by Roger Moore
In the great library of the history of the Flanaess, the Dullstrand coast is usually a short, unremembered paragraph. This paragraph will be considerably expanded upon here.
The Dullstrand coast is more properly called "the Dullstrand" or "the Dull Strand," as "strand" actually means "shoreline," but popular usage since the founding of the only important town here has changed the old name for the coast into the name of the town alone. The popular usage is followed here.
The Dullstrand coast is a subtropical area of approximately 2,000 square miles in size that lies on the southwestern coast of the Flanaess. The coast is isolated from the rest of the Flanaess by the largely barren Hestmark Highlands along its western and north sides, facing the warm Aerdi Sea in all other directions. The land slopes upward to the west a few hundred feet to where it meets the Hestmark Highlands; the slope is gradual, and the area within a few miles of the coast is quite flat except for occasional hills (such as the artificial hills around Dullstrand).
This coast has served a peculiar function for many centuries because of its isolation, which is to offer refuge to those fleeing persecution in neighboring realms. The blessing of refuge, however, has considerable drawbacks. The mix of peoples, alignments, religions, and beliefs here leads to great social strain once population pressures build up, as living resources are limited. Sporadic outbreaks of fighting between long-established residents and new immigrants are quite common. However, this region's people have for centuries been surrounded by hostile neighbors of great power. With so many common enemies, immigrants old and new on the Dullstrand coast quickly settle into a tense neutrality, almost as unloving of each other as they are of the outside world. They must coexist or perish. The situation has been compared to that of an overcrowded lifeboat that never reaches shore, but continually picks up survivors from periodic shipwrecks.
As noted above, the Dullstrand coast has long been a haven for those fleeing the turbulent crises that have afflicted the southeastern Flanaess. Indeed, it may have served this function for over a millennium. Gray stone monoliths, much defaced by the elements, mark the locations of ancient Flan settlements along the shoreline in dozens of places. (The man-sized monoliths were apparently religious shrines.) The Flannae here were little more than fishers, goat herders, and gatherers, leaving nothing else of their presence behind; they were less advanced in many ways than Flan settlements elsewhere in the Flanaess. Several Aerdy explorers in the Great Kingdom's early days thought the Flan monuments were actually tomb markers, perhaps for great Ur-Flannae wizards or chieftains, but excavations revealed nothing of interest. These people faded from existence many centuries before the Invoked Devastation and Rain of Colorless Fire drove survivors of those western calamities into the Flanaess. Interestingly, it has been speculated that these original inhabitants might have fled to the coast here to escape domination and mistreatment by Ur-Flannae necromancers known to have lived farther north, where the Great Kingdom was later founded. Their lack of technical and magical advancement indicates they may have been transient refugees.
Eight or nine centuries ago, several malign Suloise clans passed through this region on their way south to Hepmonaland and the Tilvanot Peninsula. These clans were reduced to near-barbarism by their constant flight from the vengeful and more powerful Oeridians, who were outraged at the practices of the Suloise and desired no competitors for the fertile lands of this region. Some Suloise hid from pursuit in the Dullstrand region, where perhaps a thousand purebloods survive to this day on small, isolated farms scattered up and down the coast. All of these farmers are suspicious of outsiders, close-mouthed, and keep to themselves.
As the Great Kingdom grew in power, smugglers began to use the coast here to ship goods from the sea upland into the Hestmark Highlands to the County of Sunndi, evading the Overking's import taxes. Bandits and pirates often hid out in the vast expanses of tall seagrass, the small ships of the latter hidden by spells from Medegian patrols. In 199 C.Y., the government of Medegia laid claim to the coast here in hopes of gaining taxes from the local farmers and controlling local piracy, but found the inhabitants poverty-stricken and hateful, the land unsuitable for settlement, and the daring but brutal pirates more difficult to be rid of than previously thought. Despite Medegia's claim over the coast, the Censor was unwilling to spend large sums of gold enforcing his rule here. Except for naval patrols and a few mercenary actions, Medegia ceased to exert any influence here after 245 C.Y.
A widely copied Rauxes map dating from 211 C.Y. gave this region the unassuming title of "The Dull Strand." The map was drawn by a cartographer noted for his dry humor; perhaps he knew of the region's unsavory reputation, despite its unremarkable look, and gave it the "dull" title as a private joke. One particular inlet here became a permanent base for pirates and smugglers alike about the year 250 C.Y., as the smugglers could follow a minor watercourse entering the inlet up to a little-known pass through the Hestmarks into Sunndi. The settlement at this inlet grew and soon took on the name of the coast itself: Dullstrand. From this point onward, the coast was effectively independent, though no formal declaration of this has ever been made.
The town of Dullstrand quickly developed a cosmopolitan character unlike that of the surrounding farmlands. No humanoids were tolerated, as many immigrants well remembered the atrocities committed by the orc armies that drove the immigrants here. However, Dullstrand's Oeridian and mixed-blood humans and demihumans (a handful of high elves and gnomes) developed a grim spirit of cooperation in resisting intrusions into "their" land. The constant presence of disguised Aerdy spies, assassins, and bounty hunters, all seeking fugitives from northern justice, led to the custom of never asking a visitor questions about his or her past to avoid public identification. Most conversation is indirect, limited to minor events of the current day or the weather, and lacking in emotional tone. Townsfolk greet visitors with blank stares, turning back to their business as soon as possible--with careful and suspicious looks back, of course.
The three men left in charge of the original pirate base became known as the Masters of Dullstrand, voting democratically on actions they needed to take to keep their colony growing. The three chose their own replacements, usually from their own immediate families. Subsequent Masters soon became related to one another, as did almost everyone else in the town except for immediate immigrants (who were quickly married into the mess), giving the town something of the character of a huge, dysfunctional, but close-knit family. The authoritarian but tolerably corrupt government continues to the present day, keeping its hands off all business in the town so long as it receives the proper "fees." (Bribery in Dullstrand is a long-established tradition, not a crime. It does raise the cost of doing business here, but the wide-open atmosphere and lack of concern about using the town for smuggling or piracy operations encourages.)
No formal charter of laws governs the town, though a few straightforward, common-sense rules for the handling of land ownership, the settling of disputes, and public conduct have been written down and are generally enforced. The town has no jail; severe violations are punished by death (drowning is preferred), and minor violations by beatings or fines.
Archbarony of Ratik
Ruler: His Valorous Prominence, Lord Baron of Ratik, Lexnol
Capital: Marner (pop. 3,400)
Races: Suel, oeridian, flan
Demi-humans: Mountain Dwarves (8,000+), Gnomes (3,000+)
Resources: shipbuilding supplies, furs, gold, high-quality gems
Ratik marks the northenmost part of great Aerdy's expansion in the heady days of old empire and dominion. Its magnificent pine forests offer excellent material for shipbuilding, and the land was heavily protected by good military to fend off the Frost Barbarians and, indeed, make preemptive strikes against them.
Ratik was made a Barony by an Overking delighted at one firm repulsion of a barbarian fleet, and has been fortunate in having a succession of barons who have been distinctly more wise and benign than most Aerdy nobles. For this reason, the mountain dwarves and gnomes of the Rakers have worked and traded on good terms with the humans here.
Ratik's relationship with the Great Kingdom cooled following the ascension of the House of Naelax in the Kingdom, which increasingly neglected this little state. When the Bone March was overrun with humanoids, Ratik began to court the Frost Barbarians, and formed an unlikely alliance with them to jointly raid the Bone March and North Province.
Ratik's population is not great, so the people here can only hold their land against humanoids and not decisively repulse them. Ratik men and women are all military trained, and conscription is universal. Specialized woodsman troops with bows as well as sling-firing hillrunners are among the cream of Ratik's forces. Ratik is not wealthy, despite its fine natural resources, since it has few customers playing trade. The Sea Barons and Frost Barbarians buy wood here still; however, trade with the Theocracy is slow, and trade with cities of the North Province is extremely low. Ratikers are now even more insular and selfreliant than before the war.
Medegia, See of
The See of Medegia declared independence from the shattered remains of the Great Kingdom in 1741 YG. Great Kingdom forces tried to reclaim the land, but were mostly ineffective. An attack by Nyrond on the western borders of the Kingdom and then the loss of the North and South Provinces broke the will of the King and Medegia was left in relative peace for a while.
Medegia allied with the Lordship of the Isles against the tax-enforcing fleets of the Spindrift Isles. This proved costly when the Spindrift Isles attacked the Medegian capital of Rel Astra in retaliation, all but destroying it. Medegia now grudgingly accepts the taxation of its sea-going trade. Things might be different now if most of the country's forces were not constantly engaged in protecting the land border against the renewed armies of the Great Kingdom. Allied with the other southern former provinces, though, the defence looks firm.
Ruler: The Most Radiant Bow of Sehanine, Orb of the Heavens, High
Priest Anfaren Silverbrow
Capital: Lo Reltarma (pop. 3,200)
Races: Suel, oeridian
Demi-humans: Elves (20,000)
These islands have always been a mystery, due to their native aquatic and high elves who kidnapped intruders into their realm and did not release any to tell tales. Both the Sea Barons and the Lordship of the Isles kept well away from the six isles in this chain, save Lendore Isle itself. This was populated by Suel-dominated humans who conducted much trade with the continent and paid the Barons and Lords to allow their ships to pass safely.
In 583 CY, the elves moved swiftly to subjugate Lendore Isle, offering the humans safe passage to the Sea Barons, the Lordship of the Isles, Medegia, or elsewhere along the east coast of Aerdy as it then was. They simply informed the humans that the time had come for the elves to use the whole island chain for religious purposes, and no mere humans would be allowed to get in the way. A minority were permitted to stay as humble fisherfolk and laborers.
The entire island chain is now shrouded in magical fogs and illusions which form an almost unnavigable barrier to the outside world. Only elves drawn to Lendore can find their way there readily. When elves leave the mortal world, they have their own secret places of safe passage and departure, and Lendore is the most important of these within the Flanaess. It is said to be watched over by no less than a dozen full Patriarchs and Matriarchs of the goddess Sehanine.
Obviously, very little in the way of information about transformed Lendore filters back to the ordinary, mundane world. One story is almost certainly true, however. The elves of Lendore speak a unique, highly complex tongue: Lendorian Elvish. It is not learned in a normal manner. Rather, an elf newly arrived in Lendore gradually develops an understanding of the language as it is implanted into his mind in a series of revelatory stages. This is said to parallel a growingly otherwordly nature, drawing the elf painlessly away from his attachments to matters mundane. It is also fairly certain that Lendore is an intensely magical land, but how this may manifest, the elves do not say.
Lordship of the Isles (Principality of)
Ruler: (in name) His Exalted Highness, Prince Frolmar Ingerskatti
Capital: Sulward (pop. 5,000)
Races: Suel, oeridian
Resources: rare woods, spices
This scattered principality stretches across seven islands lying between the Tilva Strait and southern Lendore, and was originally occupied by pirates. The pirates soon found that trade (especially from Hepmonaland up to the Great Kingdom) and exacting the Tilva Strait offered much easier living.
During the wars, the former prince, Latmac Ranold, was suddenly deposed and replaced by a Scarlet Brotherhood puppet, who at once removed the islands from the ranks of the Iron League and allied the lands with the mysterious brothers. Scarlet Brotherhood agents are now in almost all positions of power within the lands.
The Lordship's vessels still trade with the anarchic states of south and east Aerdy, and continue to fight the Sea Barons as they always have. However, the Brotherhood also uses the fleet to ferry people and cargoes to Onnwal, Idee, and across the Azure Sea to the Sea Princes.
A handful of the original Lords of the Isles managed to escape with their vessels to Dullstrand when they saw how the Brotherhood would subjugate them, but they have found little welcome there. Those who sailed northward met gleeful Sea Baron warships only too happy to sink them. The Lordship of the Isles is now wholly controlled by the Scarlet Brotherhood.
Theocracy of the Pale:
Ruler: His Worshipful Mercy, Supreme Prelate of the Pale, Theocrat
Capital: Wintershiven (pop. 23,400)
Races: Flan, Oeridian
Resources: foodstuffs, copper, high-quality gems
The Theocracy of the Pale emerged as a state wholly free of Nyrondese dominance at the Council of Rel Mord, and has evolved into an ecclesiastical state of notorious intolerance. The entire chruch hierarchy is devoted to the reverence of Pholtus in his Lawful Neutral aspect (elsewhere, this is taken as a very one-sided view of this god). Virtually all government is under the rule of the church, which has its own bureaucracy of byzantine complexity.
The Theocracy stayed well out of the Greyhawk Wars, regarding everyone involved as degenerate heretics. It was ignored by other nations; although its standing army is typically only 4,000 strong, the Church Militant is a paramilitary body of warriors and warrior-priests who are among the most disciplined, bravest, and best-equipped troops the Flanaess has ever seen. Patrolling the borders of the Theocracy, they easily fend off incursions by humanoids from the Rakers and Griffs or rabble from the Bandit Kingdoms and Tenh.
The Theocracy's lands are not good for growing crops, and it is forced to trade with Urnst for food. The Theocracy formerly traded with Nyrond for food, but Nyrond can no longer afford exports. Silver and gems are the core resource of the Theocracy. Its people are deeply religious, hard-working folk whose idea of fun is singing hymns. A Theocracy saying is, "Cold weather is Pholtus's way of telling you to throw another heretic on the fire."
Ruler: His Noble Prominence Basmajian Arras, Lord High Admiral of
Asperdi, Commander of the Sea Barons
Races: Suel, oeridian
Resources: None outstanding
The people of these lands are a mix of Oeridian and Flan. Centuries ago, the Overking established four baronial island fiefs here, instructing each to build squadrons of ships and compete with each other. Whichever proved best in naval warfare would be appointed supreme baron, admiral of Aerdy, and be duly rewarded with Imperial favor. Old Baron Asperdi won the contest, and now, the baron of that island rules the Sea Barons.
The main duties of the Barons in serving Aerdy were to fight off the Frost and Ice Barbarians and the Lordship of the Isles, which they carried out without great enthusiasm.
The old High Admiral, Sencho Foy, suffered sad mishap early in Aerdy's entry into the Greyhawk Wars, He choked on a fishbone stuck in his throat (although some say the dagger which had impaled the fishbone first did the important damage). Under Admiral Basmajian, the Sea Barons remained out of the Wars and kept their fleets largely confined to their ports and the Solnor Ocean. The Sea Barons now raid parts of the eastern coast of Aerdy (though they trade with Rel Astra), skirmish with Lendore and the Lordship of the Isles, and prefer to avoid needless combats with the barbarians.
The seamen and barons here are very uncertain of their fiture, not knowing with whom to ally. They have kept Scarlet Brotherhood "advisers" at a safe distance after seeing what happened at Latmac Ranold. Basmajian himself is belived to favor an alliance with Ratik and the Frost Barbarians, but it will be years before the other barbarians agree to any kind of binding concord.
This continent to the south of the Oljatt Sea is almost completely covered with thick and impenetrable jungle. Expeditions from the Spindrift Isles and the Lordship of the Isles have managed to explore very little, but have found a land apparently inhabited by lizard men. Monsters sometimes also emerge from the jungle to attack the logging expeditions.