Nations and Places
Table of Contents
A Map of the World
The Calendar of Gushémal
Section I: Nations
Section II: Places of Renown
Account of the Tragedy
Overview (continued again)
and Historical Overview
are few people in this world who have not heard of the fate of Keroull.
Once a realm much as many others, it was a nation best known for its
knight-errants of the 30th and early 31st centuries.
Some called it the home of valor and courage – although most of those
people were Keroullians themselves, since other nations rather preferred
(and do prefer) to see themselves in that position. Keroull had good trade
relations with its neighbors, particularly the Thousand Islands.
southern neighbor, Cayaboré, was often an enemy rather than a trade
partner. The Keroullians never quite accepted the rigorous system of
Cayaboré, themselves partial to a somewhat more liberal organization
which granted a goodly amount of freedom to the provincial dukes and
earls, rather than concentrate it in the king’s hands. Strangely enough,
there had never been a time when both did not maintain an embassy in the
other nation’s capital – not even when the countries were at war with
each other. All in all, though, it is not surprising that Cayaboré never
considered Keroull a major threat; they only went to war a full five times
from the 28th to the 31st century – while Cayaboré
records more than forty large-scale conflicts on its other borders during
the same time.
on the other hand, considered Cayaboré its most important neighbor. Most
Keroullian strategies were targeted on Cayaboré, usually trying to barely
avoid war while achieving their goals. Contemporary writers report that
occasionally the Keroullian kings were frustrated and galled when the
so-called Dragon in the south did not so much as blink despite the current
schemes, simply because Keroull often was not important to Cayaboré. (But
they were still observed; the wars are proof that Cayaboré has always
been a watchful nation.)
in all, Keroull was not a particularly remarkable realm, except by its
size. No match for the vast Tonomat, it was still one of the few sizable
lands of our world, along with Arrufat, Ibrollene, Cayaboré, the Blue
Land (or Imperium Romanum Novum), and Kraznyczar. That alone was probably
its most striking feature. Its dealings with other nations were on par
with those of any other of the ones I have numbered above, its
contributions to society were as varied as they were numerous, but still,
nothing out of the ordinary. In 3044 A.E., an aristocrat of Ibrollene
said, “If Keroull were to vanish tomorrow, I would only find out when my
tailor told me he had no more tweed from Markellavey.” His words may
reflect more the nobleman’s own attitude about all countries aside from
his homeland, yet the fact remains that there seemed little that one would
miss about Keroull.
came the year 3098 A.E., a year that changed all that.
first signs were ignored by the king – Teargelt VII. – in the capital
of Markellavey, tales of dark creatures haunting the shadows, of
graveyards that were dug open, of people snatched from their houses. Each
tale alone made for no more than an oddity, a yarn spun by peasants afraid
of superstition and the night. The king’s chief advisor and court
wizard, a man named Kristo Pharlee, said that there was no reason for
worry. The constellations in the night sky were seen by most villagers as
a time of bad omens, and there had been an apparition in the heavens,
fiery streaks that rained down one night. Pharlee assured Tehrgelt that
those streaks were not an omen of evil but merely a natural occurrence, a
discharge of divine power in the heavens that happened infrequently.
saw no reason to disbelieve his advisor. For twenty years he had relied on
Pharlee’s advice, rendered in a dispassionate voice that bore no
ambition beyond his current position. Indeed there were voices during
those two decades who claimed that in truth Pharlee only lacked the royal
crown to be the king of Keroull. In all matters of dispute, it had been
his advice that decided the matter. Often the wizard would send out orders
without consulting the king, signing in his name.
more could this man want from life? He already had power, he had
everything that Keroull had to offer. Let us now consider what kind of a
man Kristo Pharlee was (or is?), from the vantage point of his own
long as I remember, my oldest brother wanted more. One of my earliest
memories is seeing Kristo with a sword, practicing strokes. He must have
been around sixteen years old back then; he had been inducted into the
wizard’s academy a while earlier, and he’d grown as much of a beard as
his young years allowed. I remember that Kristo visited our family
regularly, two days every other week – which was always an occasion for
our mother to tidy up the house even more than ordinarily and cook lavish
meals. So it wasn’t surprising at all that I always looked forward to my
brother’s visits, and my own time was set by the time remaining until
loved him. He loved me back, I think, there wasn’t a time when he
didn’t have a present for me, even though sometimes it was no more than
a show of his skills like a light show. I thought that being a wizard
would be such a wonderful affair that nobody would need anything else, yet
all the time Kristo was trying to improve his sword fighting, as if he
were going to be a soldier. Whenever I asked him about that, he would
laugh and tousle my hair. ‘One day I’ll tell you, Mak, when you’re
all grown up,’ he promised, then he returned to his swordplay with some
extravagant moves to delight me. And most likely distract me.
encouraged Kristo in his efforts, but Mother slowly grew concerned that
this love for the blade would keep my brother from studying at the
academy. It was a mother’s worry, no more. Kristo never let anything
intrude into his studies, his grades were always at the top of the class.
Yet I sometimes wonder if Mother saw something else in this, something
that I could not see, either as a child or as a grown man.
brother entered the king’s service a year or two after his graduation,
at a time when I was laboriously learning to read under the tutelage of
our village’s Darawk priest. His visits home were becoming more
irregular, but still something to cherish in every regard. For me,
especially, since Kristo brought home tales of the court and of grand
adventures. Sometimes he would bring home books and read them together
with me – inconspicuously teaching me to read, and doing a much better
job than the priest. ‘Athalwolf the Red’ was his
favorite book. Naturally it became mine as well; I can still quote
passages to this day. Perhaps there was a sign here, in the tale how the
knight Athalwolf was wrongly accused of treason, and how he took vengeance
of all that had cast the blame on him, finally becoming a king himself. Or
perhaps it was just the adventurous nature of the book that attracted him.
only thing that I noted was that his attitude changed in those days.
Before he had been given to laughter and showing his emotions, but in the
early days of his service to the king he grew quieter, colder to those who
didn’t know him. To me, he became more of a modern day Athalwolf –
although he stayed as kind and loving to me as ever. This has never
changed, not even in our last encounter.
had no aptitude for wizardry, nor for fighting with a sword, yet numbers
had caught my eye quickly. When I turned seventeen, I was called to
Markellavey to serve in the Royal Treasury – no doubt due to my
brother’s recommendation. We spent much time together in those years,
dreaming of how we could improve our country. There were many faults in
the realm. Many I saw in my work at the Treasury – bad accounting being
the least worrisome of them. No, gold was misspent all across the land, to
please the whims of the provincial lords who had far too much sway over
the king’s income. As both Kristo and I saw it, the only reason why the
lords paid their taxes was that they knew most of it would flow back into
their pockets, thus leaving the king weak and nearly powerless.
‘Unmanned,’ Kristo called him. Later he would use his position as
chief advisor to improve the situation somewhat. I would rise to be the
Adjutant Treasurer, kept from the highest rank by my commoner birth –
one more reason for both our disenchantment with the realm.
do not believe that we disliked our homeland. Not at all, we wanted to
make it better, like so many other people do – and we had found a place
where we could actually do something.
brother never had much truck with women, he was always so busy. While I
married my wife only a few months after reaching Markellavey (and our
first-born arriving a ‘miraculous’ six months after our marriage),
Kristo only had a fling here and there, nothing steady, nothing that would
take his mind off his business.
he met Halla, a shield maiden in the royal guard. She was not the most
handsome woman in the world, but there was a spark within her that
attracted Kristo. In so many ways she represented the ideals of chivalry,
but grounded in a realism that none of the books had. She was an earthy
woman – one who challenged the male guards to rough fights and often
won, one who never dreamed of the ideal love but took a mate whenever she
felt like it (much like Kristo had done before, in fact.)
were made for each other. Of course nobody else saw it as I did, or as
they did. Sickening rumors abounded at court about Kristo and Halla, of
witchcraft going either or both ways at the same time, and whatever. My
brother had always been seen as a cold man, that his heart could not
possibly moved by any emotion, not pity, certainly not love. Some, in
fact, doubted that Halla was anything more than another toy of the court
wizard. I know better. I have seen them in private, visiting my family –
Kristo doting on my children the same way as he had treated me -, and they
were happy together.
then Halla was sent on a mission up north, to accompany and guard an
ambassador. She never returned, neither did anybody else of the mission.
Somewhere in the Elfadil Desert, it seems, that they were murdered.
brother was devastated. He knew about the incident sooner than anybody
else, while the court had only the latest notice from the mission and the
next had only been overdue a day. I’m sure that he used magic to find
out about Halla, though he never told me any details. For a month, he
simply vanished from Markellavey – I was the only one whom he told about
this. ‘Mak, I’ll be gone for a while. Take good care of your kids.’
That was all he said, not a word about the king, not a word about his
business as wizard and royal advisor.
it back then that his heart broke? I can’t say for sure. After he came
back, he resumed his duties as if nothing had happened – proving to the
court only that emotions could never take hold in his soul. I could tell
that he still grieved, and that he would go on grieving for as long as I
as dear as Halla was to him, I don’t think she was the single cause of
his change. Her death played a part, yes, but there were other things in
his life that darkened his soul. After some years I realized that he only
smiled at my home, with no more than my wife Liodburga, my children, or I
present. He rarely laughed in those days, as if a shadow accompanied him
all the time. The shadow deepened whenever we spoke of the realm, of the
slow progress we were making in our efforts.
had devoted so much to our ambition, yet so little came of it. In my mind,
that was what affected him most over the years. So few of his hopes came
to fruition, there was so little to show for the years. Frustration is
what drove him to the arcane and dark arts.”
Ibrollene (ca. 3101 A.E.)
in our tale, the matter seemed settled and King Teargelt concentrated on
other affairs that seemed more important, such as trade with the Thousand
Islands. (It is worthwhile to remember that the old rule was still
maintained there, before the coup d’état in 3122 A.E.) A
terrible storm had laid waste to the merchant fleet of Keroull the
preceding year, and many of the remaining ships had been cracked open by
an extraordinarily cold winter’s ice. The ports of the southern coast,
closest to Cayaboré, froze up altogether, something that had not happened
in living memory. Only a few ships in the northernmost harbors survived,
since they had been secured on shore – there, normal winters
infrequently brought ice, so that countermeasures were quite familiar. As
it was, Keroull could no longer send out its fleet to trade with the
Thousand Islands and had to rely on their ships – paying hefty fees for
the uncommon service. King Teargelt was in constant discussions to lower
the fees, and spent large amounts from his treasury to rebuild the fleet.
lords of the provinces grew increasingly uneasy, though, and their demands
had always held great sway over the king’s decisions. So, in the early
spring of 3098, Teargelt consulted his chief advisor. Pharlee repeated his
assurance that nothing unusual seemed to be happening, but to appease the
territorial rulers, he would ask the most experienced and powerful wizards
of the land to convene in a secret place and investigate the matter.
was relieved that Pharlee had such a splendid answer to the problem and
agreed immediately. The call went out, and from the academies and towers
of Keroull, the wizards arrived first at Markellavey – where they were
hosted by Kristo Pharlee in his customary dry manner, despite the luxuries
heaped upon them by the king. In Destrab, the fourth month, the wizards
left the royal castle for their unknown location, accompanied by a squad
of veteran soldiers as well as Pharlee himself.
his advisor by his side, Teargelt had little defense against the demands
of the lords. He sent out more squads of his royal troops, to investigate
the disappearances and the upturned graveyards, leaving only a hundred
soldiers at the castle. From the treasury, the king diverted funds,
originally destined for the rebuilding of the fleet, to the lords so they
could raise more troops themselves. (How much of that money vanished in
the lords’ coffers is unknown. The following events make it impossible
for today’s historian to learn details about the provinces; we have only
some records from Markellavey at our disposal.) Pharlee would surely have
found a way to avoid these payments and taken better care to keep the
castle and king better protected, Teargelt knew.
fact that should have aroused the king’s suspicion, I believe. Pharlee
could have predicted what demands the lords would pose, yet he removed
himself from the castle and consciously left the king to fend for himself.
let us return to the tale: Destrab passed, not bringing any more tales of
woe. Although his treasury was emptying at an alarming rate, King Teargelt
thought that the country was returning to peace. From the court records we
know that he was planning to raise new taxes in the fall, so that he could
resume building the fleet the next year. If things had gone his way,
Keroull would still face a very bad year, with decreased incomes from
trade, and very powerful lords. To regain his own command, the king would
have to work very hard – but again, he put his trust in Pharlee, that
his chief advisor would find a way to make it happen.
the month of Aqualun came, and with it a courier from the provincial
capital Glessynbur in the South, near the Deadcrossing. He brought
unsettling news, enough for Teargelt to yearn for his advisor by his side.
Twenty miles to the west of Glessynbur, darkness had fallen over the land,
consuming a circular area of some three miles in diameter, with several
villages swallowed up by it. It seemed, the messenger reported, that a
wall had risen from the ground, as if the night had never left at
daybreak. Courageous souls had entered the darkness – inside, they could
see the stars in the night, but they could also hear curious noises from
the distance, some sounding like industrious woodworks, some like nothing
the men had ever heard before. A few tried to travel more than some one
hundred yards into the darkness, to find the source of the noises, but
none of those returned.
master of Glessynbur demanded urgently that troops be deployed, to aid
him. Since Glessynbur was an important province, Teargelt agreed to send
twenty soldiers back along with the courier, as many as he thought he
could spare. Already his castle’s defenses were thinned, but eighty men
should be able to hold its walls against a siege.
king needed the advice of Pharlee, but he did not know how to reach the
wizard. Days passed, with royal scouts – more of the castle’s
defenders – ranging out to find where the secret convention of wizards
was held, to no avail. The trail of the wizard’s convoy died only
thirty-five miles out from Markellavey, in the small town of Vinneymak,
the last place that the convoy had been seen.