History – Girding Basin (to 1197 NC)
The Girding Basin (northwestern Noroth), pre-Codian Empire (1197 NC)
The sheltered northwest corner of Noroth has been something of a sanctuary for humanity for thousands of years, since the times when Magdetchoi tribes dominated most of the continent. Human tribes settling in the region enclosed by the Great Girding Mountains dwelled for the most part as far as possible from the bugbear-infested mountains themselves, north and west beyond Lake Beo in the Basin’s center. By a time roughly 4000 years ago (2600 years before the beginning of the Norothian Calendar), these tribes had become ethnically and linguistically distinct from those elsewhere on Noroth, and are known as the Gwethellen.
3500 years ago, large scale Magdetchoi migrations moved into what had long been human territories on both Noroth and Kandala, inaugurating a grim period known as “The Howling.” The tribes known as the Leuts were driven from ancestral lands on the Norothian steppe and scattered as three distinct lines. The “Western Leuts” had the good fortune to pass through the Parn Gap of the eastern Girdings and enter the Basin. They settled along the Parnafluss (Parn River) in agricultural communities aided by the introduction of horses to the region, and established rudimentary trade connections with the Gwethellen peoples across Lake Beo. The city of Parn Fort, built within the Gap, served as a magnet for attacks from both the orcs of the steppe and the bugbears of the mountains. The fort holds, and the river communities thrive behind its protection.
The “Northern Leuts” driven north of the steppe by “The Howling” had during the same period established settlements on the Cold Sea mouth of the Zayvar (Tsever) River in a region known as Varanch – “the burned lands” – as it was only occupied after massive forest fires cleared the areas of trolls. With orcs and even ogres thickly inhabiting the interior, the tribes of Varanch turn increasingly to seafaring, eventually establishing small but safer tribal colonies around the coasts and on the islands of the Cold Seas. By 3000 years ago contact is established with the northern coastline of the Girding Basin, primarily with the Gwethellen tribes knows as the “Thellish” (literally “plainsmen,” a group distinct by this period from “Thullish” forestmen and “Thollish” hillmen). As the northern and western Leuts are largely distinct groups after five hundred years, the northerners are hereafter known as the High Northern tribes while those of the Basin are known as the Parnians. Where the High Northerners encounter the Thellish, a coastal trade port called Telina is founded.
rapidly becomes a powerful political entity, with a ruling class of mixed High Northern/Gwethellen derivation growing wealthy through coastal trade. Wealth and power allows the lords of Telina to bring the Thellish tribes under their sway by 2800 years ago, and within another century they rule the northern Beoshore, the coast of the Lake which has long been a meeting ground for other Gwethellen tribes and the Parnians. By 2700 years ago Telina is a Kingdom, with an ancestral ruling house and class exercising power through vassal lords from the seacoast to the Lake.
The history of dynastic Telina is fully treated elsewhere. For the larger history of the Basin, the important results were the occupation of the traditionally Thollish hill country, organized under a Gwethellen vassal of the Teline Crown as the Duchy of Gyle. The hillmen escaping Teline dominion did so only by settling the craggy, mountainous peninsula jutting northwest from the Basin, known from that time on as Thol. Similarly, many of the forest Gwethellen left their old lands on the western Beoshore and relocated south and west to the course of the Rinng Geni (Serpent River), and there founded the communities that would later be the heart of Tull.
With the Thols and Tulls removed from immediate contact with Telina, the kings turned their attention on the river settlements of the Parnians. In truth those settlements had been declining for centuries, for the restriction of trade on Lake Beo had encouraged the Parnians to settle more heavily north of the river, where grazing cattle provided a staple food source to replace agricultural losses from fertile farmlands. Teline pressure encouraged the Parnians to move further out onto the northern plains, with the unforeseen result that the stout defense of Parn Fort, long the point of greatest pride for the Parnian people, seemed increasingly less important.
Around 2400 years ago, an orcish horde sacked the old city and ran amok down the length of the Parn River, destroying the nascent Teline settlements that had begun to grow there. While Telina accused the Parnians of perfidy, in truth most of them had moved out of the immediate region decades before. Despite Teline efforts to dislodge the orcs, they remained in occupation of the Parn River for years and spread south of the river as well to occupy much of the steppe lands of the southeastern Basin (present-day Orstaf).
On a continental scale, the six-centuries from roughly 2000 to 1400 years ago are celebrated as “The Grand Years,” during which time humanity and the newly-arrived “Folk Races” (Elves, Dwarves, and Gnomes) jointly broke the power of the great Magdetchoi hordes that had long dominated Noroth. Within the Basin, unified action against the Magdetchoi only began late in the period, though political developments continued among the peoples dwelling there.
For a time Telina turned to overseas expansion on the Cold Seas, bringing the rulers of several High Northern settlements under the crown’s control as “Yarls” (Earls) in Kalol, Yindi, Smol, and Zayvar (the old Tsever/Varanch area), before their attention once again returned to the Basin. The Teline Civil War of some 1700 years ago is treated with that Kingdom’s history; the critical result was the occupation of most of coastal Thol (and the ports of Claypool and Stavager) by Telina after the Thols chose to support a renegade Duke of Gyle. Meanwhile the Parnians and the Tulls, while still loose tribal conglomerations, enjoyed a period of peace. Good relations were established between the Parnians and Telina, many of the former in fact serving as mercenaries in the conquest of Thol, still a sore-point between Thols and the modern Exlanders. The Tulls meanwhile strengthened ties with the Ettacean colony of Rhuun in the southern Girding Mountains, and quietly expanded their areas of occupation in the southeast Basin.
The event drawing the Basin into the wider conflict sweeping the continent beyond the Girding Mountains was in fact inter-Magdetchoi strife. As preparation for an assault on the bugbears dwelling within the Girding Mountains, the powerful Brannak Orc tribes dwelling east of the Basin began shipping iron weaponry to the Parn Orcs through the Gap, right below the ruins of old Parn Fort. The Parnians, who already possessed iron weapons themselves, were not eager to see the orcs south of the river likewise equipped, and so some 1600 years ago the human warriors united under a legendary warlord named Hegges for an assault to retake and hold the mountain pass. While the pass was seized, the defenders came under heavy attack by orcs from both the south and west, and the Parnians were force to beg the assistance of Telina.
Telina did respond, but at great price to themselves as the concentration of their armies in the western basin led to strife erupting among the contentious High Northern Yarls, and the outbreak of sedition in coastal Thol, enflamed by the still-free highlanders of the mountains. Telina was stretched thin to deal with multiple problems, and the Parn orcs took advantage to launch an assault that devastated the middle of the country and came close to reaching the capital itself. In the end, the Telines made peace with the Parn orcs only by ceding territory on the north bank of the Parn river to the orcs, which outraged the Parnians who had turned-back all Brannak orc attacks from the west on their own, and were beginning to feel their united strength as a people. Telina further looses power and prestige as two breakaway Yarldoms declare independence, and Tholish highlanders capture Claypool and declare the existence of a Free Thol as a semi-unified tribal realm.
South of the Basin, some 133 years before the start of the Norothian Calendar (roughly 1530 years ago), the human powers of the western Norothian Channel (Ettacea, Inbinea, The Daul Council, Zantana, and Molok) joined in alliance with the Elven/Gnomish Folk Army of Nom and together drafted The Inbinea Accords pledging joint action against all Magdetchoi. Representatives were in fact sent to Telina as well through the Rhuunish Ettacean peoples allied with the Tulls, but owing to the recently concluded peace with the orcs on the Parn, the Kingdom declined to support the Accords. Twenty five years later with brutal fighting still raging south of the mountains, the Accord powers again attempt to gain more human support for their cause, and are once again rebuffed by Telina. However, a conference called at Rhuun results in rather grand commitments of support from the Tulls, the Free Thols, and even the Parnians. These peoples at the time are only able to send representatives to the Accord meetings in Inbinea rather than actual military aid, but recognition of these groups as polities, perhaps even as nations, by the Accord powers quietly enrages the Telines.
The Wars of the Inbinea Accord are, once again, treated more fully elsewhere, and in truth the involvement of any Basin peoples is scant for several decades. Telina is in fact more active battling orcs and ogres around the Cold Seas in defense of their own Yarldoms than are the Tulls, Thols, or Parnians in alliance with the Accord. Open warfare erupts only around 1470 years ago with a renewed Brannak/Parn orc assault on both Telina and Parnian territory that destroys Parn Fort (for the second time) and devastates the southern territories of both the Kingdom and tribal areas.
Rather than aiding the beleaguered Kingdom by attacking the orcs, the Free Thols and the ruling “Princes” of Tullish territories declare war on each other, apparently owing to a disputed marriage claim. The fighting spreads into the Teline Duchy of Gyle, and keeps the Telines and Parnians from achieving anything but a stalemate against the orcs to the east. Peace is made among the human combatants only by the eventual recognition of six titular Princes or Dukes (who swear allegiance but not vassalage to the Teline King) over various regions of Gyle and the Tullish/Rhuunish territories.
At long last, the Basin powers unite to attack the orcs of the Parn, and after decades of fierce fighting the remnants of the Magdetchoi tribes are driven back through the Parn Gap and into the Brannak Hills. The southeastern steppe within the Basin is devoid of occupation, but the victorious powers can in no way agree on a plan for settling the region without starting another war among themselves. The steppe is left largely empty, and the Gap of Parn is closed to the orcs for centuries as the discovery of gold in the area brings in Dwarven colonists, flushed with final victory over the Magdetchoi. The Wars of the Inbinea Accord conclude with the inception of the Norothian Calendar (roughly 1400 years ago), finding Folk and Men victorious everywhere while the surviving Magdetchoi are driven into the continent’s most grim and inhospitable locales.
For the first four centuries of the Ennead Calendar the Girding Basin was largely peaceful. Telina, the Duchies and Principalities, and the Parnian territories (which began to be called Heggesland during this period in honor of the hero from whom most chieftain clans claimed descent) maintained a balance among themselves, and the wide steppe was always available to those dissatisfied with life elsewhere. Gold coins minted by the Dwarves of Ochroid in the Parn Gap facilitated a robust economy across the Basin, and the Lake in the center became a handy marketplace for the produce and finished goods of the whole region. All the Basin powers largely focused inwards, and even the Kingdom of Telina was not unduly troubled by the loss of its remaining colonies and Yarldoms around the Cold Seas, as the new power of Tartheagu arose far to the north across the icy waters.
Tartheagu’s menace would not be felt in the Basin for many years, but in the 300’s NC the world outside the mountains again made itself known. In 369 the gold mines of Ochroid played-out and the Dwarves abandoned the Gap. Most returned west to Garak-Tor, though the separatists known as the Baltazarians stayed in the Girding Mountains until discovering new mines and settling a colony far to the south at Yagnorak. With the Dwarves gone, the Gap was left open to steppe riders from the west – Kantan horse tribes who soon began extending their winter ranges into the Basin. Attempts by the Basin powers to hurriedly settle their own people in the area led to the predictable intra-Basin rivalries and squabbles, leaving the Kantans to peacefully occupy the southeastern steppe permanently by 425, from which time the region acquired the Kantan name of Orstaf.
Farther west, The Kantan Wars of the 400-500’s began the painful unification of the horse peoples, and had the additional effect of scourging much of the eastern Cold Sea shores. Telina was instrumental in resettling many displaced High Northmen (known as the “Dyne”) in the island territories of the old Yarldom of Kalol (modern Kaleland), and Kaeberic V (ruled 525-558) developed another use for the seagoing northerners, encouraging them to raid the Heggesland coast in a misguided attempt to force the proud Heggeslanders into dependence on Telina. Instead, the northern Hegges clans became closer allies than ever, while only a few southern tribes on the Parn grudgingly looked toward the Kingdom for support in the face of growing Kantan power.
Kantan power in the area wore a new face, as tribes defeated in the Kantan Wars during the 530’s had fled east and occupied the abandoned dwarven city of Ochrid, renaming it Parnistok for its location at the headwaters of the Parn River. Of a more warlike bent than the existing Orstavians, the Parnistokians frequently raided into the Basin, striking their Kantan cousins as much as they did the Parnian Heggeslanders. War with the Kingdom seemed increasingly likely, until Kaeberic’s death in 558 set off a conflict among his rival heirs.
“The Lovers’ War” of 558-571 NC was waged primarily by Kaeberic’s youngest son, Abner, and his wife Sarsha, the matriarch of a Parnistokian clan. The war is treated fully within the history of Telina, but the results can be summarized here: Sarsha became the first Tsarina of Parnistok by 562, and increased the Tsardom’s holdings to include most of Orstaf and the Kantan province of Kiroy outside of the Basin, west of the Gap. Abner became King of Telina in 568, and added the southern shore of Lake Beo to the Kingdom’s territory. The thrones of Telina and Parnistok are thus united in the persons of their rulers, but unification is short-lived as Sarsha succumbs to illness in 571, and a grief-stricken King Abner abandons a campaign against the Tullish principalities though he is on the brink of victory. Rule of Parnistok reverts to Sarsha’s children by a previous marriage, while Telina remains with Abver and Sarsha’s line. Three of the battered Tullish principalities unite as a single Kingdom of Tullandia (generally called “Tull”), and thus establish a third power to counter the no-longer cooperative Telines and Parnistokians. Elsewhere in the Basin the smaller countries of Wesilwa, Gyle, Rhuun, the Thols, and the Heggeslanders keep their own peace for fear of drawing aggression from a stronger neighbor. Though the peace is precarious, it lasts for more than three centuries, extending into the late 800s.
Beginning in 891 and for a hundred years afterward, the coasts and riverways adjoining the Cold Seas came under assault by “The Gar” (a corruption of “Tarthagar“); longboat raiders plying the northern seas, engaging in piracy and raids on isolated communities. Many residents of the area believed the activity of the Gar to be a sign that Tartheagu as a nation was taking a more belligerent position toward their neighbors, but actually the raids were indicative of worsening conditions on the desolate northern peninsula, where population growth was exceeding the scant resources available. The ruling Queen’s Council (a collection of priests and nobles governing in the name of the Ennead Goddess, Tartha) actually less control over the country than at any other time, and yet several regions afflicted by the raids sought better relations with the Council in order to curtail them. It was to be more than a century before the Council reasserted their control over the Lands of the Sword Goddess, and in the interim the Gar raids forced numerous political changes in the territories they afflicted.
In Thol, long divided between “Free” territories in the south and the northern coast, where ruling Dukes swore fealty at various times to either the Teline Kings or the Boru of Gweiyer, Gar raiders sacked the northern capital of Stavager in 971, burning the ancient city to the ground. There followed three years known as the Tholish Civil War (971-974 NC), during which “Free Thol” forces led by the self-styled Earl of Claypool defeated both the invading Gar, and fought-off two Teline efforts to reassert control of the north. In 974, the Kingdom of Thol was proclaimed, bringing unity to the mountainous peninsula for the first time since the tribal period.
For decades Telina had been paying-off the Queen’s Council of Tartheagu, who in turn bribed the Gar not to raid Telina’s shores, but after their defeat by the Free Thols the Gar are no longer willing to leave the weakened Kingdom alone, bribes or no bribes. Raids resume on the Teline coast and the Council turns a deaf ear to Teline complaints. In an effort to shore up the defense of their northern coast, Telina enters into alliance with Parnistok to the south, though the price is the cession of much of the South Beoshore to the Tsardom. The shift of manpower northwards however allows Telina to adequately defend their coasts from the raiders. After the civil war Tholish territories are likewise hardly worth attacking, and the Heggesland territories become a tricky proposition too, as several northern clans there pool their resources to pay the Queen’s Council. These payments are not made to stop the Gar raids, but only so that the Council will inform the Heggeslanders (or “Exlanders,” as the Tarthagars call them) via spies among the Gar when the raids are coming.
Seeking more fertile ground to raid, in the late 900’s the Gar begin raiding beyond Thol and down the western, Interminable Ocean coast of the Basin, into Tullish territory. The raiders go so far as to seize the delta of the Serpent River in 989, and by 991 they are ranging upriver as far as the capital at Dunn Geni. However, with so much Gar manpower so far away, the Queen’s Council of Tartheagu takes brutal advantage at home, destroying the coastal villages from which the Gar originate, and slaughtering dependants while the fighting men are gone. The power of the Gar is finally broken when their army is defeated on the Serpent River in 994 by the Tulls under the leadership of the Archmage, Abverw. As the young Prince of Tullandia has been killed in battle, the old wizard is offered the throne by the Tullish chiefs, which he grudgingly accepts. His reign is however short-lived (994-997) before Abverw succumbs to great age, and his chief apprentice, Kanderamath, rules only two more years before disappearing in the Vod Wilderness beyond the southern Girdings in an attempt to find the old Ettacean ruins of Vod’Adia, the “Sable City.” A third wizard, Brigid, who is actually a member of the old Princely line is eventually elevated to the throne, and during her long reign (1001-1044) Tull is solidified as the Witch Kingdom, a tradition that continues after Brigid’s death when the throne is passed not to a blood relative, but to the wizard proving to be the most skilled spell-caster in the realm.
With most of the Basin coming under the rule of recognizable polities, rather than just loose organizations of clans and tribes, only the “Heggeslanders” remain as a cultural and linguistic group without a country, though they do not remain so for much longer. Though the differing interests of the coastal, central, and southern river clans have always kept them divided, and the competition among hundreds of local chieftains calling themselves “barons” has made unification chimerical, that begins to change after Telina’s cession of the South Beoshore to Parnistok, which outrages the southern clans who have long feared the Tsardom across the Parn River. For its, Parnistok has been a very warlike nation since its inception, though for them the region of Orstaf and the Basin is a quiet backwater from which to draw manpower and cavalry for the great battles raging in Kantan lands east beyond the mountains. That changes in 985, when several southern Heggesland barons attempt to seize the old Teline town of Telfale, where the Parn River flows into Lake Beo, fearing that otherwise Parnistok will turn the place into a bottleneck to restrict the Heggeslanders trade to the Lake.
Parnistok retaliates in traditional Kantan fashion; by gathering a massive cavalry horde and unleashing it north across the river. For five years the horde rages across Heggesland, attacking commoners and barons indiscriminately until the locals are forced to make common cause to drive the invaders out. The united barons are victorious at the Battle of Kennemoor (990), and the broken horde conducts such a brutal scorched-earth policy on their way back to Orstaf that it is agreed the Heggeslanders must never again allowed the Parn River Line to be breached. After nearly two decades of political and diplomatic wrangling, the northerner Whenor Heggesval is elevated to the kingship, and as Tartheagu is the first nation to recognize the new country, The Kingdom of Exland (1008) becomes the common name by which the area is known.
While Norothian religions, either of the Ennead pantheon or earlier forms of belief, are yet another topic requiring their own discussion, they must be touched on here to explain events in the Basin during the 1000s of the Norothian Calendar. Religion within the Basin had long been as diverse as the languages and cultures found there, though something of a common bond had emerged with the development of “Rhuunish School” shamanism before the beginning of the Norothian Calendar. One tenet of that druidic belief system is that each particular “people” has a mystical tie to a shamanistic spirit, generally an tribal Animal Totem, and even by the year 1000 Rhuunish School druids were the most common religious figures to be found among most basin peoples, though Enneadistic beliefs were growing in Exland (chiefly “Justice” Triadism), and already well established in Ostaf, as most Kantan people had long since melded their reverence for the Horse totem with worship of the Ennead God, Kantaf the Wanderer.
However, things changed following a surprising naval victory (the only one Telina ever achieved) over Smolish forces in 1025 NC, attributed largely to the intervention of Ayon, the Ennead God known among other things as “The Stormking.” The crown prince of Telina who had commanded the fledgling Teline navy, took his victory as a sign of The Destroyer’s special favor. He returned home, deposed his father, and proclaimed himself King Errol II, vowing to bring the Kingdom in line with Enneadistic beliefs. His position was supported by his Exlandic neighbors to the east, as well as across the Cold Seas in Tartheagu. Thus was formed the tripartite Ennead Alliance (1026) of Telina, Exland, and Tartheagu, though it rapidly became clear the Errol’s “Enneadism” began and ended solely with the worship of grim Ayon, The Burning Man.
The struggles known as the Wars of the Gods (1026-1099) raged as the Ennead powers were first opposed by the typically “Rhuunish School” states of Tull and Thol, but they were of course more complicated than that, taking on aspects of civil and ecclesiastic warfare throughout much of Basin. The results were ever more political changes and shifting alliances, as early Teline victories over Gyle (1032), the “Tullish” western Beoshore (1033), and the old Kalol yarldom (1040) revealed the true brutality of King Errol’s brand of Ayonism, eventually causing Exland to switch sides and attack Telina. Tartheagu “supported” their remaining Ennead ally by occupying the areas newly-conquered by Telina, and also went to war with the old Basin territory of Wesilwa. The ancient Kingdom of Telina eventually expended the last of its power and pride fighting too many enemies at once, and the crown’s authority collapsed utterly in 1062 under civil uprisings and foreign invasions. The wars continued even without Telina, for while the old traditions of the heretofore peaceful “Rhuunish School” druids were largely expunged, they were replaced by a savage breed of shamans known as “Beasters,” who came to power particularly in Orstaf after 1080, when Parnistokian power was broken east beyond the mountains by the warring Kantan powers. Orstaf however lost the Winding River lands across the southern edge of the Girding Mountains to Daulic troops who occupied that territory after Parnistok’s fall.
By the conclusions of the wars and the start of the 1100s, the map of the Basin was far different than it had been before. Thol alone retained most of its traditional upland territories, though the port of Claypool had been lost to Exland late in the war. Tull under the Fourth Witchking Pulabath, who had no real interest in politics, was again ruled in fact if not name by a Princely line who had increased Tullish holdings by occupying Wesilwa following Tartheagu’s withdrawal from the mainland after Telinas collapse. Telina itself was gone, and Exland’s authority extended west over old Telina and the north Beoshore, Gyle, and to formerly Tholish Claypool, making the young Kingdom by far the greatest power within the Basin. An indigenous tribal “Tsar” was crowned in Orstaf, though he ruled only with the consent of the Beaster Druids of Sanst Kiena, and southern Orstaf was still occupied as a duchy of Daul.
It is at this time, with the Kingdom of Exland at its greatest power, that seemingly minor events in the northern Beoshore village of Laketon will begin to bring about the end of every kingdom within the Girding Basin. The history of those times are treated in the History of the Empire of the Code.