Grand Ducal Postal Service of Rohsk Organization in Adhonaglamar | World Anvil
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Grand Ducal Postal Service of Rohsk

A comprehensive history of Rohsk's postal service, as recorded by Belonos Orlion, the last Head Postmaster

The incident at Aren Forest

  Up to the beginning of 1156, Rohsk -like the other 3 Regions of Adhonaglamar- didn't have any organised courier service. Most of its inhabitants were illiterate and only the nobility occasionally sent out letters. They were most often delivered by errand boys of their household. Since most of those boys grew up inside their small villages, they more often than not got lost, taking ages to deliver their messages. For more important dispatches, a guardsman would be sent. They more familiar with the geography of Rohsk, but they encountered another danger on the road: inns and taverns. Well stocked with ale and entertainment, many a messenger lost track of time in such establishments.   All that changed after the incident at Aren Forest. In the spring of 1156, as was his custom, the Grand Duke of Rohsk was preparing his yearly visit of the Market of Oswain. Oswain, located near the southern border of Rohsk, is several weeks' ride from Rohsk's capital Risha. To prepare his arrival, a handful of guardsmen were usually sent ahead. Such a party of guardsmen had been in Oswain a few days when one of them, a young scout named Finlay Epps, overheard two men talking about an ambush of the Grand Duke's caravan. With the help of the other guardsmen the two rogues were rounded up and interrogated. They confessed to being part of a band of mercenaries, hired to capture the Grand Duke. Their plan was to fall upon the caravan in Aren Forest, midway between Rohsk and Oswain. From there the Grand Duke would be taken across the border into Naeron. They knew the Grand Duke tended to travel with only a small escort of armed men, which would be easily outnumbered by the mercenaries.   With not much time left before the Grand Duke was expected to pass through Aren, Epps was sent out in an effort to warn him. For 11 days and nights he rode tirelessly, only stopping to rest his horse. On the 12th day he reached the royal caravan. On the verge of collapse, he was brought before the Grand Duke and informed him of the plot. While the caravan took another road, avoiding Aren Forest, a nearby garrison rounded up the mercenaries. Realising the extraordinary speed with which Epps had made the journey, and being tired of his letters taking ages to arrive, the Grand Duke promoted the young scout to Head Courier of his household, a newly created position.  

Founding and expansion

After his appointment, Finlay Epps would be the sole official courier of the region for another 6 months. He mainly dealt with dispatches of the Grand Duke, occasionally taking messages for some of the Grand Duke's household. As other nobles in Rohsk started petitioning the Grand Duke to be allowed to call upon the services of his courier, he realised more couriers would be needed, as well as a larger organisational structure to organise and supervise their activities. At the end of 1156, the Grand Duke formally created the Grand Ducal Postal Service and housed them in a small wing of his estate in Risha. To oversee the organisation, the function of Head Postmaster was created. Out of gratitude for his services, it was offered to Epps, who turned it down. He had come to love the journeys throughout the region that his work as a courier brought him. Still young, he didn't relish the thought of being tied down in Risha. So the position went to Merton Pirn, a clerk who had served the Grand Duke's steward.   In the years after its founding, the GDPS hired several dozen couriers. By 1160, the organisation had outgrew the wing at the Grand Duke's estate. So a new building, the Main Postal Hall, was erected in the East Quarter of Risha. Around that time several smaller postal halls were also housed inside the market halls of several major cities around Rohsk. Each was led by a Postmaster, who in turn answered to the Head Postmaster in Risha. In honour of the man responsible for the founding of their organisation, there would always be only one Head Courier in the entire organisation. This honorary title remained attributed to Epps, until his untimely death in 1164.   As the common folk of Rohsk became more and more aware of the reputation of the GDPS and the advantages of a reliable messaging system, they gradually became frequent users of their services. Since many were still illiterate, they relied on local clerks to write down their messages and read out the replies. Never wasting an opportunity, the GDPS's second Head Postmaster started hiring clerks from 1162 onwards, to work under the direct supervision of the GDPS. The clerks were overseen by a Master of Clerks, who'd report to the Head Postmaster in Risha. These clerical services created a fresh stream of revenue for the GDPS, allowing the organisation to gather ever more wealth and influence.  

"Delivered, or dead"

GDPS motto

During the time preceding the Grand Ducal Postal Road initiative, the GDPS's motto often ended up being a sad reality.

Launch of the Grand Ducal Postal Road initiative

The Grand Ducal Postal Road initiative, also known as the GDPR initiative, was an attempt by the GDPS to address the frequent robberies and murders of couriers on the roads of Rohsk that the organisation suffered in the period between 1161 and 1163. The Inter-regional War of 1149 had left many former soldiers without patronage and income, which led to many of them forming small gangs that raided the countryside. GDPS's couriers were an easy target for these bandits.   The letters they obtained during such raids were often of little value, and they would frequently find their way into the hands of local bards. Those took it upon themselves to turn them into entertaining stories for the people. The nobility, enraged by this theft of their personal communications and public disclosure thereof, pressured the Grand Duke into action. In 1163, after a particularly embarrassing revelation about a prominent nobleman's desire for his kitchen maid's fine 'duckies', the Grand Duke removed the acting Head Postmaster and appointed Ryle Fernash to lead the GDPS. A former high-ranking member of the Grand Ducal Guard, Fernash wasted little time. On his third day in office he hired fifty huntsman and former soldiers. They escorted the couriers on their journeys and actively hunted down any bandits along the main roads used by the GDPS. After 2 months the number of attacks had dwindled, as had the amount of new and entertaining stories for the people.  

The Disaster of Braedon

One of the largest postal halls outside of Risha was the one in Braedon. By 1173 it had 43 couriers in its service, as well as 17 clerks; nearly as much as the Main Postal Hall itself. Braedon was a tightly packed city, that flourished thanks to its iron ore and copper mines. Most of its buildings, especially around the old city centre, were mainly made out of wood. This proved to be its downfall. In late 1173, winter had set in early, with bone-dry icy winds blowing through the city for days on end. On the night of the 12th of November, fire broke out in one of the shops on the edge of the city square. Fed by the winds, the fire spread quickly. It ravaged through Braedon for two days and two nights, turning everything in its path to ashes. By the end of it, nearly three quarters of the city had been razed to the ground, including the postal hall. Its archives were lost, along with 21 couriers as well as 14 clerks. It was the largest loss of life for the GDPS in a decade.   Rebuilding the city took years. By February 1174, the Head Postmaster ordered a new branch of the GDPS to be opened in Braedon. A small postal hall was built, serviced by only a handful of couriers and clerks. Their numbers would slowly increase in the following years, but the GDPS's activity in Braedon would always remain modest compared to its heyday.  

Infiltration by the Order of the Black Seal

For many more years the GDPS flourished and remained a respected organisation all around Rohsk. This did not go by unnoticed by the Order of the Black Seal, a criminal organisation. The Order had its roots in the unrest that eventually led to the Interregional War of 1149. Their main objective was to gather influence and power, but they operated from the shadows. They had a network of spies all over the 4 Regions of Adhonaglamar and had infiltrated many courts and noblemen's households. A campaign by the Monarch of Nearon to eradicate them had left them weakened in that region, but they remained strong and active elsewhere.   In the summer of 1185, they started focusing their attention on the GDPS. They began by infiltrating the lower ranks of the workforce. Slowly they worked their way up through the hierarchy, until several Postmasters and Masters of Clerks were connected to the Order. By 1187 their main operations were managed through the GPDS, due to the advantage its network, speed and influence provided them. They moved their headquarters inside the Main Postal Hall in Risha, where they excavated the Black Room underneath the hall as their main base of operations.   For several years they could work unchecked, spying and gathering wealth throughout Rohsk. It was their strength in Rohsk that eventually allowed them to slowly rebuild their activity in Naeron, after the Monarch's death in 1190.  

Purge and downfall of the GDPS

The beginning of the end for both the Order and the GPDS came in the fall of 1192. The Order had grown bold and was ever more openly meddling in the state affairs of all 4 Regions of Adhonaglamar. After several of their agents were caught and questioned, the Grand Duke of Rohsk ordered his State Marshal to start an investigation into their operations. The State Marshal brought together a small group of handpicked men -all shrewd bailiffs whom he trusted blindly- and set them to the task of unravelling the network of the Order.   In secret, the bailiffs investigated every lead they had. They were highly effective at their task, so much so that the Order wasn't aware of them until it was too late. By February 1193 they had identified almost all the agents of the Order, including their entire network within the GDPS. In one perfectly coordinated move they raided all postal halls and arrested nearly three quarters of the GDPS's staff. Only a small handful of couriers, that had been on the road during the raids, managed to avoid arrest. Most of them fled across the border into the other Regions.   The trials and executions were as swift as they were harsh. Crippled and bereft of most of its senior ranking officials, the GDPS was disbanded by the Grand Duke. The Black Room in Risha was laid bare and filled with rubble, their assets sold off.

Author's note

And so the Grand Ducal Postal Service -of which I, Belonos Orlion, am the last Head Postmaster- has come to an end. While I await my execution, I felt obligated to safeguard the history of my beloved organisation for posterity. Although I know none will believe me, I am innocent. I never had any part in the Order, nor was I aware of what they turned our organisation into.   Under the circumstances however, no proclamation of my innocence will save me from my fate. I am resigned to it.   Delivered, or dead...
B. Orlion

Image credit: Medieval Shoe by Marieke Kuijjer | Black Seal by Chae Ho Lee | GDPR insignia & Handwritten note by me, Errandir
The first GDPS standard issue courier shoe. Curtesy of Roland Admonis, GDPS memorabilia collector. The second shoe of the pair was lost. (Certain sources claim this shoe belonged to the famed one-legged courier Ostolis of Kaewan - verification needed.)

Grand Ducal Postal Road initiative insignia. Worn by the security forces hired to bring an end to the robberies and murders of couriers on the roads of Rohsk.

Note left pinned to the vest of courier Luke Savill. Savill was found late one night slumped against the facade of Braedon's postal hall. First presumed dead, it turned out he was drunk (a not uncommon occurrence). He had fallen off his horse on the road, after which a good Samaritan had picked him up and dropped him off at the hall - but not without showing his disdain for the courier's behaviour by leaving the note. Savill was fired the next morning by Braedon's Postmaster.
(The note reads: "Not delivered, Not dead, Definitely drunk!", a reference to the GDPS's motto.)

The Order of the Black Seal's insignia. Found on letters inside the Black Room by P. Gawyne, Head Bailiff of the State Marshal's investigation unit.

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Cover image: Letter patent of nobility by Ladislaus V
  • 28th of April, 1156
    The incident at Aren Forest
    Political event

    Mercenaries fail to capture the Grand Duke of Rohsk. Heroic ride of Finlay Epps, leading to the creation of the GDPS.

  • 19th of December, 1156
    Creation of the Grand Ducal Postal Service

    The GDPS is founded and housed in the Grand Duke's estate.

  • 5/6 - 28/11, 1160
    Construction of the Main Postal Hall
    Construction beginning/end

  • 9th of January, 1162
    Clerks join the GDPS
    Financial Event

    The Head Postmaster of the GDPS begins hiring clerks to work directly for the GDPS. Creation of the Master of Clerks position.

  • 16th of August, 1163
    Launch of the Grand Ducal Postal Road Initiative
    Military action

    Appointment of Ryle Fernash as Head Postmaster. Launch of the GDPR initiative to curb robberies and murders of couriers on the roads of Rohsk.

  • 7th of March, 1164
    Death of Finlay Epps
    Life, Death

    First Head Courier of the GDPS, Finlay Epps, dies unexpectedly.

  • 12th of November, 1173
    The Disaster of Braedon
    Disaster / Destruction

    Fire breaks out in Braedon. Three quarters of the city burns down, including the local postal hall. Twenty-one couriers and fourteen clerks die in the fire.

  • February, 1174
    Reopening of the Braedon branch

    The GDPS resumes their activities in Braedon.

  • July, 1184
    Infiltration of the GDPS by the Order of the Black Seal
    Criminal Activity

  • May - July, 1188
    Excavation of the Black Room
    Construction beginning/end

    The Order of the Black Seal moves their main base of operations to the Black Room, excavated underneath the Main Postal Hall in Risha.

  • October, 1192
    Purge of the GDPS
    Military action

    The Grand Duke of Rohsk orders an investigation into the Order of the Black Seal's activity. Bailiffs start unravelling the Order's network.

  • February, 1193
    End of the Grand Ducal Postal Service

    The bailiffs raid the GDPS postal halls. Most members of the Order of the Black Seal are arrested, tried, and executed. The GDPS is disbanded.

  • 23rd of April, 1193
    Execution of Belonos Orlion, last Head Postmaster of the GDPS
    Life, Death


Author's Notes

Any and all feedback is welcomed (truly!). Yes, I know, that doesn't tell you much, so some highlights:  

  • First and foremost: tell me your first thought after having read it. What feeling was going through you, what was on your mind? Be honest, I can take it (well, I hope ;-) ).  
  • I'm using WA to help me create the world of which I envisage writing/telling stories. It's not a gamer's world for D&D, Pathfinder,... You've probably noticed this article is also written in the form of a story, so feedback on the storytelling elements, style, flow, ... are what will help me most at the moment. Am I not descriptive enough, too descriptive, leaving you lost in the multitude of characters and places, ...? How does my story come across: childish, simplistic, Mary-sue-ish, dark, boring, ...?  
  • I've got a tendency to write long sentences. Cutting down the article to fit the size limit was very useful for me, it helped me see some phrasing that was not the smoothest and most concise. I mean, I still like long sentences :-D. But I want my writing to be smooth, something you read with ease, that you could even read aloud to someone. So feedback on this aspect is also welcomed. How is the readability, are the paragraphs too long/short, ...?  
  • I've not dabbled in CSS yet, so I know my visuals are very basic. Feedback or tips for quick wins are always welcome, but if you're short on time, this aspect is less urgent for me.  
  • English is not my native language. I'd like to consider myself rather fluent in it. But if you have any vocabulary/grammar pointers, I don't mind if you share them.
  Regardless of what feedback you give me: thank you!

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May 26, 2020 00:16 by Garrett Grace Lewis

I like how you went with a post service! Don't think I've seen any around on WA yet! Not to mention, you've got a very grounded history here— it really feels like something that could have happened in our own history.

Jun 1, 2020 07:55

Thanks a lot Garrett. I somehow decided on the topic, partly out of jest to myself; “how on Earth are you going to turn THAT into something interesting éh?”. I’m still developing my world, but I’m indeed a fan of medieval fantasy, where a lot could be like in our medieval age with just a few twists here and there.

Jun 16, 2020 22:01

This was a very interesting article to read! It really came across as someone's passion project to preserve the history of a now defunct organization. I am left wondering, however, how is Rohsk going to deliver important letters going forward? Are they back to using the old errand boy system?   How did you came to imagine such a rich history like this for an organization? Timelines and histories of things have always been a weakpoint for me, and I tend to just pick world dates fairly arbitrarily so I'd love to know what your process for that is.   On a more technical note, there is a spot of redundancy at the top of the post. "...from Rohsk's capital Risha, capital of Rohsk."

Jul 9, 2020 19:58

Thanks Master WillowRiver, and sorry for the late reaction! I admit that I'll have to come up with a new form of messaging system :-D. The word limit didn't allow me any more room to add things about how Rohsk will continue delivering mail, but it's definitely something I'll have to add in the future.   In terms of coming up with the history: I had to re-adjust the dates quite often. I first came up with little story arcs for each event. I roughly organised them in the order I wanted and added some dates to them. But as each arc got expanded, I realised certain dates wouldn't make sense (too soon/long after a previous event, people's age not matching up with the progress of the timeline, etc.). So I went back and edited them into a more logical timeframe. TL;DR: I'd say focus on your story, use some rough dates to give you an idea but only fix them once the story is nearly complete and makes chronological sense.   How I came up with the history... harder to say. My brain is just weird like that :-D. I did start out with the idea to write something about a postal service. Since I wanted it to be a history ending rather dramatically, I came up with ways in which that could happen (becoming powerful, being infiltrated by an organisation that is an adversary to the local ruler, etc.). Other bits just grew organically around an idea; I wanted a form of heroic event for the founding of the order, preferably with a hero, so I came up with the first messenger, added some backstory. At the end I had a handful of story arcs I liked, and I just had to knit them together into a coherent history/story. It's as they say about eating an elephant: one bite at the time.   Thanks for the pointing out the redudancy, that slipped by me. I'll edit it once I'm sure I can safely edit the article after the challenge.

Jul 7, 2020 07:16 by Ademal Jacklyn

Congrats on winning the History Challenge!   This article was a delight to read, and excels in Lore, Writing, and Style alike. As the judge of the Regular League, I chose you as the winner because your article is well constructed, well written, funny, and interesting, and because the is an out of the box choice that you made interesting!


While the article doesn’t offer a very large look into the rest of your setting, it makes enough references to feel drawn from a larger tapestry, and like it could contribute back to that tapestry though having many characters and situations to reference. It feels mutually entangled with the wider lore.   The setting comes across as being grounded in a reality not too different from our own. In that regard, it stays credible and grounded. What does stick out to me is its use of the initialism GDPS—it seems anachronistic, as initialisms and acronyms are a more modern invention here on earth.


While the body text isn’t prose in the most strict sense, it still tells a story from the first word to the last, which is my favorite aspect of it. A couple more quotes might strengthen this, but aren’t necessary.   What I do think is missing is a strong starting hook. This is best done with a quote or a good leading sentence. For example: “The history of the Grand Ducal Postal Service is a short, strange, and surprisingly bloody one.” makes for a bit of an eye-catching starter because it promises oddities and violence!   In a more nitty-gritty observation, you use the word ’most’ a lot. I also noticed odd wording with “For several years they could work unchecked”, which would read better as ”For several years they worked unchecked”.   I’ll also give you the same advice that I was given, and I give most everyone I critique: adverbs are not your friend. They are often a crutch in our writing, something which makes sense to us, but which are vague and detract from our writing. There is almost always better phrasing, or they can be removed altogether.   For example, let’s take a look at “Slowly they worked their way up through the hierarchy…”. How long is “slowly”? You know, as the writer, but I as a reader don’t have so strong a context for what is long or slow. Is it measured in years? Decades? Centuries? You answer this in the next sentence, but by then there’s already an uncertainty in the reader’s mind that didn’t have to be there.   That’s what it comes down to: adverbs are often the language of uncertainty. Eventually. Slowly. Highly. Nearly. All words that are some form of ‘maybe’. There’s almost always more poignant ways to quantify your point. Aside from that, some of your paragraphs run a little long. For example ”In late 1173, winter had set in early” should mark the start of a new paragraph, as we’re moving to another point in time, so a new subject.


I often advise people to take a blogging approach to writing WA articles, to focus less on longform prose and more on breaking the content into bite-size chunks of under 300 words, separated by headers. You’ve followed that wonderfully here, whether it was a conscious choice or not.   You also made good use of the sidebar. I like the extra tidbits of lore in there, though I would like to see you expand the description of the insignia to say why that’s the insignia and what it means.   The timeline didn’t add much to the text, but it was clean and served as a good summary. Consider slipping in some lore tidbits that aren’t in the core article, if not in this article then for some of your future articles. I suggest turning the author’s note into a quote, as well!
I hope this feedback helps. Congrats on your win!

Check out my summercamp by going here and checking out any of my gold-star articles!

Jul 10, 2020 20:52

Thank you for the feedback Ademal!   You are right about the use of the acronym 'GDPS' feeling slightly out of place for this type of medieval setting. I used it because writing the full name every time would make the text cumbersome to read (not to mention significantly add to the word count :-D). Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with such situations? Perhaps using another word for it (like 'the Service') in the main body of text?   Great tip about the starting hook, I'll take that into account in the future, as I plan to write several more articles in a more story-like way.   You're taking away my adverbs? Nooo! ;-) Point taken; I seem to automatically resort to such words. Somehow when I read them in my mind, it sounds more 'poetic' or dramatic. I'll read up on that issue in some articles, it seems it is a well-known problem according to Google :-). If you have any good resources yourself that go more in depth on the issue, please let me know.   I agree wholeheartedly on the timeline; it's also the reason why there isn't more fluff on the insignia for instance. The simple reason is that I ran out of word space, after already having trimmed the lengthier bits. I felt that there were whole paragraphs of history missing, that the account was almost anecdotal. So I'll definitely revisit the article in the future, once my world is built up a bit more, to extend it with both main body events and tidbits of lore, as well as a proper, full-bodied timeline.   Thanks again, very useful feedback that will most certainly improve my writing!

Jul 11, 2020 17:18 by Ademal Jacklyn

I recommend "On Writing" by Stephen King, it's a great resource for people who are serious about writing and already have a fair amount under their belt!   Regarding the adverbs, I totally agree. Sometimes an adverb is just perfect, and so should stay. It's one of those things where you can break the rule if you understand the rule. King covers it in 'On Writing' iirc. He was an English professor for a while, I believe, so he's very good at delving into the mechanics of writing.   I figure a lot of choices were down to keeping within the word limit and that's fine,. I didn't fault you for them at all, but for your 2nd draft those are the improvements you can made. As for what to call them, "the service" works, since there's no other postal service. Or The Post. We tend to only create differentiating names once there's multiple, otherwise it's just THE only and doesn't need a complex name.

Check out my summercamp by going here and checking out any of my gold-star articles!

Sep 23, 2020 12:35

I like the story aspect, especially that last author's note. Although I'm a bit confused where it says "The State Marshal brought together a small group of handpicked men -all shrewd bailiffs whom he trusted blindly- and set them to the task of unravelling the network of the Order. In secret, the bailiffs investigated every lead they had. They were highly effective at their task, so much so that the Order wasn't aware of them until it was too late." The first part made me think the baliffs were working with the Order, unless I'm misunderstanding

Sep 27, 2020 16:22

Thanks for the feedback vibingboyo. The bailiffs were ordered by the State Marshal to try to unravel the Order. So they were definitely not working with the Order. I feel to see where it might indicate otherwise, could you clarify which words led you to think that?

Sep 27, 2020 19:45

the "whom he trusted blindly" and "in secret" made me think they were untrustworthy. However re-reading my own comment just now made me realize I read that part wrong