Thieves & Kings
Mornhaven - City of Bright Sails
The largest city of the the Forest Kingdom, is far older than its capital at the City of Greenwalls, or any other town or village in the region, and far more decadent. A mist-shrouded, always-damp place of somber stone buildings, it doesn’t welcome visitors by its appearance.
Long an important fishery and smuggling port, “Misty Mornhaven” has a sinister, seedy appearance wholly in keeping with the unsavory folk who live amongst the city’s honest citizens. Disguised mind flayers, dopplegangers, agents of the Obsidian Order, the Iron RIng slavers, and Serpent Cultists have been a problem for centuries, as is corruption. The local Royal Crown’s officers seem untouched by such, but their agents are not above looking elsewhere for a handful of coins.
It’s Citizens : According to tax rolls, some 16,900 registered citizens dwell in Mornhaven, rising to a summer high of 23,200. Perhaps 3200 people live in the area close around its walls, in farms and small shops providing support for the city. The population of the city proper changes with the seasons, primarily due to the number of sea-going merchants who reside in the city. The citizens are mostly human, though a few halflings, fewer half-elves, elves and dwarves can be seen.
The citizens are watched over by a garrison of 300 “Harbour Rats”, the local watch and customs agents, all virtually former pirates and bandits. The Royal Fleet is also based from Mornhaven, consisting of three square-sailed Niviks, and a virtual armada of Pindas. At any given time, one of the former is present at the Royal Docks below the castle.
The Harbour Rats are known for their 20’-long “lawhooks” for grappling vessels, docks or flotsam, and gaffing anyone who might try to flee. They are armed with studded leather jerkins, metal helms and steel breastplates, daggers, broadswords or cutlasses, and the occasional light crossbow. After serving four (4) years with the Rats, one can apply for service with the Guardia Phorsis, where service is further rewarded with land and a cot, not something to be ignored.
It’s Magecraft : Few mages call Mornhaven home, or at least, few residents advertise their mastery of the magical arts. This is not surprising, given the prevalence of smugglers, slavers and the activity of the Serpent Cult in the city. One local mage everyone respects, is Dalethorn the Dreadmaster, a reclusive necromancer infamous for animating a horde of undead to defend the city against a pirate raid, early during the Warduke’s reign. His abode is well-guarded by things best avoided.
Other notable mages include Faeril Stormwillow and the illuisionist Vinder Coldanthem. Faeril is a retired adventurer who makes and sells magical items and potions, having grown rich through such. Vinder openly offers her services for hire, as both ritual caster and tutor.
By law, all mages who dock at Mornhaven must register at the local Chantry before the next suns-down. The Warduke preferred to allow the Guild to police itself, and as long as things remained silent, few questions are ever asked.
It’s Worship : A single temple holds sway in Mornhaven; Morningmist Hall, dedicated to Nolom – The Shining One. The famous bard, Ordin Hornblower recently described this slim-towered edifice as “… a bright light of hope in the dark heart of decadent Mornhaven…”. The reputation of the temple as a source of light and truth, is the result of largely one person, High Morninglord Charon Brightwater. “The Charon”, as locals call him, is a shrewd investor in new ventures, and particularly enjoys blessing new ships. A deadly foe of pirates and slavers, he often sends his faithful out on ships to do battle with them on the high seas.
The city also has small temples dedicated to Hydania, Queen of the Oceans, Larani, the Celestial Paladin, and Shiloh, Lady Luck. The temple of Shiloh has a reputation as a counting-house, providing discounted money-changing services to visiting merchants who are followers of the Shining Goddess, and has numerous heavy investments in many merchant ships. The darkly mysterious Serpent Cult is also rumored to have a hidden temple in watery cellars and undersea caves that can only be reached through dark, drippy secret passages known only to themselves.
It’s Trade : Mornhaven is Shem’s busiest port. Huge tonnages of goods from Katarre and Freeport are run through its docks each year, along with the bustle of fishing and shipbuilding. The fall of the Coranik Empire, known as “The Shatter”, has led to a trade fall-off from the western ports. The heartlands of Shem continue to produce fine woodcrafts, along with timber, fish, and agricultural foodstuffs which produce the bulk of its exports. Artifacts of a magical nature also find their way as an export, though are increasingly rare. Its position at the south-eastern point of the continent, has led the city to becoming the primary nexus of the shipping industry in Argoth, with most important merchants operating a trade house out of the city. Trade Costers tend to dominate such bulk transactions.
Perfume and cabinetry are notable products. The local style is distinguished by curved edges and handles; no piece of Mornhaven furniture ever has sharp corners. With the influx of Coranik refugees a decade ago, perfumers quickly established shops in the city, and have risen to prominence as an important guild in.
Mornhaven’s docking fees are very reasonable, running 1gp per berth, per day. A ship unable to dock must still pay the fees, but are able to unload using Royal Pindas set aside for such instances. Some vessels simply anchor in the harbour and unload directly onto river barges for shipment upriver to Seville.
Smuggling is common, though not as rampant as it was before the arrival of the Warduke. Tales persist of lost wine casks rotting underwater, fortunes in pirate plunder hidden in secret chambers, and even sunken slave ships crowded with drowned unfortunates. Despite the reputation, there are not large-scale thieve’s guilds. Between the existing members of the Lia-Kavair, the Warduke’s agents, the Realm_, and root out all such groups. The city is now far cleaner than it once was.
It’s Nobility : The noble families of Shem are largely absent from Mornhaven – or at least they keep their heads down when around. The few noble clans (five at last count) have large palatial homes in the wealthy section of town, while the bulk of their wealth resides in their lands outside the city’s walls.
Most Shemite nobility avoid the city as if it carried the plague, which many favourably refer to it as the truth. The bulk of the city’s citizens are struck with fits of paleness, coughing and tiredness, referred to as the “Mornhaven Fever”. Many local merchants such as Golias Woodhew, Tomas Magnum and Rikard Coalsilver rival the landed nobility in its wealth and importance, and are nobles in all but title.
It’s Fashion : The ever-present damp has dominated fashion in the city, with boots, gloves, and wool cloaks being very common. The wealthy keep them oiled and shiny; mostly an effort to keep them new in appearance. Bright colors are not very common, except among the wealthy; it draws attention to your wealth, and are frowned upon as showing-off or “…bright nosing…”.
It’s Landmarks : The grandest building in Mornhaven is undoubtedly Dawnstone Castle. It rises, massive and smooth-sided, from its bare, stony ridge to the south shore of the city. Looming above the cobbled markets and docks, it forms a barrier to storms which blow off the seas, sheltering both harbour and city.
Trees in Mornhaven are few to none, save for the wild forest that grows near the eastern gate of the city walls. Unusually robust, it is illegal to cut or gather firewood within, and the odd collection of standing stones near its heart are most certainly a shrine to Galana, seems to protect the wood despite its lack of an official caretaker.
Other structures of note, include the rose-tinted walls of the temple of Nolom, Morningmist Hall. From its walled complex, the spires and glowing walls of the temple rise gracefully above the stone rows of homes and shops around her.
Many grand private residences owned by the wealthy and nobles are well-hidden behind gray stone walls across the city. It is difficult to discuss their ownership, since the only marks to identify their presence are Coster or Clan markings gracing their gates. Actually, most of Mornhaven is like this; locked doors, no signposts, and a general reserve to explain who lives where or what they do.
It’s Culture : Mornhaven is centered against the mouth of the Ambarin River, a cool broad river that drains the heart of Shem and her forests, and has long been the artery to gain access to the realm. Several streams also feed this river, originating from the valley ridges and improving water flow. Good farmland stretches along both sides of the river, although the eastern banks tend to be more traditionally settled, where the main trade road passes north. The western bank boasts a few farms, but access to markets is only through river traffic and small ferries that connect across the river to settlements on the east bank. Few farms on the west bank are found beyond a bowshot from the river. The region around the river is the most cosmopolitan in the realm, as it embraces the mercantile trade of the nation.
In this bustling stone settlement, an adventurer can barter for a purchase of goods and equipment needed for an extended campaign in the wilderness. Merchandise shipped up the Ambarin River and raw materials shipped down, Dwarven blades and armor from the western Misty Crags, Elven musical instruments and potions from further west in Imladris, and goods from Katarre, the Beast Shards and points further north, all find their way into the warehouses of Mornhaven.
The main authority of Mornhaven resides in its Maester, elected in the city by “…citizens of good standing…”. Registered guildmasters, town landholders, and local nobility with a residence in the city, all provide qualification for this demand, but the real power is vested in the very few. The current Maester, Lady Ambarin Thanemark, is probably the second-most powerful figure in town, subordinate only to the clergy of the Shining One and its leader, High Morninglord Charon Brightwater.
The various craft’s guilds are a major part of commercial life in the city. The organization of the craft’s guilds, known as, allows them to group themselves for social and commercial purposes – giving them training controls, commercial leverage, and a forum for discussing problems. The competitive atmosphere is intense, so a wise merchant must choose his path carefully. Each guild is moderated, loosely, by the Mangai, and further limited by the free market nature of the city.
The city of Mornhaven was once a pirate city, and a loose air permeates its social life, hearkening back to those days. Rowdiness is the order of the streets at night, when life is given over from trade to drink and song behind closed and locked doors. As shops close around the narrow streets and markets each dusk, the city’s taverns, fest-halls, and brothels scattered everywhere, open their doors to townsfolk and travellers. Adventurers tend to find lodgings in one of the dozens of inns around Mornhaven, some of which cater almost exclusively to those with gold coins to spend.
It’s Coin and Trade : Purchases of goods in Mornhaven usually occur in central markets which locals call “Coin Pits”. Most of the local goods are typical to a burgeoning metropolis. Barter is extremely common in the markets, but the principality’s own copper and silver coinage takes prominence. A wide variety of “high quality” coins are also accepted across the city from other locations; golden coins from the dwarven lands, electrum coins from the elves, and silver coins from Diramoa, Hepekeria, and the Iberian City-States. On the occasions when the city produces its own coins for trade, under royal charter, they are known as a “Miter” of silver, marked with Mornhaven’s ship symbol on one side, and the royal crown of Shem on the other, as Mornhaven is a royal city.
Generally, prices for food and lodging in the city are modest, high for most raw materials, and low for most crafted goods. Shops are open from a little before dawn to just before dusk. Market days are on the days of a full moon, and are characterized by an influx of rural folk bringing cheap goods for sale or trade. Markets are also accompanied by entertainment; musicians, bards, jugglers and actors hold court throughout the markets, though the “Common Market” is the center of this trade, and a virtual circus during market days.
It’s Smuggling : Smuggling is in high demand, a result of the high city and crown tariffs, rather than some insidious plot for limiting poisons and artifacts. Much of the smuggling is controlled by, through various small gangs in the thieve’s guilds. Rumor has the shipwright’s controlling much of this as well, and it is believed they have a close working relationship with their counter-parts in Tulwyn. Whatever its source, the infamous “Sunset Inn” off the Sail Court is rumored to be the prime location for meeting contacts in the smuggling trade.
It’s Countryside : Within bow-shot of the city are three communities; the village of Briar’s Wood, the village of Fishtown, and the village of Shadows. Both provide services for visitors, and host housing and specialized services, making each valuable to different sectors of the local citizenry. Briar’s Wood serves merchants and travelers from along the Forest Walk, and Shadows serves the city’s mercenaries and soldiers. Both have numerous small farms and are considered a direct part of the city, paying their taxes to its coffers.
The remaining countryside surrounding the city is generally a placid place. Local agriculture is concentrated along the eastern shore of the Ambarin River, primarily in the area known as “The Gardens”. Several small thorps lie around the mill village of Hexwater to the north along the trade road, and another to the west near the village of Capstone, another mill community. West of the city lie the Siltlaw Hills, a realm of hunters, herders and farmers, who have settled a region known as “The Vineyards”, a fertile valley about a day’s ride away, around Berryshore, an important fishing village. Areas further west, are Westlaws March, controlled by a powerful former adventurer, who controls silver, iron and gem mines, extensive wool and timber resources, and a trade connection to the upper levels of the Deep Way.
South and east of “The Gardens”, lie a rugged region of forested hills, practically abandoned, save for seasonal hunters and a few lonely clansmen who live in the Outlaw Heights. This region is the site of constant clearings of timber and charcoal, intended for markets in Mornhaven. The region is notorious for bandits and kobolds, and even rarer monsters that lair in the wilds. A hidden pirate/bandit hold, known as “Skullport” rests somewhere in the region, a place where bandits and pirates can freely trade and live without fear of the law. Land further east are the provincial holdings of the Barony of Winewater, and its ruler, Baron Southall, and most notably his vassal, the Thane of Tattershaft, an ancient clan with close ties to the crown, and whose loyalty and honor is considered without question.
Trade across the region is fairly constant, with furs, grain, wine and iron coming from the west and the Siltlaws, grain, fruit, timber and charcoal coming from the Smoke Woods and the Timber Glens, and amber, woodcraft, wool, ale and artifacts coming from the north and the heartlands near Seville. Mornhaven itself is a source for fish, perfumes, cabinetry, and fast, sleek ships, as well as the growing central market for all of the region.
The Migration Wars mark the first colonization efforts of the village of Blackhaven (the original name of Mornhaven ). Wizards who had chosen exile rather than Phaedric domination first settled the region in TR 80, founding the “Kingdom of the Stag” near the site of present-day Seville, but few beyond fishermen lived in and around Blackhaven.
In TR 183, the Lordship of the Isles conquered the region, making landings in the village of Blackhaven and establishing it as a fortified holding on the present site of Dawnstone Castle. Initial advances by Lordship troops into the nearby hills met with great resistance, and a ten-day battle occurred just north of the village, around the present-day site of Hexwater. The Lordship’s orcish allies allies swam the Ambarin River in full armor, outflanking the local Ninnellen tribes, and forced the Lordship’s victory. Initial advances into the surrounding regions were rapidly halted and the lands around Blackhaven were annexed under the Lordship banner. Two months later, Clovis the Bold (or “The Butcher” as the Ninnellen clans called him), took control of the Lordship’s forces and in a series of quick strikes, managing to force the surrender of all enemy troops in sixteen bloody days, striking the military stores that fueled their war at the fortified site now known as “The Abbey”.
Other small tribes and clans were conquered over the next season, numbering twenty such groups who all stood against the Lordship’s forces. Another twenty-eight (28) tribes and villages were eradicated and taken into slavery on the island of Tulwyn. Once the region was declared pacified, forts were built throughout the region at villages like Berryshore, Oakenview and Tattershaft. All surviving local clans swore to the Lordship banner.
Between TR 148 and TR 156, Tulwyni attentions turned towards Grimstone, from which the local Ninnellen tribes were being particularly aggressive, aided by their sympathetic long-standing allies, the Sindarin of Imladris. Moonstone Isle, a known wizard’s stronghold, also proved resistant to the boot of Lordship rule. When Grimstone was officially pacified, in TR 160, word came of growing rebellion in the important city of Blackhaven.
The growing town of Blackhaven had been granted the status of a client state of Tulwyn, ruled by Thane Clovis “the Bold” but with a council of the surviving Ninnellen clans. The former clan leader, Verakai of Blackhaven, had his son Iveni marry the famous warrior Boudicaa amidst great secrecy. When she and her daughters were molested by Lordship troops during and “inspection” of their farm, Iveni rose along with numerous disgruntled clansmen, attacking Tulwyni armories and caravans. With the lion’s share of their troops near Grimstone, the new-found realm was unprotected. The entire garrison at Tattershaft was ambushed and massacred on their approach to Blackhaven, and all the local clans rose up against Clovis and his kinsmen. The forts at every realm garrison were stormed and burned to the ground, and many of the new Tulwyni colonists were slaughtered.
Though all seemed lost, Clovis rallied the survivors, and using foul magicks and fouler allies among the orcs and bugbears, surrounded Iveni and his inexperienced forces and destroyed them – history says 8000 men died to the loss of 400 Tulwyni troops. When word reached Boudicaa of her lover’s death, she committed suicide, and the remaining clans were once again pacified.
Over the next century of Tulwyini rule, the mounting unrest of barbarian tribes during the Migration Wars led to the dilution of Ninnellen culture. The spread of trade and mass-produced consumer goods, such as pottery from Katarre, led to the common use of coins and the development of a new merchant class. Beyond the off boat of reavers, few traveled into the heartlands of the Grandwood, and the forests remained virtually untouched except along the coasts. Inland, its barbarian inhabitants were extremely hostile and struck against anyone who even smelled of the Lordship of Tulwyn.
The fort above Blackhaven was fortified with stone walls, and by TR 276 was a substantial fort, known as Caer Blackstone. “The Retreat” of the dark elves began around this time as well, and encouraged trade throughout the Grandwood, with The Realm of the Stag becoming the center of these efforts, its coins stretching south to Blackhaven and north to Katarre.
In TR 286, Karkas the Black, commander of the Tulwyni fleets was placed under suspicion of planning revolution against the Lordship, and fled the island to seize and claim Blackhaven as his own fief, while Karkas’ followers proclaimed him king. At first, he claimed Seareach Castle, but in TR 293 lost control to a Tulwyni force under the command of Constantius. Later that year, Karkas was assassinated by his steward, Ansen, who continued to rule in his stead until TR 296 when he was slain by an invading army from Tulwyn.
Once more under the yolk of the Lordship of the Isles, the realm was visited by High Lord Caelin in TR 305, with numerous upgrades conducted on the realm’s forts (primarily in Tattershaft ), and surveys were completed to authorize construction of a wall around Blackhaven.
After a decade of rising tensions, a force of clansmen rose in the Westlaws, raiding the garrison near Berryshore. Acting quickly, High Lord Mannus gathered his troops and swarmed into the region to subdue the raiders with overwhelming force. Hi =s forces were camped at a border fort (the site of present-day Sentinel ), when they found themselves surrounded by a vast forest fire. The survivors found that the highland and lowland Ninnellen tribes of the region had banded together and placed themselves under the rule of a single war leader, Overthane Parlan of the Hood. Mannus and his forces were destroyed, and flush with the success of “The Battle of the Great Burn”, Parlan moved to secure the town of Blackhaven and its outer forts. Defenseless, the Tulwyni governors surrendered and faced expulsion, and a new “Ninn Culture” was established. The following decade was spent fortifying Parlan’s position and organizing local defenses. Parlan ushered in an age of unparalleled peace and prosperity unmatched until the arrival of the Warduke.
Parlan brought trade, built the growing city walls that surround Mornhaven, and established roads and the trade forts that protected them across the realm, uniting the realm like no other ruler before him. He kept the loyalty of the Lowland clans and established “The Great Roll” which listed all the clans of the Battle of the Great Burn, and is used to this day as a means of declaring clan ownership of lands and villages across Shem.
In TR 367, Parlan led a force of clans north into Grimstone to help fight against the large force of orcs that were raiding into the region. They never returned. Korob the Great, leading a collected force of orcs, goblins, dark elves and Realm of the Stag creatures (golems and worse), laid waste to the region, and destroyed Parlan’s army. The elves, assisted by fey creatures, elementals and various allied loyal Highland clans, struck back the next year, eradicating The Realm and then moving on into Korob’s own valley fortress. The resulting disaster created the land now known as “Dreadwaters”, and caused immense chaos across all of the Grandwood. The general confusion also led to many records and histories of the region, and the break-up of Parlan’s hard-built kingdom.
For several decades, various clans around the region seized control of their local fortresses, and established many of the dynasties that survive throughout the Grandwood to this day. Near Blackhaven, the Southall clan rose to prominence in Tattershaft, and a council of merchants, known as the “Trade Council” took possession of the city itself.
Several bugbear incursions in TR 383 and again in TR 398 pressured the Trade Council, and in TR 406 a military junta seized power and raised their own king, called Moire, who was soon deposed and replaced by Gahban. When he failed to stop yet another bugbear invasion that year, he was also deposed by his troops, raising an officer named Gunther of Phaedra to bring order to the region by his fellow soldiers.
The following century saw a migration of humanoids from the Dreadwaters, the Beast Shards and the Misty Crags. Written records of the era speak of “… infestations of Goblyn and their shadowed kinfolk…”, and it seems Gunther hired numerous mercenaries to deal with the problem. These men brought their families, cultures and traditions to the city, and settled on lands offered by the crown. He proved successful in his efforts, and the city of Blackhaven became a capital of cosmopolitan activity encouraging trade and commerce.
The influence of Phaedra over the next centuries became obvious, bringing a change in architecture, fashion and language to the region, until the city and its environs lost much of its Ninnellen roots. Trade increased, luring ships from across Argoth, and the city became vital to merchants seeking passage to the eastern imperial regions. Surrounding communities retained relative independence, but did not develop as keenly as did Blackhaven. Grimstone became a center of trade in the north-west, but it too had a history as darkly steeped as its name, and refused to adapt to the concepts ofand the other Coranik ideals of modern trade. This division was further entrenched in the ideals of “Highland” and “Lowland” culture and tradition.
The line of kings was cemented in their rule of Blackhaven, until the arrival of the church of Nolom, the Shining One in TR 597. Sent as an official mission from Lythia, it was led by the famous Phaedran prophet, Caern the Holy. They saw some degree of initial success, but religious traditions of Galana, Lady of the Forest were highly entrenched, as was the darker worship of Kurse, the Corruptor, Agrik. the Harbinger, and Sarrok, the Gray Slayer. Most new converts were creatures of habit, however, and the traditions of their forefathers remained, despite a new attraction to the new rituals.
King Aoghann of Northumber (TR 634-42) was converted to Nolom early in his reign, and founded the Abbey in The Gardens in TR 635, a site that was quickly transformed into a stronghold for “The Sleepless Ones” sect of the church of Nolom. His actions further polarized the clans, and in TR 638, Highland clans took the “Solemn Covenant” against contact with corrupting lowland clan traditions, sinking them into barbarism while their southern brethren became increasingly enriched and technologically developed. Blackhaven became increasingly steeped in Nolomite practices, Phaedirc commerce, and even the pirates of the region were eradicated. In TR 663 celebration of these events, the local temple and order of Nolom were founded, and the nature of the city changed with its formal name change to “Mornhaven”. Increased trade with the recently founded Coranik Empire, also improved commerce, and Torele of Phaedra ( TR 669-90 ) led the church in fighting Tulwyni pirates clearing the western hills of kobolds and goblins, and in bringing prosperity to the realm. Leadership of local politics by the Nolomites continued for many years, until around TR 850, with the local rise of the church of Larani, the Celestial Paladin.
The rulers of this era were mostly mercenary soldiers who were promoted to the position by the combined lowland clans, following “…Phaedric Pendragon traditions of the Overthane…”. These rulers were able to unite the various lowland clans and formed a kingdom reaching from the Westlaws in the west, to the eastern peninsula of Seareach, to the northern forts of Cultan Ford. Between TR 651 under Peadair’s rule, and the great Odatarik’s rule of TR 757-96, this “Kingdom of Mercenaries” or “Mercia”, was able to swallow all the clans of southern Shem as subjected nobles. The realm never lost its ambitions over the heartlands of Shem, but bugbears and the fiercely independent Waterthorn clan of Tauria refused easy expansion. The haunted ruins around present-day Seville also assured a lack of influence in the region. The Greenhaven’s of Grimstone also refused to subject themselves to “Mercian Rule”.
In trade matters, Mercian silver proved instrumental in giving it authority, and frequently new rulers would issue new coins to fund their expansionist plans. Aethel the Bold (TR 716-57) initiate the first tolls on roads, and was said to issue new coins every decade of his reign.
The only dynastic conflict of this era, was the feud between clans to place their choice of Overthane on the throne, following the death of Cernwulf (TR 796-821). By the time Aelfrik was able to establish his rule, he was forced to face a new threat, “The Invasions”.
The gradual increase in Vulcanir and northern Lythian barbarians culminated in TR 865, with the invasion of the “Great Host”. The newly reunited realm of Mercia faces this threat weakened and without good local leadership, and collapsed under the burden. The “Great Host” rapidly invaded the lands around Mornhaven and by TR 867 all of Seaholme was in Viking hands. They sent expeditions north into the forests, but Aelfric was able to repulse them, until in TR 874, King Bearnard the Ursurper, surrendered from his hidden hold deep in the Grandwood and passed the (false) crown to Halfdan, who immediately declared himself King of Mornhaven. Under pressure from his Viking clansmen, he invaded the Freestead region and suffered an utter and humiliating defeat.
In the following 14 years of relative peace, Aelfrik rebuilt fortifications, founded new ones, and and was able to consolidate his forces to meet the next “Great Host” invasion from Vulcanir. After another decade of raids and skirmishing, the Vulcanir invaders finally withdrew. In TR 899, Aelfrik officially began to patronize the arts, when he had “The Shemite Chronicle” published, detailing his own view of recent history. Copies of this book are still in circulation and are considered the region’s second most important book, after The Great Roll.
Aelfrik’s youngest son Ealdred assumed the throne on his father’s death in late-TR 899, following his father’s ideals of patronage, spending his days rebuilding the looted Kingdom of Mercia. His daughter, a consummate lady of the lowland clans, became known as the _Lady of the Mornhavens", and ruled as Aethelfled (TR 902-10), the first female Overthane. She rebuilt forts, re-established trade, made Mornhaven a city of commerce once more.
Following the new dynasty, Aethelfled’s son Evander continued to fortify the frontiers, and even built the western walls of Mornhaven to protect the newly established “New Town” portions of Mornhaven. He expanding the borders of his realm, and by TR 924 had once more claimed the former traditional borders of the kingdom. His equally determined grandsons, _Aethelstan (TR 924-39) and Ealdred III (TR 939-46)held the kingdom together. Ealdred IV (TR 946-55), however, faced a turbulent reign of discontent subjects and two forced Vulcanir invasions, marking the tail end of the Viking incursions.
In TR 954, Tulwyni princes, viewing the weakened state of Mercia, planned to reclaim their lost holdings in Mornhaven. Enlisting their native orcs as auxiliaries, the ruling Prince Anuvier sent this force in TR 955, to successfully capture the city. Led by his brutal commander Lothian Lightrender, they sacked the city and looted everything except the churches and those wealthy enough to pay a sizable tribute for their safety. The week-long orgy was watched by everyone, and as expected, turned on itself, filling the city streets with the invaders own blood. Eventually, Lothian restored order, but formed a council of merchants, noble clans and the churches to accept his rule of the realm and subject themselves to the tribute of Prince Anuvier in Tulwyn.
For a short while, peace reigned until Lothian took the crown and title of the King of Mornhaven in TR 957. He lasted two years, until he died in a hunting accident, and was replaced by his son, Elamien the Dark. Elamien shipped tribute to Tulwyn, but also sought the personal fealty o the local noble clans. Although he was known to consort with his orcish warriors, and was rumored to be of drow blood (a commonly believed fact of Tulwyni nobility), he became a strong and somewhat enlightened ruler. He allowed people to trade and act how they would, provided the tribute flowed, and eventually gained the support of enough local clans to declare independence from Tulwyni rule. In TR 964 Elamien was assassinated, and his allies other each other apart, bringing chaos once more to the realm. After another decade of chaos, the region saw the arrival of the Warduke.
Born in TR 951, Stephan Darius “the Warduke” was a young Phaedran nobleman, who came of mixed Ninn-Phaedric parentage. He achieved some notoriety as a goblin fighter, and by the age of 21 earned his spurs and a small land grant. Determined to fulfill a larger destiny than being s smallholder the rest of his life, he sold his patrimony and hired a force of mercenaries and adventurers, many who had served with him in his early years, and set forth to Shem, seeking a new destiny.
In TR 973, he landed at Winecastle, and in unusual circumstances, the town and region fell with only one death. The sole casualty was the clanhead Brelane Southall, an ardent follower of Alya, the Lady of Peace, who challenged the Warduke to single combat and died. Some say that Brelane purposefully lost the fight to save his people bloodshed, seeing it as the best way to bring peace to his land. In any event, Stephan immediately set about scouring the land for goblin holds, bandits and anyone who might prove a threat. His troops found every stronghold in the region, and he converted their stored loot into more troops and prepared to expand his conflict. By TR 979, he had secured the fealty of the local clans, and stormed into the lands around Mornhaven, laying siege to the city.
In TR 975, the local council in Mornhaven had been divided by rival factions, both trying to place their own leader on the throne of Mercia. Led by Aethelred and Eudrad, brothers of a distant cousin to Elamien the Dark, were still squabbling when the Warduke assaulted the city in TR 979. After a quick siege, the Trade Council accepted his rule and gaining control of the city proper, laid siege to the might of Caer Blackstone itself, and the brothers hiding within. The remaining forces under the brothers once more fell to squabbling, and after a fight that resulted in both brothers being killed, the survivors opened the stronghold to the Warduke later that year.
The Oak Seat
The Warduke spent the next decade again consolidating his rule over the region, and now in possession of the legendary mark of the Overthane, the fabled Oak Seat, he managed to gain the fealty of many lowland clans. He again spent his time combing the region of bugbear holds, using their stashed wealth to fund his rebuilding efforts, pay his growing army, and secure the fealty of his vassals.
Secure in his position, the Warduke officially laid claim to the title of Overthane, and in TR 988 made the declaration that demanded the fealty of all nobles in the realm of former Mercia. With the bugbear and goblin threats virtually eradicated in the area, the threat of piracy on the decline, and the full support of the local clergy, he took his claim throughout the region, and virtually every lowland nobleman was in attendance at his coronation.
Dark forces struck that very night, but failed to assassinate the newly invested ruler; some claim the Oak Seat itself came to his rescue. Later the following year, a force of Tulwyni nobles backed by goblin and orc auxiliaries, attempted to assault the city of Mornhaven, but it was eradicated in a crushing defeat before the very walls of the city. Stephan immediately did the unthinkable; he gathered his forces together and marched north into the heart of the Grandwood, sacking depleted bugbear holds and exploring the fallen area once claimed by the Realm of the Stag. After two years of war and conflict in the heart of the Grandwood_, he began making plans to create a new capital in the ruins of this ancient kingdom, founding, and declared it his royal seat in TR 992, marked by his movement of the Oak Seat to that frontier community.
TR 992 also marked the realms of Frestead and Elmshire both sending delegations to treat with the Warduke, and the possibility of a united realm of all Shem became a possibility. Stephan also met his future wife at this council, in the form of the Greenhaven’s own daughter, Olovia Promethian Greenhaven. While their courtship lasted many years, eventually the two were wed in TR 998, and the realm of Freestead entered into vassalage with the Warduke. The realm of Tauria followed one month later.
Amidst the growing might of the Warduke banner, however, sinister things lurked. Over the next year, another failed assassination attempt and various, almost epic and foul creatures appeared and began stalking the land. The winter that year was especially harsh, and brought an invasion of goblin-kin from the Beast Shards. Led by an especially powerful clan of minotaurs, known as the Tauri; the horde rolled across the northern frontier, striking Starfall, Citadel and eventually south against the new fortifications at Seville. The Warduke called on powers from the heart of the forests, and crushed the horde at his gates, hence the northern gate of Seville is known as “Black Gate” to this day. Harrying the invaders as they retreated, he struck them again in a final crushing blow at the present site of Wargrave, north of Seville, and built a vast mound over their cremated corpses to commemorate the victory. Laying hold to every spare sword and mage in the realm, he continued north through a hard winter, and laid siege to the forces invested against Citadel, relieving that town and then resupplying from the fallen army camps, moved into the highlands to save the town of Starfall from starvation. So complete was this victory, in the dead of a harsh winter, that both towns swore fealty to him on the spot, and the realm of Shem had doubled in size overnight.
The following decades brought Mornhaven greater peace and prosperity, despite minor piracy and tentative expeditions from Seareach Castle, the region was given a breath of development and growth without the fear of invasion or rebellion. Held as a Royal City, the city of Mornhaven received new dockyards and a breakwater, flush with timber from the borders of the forests, and was a popular location of Lythian and Hepekerian traders on their way to Coranik. Despite some corruption, the city remained quite prosperous.
Various invasions in TR 1021, first by the City-State of Crebain at White Mines and then by Seareach Castle at Longbridge were brutally defeated, using eldritch magicks and showing that the Wardukes might actually have a deeper control over the land than many thought. In TR 1022, growing problems in the Coranik Empire led to mass emigrations, mostly to the the Border Kingdoms and the Kingdom of Antonica, but also to the relative safety of Mornhaven, where land was cheap and prosperity easily obtainable. The wave of craftsmen and skilled artists to the city again stimulated its economy.
In TR 1024, the “Great Swarm” mindlessly struck all major cities and towns of Argoth, when a vast swarm of dragons swept out of the northern lands into the south. It devastaed the Coranik Empire, leading to the region now being known as the Shatter. Mornhaven itself was struck by a single large green dragon that settled and ravaged the the Royal Quarter, but it was quickly dispatched by the local mages guild. The influx of refugees with their coins and skills once again stimulated trade in the city, bringing many of the Perfumer’s Guild to add their goods to the local economy. The losses of the drop in trade from Coranik, however, were off-set by foreign traders seeking Shemite goods more readily and willing to spend more in trade, due to the shorter trip.
In the decades since, the city of Mornhaven has risen in importance, becoming the second-largest city in Argoth, after Katarre in central Iberia. Mornhaven, however, has a better port, a closer access to timber for repairs, and has become a premier trade city. The decline in piracy from Tulwyn has also helped. The peace of the Wardukes has given the city time to develop and the locals seem generally content in their lives.