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Karameikos: The Hidden Years

by Demos Sachlas from Threshold Magazine issue 1

A historical timeline of the Karameikos family between 901-969 AC

by Demetrios J. Sahlas

The official history of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, as related by Aaron Allston in GAZ 1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, describes the Thyatian conquest of Traladara in 900 AC, but skims over the events of the decades leading up to the arrival of Duke Stefan Karameikos III in 970 AC. Earlier material relating to the Grand Duchy published in AC2: The Treasure of the Hideous One by David Cook clearly indicates a ducal presence dating back to the original conquest. Taken together with a genealogical table for the Karameikos family published in Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure, a historical timeline may be imagined for the so-called “Hidden Years” preceding the arrival of the Duke who would be King.

The Conquest of Traladara and Reign of Duke Stefan “the Hermit”

The Thyatian conquest of Traladara in 900 AC occurred during the reign of Emperor Gabronius IV. The general of the campaign may well have been Flavian Osteropolous. Upon his return from Traladara he erected a chapel at his estate in Thyatis dedicated to Vanya, patroness of war and conquest. From DDA1: Arena of Thyatis we learn that “Flavian was undoubtedly the Osteropolous most accomplished in the martial arts, as well as, the most pious. He seems to have been surprisingly honest in his political activities, as wellThe port of Marilenev was renamed Specularum by the military governor installed by the victorious Emperor following the brief but successful campaign.

Several of the Thyatian noblemen who played key roles in the conquest soon began to maneuver for new fiefs. Most notable among these was Stefan Karameikos, a younger son of the Karameikos dynasty that had long ruled the wealthy Duchy of Machetos. With no immediate prospects to inherit land in Thyatis, Stefan married into the prominent Traladaran family of Marilenev and set about restoring the ancestral estate. It was during the emperor’s first official visit to Specularum in 901 AC that Stefan was formally invested as Duke of Marilenev, renewing a historic Traladaran fiefdom. According to Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure, Jan Vandevic, leader of a band of mercenaries during the conquest, was also rewarded for his loyal service to the Empire with a fief.

Duke Stefan controlled a strong military presence and constantly sought to expand his territory. Soon after consolidating his hold on the Duchy of Marilenev, a Colonel Rosentos was sent to explore and lay claim to the unknown lands to the west, as described in AC2: The Treasure of the Hideous One. Only a single soldier, Captain Fondalus, returned from this expedition, later recounting his tale of the doomed mission to a Thyatian scribe. Meanwhile, the provincial governor of Traladara oversaw construction of the fortress of Krakatos to the north of Specularum as a bulwark against invasion from the humanoid tribes who were rumoured to dwell within the interior.

The Duchy of Marilenev soon had cause for celebration, with the birth to the Duke and his wife of a son. However, back in the Duchy of Machetos, Stefan’s older brother died suddenly, and his fief passed to a daughter. Her lands did not remain as a dowry for long, and she was soon married to a scion of the Korrigan family. Then, for reasons that remain unclear, Stefan chose to abdicate in 931 AC. He retired to a monastic community, earning him the epithet of Duke Stefan "the Hermit". Fortunately, his son Boris was well regarded, and his claim to the Duchy was soon approved by the Thyatian Emperor.

Duke Boris Karameikos and the House of von Hendriks

Duke Boris increased ties with Thyatis by arranging for a strategic marriage with Amelia von Hendriks of Hattias. This triggered a new wave of Thyatian immigrants to the Traladara region, most notably from Hattias but also from throughout the Empire. One of Amelia’s relatives was granted the fief of Halag to the west, and began constructing a fortress to safeguard the populace. Others, such as members of the prominent Rodemus family of Thyatis City, settled in and around the town of Luln.

Boris and Amelia had two sons, naming them Stefan and Victor. The boys grew up speaking both Traladaran and Thyatian, and were equally at ease in both cultures. They were weaned on Traladaran folk tales by their grandmother, but were also educated by the finest tutors from the Thyatian capital. Both underwent the Traladaran custom of shearing, which greatly contributed to popularizing its uptake among the early Thyatian settlers.

Stefan, the eldest, was widely anticipated to become Duke after his father , and spent his youth adventuring throughout the uncharted wilderness of Traladara. That he could pass as a native Traladaran allowed him to gain a familiarity with the common folk, and he often traveled between remote villages and homesteads, becoming a famous and much-loved adventurer.

Victor, on the other hand, developed deep friendships among the demi-human races, most notably the horse-riding Calarii elves. He wished to make his own way in the world and so traveled eastward, eventually becoming a forester in Thyatis. He later married his cousin, Amanda Korrigan, the wealthy heiress of Machetos, and so ultimately brought about a renewal of the Karameikos dynasty.

Duke Stefan Karameikos II

Upon the death of his father, Stefan Karameikos II became the third Duke of Marilenev. During this time, economic ties were being strengthened between the Traladara region and both the Empire of Thyatis and the more distant Emirates of Ylaruam, with the development of a new trade route across a southern spur of the Altan Tepe mountains. Construction was initiated on a fortified keep in the foothills of the mountains to protect and shelter merchant caravans on their way to Specularum from the Barony of Biazzan, and a castellan was installed to oversee its operations.

Unfortunately, the prosperity which followed inevitably triggered an increasing number of humanoid raids, culminating in the siege and destruction of Krakatos in 959 AC. These events coincided with the Alphatian invasion of the Isle of Dawn, limiting what military assistance the Empire could provide. Worse, Duke Stephan Karameikos II was slain, plunging the small Duchy of Marilenev into a succession crisis.

In the chaos which followed, Valor Marilenev, an uncle of Duke Stefan II, successfully repelled the marauding humanoids, and subsequently sought rulership of the Duchy of Marilenev. His claim was not recognized by Emperor Gabronius V, who was preoccupied with the war. In fact, there was dissent among the powerful Traladaran families, and the Traladara region was torn apart by further conflict.

Andreas von Hendricks, the Baron of Halag, chose to invade the wealthy Duchy of Marilenev. Leading an attack against Valor’s forces, a faction of the baron’s Traladaran subjects betrayed him and he was captured and executed. His wife Bretonia Korrigan, and their young son Ludwig, were able to escape to seek asylum with relatives in Thyatis.

Duke Stefan Karameikos III

Meanwhile, in the nearby Duchy of Machetos, Victor Karameikos and Amanda Korrigan had given birth to a son in 948, whom they named Stefan after his uncle. Tragically, the young Stefan Karameikos III lost his mother at the age of 9. His aunt Bretonia, wife of the late Baron Andreas von Hendricks, introduced Stefan to his cousin Ludwig when the boys were 14 years-old.

Together with various companions, including those who were to play a role in the history of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos in years to come, the young heir to the Duchy of Machetos came to know former gladiator Thrainkell Thorson, the man destined to become the future emperor Thincol I of Thyatis. Stefan Karameikos III became the Duke of Machetos at the age of 20, upon his father's untimely death. Within two years, however, he traded his ancestral lands to the Emperor in exchange for the entire Traladara region (and autonomy thereafter). Moreover, Stefan possessed a valid claim to the Duchy of Marilenev, and while Machetos was rich, it was a rather dull place by comparison.

The young Duke Stefan led a military force into Specularum and asserted his claim as Duke Stephan III of Karameikos, which included the Estate of Marilenev. He was joined by several of his companions, and also had the support of the Calarii elves, in acknowledgemnt of the bond forged years ago by his father. Valor Marilenev led the subsequent Traladaran uprising and was killed.

Duke Stefan awarded fiefs to those who had accompanied him to Traladara. His cousin Ludwig was awarded the Barony of Halag, which he renamed the Black Eagle Barony. Ludwig reconquered the town and renamed it Fort Doom as a stark reminder to those families whose members had betrayed his father. Stefan’s Thyatian peers Desmond Kelvin and Philip Vorloi were also granted fiefs. Lord Arturus Penhaligon was among the first of the Thyatian nobles to immigrate to the Grand Duchy. Finally, Merrik Halaran’s brother Sherlane agreed to become patriarch of the church in Karameikos. Sherlane later adopted Merrik’s daughter Aleena after she was orphaned.

The remainder of the history of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos to the present day is well known. However, the motivations of many, including both the Duke himself and his cousin Ludwig von Hendriks, can perhaps be better understood in light of past events. Knowledge of these “hidden years” is intended to spur additional creativity in constructing the backstory for your own memorable campaign set in Karameikos.