Part Four of THE FALL OF GEOFF as told by Rhys of the Ash to Morwenna the Fair
Edited by Thomas Kelly
Some saviors lost their zeal and showed a tyrant’s face beneath a guise of friend – CY 587-588
The rangers of Gyruff and the surviving Longbowmen of Gyruff maintained a fierce border war on the edge of the giant-occupied lands. They made no headway, but their vigilance prevented the giants from raiding deeply into the liberated lands. Little thanks did they receive from the March.
At Richfest, the Marshal of the Gran March forces in Hochoch declared the city and its surrounding lands a “protectorate” until Gyruff could be restored. The declaration changed little in actual governance. March soldiers and the Knights of the Dispatch had governed the town through martial law since the liberation, but the nobles of Gyruff in Hochoch decried this turn of events, as they had no say in the new government. They sent angry letters sent to Withington and the Court of Gyruff in Exile.
In the spring of CY 588, the Marshal of the Gran March ordered the construction of wooden forts along the border of the liberated lands. The Gyri saw it as Gran March entrenching its position rather than working to free Gyruff. The Marshal used soldiers to suppress riots among the residents of Lean-to Town and Hutville outside of Hochoch.
The Marchers managed to upset the elves too when they began logging the Dim Forest and the Oytwood for the construction of their border forts and roads. The grey elves of the Oytwood sent a terse message to the Marshal. They warned the Marshal that they had a long memory. They remembered the Marshal’s ancestors. If the Marshal did not put a stop to the timbering, they would stop it for him. Incensed, the Marshal called their bluff. It was not a bluff at all. The grey elves closed their borders and laid deadly traps for the woodcutters. If the traps did not kill the trespassers, the elves themselves hunted and killed anyone they considered invaders.
But others pressed on and found that the allies can be found where least expected – CY 588
In the month of Planting, the Knights of the Dispatch entered the Stark Mounds. They found a strong and organized gnome resistance which had literally gone underground. Delighted at the Knights’ presence, the gnomes boiled up from the ground and attacked the giants and their allies with a ferocity seldom seen in the Glitter Folk. The Knights and gnomes made short work of the giants and had pushed them out of the Stark Mounds by the end of summer when the exhausted Dispatchers fell back to Hochoch to rest and recuperate.
The druids of Beory, Obad-hai, and Ehlonna re-established their groves and shrines in and around Hochoch. The invading giants had damaged and destroyed sacred groves and knocked down standing stones. The druids set to the task and restored their sanctuaries, including the ring of standing stones known as Beory’s Teeth.
Foreign affairs were murky waters for our weakened land – CY 588-589
For the first time since the fall of Gorna, Lady Blackblade attended to the Grand Duke at his Court in Exile in Shilobeth. Through the summer and autumn she was so often in Owen’s presence that tongues began to wag of a romantic link. These same tongues noted that Chancellor Withington’s influence waned as Blackblade’s grew.
Although it faltered several times, the campaign to reclaim Sterich by the Knights of the Watch concluded successfully. They liberated Istivin and pushed the last giants back into the mountains.
The continued silence from the dwarves raised concern among many in the Court of Gyruff in Exile. It had been six long years, and we had not even received word if the clans had chosen a new Thane.
In the middle of Fireseek CY 589, Commandant Vrianian appointed Karl Neumann as provisional governor to oversee Hochoch and the liberated lands of Gyruff. Vrianian assured Owen that the measure was temporary, and the governor’s mission was to rebuild enough for the Grand Duke to reassume control.
The alliance of the Knights of the Watch, the Kingdom of Keoland, and the original lords of the Sterich started to unravel as human control of the earldom solidified. The three groups fought among themselves. Mercenaries wanted to be paid; minor nobles of Keoland and officers of the Watch wanted land, and the original lords of Sterich wished to return everything to the way it was.
The tyrant’s iron-grip tightened on our stricken people – CY 589
Shortly after arriving in Hochoch in Coldeven, Govenor Neumann declared that March law would be official within the protectorate; the laws of Gyruff would be deemed “advisory.” Gyruff law is built on customs and traditions, while Marcher law is codified and is long and dense. Furthermore, he began to appoint Marchers to key posts as judges, tax collectors, administrators, as well as awarding them key holdings, like mills, mines, and tracts of fertile land.
The Marcher partiality made the Gyri in Hochoch restless, and small riots broke out. The nobles of Gyruff made no secret of their discontent, for the right of Gyric nobles to dispense justice was time-honored. Together, they wrote a petition to the Commandant asking for a Gyri to be appointed governor, as well as asking Duke Owen to intervene.
Duke Owen submitted the request, but the Commandant Vrianian denied him. The Commandant stated that the liberation of Gyruff would begin soon, and he needed an efficient administration to plan the campaign. Having two different command staffs could lead to disaster. Duke Owen seemed to accept this answer. Lady Blackblade did not. She spoke out openly against the Commandant. In a rage of uncontrolled temper, she compared the Gran March to a carrion bird finishing off what the giants had started. While these words were not spoken to the Commandant’s face, many courtiers over-heard her remarks.
The foolishness of enforcing Marcher law became apparent when Governor Neumann started arresting dissidents in Flocktime for violating various March laws of which the Gyri were completely ignorant. Another set of riots ensued. Again, the Marcher military quelled the rioters. The Knights of the Dispatch tried to speak on behalf of the refugees, but Neumann insisted he must keep the peace by whatever means necessary.
Who struggled valiantly against the foreign oppression – CY 589
That Wealsun, the Rangers of Gyruff began scouting missions into the giant-controlled portions of Gyruff. Very few forays had been made since the Knights of the Dispatch had freed Hochoch and driven the giants across the Javan River. The rangers undertook the new reconnaissance missions at Lady Blackblade’s urging.
Governor Neumann announced that as part of the Gran March, all able-bodied males must enlist in the Marcher military. Military service in the Gran March army carries with it an oath of loyalty to the Commandant and to the Gran March. The Gyric nobles in Hochoch protested this action in person. Neumann accused them of sedition. He demanded that the nobles swear fealty to the Commandant and the Gran March. Lea and the rest refused. Lea stated he had already sworn one oath to Grand Duke Owen and that a second one would be one too many. Why did Neumann allow Lea and the others to leave that chamber alive that day? I believe the governor feared to use force against someone who had fought so long against the giants. He certainly didn’t want to provoke a general rebellion by imprisoning the Gyric nobles.
At about the same time, an unknown assailant attempted to assassinate Lady Blackblade at the Commandant’s court in Shiboleth. She miraculously survived the encounter, even though she refused to fight the killer, who disappeared into the night when the guards arrived. The identity of the party responsible for hiring the assassin was never uncovered.
Alarmed at the growing strength of the Gran March in Hochoch and Neumann’s personal hostility toward him, Lea left the city and began traveling between the small Gyric villages and the elven villages in the Dim Forest. Prevented by age and old wounds from joining the daily fight against the giants, Lea spent his days bringing hope and encouragement to the Gyri.
As the Gran March moved more troops into Hochoch to enforce the draft, swelling their forces to 5,000, the Gyri began leaving the town and moving to isolated villages, rebuilding steadings and crofts, similar to what they lived in before the invasion. Others moved north into the Dim Forest and dwelt there among the elves. The Gyri who remained in Hochoch noticed that the word “provisional” had been dropped from the governor’s title.
And responded with stubborn defiance and drawn blades – CY 589-590
With little warning, Grand Duke Owen thanked Commandant Vrianian for his hospitality and announced that the Court of Gyruff in Exile would be moving to Niole Dra in Keoland before the end of the week. Owen stated that six years was too long to impose on a host and that he would now burden King Skotti with his presence for a time. Diplomats read much into this departure, but Vrianian took no action to stop Owen.
With the spring of CY 590, a rumor arrived. Whispered words spread through Hochoch that the Gran March was going to annex the town and make it a barony. An ugly mood simmered among the natives and the Gyruff refugees. The months slipped away and Governor Neumann and the Gran March forces made no attempt to begin the promised campaign against the giants.
The tension snapped in Flocktime when word arrived that Vrianian had ordered a road built through the marshes from Buxton’s Crossing to Hochoch. The Gyri in Hochoch rose in revolt. The unrest spread through Hutville and Lean-to Town. The stubborn streak in the Gyri asserted itself in the outlying villages too, and they expelled their Marcher overlords and soldiers. Neumann suppressed the revolt inside of Hochoch, but the Knights of the Dispatch prevented punitive expeditions against the remote villages by intervening and blocking the Marcher regiments passage on the roads.
Peacemakers forged a weary truce that resolves naught – CY 590
The Knights of the Dispatch acted as peacemakers after passions cooled on both sides. A true peace was not made, as Neumann would accept nothing less than a Gyric surrender to his authority, and the Gyri would accept nothing less than the removal of the Marcher government. Both sides pledged to cease fighting. They agreed to an uneasy truce in late Wealsun, overseen by the Knights of the Dispatch. Regardless of the truce, Neumann accused Lea of masterminding the rebellion and ordered him arrested on charges of treason.
In Reaping, Withington left Owen’s Court in Exile in Niole Dra to become the Brenin’s representative in the Gran March. Withington’s position had seriously eroded at the court to the point that some called this appointment more a banishment than an assignment.
As our long-awaited rightful ruler prepares a home-coming – CY 591.
This brings us to CY 591, the current year. At Needfest, Owen declared that he intended to return to Gyruff within the year. The Court in Exile was elated. Even Lady Blackblade was seen to be weeping.
I was overjoyed at the news that we would be going home soon, but my concerns remain. The Gran March may not be willing to give up its hold on Hochoch and southeast Gyruff; the giants remain in control of the rest of our land, and the grey elves have closed their forest to all outsiders. Will we even recognize the home we fled eight years ago?
Here ends Rhys of the Ash’s Tale of the Fall of Gyruff and the Years of Exile
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Excerpted from the “Recent History of the Grand Duchy of Gyruff” Living Greyhawk metagaming and background materials.