Despite the escalation of hostilities after the destruction of Cyre, it was clear that the participants in the Last War had become willing to find a way to end a century of hostilities. Even before the Day of Mourning, King Kaius III began searching for a place that could be considered neutral ground to host the peace talks. He finally settled on Thronehold, the castle from which the kings and queens of Galifar had ruled. Perched on an island in the middle of Scions Sound, it was a prize coveted by all the combatants but which none had been able to claim.
During all the years of the Last War, Thronehold was guarded and maintained by an elite group of warriors from House Deneith known as the Throne Wardens. They acknowledged no legitimate heir to the throne, and protected the castle and all its belongings from usurpers.
The peace talks included the leaders of the original Five Nations plus representatives from Darguun, Zilargo, the Mror Holds, the Eldeen Reaches, Q’barra, Valenar, the Lhazaar Principalities, and even a halfling empowered to speak for all the tribes of the Talenta Plains. Other groups petitioned to be included in the Thronehold Accords, but were refused. The deliberations merely to settle the question of who would participate occupied the initial period of the conferences. The groups that were not granted recognition and the right to participate included a delegation from Droaam as well as representatives from a number of ethnic or religious minorities who hoped to carve their own sliver of land out of the wreckage of postwar Khorvaire.
Each group that did participate in the treaty process had its own agenda and demands. At first, some refused to even sit across from each other, but the desire for peace soon overcame mutual distrust.
Over the course of several weeks, this group hammered out the accords that defined the borders as they are seen on current maps. Sovereignty was granted to several groups, nominal independence to others, and a binding peace agreement was signed by all.
Two other items of business, aside from the overarching question of national boundaries and reparations, occupied the delegates to Thronehold. The first was a philosophical dilemma with profound implications for society. The chronicles ran articles for months about “the warforged question,” and how the nations would treat this new race that had come to exist as a direct result of the war. Never before had a political body spent so much time in the consideration of such metaphysical questions. (It should be noted that no warforged was allowed to participate in any of these discussions.) In the end, the new race was given a twoedged sword. On one hand, House Cannith was ordered to halt production of warforged and dismantle its creation forges. On the other, all existing warforged were granted the full rights of citizenship in the nations of Khorvaire, rather than being deemed objects to be possessed by other citizens. (Interestingly, the delegates also neglected to address the question of whether elementals that had been bound to service should receive the same rights.)
As a final accord, and at the insistence of the Throne Wardens, the thriving city of Throneport was declared neutral ground, accessible to all nations but belonging to none. The castle and its grounds, on the other hand, remain off limits and under the protection of the Throne Wardens.
Source: Politics of Thronehold
The Treaty of Thronehold established the borders of the nations of Khorvaire as they are known today, outlining the combination of natural features and artificial markers that define the outlines of the twelve signatory nations. The traditional map of Khorvaire produced by House Sivis recognizes four additional regions—The Mournland, officially unclaimed; the Demon Wastes, also officially unclaimed; Droaam; and the Shadow Marches. The latter two are officially part of Breland but are functionally independent. Q’barra, despite functionally being several distinct nations (the dragonborn of the Trothlorsvek, the settlers of New Galifar, and the lizardfolk of the Cold Sun Federation), was recognized as a singular entity under the rule of King Sebastes of New Galifar. Similarly, the Lhazaar Principalities are best understood as a loose confederation rather than a unified nation, despite the treaty formally recognizing the leadership of the Seadragons under Prince Ryger ir’Wynarn.
Having sovereignty over a region grants a variety of permissions to a government. The singular most important of these is the ability to set taxes to fund the government; a government that cannot effectively collect taxes from a region cannot say they have meaningful control over it. Of secondary importance are a melange of security concerns, from border control to internal law enforcement, which are often necessary for the effective collection of taxes. In Khorvaire, border control primarily exists to enforce tariffs rather than control immigration; a small group of people that sneak over the border far away from the roads is rarely a concern worth expending resources on. By contrast, the roads and other points of travel are well-controlled to make sure that merchants are paying their fair share of taxes in the form of tariffs. Since Khorvaire’s governments lack the bureaucracy to meaningfully implement something as complex as an income tax, those tariffs make up almost the entire budget of national governments. This also is why Deneith sentinel marshals and Tharashk bounty hunters are important tools of law enforcement, as they’re equipped to handle transnational fugitives.
Sovereignty is a resource that nations can use to gain benefits, primarily in the form of international agreements like the Thronehold Accords. One important agreement from the accords was a guarantee of equal protection under the law— a citizen of Breland is equally as protected by Karrnathi law as a local. This does not mean that a Brelish citizen in Darguun can expect the same rights and protections they would at home— it simply means they are afforded the same rights and protections a citizen of Darguun would have, which are far fewer. An important exception here is Droaam; King Boranel declared the Daughters of Sora Kell and all their subjects outlaws, stripping them of Brelish citizenship and thus any and all protections afforded by that status. A citizen of Droaam is not protected by the law; they can be stolen from, assaulted, or even murdered without legal repercussion, while themselves facing full repercussions if they engage in violent acts.
Establishing the borders that were recognized by the Treaty of Thronehold was not easy; while nations largely ceased major military operations in the two years between the Mourning and the final signing of the treaty, many military commanders conducted small operations to “give their country a leg up” in the treaty negotiations. The most contested territory lines were between Thrane and Aundair. Over the course of the war, Aundair conquered and held what was once western Thrane, cutting off Thrane’s access to Lake Galifar. With the secession of western Aundair into the Eldeen Reaches, this formerly-Thranish territory has become valued both as critical farmland and for the variety of magical resources it contains. Unfortunately for Aurala, this came at the cost of Aundair’s ancient capital, Thaliost, which was captured early in the war and then reinforced by the construction of Silvercliff Castle as the new home of Thrane’s blood regents. Despite her diplomatic maneuvering, Aurala was unable to secure both Aundair’s new territory as well as gain the return of its ancient territory; instead, the Treaty largely recognized the military reality of the time, as it did in so many other cases of disputed borders.
The Kingdom of Galifar brought about many trade simplifications, including a common system of currency; a copper crown is worth one-tenth of a silver sovereign, which is one-tenth of a gold galifar, which is one-tenth of a platinum dragon. Production of coins took place throughout the continent but was most heavily concentrated in the Mror Holds. The minting of currency remains a valuable industry for the clans; Kolkarun stands out for the way it has leveraged its extensive copper and silver mines, while Soldorak has the most extensive gold and platinum holdings.
Without the stability of the dragonmarked houses, and specifically House Kundarak, it’s possible the Last War would’ve had at least one nation attempt to institute their own currency they could control. Instead, the houses refused to entertain such ideas, with House Kundarak taking direct action to maintain international currency standards. These currency standards were codified in the Thronehold Accords. Outside the nations bound by the Thronehold Accords, Khorvaire-produced coinage is often accepted, but there might be variation. The city of Stormreach, for example, is not bound by the Thronehold Accords and uses Thronehold-standard coinage with the addition of an electrum coin worth five sovereigns or half a galifar.
The end of the war also forced the nations to confront the debts they had accumulated. In the simplest cases, the treaty negotiations allowed national treasuries to cancel equivalent debts and balance their books. In other cases, such as with debts owed to the Dragonmarked Houses or the foreign nation of Riedra, the negotiations provided an opportunity for formalizing payment plans and expectations around the debts.
The trickiest of all were the assessments of damages and the specific invocation of “war debts.” As the Last War had no clear winner, no nation could unilaterally impose the cost of the war on another. However, claims of war debts were ripe for bargaining fodder, such as concessions of territory in exchange for payment agreements. This specific kind of horse trading also depended heavily on domestic politics; nobles do not appreciate when their feudal superior trades away valuable land within their domain.
Theoretically, the web of debts that was recognized discourages any nation from renewing hostilities, as that would encourage the defender to default on its payments. Practically speaking, however, few hawkish members of government concern themselves with existing debts when they call for renewed aggression.
Trade in post-war Khorvaire is relatively open; the Thronehold Accords got most nations to lift the various import and export bans they had imposed during the war. A few exceptions remain, such as Breland’s import ban on Aundairian wine (a protectionist measure to support the wine produced in northeastern Breland). While most bans have been lifted, tariffs remain integral to international order as well as to government revenues.
High tariffs seek to protect national industries, with Thrane having some of the heaviest tariffs of all (which incidentally also take advantage of Thrane’s central location for trade). Unfortunately for national governments, high tariffs create strong incentives for smuggling of otherwise-legal goods. While outright illegal goods, such as Dragon’s Blood, may get the highest profile attention in the national press, the vast bulk of border enforcement is devoted to simply ensuring everyone pays their fair share of tariffs.
The conclusion of the Last War was in many ways a painful look in the mirror, as each nation reflected upon not only what they had gained but what they had lost in the century of conflict. While war was not new to Galifar—settler colonialism was built into its bones as it expanded to cover the whole continent—the complexity and power symmetry between combatants were new and forced the militaries of the Five Nations to develop new doctrines about what was and was not acceptable. Each of the Five Nations hoped to end the war ruling over a reunited Galifar, so, while otherization certainly occurred, the internecine conflict made it much harder compared to the violent subjugation of the goblinoids, shifters, or other races that had been pushed to the fringes of Khorvaire.
From a realist perspective, war crimes are bad because “war is politics by other means”—in the case of the Last War, an attempt to claim dominion of secessionist states by force. War crimes delegitimize the conqueror and instead inspire resistance. A more liberal perspective recognizes that the residents of Khorvaire are entitled to certain rights and privileges by natural law. War may be justified as necessary, but that does not abrogate all rights, especially for civilians.
The Thronehold Accords established a Thronehold Tribunal to hold war criminals accountable. Of course, without a clear victor that had both the capacity and desire to punish the losers, there were no grand trials. Instead, the Thronehold Tribunal exists both as a platform for diplomatic concessions—these border concessions in exchange for these trials—as well as to “take care of” unpopular and antagonistic military leadership. Many of those indicted by the Thronehold Tribunal have fled into hiding, often to the outlaw nation of Droaam. Unfortunately, the Thronehold Tribunal is desperately underfunded and unable to hire enough Deneith sentinel marshals or Tharashk bounty hunters to apprehend these war criminals. Several warbands from the Valaes Tairn elves of Valenar, however, have offered their services, in the belief hunting down and capturing a notorious warrior with a brutal, militaristic bent would be a worthy challenge that would bring glory to both them and their ancestors.
The basic principles used by the tribubal to determine whether a particular military action constitutes a war crime are that military actions should only be taken against military targets and that the disruption of civilian life should be minimized. As an additional consideration, military tactics with significant risk of blowback on whomever engages in it or with generally low cost-effectiveness are much more likely to be found to be war crimes than those that are effective but come with civilian casualties.
Complicating these guidelines are the complexities around who counts as a civilian, especially during urban warfare. Ideally, military forces are clearly identifiable so as both to avoid friendly fire and to distinguish combatants from non-combatants. In reality, illusion spells and mundane disguises can make it impossible to distinguish valid from invalid targets. When this happens, militaries are more likely to violate the rules of warfare. This is especially true during attempted urban occupations; civilian resistance can be used to justify increasingly punitive and violent measures in response. Occupying armies often placed restrictions on magic use in addition to more mundane restrictions like curfews—a wand used for prestidigitation might also be used to cast burning hands.
One of the most hotly contested issues is the question of whether the various air raids conducted by the nations—which deployed imprecise ordnance that devastated civilians as well as military targets—crossed ethical boundaries. For the citizens of Rekkenmark, the answer is clear; the frequent air raids the cliffside port was subjected to failed to disable the city’s defenses but caused enormous collateral damage to civilians. Despite this, Aundair and Thrane are united in their defense of this tactic, blocking the Thronehold Tribunal from prosecuting the commanders responsible for possible war crimes.
Beyond the question of determining acceptable targets for violence, charges of war crimes often revolve around “grotesque arcana”—a catch-all category that covers the use of magical weapons and tactics deemed inhumane by the international community. The very nature of these weapons is to incur collateral damage and civilian casualties, meaning that commanders bear the moral weight of responsibility for those damages.
One of the regular features of the Thronehold Tribunal has been charges related to reckless necromancy. Most commonly, this has been levied against Karrnathi commanders, but almost every nation has deployed necromancy in some form. The ostensible standard during the Last War was that Karrnathi necromancers animating their own fallen were within bounds, but animating the dead of other nations was prohibited. Despite this, most necromancers who broke this standard are unlikely to be turned over by Kaius to the Thronehold Tribunal. Rather, that “privilege” is reserved for the wizards who deployed self-replicating undead. Not only are self-replicating undead most effective when they feast on civilians first to create an outbreak, but their ability to create problems for the force that deployed them earned the tactic international condemnation. Many leaders within the Order of the Emerald Claw are wanted for deployments of self-replicating undead. As such turning over the necromancers and priests who leveraged replicating undead was also a convenient way to eliminate militiant seekers that might stand in the way of Kaius’s purge.
While the use of alchemy can save lives, such as with the Jorasco healing potion, it can also be used to take them, as with the now-outlawed use of vile bile. Over the course of the Last War, Cannith alchemists based out of Fairhaven constantly experimented with new alchemical weapons; alchemist’s fire and tanglefoot bags were some of the earliest developments from these efforts. However, not all alchemical weapons were made equally, and the side effects of some have been deemed a bridge too far.
Many of the weapons that destroy the soil or leave behind dangerous magical effects—such as blast discs—are frowned upon but are still in use and have not been outlawed. With the specter of war still lingering, it’s been difficult for antiwar activists to persuade nations to disarm the automated defenses that guard their borders, no matter the residual cost of life and limb.
As far as the other disciplines of magic, Aundair’s widespread use of illusion and enchantment raised the most problems. The evocation spells from the Player’s Handbook are all well within the bounds of conventional warfare; they lack the sadism or potential for widespread collateral damage necessary to be considered war crimes—even the superficially insidious Cloudkill spell is a quick killer without any apparent side effects. Instead, the agency-destroying illusion and enchantment schools of magic both provide the horror of friendly fire as well as providing excuses for other, more heinous actions.
Prisoners of War
War is not a deathmatch. Soldiers may surrender for any number of reasons; the general tide of a battle turning, failures of logistics, being cornered, etc. Under the laws of war, soldiers who surrender are to be taken as prisoners rather than executed. Prisoners of War (POWs) are expected a certain modicum of respect; as well as adequate food and water and the ability to contact home (most commonly through Orien’s courier services, but sometimes through Sivis’ sending stations). Executing prisoners or providing them with poor conditions is counterproductive, as it only incentivizes otherwise-defeated forces to fight to the death and inflict more damage upon the otherwise-victorious forces. That doesn’t mean POWs were never kept in poor conditions; the Karrnathi army especially had issues, as persistent logistical issues extended all the way to their ability to care for POWs.
Once captured, a soldier would have to wait either for rescue or to be freed as part of a prisoner exchange or ransom. Given their status, members of the nobility were the most likely to be ransomed back, with the ransom paid off by their family. The rest of the population typically had to wait for the periodic ceasefires and alliances for a prisoner exchange, an added benefit to redirections of hostilities.
Members of the dragonmarked houses constituted special a category of POWs. Jorasco healers, Lyrandar captains, Deneith corporals, Cannith engineers; all were fundamentally noncombatants accorded special status— valid captures who could immediately be ransomed back to their houses. Rates were based on the prisoner’s expertise and rank within the house. These standards, clearly communicated to the nations and their armies, minimized personnel losses amongst combat-adjacent roles as the houses directly supported the armies of Khorvaire.
Tyman ir’Thiel (he/him), Shield of Askelios and Illusionist of the Third Circle is an Aundairian noble whose governance covers a critical portion of the Aundair-Thrane border along the Aundair river. His favored tactics included using illusion magic to disguise his forces as unarmed civilians, injured members of the opposing force, or surrendering troops. Thranish ministers have pointed to the collateral damage brought upon actual civilians with these tactics, but thus far First Minister Adal has refused to turn him over to the tribunal unless Thrane were to hand over the entire peninsula north of the Aundair River, including Thaliost.
Major Maril Lonn (she/her) narrowly survived the battle on the Field of Ruins, as her forces were deployed to the rear as reinforcements and able to flee from the Mourning in time. Having started from the lowest of Brelish ranks, she found that a willingness to use any means available to her was a reliable way to earn the favor of her superiors. In particular, she was willing to leverage House Cannith’s most novel and experimental weapons, regardless of their side effects or collateral damage.
Rabi ir’Aban (he/him) is a former Cyran general now living in Graywall, Droaam. Known as the “plague doctor,” Rabi’s work with House Jorasco was disowned by both House Jorasco and Cyre. His collaborations included funding expeditions to Xen’drik to recover curses as well as diseases. He now serves as an intermediary between the Dark Pack and the Feral Heart cult of House Vadalis as they push the boundaries of lycanthropy.
Valpaea ir’Jaranus (she/her) is a former Karrnathi noble and current member of the Order of the Emerald Claw. Hailing from the eastern reaches of the nation in the foothills of the Mror Holds, she frequently deployed self-replicating undead such as shadows. The slaughter of an entire Cyran village was bad enough, but the resulting swarm of shadows broke free of the Karrnathi control spells. This host of incorporeal undead was only brought to heel by a multinational force led by the Sunseekers, an order of paladins dedicated to Dol Arrah.
Bishop-Militant Ossul Trelioth (they/them) is a Thranish templar who masterminded the air raids on both Aundairian and Karrnathi cities. Fires started by alchemist’s fire-based bombs rapidly spread through the wooden houses of both nations, destroying both civilian life and property. Their sympathies with the Pure Flame movement have provided justification for the wanton destruction, as fire also effectively disrupts the fey connections many Aundairian nobility have cultivated as well as incinerating corpses the Karrnathi army would otherwise press into service as zombies and skeletons.
The Thronehold Accords brought about a new era for warforged. First, it shut down the production of new warforged, an enormous blow to House Cannith after they had already lost their central production capabilities in the Mourning. Second, it set all existing warforged free— a truly novel experience for a race that had only existed for thirty years.
Politically, the end of the creation forges was an enormous betrayal of the already-reeling Cannith. With the (presumed) death of Baron Starrin d’Cannith, the house was unable to muster a unified lobbying effort during the Thronehold negotiations. The other houses took advantage of this, as Cannith’s war profits had begun to threaten the equal independence of the other houses. Almost every invention of the houses relies on Cannith’s manufacturing capabilities to be produced at scale. Even for specialized services, the advancements of the last two centuries have increasingly relied on Mark of Making-produced magic items. Other houses certainly have artificers to develop new focus items, but only Cannith has the capabilities to turn a one-off invention into a common business tool available to even the smallest thorps. By hitting Cannith while it was down, the other houses guaranteed they would still be able to maintain their own profits rather than be bullied out by Cannith’s end-of-line dominance.
Coupled with the prohibition on creating new warforged, the freeing of all current warforged was the single most serious effort at disarmament to come out of the Thronehold Accords. A century of warfare had left the Five Nations increasingly dependent on a mix of drafted and manufactured soldiers, both of which left service at the cessation of hostilities. This is not to say that the nations of Khorvaire do not still have standing armies; it is simply to say that the freeing of warforged represent a meaningful reduction in warfighting capabilities, especially by the four surviving nations who employed the overwhelming majority of warforged.
Of course, history and politics are not only concerned with the grand bargains and schemes of so-called great powers. The twin decisions to stop all future production while freeing existing warforged are the two most important events in the history of the race besides their literal invention.
For warforged, the freedom of the post-war era is a genuine novelty. While scattered warforged sometimes had the luxury of being a domestic servant, even they were not truly free. In Breland, the warforged have tended to congregate in cities, creating tensions with urban work forces about whether biological differences should be accounted for in wages. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Thrane and Karrnath have created systems of indentured servitude to “pay back war debts” allegedly accrued by the warforged— demanding that they pay for the cost of their own creation as well as the material supplied to them. These debt systems have functionally reallocated the warforged from the military to post-war civil construction service. Emerging warforged activists within these countries have begun to demand better conditions, but there is still significant organizing to do on this front.
From the warforged perspective, the elimination of creation forges is extremely controversial. The most public opponent of this decision is the Lord of Blades, who has pledged to reignite the abandoned forges in Cyre in the pursuit of building a new warforged nation amongst the ruins. His pledges to wreak a bloody vengeance upon the people of the Five Nations have won over the hearts and minds of many warforged. However, his is not the only perspective; others have called for a peaceful turnover of creation forges to the warforged community. Even then, not every warforged is concerned with or even thinks that it would be good to continue their kind, given the bloody circumstances of their origin and the threat of a new war on the continent.
Anchor (she/her) believes that the best approach for improving the condition of Thranish warforged is to directly appeal to Jaela Daran, the Keeper of the Flame. Unfortunately, she’s been given the bureaucratic runaround and has been unable to speak to Jaela. What’s worse, is even if she is able to talk to Jaela and plead her case, the eleven-year-old’s ability to enact the comprehensive policy change necessary is limited by High Cardinal Krozen’s cynical influence.
Banner (he/him) is the first warforged to be accepted to Rekkenmark Academy, on the basis of his exceptional heroics during the Last War. His status is being closely monitored by both detractors and supporters seeking to dispel or confirm stereotypes about the novel beings. Banner often doubts himself, concerned by the weight of public opinion placed upon his shoulders.
Oak (they/them) is a veteran of guerilla campaigns in the Eldeen Reaches. They’ve settled in Xandrar since their service ended, but the recent campaign by the local division of the Swords of Liberty is likely to pull them back into service. They’re still unsure of who to support—Mayor Garrit Tomraan, or the Red Owl. Garrit has promised to pass new laws supporting the city’s warforged if Oak helps him with the “Swords problem,” while the Red Owl has pled the case that the system will always be rigged against warforged so long as authority is ultimately vested in hereditary nobility.
Seven (they/them) has moved to the pastoral Aundairian countryside to take up farming. Their presence is not always welcome, as they are a living reminder of the devastation that took away the sons and daughters of the community. However, many other community members have shown incredible kindness and warmth to Seven, believing that if they can find a new life then so can the world.
The Dragonmarked Houses
The outbreak of war posed both a dilemma as well as an opportunity for the houses—not only who to back, but also how to maximize both profits and their future survival. By the end of the first decade of the war, many of the principles outlined in the War Crimes section above had been hashed out, and the houses had secured a neutrality that optimized for both profits and survival. As the war progressed, both houses and nations had to make ad-hoc decisions about what was and was not permissible.
The result of a hundred years of war was a mixed bag for the dragonmarked houses; Phiarlan and Orien suffered heavily, while Lyrandar and Tharashk appear ascendant. When the Thronehold negotiations began, some parties—like House Lyrandar—sought out more formal recognition of their de facto territorial influence. By contrast, some of the national leaders, King Kaius of Karrnath among them, pushed strongly against the rising tide of house influence and tried to rally the other nations in weakening the privileges granted to the houses. The Thronehold Accords represent a compromise, maintaining a modified version of the pre-war status quo under the Korth Edicts in which the houses are prohibited from holding titles and owning land but are given a carte blanche to dominate Khorvaire’s economy in return. The houses reaffirmed their support for the letter of the Edicts as part of the Thronehold Accords but are keenly aware of a loophole—the Accords only apply to national signatories, leaving Droaam and the Shadow Marches wide open for exploitation (the inherently inhospitable nature of the Demon Wastes and the Mournland makes exploiting the loophole much more difficult there).
The Thronehold Accords recognized members of the dragonmarked houses as citizens of Thronehold. In conjunction with the rest of the agreement, this gives them the same legal protections as any other citizen of a treaty nation without assigning or obligating them to any one country. This status was less of a direct concern for the houses as much as it was for the nations involved in negotiations—the primary holdout was Aundair, as houses Lyrandar and Orien, as well as significant parts of Cannith, Phiarlan, and Vadalis call the northwestern nation home. Aurala believed that in the event of future conflict, Aundairian citizenship would allow her to bind the houses to her like Galifar bound the houses to him a thousand years ago. By contrast, Thrane, which is not home to any house, moved strongly in favor of the neutrality provided by Thronehold citizenship. This status also reinforced the ancient Korth Edicts, as almost all nations prohibit non-citizens from holding titles and land.
Despite this, the Korth Edicts remain in peril. House Lyrandar is the largest violator, not only functionally owning the island of Stormhome but also ruling the nation of Valenar—the Valaes Tairn elves care little for day-to-day administration and leave it to the immigrant Khoravar. On another axis, the Korth Edicts prohibit the houses from maintaining armed forces, with an explicit carve-out for House Deneith — a rule that is threatened, if not outright broken, by House Tharashk’s facilitation of Droaamite mercenaries.
While all houses operate across national boundaries, the Thronehold accords account for the critical role played by Lyrandar and Orien in Khorvaire’s transportation network. The two do not have total control—plenty of merchant caravans traverse the continent outside of House Orien’s Transportation Guild, and many captains sail without registering under the Wndwrights Guild. However, merchants who operate under the guilds benefit from exemptions from certain tariffs as well as easier paperwork at the borders (these financial windfalls are balanced by the profit-maximizing membership fees and revenue cuts taken by the guilds).
Per the Thronehold Accords, papers for passengers on lightning rails and ships are handled when a passenger disembarks, rather than mid-transit at the border crossing. Caravans using ordinary roads, however, are subject to border inspection and taxation.
In the half-century prior to the outbreak of the Last War, King Jarot invested in expanding the lightning rail, providing unprecedented connectivity throughout the continent. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the war brought not only travel and trade restrictions between warring nations, but also the outright destruction of key passages, such as the White Arch Bridge between Thaliost and Rekkenmark. The international economic activity that did continue between allies was often severely limited due to blockades.
The war’s end should have restored the frequency and ease of travel that existed under King Jarot, but the Day of Mourning destroyed key routes both on land and by water. Cyre contained House Orien’s only remaining lightning rail route connecting eastern and western Khorvaire, a situation that is unlikely to change soon since the repair of the White Arch Bridge could not muster sufficient support in the Thronehold negotiations. By contrast, while House Lyrandar certainly suffered from losing access to the Rushing River that connected Lake Cyre to Kraken Bay (and, thus, Scions Sound to the Thunder Sea), it’s actually increased their relative dominance—north to south shipping now relies on skirting around the edge of the continent through often-hostile weather, and the rivers that empty into Scions Sound provide the most reliable way to move between western and eastern Khorvaire.
House Deneith filled an unusual role in the Last War as the central broker of independent armed forces for hire. The Blademarks Guild has a variety of tiers of services. There are some mercenaries (such as Valaes Tairn warbands) whose services are simply brokered by the house, others (such as the Darguul goblinoids) are employed by the guild, and thirdly, the most closely held — forces are house-trained and directly commanded by house scions. All three were protected by Deneith’s closely maintained neutrality; even Karrnath, home of the house headquarters, did not receive any special status or discounts on services. Of the nations, Cyre made the most use of Deneith mercenaries, trading off its extensive gold reserves for national defense. This came back to bite the Cyrans not once, but twice, with the secession of Valenar and then later Darguun.
House Deneith maintained a monopoly on mercenary forces with the notable exception of mercenaries from Droaam who appeared in the last years of the war Officially, Droaamite mercenaries are independent labor that doesn’t pay dues to House Deneith. Practically speaking, House Tharashk acts as their agent, brokering the process and receiving a cut of their pay in return. This intrusion on Deneith’s market is extremely controversial, but the mercenaries of Droaam have been unwilling to work with the Blademarks Guild, while being considered too valuable for the various nations to forego.
Mercenary forces fought as dictated by their contracts. Fully independent forces, such as the Valaes Tairn, have no qualms about fighting other mercenaries in the pursuit of their objective. By contrast, companies of soldiers led by house scions outright refuse to engage each other, forcing commanders to deploy them only in locations where the house was otherwise inactive. Outside of Deneith forces, the gnolls of the Znir Pact are willing to fight each other but will only do so to first blood; any gnoll injured by another gnoll immediately surrenders and retreats.
Today, House Deneith has received a special exemption from the Thronehold Accords to maintain their standing army of mercenaries for hire. Without an active war, these mercenary outfits have turned to other types of jobs: suppressing labor rebellions on behalf of nobles, treasure hunting in the ruins of Xen’drik and the Mournland, or supplementing other forces to confront supernatural threats. For some, the war never ended — jobs protecting Orien trade caravans to rural Khorvaire fight soldiers-turned-bandits as often as they do displacer beasts.
Despite the war’s end, there are some who have not stopped fighting. The hottest ongoing conflict is between Karrnath and Valenar. High King Shaeras Vadallia quite simply has little interest in obeying the terms of the treaty. Valenar raiders strike across the Talenta Plains at the villages and towns of southern Karrnath, hoping to bait Kaius into renewing full-blown hostilities. The governments of western Khorvaire have little interest in intervening in this conflict, and Kaius is not interested in appealing to the other nations for aid. Instead, he cautions his southern warlords to discipline themselves and their troops and defend against attacks while being careful to avoid triggering war.
While alliances were in constant flux during the
war, there are very few of them in the post-Thronehold landscape. While Thrane
and Breland were in a joint offensive on the Day of Mourning, that alliance has
long since dissipated; the only remnant is the joint operation with House
Medani out of Arythawn Keep defending the eastern border against incursions
from the Mournland. The only true alliance left is between Breland and Zilargo,
as both nations have pledged themselves to mutual defense. In the northeast
Karrnath and the Mror Holds have a good relationship, but the dwarves have not
pledged themselves to join Karrnath in war if Valenar were to launch a full-scale
assault (although they would happily sell arms and mercenaries to
Source: Politics of Thronehold
The modern peace of Khorvaire exists in a delicate balance between the rights granted under the Thronehold Accords and provocative action by those who seek to renew hostilities. This tension is most visible in the waterways in and around the Five Nations, where warships regularly make patrols at the border of legally recognized zones, hoping to provoke their opposition into international incident.
Khorvaire ascribes to basic principles of freedom of navigation. Nations only have full control over the land agreed to in the Treaty of Thronehold; once land turns to water, different rules apply. Each nation extends their claim of territorial waters out to thirteen miles beyond its shores. Foreign ships within territorial waters are permitted only innocent passage. The Treaty of Thronehold did not include ascribe any further maritime rights of sovereignty to nations other than the designation of territorial waters. This has left areas like Lake Galifar hotly contested, as coastal communities vie for the body of water’s resources.
Another important set of standards, enforced informally throughout the war but solidified with the treaty, was the recognition of the neutrality of merchant ships. During the war, a ship flying the flag of a third party (e.g., House Lyrandar or the Empire of Riedra) was considered off limits, while cargo belonging to a neutral third party upon an enemy ship was expected to be returned to its rightful owners. These standards helped both House Lyrandar and the Lhazaar Princes sell their shipping services and flag status to the Five Nations in order Five Nations to guarantee continued trade. These practices were most distinct on Lake Brey, where Lhazaarites rarely traveled but their flags could be frequently found raised high.
Some ships would falsely fly the flag of whatever nation’s territorial waters they were in. Navy patrols would enforce rules against this, as the right to fly a given flag comes with the cost of paying appropriate tariffs and customs—taxes that a slick captain might try to skip.
While Khorvaire does not have many rivers, the ones it does have provide extremely important routes for trade. Some rivers simply exist internal to a nation, such as the Thrane River or Breland’s Dagger River. Others demarcate the border between nations, such as the Brey River that separates Thrane from Breland and Cyre. The most complicated are rivers that are split between nations, such as the Aundair River which starts near Fairhaven but ends near Thrane’s Silvercliff Castle.
For rivers that are strictly internal to a nation, there are no restrictions of sovereignty. While Khorvaire’s increasing industrialization can create arcane pollution, no international law has been established to limit what Sigilstar or Korth send downriver into Scions Sound.
Border rivers are much more strictly regulated, and many of the treaty deliberations were concerned with resolving these disputes. Given their inherent proximity to the border, the heavily militarized riverside towns had to negotiate both passage rights as well as fishing rights. The treaty also set rules for tariffs imposed by the nations and the local settlements, with House Lyrandar lobbying on behalf of lower tariffs in the name of free trade and their own bottom line.
Transnational rivers are the trickiest type, especially given concessions made in light of Aurala’s demands that the lands north and east of the Aundair River be returned by Thrane. While Aurala did not successfully negotiate the return of Thaliost, she did obtain agreements related to free and open passage up and down the river. Several Thranish towns have benefitted enormously from this arrangement, providing goods and services to ships going to or coming from Fairhaven. This situation has also served Aurala’s purposes since any blockade or other breach in the agreements would provide grounds for escalating aggression in defense of Fairhaven’s ability to send and receive ships with the rest of Khorvaire.
The beating heart of Galifar was Scions Sound, a body of water that begins where the Aundair, Brey, Cyre, Karrn, and Thrane rivers all converge before journeying north to empty into the Bitter Sea. The broad, slow, and deep waters make both trade and conflict easy for those who live on its shores.
The passage north is marked by steep cliffs on both sides. Unusually, the riverbed is made of much softer stone than the surrounding cliffs, as if the pattern of millennia of erosion was predetermined by some ancient force. A natural river would have a winding pattern created by erosion; the straight shot from Throneport to the Bitter Sea is often used as proof by conspiracy theorists that ancient human civilizations existed in Khorvaire before Lhazaar’s expedition 3000 years ago.
Scions Sound does not have much fishing; prolonged human habitation has depleted the freshwater fisheries, despite some conservation efforts by past rulers of Galifar. As such, the primary focus of water rights are simple guarantees of safe passage and open access.
Long before Galifar, the goblins of Khorvaire had settled in and around the waters of Scions Sound. Even after the Daelkyr shattered the empire of Dhakaan, goblinoid city states and nations persisted in the area.
However, the arrival of Lhazaar three thousand years ago was the beginning of the end of goblin civilization around Scions Sound, as over the course of the next five hundred years human conquerors eradicated their opposition and rebuilt atop their ruins. Two thousand years ago, Karrn the conqueror led a genocidal campaign against the surviving goblinoids that had already been pushed to the fringes—a brutal campaign that turned into an attempt to conquer the entire continent.
Despite failing in this task, Karrn paved the way for his descendant Galifar I to “unite” Khorvaire and install each of his five children as the governor-prince of a different slice of the continent. Galifar also established Thronehold as the official seat of the royal court, building atop goblin ruins.
The Last War
Scions Sound played an important role in the last war, from beginning to end. The war’s very first battle was fought on the southern shores, as Prince Wrogar of Aundair defended Princess Mishann of Cyre’s claim to the throne, opposed by the joint armies of Prince Thalin of Thrane, Princess Wroann of Breland, and Prince Kaius of Karrnath. While Karrnath had, on paper, the largest number of military-ready ships, their blue water navy based in the Bitter Sea was ill-equipped for decisive maneuvers in the freshwater Scions Sound. As such, despite being outnumbered, the Aundairian and Cyran forces were able to escape and regroup, and the two loyal royal scions were able to avoid capture.
With connections to four out of five capitals, Scions Sound continued to be crucial, throughout the war. Furthermore, it was often the only passageway connecting two allies, such as the long-lasting Cyre-Aundair alliance. Each nation brought different strengths to bear in the many battles that took place in Scions Sound; the Arcane Congress enchanted Aundair’s ships with illusions and deployed summoned threats; Thrane leveraged both defensive embankments equipped with searing lanterns known as lantern posts and its wyvern riders; Karrnath made terrifying night assaults with its legions of undead; Cyre leveraged its higher count of warforged troops as well as more experimental Cannith innovations. Breland’s aquatic forces much more rarely made it all the way up to Scions Sound, as they were usually engaged with Thrane or Cyre along the Brey River.
The Day of Mourning was particularly shocking for the fleets of the Five Nations. As news of the oncoming disaster spread, many Cyrans fled to the water, taking whatever boats they could find to get away from the fast-approaching mists. Confused and concerned, many heroic captains—especially from Thrane—tried to help the Cyrans escape the oncoming mist wall. Unfortunately, too many Cyrans didn’t survive, either consumed by the mists or drowned while trying to swim out into the sound.
Aundair’s naval operations within Scions Sound have drawn the ire of a Karrnathi warlord whose domain includes fishing rights along the Cyre River. He hires the party to sabotage or scare away the Aundairian warships that are cutting dangerously close to fishing boats and otherwise taking liberty with the concept of “innocent passage.”
Karrnath and Thrane are still negotiating the rights to salvage a loot laden Direshark ship that was sunk during the treaty deliberations. The party is approached by a Brelish patron who wishes to scoop both countries by exploring and retrieving treasure from the wreck first. Of course, the party is a set of disposable assets that, if discovered, will be disavowed and left to face international judgment.
The deep waters of Scions Sound have never been fully charted, but a spate of mysterious monster attacks has raised questions about what sorts of cave systems lurk below. Is this a creature from Khyber, or is the source of the attacks an artificial horror?
Created by Joseph Meehan 4 years ago. Last modified by Joseph Meehan 1 month ago