The First King & the Great War
The victories that House Bannon and their allies achieved during the Great War, over three centuries ago, still echo through the halls of the Sovereignlands and in many ways have come to define the very essence of who the Valefolk are. It was during the Great War that the First King, Edric Bannon rose to power, not by force of arms against his fellow man, but by laying the Gods themselves low. For this, Edric would be immortalized in the minds of the people of the Vale as the ultimate monarch and hero. Edric’s murder at his coronation, allegedly by forces of House Aragon and ancestors of House Innis, was a tragedy that the Sovereignlands has not forgiven or forgotten. The ensuing civil war that followed for the next eight years only proved that House Bannon and the newly formed monarchy were the betters of anyone who stood before them, and their victories secured a dynasty of Kings that has stood for three centuries. The modern holiday of King’s Day is meant to commemorate these achievements and to this day, the people of the Sovereignlands feel as though they have brought the gift of order to the Kingdom. While the people of the Vale cannot often recount the exact details of history, they are extremely proud of their ancestor’s legacy.
The Bloody Queen
The days following the Great War were a time of chaos, with vassals turning upon lieges and the people suffering incredible hardships. It was then that daughter of the First King, Edric I, Catherine Bannon, who had led Bannon’s armies to victory in in the last days of the Great War, ascended the throne. While her father is credited by most to have begun the monarchy in Arnesse, she is the one who established and defined it. While history has varying viewpoints on Queen Catherine, everyone agrees that her reign was marked by warfare and bloodshed. Some realms consider her to be a tyrant, a despot, who was given the name ‘The Crimson Queen’ or ‘The Bloody Queen’. The people of the Sovereignlands disregard this talk as those who would seek to disparage the Bannon monarchy, claiming instead that the severity of Catherine’s rule was necessary to deal with the chaos and insurrection of her time. Queen Catherine is known as ‘Queen Mother’ by the people of the Vale and while many may be divided on her methods, the effects of her reign and many of the policies she established have been employed by monarchs up until the modern day.
The Age of Kings
The reign of the Bannons throughout the Age of Kings was nearly absolute, but not without strife. The people of the Vale well remember the days of the Brother’s War and Bastards War, when siblings fought each other for the right to rule. But it was the rule of Giles I, the father of the current King, Giles II, that brought some of the greatest strife to the Kingdom. Giles Bannon I was the son of Queen Eleanor and King Miles, the two victors of the Bastards War and half siblings. Their reign was chaotic, with King Miles dying early in his reign in a duel against an Aragonese knight. The knight took offense to King Miles declaring the current Lord Paragon Charles, his bastard son by a woman of Tarkath and the wife of the knight, a full-blooded Bannon and no longer a bastard. Giles was raised by his mother, Eleanor. Eleanor was a fine and just Queen whose reign is well regarded, save her decision to wed a Lord of Tarkath, Astor Aragon, who became King Regent.
Giles was crowned King Giles I in 727 and from the time he ascended the throne, his reign was marked by prosperity and wealth that had not been seen in generations. Proving to be a capable administrator with a keen mind, he made sweeping civic changes, including the creation of boroughs within fiefs, mandating an administrative structure led by a castellan and a sheriff, regulating the flow of taxes and to stop the hoarding of supplies by both the peasantry and nobility. This allowed towns to grow larger and more numerous and the already existing cities even more prosperous. Giles’ reign was also marked in his dislike for faith and religion. During his reign, the Aurorym faith and House Blayne enjoyed little privilege. He was said to have distrusted their power and said he had been shown a vision of their faith destroying the Kingdom.
While as a King, Giles I proved capable, his personal life is regarded by some as chaotic. The folk of the Sovereignlands often tell a different tale, in that it was the King’s right to act as he did, and some Valefolk even see the King’s choices as a sign of his virility and magnetism over women. Giles I took his first wife, Lady Rosalind of House Bannon, who bore him a son, Giles the Younger. While there was much speculation is as to why Rosalind fell out of favor, the King decreed that annulment was legal again and dissolved their union. She would flee north with her son, Giles the Younger and there, live among the Northmen, remarried a Lord of the Everfrost, if stories are to be believed. King Giles I quickly found a new love, the Lady Elysande of House Corveaux, who he wed in 734. Elysande bore him a daughter, Emma, and their union seemed good for a time. It wasn’t until the Queen was accused and proven guilty of adultery that the King’s house was once again embroiled in scandal. It was Giles I’s grim duty to order the Queen’s execution and she was put to death for her crime. The Sovereignlands mourned with the King, even as they decried the actions of Elysande. King Giles found comfort in the arms of Lady Alice of the Corveaux, the cousin of Queen Elysande, and less than a year later, the Kingdom rejoiced as the King took her as his wife. But tragedy struck once again as the new Queen died in childbirth with their son only a year later.
The King remained unmarried for many years, stricken by grief from the deaths of his wives. Even the people of the Vale admit that during this period the Kingdom began a period of decline as Giles I’s melancholy and bitterness began to define his reign. As his unpopularity rose, he also took Lady Maeve of House Innis into his court and in 748, made her his wife and the Queen. Given the Valefolk’s long-standing distrust of the Woodfolk of the Northern Reaches, it was unpopular among the people. Few could believe that the King could have chosen such a course of his own free will. Rumors began to spread that the Queen may be a witch and that she may have the King under a spell to love her. In the north, the voices of rebellion rose as Giles I’s son, Giles the Younger, was said to speak against his father’s actions. In response to the malcontent, Giles I ordered his men to find dissenting voices among his people, particularly those in the Sovereignlands and over the next few months, hundreds were arrested, put on trial, and executed. Amid this chaos, the Queen Maeve was said to be with child, and the people begin to fear that she would give birth to an unhallowed spawn that would become their monarch.
In 750 Giles the Younger marched south with an army of Hale warriors, but was soon joined by elements of House Blayne and dissatisfied Bannon nobles. They met Giles I at Lanton in 751, and despite the King having a much larger army, Giles the Younger won a resounding victory over his father. Many people of the Sovereignlands heard the tales of the valor and the might of the Aurorym forces, including the heroic Living Saints of the Vellatora. While some of attributed the victory to Giles I’s unpopularity among his nobles and infighting between rival houses like Aragon and Richter, many in the Vale felt it was providence and came to see Giles the Younger as a savior and liberator who was welcomed with open arms. Those who accepted their new King were treated well and given reprieve, but those who were loyal to Giles I were often treated badly and suffered greatly at the hands of House Hale’s raiders.
Giles the Younger was crowned King Giles Bannon II in 751 and ordered the trial of his father and his Queen, Maeve. They were found guilty of witchcraft and both burned alive. He also ordered the death of his half-brother, the ‘witch child’ of Giles I and Maeve, which was carried out shortly after his pronouncement by the Knights of the Five Towers. Giles II cemented his alliance with Blayne by wedding Aline, the daughter of Lord Paragon Frederick Blayne of House Blayne. He also granted House Blayne a Protectorate, a portion of the northern Midlands known as the Troth, which was renamed the Hearthlands. He cemented his alliance with Hale by wedding his half-sister, Emma, to Talbot Hale, the heir to Everfrost.
The people of the modern Sovereignlands are at a crossroads in their history. The King has chosen the Aurorym faith and made indications that it is the future for not only the Sovereignlands but the entire Kingdom. For centuries the Valefolk have remained isolated and withdrawn from many of the affairs of Arnesse, content to do as they are told by those who rule over them. But now, as various Bannon vassals fall on either side of the decision to convert to the faith, many Valefolk find themselves torn about what to do. The Valefolk also live with the fact that their leaders have shown that compliance with their ideals and decisions are not optional and many dread that in the the coming days, the tyrant’s hand will emerge and attempt to force them in one direction or another.
At the head of this is King Giles II, who has made overtures of kindness and reward for conversion. Many wonder how long his patience will last. Already he has shown a preference for leaders who are also Aurorym, and that tendency has only grown in the last few years. Among a normally staid and conservative people, the King is seen among many as a revolutionary, placing many of them in the unenviable position of having to decide between honoring centuries of tradition or following their monarch. But another force is rising among the Valefolk. For the first time, the Aurorym faith has awakened in the them the ideas of resistance, independence, and the desire to better themselves. The people of the Sovereignlands are not known to be a troublesome lot, but many nobles have come to fear the growing specter of revolt. To make matters even worse, the nobles cannot seem to agree on what side of the question of the question of faith they fall. Some houses have converted while others have abstained. This has led some to question how long a house divided can stand before civil war becomes an inevitability.
Recently the Sovereignlands has also seen a public resurgence of ancient cultural practices among some of its residents. These practices originate from an early people known as the Drago who called the Sovereignlands their homes over a thousand years ago. The Drago were defeated by the original Ardan kings who settled this land and their culture largely subsumed or forgotten. Some practices of the Drago remained have remained a part of Sovereignlands culture, however but were often performed privately or in remote places in the region. Some feel that the more public embrace of these ancient ways is a reaction to both the arrival of the Aurorym faith and a manifestation of the growing dislike among some of the commonfolk for the monarchy’s decision to embrace it.