King Edmumd is currently the reigning power as absolute monarch of the country. In the recently concluded Civil War, the nobles of the four loyal provinces that supported the King were known as the Loyalists. With the war's end, loyal nobles have been installed in all former Rebel lands.
The primary internal opposition that faced the Loyalists was, of course, the rebels under Lord Edrin and Duke Aimar II. They were well-organized, with the provinces of Andeaver and Balar wholeheartedly behind their bid for power. The rebels were finally defeated in 1508 after a four-year war.Another failed coup attempt, this time on the King himself, was attempted by a band of necromancers, Death's Head. These followers of Moloch infiltrated Dunthrane before the siege began, and bided their time for the right moment to strike. On Eleasias 3, 1505, they launched an attack on the King after he had addressed the people, many guards were slain, but the Scepter of Athelstan protected the King from the death magic of the necromancers. Death's Head escaped, but Thingol & Company followed them, and slew them to a man, or so it is said. Other internal opposition groups in Southold include the cult of Bane, Magooan the Pirate, a noble faction in Anorien called the Blacks, and numerous lesser known threats.
Main Political Issues
Fallout from Vecna's Disjuntion: It took a year after the Arch-Lich Vecna failed in his attempt at godhood and threw Grund into chaos on Midsummer 1511, for normality to return. The lich had tried to sever Grund from the gods using the mystical Yazakh stone circle at Tovag Baragu, in order to become all powerful. Although the spell blockages on divination and such were lifted immediately after the Disjunction ended, some wild magic surges and such continued for months afterwards. Worst of all, the peoples' faith in the gods has been shaken across Arik, with church attendance still down by a third compared to pre-Disjunction numbers. At least the apocolyptic cults, such as the flagellants, have largely disappeared. Crime, which was rampant during the darkest days of the Disjunction when respect for authority waned, has since fallen to almost pre-Disjunction levels. However, the innumerable minor wars, murders, thefts and such, perpetrated when people believed the world was about to end, will have repercussions in Arik for years to come.
Yazakh Refugees: The refugees emerged after the gods punished the Yazakhs for aiding Vecna in his Great Disjunction, turning their steppes into what is now called Lake Retribution with a divine deluge. Turned away--or enslaved--by the northern neighbors the Iron League trading states, the Videssian Empire to the East, and the Tarans to the west, the Yazakh refugees have largely found shelter in Southold, though some have continued onward to Hule through the Great Pass. Their numbers are thought to be several tens of thousands in Southold alone, creating a public backlash. They have overwhelmed Dunthrane's always overworked House for the Homeless, and many sleep in the streets.
Despite calls for tolerance by the priests of Tyr, and active succor by the priests of Shinare, Selune, and Adora in particular, many Southrons still see the Yazakhs as an additional drain, a dirty, thieving lot like the Vistani gypsies. The great influx has lead the Temple of Selune--who Yazakhs venerate--in Dunthrane to expand substantially. While more Yazakhs are forming mercenary companies and fighting in the war, the vast majority claim they simply want to settle down and resume their old ways. A new colony in Aztaltica led by Gaetmo So has become the destination for many refugees, especially after a charter and limited free passage was established in 1514 after the Silver Legion Insurrection.
Cortalish War: The Third Cortalish War continues to rage into its seventh year. This conflict between giants was a long time in the coming. Ever since Archlich Vecna's return (circa 1450), both nations prepared for war. Storm clouds brewed in 1504, when Cortal forces occupied the frontier town of Woburn as Southold was distracted by the Civil War. At that war's completion in 1508, King Edmund set his sights on recapturing Woburn. Yet the initial years of the war were hard fought, with Woburn only falling in 1510; by then, all Southrons demanded the Cortals be defeated once and for all and Gos decisively defeated. Vecna's failed bid at godhood caused a major reverse, but the Cortals soon solidified their defenses. In a surprise late 1511 offensive, at Radzetsky Pass, Southron forces breached the Studentsia Mountain line, liberating much of Cortal-occupied Sylvania, but the lines have again frozen. Both great powers simply have too much manpower, and a decisive battle in the field has been elusive. The war is set to continue, with no end in sight. In late 1513, the war expanded into the newly discovered land of Aztaltica, with the defeat of a small exploratory expedition, as the Cortals reportedly believe the gold flowing from there will otherwise fund a Southron victory. Nonetheless, war weariness has set in among the Southron populace, and a growing peace movement strong among the merchants and even some of the nobility urges the King to agree a peace and solidify Southold's significant gains, even though the former Kingdom of Sylvania remains only half liberated.
Videssian Tensions: Many Southrons preffered to invade Videssos over the Cortalish Empire, and look to turn Southron arms there next. This ancient country has undergone much civil strife of its own; a papal schism has developed, and Emperor Otho (who had to purge the army after Scipio's military coup), an ineffective ruler at best, is in power again. Foremost advocates of this Videssian strategy are the Nuadans, for their influence is greatest in Anorien, the province threatened by the Videssians. Many advocate the liberation of the Videssian client kingdom of Alesia. This has been a traditional wish of Southolder kings, for there is a Southron majority in this puppet realm. Yet King Edmund chose the Cortalish option in 1508.
Videssos and Southold briefly came to blows briefly in Mirtul 1505, when Scipio invaded Anorien. The Videssians waited for an opportune moment to launch their attack; the Flaming Fist, and Duke Duncan had gone campaigning in Civil War, and Morgan and the treacherous “Blacks” noble faction were in power (there are many who suspect that these Blacks received Videssian guidance and funds.) Had it not been for the timely intervention of then-Grand Marshal Anaximander, High Priest of Nuada in overthrowing Morgan, and of the actions of a then-obscure adventuring company, the Bywater Six, the Videssians would likely have succeeded. As it was, the Videssians were stopped at the Battle of Bywater by a motley assortment of forces under the command of Elrich of Nuada and the other members of the Bywater Six. However, the Videssians have not relinquished their claim on their former province, and will no doubt try again to conquer it should the Empire's internal strife cease.
Rising Minoan Weapon Prices: Minoan war-profiteering has irked many a Southolder. Weapon prices for the fine Minoan weapons (not quite as well made as the famed Mashad blades of Hule, but much cheaper, even with the price increases) have risen by nearly half in the last few years. It seems to many that the Minoans are falling on the Southolders in their time of need, ignoring the years of relative peace and goodwill that has existed for many years with most of the city-states. Indeed, even the city-state of Cimbar, the home of the arts and learning has increased prices. Gone are the days of Southolder-Minoan cooperation in stamping out the pirates of the Umbars (1471-3). For now the Minoan city-states, free of outside influences, fight among themselves. Historically, however, they have united only against actual invasion, as the Cortalish Empire found out in 1404. Prices have increased even more since the discovery of Aztaltica, as metal blades are much in demand there.
The Alcester Question: Alcester has long chafed for its independence, since 1322, when it finally succumbed to a Southolder naval blockade and siege. The political structure of Alcester remains the same as it always was, with the Overlord retaining most of his power over the city and its environs. Indeed, Alcester's army and huge navy remain an independent entity. Still, Alcesterts long to be free in name as well.
In the Civil War, Alcestert forces were more loyal to King Edmund than many of his provincial vassals. Indeed, were it not for Alcester's navy, Lord Edrin's forces might have succeeded in their siege of Princethorpe and rushed on toward Dunthrane before High Marshal Ethelwulf's forces recovered from the disaster at Twin Pines. Many believe Alcester should be rewarded for its loyalty and be awarded autonomy, and a treaty of friendship signed between the Overlord and the King. Hollend, Edmund's chief advisor, is the most prominent to espouse this course. Yet a militaristic faction, the new imperialists led by High Marshal Ethelwulf and with the backing of the Church of Nuada) oppose this, saying it would weaken Southold at a time when further strength is needed. As a result, relations are strained, with Alcesterts units refusing to fight the Cortals, a violation Dunthrane continues to ignore.
Nuadan Inqusition Returns: Nuadan influence peaked several years ago under the Nuadan Inquisition, when inqusitors had free reign to imprison and “correct” wrong behavior. While Duke Duncan was away fighting for King Edmund in the Civil War, he appointed Nuadan Grand Marshal Anaximander as regent. They formed Nuadan courts to try all manner of offenses. However, the nobles, backed by the Church of Tyr which disliked the usurping of “justice” fought back, forcing Grand Marshal Anaximander to step down in favor of his brother and forcing the Inquisitors to be purged. Some were burned for their legitimate crimes, while many others were imprisoned on trumped-up charges by those who wished revenge on the order.
However, with the outbreak of the Third Cortalish War, Nuadan influence was bolstered in the nobility, mercanary companies, orders of knighthood, and among the common soldiers. Even the unpopular Inquisition was resurrected, with the proviso it must only operate in enemy-occupied territory and not against Southron citizens. It has made enemies of many liberated Sylvanians, who have fallen into the clutches of the Inquisitors. Despite this sometimes dark side to the faith, most Southrons venerate Nuada as a good and just god, as his scriptures delineate.
Serfdom: Southold's feudal, agrarian economy has existed for centuries, and, even with the social changes of the last century, it is likely to remain. Even though the focus of the country is moving towards the burgeoning cities, it is still the serfs (and a small number of freeman farmers, the yeomen) that keep these settlements fed. Indeed, most of the new ideas of the cities have not reached the serfs, who are spared from such things by their lords' protective hand. Most serfs believe it their lot in life, their station, to work the land of their lord, just as their forefathers did. Serfs today have numerous rights under the Code of Athelstan, and these are rigidly enforced by the priesthood of Tyr. Indeed, the loyalty of the serfs is such that many lords establish a yeomanry in their holding; they actually entrust weapons to and train certain serfs, who, in the event of war, further distribute weapons to their fellows (as opposed to the fyrd militia system common in lands distrustful of serf loyalty, where training is infrequent, and the weapons are kept under lock and key). Add to this the fact that any serf may buy his freedom, or be freed by his lord, and it is obvious that Southold has a very progressive form of serfdom.
But some disagree. Some say that all serfs should be free, that man was not made to serve another. These advocates of the abolition of serfdom are formed in a loose confederation called the Free Born Movement, or simply the Movement. This organization is made up mostly of intellectuals, a few enlightened nobles, many freemen and freed serfs, and the Churches of Adora and Solonar. It acts to apply pressure to nobles and the king to release serfs, to occasionally buy a serf's freedom, to expose maltreatment of serfs, and to act as a forum of ideas for those that oppose serfdom. The Church of Adora has recently joined its ranks, and is now the Movement's most powerful backer. This has surprised many, for though Adora is known for her love of all living things and her dislike for captivity, she is also the wife of Tyr, the god that keeps this system intact. Less surprising is the support of the priesthood of Solonar; this deity is known for his love of freedom and open spaces. Yet his influence is less, for his worship is practiced primarily by the rangers of Arden, though many a woodland shrine exists elsewhere in his name. It is rumored that even the bandit-pirate Magooan, who sails the Greyflood plundering Duke Duncan's ships, is a member, for this charismatic rogue seeks to overthrow the feudal order in Anorien and establish a "democracy" - a strange form of government whereby the people elect representatives to rule over them.
Rise of Cities and Freemen Class: The problems caused by these social changes are an integral part of Southolder politics, and are major subjects of debate today. The problem has been outlined elsewhere.
The Aztaltica Question: Of course, the discovery of the continent of Aztaltica in 1512 has sent shock waves through the political as well as economic structure of Southold. On one hand, the increased trade and funds have bolstered the King’s royal power, through collection of the King’s Fifth tax. However, the merchants have also benefited greatly, especially manufacturers of steel arms as well as domesticated livestock and horse breeders. The losers (aside from the common man squeezed by inflation) have been the middle nobility—this (and false allegations against General Cordell) was one reason Baron Warwick was placed as Viceroy, but with his removal, the nobles see their power and wealth diminishing more quickly than before.
Viceroy Cordell has managed to retain much control in New Southold by allying closely with King Edmund and submitting all wealth to the exorbitant King’s Fifth tax. With his loyal Silver Legion power base and Warwick’s ignominious defeat, his position is likely secured. However, Southron domination of all affairs in New Southold, to include nationalizing mercenary companies temporarily and such, justified by the permanent state of emergency in force, is becoming increasingly unpopular. Cordell’s reinstatement in 1514 is seen as a great improvement over Warwick, so tensions have diminished for now, but he has not reversed many of these unpopular policies. The newcomers have not been in Aztaltica long enough to develop a separate identity, but noted sage Shalfrey of the Tower of the Stars has already predicted that in years to come they will resent the overbearing influence of far off Southold in their affairs.
For the common Southron, the biggest impact has been the doubling of inflation in the past couple years. While many were amazed at Aztaltica’s wonders and treasures, many now see its discovery as a mixed blessing—fine if it can fund the end of the interminable war with the Cortals, but otherwise a great economic burden.
In the international arena, the Cortals have already sent a scouting expedition (destroyed) and a fleet of at least 30 ships reportedly breached the Southron blockade headed for points south. The Tarans plan to set up their own colony imminently, while other nations such as the Iron League and Minoans have sent many merchants, content to operate under Southold authority. Yazakhs refugees are beginning to flood south to Gaetmo So’s enclave awarded after Viceroy Cordell’s reinstatement. Even the dwarves of Rockhome—though disgusted with the amount of gold flowing back and devaluating their own holdings--have chartered a ship, to investigate the mineral resources of the new land.
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