Taur'en Kingdom: History and Rumors
Centuries ago a stout dwarf clan settled the Taur'en Hills to mine their rich resources. They kept to themselves in the rugged and inhospitable crags, carving their homes and existence from the stones and lichens. Little is known to the outside world of their history. Some say these dwarves came from the dwarven clans of Mistone, yet others claim they are the displaced Firstones of the Sun Kingdom. Stalwart followers of Vorax and Dorand, the clans and the cities they have built under the hills have rarely been seen by non dwarven eyes.
Human settlements tended to cluster around the productive coastlines as the hills and rocks made for poor farm lands. There are several populated towns along the borders of Sagewald and Erilyn, but few in the interior.
This land has for the last few centuries been more of a frontier than a kingdom. While monarchs came and went in Sun and Erilyn, the fishing villages of the southwestern coast eked out a living in relative anonymity. Slowly a port town emerged as the unofficial gathering place of commerce; this port of course being White Mouth Harbor.
The realm has few groves of trees that could ever be claimed to be called a forest. It is known that the Wolfswood forest did once extend fingers of its greenery into the area but the great fires of 372 and the purging of the elves by the Sunese nobility served to make the land less than ideal for elven habitation.
The few elven houses that do call the kingdom home tend to the cypress groves of the bracken bogs and the Weeping Elms that flank the banks of the River of the Lamb. There is a small commune of druidic elves that call a tiny oasis of green in the scrub of the southern coastline home. These are the Grey Crow Grove druids.
The relative isolation of this part of Layonara has served to preserve the local flora and fauna as well as cultures of the so called monstrous races. Here more than in other parts of the continent, tribes of giants, orcs, kobolds and goblins exist in what serves as a chaotic truce with each other.
In the mysterious and steamy Bracken Water Bogs there are also sightings of forms that appear to be a mixture of a human shape with a skin akin to the water dwelling slow moving but deadly beasts known as repzia. Not much is known of these creatures, only that they have been seen to move in and out of the bog with ease but do not bother the settlements on the margins of the swamp.
Halfling and human shepherds have begun to set up small holdings along the southern slopes of the Taur'en Hills, around the area now known as Fleece Lake. The course scrub grass used to grow profusely but the slopes made cattle and horse grazing almost impossible. However, the nimble and heavy coated Alring sheep seem perfect for the terrain.
The lack of sunlight in the Dark Ages made for tough times for these herders and the surge of Averil swooping in from their coastal hunting grounds has meant for desperate times for these people. Many of the farm holds have become abandoned, but there are still a few that hold tight to the old ways.
There are few incidents of historical note in the beginnings of this territory. The eastern parts of the Taur'en Hills from which the kingdom gets its name were at one time part of the kingdom of Erilyn. Several treaties with the dwarven lords and Erilyn nobility have shrunk these land holdings in favor of sea rights. This trading, while of little consequence to the terrestrial dwarf lords was quite controversial with the coastal fishermen. It was the lack of central cohesive government however that kept the fishermen from having a case against the dwarf lords.
In turn the relationship between the hill dwarves and the peoples of Erilyn has traditionally been a close one. When Erilyn stood strong against the crushing hand of Milara, the dwarves of the hill clans supported their neighbors even when the other races in the area bowed to the dark elf and his new order on Rilara. It was unfortunate that the battle of the Plains of the Slain saw the death of more than two thirds of the clan warriors at the hands of Milara's minions.
It was in all likelihood the events surrounding Milara's rise to prominence on the continent that allowed for the structuring of the territory into the tenuous kingdom that exists today. Starting around the mid 800s and into the early 900s relations between dwarves and humans of the area were strained. The human settlements along the southern coastline resented the presence of the Erilyn fleet in their waters, but other than some private militias and a handful of local privateers, they lacked the means to do anything about it.
Starting in the mid 800s, the countryside began to be plagued by creatures that the locals called demons. Rumors abounded that the dwarves in their mining had ventured too deep into the earth and had let loose creatures upon the settlements. The dwarves of course denied this and skirmishes at the hillside entrances to their subterranean cities were common.
Milara's announcement in 925 of the entire continent being under his control and renaming it to Rilara did little that actually affected the territory. At that time, power existed in small pockets as towns and villages governed themselves. It may actually have been the influence of Milara's troops that unified these villages into one force and many believe the dwarf Kraklin Stonefist to have somehow been influenced by the dark elf mage.
What ever the case, Stonefist somehow managed to have dwarven king Angus Strongforge sign a writ of cooperation with the freshly formed human government and a trade agreement with the emerging city of White Mouth Harbor. Despite his heritage, Kraklin established himself as prominent leader in non dwarven communities, Of course, it didn't hurt that he had the backing of a substantial number of Milara's men.
One of his first moves was the establishment of human settlements in the hills. Trade of wool, mutton and metals along with local fish and seafood soon made the city of White Mouth Harbor prosper and garnered Stonefist's strong support. Support so strong that he readily assembled an army prepared to die for him.
It was with this army that he turned on the Taur'en Hills in 1080 and offered an ultimatum to King Angus. Join the dwarven clans under his banner and his cause, naming him king, or be crushed under his fist. Thus started a bloody civil war that lasted seven years. King Angus could not maintain a battle on two fronts; his dwarven clans were honor bound to fight with the Knights of Erilyn against the evil they saw in the dark elf and his forces, but they could not fight Milara in both Erylin and the hills.
In the late winter of 1087, King Angus Strongforge took off his crown and left crown and hammer on the throne of Lusaxen City and walked into the mines. His last writ as king was for his clerics to make peace with Stonefist and maintain the dwarven rights to the Taur'en Hills at any cost. Some say Strongforge died on the Plains of the Slain fighting with Erilyn, others claim his grave lies somewhere in the Taur'en mines, perhaps at the foot of the mythical First Forge itself.
In early 1089, Kraklin was crowned king and he immediately named his kingdom Taur'en. Kraklin was in power for just under three decades. He allowed the nation to grow in power and he shared the power with those around him. It is said he died with rust in his lungs.
Unfortunately, he left no heirs. This was a precarious state for the young kingdom. Dwarven sentiment was hardly high, so it was no surprise when a human general called Howard Bydell stepped into the role of leader. Bydell was a native Taur'en and had trained under Stonefist. He had the knowledge and charisma to ease into the role as leader. The slaughter of the close to two thirds of the dwarven supporters on the Plains of the Slain helped him considerably in gaining control over the wilds of the Taur'en Hills. Human population in the interior exploded and some human mining operations were begun on the northern slopes of the Taur'en Hills.
Fort Edge was established in 1206 to protect the settlers in the area from the giants, orcs and dwarves that resented the humans mining in "their" ground. For the most part though after defeat in 1160, the dwarves retreated to their halls and left the affairs outside the hills to sort themselves. Bydell established himself as king and it is his great grandson Thomas who now tries to hold the reigns of power as the greedy eyes of Sagewald turn on the hills that the dwarves so vehemently protect.