The kingdom of Pharanathia has stood for 500 years since Lord Pharan Laureth brought together the warring tribes of Lo’mere, Laureth, Tarkan, Rolo, and Valford. For much of that time Pharanathia has enjoyed relative peace, developing healthy trading relationships with the Darruk-Kur and Ebernesk dwarves in the east, limited trade with Jodan in the northwest, and fey races in the west, and largely ignored by the Yolgargth goliaths to the north, and orc tribes further north.
King Pharan was a good, but cunning leader. He enlisted the help of the Jodanians, and quickly built a strong army to hold the fledgling kingdom together. Factions within the various former tribes resisted the unification, but the resulting rebellions were quickly quashed. Pharan then established an aristocratic tradition by bestowing titles upon loyal families from each of the other 4 tribe lands, thus creating the 5 original duchies.
The Jodan have a saying, “peace is the thief of might”. Subsequent generations of the Laureths became complacent without a mortal threat to force them to hone their swords. The army gradually lost its edge, and became largely ceremonial.
Prosperity reaped from the fertile soil, along with lucrative trade with largely peaceful neighbours to the northwest (Jodanians) and southwest (dwarves), meant that the loyalty of the duchies was easy to retain for scores of generations.
With the establishment of So’ren as the 6th duchy a slow shift in power and attitudes began. So’ren’s rapid accumulation of wealth through trade with the Fey races of Deepmist created jealousies and stirred up the prejudices of the western duchies. They were less than comfortable with the idea of trading with elves and eladrin after so many centuries of trading with the dwarves, with whom many trading partnerships had been formed.
Recent generations of the Laureths further angered the other western duchies by turning a blind eye to the unwanted fey trade, and indeed profiting from it through gradually increasing taxes. On the back of these taxes they grew fat and wasteful, known more for their opulence and extravagance than their leadership. They knew more about how to throw a good party then rule a kingdom, much less protect it from any sort of threat.
The growing divide between the east and west culminated in the succession of Valford, the poorest of the duchies. Valford had long suffered the raids of pirates on their merchant vessels, and local goblins and gnolls on their farms and villages, with the Laureths treating their ails with indifference. They watched with jealousy and anger at the attention instead directed towards the fledging So’ren as investment gold flowed in.
Six months ago Valford declared their independence from Pharanathia. The current king, Philius III, has so far laughed off the petulance of a duchy he considers worthless, but there is growing pressure to respond with a show of strength. Threats by the current Duke, Lexin, of So’ren to follow suit amid debilitating high taxes and the lacklustre performance by the local garrison in domesticating the Yolgargths, further intensified that pressure.
The tipping point was reached three months ago, when the Avendi to the south, little known (yet feared by strength of legend) and previously uninterested in the mainland, out of the blue staged a naval blockade of the port town, Helum, at the base of the cliffs atop which sits Castle Laureth. Rumours abound, including that the Avendi longships carried powerful mages that summoned terrifying creatures from the deep that broke three merchant galleons in two and dragged them to the depths of the harbour.
The Pharanathian army was powerless to respond. Not even the wizards of the Aracana Empricum would dare to challenge the Avendi mages. However, after three days the longships pulled up anchor and left. As puzzling as the turn of events was, it left the duchies in a state of panic. Some were calling for the Laureths to abdicate, and a new king cable of defending the kingdom coronated.
As the story goes, at an intense and angry court session with the king, the dukes passed a vote of no confidence against the king. In spite of the previous tensions between east and west, the Dukes of Lo’mere and Rolo called for the Duke of So’ren to replace King Philius. The king threw the dukes out of the castle. There are whispers a show of strength by the king is imminent. Will he turn to the Jodanians as his ancestor once did? Regardless of what he does, few believe he will be able to protect them from the Avendi.