The Taladas History Page
 THE TALE OF TALADAS
This is the story of Taladas, a whole continent left in ruins by the wrath of the gods. It is the story of Southern Hosk - the Freelands - where those who survived the gods’ fury now dwell. It is the story of those brave mortal souls from the Dutchy of Bissel, last of the old Dukedoms, who against all odds stood fast against tyranny, corruption and war. And it is the story of an unlikely band of heroes, whose bravery and determination would change the course of history.
What follows has been compiled by the priests of the Holy Temple of St. Cuthbert in the city of Waltdorf, under the direction of Brother Cast-Out-Your-Evils-And-Burn-Them-In-The-Pit-Of-The-Abyss Smith. Most of what is written is based not upon first-hand knowledge, but on rumour, myth, and stories passed down the generations. Accordingly, it must be read with this in mind and should not taken to be the definitve truth of the history of Taladas. It is also very much a work in progress - whilst the history project has the blessing of Talasek Thryadin, the leader of the St. Cuthbert priests, (who has become very keen on making a record of the history of the land after many precious books were destroyed following an attack on the Temple several years ago), the priests of course have other duties which are often more pressing.
 The times before the Cataclysm - the age of the Irda
Before the Cataclysm, Taladas was a land where mortals, Irda, dragons and gods moved side by side.
Those books that survived the Cataclysm tell of the majestic lands of Aurim, where great civilisations of all races flourished, and wielded powerful magic bestowed upon them by the gods. None were more powerful than the Irda - the high ogres of Aurim, keepers of the Irdanaiath - a holy relic from the Time of Dreams. Eight feet tall, with fine, chiselled features and iridescent blue skin, the Irda were both the fairest and most learned of the mortal races. However, the Irda were not without vices such as arrogance and conceit, and in time they came to be seduced by their own power, considering themselves as deities who walked the earth. They enslaved all other races of Taladasians, conquered every land save for the very west of Taladas (this region becomes known as “Hosk” meaning “free” in old common), and set themselves up in opposition to the true gods - forcing the ‘lesser’ races to worship them. Meanwhile, across the great ocean in the distant lands of Ansalon, it is believed that other foolish mortals made the same terrible mistake.
 The Cataclysm strikes
Legend tells that the High King of the Irda stood at the foot of Igraine's mountain, and facing away from the temple containing the Irdanaiath, proclaimed that the Irda no longer needed the gods. In response, the gods send the Cataclysm as a test of the world's claim to goodness. While the distant lands of Ansalon were pounded by a series of disastrous meteor strikes, Taladas was rent asunder by a single massive blow - a fireball of unimaginable size and power thrown towards Krynn by Hiteh himself. The central plain was torn asunder and Hiteh's Night began.
 The Cataclysm and its immediate aftermath
 Hiteh's Night and the death of the Irda (1AC to 20AC)
Following the Cataclysm, the sky was darkened by ash and smoke and fire. Mountains rose overnight from level ground. Torrential rains created seas where deserts once were. The black sky was lit from the glow of volcanoes. Disease appeared. The priests of Taladas suddenly discovered they have lost their spells and were unable to cure or heal. Illness and death swept the land on an unprecedented scale. Plagues of cholera, black death, and influenza all exacted a devastating toll upon a population that had never developed a strong immunity to disease. None were worse affected than the Irda, each of whom became afflicted with a terrible, fatal plague. Within just twenty years, every last Irda was dead, punished by the gods for their crimes. The little left of civilisation in Aurim following the impact of the fireball was destroyed by a combination of immense earthquakes and lethal fumes from the boiling sea of lava left in the fireballs’ wake. Hosk was cleaved into two halves, the northern lands of the barbarians divided from the southern freelands by a huge river, but otherwise suffered much less than the rest of Taladas from the initial impact, and those left in Aurim who managed to escape both the Cataclysm and the Irda fled to Southern Hosk in droves. These years following the Cataclysm, during which the sun was not seen, became known as Hiteh's Night.
 The Vale of the Mage appears - 1AC
When the fire in the sky had receded, and the people of Waltherdorfe (old common for “the living city”) in the free Dutchy of Bissel (in middle Southern Hosk) emerged from their homes, they saw that the elven hills to the west had become mountains: mountains so high that no one could pass through them. The mountains formed a rough ellipse, ten by fifteen miles across. Rumours soon began to circulate that the mountains were home to a terrible race of giants, commanded by an unseen master, and in the turmoil that followed the cataclysm nobody had either time or courage to find out if these rumours were true.
 New Aurim Founded - 20AC
The huge numbers of refugees of Aurim arrived in Southern Hosk, just north of Blackwater Glade, and found a land relatively untouched by the destruction of the cataclysm and populated only by orcs, low orges and other "lesser" races. Within 20 years they had settled there permanently and driven the orcs and other 'undesirables' away. The settlers' city was named New Aurim, and the free nation of Thenol (old common for “by our own hand”) was born.
 The dark ages and the rise of the League
 The dark ages (20AC to 120AC)
With the gods departed and the Irda gone, the Freelands of Southern Hosk soon descended into a dark age. Civil wars broke out in almost every land, and both warrior and wizard warlords set themselves up as would-be kings. Oaths of neutrality between the different races broke down, and friend became foe. Those who had been priests before the Cataclysm were persecuted relentlessly by a population seeking a scapegoat for its woes. Lynchings and crucifixions became the norm. The Dragons withdrew from the affairs of mortals, and waged their own civil war across the wastelands of Old Aurim. For the next one hundred years following the Cataclysm, Southern Hosk was a place of chaos and confusion.
 The Dragons Disappear From Taladas - 105 AC
Before the Cataclysm, the Dragons of Taladas were well known to the mortals, especialy the Irda with whom they enjoyed a close bond. However, many Dragons died in the Cataclysm, and a large number of those who remained blamed the mortals for their woes and severed all ties with them. Little was seen or heard of these majestic creatures for over 100 years, as they fought out their own private civil war across the ruins of Old Aurim.
Then, in the year of 105AC, dragons of all colours were sighted leaving Taladas in mass flights, headed for the distant lands of Ansalon to fight in the dragon wars there. However, some of their kind refused to join their brethren, preferring their lives in Taladas to fighting in a war which they didn’t start. These creatures become known as the Othlorx (the Uninvolved), the first dragons of neutrality in Krynn since the mythical Astini left eons ago. The gods were furious, and punished these dragons by banishing them from the material plane altogether. Five loyal “Guardian Dragons” were left on Taladas, as observers for the gods - Splatterblood, red dragon guardian of the Flaming Sea, and secret commander of a horde of Draconians; Cryosar, white dragon Guardian of Northern Hosk; Silvertongue, silver dragon guardian of Southern Hosk; and, bizarrely, two green dragons, Dank and Bilgewater, guardians of Blackwater Glade.
 The rise of the League of Minotaurs (20AC onwards)
However, there was one place in Southern Hosk where the dark ages did not reach. In Kristophan, the free city of the Minotaurs, the Cataclysm caused a cultural revolution. The godless Minotaurs suffered not when the gods left, and their departure coincided with the death of King Octavius IV. The new Minotaur King, Lucius Dominus I, was both a fearsome warrior and a cultured and extremely intelligent politician. He saw the barbarians to the north in a state of terror, their gods gone and their holy relics - the five swords of Kiri Jolith - seemingly lost following the upheaval of the Cataclysm. To the west, he saw the Armach-Nesi elves in a similar state of disarray, their magic upon which they so heavily relied failing and their forests virtually defenceless as a result. To the east, he watched as the Dwarves retreated from the outside world into their mountain kingdoms, their way of life in peril due to the near-constant earthquakes affecting the land. And to the South, he looked on as the dukedoms of men fought amongst each other like squabbling children, and the ‘lesser’ races of orcs, goblins, gnolls and the like reverted to their savage ways.
Dominus expelled all non-minotaurs from the leaguelands, and established a military training programme the like of which had never been seen before or since. Every minotaur female was compelled to bear ten children before the age of forty five on pain of death. All minotaur males of fighting age and below noble rank was conscripted into the army.
Dominus led his army to several great victories against the Northern Dukedoms, and enslaved all those he did not kill. By the time of the dragon's departure in 105AC, the "Leaguelands" of the Minotaurs was the largest kingdom on the whole of Taladas, covering almost a quarter of Southern Hosk and the very south of Northern Hosk. However, their progress to the North was halted by the Barbarians, whom the cultured and educated Minotaurs feared and despised in equal measure, and to the South by the fierce and psychotic Orcs of the Plains. Not wishing to be fighting on more than one front, the Minotaurs waged full scale war only against the Barbarians of Northern Hosk. (Scribe's note: Very little is known of the wars between the League and the Barbarians and much that is known comes from the journals of the first Peregrine Airrider, ancestor of the current mage who bears that name and whose tendancy to exaggeration and self-aggrandizement far surpass his descendant.). By the time of Dominus’ death in 109 AC, the army of the League was easily the biggest and best trained in the whole of Taladas. The kings that followed continued the tradition with, if anything, greater fervour, following the "codex Dominus" - a secret book setting out the ultimate aims of the Minotaur League (Scribe's note: A sizeable minority of Bisselian historians dispute whether this book ever existed). Bigger, stronger and deadlier the Minotaur army grew with each passing decade.
 The Age of Faith (120AC to 250AC)
After 120 years of watching the mortals of Taladas suffering, the gods' wrath began to recede. Slowly, but surely, those who had remained most loyal to the true gods during the Dark Ages were rewarded with priestly magic. A first this consisted of little more than the ability to heal minor ailments or wounds (or, in the case of worshippers of the evil gods, the ability to cast minor curses and hexes), but in time the priestly magic returned in more strength (many believe this was hastened by the gods' punishing of the Dragons and the rise of the godless Minotaurs).
The return of the gods was mirrored by a renaissance in the cultures of the Freelands. The fear and choas of the Dark Ages receded. Great cities were built in the freelands, and some sense of normality returned to the Dukedoms and to Thenol. Wars between bordering lands continued, but civil wars died out.
By 240AC all of the gods had returned at least some spell-casting abilities to their most loyal worshippers. However, even to this day the powers of the most able of wizards far outstrip the magic of the priests.
 Maximus II and the treachery of the Blackblind (250AC - 257AC)
In 250 AC, Cronnax Maximus II seized power, and would change the face of Southern Hosk forever.
Maximus II, the cruel and devious son of the previous minotaur king, had fought the Barbarian hordes for ten years as a centurion leader before taking the throne. In that time he had seen the Barbarian shamen, once bereft of spells, casting battle magic of ever increasing power. The previous three expeditions to Northern Hosk had led to heavy defeats for the minotaurs, and Maximus was convinced that this was due to the recent re-discovery of three of the swords of Kiri-Jolith (ancient and powerful artifacts from the time of dreams which had kept the Barbarians safe from the Irda, and which were lost in the Cataclysm) uniting the Barbarian tribes against their common foe. Realising that soon the powers of the Barbarian priests would be restored, legend tells that Maximus decided that the Codex Dominus had served its purpose and cast it into the sea (to this day no freelander has ever been sure of its contents). Maximus was no fool, and knew only too well the power that human wizards could wield. Acordingly, he summoned to Kristophan a group of evil human wizards known as the Blackblind, and there a terrible pact was made.
The wizards, far more powerful than any priest, would use their magic to infiltrate the Barbarians, steal the swords of Kiri-Jolith, and make it appear to each tribe that another had committed the robbery. In return, the Minotaurs would invade the realm of the Armach Nesti to the North-West of the Leaguelands and deliver to the Blackblind the secrets of Elven sorcery.
The Blackblind knew that the Minotaurs would keep their side of the bargain due to their strong, if warped, sense of honour, and were shrewd enough to know that betraying Maximus II would be akin to signing their own death warrants. Accordingly, the plan was executed to perfection. After the Blackblind had worked their treachery, the barbarians descended into a civil war, and without the swords of Kiri-Jolith (which were hidden by the Blackblind throughout the vast wastelands of Northern Hosk, concealed by powerful magics), the Minotaur armies inflicted a crushing defeat on them, scattering the tribes to the frozen lands in the far north where they would not trouble the Minotaurs again for seven years. The victorious armies of the League then marched on Armach Nesti. The hopelessly outnumbered elves, totally unprepared for such an assault (the League never seemed to have any interest in conquering Armach Nesti beforehand), unused to warcraft, and still bereft of much of the priestly magic upon which they depended, were put to the sword and completely annihilated. Most were killed, many were made slaves, their forests were burned, and the secrets of the Armach Nesti elves passed to the Blackblind, who were never seen again.
With two huge victories under his belt, and with an ever growing paranoia of the return of priestly magic, Maximus II declared himself emperor of Southern Hosk. Over the next five years, one by one the remaining lands to the north of Bissel fell under Minotaur rule, and their peoples were made slaves. Twice the Minotaur advance was temporarily halted - firstly by the fierce Orcs of the Plains, and later by the armies of the Dutchy of Swinn - but in the end the resistance crumbled and the Minotaurs continued their relentless advance south. By 257 AC, the armies of the League had reached the outskirts of the Dutchy of Bissel, the last remaining Dukedom. This would have been bad enough for the people of Bissel, but evil was also threatening them from the South.....
 The rise of Usa (252 AC to 257 AC)
From the moment that the kingdom of Thenol was established to the south of the Dutchy of Bissel in 20AC, relations between the two were poor. The Bisselians regarded the Thenolians as interlopers who had taken Freeland and claimed it as their own, driving out ‘undesirables’ such as hobgoblins and gnolls in the process, who the Bisselians considered had more right to the land than the newly arrived Thenolians. For their part, the Thenolians considered the people of Bissel to be cowards who had failed to come to their aid during the reign of the Irda. For some two hundred and thirty years, war between the two was as frequent as it was inevitable.
However, by 250AC, King Joachim of Thenol, a half-elf warrior, was growing ever more concerned about the threat of the Minotaurs, and in particular their new emperor Maximus II. Bissel would have to fall before the horned ones reached Thenol, but Maximus' League Army was undefeated since the abandonment of the Codex Dominus and the Bisselian forces were heavily depleted after years of fighting with Thenol. Upon hearing of the fall of the Dutchy of Swinn, Joachim sent word to Bissel that he would be prepared to begin negotiations to cease hostilities. Over the next 12 months a series of meetings took place between the two, and hope was high of a peace treaty. However, the very day that the treaty was to be signed, King Joachim’s entourage was attacked by an army of the undead on the road to Bissel. The King’s religious adviser, Bishop Trandamere - a priest of 'Habbukuk' - turned the undead horde almost single-handedly, but not before the King had been killed.
Trandamere was hailed a hero by the people of Thenol for defeating the undead legion, and he was quick to blame the attack upon “the evil priests of Bissel who worship depraved assassin gods”. All diplomatic links with Bissel were cut with immediate effect.
Joachim left no heir, and in the brief but bloody civil war that followed, Count Mallarchus (backed by Bishop Trandamere), a human warlord from The Chasm, seized power. Just six months later, Trandamere announced the coming of a new god, one that was more powerful than those who had caused the Cataclysm. Trandamere, with Mallarchus, performed a series of “miracles” as proof of the new god’s power, which the Thenolian people all too readily accepted. The name of the new god was Usa, and the Kingdom of Thenol was declared a religious state. Soon, all other religions were banned on pain of death. Word of the new god’s power spread quickly through the Freelands, and thousands flocked to New Aurim claiming to have had “visions”. The ranks of the Thenolian army swelled, which in view of the perceived threat from Bissel and the League was welcomed by the populace.
During the next two years, Trandamere and Malarchus cemented their power. They established a lay priest cult known as the Sons of Usa (commonly known in Bissel as simply “Usa fanatics”) (Scribes note - the term "Usa fanatic" is also commonly used to refer to spellcasting priests of Usa, as well as the lay secret police), who acted as a secret police force, rooting out dissenters who were usually framed for terrible crimes they had not committed and burned at the stake. None were more troublesome for the Sons of Usa than Thenol’s Dwarven population, who had never given up their faith in Reorx. In time, Dwarves were declared as enemies of the state and those that did not escape were executed. During the summer of 254AC outsiders were banned from entering the country - Thenol was a Freeland no more.
In 255AC, Mallarchus declared war on the Freelands to the west, small provinces whom he saw as weak, disorganised, and in any event riddled with cells of his own supporters. The western lands fell in less than a month to the huge Thenolite army. The great port of Bok was allowed to remain a Freetown in order to continue to trade with the outside world, but the Usa worshipping Yuanti (snake men) cult in Bok was given covert rulership of the city, a position which it is rumoured they still enjoy to this day.
 Bissel City falls - 258AC
In the winter of 257AC, the young Baron Rushmont, ruler of Bissel, gathered together his bravest warriors and wizards, and went on a perilous quest to raise an army capable of withstanding the Minotaur attack. He journeyed to the the Steamwall, and there parleyed with both the Dwarves and their enemies the Goblins. The choice he gave them was simple - remain in their mountain realms bickering amongst themselves until the day that the League arrives and slaughters them all in their sleep, or ride out to meet the Minotaurs and stop them once and for all. In reality it was no choice at all. The Marak Kender soon offered their small but fierce warriors to the alliance, as did the remaining Orcs of the Plains. In the second month of 258AC, a legion of 500 Bakali warriors and the two green guardian dragons (having fought their way through Thenol) joined the cause, claiming it was the will of their god Chislev. The Thenolites however, refused to help, claiming that it was Usa's will that the treacherous Bisellians and the heathen Minotaurs annihilate once another. With the arrival of the guardian dragon Silvertongue, Baron Rushmont's army was complete.
48 hours later, and the mother of all battles was unfolding just 3 miles from Bissell City. The minotaurs arrived earlier than expected due to their incredble, tireless marching. The armies of the allies fought magnificently, inflicting huge losses on the armies of the League, but in the end the Minotaur army was far too well organised and fought their way to Bissel City in less than 24 hours.
The allies retreated within the walls of Bissel City, and for three days and three nights held fast against the minotaur onslaught. However, for reasons which have never been clear, the Minotaurs were able to breach the walls on the fourth day and the city soon fell. The allies were routed and the city was burned.
As the victorious, but much depleted, Minotaurs picked over the ruins of Bissel City, word reached them of a Barbarian invasion to the north of the Leaguelands. They decided that with Bissel City sacked and the allies defeated and scattered, they could afford to return north to fend off the Barbarians before returning to enslave the defeated Bisselians.
The Bisselians who escaped the carnage at Bissel city fell back to Waltdorf, which Baron Rushmont promptly declared the new capital. In a rousing speech which became known as the Rushmont Command, the Baron addressed what was left of the non-Bissellian allied armies and declared that when the Minotaurs returned so would return the allies, and that this time the battle would be to the death. The allied armies had each seen the full might of the Minotaurs, and realised that on their own they had no possibility of survival. And whilst they were still reeling from their defeat, they also had immense faith in the Baron, who was rumoured to have killed over 100 Minotaur Centurions at Bissel City. Each ruler vowed that he would heed the Rushmont Command when it came, and that the Freelanders would make a final stand against the tyranny of the League.
 Northern Bissel enslaved - 259-274 AC
The battle of Bissel City had taken an unexpectedly heavy toll on the Minotaur army. Much of the next ten years was spent rebuilding, and warring with the ever-dangerous Barbarians of Northern Hosk. However, the Bisselian lands to the North and West of the ruins of Bissel city were occupied by a smaller returning Minotaur force, and the peoples enslaved. Baron Rushmont, with most of his men dead, could do nothing - the allies would not return save for the final battle against the Minotaurs which all knew must one day come.
 The Heroes of Boremium inflict their first defeat on the Sons of Usa - 270AC
With the Bisselians concentrating their efforts upon repelling the League armies, spies from Thenol were able to penetrate the Dutchy with impunity. In time, they discovered a ruined and overgrown pre-cataclysm shrine to the god Hiteh, in the forests to the north-west of Waltdorf. Long ago, the shrine had been the home of a powerful priest of Hiteh, and now the Sons of Usa made plans to resurrect the evil bishop and establish a permanent base in Bissel. However, their plans were undone by a group of young adventurers from a nearby mining village known as Boremium. More is said of this elsewhere in these texts - for now it is sufficient to note that this incident sparked a personal feud between the adventurers and the Sons of Usa that would ultimately lead to the downfall of Count Mallarchus and Bishop Trandamere.
 The downfall of Mallarchus and Trandamere, and the Thenolian Civil War - 271AC
Upon hearing the news that the plans to raise the Bishop of Hiteh had failed, Trandamere was furious, and dispatched ever more Sons of Usa to inflitrate Bissel and to find out more about the mysterious Vale of the Mage. As a result, rumours reached the ear of Trandamere that the Mage of the Vale had in his possession artefacts of such immense power that those wielding them could command the dragons themselves and conquer all of Taladas. It is rumoured that Trandamere received a vision from Usa himself that these artifacts must be obtained at all costs. Hordes of Usa fanatics were dispatched throughout Bissel to find out more, and most of them were able to pass unhindered due to the hugely weakened state of the Bisselian militia. They infiltrated every town and village, trying to find the secrets that would unlock the Vale of the Mage. However, months passed without success, and Trandamere and Mallachus grew ever more impatient. Finally, they set out on a quest themselves, deep into Bissel, to seize the treasures of the Vale and to possess its secrets.
As befitted their arrogance and conceit, these evil men underestimated the courage of the Bisselians. The Heroes of Boremium, the unlikely group of young adventurers, led by an orphaned low Ogre and and a ranger from the Rainward Isles, had already foiled their intial plans to resurrect an evil priest of Takhisis in a ruined pre-cataclysm temple near the vilage of Boremium, and were not about to let the Sons of Usa take over their Dutchy by stealth. Over the next two years the evil duo and their minions fought the adventurers and their allies on many ocassions, and in the end both Mallarchus and Trandamere were killed - victims of their own greed and lust for power.
“One can only imagine the level of arrogance that made Count Mallarchus and Bishop Trandamere venture into Bissel. True, the Dutchy was in complete disarray after the fall of Bissel City, and, true, Bissel was riddled with Usa operatives and fanatics. However, Trandamere’s decision to seek the legendary Vale of the Mage himself was foolhardy at best. Three times, the Count and his accursed bishop faced Noman, Hank and their heroic allies, and three times they were defeated. Even when Mallarchus was brought back from the dead by Trandamere, it was not long before the heroes of Boremium put him back into the grave for good. In doing so, they dealt a mighty blow to Usa and his malicious plans, and probably saved Bissel from invasion from the Thenolites.” - Talasek Thryadin
With both Mallarchus and Trandamere slain, the backstabbing Usa fanatics fell into disarray, and it was only a matter of time before the disillusioned peoples of Thenol rose up against them. The Thenolian civil was as short as it was bloody, and the Sons of Usa were overthrown. The seven provinces from which Trandamere’s Thenol was created nominally remain united under the Rule of the Heptagon - a warlord from each land (though much of Thenol is completely lawless). These are described in more detail in the "Taladas Today" section below.
 The Vale of the Mage opens - 272AC
On a spring day in 272AC, a young shepherd ran up to the gates of Waltdorf and pleaded to speak to Baron Rushmont. What followed is not clear, save that he was granted his audience. The shepherd claimed that the elvish mountains had "parted overnight", and that a narrow but traverseable pass had opened. The Baron sent a scouting party to investigate, and when they returned they told of an enormous Vale, surrounded by mountains, with a sweeping forest, an elvish settlement, and a huge tower in which lived an un-named human wizard of unimaginable might. They had met with the wizard, who had told them that provided the people of Bissel did him and those that lived within the Vale no harm, then he would reciprocate.
Wild rumours abaout the Vale soon spread throughout Waltdorf. Many saw it as a threat, others as an opportunity. However, every single would-be raider and thief who ventured into the Vale was never seen again, and soon people came to fear the place and decided it was best left well alone. The Vale became known simply as the "Vale of the Mage".
[insert here the story of how PCs came to live there, including the building of their fort, Schallat's chapel, and Krag Ironbeard's ludicrous boat]
 The Phoenix/Wyvern returns to Waltdorf - 273AC
In 273AC, the city of Waltdorf was almost destroyed when a terrible demon was unleashed by renegade Sons of Usa. The creature, variously known as the Phoenix and the Wyvern, had been banished to Ravenloft 100 years previously by the lay paladin Talamar Thyryadin of the temple of St Cuthbert, and now returned to seek its terrible vengeance. The creature started a fire that ravaged much of the city, and attempted to annihilate the temple of St Cuthbert once and for all. However, the brave people of Waltdorf fought magnificently, and finally a group of heroes from the Vale of the Mage banished the creature back to the otherworld, pursued it there, and destroyed it once and for all.
 The Fall of the League - 274AC
In the years following the fall of Bissel, much was done covertly by the wise Baron Rushmont in preparation for the inevitable rematch with the armies of the League. Magic-wiedling spies were dispatched to Northern Bissel, where they were taken as slaves all too readily by the Minotaurs. Information about the Minotaurs plans was systematically leaked out to the Baron, whilst all the time the number of operatives within Kristophan's slave population grew.
In spring 272AC, Maximus II died of a sudden fever and was immediatley replaced by his son Maximus III. Keen to make his mark as Emperor, Maximus III launched and all out attack on the Barbarians, who were once again driven back to the North (Scribe's note: Some say this was a ploy on behalf of the Barbarians, but many others disagree). With the Barbarians defeated, Maximus determined that he would finish what his father had begun, and conquer the Dutchy of Bissel once and for all.
Back in the Vale of the Mage, Schallat received a vision from a demi-god of Chislev to seek an accursed artefact from the Time of Dreams known as The Ring of Hideous Misfortune. With the rest of the Heroes of the Vale on missions elsewhere, Schallat gathered together a band of Bakali adventurers and travelled to the city of Bok to retrieve the artifact from the depraved Yuan-ti. Their mission was a success, and moreover they were able to trick the Minotaur emperor into wearing it. Meanwhile, in Northern Hosk, The Swords of Kiri Jolith - the “five that shall be one” - were reunited with their Barbarian owners, again thanks to a brave band of Bisselians. The defeated Barbarians regrouped, forming a united army for the first occasion since the time of the Blackblind.
And so it came to pass that the Minotaurs launched their second, all-out attack on Bissel, this time seeking to capture Waltdorf and finish the job. Baron Rushmont issued Rushmont's Command, which all heeded, and thus raised an army to stop them. Rushmont's army was unexpectedly joined by the Mage of the Vale and a contingent of Vale Elves.
Despite their superior numbers, the Minotaurs suffered a series of catastrophes on the battlefield, and hadn't bargained with the immense battle magic of the Mage of the Vale. Meanwhile the spies in Kristophan unleashed a slave revolt, and the barbarians of Northern Hosk invaded the Leaguelands. The League’s armies, caught in a pincer movement, were put to the sword, and Bissel was saved. The victorious armies marched on Kristophan and proceeded to sack it, and Maximus III was slain. Soon after, the shattered and leaderless armies of the League collapsed completely due to infighting, and the fall of the greatest civilisation since the Irda soon followed.
 The Aftermath of the Fall of the League 274AC to 277AC
In the years following the Fall of the League, the once conquered lands to the north of Bissel descended into chaos once more. Little is now known of these lands, save that the Orcs of the Plains are once again at large across all areas not held by Minotaur warlords.
For Bissel, the joy of defeating the Minotaurs was short-lived. Bissel was faced with widespread poverty, and with most of the army dead on the battlefields lawlessness took hold in many parts of the Dutchy. More and more people began to migrate to the perceived safety of Waltdorf, causing overcrowding and disease.
 The return of the Dragons - 278AC
On a cold, Solais-light night in winter 278AC, the guardian dragon Splatterblood appeared in the skies over the Vale of the Mage. The Mage, those of the Heroes of Boremium present in their fort, and the Vale Elf warriors, gathered outside the mages tower and watched the immense creature circle ever closer towards them. Then, without warning, a huge contingent of Draconians materialised from thin air, and charged to the attack. Splatterblood and the Mage of the Vale engaged in an immense contest of battle magic. Fortuitously, more Heroes of Vale appeared to join the fight, having just returned to the Vale through the Ravenloft portal in the Korred forest. A great battle ensued, and Splatterblood fled upon being hit by an immense lightning bolt hurled by the Mage. However, the injuries delivered to the Mage by the Great Wyrm were terrible, and he died shortly afterwards - but not before using his dying words to set the Heroes of the Vale their most difficult challenge to date.
The Mage told the Heroes that the years of penance were over - the dragons were to be allowed to return to Taladas. The Mage was in possession of the Horn of Calling - a powerful artifact entrusted to him by the Guardian Dragons, who had each given an oath that at the time of the gods' choosing, they would take the Mage to the far side of Taladas, to the Dragons Graveyard. There, the horn would be sounded three times, and the spell of banishment would be broken. However, Splatterblood had secretly been breeding an army of Draconians using Takhisisian magic, and by attacking the Mage had broken the oath of guardianship. Splatterblood planned to sound the horn only once, thereby allowing only the evil dragons to return. With his dying words, the Mage of the Vale charged the Heroes with finding the Dragonlances, weapons of immense magic created in the Time of Dreams, taking these and the Horn of Calling to the Dragons' Graveyard, and there summoning the Dragons of all colours.
So began the Dragonquest - a mission that would see the Heroes of the Vale cross the entire continent of Taladas in their search........
 TALADAS TODAY - 279AC
 Southern Hosk - land of danger
 The Northlands - the League in ruins
Following the collapse of the League of Minotaurs, much of the Northlands are completely lawless. Various Minotaur warlords control small pockets of land around the cities of the League and the old Dutchy of Swinn that still stand, but much of the area is home to foul creatures such as hobgoblins, gnolls, and bugbears, who have filled the void left by the horned ones. Much of the Northlands, including the sacked city of Bissel and what is left of Armach Nesti, is said to be haunted and overrun with the undead.
 The Mid-lands - Bissel standing tall
Despite the strife of the Cataclysm, and the terrible wars with the League and with Thenol, much of the Dutchy of Bissel is still Freeland. Waltdorf now stands as its capital, under the rulership of the ageing war hero Baron Rushmont and the Council of Twelve, in the shadow of the Vale of the Mage. Much more is said about Bissel and Waltdorf below.
 The Eastward lands - The Steamwall
The huge range of mountains known as the Steamwall, which separates Southern Hosk from the fires of Hithekel, is home to a bewildering range of peoples. There are the Steamwall Dwarves, who dwell in vast underground cities and who mine the rich veins of mineral deposits located deep within the earth. In the foothills may be found the Steamwall Goblins, whose warlike tribes maintain an uneasy peace with the Dwarves by virtue of a network of bartering points, overseen by the Steamwall Halflings. To the south of the Steamwall, the taciturn Marak Kender make their home, shunning contact with outsiders unless absolutely necessary. And most of the remaining Orcs of the Plains wander nomadically in these parts, seeing all they come across as fair game for the taking.
 The Westward lands - More mysterious than ever
Little is known about the western lands of Southern Hosk. The land is mostly unsuited to civilised habitation due to poor soils and little rainfall, and as a result the vast majority of the land is lawless. Pockets of human civilisation to exist, under the protection of warlords, though many renegades from Mallarchus' regieme in Thenol fled here after his downfall, and Bissel generally regards these outposts as hostile. The western lands are home to all manner of "lesser" races, such as low ogres, gnolls, and even Traag Draconians, as well as the forest-hating Wild Elves. They are a place where black-robed wizards may still practice their foul magic without interference, and where it is said that dragons make their homes.
Of all the legends and rumours that persist about the Western Lands, one is spoken of ever more. Hidden within the Kreshhite mountain range there is an ancient gateway which leads to a vast labyrinthine complex below. No-one knows who built these ancient catacombs, which are thought to date back to before the time of the Irda. The underground realm is known simply as Deepmountain. Many have tried to find Deepmountain and failed, and many more say that it is simply a myth. But Schallat, NoMan and Hank claim to have visited there, and witnessed great evil. According to them the catacombs seem to have no end, and are home to a vast army of Kobolds. As if to prove a point, they even returned with a Kobold ally called Klob, whom they freed from a Koboldish jail. Depressingly, the heroes also claim that the catacombs were home to a race of evil ebony-skinned Elves, rogue Usa fanatics, lycanthropes, and all manner of other denizens of darkness. However, they also spoke of great treaures, and themselves returned with many powerful magical items and much gold.
|"Schallat, No-Man and Hank claim to have defeated a demon of Takhisis within the depths of Deepmountain, thus saving the world from passing into eternal darkness. Given the heroism these brave souls have shown since coming to Waltdorf, who am I to doubt them?"|
 Bok - Cityport of serpents
When the armies of Mallarchus overran the Western Lands, there was one city that they spared. Bok, the ancient cityport, remains the main trade link between Taladas and Ansalon, and is home to every race of creature imaginable. The city is ruled by the Cult of the Snake, who reside within a spired temple of purest white, in the middle of the city. The cult is extremely secretive, and forbid any to speak of it within the city walls. But it is said that the high priests of the cult are Yuan-ti, an ancient race of snake-men that some claim are not of this earth.
 The Southlands - Thenol in strife once again
Since the fall of Mallarchus, Thenol is nominally united under the rule of the Heptagon, but in truth it is now more like seven independent states. A treaty of peace has been entered into between Bissel and Thenol, but in pratice it is worth little and tensions remain high. It is unlikely that the Bisselians will ever forgive Thenol for the atrocities perpetrated by Count Mallarchus and for leaving them to face the League armies alone. Likewise, even lawful Thenolites still blame Bissel for failing to come to their aid when they were slaves of the Irda. Each state is ruled by a Lord of the Heptagon.
 Blackwater Glade - The Bakali on the brink
 The Rainwards Isles - Hank’s homeland
Little is known about the mysterious tropical lands that Hank originates from. Legends persist about bizarre rituals carried out by the natives, but all Hank has ever said on the subject is that his people live in fear of a demented tribe of mutant hobgoblins. Indeed, on the rare occasions that Hank has fought a hobgobin in battle, he has done so with an uncharacteristic fury and bloodlust.
 Northen Hosk
Following the fall of the League of Minotaurs, the Barbarians of Northern Hosk now live in relative peace. Many of the returned Ortholx dragons, especially the white, black and copper dragons, have made their homes in the extreme north of Northern Hosk away from prying eyes.
 The Tower of Flame
The irrepressible Gnomoi continue to devise ever more brilliant and ever more useless inventions, whilst all around them fire elementals dance across the burning sea. The Gnomoi greatly enjoyed their visit from the heroes of the Dragonquest (especially Schallat, whom they found truly fascinating), and spend alot of time wondering why more people don't come to visit them.
 Old Aurim
Still very little is known of Old Aurim, and only a man with nothing left to live for would consider venturing to those poisoned and lava-strewn lands of ash and dust. Who knows what fell creatures now dwell in the buried cities and the lava tubes?
 Religion and magic in Southern Hosk
After the cataclysm, the gods turned their backs upon mortals, and would not hear their prayers. The ability of priests to cast spells was wiped out overnight. Paladins also lost their curing abilities, and many temples were destroyed by localised earthquakes. In the terror and confusion that followed, some took to worshipping false idols, whilst many others turned away from the gods, angered that they had been deserted through no fault of their own. During this time, there was a great increase in interest in wizardry, as the populace sought alternative ways of casting magic.
However, some devout souls remained loyal to their gods through this period of strife. In time the gods began to speak to those still loyal, at first in whispers, but gradually, as the gods' anger subsided, so limited spellcasting abilities returned to those most devout.
 THE HEROES OF THE VALE
The Heroes of the Vale, also referred to by the many Bards who sing of them as the Heroes of the Dragonquest, the Heroes of Boremium, and (most often) the Heroes of Waltdorf, are a group of warriors, wizards, rogues and priests, all asscociated with Bissel's recent history. The history of the group can be traced back to two incidents - the defeat of the Sons of Usa in Boremium, and the arrival in Bissel of Schallat and Stubby Bobblenob. These two groups of young adventurers came to Waltdorf seeking adventure and opportunity, and certainly found both. They also found others willing to join in their exploits, and to take the place of fallen comrades. The Heroes have fought the Sons of Usa, saved Waltdorf from the wrath of the demonic Phoenix/Wyvern, won the trust and respect of the Mage of the Vale, ventured into the foul realm of Ravenloft on more than one occasion, braved the depths of Deepmountain, and perhaps most impressively of all, completed the Dragonquest and saved all of Taladas from being overrun with evil dragons. Each and every one of the Heroes has a place in the folklore of Bissel and, after Baron Rushmont, it is to them that the people of Waltdorf now look to for courage in times of peril.
The current adventuring party consists of founder members Hank, Ranger of the Rainward Isles and wielder of Murylind's Spoon, the low ogre NoMan Kente, mightiest warrior in all of Southern Hosk whom even the Fire Giants fear, and the terrifying lizard man priest of Chislev, Schallat of Blackwater Glade. They are joined by the fearless and noble Airrider brothers, powerful magic users who are now themselves Mages of the Vale, and war hero Talasek Thryadin, paladin of St Cuthbert of the Cudgel. The party has recently returned from Ravenloft, having prevented the Vale itself from vanishing out of existence.
More can be read about the heroes in other chapters of this tome.
 Waltdorf - The reluctant beacon of hope
Waltdorf never wanted to be special. Waltdorf never wanted to be important. Waltdorf certainly never wanted to be the only thing standing between the Minotaur League and their complete domination of Southern Hosk. Situated in the dead centre of Bissel, on the banks of the river Swinnley, Waltdorf was and is a Freetown, where creatures of all races may come and go as they please, provided they follow the rules of the city. Until the fall of Bissel City, the most exciting thing to have happened in Waltdorf was when an extra-dimensional demon called the Phoenix appeared and destroyed much of the city. The creature and its foul servants was defeated by Talamar Thryadin, a devout follower of St Cuthbert of the Cudgel (a pre Cataclysm hero and a martyr of Paladine), and many people flocked to his church. Even today, the priests of St Cuthbert are seen by many as the true guardians of the city, and so it was fitting that a few years ago when the Phoenix returned she was defeated by Talasek Thryadin, Talamar’s grandson, aided in no small part by the Heroes of the Vale
Waltdorf today has many problems. Despite its size, it is severely overcrowded following the destruction of Bissel City, and ironically the defeat of the Minotaurs has in some ways made the northern villages of Bissel more dangerous places to live, so the population of Waltdorf continues to grow. Rumours still persist that strange, monkey-like creatures are regularly seen on and around the river, though in all their years in Waltdorf neither the adventurers nor their allies have ever seen one first hand. And being a Freetown, those that would do evil are just as able to come and go as they please as those who would do good.
Waltdorf is ruled by the Council of Twelve. Despite being called a Dutchy, there has not been a Duke of Bissel since before the Cataclysm. The council of twelve (actually thirteen at the moment!) are:
• Baron Junn Rushmont (human). Hero of the Minotaur Wars, mightiest human warrior in all Southern Hosk. Six foot four inches of muscle, with flowing brown hair, a beard that a dwarf would be proud of, and piercing blue eyes, the Baron is as intimidating as he is charismatic. The Baron is adored by the people of Waltdorf, who look to him for courage in dark times. Rushmont has made a solemn oath that whilst he draws breath, Bissell will remain a Freeland. Described by Talasek Thryadin as “the bravest man I ever met”.
• Vice-Baron Gorge (dwarf) - Hero of the Minotaur Wars. Known to those in the Bissellian army as Gorge the Beheader, it is believed that over three hundred Minotaurs have falled foul of his vorpal axe. Described by The Trident as “a foul dwarf who must not be allowed to live”.
• Alec Burbarr (nicknamed ol’ Fireball) - Head of the White Magician’s Guild and hero of the Minotaur Wars. Described by Pez Airrider as “scary”. Ol' Fireball constantly smells of gunpowder.
• Jerek Kane (human) - Head of the Red Magician’s Guild. Studious and somewhat dour, Jerek Kane is normally a man of very few words. However, should any mage make the mistake of mentioning potions to Councillor Kane, they must endure hours (even days!) of extremely dull and very one-way conversation on the subject. Described by Hawk Airrider as “the most boring man I have ever met”. The descovery of what appears to be a black wizards teleportation device in a secret chamber of the red wizards guild has recently cast the shadow of suspicion over Kane. His current wear abouts are unknown.
• Norris Glenguarder (hobbit)- Head of the Merchant’s Guild. Described by Halvar, landlord of the Inn of the Whistling Fish, as “a liar, a thief, and a charlatan”.
• Talasek Thryadin (human) - Head of the Temple of St Cuthbert. Described by Smith as “my boss”.
• Rarn Lupin (humanish - ¼ orc) - Head of the Bissel army. Described by Noman as “a little ‘un who can drink almost as much as me!”
• Peregrine Airrider and Hawk Airrider - Mages of the Vale (one vote between them). Described by Hank as “dem crazy witchlocks”.
• Nagash F’Pellien (elf) - Exiled prince of Armach Nesti. Described by the late Mage of the Vale as “a person of great sadness, who has witnessed tragedy too much for any mortal to bear”.
• Haroll Hake-Hulmsey (human) - Treasurer and chief of commerce. Described by Talasek Thryadin as “a miser, but a good miser”.
• Count Davidian Moss (human) - A distant relative of the last Duke of Bissel, guardian of the outlying villages. Described by Mr and Mrs Kente as “a very nice man”. Firkin Greenberry is convinced that Count Moss is a vampire.
The dread demon known variously as the Phoenix or the Wyvern, returned to terrorise Waltdorf in AC273 (see above). Whilst the creature was ultimately defeated, it caused widescale damage to the city which is still in the process of being repaired. The fear and paranoia associated with those terrible days has only just begun to subside.
 The Inn of the Whistling Fish
On the corner of Fishmarket Street stands the oldest tavern Waltdorf, the Inn of the Whilstling Fish. The front door stands some 12 feet high, and inside the bar the tables and chairs are likewise monstrously oversized. The reason for these bizarre geometries becomes apparent upon meeting the landlord, Halvar. Halvar is a Hill Giant, who at over eleven feet tall and 600 pounds plus very rarely gets any trouble from his customers. The ale is the strongest available, and the tavern is a regular haunt for all manner of non-human patrons. Two of the most regular drinkers are Noman the low Ogre (who has his own tankard - actually a large metal bucket - hanging up behind the bar), and the lizard man Schallat, who sees the Inn as an ideal venue to preach the word of Chislev. Many of the Heroes' adventures have begun in the Inn of the Whistling Fish.
Scribe's note: No-Man, Smith and Hank recently learned that Halvar seems to have some sort of personal vendetta against Festus, the goblin landlord of the Inn of the Cracked Cup
 The Vale of the Mage
The Mage's Tower is now in the possession of the Brothers Airrider. The Vale Elves and other denizens of the Vale seem to have accepted the Airriders as the new Mages of the Vale. Slowly but surely, these noble wizards are unlocking the mystical secrets of the tower. With recent events securing the existence of the Vale in Taladas (see the forthcoming Ravenloft section), their magicks can only grow more powerful.
 Blackwater Glade
South of Thenol, at the edge of the known world, lies the seemingly unending swampland known as Blackwater Glade. Since long before the Cataclysm, this vast realm has been home to huge numbers of what Freelanders lazily call the Lizard Men. This ancient race consider themselves to be the direct descendents of Chislev, and believe Blackwater Glade to be the manifestation of Chislev on the material plane.
The Lizard Men are in fact two genetically distinct races, who have been locked in a bitter bloodfeud since time began. There are the Jarak Sinn - mighty warriors of immense strength and fury, but of limited intellect; and there are the Bakali - smaller than the Jarak Sinn but far cleverer and more cunning. Both tribes are ruled by their priests, who in turn answer to their Priest King.
Until the Cataclysm, neither race was able to get much of an upper hand. However, when the priests found that Chislev no longer heard their prayers or granted them magic, it was the Jarak Sinn who benefited. The Bakali had always relied on their superior magical abilities and large number of priests to protect them both from the Jarak Sinn and the many diseases that periodically sweep Blackwater Glade. Without their spells, the Bakali suffered a huge series of heavy defeats in battles with the Jarak Sinn. Disease and falling fertility also took its toll on their numbers.
The Bakali never lost faith in Chislev - quite the opposite: they blamed the Jarak Sinn for their loss of spells, but by the time that priestly magic returned, the Bakali numbered less than the thousand and had lost most of their territory to the Jarak Sinn. Further battles followed, and more blood was shed……[to be concluded]
 Boremium - Outpost of Northern Bissel
The northern lands of Bissel are home to several mining communities, as the hills are rich in iron ore. Of most note is the small town of Boremium, which lies little more than a day's travel from the ruins of Bissel City. When the Minotaurs overran northern Bissel, Boremium effectively lay less than a mile south of the notional border between free Bissel and the conquered lands.
The population of Boremium mainly humans and dwarves are hardy souls well versed in both mining and fighting. The town is a frequent target for Orc raiding parties, though these are usually repelled successfully. The town Steward, Alvin Hur, keeps order amongst the populace. Arnaulf, the ageing priest of Myslaxa the Brown, tends to the spiritual needs of the town.
Boremium was home to Noman the low ogre, who is a hero to the people of the town. Indeed, in the town's only inn, the Inn of the Iron Stove, one of Noman's drinking buckets hangs permanently on the wall, with his name engraved upon its side.