|Ruler||Geoffrey Treadway of Huntingdon|
Sandal is the southernmost kingdom in the Reaches. Although largely unexplored during the First and Second Ages, a number of small ports date back to those periods. The capital city of Durcheinander lies on the southern coast of the peninsula near a large natural harbor. It is a port of call for most of the Realm's major shipping operations.
Sandal is currently under the rule of Lord Geoffrey Treadway, brother of the Baron of Huntingdon and a long-time supporter of King Vincent Fleetwood. The current occupation is a military operation with the population being kept under control by a careful balance of food, water and shelter for the displaced and a strong-armed sword for the displeased. It is expected that a transition to a local governor will take place shortly.
History of Sandal
War of Stone Rain
Early in the Third Age, the interior of the Sandal peninsula became home to a significant population of displaced Large Folk, mostly ogres, trolls and hill giants, who were driven south from their lands by the expansion of men from the Western Reaches. In those days, Sandal was often referred to as Giantsland.
By the middle of sixth century, increasing pressure from the growing population of Large Folk in the interior of the country and an increasing influx of humans along the coastal regions erupted in 551 TA in the War of Stone Rain, so named for the Large Folk tactic of raining large stones and small boulders into the human armies as they advanced into battle. After four bitter years of fighting, the war had devolved into a stalemate with neither side able to hold captured territory. It was then that a powerful wizard named Valdemar entered the picture. Valdemar seemingly subdued both sides of the conflict through spellcasting and diplomacy - bringing the War of Stone Rain to a peaceful end in 555 TA.
It is from this conflict that the modern nation of Sandal arose - with Valdemar as its leader.
The Rule of Valdemar (555 TA - 890 TA)
Modern Sandal was established in the mid-sixth century TA during the War of Stone Rain which pitted the Large Folk living in the country's interior against the coastal dwelling humans. From this conflict, a truce was negotiated by Valdemar, a wizard of black renown. Valdemar became ruler of Sandal and sat on throne until he was deposed at the end of the First War of the Reaches in 890 TA.
During the reign of Valdemar, Sandal prospered as a nation. The country began an aggressive build up of naval forces, forging a strong alliance with the ratfolk of the Tang Empire. Its strategic location halfway between the Old Kingdom and the Wilderlands made Sandal a port of call for most of the Realm's major shipping operations. Under negotiated peace with the Large Folk, the humans of Sandal cleared thousands of acres of wood from the Forbidden Forest and the Tangles and established thriving farming and ranching communities. The northern hills and interior swamplands were the exclusive realm of the Large Folk with a strong clan organization - some still reputed to be in service to Valdemar.
Sandal was not without its dark side. While keeping the outward appearances of a shipping and trading hub, Valdemar and his henchmen were rumored to be heavily immersed in the worship of dark powers and in league with chaotic demons bent towards sinister domination of "lesser" men. While the daily operation of the ports of Sandal was headquartered in Dureinander, the true power lay at the court of Valdemar's castle. Extensive guilds of thieves and assassins operated in all the cities and towns of Sandal, oftentimes tied to the local leaders.
Deep in the swamps surrounding Castle Valdemar, the Army of Sandal trained constantly. The army was a small, brutish force of men, Large Folk, and fantastic beasts all tied to the service of Valdemar. Several attempts over the centuries to invade the Western Reaches failed. Finally, in 832 TA, the Western Reaches were conquered by the Brotherhood of the Seven, including Valdemar, forming The Shadowland Empire. With the overthrow of this cabal in 833 TA during Hastur's Dominion, Valdemar fled south back to Sandal.
During the First War of the Reaches, Valdemar's armies had a number of victories, but, in the end, the toll on the population was too high. A revolt in Durcheindaner and a number of the coastal towns and villages deposed Valdemar in 890 TA. Valdemar returned briefly during the Second War of the Reaches, and sightings of the deposed Baron are still common today.
Western Reaches Rule (891-899 TA)
Since Valdemar was deposed in 891 TA, Sandal has generally endured a tumultuous period of unrest and discord. Several attempts by the Western Reaches to subjugate the people of Sandal have failed - leading to a string of short-lived rulers. During the period 891 - 899 TA, Sandal enjoyed relative peace and prosperity under the leadership of several Western Reaches governors. However, tensions about rule by the "outlanders" required constant attention and sometimes heavy-handed rulership.
Valdemar's Return (899-905 TA)
In 899 TA, Sandal revolted from Western Reaches rule. Although misunderstood at first, the catalyst for this revolt eventually became clear. Valdemar had been working during the decade of the 890's TA to coerce the Tang Emperor Shiba to invade the Western Reaches - finally succeeding with the opening of the Thousand Year Gate and the arrival of the Grandmaster of Chaos. Valdemar resumed indirect control of Sandal from 899 TA until 905 TA when the Tang withdrew from the conflict after a successful invasion of their homeland by the Crown.
Places of Interest (Eastern Sandal)
The Forbidden Library is an ancient Second Age vault of knowledge - containing works that were deemed too powerful for humankind and too dangerous to be kept in the vaults of Sarth. Lost during the dark years between the Second and Third Ages, the library was re-discovered in 902 TA. Under siege by Valdemar's army, a commando squad was sent to the location to secure the location. While generally successful, it is rumored that the leaders of the Wolfshaunt were released from a prison under the Forbidden Library during the mission. The Library is currently under control of Fuzzwort, a Librarian of Sarth.
This small island off the northern coast of Sandal was once home to an evil race of giants, known as the Darksouls. The giants were thought to be descendants of a race of Sea Giants that were marooned on the the island centuries ago. Rumor holds that in 820 TA, the Darksouls discovered two strange artifacts, Earthsheart and Tophet's Demise. The former was a gem that could create powerful magic, and the latter was an onyx coffin holding the remains of a long-banished Moon Demon. In 828 TA, a small coven of female mages left their home in the Forbidden Forest to travel to Giantshome forming an alliance with the giants in the hopes of opening the coffin and triggering the ceremony of the Battle of the Wills. In opposition, King Gregory the Even-Handed sent an expedition led by Sir Zachary, Knight of Teufeldorf, to capture the gem and coffin. The forces of good were victorious, although Sir Zachary was killed. The items were returned to Teufeldorf but are now lost.
Today, the island is populated by dim-witted hill giants ruled over by larger and more fearsome stone giants. It is rumored that Valdemar often trades for hill giants to populate his army, although what he gives the ruling stone giant population in return is a mystery. Giants are also common in the Dead Hills in northeastern Sandal.
The southern trolls of Sandal are commonly referred to as Tangle Trolls, as they seldom venture far from the seclusion of the Tangles. These very large, very aggressive creatures form a loose tribal society similar to orcs. It is rumored that humans convicted of crimes against Sandal are oftentimes traded to the Tangle Trolls for food. In exchange, the Army of Sandal under Valdemar's leadership sometimes used trolls in its army, although their nasty disposition makes the use of large numbers of trolls difficult.
The origins of Valdemar's Castle are unknown. It was certainly in use by the wizard when he came to power in Sandal in 555 TA, although it is likely that an older structure stood on the spot. Located in an isolated and dreary moor, the castle has been described as an impenetrable black fortress surrounded by nothingness.
In 889 TA, at the height of the First War of the Reaches, Valdemar's Castle was flown by unknown magical means from Sandal to Teufeldorf where it hung over the city during the winter occupation of 889-890 TA. At the turning point of the war, the castle was destroyed by an enormous shaft of fire, causing it to crash into the city.
Subsequent missions to the castle site found only blackened ruins of the original structure.
However, in 901 TA, an adventuring party encountered a structure at the original location shortly after the Tang Empire joined in the Second War of the Reaches. The adventurers were seeking the secrets of the Djinn's Labyrinth, a magical prison in which King Fleetwood and his companions were trapped. While Valdemar was not found, the mission was reported to be successful.
A later mission to the area found, again, only blackened ruins of the original structure - which is how the spot stands today. Academic researchers believe that the "temporary" castle on the spot was actually a summoned structure of the Master of the West Wind - recalled after the Empire retreated from the conflict.
This scattered principality stretches over seven major islands off the southern coast of Sandal. This islands are rich and fertile, and enjoy the benefits of their strategic location. They profit hugely from cargoes of goods that use the Straights in commerce. The rulers gave up piracy in favor of more lucrative methods of extracting money from merchants. There is particular enmity between the Isles and the pirates, for obvious reasons.
Places of Interest (Western Sandal)
Long a place to be avoided, the Forbidden Forest is a dense tropical forest approximately 150 miles in diameter. While the activities of humankind have pushed the edges of the forest back some sixty miles since the sixth century TA, there are no known villages within its confines. The Forbidden Forest is a popular refuge for those seeking to avoid contact with society - although none ever return from exploratory missions into its tangled depths.
Several villages dot the edges of the forest. An adventuring party entered the Forbidden Forest near the present-day town of Mutewood in 829 TA in search of an artifact stolen by a witches coven. It is unknown whether they were successful.
Later, in 831 TA, a mission from the Crown took a party to the coastal town of Prism to investigate the tomb of a vampire priest named Lambert. A large underground complex was discovered on an island near Prism, although it is unclear whether any adventures into the forest were made.
The low hills in the northwest of Sandal are home to a large ogre population. The ogres were granted an independent status, allowing them to live outside the rule of Valdemar's monarchy. However, in return, all ogres from the Fen were required to serve for a period of four years in Valdemar's army. Today, the ogres do not allow humans to move through their lands.
The islands west of Sandal are the Spindrifts, extending some 150 miles west of the Forbidden Forest coast. Little is known of these islands and the Tang merchants and other sailors rarely report on the activities there.
It is generally believed that the dark elves have established a settlement on the eastern islands - capturing and imprisoning any sailor bold enough to enter their domain. There are no reported towns or villages in the eastern islands and seclusion is all these elves seem to require.
The island furthest to the west was once ruled by a mighty wizard, one Eldrick, according to the stories. According to legend, he brought a small fellowship of like-minded wizards with him to the island. It is known that some trade between the Tang merchants and Eldrick Island still takes place. Local pirates are paid to allow Tang ships to pass through this area unhindered. This immunity has been ignored on occasion by an enterprising pirate who is then later exterminated, whether by an agent of Eldrick or someone else is unknown.
Upside Down Tower of Orling the Backwards
Built in 818 TA as the most southerly outpost against aggression from Sandal, the Upside Down Tower of Orling the Backwards was well-hidden in the hills of northern Sandal. Appointed by King Gregory the Even-Handed during the early days of his reign, the tower proved to be an effective defensive structure with a small garrison of seasoned troops.
In 829 TA, the Tower was put under siege by the Large Folk. A subsequent mission to the tower rescued Orling and reestablished the defensive structure which remained active until the wizard's death in 882 TA of natural causes. The tower has been abandoned since that time as the boundaries of the nations have shifted north.