Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Annotated Duchy of Ulek, part 2

Date: Thu, 11 Nov 99 17:29PM PST
From: Gary Welsh Add To Address Book Add To Junk Mail Blocker
Subject: [GREYTALK] The Annotated Duchy of Ulek, Part 2

ECOLOGY: The forests of the Duchy of Ulek are in geographical positions that give them the best mixture of tree species from both what are considered typically Central and Southern woods in the Flanaess [14]. The following list details the most important species to be found within the Duchy: apple, apricot, ash, bay, beech, briar, bronzewood, camphor, cedar, cherry, chestnut, chokecherry, crabapple, elder, elm, fig, galda, grapefruit, gum, hawthorne, hickory, hornwood, ipp, ipt, kara, larch, lemon, lime, locust, mangrove, maple, mulberry, myrtle, oak, olive, orange, peach, pear, phost, pine, plum, poplar, roanwood, thorn, tulip tree, usk, walnut, willow, yarpick, and yew. There are also the semi-intelligent and carnivorous plants to be found in remote areas of the forests. Choke creepers, hangmen trees, giant sundews and kampfults won't hesitate to end the life of an unwary or wounded adventurer.

Although the Duchy is a relatively safe land, there are the odd encounters with dangerous life-forms. Humanoids are virtually non-existent within the borders of this country, and large groups of humanoids haven't walked the plains of the Duchy since before the Hateful Wars. There do remain hidden pockets of some humanoid races, though none are larger than orcs or bugbears..

The smaller races, such as kobolds, jermalaine, xvarts, and goblins tend to fare better, though the most common humanoid plaguing the forests are the elusive kech. Igundi, skulks, kenku, adherers, and dopplegangers have also found a niche in various parts of the Duchy. Needlemen plague the Silverwood like few other places in the Flanaess, thriving on the predominance of elves..

Also among the tiny creatures of the land are gremlins, fremlins, galltrits, killmouli, and booka, though the latter two are much more tolerable than the members of the gremlin family. It is more common to encounter wild herd animals on the plains, and on occasions, their monstrous variants. Predatory animals, such as brown bears, wolves, lions, cougars, and coyotes can also be found in more isolated areas of the Duchy.

Among the true monsters, there is no shortage of isolated hazards. Anhkegs and ant lions are known to grab unwary travelers on the plains, and in the depths of the forest, owlbears can make short work of loggers, elves, and adventurers alike. In addition, encounters with stag, slicer, or the fearsome deathwatch beetle are not unheard of either. Finally, zygraats are a bizarre looking creature that can be found in both woodlands, as they prey on the faerie creatures within. The truly worrisome monsters are few and far between. On occasion, a solitary wyvern will terrorize the hillsmen and their herds. There are rumors that a red dragon or two may still lair within the Lortmils, but such creatures would have to be crafty and secretive indeed to avoid the attentions of their eternal enemies, the dwarves. It is highly doubtful that any dragons reside in either the Axewood or the Silverwood. If such a beast did, however, it would be unusually intelligent, powerful, and careful, to be able to avoid the attention of the elves and the good aligned creatures of those woods. Whether or not any Greyhawk dragons have taken up residence in Tringlee or Waybury is another unknown.

There are no large, stationary bodies of water within the borders of the Duchy, and the Sheldomar River and its tributaries are well traveled and safe. There is an abundance of fish species, and fisherman and adventurers alike should be aware of the dangers presented by some of the giant members of certain of these fish, notably catfish. In the slower moving shallows below Niole Dra, dragonfish are also a lethal hazard to unprotected feet wading in the water. Nereids and water nagas are not unheard of in some of the remote areas of the rivers, especially where the Sheldomar passes through the Axewood. Fortunately, there is not much to fear from more exotic and dangerous water-based predators, as there is little room and even less tolerance by the people who inhabit the shore communities for such creatures..

Perhaps the most common "monster" that rears its ugly head every so often is the giant snapping turtle, and crocodiles bask on the banks of the Kewl below Silverbend. There are exceptions to this, when some ocean going monster travels north up past Gradsul and into the Sheldomar.

Sylvan and faerie creatures thrive in this land. Brownies, buckawns, atomies, grigs, sprites, quicklings, pixies, mites, snyads, faux faeries, leprechauns, and stwingers all inhabit the forested areas of the eastern Sheldomar Valley, seeming to exist for the sole purpose of harassing the forest's larger two-legged inhabitants. Pseudodragons and faerie dragons also haunt the woods, and dryads, nymphs, and korred reside in remote glens [15]. There is also a significant population of centaurs and voadkyn, and no shortage of treants within the Silverwood [16]. A truly lucky soul might even catch a glimpse of the rare unicorn, which also is known to inhabit that rich woodland

POLITICS: When the Duchy became independent of Keoland, the high elves elected Grenowen to the office of Duke and established the capital in the old provincial seat of Tringlee [17]. Although members of the other races within the Duchy have always contributed their part to governing the land, there is no doubt that the high elves collectively, and the high elven nobility specifically, are the true political force. The Duchy of Ulek is therefore fairly representative of the high elven philosophy of government and the Duke will continue to hold power only as long as the majority of elven nobility supports him. If this support falters, any other elven noble could be elevated to the position of Duke or Duchess of Ulek (although it would take a lot for this to happen, and Grenowen has yet to face a serious threat to his office). And the nobles would then be responsible for naming a new candidate to head the nation [18].

The Duke and his cabinet are responsible for handling matters which affect the entire realm, such as international relations and trade, and the maintenance of a national military [19]. The local nobility of a given area, be they of whatever race, are responsible for all local governance. Waybury is of note in this regard, as over the years as it has increased in population it has increased its political influence, and is considered a seat of human influence within the Duchy [20].

Three times a year, the Convocation of Lords is held. During this time, matters of national concern are presented to the elven nobility, and they give suggestions to the Duke on how to handle matters. The Duke also announces any policies he has decided upon which affect the entire realm. There are also influential advisers of other races that Grenowen may call upon, and the Duke is quite good in tapping the experience and wisdom of others [21].

During the month of Lacysnows the third meeting of the year, the Convocation of Branches, is held. Here the nobility votes on whether or not they will continue to support the Duke by laying switches from the prized ipt trees on the ground in two piles-one for those who favor the Duke, and one for those opposed. Although it is entirely possible for any individual noble house to oppose the Duke actively, this has never carried to the point of warfare. The Duke may resign his post at any time he desires, at which point in time a special Convocation of Selection would be called.

The Duke is responsible for appointing a cabinet to oversee national matters..
This cabinet may be composed of any number of officers that the ruler deems necessary to deal with the issues facing the country. Cabinet members must be selected from the Elven nobility, and their upkeep is provided by their family (national taxes in Ulek are only for keeping up ambassadors and a standing army, all other taxes are set by and paid to local nobility). At present the Duke's Cabinet includes The Lord of War, The Lord of the Treasury, The Lord of Merchants and Trade and The Lord of Embassy. This last member of the cabinet is responsible for keeping track of ambassadors to the Duchy and for appointing ambassadors and keeping up embassies from the Duchy..

Some have speculated that these offices are often little more than figureheads, as any important decisions are often laid before all the nobles for debate [22]. And as in other things, the Duke often calls upon members of other races throughout the Duchy for their opinions and advice.

There are no hostile nations bordering the Duchy, as they maintain good relations with Keoland and The Old Country's other former lands, from the Gran March to the Principality of Ulek. In addition, the Duchy of Ulek maintains a working relationship with many of the dwarven clans of the Lortmils and of course, has always had a strong kinship with the elven nation of Celene, though this has been subject to internal strain since the Greyhawk Wars.

Although several hundred miles away, Grenowen is well aware of the danger the Empire of the Pomarj presents to all of the Ulek states. Many troops and adventurers journey southeast from the Duchy to aid the forces of the Principality of Ulek in their struggles with Turrosh Mak. Another tangible threat to the Duchy of Ulek - and all good lands of the Flanaess - is the Scarlet Brotherhood. After the Greyhawk Wars, everyone took note of this sinister organization, including Duke Grenowen. Lastly, there are those who remember Keoland's imperialistic era, and are wary that some future king might want to return Keoland to its former glory.



[14] Although it is a very minor point, I disagree with this. The Duchy of Ulek is in the 30-34 degrees latitude range, at a fairly high altitude. This makes it a pretty temperate zone. I take the Southern Woods of the Flanaess (as given in the Guide) to mean trees from those areas we would call subtropical - or Mediterranean - and warmer. Olive trees, for example, won't grow that far inland/away from the sea.

[15] This listing of creatures seems appropriate, considering the standard encounters for Axewood and Silverwood use the Faerie encounter tables (Glossography, p. 12).

[16] Treants also appear in the Silverwood encounter tables, in the Glossography, p. 12.

[17] There's that word elected, again. I think it is more likely that they did not establish a new seat of government, but rather just transformed the old provincial capital into the new sovereign capital.

[18] This sounds a bit closer to a fantasy medieval style of government. A group of noble peers (lacking a clear sovereign) very well might gather to appoint one of their own to the most preeminent position.

[19] This sentence makes the Duchy sound awfully modern. Maintaining a national military? I think it is better to say they have the liege-vassal system. The manpower of the standing army is contributed to by the vassals, in men-at-arms or a substitution fee (like scutage). As far as international relations -- I'd rather think the Duke has heralds and envoys, and trusted advisors, but not a cabinet.

[20] Another facet of the Duchy's politics that could be mentioned is the high number of half-elves and humans who have elven blood. In the Guide, p. 39: "Many of the inhabitants of the land are partially elven, and the remainder are well-disposed to demihumans." It is important to stress the full political integration of races in the Duchy of Ulek - the author does address this point later in the "Culture" section.

[21] I like the idea of the Convocations, or noble councils. Three a year may be a lot, for elvenfolk.

[22] As I've said before, I don't like the idea of this 'cabinet' at all. It is too modern, or Renaissance-sounding, for my tastes. Let's keep it more medieval and vital. The nobles have battle-readiness as their primary function and purpose. They are the ones who command the troops, collect the taxes, and oversee trade and local justice. The Duke himself (or a noble on his behalf) receives foreign embassies or visits foreign sovereigns, to decide on affairs of state.


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