Sterich

Proper Name: March of Sterich
Ruler: Her Magnitude, Resbin Dren Emondav, Marchioness
of Sterich, Stewardess of the Great Western
Gate (LN female human Sor13)
Government: Feudal monarchy owing fealty to
Keoland; ruling family has been weakened, and
noble families are suffering from infighting and confusion
over post-war claims of nobility, precedence,
and land ownership
Capital: Istivin
Major Towns: Istivin (pop. 12,100)
Provinces: Seven counties, each with three to fifteen
low baronies (conflicting baronial claims make final
number per county uncertain in many areas)
Resources: Silver, electrum, gold, gems (II-III)
Coinage: [Keoland standard) griffon (pp), lion (gp),
eagle (ep), hawk (sp), sparrow (cp)
Population: 144.000-Human 79% (OFS), Dwarf 8%
(mountain), Halfling 6%, Gnome 3%, Elf 2%, Half-elf
1%, Half-orc 1%
Languages: Common, Flan, Dwarven, Keolandish,
Halfling
Alignments: LG, NG, LN*
Religions: Heironeous, Pelor, Ehlonna, Berei, Fharlanghn,
Ulaa, Fortubo, Zilchus, Allitur, Beory, Mayaheine,
dwarf pantheon
Allies: Keoland, Gran March, Ulek states, Bissel,
Yeomanry
Enemies: Nonhumans and giants of the Crystalmists,
Iuz, Pomarj

Overview: Sterich is a land rescued from nonhuman
occupation only to find itself embroiled in struggles
between returning nobles. The boundaries of the
reclaimed territory generally extend from the western
banks of the Javan River to the east, through the
lowlands of the Stark Mounds, down to the Davish
River and around, in the south, to the Jotens (where
fighting continues). The mountain lake, the source
of the Javan River, remains a hive of evil activity, and
the villages and mines nearby are completely abandoned.
The distant western Crystalmists were once the
home of several competing clans of mountain
dwarves. When the nonhumans invaded in 584 CY,
many clans withdrew into their strongholds, while
others fled the hills to warn their human allies. Since
the nation has been reclaimed, five different clan
holds have failed to send representatives to the court
in Istivin. Most Sterish fear the worst, though hardy
exiled dwarven lords (often at odds with each other)
are organizing several bands of adventurers for reclamation
missions.
Sterich claims no notable woodlands within its
borders, and has had to conduct considerable trade
with Keoland and Gran March for lumber to rebuild
fallen towns and villages. The most heavily
defended portions of the reclaimed lands are perhaps
the passes of the Stark Mounds, which offer a
relatively safe route of passage for logging missions
to the Oytwood.
The military of Sterich, though blooded badly in
the reclamation campaigns, has emerged as a well
trained force with a handful of canny generals experienced
in battling (and beating) nonhumans. A strong
contingent of 1,500 halberdiers forms the heart of
this force, which is supplemented by light infantry
and renowned light cavalry. Unfortunately, the military's
division of power declares that most units are
under the control of a lord. Since the lords are now
squabbling among themselves for regained land, soldiers
once united against a common enemy have
turned upon each other.
History: Settled in as a client state of Keoland by relatives
of the Grand Duke of Geoff, Sterich was
founded as an earldom with the primary purpose of
creating a stable political power with easy access to
the mines of the surrounding hills and mountains.
For centuries, the nation's nobles grew rich from
trade that in turn attracted more nobles (often with
paid-for, meaningless titles). The adventurer Fenwick
Astakane of Skipperton noted, in his Travels
(375 CY), that Sterich was "a hive of low nobility,
with titled aristocrats as common as pigs, such that
an ordinary serf gains political clout because his labor
is in high demand." True, serfs endured as miserable
a life in Sterich as in anywhere in the Flanaess, but
the general tone and the underlying truth of the
matter dictated Sterich's reputation for generations.
In recent years, Sterich had grown distant from
the Keoish crown, and had been allowed, in most
cases, to care for its own affairs. King Skotti had for
years treated the earl of Sterich, the proud Querchard,
more as a favored relative than a vassal. The
two often spent holidays in each others' capitals,
visits celebrated with much more vigor in Istivin
than in Niole Dra.
Perhaps because king and earl shared such strong
bonds of friendship, it came as a surprise to most
Sterish folk in 584 when, with ranger reports of
looming nonhuman activity in the western mountains,
King Skotti failed to send any troops to
Sterich's defense. In truth, the king had long
despaired over Sterich's virtual independence (a
relic from the reigns of his predecessors), and
implored his friend to swear fealty to Keoland, conceding
much of the mine take to Niole Dra. Querchard
refused.
The earldom paid in blood. Within a score of
weeks, uncounted legions of nonhumans, seemingly
led by powerful giants, surged from mountain
strongholds, quickly overwhelming Sterich's petty
baronies. Istivin was abandoned within days of the
first attacks. Most other towns were put to the torch;
stragglers were butchered and cooked on flames
fueled by whole villages and towns.
Many Sterish followed their earl to Keoland.
Others, angered by the lack of Keoish action (but
oblivious to Skotti's opportunistic offer) fled to the
Duchy of Ulek or Gran March. In the latter, many
joined the nascent Knights of Dispatch and planned
the recapture of their lands. Regardless of where the
Sterish fled, most believed the occupation to be but a
brief era in the history of their great nation.
In early 585 CY, King Skotti (perhaps realizing the
terrible cost of his opportunism) promoted the
exiled Querchard to the rank of marquis. Reasoning
that a semi-independent subject state added more
coin to the treasury than a wasteland controlled by
ogres and gnolls, the king of Keoland promised rich
rewards for each recaptured barony, and mustered
troops in the city of Flen, intent to recapture lost
lands. These soldiers were joined by mercenaries
and knights, all of whom hungered for a decisive victory
in a decade that had provided so many grim
defeats.
The first gains came in late 585 CY, when the
Keoish force freed the town of Fitela from a fierce
enclave of orcs and their kin. Much to the surprise
of those who had fought inconclusive battles in
Geoff, the armies discovered few giants in Sterich.
Interrogations revealed, however, that the occupying
forces were loosely aligned under the banner of
one King Galmoor, reputedly a powerful giant in residence
in Istivin. As the armies marched west to the
capital, past depressing smudges of ash and ruin that
had once been villages, all prepared themselves for
the worst.
When finally the army gained Istivin, in Readying
586 CY, no trace remained of King Galmoor, or
indeed of any destruction after the initial raids of
584. In striking contrast to all other liberated towns,
which had been destroyed, most buildings in Istivin
remained in perfect repair.
Patchwall 587 CY, saw the liberation of all the
cities of the heartlands, providing the army with a
stable base from which to mount village-by-village
attacks upon the nonhuman holdings to the west. By
Coldeven 588, the whole of civilized Sterich had
been reclaimed.
Still, something was not right in Istivin. Though
most citizens noticed few differences, the city's
buildings seemed to cast longer shadows than
before the war. Men in taverns seemed more likely
to raise a fist in anger. A rash of mysterious fires
consumed the homes of several important clerics.
Iconic statuary on the walls of the temple of Pelor
broke away, crushing children at play in the temple
yards. More than a few speculated in private that it
seemed that the taint of war had brought a touch of
the Abyss to Istivin.
Nights now find the streets of Istivin nearly
empty, even of city guards. Those brave souls who
dare the darkness do so in great haste, running from
place to place with weapons drawn. Many have disappeared
in the city at night. The most famous victim is
Querchard, marquis of Sterich.
The march is now controlled by Marchioness
Resbin Dren Emondav, a dark-skinned, large-framed
woman who took her husband's role upon his disappearance
in 590 CY. The marchioness is reclusive,
emerging from Krelont Keep only to announce new
laws intended to shield the citizenry from the chaos
outside the city walls and protect themselves from
each other.
Beyond Istivin, supernatural terrors are few. Mundane
problems exist in abundance. Though King
Skotti's promise of wealth for each freed barony
enticed many minor nobles to take up arms against
Sterich's oppressors, it also quelled a dangerous greed
in the populace. This has resulted in several legal
(and sometimes physical) battles with multiple
claimants to the same property. As the marchioness
rightly supposes and Skotti fears, many of the contesting
nobles are not nobles at all, but opportunistic
con artists hoping to carve land and a rich reward
from the misfortunes of a largely deceased aristocracy.
In some cases, evil men have harbored designs
upon still-living nobles; assassination is now relatively
common throughout the countryside. While
for a brief period in 588 CY it looked as though
Sterich had rebounded from invasion, the country
remains threatened by its internal disorder.
Conflicts and Intrigues: Five desiccated bodies of
ebon-skinned elves were discovered in the heart of
Istivin. The bodies were mutilated and wore the
robes of certain city officials, who were later found
to be missing. A powerful being calling himself the
Azure Prince has appeared in the south, uniting several
clans of goblinoids near the headwaters of the
Davish River. A noted drunkard tells of being
imprisoned in Krelont Keep, where he saw a lunatic
held in a cell furnished with the trappings of nobility;
the madman strongly resembled the missing
Marquis Querchard.

Kingdoms of Flanaess