Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The History of Cadfor: An Account of the Years from the Fall of House Llud to the Present

The History of Cadfor: An Account of the Years from the Fall of House Llud to the Present
by Wulfsige sé Stærtractere
(Published 540 IR)

Most of the misfortunes of Cadfor over the last century can be traced to the whelming of Llydaw in 451 IR and the subsequent failure in 455 IR of the Great Houses to agree upon a new Emperor for the Naceadan-Rhadynnic Dual Empire. Once the Great Houses fell into war amongst themselves, the Freeholds were left to fend for themselves without the protective shield provided by the Sky Empire. During this time of chaos, all of the Freeholds suffered to some extent, from the persistent raids launched tribes of giants against Ersav and Melin, to the depredations of the Dark Prince endured by Ceniþ in the 530s, to the extended occupation of Nuþralia by Kivutar’s Polþian armies that was only ended a few scant years ago. Save for Loring, which still labors under the rule of the White Hand, few of the Freeholds suffered as much as Cadfor did under the heel of the Crimson Duke.

Though his origins are shrouded in such obscurity that his true name is unknown to history, the overlord known only as the Crimson Duke arrived in Cadfor in 469 IR with an army of giants, orcs, and ratmen raised from tribes in Elizon, the Hills of Brann-Galedd, and Crespor Mountains. Utterly devoted to Ishi, and wielding mighty arcane powers, the Crimson Duke treated the Ruby Sorcerer as his personal patron, and naturally he sought to emulate his demonic master. Emulating Ishi himself, the Crimson Duke enticed a myriad of evil creatures to his side by forging an alliance of the elemental deities Halpas, Iku-Tyrma, Khil, and Surtan as his following, even including the worshipper of Bål and Lug among the ranks of his armies. In an odd twist for a coalition that was so laden with giants and giant-friendly allies, Abonde’s priestesses were strangely absent from the Crimson Duke’s followers.

Some sages have speculated that Abonde’s absence was the result of jealousy expressed by the Crimson Duke’s consort Nakhtmoy, a dark and shadowy spider-demoness who served as his mistress of assassins. Some assert that the Crimson Duke simply did not recruit any of Abonde’s disciples into his armies out of deference for his fearsome consort, while others have expressed the belief that Nakhtmoy must have arranged for all of Abonde’s followers in the invading army to be murdered, while still others maintain that Abonde’s priestesses simply refused to rally to the Crimson Duke’s banner. No matter the reason, all agree that Nakhtmoy would brook no rivals to her mistress Gangyn, and not only was Abonde’s influence absent from the Crimson Duke’s armies, also apparently banned from his retinue were the followers of Kivutar, Ninkurra, Seþra, and even Tunar.

After a mere three years of war, the Crimson Duke had exhausted the armies of the wily and resourceful King Emyr Bane Tan of Cadfor, but only at the cost of extending his own forces dangerously close to the breaking point. That all changed in 472 IR when King Emyr was assassinated in his sleep, most likely by Nakhtmoy. Soon thereafter, a wave of assassinations resulted in the deaths of every one of King Emyr’s family, ending House Bane Tan. The Crimson Duke’s army soon crushed the remaining feeble forces of resistance in Cadfor and nearly forty years of brutal, iron-fisted rule began.

Befitting a devoted follower of the Soulblighter, the Crimson Duke was not content to merely conquer Cadfor. With one hand the Red Tyrant crushed the people of Cadfor, and with the other he waged war upon his neighbors. Almost as soon as he established his control over the kingdom, the Crimson Duke led his armies to war against Melin and Gwenarþ and when those campaigns went awry, he pushed into Elizon and tried to seize control of Loring in an effort to expand his dominions northwards. In Cadfor itself, the countryside was stripped bare and its industry and populace put to work fueling the Crimson Duke’s war machine. The youth of the nation were drafted into the Duke’s armies, or forced into labor battalions to craft and construct the materials of warfare to supply them. Many daughters were forced into a life as camp followers, servicing the needs of the Duke’s favored soldiers.

Those denizens of Cadfor who refused the Duke’s demands were killed. Some slaughtered outright by the partols of orcs and giants who roamed the land, others were simply found dead in their beds with their throats cut, killed by Nakhtmoy’s omnipresent network of spies and assassins. Fear ruled the land, as no one could be sure that their neighbor wasn’t secretly an agent working for the Crimson Duke who would turn you in for shirking your work or failing to pay your taxes or expressing disloyalty or even dissatisfaction. Though he was not the sole reason for the creation of the Freeholder’s Council, in 492 IR, the Crimson Duke’s depredations were certainly a significant motivating factor in convincing many of the Freehold kings to join.

After years of war and destruction, the first glimmers of hope for Cadfor shone through in 508 IR, although almost no one knew it at the time. The small village of Laragh in the foothills of the Crespor Mountains was the site of a minor dispute over tax collection that set a rebellion into motion. When four black orcs sought to collect what they claimed were unpaid taxes owed by the village blacksmith Osian, the exchange turned violent, and they killed him. According to legend, Osian’s apprentice Girion killed all four of the Duke’s tax collectors with his blacksmith’s hammer, and then fled into the wilderness as an outlaw.

For two years Girion lived in the mountains, coming down from the high passes to raid the Crimson Duke’s camps and strongholds. For two years Girion was able to confound and evade the Red Tyrant’s forces, and the tales of his exploits caused others to rally to his cause. In 510 IR, however, Nakhtmoy’s spies discovered that Girion had been secretly meeting with a farmer’s daughter named Siân, and soon the order was given to kill her family and capture her as bait. Even though Girion knew it was a trap, he could not leave his beloved in the hands of the crimson Duke, and he mounted a rescue of such epic daring that it is now recounted in song. Realizing that his presence in Cadfor was endangering those he cared for, Giron fled the country with Siân at his side, vowing to return one day.

In 520 IR, Girion made good upon his vow. In the intervening years, Girion and Siân had made names for themselves as sellswords and privateers and returned to their homeland as seasoned, battle-hardened veterans skilled in both physical and mystical combat. In their travels they had acquired several allies whose names have become famous: Wulfric, Elena, Heinrich, and Colwyn, all of whom joined the pair in their return to Cadfor. Leading this small band of allies and supported by a devoted retinue of followers, Girion launched a war to liberate his nation from the heel of the Crimson Duke.

Over the succeeding years, Giron’s rebellion grew from this tiny kernel to a full-fledged popular movement. Inspired by this former blacksmith’s apprentice and farmer’s daughter, the common-folk rallied to their cause. Girion forged alliances with the dwarves of the Haearn Hills, obtained support and troops from Melin and Gwenarth, and even recruited the aid of tribes of khulen from Elizon who had grown weary of the Crimson Duke’s attempts to bring them under his power.

The war was long and hard, and Girion’s forces suffered many setbacks and scored many victories, but they ever pushed the Crimson Duke’s forces back, liberating towns and villages one by one. These triumphs were not without cost- Girion suffered a personal loss in 529 IR when his eldest son Liam was killed at the Battle of Féarach Hill. In 531 IR, Girion seized Celliwig, wresting control of the city from the Crimson Duke after an eleven month siege, forcing his foe entirely out of the eastern and central parts of Cadfor.

Finally, in 533 IR, Girion scraped together every soldier he could muster and led his troops against the Crimson Duke’s amassed forces at the Battle of Bythwrdd Meadows. For this titanic battle, both Melin and Gwenarþ sent their own armies to aid Girion, and even Girion’s remaining son Padraig took to the field at his father’s side. The battle went badly for the allied army, and just when it seemed that the Crimson Duke’s companies of giants would overwhelm them, Ådon, Dallen, Mannan and the rest of the Conclave of Eight came to once and for all deal with the threat posed by the Crimson Duke and Nakhtmoy and turned the tide of battle and the Duke’s forces were scattered. Despite the victory, this was a day of sadness as Siân, Girion’s faithful spouse of more than two decades, was slain in the battle. Though his body was never found, the Crimson Duke was never seen after this day, and he presumably died on the field with his troops.

After his victory at the Battle of Bythwrdd Meadows, Girion laid siege to the Crimson Duke’s stronghold of Cær Colur, now the refuge of the vile Nakhtmoy. Within a year, the dread fortress fell and though they could not locate the demoness to banish her, the Conclave of Eight was able to trap her inside the network of tunnels that honeycombed the earth beneath its ruined walls. Seals of mystical power were placed on the place, imprisoning the elusive spider-demon within the complex.

Having driven the Crimson Duke and his armies from Cadfor, Girion was declared king of that nation in 534 IR. In that same year, King OEngus Lairdsonne of Melin and King Brann of Gwenarth sponsored Girion’s membership in the Freeholder’s Council, and he was admitted to that body in that same year. Girion chose a black crossed hammer and sickle on a silver field with a red border as the symbol of his house, and chose Lámh Casúr as his House name, becoming King Girion Lámh Casúr.

King Girion is closely allied with King Œngus Lairdsonne of the neighboring kingdom of Melin, and Girion's only living son Padraig was betrothed to Œngus' daughter Iarfhlaith in 535 IR , a union that would have united the two kingdoms in a mutually beneficial alliance. Unfortunately, in a sad turn of events Padraig vanished while campaigning against a goblinoid incursion in the Lloftmelin Mountains in 538 IR, and he is presumed dead. Girion’s only remaining heir is his thirteen year old daughter Andrella.

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