The Kingdom of Ardan
The massive rumblings of the earth shook the monstrous castle down to its deep and well rooted foundations. Dust high in the rafters, accumulated from scores of maids being unable to reach those arcing heights, falls as the wall reverberate with the massive magics scouring the world. As Lord Poutsmith passes the open air window looking down over the courtyard of the castle, he glances toward the sky as he brushes white streaks of dust from his graying hair and sees the forks of power that wave and course through the clouds, occasionally blasting the ground shaking it and the castle. Shaking his head, he moves on toward his destination, and subconsciously tightens the buckles on his battered breastplate strapped over his worn and somewhat tattered coat. He has seen plenty of the fighting; an able commander he is respected by both man and angel for both had died at his command. It was a sad day, one that would be rejoiced by some, but mourned by those that held the immortal hosts close to council.
As he opened the door to his most trusted advisors room the tall and robust Lord saw just what he had expected. In the corner sat the angelic presence that was Yerros, a wise and confidant soul that had steered Poutsmith toward many victories, not just on the battlefield, but in the political arenas in which most mortals were not privy to participate. Long had Yerros served his family; seven generations of hard work on the immortals behalf, blood, sweat and, tears from his family, all wasted now. Yerros sat with his head in his hands, light shining through the gaps in his blue tinted fingers.
“I have spoken with Ardanian, he will be adjudicating authority in this region in the coming months,” the angel said as he raised his face to address the lord. The face, obscured by light, made the voice, which seemed to resonate from every corner of the room, seem normal by mortal standards. “He has assured me a reasonable position of power for you and your family. I pray that he is as unrelenting and securing the populace as he has been pursuing the ever-present agents of Hell. But for now, I must leave you; it is the action furthest from my wishes.”
“Morgoran had no right to make this decision,” the lord exclaimed, slamming the flat of his hand on the nearby beautifully carved side table.
“He in fact had every right, for we are the ones who provided it. We have now left the fate of this world in his hands, perhaps as it always should have been. Regardless, the decision is made and there is little left but for me to say good-bye.” Even as the otherworldly being speaks these words, a bolt of energy slams into the castle proper. The convulsing ribbons make spider-webs across the walls as it searches. Through the halls, passed sealed doors, ringing ceilings and windows, until at last in came to Yerros’ chamber. The fingers of power, sensing the nearness of the immortal, begin to surge forward to wrap around the feet of the angel. The lord feels tingles of power in his feet as the tendrils pass, and as he looks to the angel that has served him so faithfully, he raises a hand in salute, but he is gone leaving just a sense of peace and small motes of light.
The Great Purge, like so many things in history, was viewed in several different lights, all depending on the viewer. Many, most in fact, believed the Great Purge to be Morgoran’s greatest accomplishment as he freed the mortal races from the machinations of both Heaven and Hell. But there were those that saw a great betrayal in his actions as for as with every great triumph there was a sacrifice to be made. In banishing all the demons and devils scheming on Myron, he had to banish all immortal creatures, incurring the wrath of those that depended heavily on the myriad angels who provided council and support. It was a decision that would affect the whole of the world in more ways than could be counted, but first came chaos and war.
When the immortals left Myron, the mortal races reacted differently. Some gathered the whole of their people in one place, devising a government that suited them, and keeping external influence to a minimum, as the dwarves did. Others, like the Elves, splinted into innumerable factions, each with its own beliefs and ideas on how to go about life and leadership. These small societies quickly became secluded and while some reached out to others, many receded from the rest of the world. But for humans, they had become so ubiquitous that they could not consolidate or become secluded, and so nations began to form from the ashes of chaos and great wars ravaged the land.
Relying heavily upon the Warlords of Light and their wisdom, man desperately sought out ways to defend themselves from others, to feed themselves as they collected for protection, and competed for the resources that remained. The Warlords began to divide the lands among the warring nations, choosing rulers that would best provide for the people, and in such ways became the progenitors of many of the human nations that still stand today. One such nation is the Kingdom of Ardan.
Ardanian, the knight extraordinaire of the Warlords of Light, chose several families that had served him well in his crusade against the forces of Hell and gave them the land east of the Skyreach Mountains as their own. 10 families were given broad swatches of land to rule, each to chose and lift nobles from their retainers to govern counties of land, owing fealty to the family and the King. The king would be chosen from among the 10 ducal families and the nine remaining Dukes formed the House of Nine, each hand chosen by Ardanian, the fact by which all of their authority was derived, to serve the King as advisors. A second was then appointed by the King, a group of merchants and social leaders, chosen from among the common people, called the House of Merchants, who would advise the King in social matters of state.
The rite by which the king was chosen is a hallowed tradition that has only come to pass five other times beyond the first. It involved the ten dukes coming before Ardanian and stating their case to rule with the other dukes in attendance judging the veracity of each claim. The first king was chosen by popular vote as Ardanian stood as the tiebreaker. Since Ardanian’s destruction at the hands of the Three, the rite to rule has fallen to civil warfare many times as that current head of state was either deemed unfit to rule or another ambitious duke garnered enough support to challenge his authority. These bloody affairs have become increasingly common as the decades continued to march on for the Kingdom, and have left entire ducal hereditary lines eliminated.
The Kingdom of Ardan has seen ages of peace and prosperity as well as those of deep dark depravity. Some kings have showed incredible respect and admiration for the common people which of course endeared the king to them. Others grew increasingly tyrannical in their quests to gain more power, money, or glory, usually leading to their deposition by the House of Nine at the urgings of the House of Merchants. Thus the river of time has flowed over the Kingdom leaving it either changed or unspoiled, but more or less intact.
Through either the actions in warfare, or the lack of breeding, most of the original ducal bloodlines have been extinguished over the last thousand years. In fact there is now but one family that has the claim of blood to the throne of Ardan, and they guard that bloodline jealously. Yet the House of Nine remains intact due to the elevation of families through force of arms or political favors. And though they do not enjoy the blood claim to the throne, some patiently await the last relative of the blood to expire, others honorably uphold the virtue of that bloodline and protect it with every asset available.
The current monarch is King Aurrund XI, a wise and just man of middle years, whose family has sat the throne for the last 5 generations. His two sons and one daughter are all that remain of the ducal bloodlines and remain in the castle in Ardan most times, making public appearances only under the strictest guard. Though King Aurrund XI has inherited a quiet kingdom, it is one that has been slowly eroding for more than a century. In his rule alone he has seen several strong markers that historians use to point out that the end of the Kingdom looms closer than generally believed. The capture of Gweldloc, Ardan’s key port city, by minotaur forces, has forced incredible economic strain on the Kingdom, forcing them to deal almost exclusively with the dwarves for essential resources. Secondly the institution and continued growth of the Free City, a settlement that is independent of the King’s rule and therefore unable to be taxed appropriately, has provided a disturbing alternative for Ardan’s citizenry. The King has attempted to deal with both of these situations with military solutions, but to no avail, which also continues to weaken his rule. The future of the Kingdom therefore hangs in the balance, waiting to be tipped one way or another.