Post Greyhawk Wars: 585 CY
Ulek, Principality of
Ruler: His Serene Highness, Lord of the Peaks of Haven, Prince Olinstaad Corond
Capital: Gryrax (pop. 21,000)
The dwarf-ruled Principality has always been a friendly mix of dwarves and gnomes (who mined he rich hills) and humans (who did most of the farming, manned the naval squadrons based in Gryrax, and comprised the cavalry of the land). Ulek’s dwarven infantry has seen much combat during the century, being involved in the Hateful War, skirmishing regularly with Pomarj humanoids, and finally suffering defeats at their hands under Turrosh Mak. The eastern half of the Principality was utterly lost during the War, and the beleaguered stronghold of Havenhill anchors a chain of new citadels being constructed in the hills. Gryrax itself lies barely thirty miles from the vermin of the Pomarj and is swollen with dwarf and gnome refugees from the eastern lands. The mood among these demi-humans, in particular, is one of hatred and a burning desire for revenge.
Prince Corond is most concerned with protecting the eastern mines of the hills, which contain
so much of the Principality’s wealth. He negotiates with the other Ulek states, the Kron Hills gnomes, and even the free cities of the Wild Coast. Corond believes that he has some debts to call in; while the Principality didn’t formally ally with Furyondy and Veluna during the Wars, one of the worst-kept secrets is that many of its best warriors traveled north as volunteers: this weakening of Ulek defenses cost this state much of its precious territory.
Unfortunately, Furyondy is not in a position to reward the Prince; Veluna can offer little, being desperate to support its eastern neighbor as a primary task. However, Corond has plenty of friends, riches, and a strong body of fighting men. If a major battle is to come in the immediate future, the men and dwarves of the Principality may well be on the field of combat.
It is also said that the Prince and his agents are eagerly looking for adventurers willing to undertake a number of missions to recover lost magical treasures.
The Principality of Ulek is the southernmost of the three independent Ulek States. It is likely the largest mixed dwarven and human realm in the Flanaess, and one of few that is both possessed and administered by the dwur themselves. The principality sits in the western Flanaess along the coast of the Azure Sea, bordered by Keoland to the west and the Pomarj peninsula to the east, between the Sheldomar and Jewel Rivers, respectively. Its northern border with the County of Ulek has traditionally been observed as the Old River, from its source at the southern tip of the Lortmil Mountains to where the river flows into the Sheldomar. Some logging has been conducted in the northeastern corner of the realm, where the Suss verges across the Jewel, but the most dominant feature of the principality is the broad set of lofty hills that dominate the central fastness of the realm, separating it into two distinct regions all the way south to the sea.
The Principality of Ulek is easily the most cosmopolitan of the three Ulek States. Its large and busy port at Gryrax is second only in size to the great cities of Gradsul and Irongate on the Azure Sea. It prospers tremendously from the trade that passes through its markets, including goods from as far north as Celene and the Duchy of Ulek. Traditionally dominated by nonhumans since ancient times, the Ulek states are notoriously provincial, but the prince and his court conducts foreign policy and engages in trade and ommerce with his neighbors as would any human lord. Taken together, halflings and dwarves outnumber humanity in all of the provinces but the city of Gryrax. This breakdown carries over to the military forces of the realm, highlighted by the elite heavy dwarven infantry armed with battleaxes and dressed in adamantine chainmail. Halflings are used frequently as scouts and slingers. The principality maintains a strong Princes Corond and Brightflame on the Pomarj battlefront naval presence on the Azure Sea to both patrol the southern coast and keep shipping lanes secure from pirates. These vessels are mostly crewed by humans in the service of the prince, but they are frequently staffed with dwarven marines of unusual discipline and courage.
Mining and metalwork are the primary industries of the Principality of Ulek, and competition with Irongate for supplying such goods to other nations in the Flanaess has been fierce for centuries. The dwarven-fashioned city of Havenhill, more than a day’s march north of Gryrax, is the center of this trade.
The surrounding hills are honeycombed with warrens and deep excavations, with some dwarves still preferring these tunnels to the surface. Human farms and steadings are most common in the provinces west of the hills, especially as one approaches the eastern bank of the Sheldomar. The humans are primarily a Suel-Oeridian mix, like their brethren in Keoland. All citizens owe fealty to the prince, the hereditary lord of the realm who maintains a palace in the hills north of Gryrax.
Dwarves have lived in these hills since well before the Great Migrations a millennium ago. Treated as an extension of the legendary dwarven kingdoms of the Lortmils at their height, there has been a dwur prince in these foothills long before there ever was a human king in Niole Dra. These dwarven lords protected the wealth and resources of the southern Ulek hills for ages, establishing their lonely halls in the earth and interacting little with the native Flan who inhabited the flatlands. This remained true until the Suel and Oeridians came together in the central valleys to found Keoland. These newcomers treated well with the nonhumans at the fringes of their kingdom, reaching out to them in friendship and alliance. When the other Ulek states were incorporated as provinces of the expanding nation, the dwarven prince followed suit and founded a nation, accepting a seat in council in Niole Dra and settlers from Keoland to administer on behalf of the realm.
The principality and its lords dealt with its Keoish neighbor well, if somewhat indifferently, until the coronation of Prince Olinstaad Corond in 281 CY. This dynamic young lord of the dwur moved his capital from the ancient city of Havenhill to his birthplace south in the city of Gryrax. When Tavish I of Gradsul took the throne of Keoland in 286 CY, the dwarven prince found in the new king a like-minded individual. Within a handful of years, an alliance between the two sovereigns produced an invasion and conquering of the Pomarj, which was granted to Corond as a subfief to administer for the throne. From Olinstaad, Tavish gained the use of Ulek’s heavy elite infantry, which he employed in the southern campaign to annex the region between the Hool Marshes and Jeklea Bay; the latter eventually became the Hold of the Sea Princes. It was no secret that Prince Corond, alone among the Ulek lords, was an enthusiastic supporter of the Keoish throne and its imperial ambitions. When Corond refused to disavow the Wealsun Proclamation of Tavish II, his relationship with the other Ulek states soured. This state continued until the incompetence of Tavish’s successors forced him to acknowledge the collapse of the empire and withdraw his support.
After the Pomarj fell to the nonhumans in the aftermath of the Hateful Wars a few decades later, the prince made every effort to succor his former subjects and liegemen in the Pomarj. While he rescued thousands of refugees by engaging his eastern border across the Jewel River, he could not conquer and hold any of the old baronies of the Pomarj from the invaders for very long. A status quo developed over the last century, with the Principality of Ulek maintaining the frontline against the hosts of the Pomarj, receiving aid and support from its northern neighbors in the County of Ulek and Celene. The rise of Turrosh Mak upset that balance, and the Principality suffered the brunt of the attack when the half-orc and his forces crossed the Jewel and pushed back Corond’s forces nearly to the eastern edge of the hills, almost threatening Havenhill until the onslaught was stanched in 585 CY.
The prince has ruled for more than three centuries and is an aging but able sovereign. He has seen the rise and fall of Keoland’s brief empire and has survived the bloody Hateful Wars with the orcs of the Pomarj in the last century. The Orcish Empire of the Pomarj now holds a large portion of the open land to the east between the hills and the Jewel River. This ground is in active contention by the principality and is by no means conceded to the invaders, but Prince Corond has been desperate for an edge to help him defeat the orcs and goblins of the Pomarj.
This nation, the only realm of the dwarfish people above-ground, is the bulwark and shield of the Ulek states, guarding the people of the County and Duchy from the evil humanoids of the Pomarj. Ruled and populated by dwarves, the Principality has a sizable number of humans, and few of other races.
The Principality was the Ulek state hit the hardest by the Greyhawk Wars, as both refugees from the Wild Coast and orcs from the Pomarj attacked head-on, even as Celene closed her borders and sealed herself off from the rest of the world. The dwarves fought brilliantly against their hated enemies, though the lack of aid from Celene infuriated the dwarves, and further justified their well-known dislike of elvenkind.
The Principality survived and continues to battle the orcs occupying his eastern provinces to this day, though the war has been costly. With only limited aid coming from his kin in the Lortmils, Prince Olinstaad Corond has opened trade to the Lordship of the Isles as a new source of revenue, to the shock of many in his court.
Society and Culture:
The Principality is organized along a rigid social hierarchy, with the prince at the top, followed by the dwarven nobles, then the human nobles, then the dwarven people, then the humans, and all others remain at the bottom. Laws are generally written for the good of all, though it is clear to everyone who visits the Principality that dwarves are the dominant race. Except for the city of Gryrax, dwarves and halflings outnumber humans.
The Principality is a nation of laws-strict laws and codes. Things that may go unnoticed as trivial in another nation are often cause to demand restitution among the dwarves of Ulek. Rarely involving prison sentences, the dwarves prefer to levy heavy fines against an offender. Putting a dwarf in prison for a decade matters little, if he lives for 400 years; but causing him to pay five thousand forges in fines and indemnities will guarantee that the lawbreaker thinks twice about transgressing again!
Humans, and especially elves, often feel as if they are being patronized and looked down upon by some dwarves. This is not to say that such things are written into the law, but that the dwarves cannot seem to overcome their traditional aversion to elves, save those they recognize from the Duchy. The dwarves treat poorly with their kinfolk from those evil dwarf-holds, who betrayed their race in the Hateful Wars; these outcasts find little welcome anywhere but home.
Despite all this, the dwarves are honest folk, who can form very deep friendships with other races. Their word is their law; no dwarf of Ulek will give his word and then break it, on penalty of being shorn, branded and excommunicated from the dwarven race.
The dwarves of Ulek are blooded from the fierce fighting against the orcs, but they are still a formidable military machine. Battleaxe-wielding heavy dwarf infantry act as their elite forces, and strong forces of dwarves and gnomes for sapping and engineering. The Principality is also one of the few Flanaess armies to use slingers, in this form quick and agile halflings who are master scouts. The cavalry is mostly medium to light, wielding sword and lance, although they are not in great supply.
The royal navy at Gryrax is surprisingly well maintained, though hardly on par with the Lordship of the Isles or the Sea Barons. This is where most of the humans of the duchy serve, crewed by human nobles appointed by the prince himself. While the royal navy is able to deal with the pirates of the Pomarj and surrounding lands, those who fear the Lordship of the Isles worry about the fate of the Principality should the two states have to clash by sea.
Prince Olinstaad Corond is tall and surprisingly thin for a dwarf, as he practices both the art of fighting and the art of thievery. His once jet-black hair has faded to pure white, and his beard is thinning out, yet he remains caustic, jolly, greedy, polite, rude, and businesslike as his needs and whims dictate. Very fond of strong mead, he has been known to drink almost half a gallon of the golden liquid when he has his liquid refreshments. Sometimes, this gets the dwarf into more trouble than is good for him, as his judgment slips while under the influence.
Prince Olinstaad is a rabid coin collector, having everything ranging from Great Kingdom Ivids to copper pennies from the old Viceroyalty of Ferrond. When excited on this subject, he has a tendency to ramble on about minting, then moving on metalwork, values, trade, and so forth. He does not like to be interrupted when warming to his subject, and will likely take great offense at anyone who does so. When angered, his wrath is terrible-more so if he is in his cups. While a good person, he can exhibit the same stubbornness and bad temper of any of his race!
Prince Corond has asked Keoland and Greyhawk for financial aid in the war effort against the Pomarj, which, by all accounts, is running into problems. With the limited donations given to him by certain dwarf kings from the Lortmils, he has had to open trade with the Lordship of the Isles, raising a hefty tariff to do so. The Lordship does not seem to mind at all, however, eagerly paying whatever fees the prince requires of them.
As the Lordship has been infiltrated by the Scarlet Brotherhood, people fear that they are making contact with the Suel humans of Gryrax, urging them to rise up against and overthrow the prince, or, perhaps, to gradually gain control of the realm themselves, to make the principality into a nation of the Sueloise, rather than a nation of the dwarves. People debate endlessly about which of the two goals the Brotherhood pursues, if it does at all.