History and Background
Brief History of the Flanaess
The common folk know little of history, nor do they need to. Most consider tales of ancient times little more than legend. However, since the development of the “adventuring” class, the pages of history have been brought from the realm of the legend. The wise explorer appreciates the history of the ruins underfoot, for in that history lie secrets of the ages, and a pattern that might be repeated all too easily.
The Great War and Twin Cataclysms
Just over one thousand years past, two ancient western empires, the Suel and the Baklunish, were enmeshed in a titanic conflict. The root of the animosity between them is lost, but the result of their final war haunts the modern world. After sixty-three years of conflict, the Suloise Mages of Power called down the Invoked Devastation on the Baklunish, resulting in an apocalypse so complete that its true form and extent remain unknown. Entire cities and millions of people were purged from Oerth, leaving no sign of the great civilization that once thrived north of the Sulhaut Mountains. In retaliation, a cadre of Baklunish Mage-Priests brought the Rain of Colorless Fire on their hated enemies. The skies above the Suloise Empire opened, and all beneath were burned to ash. These catastrophes came to be known as the Twin Cataclysms, and the Dry Steppes and the Sea of Dust are the geographical reminders of that unbridled power.
The Great Migrations
Thousands survived the Twin Cataclysms by fleeing east over the Crystalmist Mountains during the early years of the conflict. The Oeridians, a confederation of tribes nestled between the empires, took the wars as a sign from their gods to continue migrating far to the east. They were the first to enter the lands they called the Flanaess. Soon, Suloise refugees followed, sometimes working with the Oeridians, but more often warring with them. For more than two centuries, Suel and Oeridian battled for conquest of the Flanaess. The Suel often lost, and they found themselves pushed to the periphery of the Flanaess. Though some Baklunish folk migrated east, many more fled north into the mountains, or to the shores of the Dramidj Ocean, where their ancient cultures flourish to this day in the lands of Ket, Zeit, and Tusmit.
The Founding of Keoland
The most successful union of Suel and Oerid was the Kingdom of Keoland, founded some eighty years after the Twin Cataclysms. Suel houses joined with Oeridian tribes on the banks of the Sheldomar River and pledged themselves to mutual protection and dominion of the western Flanaess. Of all the kingdoms formed during those tumultuous days, only Keoland remains.
Aerdy: The Great Kingdom
Far to the east, the greatest Oeridian tribe, the Aerdi, conquered indigenous peoples and migrants alike. In time, their kingdom, Aerdy, had conquered the entire eastern Flanaess. Their leader was crowned Overking and decreed that his land should henceforth be known as the Great Kingdom. The Great Kingdom declared the birth of a new calendar, and with the Declaration of Universal Peace, the sun rose on the first day of the first Common Year. Imperial Aerdy eventually encompassed holdings as far west as modern-day Veluna, controlling the southern Nyr Dyv with a small garrison at an insignificant trading post known as Greyhawk. Eventually the Aerdi Overkings grew lax, caring more for local prestige and wealth than the affairs of distant vassals. As sovereigns passed, each was replaced by one more dimwitted and incompetent, until the outer lands of Aerdy began to declare independence. Furyondy, Veluna, Perrenland, Tenh, and others broke away from the ineffectual Overkings, creating their own governments. By 356 CY, the ruling dynasty was especially decadent. In response, the western province of Nyrond declared itself free from the Great Kingdom, and selected one of their own as king. Armies gathered from all loyal Aerdy provinces to suppress this treason. At this time, however, barbarians from the north raided Aerdy’s North Province, forcing the Overking to divert troops from the western front. Nyrond survived. The survival of Aerdy’s loyal subjects, however, became very much at risk in 439 CY, when the upstart House of Naelax murdered the entire reigning House of Rax in a series of gruesome civil wars. Within a decade, Ivid I of Naelax was the undisputed Overking of Aerdy. Ivid was rumored to be in league with powerful evil outsiders. The Malachite Throne of the Great Kingdom became known as the Fiend-Seeing Throne, and the once mighty kingdom became a bastion of evil and cruelty.
Iuz the Evil
The lands of the Flanaess soon became acquainted with a less subtle evil with the rise of Iuz in the Northern Reaches. In 479 CY, a minor despot in the Howling Hills left his domain to his “son,” a being known as Iuz. Within a handful of years, Iuz had conquered all neighboring domains, setting up a small empire. Tales told by fleeing refugees spoke of unmitigated evil. Iuz, the stories went, had built a road of skulls from the Howling Hills to his capital of Dorakaa. Worse, legends named Iuz, also known as the Old One, as the offspring of an unholy union between a witch and a demon—a towering cambion seven feet in height, driven by a thirst for blood and destruction. Political struggles within Furyondy prevented its king from acting decisively in this period when the evil of Iuz might have been permanently checked. Instead, the cambion flourished until 505 CY, when he appeared to have vanished from Oerth. In truth, he was imprisoned beneath Castle Greyhawk by the Mad Archmage Zagyg Yragerne, former Lord Mayor of Greyhawk. Two developments prevented Furyondy and its allies from declaring victory over Iuz at this time. The first involved the notorious Horde of Elemental Evil, a collection of cultists and villains headquartered at the Temple of Elemental Evil. The Horde were puppets of Zuggtmoy, Iuz’s abyssal consort, who instructed them in bizarre teachings at the behest of her absent lover. The Horde was finally vanquished at the Battle of Emridy Meadows in 569 CY, and the Temple itself fell soon after. Zuggtmoy was imprisoned in the ruins of the Temple, with potent wards to prevent her escape. Some of the leaders of the cult are thought to have escaped, and are thought responsible for the kidnapping and disappearance of Thrommel, the Prince of Furyondy. Furyondy’s second concern came from the north, where former servants of Iuz developed into fanatical zealots. In time, the leaders of these cults displayed magical power, giving form to Furyondy’s worst fears. In 570 CY, Iuz was freed from his imprisonment, and returned to his lands a demigod, more powerful than ever.
The Current State
The current year is 575 CY, and current affairs in the Flanaess are grim indeed. Humanity is fragmented into isolationist realms, indifferent nations, evil lands, and states striving for good. The Baklunish countries in the northwest have grown in power. Nomads, bandits, and barbarians raid southward every spring and summer. Humanoid enclaves are strongly established and scattered throughout the continent, and wicked insanity rules in the Great Kingdom. The Bone March and the Pomarj are under humanoid control, and numerous cities and nations have fallen under the shadow of evil throughout the Flanaess. An organization called the Scarlet Brotherhood has emerged and seized power in many areas; rumors abound of slavers operating out the ruined city of Highport. The five of you have banded together to add your blades and spells to the cause of good, and have answered a call for aid at Brightwall Keep, near the borders of the Yeomanry. Traveling with a small caravan from Longspear for several weeks, you see the lights of Brightwall Keep ahead.