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History of Thornlin
Thornlin is the last outpost of humanity along the Bapsian coast. Its harbor, tucked into the northern fringes of the Drip River mouth, attracted settlement relatively early for the region, although this was still about two centuries after the fall of Neldar.
In the centuries prior to the encroachment of the Quaran Empire, when boundaries were fluid and duchies were frequently created and destroyed, Thornlin for a considerable time held sway over a much larger territory, especially west of the city. At its largest, the Duchy of Thornlin extended almost a hundred dekka into the current Empire and also held a wide swath of land north of the Sharpstone Hills. This former duchy was on the losing end of the Chebay War (367-369 IR), allied with an at that time much smaller Girifrid, and it was stripped down to essentially its present borders. The primary victor in that war, the Duchy of Shar, was itself shortly thereafter confronted by Quaran expansion (c. 375-425 IR), in which Shar lost enormous territory and ceased to be a Bapsian great power. Girifrid itself, by allying with Quar, was able to reannex its upriver territories and reconfirm its standing as one of the Big Three. Since that time, very little movement of boundaries has happened in western Bapsia.
Prior to the Chebay War, Thornlin was fairly typical of Bapsian duchies. It was governed by a hereditary duke and a landed nobility. In the decades after the Chebay War, the duke lost popular support and was eventually ousted in a bloodless coup by the merchant guilds with tacit Quaran backing (431 IR). As individual trading guilds and strong personalities have come and gone, the formula of government of Thornlin has changed considerably, but has remained basically plutocratic, with power invested in some sort of council of usually less than ten members and a central executive, whether or not he bears the title of duke.
Prince Theray of Girifrid invaded Thornlin at the head of about twenty-five thousand troops in the spring of 647 IR. In the short term, the Foremost Andrin (ruled 641-657) could not hope to face this host in the open field. As the host was gathering and rumors flew about its destination, Thornlin’s levies were drawn up and sent to Lankford, Aftrelzan, and Waymeet—the three most defensible cities in the eastern duchy—but with orders to fall back on Thornlin itself if the invaders marched in force along the seaward road. In the event, however, Theray marched to Waymeet, besieged it with ten thousand men, and with a lighter force of infantry and considerable cavalry marched on toward Chebay. As this army moved away, the Foremost was emboldened to pull his troops out of Aftrelzan and personally lead them north. The Girifrian commander sent too small a force south to handle them, which Andrin routed at Simarch. He continued north. Meantime, the Quarans had come (in time, partly due to information and possibly some bribes supplied in a timely fashion by Andrin), the General of the South Flank marching with twenty thousand men out of Fortress Dalf. These crushed Theray’s forces against the walls of Chebay, and they fell back toward Waymeet. Andrin, camping about ten dekka south of Waymeet, was in a good position to block the Girifrian’s retreat back into the Principality when the Quarans appeared at Waymeet itself and routed Theray’s entire remaining army. Andrin had the pleasure of capturing a number of Girifrian royals, although not Theray himself, who fled along the north road out of Waymeet into the midlands of Girifrid away from the disaster. Thornlin emerged from Theray’s War with considerable prestige, and Andrin’s reputation was such as to secure his son’s (Gensarge, 657-677) and grandson’s (Leibarge, 677-683) succession to the position of Foremost.
Andrin was of the trading guild of the Copper Chain. His own election had been due to his warm personality, penchant for making friends, and reputation for competence, which had made him an acceptable compromise candidate between the various guilds. During his time and into Gensarge’s, his guild rose into and occupied the paramount position of influence in Thornlin; however, Gensarge’s later reign was marked by a series of bad business dealings and bad political decisions, mostly revolving around betting too strongly on the Babillians and their allies to prevail in the disputes of the interwar period. In Leibarge’s time as Foremost, this resulted in the final bankruptcy of the guild, and Leibarge resigned his post and left Thornlin a disgraced exile.
The new Foremost, as usual in the situation another compromise candidate, was a half-dwarven woman named Dis (683-698), the leader of the Goldsmith’s Guild. Already old when she assumed the position, she voluntarily stepped down in favor of a younger and more martially-minded Foremost when the Girifrian War started. The voting in the Guildsmen’s Assembly went on for days, with much politicking and grandstanding for the people outside. As time wore on, an unlikely candidate in the person of Scheiner, son of Grist, only a prominent member and not even the head of the Honorable Guild of Tile-Layers (who needless to say had never held the leadership position before) but a great-grandson of Andrin and also descended from the House of Fenton, the lords of Tondon, began to capture the imagination of the crowds and eventually enough of the lesser guilds that he eked out a victory by one vote in the final ballot on the tenth day of voting. The Council of Elders hardly knew what to do with this young upstart, who however had more wits about him than they feared. Seeing that Babil had opened the hostilities, Scheiner loudly proclaimed that Thornlin would rescind its political agreements with the Overlord and Babil’s favored status in trade; however, he made no overtures toward Girifrid. Scheiner built and outfitted a new fleet of seventy junks, which he put to work accompanying Thornlinian shipping in convoys to protect against Girifrian raiders, as well as ordinary pirates. Although Quaran intervention was no more popular in Thornlin than in the rest of Western Bapsia, which is to say it was not welcomed at all by the masses, Scheiner was well aware that the endgame of the war would involve the Quaran legions, and he made sure to pass information regularly to the General of the East and the Quaran censors as he acquired it on the high seas. Later in the war, Scheiner concluded an alliance with Nebbar, and Thornlinian ships joined those of Nebbar, Babil, Mexipal, and Horon in blockading Girifrid until the Truce of Quelimack took effect ending hostilities.
Scheiner’s legacy as Foremost (698-720) has been lasting, primarily due to his reinvention of the Thornlinian fleet, his posturing against Babil, and his alliance with Nebbar. The latter two moves, which were taken out of sheer pragmatism during the war, pushed Thornlin into a definite role in the postwar situation of Bapsia. Thornlin was one of the second tier of signatories to the Treaty of Flan, which earned it Babil’s continuing hostility.
Scheiner’s reign, having begun so well, could not help but seem humdrum and disappointing after the war ended and the treaty was signed in 702. In his domestic relations, he was admittedly a typical Bapsian duke, with numerous liaisons and two lengthy affairs. He did sire two daughters by his long-suffering wife Lisanna, daughter of Adal, the mayor of Waymeet, whom he married almost immediately after his election in 699. Lisanna was the most beautiful but also the least talented of Adal’s children. He had four that survived to adulthood: Gefrid, who succeeded him as mayor; Liselma, a hard-headed woman who was known as the toughest trade negotiator in West Bapsia, working for the Truncheon Guild (this name was given by the guild’s competitors, in case you were wondering); Lisanna; and a much younger son Nial, who became an accomplished sage and wizard. Meanwhile, Scheiner’s daughters were named Liseli and Linore.
After the war, Scheiner committed Thornlin to retaining its significant navy into the future, by undertaking a permanent role as part of a new allied fleet that was to be committed to ridding the Babillian Ocean of pirates. Pirates had played a substantial role in the war, allied with both Babil and Girifrid, and were responsible for numerous atrocities. Nebbar despised pirates. Historically the least naval of the Big Three, Nebbar had in the late seventh century begun to send adventurers and explorers abroad to the Neldaran coast, and its trade in sandalwood and other exotic forest products, then in its infancy, attracted the attention of pirates. Scheiner saw pirates as likewise inimical to Thornlin’s interests in trade. By virtue of its location, Thornlin had for three hundred years been perhaps Quar’s most important port; for all that it fiercely retained its political independence, goods bound either inland to the Empire or seaward from it consituted the bulk of its trade. Scheiner considered it well worth the expense to maintain the seventy junks cruising the western Babillian Ocean when they suppressed the pirates who interfered with his duchy’s trade and irritated his Nebbaran ally into the bargain.
Still, Scheiner had critics of the expense due to his navy, and others of his fairly sumptuous lifestyle. As his glory days in the war faded into the past, these voices became louder. Over time, Scheiner grew tired of the criticisms and at length determined he would run no longer for Foremost. He retired (720) to the Fenton estates in Tondon, where he immediately bought considerable additional land and busied himself with the concerns of a gentleman farmer. The open election was hotly contested between Lucius, the head of the Coppersmiths and a scion of the House of Saerin; Trennen, a noble of the House of Luteuse, but born in Thornlin and risen to head of the Lenday Guild; and Liselma, Scheiner’s sister-in-law, who had not scrupled to use her connection to vastly increase her guild’s presence in Thornlin itself (in the seventh century, it had been based in Waymeet and handled goods bound between Girifrid and West Bapsia).
In the event, Liselma won, and she reorganized the state expenditures radically. Scheiner had been sympathetic to the residual aristocracy; Liselma pushed through what she saw as a long overdue final removal of their tax and legal privileges, a radical step that so far no other Bapsian state has attempted. Her stance won her the support of essentially all the guilds, but has driven a wedge between Thornlin and Waymeet (where the trade and artisan influence dominates) and the hinterland of the duchy.
Liselma died suddenly of a stroke or seizure (accounts differ) in 734 and was succeeded by her niece Liseli, Scheiner’s daughter, who had become estranged from her father and was welcomed by Liselma as her protege (Liselma herself never married). Although she campaigned with a cautious stance, leaving open the possibility of softening Liselma’s acts against the nobility and restoring some measure of their privileges, she has made no moves in that direction. Instead, she has focused on further strengthening the Truncheon Guild, securing trade rights across Bapsia, and delicately attempting to warm up to Babil while retaining the alliance with Nebbar.