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An Incomplete History of River's Rest: Part I

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For geographical information about River's Rest, click here.Turtle Egg Island
The name River's Rest is believed to be a corruption of rhee v'reskha, a trollish term meaning "turtle egg." Some scholars speculate the name refers to a stretch of beach on Maelstrom Bay which may have been a nesting place for sea turtles in the past. No turtle nesting grounds have been reported on the island in recorded history, however. It is reasonable to conjecture the trollish appetite for turtle eggs destroyed the nesting sites. Other scholars, however, suggest the name simply reflects the fact that the island is shaped rather like a turtle's egg.

 

The Kingdom of Elanith and the Kannalan Empire
River's Rest is an easily defensible island located at the juncture of the wide Tempest River and the western sea. It is ideally situated and it was almost inevitable that River's Rest would become a thriving commercial community. The island's early history indicates it was inhabited primarily by merchants, naval forces and the military.

The small size of the island limited its value for some time. In the early years of the Kingdom of Elanith, however, the king granted tax and tariff exemptions to those enterprising merchants willing to build warehouses and docks on the mainland. The town of River's Rest quickly spilled over to both shores of the Tempest River. Shortly thereafter a common saying developed among the merchants of Elanith. The Tempest River, it was said, was the lifeblood of the kingdom and River's Rest was its heart.

At first ferries transported workers and buyers back and forth from the mainland to the island. Eventually the royal family commissioned the creation of four bridges-two to the north shore and two to the south shore. No contemporaneous paintings exist which depict the bridges, but the journals of merchants and travelers describe them as wondrous and breathtaking.

It was after the Kingdom of Elanith was incorporated into the Kannalan Empire that River's Rest reached the pinnacle of its existence. As the merchants became wealthier the town attracted artists, poets, bards, musicians, scientists and philosophers from the breadth of the Empire.


The Collapse of the Kannalan Empire
The town soon became known more for its architecture and art than for its merchants. A certain arrogance and snobbery grew among the citizens of River's Rest. They paid little attention to the political strife and military calamities which beset the Kannalan Empire. After all, they reasoned, what could possibly harm their great empire? What could possibly threaten their place within it? This attitude was shared by the royal families of the Kingdom of Elanith. When "invited" by the Emperor to "visit" the capitol city of Veng, they agreed without reservation.

The collapse of the great Kannalan Empire took place around 3961 M.E. It happened with alarming and unthinkable rapidity. The royal families of the Kingdom of Elanith disappeared (and were presumably killed) when the city of Veng fell to the invading barbarian and humanoid hordes. Like the other vassal kingdoms of the Kannalan Empire, Elanith appeared ready to crumble. However, a leader stepped forward. Jaboz Cannfort, a commander of one of the many citadels located throughout the kingdom, quietly and confidently took control of the standing forces of Elanith.

Cannfort led the army in a brilliant tactical retreat that slowed, then stopped the advancing armies of the barbarians and humanoids. Although the Kannalan Empire had fallen and most of the territory of the Kingdom of Elanith had been lost, Cannfort managed to retain control over the heart of the kingdom. The army and the people beseeched Cannfort to accept the crown of Elanith and declare himself king. Cannfort refused, however, saying he was content to remain the Commander of the Citadel.


The Citadel Era
Although Commander Cannfort stopped the main body of the invading barbarian and humanoid armies, the land remained in turmoil. Savage raids were frequently directed at farmsteads, monasteries and villages. Cannfort maintained a standing army and instituted a rotating peasant levy to respond to these border incursions. The town of River's Rest found itself under attack. The population living on the mainland were required to withdraw to the island itself. They could only watch as barbarians, trolls and orcs despoiled and burned their homes and warehouses. Even more discouraging was the discovery that they could not defend all four bridges leading to the island. On the orders of Commander Cannfort, they reluctantly destroyed three of the lovely bridges.

Unlike many military commanders Cannfort insisted on leading his forces in the field rather than from a safe position in the rear. Although the troops found this inspiring, it proved to be his downfall. During a raid in the spring of 3964 M.E., three years after the collapse of the Empire, a crossbow bolt struck Cannfort in the face, burying itself in his cheek below his left eye. Ten days later, after naming his successor, Cannfort drank mead laced with hemlock and died.

The name of Cannfort's successor is unknown. In fact, none of the succeeding Commanders of the Citadel are named in any historical record. It became traditional that as one Commander died and another was installed the successor would renounce his or her name and thereafter be known only by the title of Commander. More than the Commander's name was sacrificed; the ostensible leader of the Kingdom of Elanith was also required to abandon any property and titles as well as any family ties (or, if unmarried, any hope for a family). The Commander was expected to be dedicated only to maintaining the ever-shrinking kingdom.

One of the Commander's many responsibilities was to preserve the knowledge and culture of the Kingdom of Elanith. To this end the Citadel ceased to be a strictly military compound. A zoo was established on the grounds. Plants and herbs were sought out and cuttings were planted in a garden both for medicinal use and for research. A small center of alchemy was established and mages were given the opportunity to study their craft. The worship of Aeia, a minor deity who had long been a favorite among old Elanthians, was encouraged both to promote a sense of Elanthian solidarity and as a source of spiritual comfort.

The primary focus of the Commander, however, was always the border. Raids by barbarians, trolls and orcs continued unabated and became increasingly savage and frequent. Each Commander ruled over a slightly smaller domain than his predecessor. The standing army became increasingly despondent and dispirited. As morale waned, discipline weakened and the army of the Citadel became little better than the barbarians against whom they fought. This unfortunate trend continued until 4002 M.E. and the succession of the Last Commander.


The Last Commander of the Citadel
Little is known for certain of the background of this remarkable figure. There seems little doubt that he was not a native of the Kingdom of Elanith. Some claimed he was a Tehiri warrior from the Sea of Fire to the north; it was said he had fled his homeland after killing several people as a result of a blood vendetta. Others avowed he was a deserter from some other army, since he seemed uncommonly familiar with military tactics. Many believed him to be the illegitimate son of a powerful pirate lord of Kezmon Isle.

Regardless of his origins, he arrived at the Citadel as a young man. He brought with him only a sharp mind, a scarred body, a formidable blade and a willingness to fight. Only the latter quality was judged important at the time. He quickly proved his worth, showing himself to be a master of small unit tactics. With a cadre of hand-picked troops he began to take the battle to the enemy. On moonless nights they would slip behind the enemy lines and destroy supplies. Although they killed relatively few of the enemy...only those guarding the supply wagons...the raids were devastatingly effective. They demoralized the enemy and motivated the people of Elanith.

When he was named Commander his first task was to reorganize the troops. He divided the army into two battalions: a heavy battalion and a mobile battalion, each of which was comprised of three companies. Each company was represented by an insignia; the heavy battalions were represented by beasts of the land--a boar, a ram and a thrak; the mobile battalions were represented by birds of the air--a falcon, a hawk and an eagle. The Commander also assembled a Council of Mages to advise him on the tactical uses of magics.

The newfound pride of the army of the Citadel inspired victories, and victories against the barbarian and humanoid hordes attracted that most vital resource of any army--eager recruits. Warriors throughout the region flocked to the Citadel compound seeking to serve the Commander and strike a blow against the enemy.

Among those drawn to the Commander was a renowned war leader from one of the eastern tribal regions, a woman named Millah Pradapt. Her prowess at arms and skill at tactics brought Millah the trust of her Commander and the admiration of the troops. She rose to the rank of First Cord of the Falcon battalion, the swiftest of the mobile battalions. The Falcons seemed to be everywhere, engaging in lightning-quick skirmishes that left their enemies bloody, stunned and disheartened. Although they inflicted relatively light damage, the Falcons effectively tied up vital enemy resources; troops that would have been raiding and attacking the kingdom were instead either guarding against the Falcons or chasing hopelessly after them.

Millah Pradapt became a favorite of the Commander; it was generally assumed she was being groomed to be the next Commander. Millah, however, had no supporters on the Council of Mages. She refused to put her trust in magics, saying they were unreliable for her style of warfare. Falcon battalion, she said, had to be able to move quickly and quietly and to strike forcefully even without the aid of magics. She did not want her troops to come to rely on supernatural aids. Her outright rejection of magics not only led to resentment against her by the Council, it was also a serious source of contention between Millah and the Commander.

In the early spring of 4011 M.E. the Commander planned the first major offensive against the barbarian and humanoid armies since the fall of the Kannalan Empire. The first blow, deep behind enemy lines, was to be struck by the Falcons, under the leadership of Millah. As always, Millah refused all offers of magical assistance, even when strongly urged by the Commander. Late on the night before the Falcons were to deploy the Commander went to Millah's tent to order her to put aside her stubbornness and accept magical aids. He was never again seen alive. His body was found the next morning in Millah's tent, horribly wounded and mutilated.

The campaign against the enemy was indefinitely postponed and Millah was arrested by order of the Council of Mages. They accused her of killing the Commander during an argument over the use of magics. Millah denied it, claiming she hadn't seen the Commander that night. She said she'd spent the night visiting and reassuring her troops or sitting quietly by herself. Her troops testified in her behalf, stating such was Millah's habit before any deployment. The unit's Empaths stated their belief the wounds found on the Commander's body were unlikely to have been caused by a traditional weapon, they looked more like the work of some fell beast. Despite the testimony of her troops Millah was locked in the brig.

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