The Avenan Empire
Motto: Through devotion, victory. Through strength, peace.
Language: Avenan Common
Current Head of State: Alain Anglesey, 36th Earl Anglesey, Lord Protector of the Dwarven Gates, Guardian of the North Marches, Knight of the Viridian Braid, Bearer of the Adamant Shield
Ethnic Groups: 88% Avenan Human, 8% demi-human (various), 2% elf, 1% dwarf, 1% other (halfling, gnome)
Government: hereditary Earldom
Patron Gods: Heironious, St. Anglesey, St. Cuthbert
Year Founded: 513 Before the Scourge
Anglesey is technically part of the Avenan Empire. As such, the Earl of Anglesey owes fealty (including military and economic support in the form of troops and tribute) to the Empire. Each Earl and Viscount of Anglesey swears an oath of loyalty to the Emperor of Avenanhma upon reaching the age of majority and receiving his title.
As with most cities in the Avenan Empire, the government of Angelsey is ruled by a single lord assisted by a bureaucracy of noble and civilian advisors and administrators. Government is highly centralized, with the Earl of Anglesey serving as the military and economic head of the city, as well as its primary diplomat.
The basis of the power of the Earl is ownership of land – all of the land in the region of Anglesey, and therefore all production arising from that land (mining, farming, etc.) belongs to the Earl. The city’s income is generated primarily by rents paid on land used by farmers and other workers.
All city officials are appointed or approved by the Earl or his representatives. Notable offices, and the individuals currently occupying them include:
Master at Arms: Responsible for the supply, maintenance and training of the Anglesey military. Martial trainer of the Earl’s children. Chief tactician and field leader in times of war. Gilbert Fannon has held this position for nearly thirty years.
Huntsmaster: Responsible for the training, supply and deployment of the city’s scouts and huntsmen. Angelsey, being a frontier territory, maintains a large force of Rangers, who patrol and defend the outlying lands. Before the Scourge, the Huntsmaster was also responsible for defending the trade routes in and out of the territory. Lawrence Twoblades has been Anglesey’s Huntsmaster for fourteen years.
Lord Magician: Serves as headmaster of the local school of magicians. The Lord Magician is a less formal position in Anglesey as it would be in most of the rest of the Empire. Anglesey’s attitude towards magic is decidedly pre-Scourge, meaning that not all magicians are required to submit to a lifetime of military service. The Lord Magician also trains and maintains a strong corps of War Mages who work closely with the conventional military in times of war. The current Lord Magician is Giles Stormwind, who has held the position for fifty-eight years.
Court Alchemist: The importance of the Court Alchemist increased greatly during the early years of the Scourge. New magical afflictions, increasing instances of curses like vampirism and lycanthropy, and the more mundane challenges of living in a city often cut off from the world outside its walls by hordes of monsters made medicines and alchemical transmutations critical to survival. The Court Alchemist is responsible for preventing or treating outbreaks of disease, researching and developing new alchemical weapons, and anticipating the innovations of potential enemies. He also maintains a strong apprentice program in the alchemical laboratories around the city. The current court alchemist is Serin Armvrey.
Lord Mayor: The Lord Mayor is responsible for day to day operations and security within the walls of the city. The Lord Mayor is a highly coveted position typically held by a lesser noble. He supplies and maintains the internal constabulary of the city, and serves as the primary judge in most criminal cases. He also has the power to appoint a judge to serve in his stead. He also oversees the licensing of attorneys in the Earldom. Most of the Lord Mayor’s men are retired soldiers – as a result, the city constabulary is mostly older men, or men with disabling but not debilitating injuries. The current Lord Mayor is Baronet of the Highlands, Sir William Wald. His family has held the Lord Mayorship for four generations.
Minister of the Treasury: Another position that rapidly grew in importance early in the Scourge. With Anglesey’s economy isolated from the rest of the world, it quickly became apparent that tight control would be required to keep the city operating and the farms working. The Minister of the Treasury, with the approval of the Earl, enacts economic regulations that ensure the continued flow of capital. The current Minister of the Treasury is a brilliant young half-elf named Errol Alast.
There are also a number of unofficial positions that are nonetheless critical to the operation and defense of the city:
Lord Commander of the Order of Paladins of Heironious and St. Anglesey: This cumbersome title belongs to the martial co-head of the cult of Heironious in the Earldom, an aging knight named Bryce Chambers. The title of Lord Commander is ceremonial – the position has not been held by an actual noble for two hundred years. The Lord Commander does a survey of the children in the city every five years, looking for certain indicators of divine favor. When these indicators are found, the child is brought to the Temple of Heironious, where he (or she) is raised in the martial tradition of the Paladins. By tradition, any child in the city can be taken for this training – even the first son of the Earl himself. At any given time, there are never more than five Paladins in the order. Though the Paladins often train alongside the Knights of the Viridian Braid, they operate outside the military command structure of the city – it is exceedingly rare that they do so, but the Paladins have the option of not joining Anglesey at war if they feel the war is unjustified.
Lord Commander of the Knights of the Viridian Braid: The history of the Knights of the Viridian Braid is as long as that of Anglesey itself. The order was founded twelve centuries ago by Alistair Anglesey, the first King of Anglesey, and the very name of the order derives from the distinctive hair color of a true member of the Anglesey bloodline. Every King or Earl of Anglesey since has been a member of the order, though it has been some time since the Earl was also the Lord Commander of the Order. The current Lord Commander is Sir Charles Firth, though he is too old now to lead the Knights in the field. He is expected to be succeeded very soon by the order’s first female Lord Commander, Dame Bronwyn Berial. It is important to note that while the Lord Commanders of the order are typically nobles, a Knighthood in the Viridian Braid is not a hereditary title.
Lord Commander of the Knights of the Eagle’s Feather: The Knights of the Eagle’s Feather are a relatively new order of Knights, created just after the beginning of the Scourge in response to an increasing number of airborne enemies. The pegasi of the high mountains north of Anglesey had always been considered sacred animals, fiercely protected, and often befriended by the huntsmen of Anglesey. It was not unusual for Anglesey to field at least a few soldiers mounted on pegasi during times of war, but organized airborne attacks required a more formal arrangement. Therefore, just before the Scourge, the Knights of the Eagle’s Feather was founded, a breeding stock of pegasi were captured and brought to a specially-built aerie in the cliffs above the city, a select group of lightly armored Rangers and Fighters was recruited. The current order numbers forty Knights, and the Lord Commander is a Ranger named Sir Reginald Northwind.
The Countess Anglesey also plays an important – though unofficial – role in government, serving as the de facto social head of the Earldom. The Countess typically sets fashions, models and enforces social mores, and often works with (or exercises authority over) the Lord Mayor to enact and enforce new laws intended for the betterment of society. The current Countess, Lady Merial Burchess, also runs a clandestine intelligence network with assets in almost every element of Angle society. The Earl of Anglesey has come to trust and rely on his wife’s command of information to judge the mood and morale of his city.
Even before the Scourge, the soldiers of Anglesey were widely recognized as the finest in the Empire. Indeed, the war that led to Anglesey joining the Empire was one of the bloodiest fought during the Empire’s first period of expansion, with the Empire losing four soldiers for every single Angle casualty. Before, during, and for a short period after Imperial conquest, Anglesey also fought an extended series of wars with the dwarves at Ndango. Even now, dwarven warriors will utter a begrudging grunt of respect whenever Anglesey is mentioned, and the sound of cavalry charging is probably the only thing in the world that can inspire fear in a dwarven infantry formation.
As a mountain kingdom, Anglesey should have little use for cavalry. Nonetheless, The Knights of the Viridian Braid are the backbone of the Anglesey military. At one time, they were widely considered the most fearsome cavalry in the Empire, and possibly in the entire world. During the Empire’s second period of conquest, when the Knights of the Viridian Braid fought in the south against the elven kingdoms of Jadesa and Mapudunga, even the apparently unbeatable Ta-Den guerrilla mercenaries gave up trying to attack the Knights directly, and instead took to sneaking into Imperial camps to hamstring the horses.
The Knights of the Viridian Braid are selected at a young age from among the newest recruits to the military. They are given intense martial training in infantry and mounted tactics, education in the code of chivalry followed by all Knights, and indoctrination into a near fanatical loyalty to the city of Anglesey. At the age of thirteen, those recruits that do not wash out of the first four years of training are given their Knighthood and the right to select their mount from the previous year’s foals. The young Knights are given sole care and training of their mount. A Knight who mistreats his mount at any time is stripped of his title and shunned by the order.
Most Angle soldiers enter training at the age of nine, muster at the age of thirteen, and see their first combat around the age of sixteen. Conventional infantry are armored in breastplates, and trained in the use of the halberd, glaive, shield, and short bow. Other infantry are specialized as archers, and receive additional training in the use of the long bow. Skirmishers receive standard infantry training, as well as training in stealth and guerrilla tactics and the use of poison. Conventional cavalry receive all this training, as well as training in the use of the lance, and the specialized cavalry tactics of Anglesey. There is also a small corps of combat engineers who are responsible for building, maintaining and operating siege engines and the defensive works of the city.
Attrition rates are fairly high, and, as a result, the practice of recruiting officers only from the nobility was abandoned centuries ago. Officers are promoted based on merit, and often rise through the ranks. This has had the added benefit to the city of keeping the middle class alive and diverse, even through extended periods of war, as common officers retire with a large enough pension to open or continue businesses.
Angle forces focus on small group tactics adapted to the mountainous terrain in which they typically fight. Cavalry are organized into groups of six to ten horses that operate on the flanks of squads of infantry. Infantry begin most battles in phalanxes of 36 men, organized into squares of six men on a side. The front rank engages with the halberd, while the second rank uses their glaives. The rear four ranks use their short bows over the heads of their comrades, moving up or to the sides to fill in gaps in the perimeter of the phalanx. The rear of each phalanx is typically also anchored by a cleric, a few conventional healers, and a war mage.
The phalanx, in turn, is made up of six squads of six men each. The phalanx can redeploy itself, if surrounded, to bring the clerics, healers and mages inside their square, or can split into six smaller, more mobile groups of six men each. They can also quickly redeploy into a more conventional line of battle should the strategic situation require it.
Archers operate in a line behind and at the flanks of the infantry and cavalry formations so that they can fire on an advancing or retreating enemy, and cover the retreat of the primary force.
As the infantry phalanx engages the enemy, cavalry is expected to protect their flanks by either charging the flank of the enemy or defending the phalanx against threats approaching from the side. The Knights of the Viridian Braid are critical in this role, as each individual is trained in tactics that allow him to shape the battlefield around him, forcing the enemy into the teeth of the phalanx.
During a pitched battle, skirmishers are expected to target the commanders and officers of the enemy forces. They often operate alone or in pairs within enemy formations, sneaking behind enemy lines to sabotage lightly-guarded siege works, poison water supplies, assassinate commanders, or simply attack the rear of a weak formation. The casualty rate among skirmishers is very high.
The Knights of the Eagle’s Feather are charged with gaining air superiority over the enemy. These Knights operate in wings of four pegasi. Generally, multiple wings will target the strongest airborne enemies first, concentrating attacks to bring them down while minimizing losses. The stronger an enemy appears, the more wings will be tasked to assaulting it. The Knights use lances, long bows, spears and long swords, and are often equipped with several jars of alchemist’s fire. Once air superiority is gained, tactics shift to using ranged attacks on ground forces, and especially to the disruption of front line units with alchemist’s fire or other area attacks.
Huntsmen rarely take part in pitched battles, concentrating instead on disrupting the enemy’s supply lines and harrying his rear guard. They do not have a fixed organization, operating as needed in ones, twos, or groups as large as sixty.
Only the infantry rely on a traditional command structure, with each line of six men commanded by a corporal, each phalanx managed by a sergeant or sergeant major, each group of three phalanxes commanded by a lieutenant, and each group of six phalanxes commanded by a captain. Cavalry squads are commanded typically by the most senior man. Skirmishers are commanded and deployed by a single captain, but are under their own recognizance in the field. Huntsmen all operate under the command of the Huntsmaster.
The current full fighting strength of Anglesey is 25 phalanxes (900 men, plus officers), 75 cavalry, 40 Knights of the Eagle’s Feather, 36 Knights of the Viridian Braid, and 80 huntsmen. This is a much smaller force than the one fielded by Anglesey when an expeditionary force is necessary (and a larger population from which to recruit is available), and does not take into account that nearly every able-bodied person over the age of thirteen in the city is trained in the use of the bow and the blade.
Currently, Anglesey is the only occupied city in the Earldom. Prior to the Scourge, Anglesey was the largest and most wealthy city in the region. At the beginning of the Scourge, there was one other city in the Earldom with a population of more than five thousand (Yhils), and a large farming and mining community of 1800 souls (Henders). Anglesey and the surrounding land house most of the population of the Earldom, and encompass all of the agricultural and economic production of the region.
The city of Angelsey marks the northwestern boundary of the Earldom, and commands the passes through the Frostbite Mountains to the dwarven kingdom of Ndango to the northwest, and through the mountains to Ta-Den in the northeast. The city is built on a high natural terrace in the low reaches of the Frostbites. The city’s northwestern corner is dominated by Adamant Lake, a large, roughly circular lake fed by an underground spring. The lake’s outlet has long since been buried under the streets of Anglesey to serve as a sewer, which emerges from under the city’s eastern wall as a waterfall. A series of gnome-engineered aqueducts supply drinking water and mill power from the lake to much of the city.
The northern wall of the city is a sheer natural cliff nearly a thousand feet tall, into which is built the castle, the Eagle’s Feather aerie, and a number of mines and defensive works, including a series of forts along the top, connected to the city by long staircases cut into the cliff. The eastern wall tops another cliff that descends eight hundred feet to an isolated canyon. The southern wall faces terraced farmland and the only usable approach to the city. It also features a heavily fortified barbican gate, several towers, hidden sally ports and other defensive works, and is by far the most substantial of the man made walls, being forty feet thick at its base, thirty feet thick at the top, and 120 feet tall. The western wall faces extremely rugged mountain terrain dominated by the Twin Sisters, two immense statues of a legendary pair of twin Countesses who ruled Anglesey during one of the worst parts of the Scourge.
The southern approach to the city is up a switchback road winding across a series of cultivated terraces one half to three quarters of a mile deep, and about a mile wide each. Most of the terraces serve as farm and grazing land during times of peace, and serve simply as a barrier to supply and attack during times of war.
The other two cities in the Earldom were evacuated at the beginning of the Scourge. Most of the population of both cities was wiped out during the evacuation, but the descendants of the survivors continue to reside in Anglesey.
The primary religions of Anglesey are the cults of Pelor, Heironious, St. Cuthbert and St. Anglesey. The first three are common deities throughout the Empire. St. Anglesey is the deified founder of the ancient Kingdom of Anglesey. His legend claims that the first Alistair Anglesey was a knight from the far north who gained great fame throughout the land before disappearing into the sky for nearly a decade. When he returned, it was atop the great comet that crashed to the ground in the spot that the city of Angelsey now stands, creating Adamant Lake and throwing up the earth that became the foundations of the city’s walls. From the substance of comet, it is said, Alistair Anglesey crafted the adamantine armor and shield that the Lord of Anglesey even now wears and wields in battle. Indeed, much of the wealth of Anglesey continues to be in adamantine mined from the cliffs around the city or dredged from the lake.
St. Anglesey founded the Knights of the Viridian Braid to defend his new kingdom and ruled for forty years, serving as a great champion of Heironious, before the God of Battles raised him up to divinity on his deathbed. Though St. Angelsey is very much a martial god, he is treated mostly as a household god these days, given responsibility for harvests, healthy births, and protection from natural disasters.
The primary language of Angelsey is Avenan Common, though it is not uncommon to hear elven or dwarvish spoken in the streets. Dwarvish is an especially common second language, especially among soldiers, given the city’s long relationship with Ndango. As is true elsewhere, the wizards and sorcerers of the city often speak to each other in draconic, though it is uncommon to hear the language outside of the magic school in the castle, or the Fireball Brewhouse, which is a tavern not often visited by anyone but mages and extremely brave or confused commoners.
Anglesey is an agrarian, martial society, with a strong focus on loyalty to family, to city, and to the Lord of the Earldom. The code of the Knights of the Viridian Braid is considered a common code of honor followed by most members of Angle society, though few outside the Knights swear a specific vow to uphold it.
Every member of society is expected to remain productive for as much of his life as possible; in the case that a man or unmarried adult woman has no work, the Lord Mayor is expected to find tasks for those people to perform, for which they are paid out of the city’s treasury. These tasks are typically unglamorous, but pride in work is also a core part of Angle identity, and few citizens will complain about even the worst jobs.
Every adult member of Angle society is expected to master the basics of both sword and bow. The Lord Mayor’s constabulary holds regular militia drills throughout the city to maintain this training. During times of war, citizens are expected to defend their own homes, streets and neighborhoods against any enemies that find their way into the city, so that the soldiers can concentrate on the defending the walls.
Prior to the Scourge, the primary Angle exports were furs and winter-weight textiles, high-quality warhorses, precious stones, platinum, silver, and adamantine. This last resource, produced in greater amounts in Anglesey than almost anywhere else in the world, was the foundation of the wealth of the Earldom, and the source of much of its martial prowess as well. Early on in the history of the city, it was not rare for even common soldiers to carry partially adamantine weapons or wear pieces of adamantine armor. Even now, some common families pass adamantine heirloom weapons hundreds of years old down from father to son.
At the beginning of the Scourge, it quickly became clear that the end of foreign trade would cause the flow of capital to stagnate without government intervention. Strict government regulations enacted by the Treasury and enforced by the Earl and the Lord Mayor ensure the flow of capital through the farms and markets of the city and into the treasury. Social programs see to it that money returns from the treasury back into the hands of the commoners. To keep capital stable and ensure Anglesey’s advantage at the end of the Scourge, additional money and nonperishable trade goods generated during the Scourge, as well as treasure captured from enemies over the last three centuries have been stockpiled separate from the treasury. At this point, in terms of actual cash on hand, Anglesey may be wealthier than any of the other surviving Imperial cities, despite its relatively small size.
The city of Anglesey is almost entirely pureblood humans, but its policies and exposure to the outside world during the Scourge have still led to it being one of the most diverse and racially integrated cities in the Empire.
Due to large numbers of Ta-Den mercenaries being stranded in Anglesey at the beginning of the Scourge, the occurrence of dark-skinned humans is much higher in Anglesey than elsewhere in the Empire. Moreover, the intermarriage of nobles with commoners for the last three hundred years has caused Anglesey blood to enter the common phenotype, leading to various shades of green tint in the hair of many common citizens. The dark green of the noble family, however, continues to appear only in true descendants of St. Anglesey.
Even when slavery was legal in the Empire, it was rarely practiced in Anglesey, with the exception of some enemies taken in battle and some criminals. The honor code on which the Kingdom was originally founded made slavery repugnant to most of Angle society, and the obligation to defend the helpless required Anglesey to free slaves and offer them shelter whenever possible. As a result, the last several hundred years have seen the inclusion of large numbers of half-elves and half-orcs, as well as more exotic demi-humans, including humans with draconic, elemental and even occasionally divine blood.
Small populations of dwarves, elves, halflings and gnomes have managed to maintain pure blood with semi-regular additions of new individuals also rescued from slavery.
People, Organizations and Locations
Errol Alast, Minister of the Treasury
Alain Anglesey, Earl Anglesey, Lord Protector of the Dwarven Gates, Guardian of the North Marches, Knight of the Viridian Braid, Bearer of the Adamant Shield
Serin Armvrey, Court Alchemist
Lady Merial Burchess, Countess of Anglesey
Sir Bryce Chambers, Lord Commander of the Order of Paladins of Heronious and St. Anglesey.
Gilbert Fannon, Master at Arms
Sir Charles Firth, Lord Commander of the Knights of the Viridian Braid
Sir Reginald Northwind, Lord Commander of the Knights of the Eagle’s Feather
Giles Stormwind, Lord Magician
Lawrence Twoblades, Huntsmaster
Sir William Wald, Baronet of the Highlands, Lord Mayor
Order of Paladins of Heironious and St. Anglesey
Knights of the Viridian Braid
Knights of the Eagle’s Feather
Fireball Brewhouse – Currently, owned and operated by a retired warmage named Arthur Adams, the Fireball Brewhouse is a tavern popular with local mages, alchemists, scholars and the occasional cleric. The house brew – Brimstone Stout – is the strongest beer in the city. Fights are extremely rare at the Fireball Brewhouse, but it nonetheless has a poor reputation with the surrounding neighborhood. The Fireball Brewhouse has exploded thirteen times in the last four centuries, which is notable largely because it’s also the only building in the city that has ever exploded.
Royal School of Magic – Angle mages are not required to enlist for a lifetime of military service as they are in the rest of the Empire (this may change once the city reconnects with the Empire), but they are strongly encouraged to at least attend the Royal School of Magic to hone and control their powers. Rogue magicians are frowned on in the city.
Hammer & Anvil Inn – A popular hangout for soldiers and former soldiers. Fights are VERY common at the Hammer & Anvil, but actual crime in the surrounding area is lower than anywhere else in the city, as drunken soldiers often prowl the streets looking for villains to kill.
The Kingdom of Anglesey was founded in 513 BS, nearly two hundred years before the Pact of the Three Cities signaled the founding of the Avenan Empire, by Alistair Anglesey, First King of Anglesey. Alistair the First, or St. Anglesey as he is now known, carved his Kingdom from the low reaches and foothills of the Frostbite Mountains, capturing territory from the dwarves at Ndango and the orc and troll tribes that roamed the region.
Ndango was St. Anglesey’s fiercest enemy, contesting ever step of his conquest, and eventually stopping him at the Battle of the Stone Gates, where ten thousand dwarves from Ndango, Hayk and Andurrial faced six hundred Knight of the Viridian Braid and six thousand infantry. The battle lasted six days, and included vicious night fighting and casualties as high as 20% on both sides. The battle ended with a treaty between Ndango and Anglesey that fixed the border of the Kingdom at the Stone Gates, a border that held despite hundreds of years of continued hostility and frequent open war between Ndango and Anglesey.
The conquest of the kingdom occupied the first decade of St. Anglesey’s reign; the subsequent three decades were relatively peaceful, with the king focusing on securing his borders and establishing trade relationships with Ndango and other neighboring kingdoms, including Balbannon in the northeast and Merchial to the west, and the wild elves in the forests to the south. Anglesey also controlled the long-distance trade routes to Ndango and the Ta-Den kingdoms in the north, giving the small kingdom access to exotic and valuable goods, as well as a lucrative source of income.
The following two centuries were a period of relative peace and stability, despite regular conflict with the dwarves at Ndango, and more or less constant warfare against the orcs, trolls and other creatures that occupied the mountains. Marcus the Third, Sixth King of Anglesey, established an extremely important trade relationship with the gnomes at Belix, wherein the city gained a team of gnome engineers in exchange for a steady supply of adamantine. Much of the current defensive and civic infrastructure in the city of Anglesey (as well as the lucrative mining operations at Henders) was developed by these gnome engineers, whose descendants still reside in the city.
Warfare on the scale seen at the Battle of the Stone Gates was not seen again until the armies of the Avenan Empire arrived on the southern border of Merchial in 298 BS. The Knights of the Viridian Braid, supported by several thousand Angle and Ta-Den mercenary infantry rode to the defense of their sister kingdom, only to find the capital of Merchial already fallen. The Battle of Red Fields saw the Knights of the Viridian Braid nearly wiped out, Angle’s expeditionary infantry decimated (literally: one in ten men was killed, and nearly a third of the force was captured or injured). The Avenan army outnumbered the Angle army by ten to one, and every one of them was a veteran of eight years of campaigning.
Despite the loss, Anglesey proved to be far from helpless. It had taken the Avenan army eight years to conquer most of the southern half of the continent; it took the Empire another six years to complete the conquest of Anglesey, and by many estimates it cost the Empire more to conquer the territory than the kingdom in its entirety was actually worth. By the end of the war, the Empire’s military apparatus was so exhausted and resource poor that it could no longer maintain a northward march and the First Period of Imperial Expansion ended with the addition of Anglesey and Balbannon to the Empire in 292 BS. The King of Anglesey was made an Earl, forced to submit and swear allegiance to the Emperor, made responsible for the defense of the Empire’s northern border, and given grant to all the lands he had once ruled as king. Thus, the Eighth King of Anglesey became the First Earl of Anglesey.
The Empire’s attitude towards the dwarves of Ndango was even more aggressive than Anglesey’s had been. During the Second Period of Expansion, Anglesey was charged with the conquest of the dwarven city-state, which led to an extended period of warfare, spent largely in years of stalemate. With the Knights of the Viridian Braid away from Anglesey serving the Empire in the conquest of the elven cities in the south, no progress could be made against the dwarves. Knowing that his infantry, unsupported by cavalry, would be useless against the dwarves, Alistair VI, Fourth Earl of Anglesey, obeyed his emperor by building a series of fortifications along the border with the dwarves, mounting occasional sorties (that sometimes included combat, and other times ended in drinking contests between dwarven and human soldiers), and now and then launching half-hearted attacks against the Stone Gates for the benefit of Finger agents sent to check on the progress of the Ndango campaign.
Ironically, it was during this period that Anglesey and Ndango began to become friends. With the Empire rapidly overextending itself in the south, Alistair VI and his successor Argus II took the opportunity to secretly negotiate trade pacts and mutual support treaties in anticipation of the end of hostilities. It was well known, even in Anglesey, that the current Emperor’s son did not share his zeal for conquest and plunder. Being true servants of the Empire, the Earls of the period planned for the future growth of both the Earldom and the continuing health of the Empire itself. As a result, the end of the Second Period of Imperial Expansion also saw the end of almost three hundred years of hostility between Anglesey and Ndango.
Emperor Durgo’s policies ushered in the Empire’s Golden Age; a time during which Anglesey saw a great rise in its own relevance. Trade with Ndango spiked, making Anglesey the richest domain in the region, and the second and third sons of the Earls became favorites in the Avenan court. Despite its small size, Anglesey wielded great influence over the Empire, often controlling key positions in the Imperial bureaucracy. Several members of the house of Anglesey, including the Earl at the time, as well as several Knights of the Viridian Braid invited to be part of the Emperor’s honor guard, were killed alongside Emperor Memnon in the destruction of Aksum at the beginning of the Scourge.
The destruction of Aksum signaled the end of Angle influence over the course of the Empire. With the house in disarray following the sudden death of the Earl and the Empire itself shuddering from the effects of the loss of the entire Imperial family, Anglesey was in poor position to affect the formation of the Council of Regents. Politics quickly became moot, as the mountain kingdoms were soon under attack by reawakened dragons and suddenly unkillable trolls.
For their part, the metropolitan merchants and southern nobles who formed the core of the Council of Regents had long resented the influence and economic power of frontier nobles like the Angleseys and Balbannons. As the Scourge worsened, more and more troops were pulled south to protect the coastal metropolises of the Empire, leaving Anglesey and other remote domains undermanned and largely unprotected. Merchial was destroyed, Balbannon cut off, and the roads between Anglesey and Ndango were occupied by hordes of orcs. Yhils and Henders managed to survive largely untouched for the first years of the Scourge, but Anglesey itself was attacked again and again. In 3 YS, the city was partially destroyed by the great red dragon Faedra, who would return to plague the city again in later years.
When it came time to empty the Imperial treasuries for the construction of the caers, Anglesey was told it would need to evacuate all the way to Viti or Vrastan if it wished its citizens to be protected – a journey of nearly a thousand miles across land dominated by rampaging monsters and wild magic. With its own treasury running dry from hiring a steady supply of Ta-Den mercenaries to supplement their defenses, Anglesey could not afford to build a caer of its own. Requests sent to Ndango for shelter were answered with an apology and a platoon of dwarven defenders sworn to die holding the city.
The one bright spot during this dark time came shortly after the destruction of the Imperial army in the Battle of the Viti Marches in 5 YS. Three hundred Knights of the Viridian Braid, along with two thousand elite Angle infantry, survived the battle and made the long trek back to their home city. Despite being hunted the entire way by the monster army that had routed them at Viti Marches, nearly the entire force returned home. The march took them thirteen months. “The Long Walk Home” is still one of the most popular ballads in the city, and is often sung by Angle infantry as they march to battle.
With the return of the Knights of the Viridian Braid to the city, Anglesey was finally able to evacuate Henders and Yhils. The sudden jump in population, combined with the engineering genius of the gnomes and the martial abilities of the dwarven defenders and the Knights allowed Anglesey to defend itself effectively. When the doors of the caers were sealed shut in 10 YS, Anglesey became one of the few aboveground cities in the world still occupied by the humanoid races.
The first fifty years of the Scourge were the worst, with constant attacks by monsters, and the periodic return of Faedra, slowly eroding the powerful defenses of the city and causing a continual decline in the population. By 48 YS, the population of Anglesey had dwindled to only thirteen thousand (from twenty-one thousand in 10 YS). In 52 YS, Faedra was seen above the city once more, this time locked in fierce combat with a silver dragon only a little smaller than himself. The battle lasted for days, lighting the sky at night with fire, lightning and explosions. Magical weather and clouds of paralyzing gas descended on the city, and hurricane winds tore down the streets. Finally, after three days, the silver dragon came crashing down into the center of the city, smashing buildings and killing a score of people. The dragon was scorched, torn and bleeding, but still alive. Perhaps too wounded himself to face the defenders of the city, Faedra fled without descending to finish off his unconscious opponent.
The twin daughters of Boric IX, 15th Earl of Anglesey – Alia and Alice – assembled a team of healers and clerics, as well as a squad of gnome engineers. Together, they built a shelter over the wounded dragon, routed fresh water to him, and nursed him back to health. The twins could often be seen sitting near the wounded beast’s vast snout, speaking to him in their rough Draconic (learned as quickly as possible from the Lord Magician of the day), feeding him small pieces of raw meat cut with their own hands from the cattle slaughtered for the purpose.
The dragon, whose name was Kierkas, lay in the center of the city for nearly a year, before one day raising his head and saying in Common to no one in particular, “I think I should like to try flying today.” The shelter over the dragon’s back was quickly disassembled. As soon as he had room, Kierkas unfurled his wings, and with one thunderous flap leaped into the sky and disappeared.
Days later, Kierkas reappeared and landed in the castle courtyard, demanding to see the sisters. When the teenaged girls emerged, he dropped at their feet two adamantine spears and two suits of adamantine chain mail. He explained that Faedra had also healed from their battle, and was returning to Anglesey. The suits of armor, he said, were called Aegis, and were proof against any dragon’s breath. The spears were called Dragonslayer, and once one of them had tasted a dragon’s blood, the second could not miss that dragon’s heart.
“Anglesey and I have common cause against Faedra, for he means to destroy us both,” said Kierkas. “I will bear you into battle, if you will pledge to help me slaughter the beast.”
The young women, raised as warriors from the day they had first been strong enough to lift a wooden practice sword, responded, “Kierkas is a friend to Anglesey. We are honored to go to battle at his side in defense of our home.”
It was only a few days later that Faedra was spotted approaching Anglesey. This time, the battle was short: Kierkas filled the sky with dark clouds and mist, and charged towards his enemy with the Twin Sisters on his back. For twenty minutes, lightning and fire flashed and boomed inside the thick clouds. Then the body of a dragon plunged from the sky and smashed to the ground in the canyon beyond the eastern wall of the city. After fifty years spent terrorizing the city, Faedra was dead. His skull still adorns the great hall of the castle – the greatest trophy taken in nine hundred years of battle.
Before Kierkas departed, he granted one last gift to the city – the Kierkas Horn. “Should you or your ancestors ever need me by your side in battle, only blow this horn. I will hear it no matter where I am, and come to serve you as you have served me.”
Alice and Alia went on to rule the city, and guide it through the most violent days of the Scourge. Despite the unrelenting violence of those days, the population of Anglesey grew for the first time during their reign. The Twin Sisters became symbols of hope all through the Scourge, and proof of the divine blood running in the veins of the Anglesey family. The space where Kierkas lay healing is now a park surrounded by some of the most exclusive homes in the city.
Though monster attacks on Anglesey lessened in intensity during and after the reign of the Twin Sisters, the Earldom nonetheless suffered through two more centuries of essentially nonstop violence. The city’s ancient enemies – the orcs and trolls of the nearby mountains and forests – had been empowered by the wild magic of the Scourge, and even the local goblin tribes had increased in number and power. Local monsters frequently preyed on the farmers that worked the land near the city, magical storms lashed the mountains, and insidious creatures found their way into the city.
In 168 YS, a trio of Mind Flayers wormed their way into the Royal School of Magic, mentally enslaved the Lord Magician, several War Mages and nearly a hundred soldiers before their machinations were discovered. Almost a third of the city was burned to the ground in the battle to root them out and destroy them. Kristof II, 23rd Earl of Anglesey, was killed in the fight.
In 213 YS, attacks by orcs, trolls and other monsters began to decline. At first, the scholars of Anglesey believed this signaled an end to the Scourge, but when rangers reported the discovery of entire orc villages slaughtered it became apparent that some other force was at work. Soon enough, a group of rangers encountered the new threat – an army of giants, hundreds strong. The rangers escaped, but the city was under siege within days.
For weeks, the giants hurled rocks over the walls of the city. The larger members of the giant army frequently assaulted the walls, boosting each other to grab the top and simply pulling themselves over the wall and into the city. For every giant killed, Anglesey lost dozens of soldiers and citizens. Finally, the decision was made to sound the Kierkas Horn.
Three days later, Kierkas descended on the rear of the giant army leading a wing of four other silver dragons. The giants fought well, but pushed back by the dragons into the teeth of Anglesey’s arrows and catapults, they were eventually forced to flee.
Kierkas has only been summoned one other time, by the 35th Earl of Anglesey, Boric X. In 349 YS, Anglesey once again found itself under siege, this time by an army of orcs larger than any ever before seen. Forty thousand orcs and associated monsters gathered on the terraces before the city under the command of Snargash, an orc sorcerer more powerful than anyone from Anglesey had ever encountered. Demons and foul creatures from other planes stalked among the army of monsters, and vast magical energies smashed into the walls and gates of the city.
Despite being outnumbered nearly 40 to 1, the soldiers of Anglesey managed to hold the walls for nearly three months. The current Earl, only 14 at the time, made his name as a hero by holding his section of the wall during three days and nights of non-stop assaults. The Knights of the Eagle’s Feather proved their worth in the battle as well, keeping the skies clear of demons and demonic half-breed orcs.
Still, with such a force arrayed against the city, the outcome was inevitable. Eventually, the orcs took and held a section of wall, stormed the barbican, and opened the gates. Within hours, much of the city was in orc hands, though every inch was contested by soldiers and citizens. It was then that the Kierkas Horn rang out. Only a few hours later, Kierkas appeared, landed in the middle of the orc army, and tore into the monsters. By dawn, the orcs were routed, and fleeing back to the forests in the south.
The Earl rallied his troops, called together the cavalry, and, with Kierkas, set off in pursuit. For the first time in more than 250 years, the army of Anglesey rode out to do battle away from home. They pursued the orc army for weeks, engaging in running battles and brutal cavalry skirmishes. Snargash was killed in single combat by the Earl and the orc tribes, broken, beaten and subdued, were forced to abandon their ancestral homelands in the foothills and flee deep into the mountains.
At the end of the campaign, Kierkas told the Earl that the day was coming soon when he would move on to the next world. When that time came, he said, a son or daughter of Anglesey must return the horn to his lair in the western mountains.
Boric X passed away a few years later, and his son Alain became Alain VIII, 36th Earl of Anglesey. In the early months of 378 YS, the current Earl received a messenger from Kierkas informing him that it had come time to return the horn. The Earl decided immediately that it would be his eldest son and heir who would perform this task, as a demonstration of Anglesey’s love for Kierkas.