The Origins of the Kingdom of Arangoth
Many years ago, the land known today as Arangoth was inhabited by a savage race known as the Goxal, who did not know how to work metal and ate their meat raw. They inhabited the lands around Song Deep, ever at peace and knowing no leaders nor any hierarchy, and for their few metal tools and trinkets they traded the crops they grew to the dwarvish miners of Ruthmarna to the south. For many generations it was thus.
But then there were stirrings in the far west which led to great changes upon the landscape of the world. The noble Gemarinds had once possessed a kingdom of their own, but had for the space of several generations fallen under the rule of their close southern kin, the Mingits. But the Mingits' empire was destroyed very suddenly when a vast horde of nomadic raiders appeared from the western desert. The Gemarinds and the Mingits fled eastward. Today the Mingits are scattered, dwelling in separate quarters in many cities (including Drache). The Gemarinds briefly established a second kingdom, but it was destroyed centuries ago by the tailed Leturians who had migrated into what had been the Mingits' empire. When this happened, many Gemarinds became slaves of the Leturians, but many others continued yet further eastward and finally came upon the lands of the savage Goxal, who welcomed them into their midst. The whole land was then filled with song, and there was no illness, and every animal could talk--so they say. Eventually, however, the Gemarinds chose to assert themselves as the rulers of the land, and drew their swords against the peaceful Goxal, and spilt their blood. Since then, the primeval music has vanished from the land, although it is remembered in the name of Song Deep, in the lapping of whose waters some hint of it may yet remain. Generations passed, and the Goxal and the Gemarinds gradually intermixed. It is from them that the native Arangothian humans of today are descended.
The first state which arose upon the territory of Arangoth was the Grand Duchy [sitharang] of Leptatarna, bordering upon Song Deep. The first ruler of whom history has good knowledge was Folvaholk the Great, Grand Duke [sithire] of Leptatarna. His tomb of tall megaliths stands atop a great hill, and the inscription there names him as Folvaholk, Grand Duke of Leptatarna, son of the mighty Fenduth, Grand Duke of Leptatarna. Of Fenduth, however, we know nothing except his name.
Folvaholk the Great built roads connecting other Arangothian-inhabited areas to Leptatarna, among them the great north-south highway that passes through the mountains of Ruthmarna and connects Inner Arangoth to the Darian valley in the south (where the city of Drache later arose). He subjected the dwarves of Ruthmarna to his authority, and made them swear fealty to him by threatening to keep from them the foodstuffs from Leptatarna on which they subsisted. He established his son Kukarek as Grand Duke of Ruthmarna, and from that point onwards the heir to the Grand Duchy of Leptatarna (and later to the throne of the Kingdom of Arangoth) always held the title Grand Duke of Ruthmarna.
Folvaholk's son and successor Kukarek established good relations with the Khalar tribes to the north of Song Deep and put an end to their raids on Arangothian villages and towns. There were other Grand Duchies as well, namely Sresaria (in the Sresar Vale), East Arangoth, and Transdariania (in the Darian valley).
In olden times, however, there was no king of Arangoth, but instead each of the Grand Dukes was considered the equal of the others. When conflicts arose among them, they generally waged wars among themselves, which cost many lives and much money and generally kept the land in perpetual misery, since none of the Grand Dukes could agree upon where the different Grand Duchies began and ended. It so happened once that the Grand Dukes of East Arangoth and Sresaria were feuding with each other. Leptatarna, lying directly between these two places, got the worst of it.
Kukarek's grandson was Tagran. While he was Grand Duke of Leptatarna, the other Grand Duchies began to respect him as an impartial intermediary and sought out his help in resolving disputes between themselves. This came about in the following way: an advisor of Tagran's convinced him to mediate between his two warring peers in Sresaria and East Arangoth. Tagran hesitated, till his advisor gave him a stone which he called the Stone of Concord, whose possessor he said was sure to have the power and authority to mediate disputes wisely. Actually the stone had no powers whatsoever, but Tagran was now confident and managed to bring about a peace between the two feuding parties. His mediation was then sought routinely about disputes between the different parts of Arangoth, until finally he was proclaimed the first King of Arangoth (which means simply 'the land' in the old tongue).
Grand Duke Tagran of Leptatarna, upon becoming the first King of Arangoth, decided to build a new city to serve as the kingdom's capital. Until then the largest city in the region had been the market center of Hornath-ul-Marfed, which was not majestic enough to suit the new king's tastes. Moreover, Tagran had a dream in which he stood before a tree from which both an apple and a pear were growing, and he resolved to find the tree and build his new capital on the spot. So King Tagran and his entourage traveled all over Leptatarna looking for the tree -- week after week passed, and still they had no luck; no such tree seemed to exist anywhere in the world. Finally, when they were encamped by the side of Song Deep, the king went fishing and caught a large pike, in the belly of which he found a pomegranate. That struck King Tagran as close enough, so he decided forthwith to found his new capital in that place. Since they were only a few miles from the place where the Peraltok River flows into Song Deep, in fact, he decided to fudge things and build the city there.
Stones were hewn from the mountains of Keletoth-ul-Sangli (the Horse's Head) to the northwest and carried upon camelback to the construction site. The camels were worked so hard in building the city that the native breed died out; this is why there are no longer any Arangothian camels. The roof of the royal palace was made of pure gold, mined by dwarves in Ruthmarna; its walls were decorated with lapis lazuli and other precious stones. It consisted of two hundred and thirty-seven rooms and was in shape a vast spiral, viewed from above, with an onion-domed tower at its center, taller than any tree, in which a magical fire was kept burning at all hours: it was said that this same fire would burn for as long as the Kingdom of Arangoth remained upon the earth. Among the two hundred and thirty-seven rooms were spacious guest quarters for visiting dignitaries, kitchens in which the finest delicacies to be found in Arangoth were prepared for the royal feasts, kennels, stables, pools, archives, armories, treasuries -- and the Throne Room, in which King Tagran dispensed justice. The city itself became known as Tagrana, named after its builder, and it was the capital of Arangoth until a little over fifty years ago when it was almost destroyed during the cataclysm that brought the end of the Old Kingdom. Arangothian years are still counted from the foundation of the city of Tagrana (470 years ago in the mun-year 2000).
Tagran reigned for thirty-one years. His son Arduin reigned for twenty-seven years, and Arduin's son Amurath reigned for six years; but he fell suddenly ill and died young. Amurath's younger brother Forban then ascended the throne of Arangoth and reigned for thirty-seven years. During the reign of Forban, the king's son, Prince Herbord, was the commander of the Arangothian armies. For four years the bold griffon king Karos waged war upon the land of Elvendeep, to the west of Arangoth, and Prince Herbord led those Arangothian forces which entered the war on the side of the elves. The griffon king finally suffered a terrible neck injury and was forced to withdraw. That same year, Prince Herbord's son Anskar was born. Herbord later ascended the throne and reigned for sixteen years, and after that Anskar reigned for forty-one years. In the reign of King Anskar occurred the Fall of the House of Silad. From this point onwards, the King appointed governors to the outlying provinces, which were no longer hereditary in particular families.
Anskar's son Gerd reigned sixteen years, and Gerd's son Rafold reigned twenty-three years. Rafold's son Arduin reigned forty-one years; Arduin's son Aladar reigned twenty-three years. Aladar had no children, so Ware, son of his brother Forban, succeeded to the throne upon his death.
A people known as the Assi dwelt along the valley of the upper Nie River. They were a lawless band of ruffians who pillaged towns and villages to the west in East Arangoth and caused no end of trouble, although they never dared to attack any major fortresses or cities. They also sent raiding expeditions eastward to the Kingdom of Rondis, which is mostly surrounded by the Kanemara Mountains but still lies open and vulnerable to attack on its southern border. The East Arangothian peasantry was made utterly miserable by the relentless Assi raids, but the noblemen who lived in their secure chateaux and fortresses were at first little inclined to risk their necks against such brigands. They longed for glorious battle against people of honor, not frustrating border-patrol duties. Therefore the royal court did nothing for a good many years. Finally, however, the court was jolted into action.
King Ware of Arangoth decided to marry his daughter to the Prince of Rondis, a prosperous mountain kingdom to the east. He sent his daughter thither across the wild borderlands along the River Nie, with a magnificent entourage and an enormous dowry in gold; but on the way she and her whole entourage, the dozens of noble personages accompanying her, were overtaken by tribesmen of the Assi and carried off into the wilds of Elgar Forest. Nobody from the entourage was ever seen alive again, but the Assi left the heads of several of the guards stuck on poles outside an East Arangothian citadel.
King Ware, blinded by fury, swore to wipe the Assi from the very face of the map and redoubled his resolve to ally his kingdom with the Rondissians. In fact, both royal courts were outraged. They vowed together to punish the Assi a thousandfold for what they had done. Now that his daughter was dead, King Ware decided that his son, Prince Aladar, would wed a Rondissian princess. Palandra was her name, and her father the King of Rondis quickly assented to the union. However, now that the borderlands were rent by fierce warfare, it was deemed unsafe for the princess to travel to Arangoth for the wedding. Instead, the marriage was concluded by proxy, as the Chancellor of Arangoth was sent to kneel in Palandra's bed and recite the wedding vows in Prince Aladar's name. He returned with only a small portrait of the princess for Aladar; as soon as the war was over, the sixteen-year-old boy was told, he could be united with his bride.
The Arangothians and the Rondissians thus concluded an alliance against the Assi and fought them for many years, but they were never able to corner them. Whenever the two allied kingdoms seemed to be getting the upper hand, off the ruffians would flee to their homeland in Elgar Forest, perhaps the nastiest place in the world. Neither the Arangothians nor the Rondissians had the courage to follow them into such a hell-hole. And so, year after year, the Assi grew bolder with their raids and carried off the livestock and adolescent daughters and moveable wealth of the poor peasantry. For their part, the peasants of Arangoth reacted by refusing to pay taxes to a king who could not protect them. They chased the royal tax-collectors away with scythes and pitchforks. Some even joined the Assi themselves. East Arangoth was on the brink of a bloody peasants' war. In the meantime, Prince Aladar was eager to see his wife (of several years now) in person, having until then only a portrait of the pretty Rondissian princess which the Chancellor had brought back with him from the proxy wedding. Her father was too protective to allow her to leave Rondis while there was still the slightest danger associated with the roads. To add to the unpleasantness of the situation, the Arangothian and Rondissian troops began to quarrel with each other, making joint operations against the Assi very difficult to arrange.
The war continued afterwards for many months. One year passed, and a second, and then a third, and still the battles raged upon the River Nie and in the Kanemara Mountains. In the meantime, Prince Aladar grew weak and sickly, and finally a long illness left him confined to his bed in a terrible delirium. At this, King Ware tore his beard and cried, "O dastardly death, you have taken my only daughter from me--do not also take my only son!" The most learned doctors of Arangoth hied to the prince's bedside, but they were all unable to cure him.
Finally, however, it was a peasant girl named Delvige who brought back Aladar's health with fragrant herbs and melodies and laughter. Aladar, who was now eighteen and had not yet been permitted to meet his Rondissian bride because of the war, fell deeply in love with Delvige, and in the course of time she bore him a son. When King Ware found out what had happened, he grew furious. He first had Delvige's nose, ears and lips cut off, and then ordered her and her child to be dragged to her death behind a horse on the cobblestone streets of Tagrana; but he repented of this, and simply had them sent away to a distant province of his kingdom. With that, Prince Aladar lost his will to live, and he once more fell terribly ill, with the doctors of the city shaking their heads and saying he might live another two years, or another four, but not much beyond that.
Now King Ware again feared that he would be left without an heir, and so he sent for Delvige's son, his own grandson, and had him raised in the palace. And the illegitimate boy was given the name Donnovath, or "hope." The king grew very fond of the little child, and had ingenious toys crafted for him of precious metals and gems.
About this time a guild of knights entered the region from somewhere in the west, from whence they had been expelled (for some reason or other known best to themselves). They were known as the Order of the Beady Eye. They promised King Ware that they would subdue the Assi once and for all on the condition that they be allowed to settle in the lands they helped to conquer. The king accepted these terms. With the Order's help the Assi were finally pacified, and their forests were declared the new Arangothian province of "Elgaria." Easier said than done, however. For Elgar Forest is a place both deep and dark and full of insidious beings who bend the knee to no sovereign. King Ware sent out several of his most capable underlings to organize the new province, naming one of them Grand Duke, but they all ended up dead or scared out of their wits. The Order of the Beady Eye alone was able to keep the indigenous population of monsters and cutthroats in check because of the extraordinary discipline of its members. And since King Ware saw it was hopeless to expect his own noblemen to govern the new province, he turned it over to the Order of the Beady Eye, whom he instructed to govern there in his name. The Order built mighty roads connecting parts of the forest with the seashore near the mouth of the River Darian and with the foothills of Ruthmarna. Now that the passage was safe, Prince Aladar and Princess Palandra were united at long last, just in time for their fifth anniversary. Donnovath, Aladar's illegitimate son, was soon removed from the succession by the birth of Palandra's first male child, named Forban. However, Donnovath's descendants comprised the noble family of Gosprey [from gosporre, or 'prince'] and held many important offices of state.
The knights of the Order of the Beady Eye diligently patrolled the River Nie and other rivers with well-armed pinnaces or shallops, and to pay for all their undertakings they invited families from Inner Arangoth and Sresaria to resettle there and clear farmland from the forest, taking a fraction of their crops in local taxes for defense. Gradually the knights carved out a thriving farming community in the heart of dark Elgar Forest, and they even stocked the fearsome Black Lagoon with pike and catfish.
King Ware was pleased to have found a new fighting force willing and eager to serve the Arangothian crown, and he set about taking advantage of it. The Order of the Beady Eye was next sent against the Korthai pirates of the southwestern coast, which is how Arania entered the kingdom: their cunning architects then improved the old pirates' lair, transforming it into their Order's headquarters, known as Sivriana. Beginning the year after that, the Order knights along with the regular Arangothian army were sent to bring peace to the mountains of the northwest, carving out the Province of Outer Arangoth (including Caern) over the course of the next decade. The inhabitants of that region had until then been a lawless mixture of elves (outlaws from Elvendeep to the south) and mithril-mining dwarves and human bandits. The pattern of government established in the case of Elgaria continued to be followed in these new unstable regions: Arania and Outer Arangoth were henceforth governed with the king's consent by the knights of the Order of the Beady Eye. The leader of this group, called their grand master, was therefore very powerful. The grand master who had brought the guild to Arangoth was named Sivrian Dollitrog, and his descendants (of the Dollitrog family) inherited his post from him for several generations. The Dollitrogs were known for their valor and for the sanctity of their given word, and they were by far the tallest people in Arangoth, being descended from a race of giants.
Encouraged by his great military successes, King Ware began to contemplate trying to conquer the whole of the known world. In twelve years he had doubled the size of his kingdom and added three new provinces onto its outskirts. Now, it so happens that when the Korthai pirates had been driven out of Arania they had fled first to the harbor at the free city of Ethcabar-Antara and had then moved on southwards to Aslar, Tollor, Myst and Equine Island. Considering only that Ethcabar had (unwillingly or not) granted refuge to the enemies of Arangoth, King Ware demanded that this free city place itself under his suzerainty and also pay an enormous indemnity. The proud city naturally refused. Arangothian warships newly built along the coast blockaded Ethcabar harbor, while an army with a large contingent from the Order set off overland across Elgaria and down the Nie river to lay siege to the city. However, the attempt turned into a disastrous fiasco. The army was decimated passing through unsafe parts of Elgar Forest, and the Nie had overflowed its banks due to an unusually rainy spring, making marching alongside the river a near impossibility. The task of building enough rafts to float the remaining army downstream to Ethcabar delayed them for over a week. In the meantime, the burghers of Ethcabar conducted a daring nighttime assault upon the Arangothian navy lurking in their harbor, burning and sinking most of King Ware's fleet. Those lucky enough to have survived the Ethcabar Campaign so far were faced with the prospect of an army from Aslar fast approaching to help defend the city (the king of Aslar at the time was a native of Ethcabar, and convinced the Aslarians that if Ethcabar fell, Aslar would surely be attacked next). And so there was a general retreat, still commemorated in Ethcabar each year to this day. Still, Ethcabar recognized that chance had played a large role in their deliverance from the Arangothian onslaught, and therefore the city graciously arranged a perpetual peace with King Ware, pledging for their part not to harbor any pirates who plagued the Transdarianian coast.
The strategy vis-a-vis the Khalar tribes to the north had always been to arrange a peace agreement with whatever tribe controlled the mountains on the southern border of Kahlahra. This was generally the Sherkhen tribe, which regularly agreed to seventy-year peace treaties with Arangoth. Each time the peace was renewed there were great festivities upon the waters of Song Deep (the common border) and costly presents were exchanged. The Sherkhen emissaries brought thoroughbred Khalar horses for the Arangothian king, and the Arangothian emissaries in turn presented gem-encrusted gilt sabres and goblets and trinket-boxes to the Sherkhen chiefs and their wives and favorites. King Ware had thought of refusing to renew this peace when it expired, and extending his dominions northwards across Song Deep. However, his armies were still tied up in the conquest of Outer Arangoth at that time, and so he did renew the peace with the Sherkhen, ambassadors being exchanged some three years prior to the disastrous Ethcabar Campaign.
King Ware had reigned for fifty-six years at the time of the Ethcabar campaign, and afterwards he reigned for another twenty-two years; in all, he reigned seventy-eight years and died a very old man. Since Prince Aladar had died before him, Aladar's son Prince Forban succeeded to the throne and reigned for twenty years. After that, Forban was succeeded by his own son, King Aladar.
Aladar was a wise king in part because of an ability he had been given around the time of his birth by a magician from some faraway and unknown place. This magician had shown up at the court in Tagrana and offered to impart this ability to their son in return for a purse of silver, and Aladar's parents had agreed (most magicians asked for purses of gold, so this seemed quite a bargain). The whole thing had soon slipped their minds, and they never even mentioned it to him; the details only came out years later after an examination of the old court account books. Anyway, the ability was this: when Aladar looked at someone, he saw directly into that person's innermost soul. He could tell whether a person was honest and well-meaning or dishonest and evil. And so when he became king he was able to pick faithful advisors, knowing from looking at them with his inner eye that they would never turn against him. His first chancellor was a man by the name of Perlim Silkenvest, whom the king chose because he was unquestionably loyal -- even ruthlessly so. Chancellor Silkenvest, the king supposed, would counterbalance his own personal tendency to be overly forgiving and lenient. Criminals too learned that the king could correctly judge their guilt or innocence by a simple glance. King Aladar's first wife, Queen Thrinda, died in childbirth, although her son survived to become the later King Dorn.