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A History of Specularum

by Giampaolo Agosta with AllanP from Threshold Magazine issue 21

Lecture notes from a presentation given at the Scriveners’ Guildhall in Specularum by Allanov Palmerius (former adventurer, archaeologist, cartographer and scribe) based on earlier research by Agathokles and other sages.

“Greetings fellow Guildmembers. I am pleased to be able to present this lecture to you. In exploring this history of our city I have drawn upon the works of many other scholars whose studies have uncovered information about the past of Specularum. I am particularly indebted to my colleague, Agathokles, who has accumulated much useful material during his delving into the origins of the nations of our Known World – and beyond!

“There is undoubtedly much more to uncover. I am sure many of you who conduct similar research have to rely upon oral histories passed down through the generations, or on scraps of written material (often requiring translation), a dusty tome in a forgotten corner of a library, and sometimes an artefact which can be identified to a particular time or place. We are fortunate that in some of the construction projects that have taken place in Marilenev or Specularum over the centuries, that there have been some enlightened engineers or architects who have shown an interest in what they have uncovered during their new building work rather than just discarding it.

“Some of the information presented here, particularly in terms of the time BC, i.e. Before the Crowning of the first Thyatian Emperor, is not general knowledge to the public and even some of our novice members may not be aware of certain aspects. If you have questions, I implore you to consult fellow Guildmembers or search in our library for further enlightenment. Now let us begin our journey through the many years of Specularum and look back to the Taymoran Age…”


Current research indicates that the earliest known settlement on the site of present day Specularum dates back 35 centuries. At that time the geography of the area was markedly different from what it is now. As shown in map 1, there was no natural harbour, a much wider river with no islands in it and only one large hillock dominating the landscape.

Around BC 2500 during the period of history we refer to as the Taymoran Age, a nation of Giant-kin, the Fomori1, inhabited the region of the Altan Teppe Mountains. One group of these humanoids established a homestead on the large hillock overlooking the river banks, the land feature that is now known in Specularum as simply “The Hill”.

The Fomorian homestead flourished until BC 2250 when an alliance of Sheyallia elves and Taymoran humans waged a campaign against the Giant-kin to seize the lands south of the Altan Teppes. Having taken over the homestead, the invaders turned it into a river fort. Four hundred years later Formorian slaves were put to work transforming the wooden fort into a stone fortress.

The Taymoran dominance in the region ended when the Taymoran Empire sank beneath the ocean. The ensuing geological disasters of this cataclysm in BC 1750 brought changes to the region as the seismic effects of the earthquakes that destroyed Taymora reached the area. The Formorian-built fortress collapsed, smaller hillocks appeared as the land rose and fell, the river narrowed, islands formed, and a natural harbour (later known as Mirror Bay) was created. The area became what we recognise as the modern day site of Specularum, with seven hillocks around a natural lake (see map 2).


Some two centuries after the disappearance of the Taymoran influence from the region, a new race arrived and settled there. This was the Traldar, descended from people of southern Neathar. Led by a small Nithian aristocracy, they populated the lands which had previously been the northern frontier of the Taymor kingdoms. Around BC 1500, one group of Traldar used the remains of the Fomorian-built fortress atop the most prominent hillock (“The Hill”) to construct a massive tomb after the death of Khmin, their first prince. They also built a fortified village, Os-Khmin, on what will be the modern Specularum’s Church District.

A hundred years later, the Traldar reverted to the Stone Age following the destruction of the Nithian lords caused by harsh winters, plagues and monster attacks. Hutaakans, jackal-like humanoids of Nithian culture, arrived and took control of Os-Khmin. Across the Traldar lands these new arrivals provided training in agriculture, bronze working and other vital crafts in return for labour and goods, slowly allowing the Traldar to build a network of small city-states. A Hutaakan priest settled in the fortified area. On “The Hill”, the tomb of Khmin had fallen into disrepair and only part of its upper section remained visible.

Within 300 years the village previously named Os-Khmin had become Marilenev, named for the leading clan of the Traldar in this area. Overseen by Hutaakan priests and ruled by a dynasty of Traldar kings, Marilenev became a firmly established walled town that utilised the agricultural and metal working skills that its populace had been taught.

In BC 1000, however, the Hutaakans left the Traldar lands fearing a destructive attack by a Beastman army. Milen2, the then Traldar king, unwilling to fight the invaders, left only a quarter of Marilenev’s population behind as he led his people on a migration across the Sea of Dread. The feared Beastman invasion did not materialise, but the remaining villagers struggled to maintain their community over the next two centuries.


Gnolls, created by Nithian wizards, escaped from Nithia and invaded the Traldar lands, although not reaching Marilenev. After the rout of the Gnollish horde, much of the Traldar lands were left almost devoid of population, and reverted quickly to wildernesses.

At the beginning of the 8th century BC, Vandar tribesmen reached the Marilenev area and settled in the area that became the modern day Stronghold District. The Vandar shared their skills with the local Traldar, using their knowledge of agriculture to help develop farmlands which produced crops not only to support Marilenev, but also over time as commodities to trade with other local settlements. Through the development of their maritime skills, the Traldar and Vandar established a fishing community on the banks of the river.

By BC 500 the successful merger of the Traldar and Vandar peoples resulted in a stronger race, the Traladara, who rose in power as well as trade.

The repopulation of the area over the subsequent centuries saw Marilenev thrive as an area of trade with other settlements upriver and along the coast. A regular trade market took place in an area to the west of the bay, between the town and its farmlands.

Visiting Minrothaddan traders began a long productive relationship with Marilenev. They established a temporary campsite near the shore.

The various clan lords of the settlements across Traladara began to take the title of Ban (Prince, from the old Vandar dialect) to demonstrate their authority over their lands (Banates). Many desired strategic and commercial Marilenev as their seat of power, but few gained overall control. Soon after the Crowning of the first Thyatian Emperor, the Ivanovich clan succeeded to the seat of Ban of Marilenev, initiating a dynasty that would rule Marilenev for almost 400 years.


In the early years of the millennium the Banate built a palace on “The Hill”, demolishing what remained above ground of the former Nithian tomb. By the first half of the 4th century AC, Marilenev’s continued population growth and prosperity had secured its reputation as the major trade centre of Traladara. It was Bogdan Ivanovich, Ban (prince) of Marilenev and descendent of Vandar chiefs, who brought Marilenev from a minor settlement in the shadow of Krakatos to the status of regional power. In the process he installed himself as King of all the Taladaran lands. During the next 200 years the walled boundaries of Marilenev were extended gradually encompassing a larger area, gaining further prominence.

In the year AC 400, Marilenev and other settlements in Traladara were visited by Thyatian missionary clerics. In the area that would become the Church District of modern Specularum, they established the first Thyatian shrine in Traladara. Within a few years, the Great Church of Traladara was built in Marilenev to serve its growing populace. Thus was a result of the closer interactions between the local Traladaran population and clerics from Thyatis, Harbortown and New Alphatia.


During the 5th century AC Marilenev remained central in the changing fortunes of Traladara. It saw the rise and fall of various protagonists, four local wars, and the arrival of vampirism and lycanthropy to the area. In the wake of the First Traladaran War, Darokinian and Thyatian cultural influence led to a modernization effort which saw the Banate became the Duchy of Marilenev. The first Duke, Yakov, began the construction of Castle Marilenev, some miles south of the town, as a retreat from the ducal palace on “The Hill”. Marilenev’s economy was strengthened with the chartering of many merchant Guilds3 within the town which aided in regulating trade. The Traladaran League, an assembly of the Traladaran nobles, was confirmed as a permanent institution, and headquartered in Marilenev.

During the final years of the 6th century AC, Marilenev endured The Great Drought, a lengthy period of successive droughts which affected the farmers of the town’s North End. Due to a growing instability of the northern neighbour which led the Traladaran principalities to turn on each other, the Traladaran League finally collapsed in AC 600 and was dissolved, weakening the political status of Marilenev. This loss of rank resulted in the rise of the trade guilds led by the Radu family in the AC612 overthrow of Alexandr, the last Duke of Marilenev and the establishment of the City-State of Marilenev, an oligarchic republic in with an elected Town Council.

Recognising the need for positive acts to gain support of Marilenev’s population to assist in regaining its power, prominent Council member and Guildmaster Petros Radu initiated the construction of an irrigation channel in AC 613. This was designed to combat the impact of further droughts by ensuring water was available to the local farmers, allowing them to continue to contribute to the city-state’s economy.

Continuing the strategy of building projects to enforce Marilenev’s status, ability to prosper, and strengthen its defences, in AC675 Iija Radu fortified the area of the city (now the Stronghold District), where the Radu power base was located. He campaigned to have modern fortifications extended to the whole town, and this project was financed by the Town Council in AC681.

By the start of the 8th century a large part of the eastern half of North End had been transformed from farmland to an area supporting the maritime industry that was key to the city-state’s sea-borne trade. Fifty years later a large part of the rural population had settled within Marilenev’s walls. Marilenev’s continued prominence encouraged traders and other visitors from beyond Traladara to come to the city. Initially temporary camps were set up outside the northern wall. In AC802 Dwarves built the first permanent blocks in what soon became known as “The Foreign Quarter”. Marilenev’s status as a “Free City”, an important centre for trade and communication continued to grow as new businesses, including some from beyond Traladara established sites in the city.


In AC 900, as part of a plan to conquer Traladara and eastern Darokin, Thyatian legions led by Flavian Osteropulos were sent by the Emperor, Gabrionius IV, into Traladara. Seizing control, Osteropulos was subsequently installed as Governor General in Marilenev, which was renamed Specularum. Traladara was incorporated into the Empire as an Imperial Province. Successive Thyatian governors embarked on a building programme as the urban areas expanded and the population grew. A new stronghold for the Governor was built on the summit of “The Hill” surrounding the remains of the old Marilenev ducal palace. The harbour defences were maximised with the construction of the Sea Gate at its mouth. The Thyatians took control of the Church District (the site of the village of Os-Khmin from BC1500), levelling many of the buildings there and erecting their own temples.

In AC929, with much of the former farmland area reduced in the North End, Petros Radu’s irrigation channel was filled in. Arriving Thyatian aristocracy built their new residences on the west side of “The Hill” beneath the new seat of power. Other Thyatians and government offices were installed in the new Bricktop district that once housed slave camps for the construction teams that built the original fortifications on “The Hill”. Outside the wall, the Foreign Quarter continued to expand, and a free trade encampment was also initiated.


In AC 970, having traded his family lands to Emperor Thincol in exchange for independent leadership of Traladara, Stefan Karameikos III arrived in Specularum with his followers. A short-lived rebellion in AC 971 by the Traladaran power faction (the Radu, Torenescu and Marilenev clans) rose against the new government, but failed. The clan Marilenev was almost destroyed as the new Grand Duke established his rule. One outcome of the rebellion was the separation of the area known as The Nest from the Old Quarter, the former heart of old Marilenev. Stefan commenced the building of roads across the Duchy and the installation of a military presence in his Grand Duchy. In AC972, the Hightower, a combination lighthouse and guard station overlooking the docks of Mirror Bay was constructed, In that same year the Great Church of Karameikos is built, being completed in time for the wedding of Duke Stefan to Lady Olivia Prothemian.

With his advisors in the new Ducal Palace (the former residence of the Thyatian Governors), Stefan encouraged trade and exchange of resources with the wider world beyond his lands. Many visitors arrive from other nations swelling the Grand Duchy’s population, especially in Specularum. At the last accurate census, 15 years ago, the city had a population of about 50,000. It is certainly greater now -a recent estimate by the Scriveners’ Guild in 1000 AC suggests it is now around 62,000.

Construction projects initiated during Stefan’s rule have included the building of a new outer defensive wall to serve as a level of protection for the Foreign Quarter. This move gained him positive response from those non-native residents of the district. The new wall also allowed the construction of a South End “extension” residential area to provide more homes for the growing number of inhabitants.

“And that, my friends, concludes this lecture which I hope has been informative to you. Now I suggest we adjourn to the courtyard where refreshments are being served, and where we can discuss any questions that have arisen.”


"Timeline of the Taymoran Age, 2800-1700 BC" by Giampaolo Agosta at the Vaults of Pandius

"Traladaran Timeline" by Giampaolo Agosta at the Vaults of Pandius

"History of Specularum" by Giampaolo Agosta at the Vaults of Pandius

Historical Timeline of the city of Specularum

as researched by Agathokles


BC 2500: At this time, the future site of the Duke's castle in Specularum is occupied by a Fomorian homestead.

BC 2250: The Sheyallia elves reach Taymora. The local Necromancer Kings offer them the lands to the east of their nation, provided that they help in the opening of new trade routes. Elven mercenary companies, armed with Taymoran bronze weaponry, invade the giant-held forests and mountains, chasing the giants from the region. The Giant-kin homestead becomes a river fort manned by elves and Taymoran humans.

BC 2100: Fomorian slaves are put to work, transforming the wooden fort into a stone fortress.

BC 1750: Taymor sinks under the waves. The few survivors reach the new coast, to the south of the future site of Specularum. The earthquakes that destroy Taymor also cause the fall of the Fomorian-built fortress, and the formation of Mirror Bay.


BC 1500: The Nithian-led Traldar people use the remains of the Fomorian fortress to build a massive tomb after the death of their first prince, Khmin. A fortified village, Os-Khmin (Throne of Khmin) is also founded nearby (on the site of the modern Church District).

BC 1400: A series of harsh winters, plagues, and attacks from native monsters has destroyed the Nithian aristocracy and turned the Traldar back to the Stone Age. The Hutaakans take over the village, and a Hutaakan priest settles in the abandoned fortified area. By this time, the tomb of Khmin has fallen into disrepair, and only its top half emerges from the ground.

BC 1100 The village of Marilenev is now a firmly established walled town, ruled by a dynasty of Traldar kings under the supervision of Hutaakan priests.

BC 1000: The Hutaakan priests seal the local temple of Pflarr and leave Marilenev, fearing its destruction brought by a Beastman invasion. King Milen and his advisors, warned by Halav of Lavv of the impending invasion, chooses to flee rather than fight. Marilenev loses three quarters of its population, though it is not reached by the Beastman army, which is defeated eight years later on the river Volaga.


BC 800: Vandar tribesmen from the Hin lands reach Marilenev, settling the site that would become the modern day Stronghold district. The Traldar kings welcome them to help repopulate the town.

BC 500: The fusion of Vandars and Traldars has brought to a new people, the Traladarans to promineve. The people of Marilenev start trading with other villages upriver and on the coast.


AC 1: The population of Marilenev rises, and the town is now the major trade centre of Traladara. Its princes (Ban) conquer the area that is now the Estate of Marilenev. The Banate of Marilenev is founded, under the Ivanovich dynasty.

AC 301-356: Bogdan Ivanovich, Ban of Marilenev, claims the title of King of Traladara. He manages to bring under his heel several clans, but the kingdom dissolves at Ivanovich's death.

AC 400: Thyatian missionary clerics reach Marilenev and other major towns in Traladara. A first Thyatian shrine is established in the Church district, on the site of the modern Cathedral of Karameikos. The Cathedral of Traladara is built only a few years later. Meanwhile, the Merchants’ Guild, the Leathersellers’ Guild and the Skinners’ Guild are all formed to regulate trade with the northern lands.


AC 410: Merchants from New Alphatia bring lycanthropy and vampirism to Traladara. At the same time, the descendants of the Taymoran Nosferatu resurface. Marilenev suffers greatly from both plagues.

AC 412-417: The Bans of Marilenev lead various leagues of Traladaran city-states in the First Traladaran War against the Kingdom of Darokin. A modernization effort leads to adoption of Thyatian customs. The Banate of Marilenev becomes the Duchy of Marilenev.

AC 444-450: Religious conflicts within the Church of Traladara and political manipulation by the Harbortown envoys lead to the Second Traladaran War, which pits Marilenev against Halag. The Duke of Marilenev wins thanks to the support of Harbortown. Marilenev becomes the primary coastal town of Traladara, expanding its influence on Dmitrov, Vidrin and Sulescu.

AC 474-493: Duke Demara of Halavos is acknowledged as King of Traladara by the northern barons. The Duke of Marilenev refuses to acknowledge the claimant, who allies with Darokin, leading to the Third and Fourth Traladaran War. Once more, the league of southern lords emerges victorious, weakening Halavos and Halag and strengthening Marilenev. The Moneychangers’ Guild and the Armorers’ Guild are also chartered at the end of the war.

AC 494: The Scriveners’ Guild is chartered.

AC 500-530: The Duchy of Marilenev reaches the height of its power. During this time, Marilenev is the capital of the Traladaran League, a formal association of Traladaran lords who assemble in the Diet of Marilenev to take decisions on foreign affairs. The Bakers’ Guild is also chartered at this time, leading other tradesmen to form their own guilds in the VI century.

AC 590-600: A series of successive droughts threatens the farmers in what is now the North End. The legend of the Weary Water Diviner tells of a man who vowed not to rest or drink until a well could be found, and died of exhaustion and dehydration during this time.

AC 600: The Traladaran League is finally dissolved due to dissension between the clans and the disappearance of the Darokin threat.


The failure of the Traladaran League leaves the Duchy of Marilenev deprived of much of its political power. The trade guilds, led by the Radu family, oust Duke Alexandr Marilenev and replace the ducal government with an oligarchic republic, the City-State of Marilenev. The Marilenev family, led by Alexandr’s sons, remains in control of the Estate of Marilenev, but is reduced in rank to being equal to the other great families, which in turn base their power on trade. The Town Council (or Priorate) is formed to replace the Duke’s authority.

AC 613: To prevent further droughts from affecting the local farmers, Guildmaster Radu has an irrigation channel dug to provide a steady supply of water to the North End.

AC 681: As the Vampire Wars rage across Traladara, the Town Council of Marilenev finances the construction of the city walls. The Bricklayers’ Guild is chartered in return for support in the building project. A few years later, the reduced trade with the north sends the Skinners and Leathersellers into a crisis. The Dyers and Tailors, up to this time junior members of those guilds, secede and form their own associations.

The Mariners’ Guild is also formed as sea trade boosts, and the Apothecaries become a major guild as imports of spices and drugs from Minrothad and Thyatis increase.

AC 728: An alliance including Marilenev, Vidrin and Selenica defeats the Black Count of the Moor.

AC 750: Favourable policies by the town council of Marilenev and the threat of war cause a large part of the rural population of Marilenev to settle within the walls of the city-state.

AC 802: The Year of Infamy in the Highlands. Some Dwarven survivors settle in Marilenev. Syrklist Dwarves compete with the Traladaran jewellers and moneychangers. Due to the crowding of the city, Dwarves build the first blocks of the Foreign Quarter.

AC 860: At the height of the Selenican expansion, House Hallonica centralizes its embassy and trade agencies in Marilenev, constructing the Hallonica Building, at the time the most modern and prominent building in the city.


AC 900: The Emperor of Thyatis, Gabrionius IV, sends his legions into Traladara, and installs a governor in Marilenev, which is renamed Specularum. Garrisons are sent to the borderlands, with the goal of setting up spearheads for a campaign against the Darokinian successor states. Selenican merchant houses are forced to retreat from Specularum. The Hallonica building is sold to Samuil Torenescu (father of Emmet Torenescu). Many Thyatians and Minrothaddans settle in the former Darokinian district.

AC 902: Governor General Flavian Osteropoulos charters the Goldsmiths’ Guild, sapping the strength of the Moneychangers’ Guild. As a reaction to the Governor’s anti-guild decrees and policies, some Traladaran merchants and guilders form a self-defence group, which will become the seed of the Veiled Society.

AC 903: T h e Bowyers’ Guild is chartered by Governor Osteropoulos to reduce the influence of the warlike Armorers’ Guild.

AC 906: In one of his last decrees before returning to Thyatis, Osteropoulos reduces the Armorers’ Guild to minor guild status, and forms the Cutlers’ Guild.

AC 908: The new Governor, Curtius Quadratus, launches a military campaign to pacify the rebellious western and northern fiefs. The riverside farmers near Specularum, left with little defences, face attacks from bandits. Grypas Rullianus, a Thyatian noble warrior also known as the “Knight of the Griffon”, helps the local farmers turn the tide.

AC 919: Elena Hessenberg, a Hattian colonist and explorer as well as a long-time resident of Specularum, is named Governor General of the Province of Traladara.

AC 926: Governor General Iulius Bassus charters the Innkeepers’, Vintners’ and Fishmongers’ Guilds.

AC 929: As the North End is now a residential area, the irrigation channel is filled to provide space for the Lesser Merchant District and Westron Alley.

AC 932: Grypas Rullianus dies and is interred near Mirror Bay.


AC 970: Stefan Karameikos III trades the Duchy of Machetos to Emperor Thincol for the Grand Duchy of Traladara and independence.

AC 971: The Radu, Torenescu and Marilenev clans rise against the new government, but fail. The clan Marilenev is almost destroyed. Thyatian exile and political philosopher Fabritius Luscinia dies in one of the many battles of the short lived revolution, as does Ivan Marilenev, the chief of the Marilenev clan.

AC 972 The Hightower is built to provide a rally point for the Phorsis Guard against Traladaran insurrections, as well as to serve as a lighthouse.

AC 973: Duke Stefan opens up trade relations with the Ierendi. Ierendian merchants swarm into Specularum, and many immigrants, temporary or permanent, settle in the Foreign Quarter. Also, the Hallonica Building in the Foreign Quarter is bought back by the Darokinian House Hallonica from the Torenescu clan, and they open an official branch in Specularum.

AC 980: Duke Stefan charters the Loggers’ and Hunters’ Guilds.

AC 987: Relations with the Emirates of Ylaruam are comsolidated by Duke Stefan. Mustapha ibn Ibrahim, an expert hazar adventurer and diplomat, is sent by the Caliph as an ambassador. Mustapha’s activity leads many hazar merchants and craftsmen to settle in Specularum.

AC 991: The wizard Krollan, a counsellor of Duke Stefan, is murdered.

AC 996: Baron Desmond Kelvin I dies in a duel with the Ylari ambassador, Mustapha ibn Ibrahim. His son, Desmond II, is confirmed Baron of Kelvin. The ambassador is promptly recalled and replaced with Abdallah ibn Hamid, an experienced Alasiyan warrior of nomadic background.

1 See Giampaolo Agosta’s article “Land of the Fomorians” at the Vaults of Pandius for more information on this race.

2 As noted by Simone Neri in his “History of Karameikos” in Threshold Magazine #1 during “King” Milen’s reign, the settlement was named Milenos. But after Milen’s departure, succeeding generations reverted to calling the settlement Marilenev in tribute to the once-prominent clan that had almost been destroyed for opposing Milen’s plans.

3 For more information on the history of the Guilds, see the article “The Guilds of Specularum” in this issue.