The gold opened the door yes...but it was Galrans sweat, his blood, his dedication and love that turned this barren land into the envy of the world. Id rather die a thousand deaths than to see it held in Neirons hand for one more day.
Vendrik Ironside Valaran -
House Valaran: commoners, kings, beggars, warlords, mercenaries, refugees. Any scholar would be hard pressed to find a family whose fortunes have waxed and waned in a similar manner. From humble origins to shaping the fate of entire nations, the decendants of Galran Goldhand
left their mark on nearly all lands of the south. With brute force and diplomacy, bribery, treachery and pure force of will, the various members of this dynasty climbed from poverty into the highest echelons of power. All in the pursuit of a single goal, a single desire shared commonly by all of them: to reclaim the Throne of Onadara, to see their House back in the Silver Hall and enact revenge for their mudered leader, see his butchers broken and in chains.
Their enemies thought them defeated, cast from the realm, driven into the Outer Lands to starve or fall prey to roaming savages. Instead, they rose to become a nightmare that would haunt them for decades to come.
Throughout the ages people have been fascinated by the sheer obsession with which the Valarans pursued their goal, acquiring power and riches far beyond those formerly in their possesion, only to throw them away in repeated attempts at reconqering the Lands of Onadara. There exist a thousand songs of valour, cunning, hate and adventure. A popular saying goes that Goldhands Heirs accomplished more within a century than all Kings of the World had in 500 years.
While their name endured for millennia the Beggar Kings would, in time, fall prey to their obsession. On Goldhands funeral pyre they had sworn their oath, to never forgive the treachery done onto them by Neiron and his compatriots, to never forget that the Throne of Onadara belonged to them. Their rage plunged them into an endless war. Within 75 years of Galrans death their House had ceased to exist and the southern lands were left broken, the old order irrevocably torn apart.
House Valarans rise had been as explosive as its fall, their time on the world stage barely lasting a hundred years. Nevertheless it left the world a changed place, the echos of their deeds lasting far longer than they themselves had.
Eight swore on Goldhands Pyre,
For vindication and revenge,
That Power they’d acquire,
In savage lands and mire
Three perished far from home,
For vindication and revenge,
One vanished in a terrible Storm
Four Kings with power grand,
One with Whispers,
One with Gold,
One as a Sellsword of foreign lords,
One who sat on coveted Throne
Seven times they marched,
For vindication and revenge,
Marched on Sacred Wall,
Through bloody Hand they all would Fall
To doom them lead the Sirens Call,
For vindication and revenge,
For Golden City and Silver Hall
- Baran the Bard, The Beggar Kings -
Humble Beginnings (572 - 619)
Crisis and Kingship
Cedric Valaran was a born a peasant in 572 DA in Lenrir Province. Joining the army at age 14 his dutiful attitude and hard work saw him become commander of the garrison in his hometown of Naedras. His marriage to a local clerk's daughter gave him two sons, Galran in 592 and Vendrik in 594. Living a calm life, he died of a fever in the winter of 604.
His sons followed him into the army. Hard working and dutiful as their father they climbed the ranks, the calm and friendly Galran becoming Governor of the Border Region, the cold and stern Vendrik leader of a calvary company. Marrying local women, the two expected to live calm and uneventful lives, like their father had.
Then Galran discovered a massive Gold Vein among the hills of Linrir Province. Keeping the find a secret, Galran used his new wealth to turn his home frome a barren backwater into something akin to civilization. During this time the people under him began to call him Goldhand, due to the land flourishing under his care.
(619 - 644)
Outer Lands and The Oath of Vengeance
Throughout 619 Ondara had suffered from drought. The ailing populace began to get unruly, the nobles doing nothing to aid them. And in the lingering heat tensions rose. When the King was torn apart by rioters, all out civil war seemed certain. Then Galran intervened. Distributing his carefully stocked reserves to alleviate the suffering, he used his wealth to import as much food as possible from foreign markets, helping the populace endure until the drought subsided in late 619.
When it came time to elect a new King, the last one dying heirless, the nobles gathered in the capital to hold a council on the matter. They wouldn't have to choose however. The day of the vote the streets were filled with the voices of thousands, all chanting on name: Goldhand. Confronted with thousands of peasants, many of which had not forgotten the noble's misdeeds, they had little choice. On the first day of 620 Galran Valaran, still baffled by this turn of events, was crowned King.
Driven into a position he had never dreamed of reaching and if honest never had wanted, Galran acted like he always did when problems arose. He set to work. Using the wealth brought out of the now ever-expanding mines of Linrir, he began to rebuild the nation from the ground up. New roads to connect the people, a new irrigation system to prevent another drought, extra fortifications to secure the borders. Woods were cleared, fields and mines constructed, trade flourished. Onadara rose from being a large but poor nation to become the envy of its neighbours.
The greatest of Goldhands accomplishments however was the rebuilding of the capital. The city was reborn under his reign. The old streets and buildings were renovated, large public works, libraries, temples, arenas and baths erected. Many claim that the city that had once been smothered under a crust of dust and dirt, now shone in white and when the first rays of the sun cressed the peaks of the Dawn Wall, the spires and walls appeared to be made of gold.
Within it the Goldhand build his hall, the walls of his Sanctum decorated in Silver, the only luxury he gave himself throughout his life. And in his Silver Hall he gathered his family. Through Galrans blood, sweat and tears Onadara rose as the envy of the southern world.
His reign however had not been without difficulty. The nobles, side-lined by the wave of support for Galran, were determined to make this commoner slave for any concession. Battling the lords of his realm at any turn, each implemented policy a hard-won victory and in some cases, he had to threaten with military intervention to bring his vassals in line, if only for a short while. Sadly, for all his hard work and determination, the realm of court intrigue remained elusive to him. And so, he remained oblivious to the brewing danger as the nobles quietly gathered funds and allies, the snare of their plot narrowing with each passing day. Through Neiron they found a way into the royal army, as the young and charismatic general was easily able to turn the soldier's loyalty away from the newly instated Vendrik, a great commander but harsh man with few love or sympathy for anyone outside his own family.
By 844 the conspirators were ready. Vendrik, on patrol in the border regions, was recalled. With the family in one place the strike would be swift. By morning the Kingdom would be back in their hands. When Galran entered his Silver Hall that evening, the door was shut behind him. Before he even knew what hit him, Neiron came at him. In a single motion he stabbed his sword into Galrans heart, the King unable to even raise his hand in defence. He was dead before his body even hit the floor. Galrans reign ended as abruptly as it had begun. The traitors joy was cut short however as reports came in that Galrans family had disappeared. Except for his wife, which had been cut down in her quarter, they had vanished.
(644 - 645)
The Twins War
While remaining oblivious to the conspiracy targeting him, Galran had seemed to have some notion of the encroaching danger. Unnoticed by the conspirators he managed to move his family out of the capital and send them to his old estate in Nadera. Meanwhile his brother Vendrik had ignored the order recalling him from the border. Galran only ever send personal messages through trusted channels, never an official royal order. He decided to remain for a few more days, if it really had been Galran ordering him he would send another message. Worst case he would argue that the messenger had lost the order. When news of the coup reached him two days later, he wasted no time, riding west toward the capital. At halfway he reunited with his fleeing family. Sending them into the Outer Lands with his loyal soldiers, Vendrik rode alone, sneaked into the capital and recovered the body of his brother, before escaping as well.
Within the following days they reunited with several small contingents of loyal soldiers. A few days way from the border they felt safe enough to make halt, intending to make plans and have a proper funeral for their deceased leader. Opinion among the Valarans was split. Some wanted vengeance, especially Vendrik who had carried his brothers defiled corpse all the way from the capital. Others such as Galrans youngest Menaris wished to travel far away, settle down and start anew in faraway land. But something changed as the pyre was complete and the first flames began to lick at the sky. Vendrik rose first, fists clenched to the point that blood seeped through his fingers. Eyes fixated on his brothers burning body he swore not to rest till the traitor's deed had been avenged, the throne reclaimed. One by one the others rose as well, caught in the storm of his words. The twins Idris and Edrin, Menara and Inara, their children Hannara, Vendris and Sendra, the oldest barely 12 years old. In unison they said their oath, declaring war upon Neiron and all his descendants. They remained around the fire as Galrans body burned to ashes and vanished with the wind. When morning came, they broke camp and started north, aiming to make their fortune among the various kingdoms there.
The united front however would not last long, as tensions between Vendrik and Galrans oldest children, the twins Edrin and Idris, over leadership escalated. Goldhand had been more than just the head of their clan, his calm demeanour had kept their wildly differing personalities in check. The group split, the twins and their children broke off westward, their younger sibling Menaris staying with Vendrik and his family who continued further north toward the Kingdom of Makaran.
(646 - 657)
Entering the Kingdom of Vanderis in late 645 and welcomed at the royal court in Van, the twins set about gathering forces for their counterstrike. Using his charm and oratorical skills Edrin the Silvertongue began to gather influence among the High Nobility. Eventually becoming friends with the aging and childless king, Edrin talked his way into becoming the heir to the kingdom. Having achieved this, he promptly assassinated the king and took over. If the irony of his actions was apparent to him is unknown. Purging the court of any opponents he put his sister and his daughter Hannara in command of an army and tasked them with securing the neighbouring realms of Noura and Olrenia. In the meantime, he began to launch raids into northern Onadara.
By 647 both Olrenia and Noura had been subdued. Soon however tensions began to rise again. Within days of the victory Hannara had placed herself as Queen of the newly conquered lands, openly countering her aunts' ambitions. The dispute escalated into armed skirmishes but outnumbered Idris was forced to back down. Leaving westward she began to gather an army among the tribes of the Western Hill lands.
By the spring of 651 Edrin and his daughter had consolidated their gains and now stood ready for an all-out invasion of Onadara. Neiron however had not been idle. Aware of the forces gathering in the north he launched a pre-emptive attack toward Van in the early days of summer. Caught off-guard both Edrin and Hannara were forced to fall back, constantly harassing the encroaching forces. Initially victorious Neiron was soon forced to turn back south as Idris had invaded from the west in early 652. Marching quickly, he surprised and defeated her, Idris withdrawing south with the remnants of her army. Meanwhile Edrin and Hannara had recovered from their earlier loses and in late 652 invaded the kingdom. With several battles ending indecisive the war ground to a halt. Then in 655 Edris, growing impatient and suspicious of his daughters' own ambitions, forced Neirons hand by marching on the capital. A week later they met in Battle a short distance from the city. Outmanoeuvred and outwitted Edris was slain in personal combat by the usurper, his army destroyed. A mere year later his daughter followed suit. Neiron was unable to capitalize on his victories however as Idris, having conquered the southern Kingdom of Petera, returned and began to march north. Her campaign met the same end as those of her brother, in 657 she was defeated and later assassinated by one of her own generals. Neirons armies conquered Petara, Idris son Vendris fleeing first to Migara and then north, bringing the Twins War to a close.
(646 - 660)
Shadow Game and Redhand
Having made his way north, Vendrik tried to gain assistance from the King of Makaran. The answer came in the form of an attack as Makarans ruler had decided to ganrner favour with the Usurper by handing him the family of his predecessor. This backfired spectacularly when Vendrik beat the attacking forces and led a lightning campaign north. Proving again and again his skill as a commander, he brought much of the realm under his control by 648. With the Valarans army growing daily, his allies and soldiers deserting in droves, the King could only flee as Vendrik entered the city of Wenrir in late 648. The newly crowned King began to consolidate his realm and under his rule Makaran grew to become the strongest power in the region. As the 650s passed and the Twins launched their ill-fated war, Galrans youngest daughter Menaris set out westward by boat, seeking to gather forces in the cities of the Gold Coast.
With the Twins death in 655/657, their realms in northern Anidara collapsed into anarchy and presented Vendrik with the perfect opportunity. With Neiron still busy in the south the Valaran forces conquered the north completely unopposed. Now in control of nearly all northern realms, he launched a massive invasion in late 658. Neiron, who in all haste had raised more armies and hired thousands of tribesmen from the west, counterattacked, their war setting northern Onadara ablaze. Destroying several of Neirons armies, Vendrik eventually gained the advantage and marched on the capital intend on ending the war once and for all. The usurper hadn't been idle in all those years however and had used his large gold supplies to turn Onadara into a fortress with walls 20 feet high. With Vendrik unable to take the city and Neiron unable to free the north, both sides knew that the war would have to be decided on the field of battle.
In the spring of 660 the two armies met under the walls of the city. For three days the battle waged back and forth as tens of thousands of men slaughtered each other. In personal combat Vendrik slew the Usurper but was wounded by an arrow and had to be taken from the field. Having to withdraw as the Onadarans received reinforcements, Vendrik would succumb to his wounds still in sight of his old home. Pressured by the resurging Onadarans, Vendriks daughter Inara was forced to retreat. Without Vendrik to unify them, the various northern forces fell to infighting. Retreating north Inara was able to somewhat stabilize the realm her reign occupied by rebellions and constant southern raids. In 664 while on her way to quell an uprising in Van, she was assassinated. Her father's kingdom crumbled completely. Her only son Antian remained leader of a rump state in the far north.
(660 - 684)
The Last King
Menaris and her daughter Sendra had set out in 658 to seek allies among the states of the Gold Coast. Vendriks death in 660 and the ensuing chaos left the two stranded in the west as their guards abandoned them. Reduced to mere beggars the two had to work their way from the ground up. Working any job thinkable they gathered funds to eventually buy a small business. Luckily Menaris proved herself to be just as capable an adminastrator as her father had, their business booming. Within a few short years Menaris had gone from rags to become one of the richest people on the coast. And in contrast to her siblings she sought to regain the realm through subversion. The foundations for her spy network had already been laid during their arrival and now with a constant stream of income it expanded at a rapid pace. By 667 she had contacts throughout Anidara. From then on, she set about destabilizing the realm.
Neirons Successors sat on a shaky throne. Not as capable as the Usurper they had to deal with constant challenges from all sides. Menaris fuelled these, funding rebellions, inciting Hillmen to raid the borders and let her assassins take out key officials. For several years she went nearly unopposed but by 670 a new opponent, in the form of the capable regent Alius, had arisen. For the next two years the two waged a war in the shadows, trying to destroy the others network. In 672 Alius triumphed, Menaris being assassinated by a turncoat. His victory was short lived as Sendra proved just as cunning as her mother. Continuing the game, she finally got her revenge, Alius dying of food poisoning in 676. Of a crueller disposition she made it her mission to destroy Neirons heirs, assassinating several of his children and relatives over the years. When it came to marriage and family however, she wasn´t as successful, suffering three divorces and two miscarriages. Rumour had it that she had cursed herself through her cruel actions.
In 682 Antian, last descendant of Vendrik, marched south. Taking advantage of the chaos created by Sendras actions he managed to reconquer Vanderis and push into northern Onadara. He had fought a thousand battles, reclaiming his father's realm bit by bit. Rumours said that his hands were stained red from the thousands of warriors he had personally slain. His own campaign would end as disastrous as those of his relatives. Drawn deep into Onadaran territory he was ambushed and killed, his army massacred. Combined with Vedrins death, vanishing in a storm in 661, the fall of the last northern King made Sendra the last member of House Valaran.
It was a small consolation when she managed to assassinate the last of Neirons descendants in 684, her mission having morphed into the desire to rain pain upon the families of all those that had betrayed them. She grew even crueller and arrogant with age, ruling much of the west through sheer terror. Most of the noble lines of old Onadara went extinct by her hand and in hushed whispers the people began to call her the Bloody Queen.
She was however not as invincible as she wanted to believe. In 691 a coalition of wealthy merchants, having had enough of the Queens terror, hired several bands of hillmen, leading them to attack her headquarter in Tojara. Storming the city, they massacred thousands, including Sendra herself which left her son Kendrak, born in 690 as the last surviving Valaran.
(691 - 721)
The young Kendrak wouldn't have survived his first year if not for the care of a loyalist guard named Leran. Following Sendras death he took the child and some of her savings and fled the city. Living on the road he trained Kendrak, hoping one day the boy could fulfil his family's oath. In 705 he died from a sudden heart attack, leaving the 14-year-old boy to survive by himself. Having been instilled with the same ambition that had driven his relatives, he joined a mercenary company and quickly rose through their ranks. Proving a good swordsman and capable commander, success followed success. Between 707 and 708 he fought his way east along the coast gathering funds and allies for his campaign.
When the lord of Vara after having hired Kendrak to fight of a rival city state refused payment, Kendrak simply stormed the walls, killed the lord and made himself ruler of the city. The year was 709 and the lands of the east were recovering from civil war. The fall of Antian and destruction of Neirons family in short order of each other had thrown Onadara and the northern realms into chaos. Eventually the region managed to reorganize itself, the north dotted with small kingdoms and Onadara, now under a new dynasty had absorbed the lands of Vanderis and Noura. Sensing his chance, Kendrak began a rapid campaign east, conquering cities and small realms along the coast. By 712 he had taken the city of Nira, the old capital of Olrenia. From there he send forces as far east as old Makaran and began to press south against the borders of Onadara.
The commander of the Northern Border, a noble who went by the name Naldras, recognized soon that the movements up north were not the last echoes of the recent chaos but rather the early signs of another Valaran invasion. He tried to convince the new king of the impending danger but was laughed off. The last attack had been over 30 years prior and with the death of the Bloody Queen in 691 the line of Galran was dead. The Beggar Kings were history, mere stories told among the people.
The King was in for a rude awakening as Kendrak, having consolidated his gains, begun an all-out invasion in early 714. Caught off guard much off the kingdoms border was overrun and raiding parties struck deep into the heartlands. What saved the kingdom from being rolled over was the action of commander Naldras. Taking charge, he stalled the assault, giving the King time to gather his forces. Naldras proved to be Kendraks equal, what could have been a short conquest turned into a war of 6 years. From the northern coast to the southern mountains the land burned as armies marched across the continent.
In nine great battles the two generals met, each time resulting in a draw. The tenth battle in late 720 finally saw Kendrak victorious, Naldras who was elected King after the former was assassinated, slain during the chaos of battle. The might of Onadara finally broken, he marched on the city, storming it after a bloody two-month siege.
76 years after Galrans death the oath had finally been fulfilled. House Valaran had regained the throne, the self-destroying obsession paid with the blood of countless nations.
But his elation at finally having recovered his ancestral home would not last. The entire region had been bled dry by his war, a weakness that had garnered the attention of another force...
The tribes of the Outer Lands had plagued the region since long before even Galrans time. They had mostly stayed away from civilization, only occasionally raiding the various kingdoms borders, at most viewed as an annoyance. While the civilized world had been consumed by the Valaran Wars however, something had changed. Beginning in 720, Barbarians begun to cross the border. Small groups at first, easily dispatched. But as days went by their numbers grew and soon entire tribes smashed though the border provinces. In larger numbers and better armed than ever before these "Savages" were no longer content with small scale raids. They sought to carve new lands for themselves from the weakened nations of Anidara.
Trying to defend his Kingdom from these new invaders, Kendrak was defeated and killed in 721 on a forgotten field in eastern Onadara. He had been King of Onadara for a mere three months...
Kendrak died childless leaving House Valaran extinct. His realm weakened by years of war evaporated under Barbarian assault. The city of Onadara, crown jewel of Galran Goldhand, was plundered, burned and left to ruin, a fate shared by most cities of the south. The newcomers, having migrated from beyond the eastern mountains, flooded the continent, forming new Kingdoms as they went. A few dozen coastal cities survived the onslaught. It was here that the history and culture of old Anidara was preserved.
And while the men from the Outer Lands conquered the land, they took on many aspects of the older cultures. The tales of House Valaran became the most popular among them, generation after generation telling of the family that had held the continent in its grip for nearly a hundred years.
Some see them as villains, tyrants who driven mad by greed and ambition burned an entire continent. Others see them as paragons of perseverance, victims of heinous intrigue who rose to stand against the fiends that had wronged them. For centuries they have driven the imagination of people all around the world and served as model for those with dreams of glory.
While there are many legends and fantasies floating around, tales ranging from accurate to downright fantastic, we are lucky enough to know the story of the Beggar Kings in its most truthful form. Seeing their world burn around them the remaining Anidarans did their utmost to preserve the culture and history. The results of centuries of work, the achieves at Tojara, Varan and Cetara are among the most extensive the world has seen since before the Oblivion Hour. Scholars from around the world, from the cities on the Scetia, the court of the Great Zhou in the west, the ancient realm of Rhomeia and the northern lands of Vardania, gather here to study the history of a long-lost land.
It is thanks to them that the tale of House Valaran has endured so long and in the minds of the people will endure as legend.
Countless names have been forgotten. Kings, criminals, prophets, cities, kingdoms...hell even gods. But not House Valaran. Their names, their history, their wars, victories and defeats. Their obsession. Even now some dream of becoming like Goldhand or Ironside, men of legend who change the fate of entire continents. Trust me, when in thousands of years our bones are dust and names forgotten, they´ll still know their tale.
- Matteo Vardi, Arch Discilar at the Royal Archives of Tarquinnia -
Although House Valaran officially ended with the death of Kendrak in 721 DA, there were several people claiming descent from the infamous line. It was the fate of Vendris, son of Idris that had many question if the Beggar Kings had truly died off. The young warrior had travelled north, after fleeing from Neirons advancing armies. The last time he was seen boarding a ship to join his aunt Menaris in western Anidara. The ship never reached its goal, vanishing in a storm in 661.
Officially pronounced dead, his body was never found, leading to many rumours concerning the prince´s whereabouts. There are many tales about him surviving, washed onto foreign shore and face challenge after challenge in strange lands. None of these can be proven however.
This didn't stop several men claiming to be of Vendris Line:
- between 730 and 740 no less than 4 people claimed to be of House Valaran, attempting to reconquer Onadara from the eastern invaders.
- in 755 an adventurer named Eldrin, trying to rally the coastal cities in support for an invasion of central Anidara.
- in 772 King Geron of Themyra used his ancient claim as an excuse to invade the Sirian Empire.
- King Atechandar Argedeios used his supposed relation to House Valaran to pacify the unruly Anidaran city states. With middling success.
- Beredel the Sea King styled himself Last of the Beggar Kings, famously flying their banners from his warships. At the height of his
power, he ruled the Southern Ocean, the Anidaran cities his main power base. His realm shattered after he died assaulting the walls of
Rhomeia in 860 DA.
After Beredel, there were other supposed Valarans. None of them made much of an impact however and vanished quickly into history. Since
1500 DA there have been no further claimants.
Never forgotten, Never forgiven.
The Crest of House Valaran
Beggar Kings, Goldhands Heirs
Two golden zigzaging lines on a black background. It depicts the Gold Vein that started Galrans rise to power.
Idris the Pious
Hannara the Black
Vendris the Unlucky
Menaris the Cruel
Sendra the Blood Queen
Inara the Preserver
Kendar the Last King
Anidara Late 6th Century DA
Anidara - The southern Continent
Anidara stretches westward from the mountains of the Dawn Wall and is confined by the Great Divide, the ocean that parts the world in the west and
Tyanis Wound in the north. The western portion is dominated by hilly territory, small stretches of coastal plain being the exception. Going east they flatten out in expansive plains that stretch toward the Dawn Wall and beyond. Contrary to Vardania its climate is mostly warm, heated by southern winds, hot summers switching with stormy springs/autumns and mild winters.
The Dawn Wall
A massive Mountain chain stretching from the far north to the far south, it divides the lands on the Great Divide from the unknown regions beyond. The only known passage between them is the Sirian Gap in south-eastern Anidara. Throughout the age's attempts have been made to find the edges of the Wall, though most have been lost in the jungles of the deep south. Those that returned spoke how the mountains just stretch endlessly south, days and months of travel bringing them no step closer to the end.
On the western side of the Great Divide it is mirrored by the Dusk Wall.
Kingdom of Onadara
by Dino Drawing
The largest of the eastern Kingdoms, Onadara was founded 150 years prior to Galrans birth. Despite its size it remained one of the poorer realms until the discovery of massive Gold Veins in Linrir Province. Beginning under Galran the nation entered an Age of Prosperity that lasted up until barbarian tribes destroyed it in 721 DA.
The Outer Lands
The Lands east of the civilized world. Untamed lands home to various beasts and barbarian tribes. They encompass a large stretch of eastern Anidara and extend through a large gap in the Dawn Wall, leading into the unknown lands beyond.
Neiron the Usurper
A member of one of Onadaras smaller noble houses, he served in the army before being called into serving as a Royal Guard. While he served Galran dutifully at first, his envy and ambition grew at seeing a low born sit on the throne. Eventually he turned against him, becoming the leader of the conspirators. A great swordsman and commander he was popular among the army and the perfect leading figure for the nobles. After killing Galran he was crowned King in 644. Defeating repeated invasions by House Valaran he was eventually beaten and killed by Vendrik Ironside
in 660. His children and relatives continued to hold the throne until 684, when his grandson was assassinated by one of Sendra Valarans subordinates.