During our last D&D session, I tried to expand a bit on the history of the land outside of the Nentir Vale. My players, ever helpful, asked me to put everything down in a post they could read rather than having me go through it when they should rightly be slaying monsters and collecting loot. So, here goes.
According to the D&D Essentials materials, the Nerathan Empire existed to the south of the Nentir Vale and ‘began to crumble about a century ago.’ Emperors being who they are, the old Emperor tried to hold onto his power. The Barons, seeing the writing on the wall and tired of the Imperial laws that bled their lands dry, united to oust their rulers from Nerath. The Imperial Palace was besieged and burned, most of the family within put to the sword.
The Barons, glad to be free of the Imperials but unwilling to shed each others’ blood to determine the course of their lands from that point, agreed to non-lethal single combat. The victor became King of the Baronies, with his last opponent Duke of Nerath. Other dukes and earls were given their titles based on their standing and the size of their lands. This was the first Royal Games, followed by the first Convocation of Barons.
Every five years, the Barons (since you had to be at least a baron to participate) reconvened in Nerath to hold another Royal Games. Tax revenue was collected, grand balls thrown and in the end it again came down to single combat in an arena. If the King was able to defeat his opponent, he continued to reign; if he were unseated or too old to participate, he became the Duke of Nerath, administrator of the great city and advisor to the King.
This system wasn’t entirely popular with the people of the Baronies. For one, without more direct oversight from Nerath the Barons were able to impose more taxes and other policies upon their lands. For another, there was always the question of how much of the combat at the Games was honorable and if the outcome was ever fixed.
Most of these questions and concerns went unresolved, as the kingdom was relatively peaceful for a century. Recently, Duke Alphonse Markelhay had opened up negotiations for an alliance with the eladrin and elves in the Feywood, and was already on good terms with the dwarves of Hammerfast. His brother, Feron the Lord Marshal of Fallcrest, was ensuring that goods from that community as well as the rest of the Nentir Vale were finding their way to Adamantine. Alphonse was favored to win the Games, and the prevailing sentiment was that alliances with the other races would put him in a position to demand a change in policies throughout the Lands, as the Duke was well-liked by his people and saw to their needs before filling his coffers.
However, after the sitting King was defeated in the Games, Lysander Nerath arrived with his dark forces to reclaim the Imperial throne of his ancestors. He told Alphonse, the uncrowned King, to hand over his lands and contacts with the other races to ensure a peaceful transition of power. Alphonse refused. In response, Lysander killed Perrin II, took his crown and declared himself Emperor. In the ensuing chaos, Alphonse was secreted out of the city by an eladrin advisor, who was subsequently captured and put to death. Alphonse was last seen on the road to Adamantine, which was since renamed Sarthel in honor of Lysander’s late father. The uncrowned King’s party was set upon by Iron Circle mercenaries and priests of Bane. Nobody knows what the true outcome of the battle was. Neither party reported back to their homes and search parties turned up no bodies, only discarded weapons, broken armor and too little blood to form a conclusion.
With Lysander has come more oppressive taxes, the dissolution of the Baronies and a simple order issued by the Emperor: “Unite under the Nerathan banner or be put down by Imperial forces. You can live under my rule or watch your children burn.”