Slavery and the Amendment of Labor
The Great Makai Uprising was the only widespread native rebellion happened in the kingdom in the modern times. Despite its eventual defeat, the rebellion had caused some fear in the mine and plantation owners of Ierendi, and in anyone who held Makai slaves or serfs in general. After the rebellion, even before the Council of Lords emanated edicts to limit the exploitment of Makai labor, Ierendian masters began to treat their slaves and serfs more humanly - no undernourishment, no unjust treatments or brutal punishments, no more raids against Makai free tribes. In fact, subsequent measures taken by the Council of Lords to regulate slavery and serfdom2 can be considered an indirect consequence of the Great Makai Uprising. Moreover, this new attitude, coupled with the decrease of piracy and wars in the Sea of Dread which were reducing the influx of low-cost slaves in Ierendi, contributed to undermine the usefulness and cheapness of slavery.
In AC 824, an edict established that the killing of a slave by his own master was classified as murder. This was followed by another edict in AC 830, which instituted special (supposedly neutral) officers to whom maltreated slaves could appeal in case of abuse from their masters. Subsequent legislation introduced additional limits on the exploitation of slave labor and protection of the slave himself, until slavery was ultimately abolished in the Kingdom of Ierendi in AC 931.
At the same time, the Council passed various laws whose goal was to regulate the heavy labor done mostly by Makai workers which took place in mines and, most of all, in plantations. The first set of laws about plantation work was the Labor Edicts of AC 858, which protected indentured Makai serfs from beatings, whipping, and harsh punishment, and forbid the plantation owners to employ pregnant women and children under 14 years for heavy labor. In AC 886 the use of manacles, collars, and chains to restrain indentured servants was forbidden, as well as labor for sick and old servants. In AC 917 another law limited the maximum time of indenture to two years, obliging the plantation owner to compile the indenture contract in written form and to read it to the serf. Lastly, in AC 964 still another edict considered the plantation owner responsible for a serf’s death when this happened during plantation labor.
As usual in the Ierendian tradition, these laws were often disregarded due to influence and power of the plantation owners, and to the frequent habit of using bribes to bypass laws in the islands. Most of these codes, in fact, include confirmation and rewording of laws emanated previously - which clearly indicates that compliance to them as a whole was relatively lacking. Nevertheless, this liberal attitude by the Ierendian government contributed to make it appear one of the most progressive realms of the Known World, and to slightly improve the Makai serfs’ labor conditions.
Ierendian Society and Economy in the second half of the 9th century
The latter half of the 9th century AC was truly a time of gradual integration of the Makai - at least those who lived in the archipelago’s towns - into Ierendian society. While this result was still much behind in rural areas and plantations, some of the Makai living in urban settlements began to be infrequently selected for lesser administration offices, to be admitted in the town watches, and so on. Bias toward the Makai who showed education and integration into Ierendian society slowly faded away during the course of the subsequent decades. Intermarriage between Makai and settlers in the towns - and to a lesser extent in rural areas - also favored greater integration between the two main components of the archipelago’s society.
The Kingdom of Ierendi in this age thus began to show greater social mobility than anytime in the past; in the last century and a half, as some of the older families declined, they had to give way to newly-risen ones, often of foreign origins, who in some cases even managed to raise enough in power to get a seat in the Council of Lords - like the Gogunov, migrated to Ierendi after the Thyatian conquest of Traladara around AC 900.
Opportunity for social rise spurred immigration, which was as well a central factor of Ierendian growth in the 9th century AC, as it was for nearby Minrothad. Most immigrants came from Traladara and Darokin, closely followed by those coming from Minrothad and from far-away Glantri. The welcoming attitude of Ierendian society toward immigrants contributed much to the popular image of the country which still survives to this day - of a tolerant, easygoing realm without social barriers and social conflicts.
From an economic point of view, Ierendian slowly recovered from the blow inflicted to it during the 8th century AC, but could never seriously challenge the new trading power of the Minrothad Guilds, nor the rising star of Darokinian economy. The decrease of pirate activity, however, spurred Ierendian families who based their wealth on seafaring to find a niche for themselves in export and import trade, developing closer ties with the Minrothad Guilds, the Traladaran lands, the Five Shires, and Darokin. Pirate activity was still practiced but moved its sphere of action away from the most important trading partners of Ierendi - toward the western Sea of Dread (Great Waste and Yavdlom, for example) or to the Thyatian shipping lanes in the east.
An aggressive trade expansion was still beyond the forces of the kingdom, as it became evident when at the beginning of the 10th century AC, under the sponsorship of the then-ruling Queen Antonia de Scarlatos3, the Council of Lords tried to expand the country’s network with a series of expeditions to the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago - which however turned a failure when these clashed against the merrow Twaelar Kingdom, and were followed by subsequent abandonment of the project (see “The Bout for Thanegioth”, below).
Thus, alongside trade, exploitment of local resources preserved a strong attraction for native investors; plantations improved their economic importance with production of cotton and vegetables devoted to export trade, as well as gemstone (pearls and corals) harvesting, and mining of still unexploited mineral deposits (gold, platinum, and salt). Moreover, another important economic field which developed in the archipelago in the next century, as we will see, was that of tourism.
Kythria and the Royal Tournament of Adventurers
One of the figures who decisively contributed to an improvement of the social climate, and one of the leading characters of the recent Ierendian history, was indeed a half-Makai, half-Thyatian woman named Kythria4. Gifted with an extraordinary beauty and an irresistible charisma, Kythria was active as an adventurer in the decade AC 840-850, after which time her exploits were told not only in Ierendi, but also in other coastal towns and cities. She was as well active in revealing mistreatment and abuses against the Makai native population, and her denounces contributed much to the enactment of the labor reform of AC 858, and to her image as a popular heroine.
Besides her more daring and noble deeds, Kythria was also a passionate character who devoted her life to amusement and fulfilment of sensual pleasures, and who gathered wealth in order to satisfy her fancies. As a cleric of the Immortal Valerias and a devout follower of her patron’s precepts, she was as well at the center of many gossips and scandals - which even involved important families - in Ierendi social life.
In AC 854, Kythria began to privately sponsor in Ierendi town a series of “challenges” based on various physical, artistic, cultural, intelligence, and social skills, open to the public, in which participants challenged each other to win a final prize. Thanks to Kythria’s grace and popularity, these events became in short time occasion for feasts and revelry, and after some years they even began to attract participants and visitors from the mainland. These “tournaments”, which were held at irregular intervals a couple of times per year - actually when Kythria wished - became the source of much economic income for the capital, both because the local people were eager to spend money during the festivals, and due to the presence of foreigners. The festivals also began to receive financial support from the government.
The festivals grew so much in popularity that they attracted the attention of the Council of Lords. After the reform of AC 790, the yearly-elected king and queen of Ierendi had kept mostly a ceremonial role, and by now they had been reduced to mere figureheads. Usually the individuals elected were prestigious or popular or influential persons - heroes, military and political leaders rewarded with the royal crown for their career, and so on - who held almost no actual power, but whose election pleased the common people. Kythria herself had been offered a candidature in a couple of occasions, although she had refused. The annual election ceremony of the two monarchs had been as well the occasion of public festivals since the first years of the 9th century AC, even if lately the popular favor for this event had declined due to the fact that the “election” had assumed somewhat the outline of a formal appointment by the Council of Citizens than a real time of popular participation.
In AC 867, the Council of Lords proposed an institutional reform to the Council of Citizens, in order to integrate the very popular festivals devised by Kythria into Ierendi’s government machine. The proposal contemplated the yearly election of the two monarchs not by the Council of Citizens anymore, but through a series of contests modeled on those ideated by Kythria, whose winners - one male and one female - would be crowned king and queen of Ierendi for a year. The proposal was highly popular with the capital’s lower and middle classes - whose attention focused on the business which this reform might bolster - and it was unsurprisingly approved by the Council of Citizens.
Thus, the so-called Royal Tournament of Adventurers was born. With the aid of the Honor Island mages, challenging contests for would-be monarchs were devised, which called into question a participant’s combat and physical skills as well as his intelligence and problem-solving ability. The Royal Tournament of Adventurers obviously changed the nature of candidates to the royal crowns. Where before AC 867 influential and popular figures could still win the crown through elections, now the competition for the throne was dominated by experienced and versatile adventurers, who possessed a wide array of skills in a variety of fields and who were able to overcome the different challenges the tournament imposed on them.
The Royal Tournament turned immediately to be a great success, both in terms of popular favor and of economic profit. Elected competition winners also turned to be quite content of their status as yearly national heroes, and demanded nothing more in terms of political powers, leaving the burden of government decision in the hands of the Council of Lords, as it always had been. To give the Royal Tournament a national character and because the winning of the contest implied wearing the Ierendian crown, the competition was limited to candidates born in the Ierendi Islands.
Kythria herself, now eager to test and prove her skills in the Royal Tournament in order to endorse the decision of the Council of Citizens with her own participation, won the tournament fourteen times between AC 867 and AC 884, becoming the true idol of Ierendian population and the most beloved queen in the nation’s history. One of her greatest accomplishments as queen was the restructuring and enlargement of the royal Castle of Ierendi in the capital, to which she contributed to with her huge personal wealth, turning the place into a true architectural marvel built entirely with corals gathered in the archipelago’s waters. Today, the castle is still considered one of the most spectacularly and outrageously beautiful buildings of the Known World.
In AC 890, she ultimately left her native archipelago in order to search for Immortality, which she would achieve in AC 910 after switching from the patronage of Valerias to that of Eiryndul. Subsequently, her cult grew in the Ierendi Island, where Kythria is still worshipped today as a national heroine as well as a patroness of lust and desires.
Ierendi in the Last Century
Despite Ierendi’s failure in seizing the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago (see “The Bout for Thanegioth”, below), the economy of the kingdom improved due to the steady influx of immigrants and visitors brought in the archipelago by the government’s welcoming policies as by attraction provided by the annual Royal Tournament of Adventurers. The influx of visitors became even larger when the Council of Citizens decided to open participation to the tournament to outsiders and foreigners in AC 935. The competition continued to be dominated by native adventurers, however, until the extraordinary exploits of Haradith “of the Tall Cedars”, a lady born in Glantri of mixed fair elf and Pure Alphatian heritage; Haradith became queen for the first time in AC 957 and then won the Royal Tournament in 12 of the 14 subsequent years, becoming a symbol of Ierendi’s welcoming policy toward outsiders, and as popular as only Kythria had been before in the country’s history. Haradith even managed to found her own family in Ierendi and place it in a position of power - the Halfelven hold today one of the seats at the Council of Lords.
Many native islanders understood the economic profits which could be made by providing visitors and foreigners with all sorts of services - from the most basic (lodge, food, drinks, and basic amusement) to the most sophisticated ones (special and out of the ordinary entertainment, touristic services, and so on). In short, the 10th century AC saw the development in Ierendi of the tourism industry, which became iconic and unique to this island country. Wealthy visitors flocked in the archipelago during all the seasons of the years, falling in love with the place’s pleasant climate, peaceful inhabitants, beautiful scenery, and charming beaches. The increase of tourism allowed for the birth of new jobs and businesses, like touristic guides, restaurants, rentable resorts, and the like, which brought new wealth and life to the country’s economy and seizeable sums - through dues and tariffs - in the state’s coffers.
A special field of the tourist entertainment especially called on adventurers, who came to visit the islands to find a place where their “profession” was a mark of social appreciation; thus the first resorts for rich adventurers were born, the first of whom was established by Queen Haradith herself. In AC 974, a couple of retired adventurers - the Ierendi native Gastenoo Longblade, and the Averoignan Simon Saint-Pierre - tried to bring adventuring entertainment to the larger public of rich patrons, opening the first adventure park on Safari Island, “Gastenoo’s World of Adventure”, where customers could experiment the thrill of true adventures without putting their lives at risk. Their idea was soon a great success and their business was mimicked by other adventure parks, especially on Safari Island. The last two decades have indeed seen a further raise of tourism from the Known World and beyond to the Ierendi Islands, made up by adventurers and wealthy people around the mainland who, in some cases, even try to buy properties in Ierendi and to establish there a residence to retire to in the later part of their lives. Government data claim that by AC 1000 some 20,000 tourist flock to the Ierendi archipelago each year. Immigration has continued to grow steadily through the recent years, bringing further life and novelties in Ierendian society and culture - such as the Temple of the Eternal Truth, established in the capital by Ylari missionaries, which turned out to have an unexpectedly large following.
From a political point of view, the kingdom enjoyed extraordinary stability during the 10th century AC - especially if compared to nearby countries like Traladara, Minrothad, and Thyatis. The oligarchy in control of the government proved its ability to co-opt into the political system new and wealthy families, managing to preserve its hold over the country. Families like the already mentioned Halfelven, or the Darokinian-originated Rogers, won a seat in the Council of Lords in the last fifty years. The Council of Lords changed name in AC 980 in order to erase the distinction between “lords” and “citizens” in the realm’s two main institutional assemblies, renaming itself the Tribunal of Ierendi - without modifying at all its own powers and composition.
The government did not neglect the military affairs; the growing prosperity of the realm and the lack of true wars since more than a century risked to sap the country’s traditional fighting prowess. The Council of Lords enlarged and improved the old naval training school of the capital, which became the Academy of Naval Science, as a mean to keep fighting techniques and training of the Ierendian navy and sailors updated and competitive with those of nearby countries - especially the Minrothad Guilds. New defensive works were undertaken around the capital as well, with construction of a breakwater around Ierendi’s harbor in AC 977-984. The increase in ship traffic following the reopening to trade of the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago and of the Minrothad Guilds led to a steep revival of pirate activity undertaken also by Ierendi in the last decade, which has somewhat kept the Royal Navy and the kingdom’s privateers quite trained and practiced.
Today, the kingdom enjoys a quite enviable status among the powers of the Known World. Its navy is considered virtually unbeatable while defending the archipelago due to the skills of native seamen, the alliance of the Sunlit Sea merrows, and that of the Honor Island mages. A stable and open political system controls the country and has managed to avoid major upheavals in the last two centuries. The economic prosperity of the realm has increased due to the improvement of trade, agricultural production, and tourism industry, and the country is experimenting a demographic rise which could as well led in the next years to a growth of the islands’ urban population. However, the kingdom has not taken part in major wars since a very long time, and it is still to be seen if its adventurers-led government controlled by intriguing factions will manage to hold the realm together and present a real challenge for outside powers when the time will come.
Hall of Fame
Here follows a list of some of the most famous and celebrated or recent winners of the Royal Tournament of Adventurers during the course of the last century and a half. In the table below, “Period of Activity (AC)” indicated the range of years within which the indicated individual managed to get his or her victories in the tournament, not the actual years of reign. Note that this list is by no means to be considered exhaustive.
Period of Activity (AC)
Haradith “of the Tall Cedars” Halfelven
Glantri (wood elf/Pure Alphatian)
Antonia de Scarlatos7
Unknown (Common Alphatian from somewhere on the Isle of Dawn)
Immigration and Reform in Minrothad
The recently-born Minrothad Guilds had come out of the Corsair Wars with some losses, but ultimately they had managed to survive thanks to the defeat of the Thyatian Empire. Also, the quick reduction of Ierendi’s trading ambitions after the end of the war and the internal turmoil of the kingdom allowed the guildmasters not only to take back the positions they had lost to Ierendi due to the conflict, but even to challenge Ierendi’s own ones and to exploit the neighbor’s internal social and political struggle to expand their trading power at the expense of Ierendi.
Trade and Agreements
After the Corsair Wars, Thyatian trade power had been toppled; not only the empire had lost any chance to bring back the Sea of Dread’s northern archipelagos under its control, but it also had lost a sizeable fraction of its sea forces due to the privateer war against Ierendi and Minrothad and to the prolonged struggle against the Twaelar Kingdom in the Davanian Shallows. Ultimately, the further withdrawal of Thyatis from the southern seas meant the loss of any control and contact with the small colonies the empire had established in the decades before on Davania’s northern coasts. Ierendi’s failure at taking control of these colonies,10 the kingdom’s internal troubles, and the Guilds’ slow internal and trade consolidation after the reforms of the “Second Uniter” and the Corsair Wars, temporarily left open a vacuum in the Green Coast area, which would be for a time filled by Hulean missions and by the rise of lesser local trade towns and countries.11 Only later the Guilds’ ships would have begun to prowl those waters.
In the meantime, of the lasting bones of contention between the Guilds and Thyatis, however, continued to be the isle of Terentias, which Minrothad had acquired with the Treaty of Bayville (AC 720). In fact, Thyatis was angered because - despite the treaty - toward the end of the 8th century AC, pirates of all sorts openly used the island as base, without the Guilds’ government doing anything against them. The empire was in no position to wage a war against Minrothad to win Terentias back, but when in AC 799 Thyatis threatened to revoke the trading concessions made to the Guilds, the guildmasters understood where their gains laid. So they agreed to help Thyatis in joint operations against local pirates and in making the small chain formed by Terentias, North Island, and Fire Island an autonomous state within the Thyatian Empire, to be ruled by a governor elected and advised by the islands’ most important families. As the local water elf families had strong ties with Alfeisle, Minrothad continued to exert a great deal of influence on the islands’ internal affairs, despite the chain be formally part of the Thyatian Empire, even if in name only.12
Then, in AC 878, during a time of serious internal troubles in the Thyatian Empire which would last until the end of the 9th century AC,13 the governor of the autonomous state of Terentias was persuaded by the Guilds’ government to sell Fire Island to Minrothad. The atoll was and had always been useless, due to its dangerous active volcano that made even approaching its coasts dangerous at time.14 The Guilds’ government, led by Missan Meditor, had special plans for Fire Island, however; in AC 880 the island was declared off-limits to all shipping, and since that time it has become the secret base of operation of the Minrothaddan Privateers Guild, supported by the government and representing a main asset for the Guilds to keep their own waters free from any rivalry or competition. As we will see, in the next years (AC 898) the Guilds will manage to strike a threefold deal with Ierendi and Thyatis, which will allow them to take possession of North Island as well.
Most importantly, the expansion of the Guilds’ trade in the 9th century AC brought Minrothaddan ships for the first time to regularly plow the western Sea of Dread and the coasts of the Serpent Peninsula. In AC 852, Minrothaddan traders were the first Known Worlders to open formal trade relations with Yavdlom, establishing a storage area in Tanakumba (which they called “Thanopolis”).15 In the following years, Minrothaddan vessels penetrated the Izondian Deep, sailing toward the Gulf of Hule and the Savage Coast, opening trade with local city-states like Slagovich and Hojah, and with the coastal Hulean cities. There, the arrival of the Minrothaddans worried the small local trade powers, and resulted in some sporadic conflict at sea, which generally saw the Minrothaddan prevailing. It was clear, however, that a show of force against those competitors was necessary if Minrothad wished to decisively penetrate that trade region.
Immigration from the End of the 8th to the First Half of the 9th Century
During the 8th century AC, the raising economy of the Guilds and the smartness of the guildmasters allowed Minrothad to attract many immigrants from mainland countries, in particular from the Thyatian Empire and the various Darokinian states. In order to make their products more competitive on the Known World markets and to subtract from the other countries’ merchants the intellectual resources they needed for innovations and discoveries, the Guilds encouraged immigration in the Colony Islands, allowing a great degree of freedom in artistic expression and making quite easy for the newcomers to join one of the many guilds of the country. These aspects made the islands an eligible destination for many craftsmen and inventors, who were restrained in their home cities and countries by the presence of closer-minded local guilds which most of the time hampered trade and crafting with the limitations they imposed on their members, instead of allowing free expression and competition based on the products’ real quality. So, in the first quarter of the 9th century AC, thousands of immigrants came to the Colony Islands. The Guilds greatly benefited from this influx of new techniques, new ideas, and renewed enterprising spirit, and saw a huge raise of their crafting activities.
Among the various groups of immigrants, there was one which had a lasting effects on the Guilds’ future structure and which would definitely make them a multiracial country. During the Forty Years’ War in the far-away Alphatian-dominated Highlands to the north, in AC 802 discovery of rich and plentiful gold veins in the mountains had unleashed a gold rush like no one had been ever seen before. Protagonists of this gold rush were mostly dwarven prospectors and miners from Rockhome, thousands of whom flocked into the already war-ravaged Highlands, adding further chaos in the country; it was not long before warbands of armed dwarven mercenaries began crossing the countryside, sometimes fighting against the various factions at war, sometimes only robbing the peasants of food in order to carry on their search for gold. As plague spread in the Highlands at the same time when the dwarves began arriving, the local population began accusing them to have introduced the disease in the country; thus began the Years of Infamy, during which the common people and the nobles alike of the Highlands unleashed a fierce persecution against the dwarves, with the goal of killing them outright or chase them out of the country. In AC 828, a decree eventually sanctioned the expulsion of all dwarves from the Highlands, on pain of death - this meant that even the law was now against the dwarves.
Many dwarves had already begun to leave the Highlands in the years before, but after the decree theirs became a mass flight from the country. A few went back to Rockhome, while others settled in neighboring countries like Sind and Darokin. Minrothaddan guildmasters were shrewd and took this opportunity to make a formal invitation to some thousands of dwarves to migrate to the Guilds’ territory, offering them a place to settle on Fortress Island, which had always been a sparsely-inhabited volcanic and rocky island. The Guilds had always been lacking real stone and metalworking activities, and thought that the dwarves could represent a great addition to the national craftsmanship. The group of dwarven clans, led by Darkbrow Hammer, accepted and moved up to Athenos, when Minrothad ships helped them in their transfer to Fortress Island.
The Guilds helped the new immigrants to build settlements on the island’s rocky slopes; the place was poor in natural resources, but its volcanic nature made it an ideal place for metalworking, and there were plenty of stone quarries. As the guildmasters had foreseen, the dwarves easily integrated in the Guilds’ economy, trading their metal and stonecraft products with food and other necessities; their guilds quickly overcame the local, weak guilds which dealt in the same crafting areas, coming to represent an important economic force in the country. In AC 841, the dwarves established their port-town of Stronghold, on Fortress Island, which became the center of their trades.
Despite these positive economic effects, immigration also spurred some reactions in the common people of the Guilds, who believed that the attention their rulers were devoting to the phenomenon was starting to become excessive, because it often favored outsiders over inhabitants of the Colony Islands. The quick rise of some families with foreign origins, such as the Traladaran Ebonov, confirmed this feeling.16 The Minrothaddans indeed believed in free competition, but many now believed this was not a fair one, because the government wrongly favored way too much outsiders. Obviously this was not the truth, but common people - mostly on Trader’s Isle - believed it to be, as well as some rich families whose businesses had suffered due to the immigrants’ competition.
The Council of Minrothad (AC 850-862)
At the half of the 9th century AC, the Minrothad Guilds were developing as a nation more stable and prosper than ever. Social and economic transformation had however also taken place in the last century or so.
From a political point of view, decisions had increasingly been made within the Council of Dread, by the heads of the four Family Guilds. Prosperity and peace had marginalized the role of the General Council of Guilds and Estates, which had been called more and more only to approve the decisions taken by the Council of Dread without further unnecessary discussion. As most minor families represented in the General Council were nevertheless tied to the four major ones, this did not cause many problems.
From a social point of view, instead, the last century had seen the definitive disappearance of a neat distinction between land-owning families and mercantile ones, as the former had invested money in trade and had entered into the guilds, while the latter had sometimes used the money gained through trade to buy lands; the ruling oligarchy now formed a cohesive block of families who held more or less the same economic status.
At the same time, the development of trade had brought to the rise of an additional profession which was extremely valuable for the Guilds, and very much appreciated by everyone as well: that of the so-called “Merchant-Princes”. These individuals were sea captains or master guilders who decided to carry on trade on their own without relying of the Guilds’ port agents to sell their cargo and buy goods; they mixed together trading and seafaring skills, and - as most of them were water elves or magic-users - they were also trained in arcane magic. This odd mix of skills gradually blended together into the profession of the Merchant-Prince. By the half of the 9th century AC, there were so many of them that they began associating together, asking for the possibility to form a guild and to be recognized as a separate social class.
Lastly, immigration issues and the quick rise of the dwarven stone and metalcrafting guilds posed new problems which had to be addressed in order to avoid generating social conflicts.
The oligarchy’s answer to these issues was the summoning of the Council of Minrothad in AC 850. The Council was a special assembly with much larger number of representatives than the General Council, chosen among the various guilds, main families, and local governments. The Council opened a long and decisive season of reforms lasted until AC 862, which would have shaped the Minrothad Guilds like they are today.
The Council of Dread was renamed Council of Guild Leaders; the dwarven metal and stonecrafting guilds were organized under one additional Family Guild, put under the lead of the Hammer family, who received a fifth seat in the Council of Guild Leaders. The Council of Guild Leaders also centered most powers in its hands, assuming legislative power in most issues, while the General Council of Guilds and Estates was emptied of real influence, being called only once per year to approve the yearly budget, and in extraordinary session to elect the nation’s military leaders or to decide on important treaties or war declarations.
Also, a single head of state was established with the charge of Ruling Guildmaster, who had the largely ceremonial role to represent the nation as a whole and the duty to preside the Council of Guild Leaders, albeit being allowed to express a vote only in case of a tie in the assembly (due to absteinment of one or more members from the vote). The Ruling Guildmaster was chosen by the members of the Council of Guild Leaders.
The guild system was also restructured and reorganized through a common guild code, which aimed at achieving a greater deal of harmonization of the various guilds to a single model; internal guild practices and offices were also clarified and uniformed. The traditional caste division of the Minrothaddan society also received formal sanction by the Council of Minrothad’s decrees, seeing the institution of a new caste encompassing the magic-using sea captains known as Merchant-Princes.
Lastly, the Council of Minrothad answered to the people’s growing opposition to immigration by imposing severe limitations on immigration in the archipelago, de facto decreasing and halting the influx of immigrants to the islands which had characterized the previous century.
The Rule of Missan Meditor
As the final step of the long reform process, and in the closing session of the Council of Minrothad, in AC 862 the newly-restructured Council of Guild Leaders appointed Missan Meditor, clanmaster of the oldest, most prestigious, and most influent water elf clan, as the Guilds’ first Ruling Guildmaster. As part of the agreement which brought to the election of Missan, the Meditor clan had to leave the leadership of the water elf Family Guild to another family; thus, the water elf clan Kasan became the new head of that guild.
Missan was quite old when appointed as Ruling Guildmaster, and his role was largely that of representing a ceremonial, prestigious, and unifying figure beyond the various guilds’ and local governments’ interests. He had been for a very long time the leader of the water elf faction of Alfeisle, and was a staunch supporter of Minrothad’s trading expansion, being also quite available to use ruthless methods and force to bring the Guilds on the top of international sea trade.
The Council of Guild Leaders took largely the Guilds’ policy in its own hands during the years of Missan’s rule, as expected after the late reform. The Council’s main goal was to limit immigration and strengthen control of the Guilds over trade in its own territory and waters. This was achieved by reinforcing or establishing monopolies of the native guilds over trades which represented Minrothad’s primary activities, raising duties over importation of rival merchandise, hampering businesses managed by foreigners, and also severely patrolling the waters around the Colony Islands, in order to fight smuggling, illegal trade, and piracy. The Minrothad’s navy was quite active during Missan’s rule - supported as ever by the Privateers Guild - coming often to blows with Ierendian, Hin, and Thyatian pirates, and even stopping and inspecting merchant ships in their own ports or at sea to make the Council’s decrees enforced.
While this policy was quite successful on the sea’s surface, it found greater difficulties against trade which went on under the waves. The Council was particularly worried by trade carried on by the kna, a nomadic race of underwater traders, who were used to trade with whoever they wanted when they came near the coastline to bring to the surface dwellers their merchandise - mostly sea pearls and magical ingredients found only underwater. Obviously, the Guilds now considered such a trade akin to smuggling, because trade had to be controlled by the individual guild which had monopoly over that specific trade area. The kna were not at all willing to comply with the Council’s decrees, and an undeclared trade war ensued between the kna families and the Minrothad Guilds. Ruthless Minrothaddan piracy against the kna families - carried out by the Privateers Guild - led to the surprise slaughtering of many kna traders and clans; whenever the Guilds’ privateers encountered the kna, they tried to kill them to the last creature before they could retreat in the depths. The most bloody battle of this conflict was the so-called Fire Battle (AC 880), when a flotilla of Minrothaddan privateers used a special substance - bought from a Honor Island trader - which burnt even underwater, to corner and slaughter a great number of kna families in the shallow waters between Open Isle and Fire Island.17 The battle is still considered by the kna as one of the great modern tragedies of their race, and is the reason behind the great hate the kna harbor toward the Minrothaddans; since that day, the kna have withdrawn from Minrothaddan waters and have ceased any trade with the Guilds, however starting in retaliation a series of sporadic raids against Minrothaddan ships which still goes on today.
The Guilds Under Kitrina and Oran Meditor
The Ruling Guildmaster Missan Meditor died in AC 887, and the Council of Guild Leaders chose to succeed him Kitrina Meditor, another member of the water elves’ leading clan who was also Missan’s grandniece. Her office as Ruling Guildmaster, which lasted until her assassination in AC 965, coincided with a time of further raise in Minrothaddan trade power - albeit offset by some defeats - but also with an age of gradual social stagnation and severe conservatorism, which led to a rift between the guildmasters and the highest castes of Minrothaddan societies, and the lower classes. Some of these issues were left to her son and successor as Ruling Guildmaster, Oran Meditor, to solve.
The Rule of Kitrina Meditor
The first issue that the Council of Guild Leaders had to face after Kitrina’s election was the continued common people opposition to immigration from the mainland, despite the laws passed during the Council of Minrothad which severely regulated and limited the arrival and settlement of foreign people in the Guilds, and their chance to establish businesses, activities, or find a job there.
To comply with popular demands, with a move unprecedented in any other Known World country, and strongly advocated by Kitrina, the Council passed the Isolation Act in AC 890, which forbade immigration in the Guilds’ territory and decisively cut the number of allowed visitors to the islands, reducing it to almost nothing. The Council believed that this was the best way to ensure that trading secrets, advanced techniques, and discoveries made in Minrothad did not flow out to advantage the Guilds’ rivals in other countries.
Indeed, the Isolation Act, coupled with measures taken during Missan’s rule to enhance Minrothaddan trade monopoly in the Colony Islands, strengthened the Guilds’ economic power and allowed them to successfully overcome any would-be rival to the role of main sea trading realm.
The first years of Kitrina’s rule saw also the growth of Minrothaddan and Ierendian interest toward the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago (see “The Bout for Thanegioth”, below). The Guilds managed also to expand their sphere of influence to the rest of the Colony Islands (North Island and Terentias) when in AC 887, amidst a serious political crisis which the Thyatian Empire was experimenting, some water elf clans in Crossbones staged a coup, ousted the pro-Thyatian governor, and declared formal independence from Thyatis and annexation to Minrothad. The Guilds sent troops to secure strategic locations in the islands, but preferred to keep the islands as a protectorate until civil unrest which was still raging in Crossbones was quelled and it was clear how Thyatis would come out of its crisis. The status of the islands was then sealed with the Agreement of Minrothad (AC 898, see below), with North Island being annexed to Minrothad and Terentias going back to Thyatis.18
The Council of Guild Leaders and Kitrina wasted no time to secure North Island for Minrothad, and in AC 900 ordered the building of a great fortress town in the center of the small island, which was named Gapton.
In the first decade of the 10th century AC, Kitrina and the Council dragged the Guilds into a difficult conflict - the Aquapopulus War (AC 904-911) - against the merrow Twaelar Kingdom in the waters around the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago. The Guilds’ habit to bully weaker opponents into abiding to Minrothad’s decisions did not work this time, because the merrows were by no means weak. The opponents of the Meditors sharply criticized the way the war had been carried on, especially the scarce reliance of the government on diplomacy. The conflict was the first true military defeat of the Guilds after the Corsair Wars two centuries before. After the costly war, the Minrothaddan government had to renounce to all claims on the Thanegioth resources, and focus on the nation’s traditional trade areas.
This blow and the tensions caused by the Isolation Act made the Guilds’ economy suffer, with a decrease in trade which was gradually recovered only after the half of the 10th century AC19. Despite this, new ship designs developed by the water elves and the use of quality wood given a special treatment by the wood elves, allowed the Minrothad ships to be always one step ahead of those of other nations. Also, during the first half of the 10th century AC, the Guilds - besides doing their own import and export trading - specialized in transportation services, becoming the most sought-after cargo-carriers of the Known World and developing a reputation for reliability, security, and speed at sea.
This success - which offset some of the damage done by the isolationist policy - was due to the rise of the Merchant-Prince caste, whose number increased in those decades, up to the point that by AC 940 almost all Guilds’ ships were captained by one of them. Obviously, a sea magic-using merchant and navigator on board each ship did not anything but increase the reputation of the Minrothaddan fleet. Moreover, the government ensured the presence of state-paid and trained marines on each privately-owned ship, thus making them still more resistant to attacks by pirates and privateers.
The Guilds’ policy of trading with everyone regardless of political alliances made the Council expand the country’s neutrality agreements - already in place between the Guilds and the two major empires of Thyatis and Alphatia - to many other nations of the Known World around AC 950: Ierendi, the Five Shires, Ylaruam, Sind, and Yavdlom just to name a few. This meant that those countries could still count on Minrothaddan transportation and trading services even if they happened to be at war with another nation which relied on them as well.
The Council Assumes Regency
In AC 965, Kitrina Meditor was assassinated by a member of a mainland thieves’ guild; for the Council it was quite obvious that the assassination had been commissioned by some mainland power which hoped to strike a blow to Minrothad’s sea trade dominance. Actually, there were reasons to suspect some internal intrigue as the cause of the assassination, because the last years of Kitrina’s rule had seen a growing opposition to the harsh isolationist policies of her government, with some families directly voicing against them; the Ruling Guildmaster seemed likely to work toward a loosening of immigration limitations, but the Council was opposed to any revision - so, the plot against Kitrina might have been weaved within the very Council itself.
The Council, as retaliatory measure against foreign thieves operating in Minrothad, issue the infamous “Death to Thieves” decree the same years Kitrina had fallen assassinated; the decree imposed death penalty on most serious thievery and robbery crimes, and is still effective in the Guilds to this day.
To honor Kitrina’s memory, the Council of Guild Leaders chose her son Oran to succeed her as Ruling Guildmaster. Oran was very young and had still to complete his training in the water elf Family Guild. The Council thus established a “regency”, ruling without a controlling head of state until Oran came of age.
The “regency” was a time of stagnation, corruption, and decline in the Guilds. The Family Guild Leaders took advantage of those years to accept bribes for appointments to government offices, to raise their own proxies within the guilds and the government, to diminish the quality of the Guilds’ craft products in order to line their pockets, and to put their hands on the treasury itself when needed for their own goals. A wicked secret agreement between the five Family Guild Leaders marked the start of this season characterized by exchanges of favors, emanation of decrees and laws especially suited to favor this or that guild, and by widespread neglect in various fields. The Council also raised taxes to burdensome levels in order to pay for the illegitimate expenses of its members, leaning the costs of this corrupt policy on the common people.
During the regency, in AC 980, cases of lycanthropy belonging mostly to the devil swine and wererat strains were discovered in Minrothad city. It is not known if the resurgence of the plague was due to foreign lycanthropes illegally arrived in Minrothad, or to some surviving descendant of the old weres. The Council, however, failed to address the problem properly; even worse, some Guild Leaders enlisted lycanthropes to have them perform as agents and assassins during the course of their intrigues and rivalries. When werecreatures began to appear with an alarming frequency, the population was overcome with fear and asked the government for direct intervention to solve the issue - but the Council was slow to react.
Despite all this, the years of the regency saw a new expansion of the Minrothaddan trade network to the Thanegioth Archipelago, as the new progressive faction at power in the Twaelar Kingdom had begun to favor contact with land-dwelling outsiders and to sponsor trade with them (see “The Bout for Thanegioth”, below”).
Regarding foreign policy, the regency also damaged Minrothad’s traditionally neutral stance between the various nations of the Known World by signing an opportunistic agreement with the Thyatian Empire. In AC 988, when the Thyatian Emperor Thincol started his conquest of the Thratian tribes in northern Davania, the Guilds offered their transportation services to the empire’s troops for free in exchange for Thyatis’ help to defend the islands in case of attack. This was only the publicly known part of the agreement; in truth, Thyatis did pay for the Guilds’ services (albeit a reduced fee), and the Family Guild Leaders pocketed the money. Also, Thincol had obtained from the Guilds guarantee of not hampering the Thyatian conquest of the Thratians, and allowance for Thyatian merchants to trade in the Thanegioth Archipelago. While mostly useful only to make Emperor Thincol save some money and to fill the pockets of the guildmasters, this agreement gave to the other countries the impression that Minrothad was allying itself with the empire20 - something which spurred Ierendi, among others, to stimulate piracy against Minrothaddan ships.
Oran Meditor Takes Office
In AC 989, at the relatively young elf age of 150 years, Oran Meditor ended his training in the water elf Family Guild and was ready to assume the office he had only formally filled since AC 965. The Council of Guild Leaders was reluctant to give up the power its members had been used to in the last twenty years, but the Family Guild Leaders thought they could easily control and direct young Oran to do what they wished.
They were wrong. The Verdier clan even arranged the marriage of Oran with one of its scions, the young wood elf Astra, in order to manipulate the new Ruling Guildmaster, but Astra fell in love with Oran and baffled any attempt by her clan to control her husband. As soon as Oran took office, he made clear that he had the intention of opening a new season of reforms in Minrothad; during his training, he had in fact realized how much nefarious the policies enacted by the Council of Guild Leaders during the regency had been, and now wanted to impose a new turn on the country.
First of all, the new Ruling Guildmaster replaced all the heads of the political guilds - that is the government-controlled guilds which controlled the various fields of administration, bureaucracy, justice, military, and so on; during the regency, these guilds had been led by individuals chosen by the Family Guild Leaders and had become puppets under their control, subdued to their interests. Oran needed some allies against the Family Guilds, and the newly-appointed guildmasters granted him the support of the political guilds - which also meant the nation’s armed forces, the Mercenary Guild.
Then, Oran addressed the lycanthropic plague which had been raging for a decade without any significant intervention of the Council to stop it. By AC 989, lycanthropes had begun to appear not only on Trader’s Isle, but on other islands as well, spreading panic among the demihuman populations. Oran ordered the Mercenary Guild to take care of the problem as swiftly and ruthlessly as possible. In the course of one year, the risk of another lycanthropic plague was foiled through lycanthrope hunts and extermination, and this success endeared very much the new Ruling Guildmaster to the population.
Next, Oran bypassed the Council of Guild Leader and appealed to the General Council of Guilds and Estates to obtain the approval of decrees lowering taxation and imposing higher quality standards to the Family Guilds’ crafts, through purchase of better raw materials, control of internal promotion processes, and so on. These reforms hit the main source of profit the Family Guilds had enjoyed during the regency.
The Family Guilds understood they had a new enemy in Oran Meditor. They tried to offset the Ruling Guildmaster’s popularity with the Minrothaddan people by causing trouble to the government. They contacted the clandestine Thieves Guild, which had ties with the pirate world, and began passing the pirates informations about Minrothaddan shippings, hoping that continued pirate raids against the Guilds’ ships and the inability of the government to solve the problem would cripple Oran’s popularity. When the pirate raids started, Oran suspected that the Family Guilds were somehow behind them. For some time the Thieves Guild was content with this situation, but later, in AC 990, it came to resent being controlled by the Family Guilds, and its new guildmaster turned to Oran and stroke a deal with him: the Ruling Guildmaster would have allowed the guild to use Minrothad’s trading network and contacts to expand its activities oversea, but in turn the Thieves Guild would have been reorganized along the lines dictated by Oran and would have avoided performing its trade in Minrothad. Since the time of this agreement, Oran had the guild perform as his own network of secret agents and spies, putting in his hands another important asset in the struggle against the Family Guilds.
In AC 991 Oran disbanded another piece of the Family Guilds’ influence, rescinding his mother’s Isolation Act and allowing again immigration in the Guilds’ territory. This allowed new life to flow into a society which had been isolated and stagnating for about a century, stirring up competition and development of new ideas.
Some of the Family Guild Leaders did not let Oran proceed unharmed on the road of reforms. In AC 995, a first assassination attempt was done against his life during a visit in the capital; the assassin’s arrow killed instead the Seneschal of Minrothad city, who was standing alongside him. The leading clan of the water elf family guild, the Kasan, were found responsible for the attempted assassination; Oran had them ousted from the control of the water elf guild, which was assigned to a trusted water elf family, the Elsan. Also, Oran took the opportunity to replace the Seneschal of the capital - an office since a century ago firmly in the hands of a Corser-appointed individual - with one of his own men. This fact further embittered Corser family’s hatred for the Ruling Guildmaster, up to the point of organizing a second attempt at Oran’s life in AC 998, when he barely survived the attack of an earth elemental summoned by an alleged Glantrian mercenary wizard on Corser family’s payroll.
Trade and economy have seen new rise under Oran’s rule, mostly thanks to the rescission of the Isolation Act, and as routes toward the Thanegioth Archipelago - made possible due to the Twaelar benevolence - and the Gulf of Hule have begun to be traveled much more frequently. Thanks to the flourishing of international sea trade, the last ten years have seen the steep rise of piratical and privateering activities, with ever more frequent clashes between opposing pirates taking place in the high seas and in the Thanegioth Archipelago. Oran did not revoke the agreement signed by the regency government with Thyatis back in AC 988, which is still technically ongoing, but has tried to distance the Guilds from the empire in order to reestablish the country’s neutral position. The Thyatian Emperor Thincol has not failed to notice this attempt, and has given his secret go-ahead to privateer and pirate raids against Minrothaddan vessels with the aim to intimidate the Guilds back into backing Thyatis.
After two failed assassination attempts, Oran’s life is still at danger; plotting of the Family Guild heads against him is rampant, with Corser and Verdier families in the front line, alongside the ousted Kasan clan. The future of Minrothad is one of conflict between oligarchic conservatorism and the progressive policies advocated by Oran; if the Ruling Guildmaster will be able to win this struggle, the Guilds’ head of state office is very likely fated to assume a much more important role and greater presidential power in the institutional structure of the nation, at the expense of the Council of Guild Leaders.
The Bout for Thanegioth
Toward the end of the 9th century AC, interest of coastal and trade-oriented Known World countries like Ierendi and Minrothad in the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago grew.
This set of large islands and small keys had been mostly ignored since Thyatis had lost control of its Davanian outposts in the Green Coast and surroundings, and was considered a dangerous and wild region only inhabited by primitive savage human tribes and terrible monsters. Slavers had sometimes foraged on some of the islands’ shores from Ochalea or the Serpent Peninsula, but no serious attempt at exploration, conquest or establishment of trade routes had been made. Moreover, it was in the archipelago’s waters that the Twaelar Kingdom’s power was centered; the Thyatians had met and warred with the merrows a couple of centuries ago, but they had encountered them mostly in the Davanian Shallows and it was that sea region which the Known Worlders thought to be controlled by them, as no one - apart some Ierendians more in touch with the Sunlit Sea merrows - knew how large the Twaelar Kingdom was or where exactly were its boundaries located.
Attention of the trading sea powers was drawn to the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago when explorers and slavers coming from the Western Thanegioth Archipelago (east of Thanegia Island) reported the presence of relevant resources of precious gemstones and metals which were not mined by the natives, and unique spices and plants. Thyatis had always looked at the area as a potential slave reservoir, but since the struggle against the merrows two centuries ago the empire had refrained from any formal and thorough penetration in the archipelago. The newly-found resources made Ierendian and Minrothaddan eyes turn toward the archipelago.
The Tripartite Agreement of Minrothad
The Thyatian Empire had just emerged from a time of serious internal trouble, fragmentation, and civil war in AC 898, when the new Emperor Gabrionius IV raised to the throne. In the years before his coronation, the empire had also experimented an ethnic rift in its own mainland territories; religious unrest and rebellion had been carried on by the ethnic minority of the Ispans, who lived within the Duchy of Kerendas, and had been met with growing persecutions by the imperial government. A few thousands of Ispans had already left the mainland some years before in AC 875, founding small coastal villages on the easternmost island of the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago - whom they called Nueva Ispañola - which were ignored by the empire amidst of its political crisis.21
After news of resources discovered in the archipelago reached the Known World, claims over them was almost simultaneously made by the Thyatian Empire, the Kingdom of Ierendi, and the Minrothad Guilds. The new Thyatian emperor was eager to reunite around the throne the factions which had fought among themselves in the past years through a successful war of expansion or conquest, but Ierendi and Minrothad were far too tough on the sea to give Thyatis any chance of success. The two island nations were confident of their superiority on the sea, but they did not trust one another, as Minrothad feared Ierendi’s naval power while the latter was worried by the Guilds’ expanding trade network.
This attitude by the three powers paved the road to an agreement between the Thyatian Empire, Ierendi, and Minrothad which was signed in Minrothad city in AC 898. Thyatis had to leave control of the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago and its resources, and to the minor islands of the Sea of Dread, to Minrothad and Ierendi - who agreed to divide their respective spheres of influences along a line running down from Shireton, west of it to Ierendi and east of it to Minrothad. On the other hand, the empire received a placet from two island states to the conquest of Traladara, that is the Guilds and Ierendi would stay neutral if Thyatis invaded the land - Gabrionius IV foresaw a quick, easy, and successful campaign which would bring prestige to him, avoid the risk of a Traladaran unification, and keep that region out of the resurfacing Darokinian influence. The Agreement of Minrothad also set the status of the turbulent North Island and Terentias, with the former being finally annexed by the Guilds, and the latter restored as an autonomous dominion within the Thyatian Empire.
A side effect of this agreement was the Ispan migration to the Gulf of Hule region. The Thyatian government wanted to get rid of the troublesome Ispans, so planned to send them in a colonization expedition somewhere out of the empire’s borders. Many Ispan families wanted to leave Thyatis as well after the persecutions they had suffered, and to join their few brethrens who had settled in Nueva Ispañola some years before. However, the Minrothaddan government did not allow Emperor Gabrionius IV to endorse the migration, because it feared this was only another attempt by Thyatis to put its hands on the Thanegioth Archipelago. So, as part of the agreement, Thyatis was allowed to send a colonizing expedition in the Gulf of Hule region, to settle its western shores inhabited only by native peoples. The Guilds also thought that an increased presence of Known Worlders in that region would have definitely broken the local city-states resistance to Minrothaddan trade penetration. The expedition was thoroughly prepared and sailed to the Gulf of Hule, with thousands of Ispans on board, in AC 900, leading to the foundation of a number of de facto independent Ispan domains in that region, and to a steady migration of remaining Ispans from Thyatis to the new settlements in the next years.22
The Aquapopulus War
After the agreement, Ierendi and Minrothad prepared to make concrete inroads into the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago. Some exploration took place, though slowly because the main routes used at the beginning - due to prevailing winds and sea currents - were still the western one along the Serpent Peninsula, and the eastern one along the Isle of Dawn and Ochalea.
The Minrothaddans made contact with the Ispans of Nueva Ispañola, and began trading with them, while the Ierendians set foot on a couple of islands and met the natives. When in AC 903 ships began to arrive from the two island realms in greater number, something the Known Worlders did not expect took place. At first strange and inexplicable accidents hit isolated ships, who sank beneath the waves or disappeared without a trace; the governments of the two realms imputed those accidents to bad weather or sea monsters. Then, rumors of merrow attacks reached Ierendi and Minrothad, and it became clear that something different was happening, and that the mysterious and dreaded Twaelar Kingdom was behind the coordinated attacks on Ierendian and Minrothaddan ships. It was clear that the waters around Thanegioth, not only the Davanian Shallows, were part of its alleged territory or sphere of influence. Again, as two centuries before, the merrows were fiercely resisting any attempt by the Known World countries to expand on surface lands found above “their” waters.
The Ierendian government at first faltered, but then decided to carry on its goal of establishing a hold in the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago also because the nomadic merrows of the Sunlit Sea were not particularly sympathetic toward their Twaelar kins, and no love was lost between them. The Guilds, bolstered by their recent success against the kna, were spurred to carry on the fight against the merrows more than ever. Naval personnel was mobilized in both countries, and their armed effort to defeat the Twaelar Kingdom started. Thus the Aquapopulus War (AC 904-911) began.23
Both government had failed to realize the scope of the threat they were facing. The Twaelar Kingdom was able to coordinate attacks over a huge area, move underwater armies numbering thousands of creatures, and was much more powerful, resourceful, and organized than any of the other underwater realms of the Sunlit Sea. Despite training in underwater combat and special underwater weapons possessed by some Ierendian and Minrothaddan troops, these were way too few and too far from their motherland to resist the merrows’ concerted attacks. Also, lack of real cooperation between the two rival states hampered their already difficult progresses in the war. Quite the contrary, merrow spellcasters were able to develop spells and effects which allowed the Twaelar armies to fight on land for short periods of time; when this sort of tactic became widespread in merrow troops, the outcome of the war was sealed.
The war dragged on for some years, during which the few outposts established by Ierendi and Minrothad were systematically raided by merrow war parties and then destroyed or abandoned, ship passage between the archipelago’s islands became unsafe, and supply lines to Ierendian and Minrothaddan troops stationed here and there in the archipelago were continuously broken by Twaelar raids. True battles were few and far between; the Aquapopulus War was a struggle of quick raids, hit-and-run tactics, and fierce skirmishes at sea. Toward AC 909, it became quite clear for the government of Minrothad and Ierendi that costs needed to keep control of the archipelago against the merrows far exceeded the benefits of getting the control of its resources. Also, within both countries there were factions that advocated a withdrawal from the archipelago: these were made up by some cost-conscious families and guilds in Minrothad, and groups in Ierendi who had closer ties with the Sunlit Sea - where the local nomadic tribes, if neutral at the beginnings, had now begun to voice against the continuation of the war effort against their kins.
By AC 910, both Ierendi and Minrothad were recalling from the archipelago their forces, which were chased and continuously hit by merrow patrols until they did not leave the northernmost fringes of the Twaelar domain. The Guilds tried to use diplomacy to obtain from the merrows some trade concessions in the Thanegioth islands, but their attempt to peacefully establish trade was considered way too late, and the merrows thus continued to press hard.
The Aquapopulus War ended in tragedy as the last garrison left in the Thanegioth Archipelago, a large Ierendian brigade, attempted to return to the motherland. The merrows chased the Ierendian ships, reaching them around the Skeleton Key and starting to sink them. The humans falling in the water were killed by the ruthless mermen; the survivors reached the shores, but then were cornered in the island by their opponents, and slaughtered to the last man. News of this tragedy did not immediately reach Ierendi and the Known World; only later, scanty rumors told of a “last brigade” of Ierendian soldiers lost in the Sea of Dread and butchered by the merrows. Still today no one has found the place where the tragic “Battle of Skeleton Key” happened.
Trade in the Sea of Dread in the Last Decades
After the Aquapopulus War, Ierendi and Minrothad had to admit defeat and relinquish any claim on the Eastern Thanegioth resources. The Twaelar Kingdom only allowed the presence of those land-dwellers which posed no threat to its sea-based domain - the archipelago’s natives, and the recently-arrived Ispans of Nueva Ispañola, who had struck a deal with the merrows already before the Aquapopulus War. The Twaelar merrows, however, had for the first time in their recent history met modern surface-dwellers organized for war; they had been the winners of the war, but they had suffered many casualties as well. The Aquapopulus War made them realize that they knew too little of their land enemies; some merrows began to think that establishing trade with the land peoples might be good for preserving peace, or as a mean to know them better in order to defend from their expansionism or to attempt to conquer them later. In the next few decades the Twaelar society, indeed, experimented a rift between a progressive faction favorable to trade with land-dwellers and a conservative one which opposed such ideas. Around AC 960, the progressive faction took the lead of the Twaelar Kingdom, opening a new phase of contacts between the Known Worlders and the southern merrows.
Thus, between AC 960 and AC 970 the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago again began to be appealing for the Known World’s ships from Ierendi, Minrothad, and Thyatis, and its islands were gradually but thoroughly charted when the first explorers made their inroads in its waters. The main explorer of this age was indeed the Caerdwiccan Rory Barbarosa, who was the first to map the coastlines of the Isle of Dread.24
With opposition from the Twaelar merrows lowered in the recent decades, the Eastern Thanegioth saw an increasing presence of merchantmen – and, consequently, of pirate ships – in the archipelago. With the articles of the Agreement of Minrothad still ongoing between Minrothad and Ierendi, the two island realms again began to try to impose their monopoly on the two main trade routes – one from Ierendi Island and the other from Trader’s Isle, both straight south to two different points of the archipelago – discouraging all ships of other countries to trade along them. They made agreements with the Twaelar Kingdom this time, receiving permission to sail in the archipelago's waters and to do trade with the native population and with the merrows, but without establishing any settlement beyond small forts and trade stations. After the Thyatians conquest of the Davanian Hinterlands, trade in the Eastern Thanegioth Archipelago has further increased, but it is still to be seen if the Known World powers will be content to leave the situation as it is or will again try to directly seize the archipelago for themselves through another conflict against the Twaelar Kingdom.
1 The idea of the uprising, albeit within a different historical setting, was borrowed from [http://pandius.com/AIGV1.pdf, Alternate Ierendi Gazetteer: The Pirate Kingdom of Ierendi (AM2) (by J.W. Biles)]. The name of King Konal (but not his surname), below, was taken from the same source.
2 This paragraph expands on a sentence found in GAZ4, page 12: “Edicts of the ninth and tenth century monarchs have eliminated the worst abuses of the earlier plantation system”.
3 The name (but not the surname) of this queen was borrowed from [http://pandius.com/AIGV1.pdf, Alternate Ierendi Gazetteer: The Pirate Kingdom of Ierendi (AM2) (by J.W. Biles)]; note that the source has her in an otherwise completely different historical context.
5 Taran is a pregenerated PC featured in adventure module M3 Twilight Calling; there his description states: “After many years as King of Ierendi, Taran turned the kingdom over to his children, and became a wandering hero”. Due to his name, I chose to have Redstone (Isle of Dawn) origins for him; I created his surname accordingly. Ierendi not being a hereditary monarchy, his children must have won the crown of Ierendi in the years after his departure; thus I included Riaghan and Aislinn (son and daughter of Taran) in the list.
6 The character of Mungo was borrowed from [http://pandius.com/AIGV1.pdf, Alternate Ierendi Gazetteer: The Pirate Kingdom of Ierendi (AM2) (by J.W. Biles)], albeit there he is found in a different context and role.
7 See note 3, above, about this character.
8 Another pregenerated PC from adventure module M3 Twilight Calling; according to her background there, “She once was married to Taran”, so I supposed she might have become queen of Ierendi for a short time as well, and that Riaghan and Aislinn were the children she had with Taran. About Morgana, see also the sidebar on pages 67-68 in The Minor Islands of the Sea of Dread, within “Threshold” issue no. 3.
9 Palfrit and Marianne (below) are the monarchs featured in GAZ4; I invented their surnames.
10 See “The History of Ierendi and Minrothad Part 3” in Threshold issue no. 5, page .
11 During this time, the Hulean Empire established the colony of Garganin in the Green Coast.
12 This additional change of sovereignity over Terentias is borrowed from [http://pandius.com/thy_hist.html, History of the Thyatian People (by J. Ruhland)]; I have slightly changed some details of it in order to fit with this article’s timeline.
13 The empire likely passed through a time of fragmentation, civil strife, or serious internal troubles just before the onset of the 10th century AC. Hints of this are found in canon sources when they says that Thyatis is “a little more than a century old” (CM1 Test of the Warlords, page 4), and that “130 years ago [...] it was nothing more than a large city-state ruled by shiftless no-accounts” (M5 Talons of Night, background of the pregenerated PC Shebb Woolsey). The rise of Gabrionius IV to the imperial throne put an end to this time of troubles.
14 According to GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds, the Guilds are in possession of Fire Island by AC 880.
15 See Champions of Mystara, Explorer’s Manual, page 42.
16 The Ebonov family is featured in the Torenescu family tree in Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure.
17 The battle is featured on the poster map included in PC3 The Sea People; the enmity between the kna and the Guilds is further explored within the module.
18 GAZ9, Dungeon Master’s Booklet, page 9, has North Island annexed by the Guilds by AC 900.
19 GAZ9, Dungeon Master’s Booklet, page 12, notes that “Minrothad trade suffered under the Isolation Act of 890 AC”.
20 In X1 The Isle of Dread, Minrothad is presented as “closely allied with Thyatis”.
22 This is an attempt to explain the Ispan migration from Thyatis to the Gulf of Hule in AC 900, which also constitutes the date of birth of the Savage Baronies.
23 The Aquapopulus War, and the battle of Skeleton Key, are mentioned in XSOLO1 Lathan’s Gold.
24 See X1 The Isle of Dread. “Rory” (true name Ruaridh) was a Thyatian born in Caerdwicca, in the southern Isle of Dawn, likely in a halfblood Thyatian-Caerdwiccan family. He devoted most of his life to the sea and to the exploration of the Sea of Dread, working both on a private basis, and for trading companies and governments like those of Ierendi and Karameikos; most of his explorations, indeed, were based in Specularum.