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The Origins and Current Disposition of Viamont

Posted By Ibn on 01-Nov-2004

by Salizim ibn Salaq, Sage of Nishadina

As much as it is possible to generalize about the character of an entire nation, the Viamontians, to put it mildly, are a proud and aggressive people. They glory in battle and conquest, driven by the ambitions of their lords and by a widespread love of combat and all its trappings.

Their history reads as a litany of battles, great and small, from clan squabbles over a herd of livestock to their massive campaigns of foreign conquest. The sources of their eternal war can be found in their earliest history. Their successes in war can perhaps be traced to their semi-mythical "Blood-Father," a man named Karlun.

Long after the Rouleans had brought imperial order to the lands around the Ironsea, the tribes that would become the nations of Viamont and Aluvia remained chaotic and disorganized. The Viamontian peninsula, which the Rouleans saw no benefit in conquering, was home to a collection of independent tribes who spent most of their time warring over territory and livestock. In general, these tribes were organized around clans and ruled by a hereditary clan chieftain. Relations between these tribes were characterized by unstable alliances, opportunistic treachery, and vicious blood feuds. The most successful clans were led by chieftains who were not only mighty warriors, but also cunning politicians.

Most notably, however, the clans within themselves seemed to be free of serious internal dissension. All citations of the deaths of clan heads are attributed to war with other clans, natural causes, or misadventure. There are no great stories of, say, an ambitious nephew or cousin killing and supplanting a chieftain. Successors to failing or dying clan chiefs were usually named by the incumbent, or anointed in ritualized trial by combat. The Viamontian national character, while quite bellicose, also seems to be strongly characterized by insular devotion to one's leader.

Though no single tribe ever gained supremacy over the others in these times, a handful did establish themselves as the "elite" tribes controlling the best lands and maintaining the largest livestock herds, and keeping their status for a number of generations. It is worth noting the names of some of these tribes, such as the Bellenni, Lotili, and Furzi, because their names survive as some of the mightier noble houses in Viamont now.

One tribe in particular, however, became an agent of great change in the region several hundred years ago. These events occurred far enough in the past that no truly reliable documentation exists, so what we must draw conclusions based on stories and lore passed on through an oral tradition. The Corcosi were a tribe which controlled some of the best pasturelands, as well as a natural port on the southern coast of the peninsula. They were wealthy and their lands well-defended, but possessed neither the strength nor the inclination to challenge the Bellenni or the Lotili. They were not particularly warlike by the standards of their time, and had forged a series of reasonably stable trade relationships with other tribes. They had gone so far as to establish small outposts along the coasts and rivers to serve as ports. They could be considered the most diplomatically inclined tribe of their time. However, the Corcosi became something quite different when a stranger named Karlun appeared in their midst.

Not much is known about Karlun besides surely exaggerated mythic accounts of his physical and mental prowess. He is known in Viamontian lore as the Great Bull, which does little to illuminate him because the tribal totem of the Corcosi, great cattle breeders that they were, was the bull. There is no documentation of his origin, but he was certainly not a native of the Viamontian peninsula. What is known is that, in very short order, he took over as chieftain of the Corcosi tribe in unprecedented fashion. Soon after, the Corcosi leveraged their trade connections into military alliances with other tribes and began a breathtakingly swift and effective campaign to unite them under his rule.

Fortunately for historians, reliable records of this time do exist. As part of his program of unification, Karlun had brought learning and literacy (at least among the noble lines) to Viamont. It is also worth noting that Viamontian magical practice, which had previously been a shamanic form dependent upon tribal totem animals, evolved into a variant of the familiar and almost-universal Four Schools.

Through conquest, diplomacy, and treachery, Karlun managed to bring most of the other tribes under his leadership within one generation. Karlun's sucessors - his children and grandchildren - continued the subjugation of Viamont through marriages with the other clans, and began to style themselves a royal line. The blood of Karlun is what the Viamontians believe to be the element that distinguishes them from any of the other nations of Ispar, and that is the reason they refer to all outsiders as "the Bloodless."

There were a few proud tribes, however, that resisted the unification. Predictably, the resistance was comprised largely of the powerful tribes who had the most to lose from bowing to a central authority. Most notable among these tribes were the aforementioned Bellenni and Lotili. The resisting clans formed an alliance of their own, led jointly by the shaman-wizard Bassano of the Bellenni and the warrior matron Pova of the Lotili.

In the first pitched battle between the two sides, King Elous II, Karlun's grandson, died in personal combat with the two warlords. This inconvenient fact was glossed over later in Viamontian lore, as the houses of Bellenesse and Lotila eventually became two of the most stalwart and reliably bloodthirsty houses in the later Viamontian wars with foreign nations. Demoralized, the royalist forces broke from the field, and any hope of swiftly defeating the upstart Bellenni-Lotili alliance was gone. The ensuing civil war lasted for almost a hundred years. Throughout the war, other tribes changed sides as it suited their interests. The war's intensity waxed and waned, but for a century, skirmishes took place more or less continuously somewhere in the peninsula.

Finally, the two sides came to a reckoning in the foothills south of the royal town of Corcosa, named after the tribe over whom Karlun had first established his power. In a battle still remembered for its savagery, the leaders of the two armies pressed the fight for three days, until there were not enough soldiers left standing to continue the fight. The battle ended with the royal forces holding a tactical advantage enough to win a surrender from Bellenni and Lotili, but not enough to force the sort of terms that King Elous V would have wanted namely, the total extinction of the two chief rebel tribes.

Despite the continued survival of his hereditary enemies, Elous V ended his reign as no other Viamontian ruler since Karlun had he died peacefully, in his bed. The various tribes were simply too spent from their age of civil war to continue the fight any longer, and the new realm enjoyed a thirty-year period of peace. By the time of the ascension of Elous VI, however, border wars once again ignited between the lords of Viamont. Elous VI and the rest of the self-generated royal line knew that their hold on power was vulnerable. They had the foresight to realize that the tradition of clan conflict and constant warfare, which was as old as the mountains of their homeland, would inevitably break apart the new kingdom unless all that martial energy and ambition could be productively directed.

With that in mind, Elous VI undertook the project of building a national military force. The most accomplished warlords among the old tribal chieftains became generals in the new Viamontian army. Elous quietly brought in retired generals of the Roulean Empire to train his troops and instruct his generals in battle doctrine. This was a politically risky undertaking for Elous, but by dint of his personal charisma, political skill, and promises of lavish plunder to the clan chiefs, he succeeded. What had been a patchwork confederation of tribal militias, each answering only to its own chief, became a hierarchical and regimented army which fought with discipline and tactical coordination. Within the army's hierarchy, as a concession to the old ways, the tribal structure was maintained units were organized along clan lines, and each soldier was personally loyal to his hereditary lord, who in turn served Elous directly.

Outside of their military obligations, Elous VI gave his lords great latitude to maintain their own domains. The royal line still controlled the rich ancestral lands of the Corcosi and, by virtue of the Corcosi port network, held a near monopoly on the burgeoning trade between Viamont and the declining, but wealthy, Roulean Empire. In addition, to secure his own military pre-eminence against the power of the lords, Elous established a war academy to make sure his own personal forces were the best-trained soldiers in Viamont. Other lords inevitably sent their own most promising soldiers to this academy, and this practice would become the foundation of the fearsome Ferran Knights of later days.

The results of the first campaign of the united Viamontian army are covered extensively in other histories and in endless mournful Aluvian drinking songs. It is worth noting that the conquest of Aluvia was a double success for Elous's gambit. The dramatic Viamontian triumph over the Aluvians at Ayrifal proved the wisdom of his decision to create a structured army, and the riches and glory offered by the conquest sated the appetites of his lords.

With their immediate neighbor conquered and safely under the rule of a puppet king, the Viamontians, in another astonishing feat of adaptability, turned themselves into mariners. Again co-opting Roulean expertise, they used the wealth and resources plundered from Aluvia to build a fleet large enough to transport their armies across the Ironsea. Thus began a wave of Viamontian military adventurism. Viamontian corsairs raided Roulean ports around the Ironsea, while the legions of the bull banner marched on Milantos and our own newly formed nation of Gharu'n. The Milantans repelled their invasion in a horrifying scorched-earth campaign, while they succeeded in our nation because of instability in the succession of our Maliks. The people of Gharu'n and Aluvia both eventually pushed out the Viamontian-installed puppet kings and reclaimed their lands from the invader.

The Viamontians' most recent campaign, under King Varicci, was the most ambitious and successful yet. Twenty years ago, the forces of Viamont issued forth from their peninsula once more and launched almost simultaneous attacks on Roulea and Aluvia. It was clear that Varicci had been biding his time and building up strength, enough to conceivably sustain wars in two separate countries.

After a wave of early victories, the Viamontians bogged down. Having learned lessons from the past, the Aluvians put up a tenacious resistance against the superior numbers of their old foe. To this day the war in Aluvia continues, locked in a bloody stalemate.

The tottering Roulean empire, however, collapsed upon itself like a rotten fruit. Already weakened by the long-ago loss of their trade outposts, the Rouleans were in no position to defend their holdings. Their once proud imperial legions gathered for one last great battle, which ended with the annihilation of the imperial army and the Emperor murdered in his palace, pinned to his throne by a sword through the chest. After their swift success in Roulea, the Viamontians turned immediately towards Gharu'n again.

The second invasion of Gharu'n initially went well for the Viamontians. Within two years, after a siege by sea and by land, they took Tirethas. The fall of the City of Lore dealt a crushing blow to the morale of our people. The Viamontians marched to the northern edge of the Naqut Desert, driving our armies before them. Finally, our resistance solidified around the city of Shiryaz, whose terraced gardens the Malika so loves. We fought the Viamontians to a standstill there, and Shiryaz remained free. One morning, eight years ago, the guards of the northern wall looked out over the battle plain and found that the Viamontians were gone. The great army that had camped there the previous evening had vanished in the night, leaving behind only their refuse and the tracks of thousands of boots, streaming north.

It took us only a day to discover what had happened. A crisis at home compelled the recall of the Viamontian army. The problem came from a familiar source: a direct descendant of Bassano of the Bellenni. The Duke of Bellenesse, once King Varicci's most trusted warlord, the one who had personally executed the Emperor of Roulea, has turned against his master. Details of the political situation within Viamont are always difficult to gather, but it is known that the Duke's daughter treacherously slew the younger of Varicci's sons, Prince Renlen, in a supposedly friendly duel. At the same time, the Duke launched a rebellion against his King, gaining the support of several other influential lords.

Things did not go as the Duke planned, largely because of the leadership of the King's elder son, Crown Prince Varicci. After a series of royalist victories, the Crown Prince brought his army into the lands of Bellenesse and laid siege to the Duke's fortress. In that battle, facing total defeat, the Duke took his surviving vassals and soldiers through a portal that had appeared within the castle. It did not take long for the bloodthirsty Prince to take his own army through the portal to continue the pursuit.

Understandably, a betrayal by his old warlord, the death of his youngest son, and the disappearance of his eldest son along with most of his army have blunted King Varicci's ambition. I suppose we, the neighbors of Viamont, have the Duke to thank for that.

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