Return of the Godspell
Location: East-central Drm
Population: 500,000 on the tax rolls
Chief Deity: Celzar (Ministry Affiliated)
Allied Nations: Bainland, Carthron, Mandl, Quasii, Sambs, Yahilli
Enemy Nations: Eselix, The Wyrmspine Hills
Young compared to many of the other nations in the same area, Valdeze was founded in 1023 AG (Age of Greatness), just over 700 years before the Darkhold. Initially, what would become Valdeze was land owned by the Wyrmspine Hills Elves who regularly contested with the Duruban of the Curubania Empire to the north, particularly the Curubania city of Horg, during the late 700s AG. The area became a popular trading station between Bainland and the Elves and small settlements slowly appeared to meet the needs of merchants, craftsmen and other travelers. Regular attacks by the Curubania forced Bainland to eventually station a garrison near the northeastern portion of the land that was very close to the hill homes of the Elves. At the time, the King of Bainland was “The Hammer of Celzar,” His Majesty, Arenthal Karthrike. Dedicated to enforcing the law of Celzar as he saw it, and persuaded by the counsel of the witch, Pandrila the Great, King Arenthal grew tired of the Duruban attacks and decided to strike back. The King offered the Elves his aid, which was quickly accepted and a united force of Human and Elves attacked Horg in the winter of 799 AG. This sparked the Eastern War. The might of Bainland was such that the war ended in 804 AG when Arenthal’s army marched on and razed the Curubania capital of Arcan. The jubilant Elves rewarded Arenthal with the land the two nations had traded in for years, naming it Valdeze, an Elven word meaning “Friendship.”
Arenthal turned the land over to his chief general, the Lord Chamberlain, Grand Duke Helenth. However, the Lord Chamberlain never relocated to Valdeze nor did any of his court. Instead, the land became populated with Bainlanders and Mandls interested in starting a new life. Over a few decades, what was once largely a trading settlement developed into a series of small farming towns. Human and elves intermingled freely and regularly. Within a generation, most Valds, as these people came to call themselves, had a good deal of Elven blood in their veins. However, over time, the Elves, watching their loved ones and children grow old and die before they did, left the land largely to the mostly Human descendents of the original settlers.
Most of these dozen or so towns erected in Valdeze were run by democratically elected men, usually called Mayors. Perhaps due to the chaotic natures of their forebears, the Valds frowned on the feudalistic, monarchial system of their Bainland lords. By the mid 900s AG, the Valds ceased to see themselves as Bainlanders. This happened almost simultaneously with the reign of King Krimnthron Karthrike, Arenthal’s grandson. The past few centuries in Bainland had been a golden time for Bainlanders and their subject countries and nations. However, Krimnthron’s greed and warmongering to the south in Wyrms Wood, led to increased taxes, army conscription, and a lessening of freedoms. Seeing Valdeze as a blight on his view of a perfect Bainland Empire, Krimnthron sent Archlord Valernus, son of His Majesty’s Lord Chamberlain, to reign the Valds in. Archlord Valernus took residence in the largest, wealthiest of the towns in 992 AG and renamed it after himself. Despite the anger of the Valds, Valdeze quickly had an established hereditary line of nobles, although these titles were no where as consistent as they were in Bainland. Initially, Valernus, a young man of 22 when he arrived in Valdeze, ruled harshly, believing he was upholding the laws of a just king. Over time Valernus matured and by the end was fair and kind to his people. He recognized that the Valds were not going to function under a feudal system and did nothing to alter most of their traditions. When Krimnthron died in 1010 AG, his son Nimnthron took the throne of Bainland. A cruel man who sought to enrich himself, he went even further than his father in pursuit of his own desires. The yolk of oppression intensified throughout Bainland and its satellites, including Valdeze, when Nimnthron sent his armies into his lands. Increased taxes and the outrageous laws and punishments for crimes made much of Bainland and its satellites burdened with heavy oppression. So great was the injustice in Bainland that the long time court advisor, Pandrila the Great, left Bainland to seek to prompt the people of Bainland to revolt against their King. Pandrila found the perfect people in Valdeze.
During his rule in Valdeze, Valernus took to keeping Valds as esteemed members of his court. He married a Vald and began to see the future that awaited his and other children. Joined by Valds and with the advice of Pandrila, Valernus, rather than openly challenge the King of Bainland, led rebellious attacks on the Bainlander outposts. The intensity and frequency of these assaults, called the Bloody Revolt, soon spread across the Bainland Kingdom over the years despite Nimnthron’s attempts to harshly crush the rebels. By 1022, Valernus led an open revolt in Bainland’s capitol, Narth Karthrike. Valernus himself slew the King while Pandrila destroyed the Court. The Bloody Revolt ended, leaving Bainland crippled with an infant King. All the satellites were granted de facto independence. Valdeze became a nation.
The Free People of Valdeze decided to keep Valernus as their leader, and adopted a hereditary line of rulership called the Archlords. Archlord Valernus continued his policy of including the people of Valdeze in his rulership, creating the High Court of Valdeze with representatives from each of the cities. It was Archlord Orthus III who, in 1740 AG asked Seeroth the Dark to become an official advisor to the Court. Valdeze was also the chief staging ground for the Forces of Noon during the Darkhold.
The Archlords of Valernus would rule for centuries until 127 AE (Age of Enlightenment) when the Archlord Empirif decreed on his deathbed that the people of Valdeze could rule themselves without nobles. Although nobles and titles are still very real in Valdeze, the Archlord is simply a standard of tradition now.
Valdeze became a founding member of the Ministry in 389 AE. As a nation, Valdeze became very interested in wealthy and technology. Leaders sought out information on the Dwarves of Burquebain far to the north in order to help Valdeze prosper. Interestingly, by this time, Valdeze, having forgotten much of its past, began having skirmishes with their distant relatives, the Wyrmspine Hills Elves. The Claimed Land War erupted between Valdeze (with backing from the Ministry) and the Wyrmspine Hills in 697 AE. Although the war ended in a truce three years later, Valds continue to hate not just the Elves of Wyrmspine, but all Elves. Valdeze has also come into numerous conflicts with Eselix. The Second Claimed Land War between Valdeze and Eselix raged from 732 to 740 AE. The conflict between these three nations does not appear over by any means.
Valdeze is a very temperate area. It has almost three months of each season. During summers, temperatures never exceed 95 degrees F while winters typically are never cooler than 15 degrees F. Yearly rainfall averages are between 32 to 48 inches. Winter snows have never exceeded 7 inches.
Pine (like reddenwood) and hardwood trees (like hickory and walnut) dominate Valdeze, especially in the region known as Reddenwood Forest. The northeastern portion of Valdeze also has a fair percentage of conifer trees. Berry bushes and wildflowers abound in Valdeze. Crabgrass and wiregrass are the dominant grasses here. The soil in Valdeze ranges from loam to sandy loam, especially on the coast of Valdeze’s dominant waterway, the Wynding River. Clay and limestone are the dominant stones.
Deer, rabbits, chipmunks, squirrels, possum, doves, quail, ducks, geese, and turkey are the most common prey animals in Valdeze. Otters, beavers, and mink are also found. The most common predator species include wildcats, owls, foxes, eagles, and hawks. Songbirds abound as do snakes and lizards of every variety. Bears and mountain lions can be found near rocky or hilly areas. Other creatures like ankheg, giant ants and other insects, owlbears, wyvern, and the dire varieties of many animals are also encountered here. Drakes are found deep within Reddenwood Forest.
Goblins, kobolds, and sprites are common in the more heavily wooded areas. Trolls, although less common, have been encountered as have the occasional ogres. Rumors persist that a small settlement of gnomes lives in Reddenwood.
Dominant trade items include apples, grains, minkpelt, peaches and numerous vegetables. Valdeze’s strongest cash crop is tobacco, especially the High Tobacco variety. There is a triving cattle and goat business in Valdeze, so milks and cheeses are sold throughout the Ministry. Turkey meat is the most popular source of meat food in Valdeze. Mineral deposits in Molus Hills in the southwest and the lesser Wyrmspine Hills in the northeast result in trade in coal, stone, and clay. Valdeze is the only nation in the Ministry (and probably south of Burquebain) to produce cement, its most lucrative business.
There are three very distinct classes in Valdeze. The noble class is made up of those who can trace their heritage through either the Valernus line or the original half-elven settlers. There is only one Archlord, currently Horis III, while all other nobles have varying titles, although Highlord remains very popular. Aside from the fact that the relatively small number of nobles means any one noble has a greater than normal chance to become a Justice, nobles have no greater political power than the most powerful merchants. The nobility has done well by ensuring that they have yet to squander their hereditary riches. The Archlord is the only noble to receive any money from the state; all others have to be self-sufficient. The merchant class is made up of powerful, wealthy landowners as well as members of the Ministry. The major difference between many merchants and the nobles is that merchants cannot trace their lineage. Nobles and merchants own the majority of farm and cattle land in Valdeze, well over 65%, and all bankers, precious metal exchangers, and scholars are in this class. Additionally, the merchants are all members of the Guild of Merchants, a powerful political organization that has seen a significant rise in its power over the past decade. The final class is the large commoner class. The commoners comprise over 80% of the total population. Within the commoner class there is a wide and diverse group of people from the relatively well-off hoping to become members of the Guild of Merchants and therefore part of the merchant class, and those at the bottom who spend their days begging in the gutters. The commoners usually work for either noble families or for merchant businesses. Compared to the commoners throughout Drm, Valdeze commoners have the best standard of living after Mandl.
Valdeze has a representative republic. Each of the five cities elects five men to represent them in the High Court of Valdeze for seven year terms as a Justice of Valdeze, although they may serve as many times as they are elected and most serve for life. The men are chosen from the three classes and only a member of a class can vote for any candidate. All Justices live in Valernus while they serve and they receive a stipend from the tax rolls for their service during their term. The High Justice, currently Lord Aldemeer V of Valernus, leads the fifteen Justices. The High Justice must be of noble blood and is elected by the entire Court. The city that the Justice is from must then replace him with another Justice. The High Justice serves for life and serves as the Head of Government for Valdeze. The High Court establishes the laws for all Valdeze which are included as part of the Writ of Valdeze, a kind of constitution of the rights accorded to the people. The Court meets at least once a week, although the High Justice may call a session at any time. The High Justice may decree what ever he wishes, and at least 2/3 (or 9) of the Justices must join to oppose the will of the High Justice. Most High Justices are very hesitant to issue decrees without considering the will of the High Court or the people, and Aldemeer V is no exception. However, the power wielded by the High Justice is immense since it is the High Justice who appoints the Lord High Captain of the Lord’s Guard and the Chief Bureaucrats. Alongside the Lord High Captain, the Line of Bureaucrats and the High Minister of Valdeze counsel the High Court. The Line of Bureaucrats, of which there are four, may vote on all decisions made by the High Justice as a member of the Court, although their votes only count as one-half. The vote of the Lord High Commander counts fully. There are two official advisors to the Court. The first is the Archlord of Valdeze. The other is the Chief Librarian of the Valernus Library. Neither of these men have any vote in the Court, but tradition has allowed their voices to not only be heard, but to have a certain level of gravity. The current Chief Librarian his Duke Dentun the fifth.
The Line of Bureaucrats is made up of the following:
1. The Line of Trade: Barribus the Sheerer
2. The Line of Public Works: Duke Andrews
3. The Line of Diplomacy: Lord Kathri Overbound
4. The Line of the National Treasury: Morclothe the Glibtongued
The Lord High Commander is Nephermire Thunberblaze.
The five cities in Valdeze are Calbet, Dalrin, Ethen, Greenspar, and Valernus. There are
almost two dozen small towns that are considered extensions to whichever city is nearest. The cities are very large and an elected Lord Mayor represents each. The Lord Mayors rule their city with almost complete autonomy for seven year terms; most Lord Mayors serve for life, although they can be removed from office by the High Court. So long as the dictates of the Lord Mayor do not supercede the will of the High Court, the strength of Valdeze, or the works of the Ministry, the Lord Mayor may do as he pleases. The Lord Mayors work very closely with both the Lines of Bureaucrats and the Lord High Commander. While the Lord Mayors appoint the Tax Barons and their own Lord Captain of the local Lord’s Guard, they always consider that, technically, these appointees are really controlled by the High Court, although the reality suggests otherwise. The Lord Mayors also deal with the Guild of Merchants delicately. Most Lord Mayors have official councils that assist them in the execution of their duties. Usually, the Tax Baron, the Lord Captain, the highest-ranking Guild official, and the Temple Master serve on these councils.
Towns follow similar structures to the cities, although their elected leaders are called Lord Constables. Lord Constables are subject to the dictates of whichever city the town belongs and cannot appoint Tax Barons or Lord Captains. There are only five Tax Barons at all times, and the Lord Captain of a city typically appoints a Captain for the towns (although, in most cases, they ask the Lord Constables for recommendations).
The Lord High Commander controls both the military and the police force in Valdeze. The two are once and the same and is called the Lord’s Guard. The Lord’s Guard is over 30,000 strong during peacetime, and can grow up to well over 150,000 when at war, making it the largest armies in the Ministry after Bainland. Technically, all Lord Captains answer to the Lord High Commander. Through the joint cooperation between the Lord’s Guard and the Lord Mayors, all criminals are punished.
As a charter member of the Ministry, Valdeze is a powerful proponent of the Glass Towers in Quasii. The will of the Ministry is stronger in Valdeze than anywhere else in the Ministry save Quasii itself. The High Minister of Valdeze, currently Lord Kalverstat II, is a powerful man whose words are considered heavily when he councils the High Court. The High Minister of Valdeze appoints all Temple Masters in Valdeze, from the largest cities to the smallest towns. These Temple Masters always wield considerable power in their stations and have caused at least two Lord Mayors to be removed from office by the High Court in the past five years. One of the Seven Cathedrals is in Valernus, the Ecclesiastical Palace. The Holy Order of ArchAngels, particularly the Order of Nemaria, is quite potent in Valdeze. In fact, alongside Bainland, Valdeze is the only Ministry nation in which the national heads of the Holy Orders join the High Minister as advisors to the Head of Government. However, unlike Bainland, the Holy Orders issue their advice through the High Minister who then reports to the High Court. The garrison for the Riders of Justice, the Archways of Glory, stands before the Ecclesiastical Palace and is commanded by the Lord Preceptor Bryant the Worthy.
The Valernus Library
The Valernus Library is the largest, most comprehensive, and most sought out library in the Ministry and perhaps all of Drm. Although the Black Hall Library in Ashtur is certainly as large, and the Lost Library of Evelyn’s Keep holds more ancient texts, the Valernus Library is the only library that allows all to enter at no fee. The Library is heavily protected at all times by a detachment of the Lord’s Guard and is controlled by Duke Dentun the fifth, the Chief Librarian. The station of the Chief Librarian is an oddly powerful one since he serves as an advisor to the High Court. It is also a hereditary line, since a member of the Dentun family has always overseen the Library.
The Guild of Merchants
The powerful Guild of Merchants has considerable control over the prices of all items traded in and out of Valdeze. Their might is such that even merchants in other lands concern themselves with the will of the Guild. The Guild, although not an official part of politics in Valdeze, still maintains considerable power and has been accused of manipulating the Line of Trade over the years. The Guild has a leader, called the Guildmaster, who represents the will of the Guild. How this person is chosen is unknown. Currently, the Guildmaster is Tysoriun Madderghast.
The Rose Guild
The Rose Guild is the powerful, underground thieves’ guild that has been a thorn in Valdeze’s side for over a half century. Very little is known of the Guild, as most of its members have never been captured. They carry out all manner of brazen thefts and have been accused of the murder of merchants, nobles, and even Justices. Their calling card is a black rose left behind the scenes.