Order of the Amethyst
Bardac’s Holdfast, or simply ‘The Holdfast’, is a kingdom on the Eastern side of the continent of Ereas.
This kingdom is comprised predominantly of duchies managed by noble houses, with ultimate authority held by the royal family Bardac who rule the kingdom from the Capital in Goldshore. The current ruling monarch is Queen Zinnanda Bardac, known amongst her people as ‘Zinnanda the Merciful’.
Geography and Climate
Being positioned in the northern hemisphere between sea and mountain range, the region has an oceanic climate which is mild and changeable.
The north of the country is generally colder, with a temperature difference averaging around 5-10 degrees between its northern and southern regions. As such, cold and snowy seasonal weather often reaches the north before the south with Spring flower blooming ordinarily occurring in the southern duchies first.
Its eastern coast is influenced by The North Kyratian current, which brings moist, warm air from the south and dictates its primary sea trade route north towards the Three Cities. This, combined with the area being positioned alongside the continent’s southern mountain range, results in the kingdom having a high average rainfall.
The kingdom is bordered on the west by the Vogr Bordir Mountain Range and to the east by the Kyratic Sea, where it has numerous port and trading cities. Its northern borders are marked by walled defences separating it from the Splintered Realms, and less obvious (and mostly unmarked) terrain changes define its southern border with the Empire of Vaiparis.
The largest river in the kingdom is the Eastbourne, which is fed by the two major tributories Icefall and Clearwater. These both converge at the capital Goldshore; the largest city in the kingdom. Other cities include Four Ways, Winterbreak, Airecrest, Hawkhills and Lasthope. Mallowmarsh is also often referred to as a city despite technically not qualifying as one, although it is a settlement of importance in the kingdom.
In the north-east of the kingdom is the smaller mountain range known as the Sky Vault Realms, where a number of the continent’s few remaining metallic dragon population withdrew following The Severence. It is not uncommon therefore to see high flying dragons in the north of the kingdom, although dragon sightings have become increasingly rare in the last few decades.
Other geographical sites of note include the active volcano Arenamayon in the south, the Sundercliffs along the the southern coastline and the area of marsh and swampland known as Mallowmarsh, from which the settlement takes its name.
Much of the remaining land is low hills and fields, with a substantial amount of farming country and numerous areas of woodland, both managed and wild.
History and Founding
The kingdom is relatively young; only some 504 years since founding, and as such is often internationally seen as new to politics and without substantial influence, especially amongst the elves.
The area had originally been part of the Splinter Territories, an area of contested lands left abandoned after The Severance.
From amongst this a number of powerful families and individuals declared control over segments of land, and the region was divided into around 11 independent states.
For around a hundred years known as The Bitter Years the region was volatile and contested, with regular border disputes and battles between states. Around the same time corsairs and sea-brigands from the Pirate Isles hounded the eastern coast and interrupted sea trade.
The Empire of Vaiparis to the south suffered particularly badly during this period with a shortage of food so severe that there was widespread starvation across the Empire’s continental realm.
The southern state of Dultania negotiated a contract with the Empire to co-operatively re-open and maintain the lost supply route straight through the desert. It also stated that for as long as the Empire was provided with a supply of food and produce, it would ally with, provide military assistance to and “not raise sword or word” against the two states named within the treaty as providing the supplies; The State of Dultania and their ally the Bardac family, which held lands they called a Holdfast in the now mid-west of the kingdom and was named in the treaty as “Bardac’s Holdfast”.
With the assistance of King Bardac’s other tenuous ally, the elves of Mythaes Caelora, and the now fabled Dultanian ingenuity and perseverance, the Treaty was truthfully honoured.
As such, less than five years later when the region was unexpectedly invaded from the north by a massed army from the Splinter Territories, the Bardac family swiftly offered alliances with other states against this common foe and the State of Dultania sent urgent messengers to the Empire to appeal for military assistance.
Although the enemy army swept south through the region with unprecedented pace, the allied southern State forces were able to finally halt their advance at the major west-east road later called Cardinal Road. After a bloody and brutal siege-battle that lasted for a number of weeks, the arrival of the Dultania reserves and the armies of the Empire finally forced the enemy back to the northern shores of the Eastbourne River.
There was then a brief impasse when it seemed the allied armies would be unable to rout the enemy from the lands beyond the Eastbourne. However, an unexpected ambush attack on the enemy camp announced the arrival of an army of dwarves from the Vogr Bordir mountain range, taking both sides entirely by surprise.
The enemy broke and were driven from the region back to an area that is roughly the same as the current border with the Splintered Lands. As the Dultanian leader Morven had previously fallen on the shores of the Eastbourne, King Bardac took undisputed command of all the remaining lands, marrying and taking as his Queen Morven’s only daughter and the remaining heir to the State of Dultania.
He named the newly formed kingdom ’Bardac’s Holdfast’ in order to preserve the critical treaty with the Empire of Vaiparis, a bold and cunning move that frustrated the Emporer’s hopes to escape the binding terms. It became known as ’Morven’s Treaty’ in recognition of the Dultanian leader’s accomplishments, and remains in force to this day.
A city was built near the site of the final battle and named Goldshore in honour of the leader of the dwarven army Utroc Goldelver. This later became the capital of the kingdom. A palace was build and named Hreðstow or Victory Site, to be the Royal family’s home within the capital.
The lands were apportioned into duchies, with Lords and their families managing each region and each duchy holding a seat on the High Council, which would help manage the kingdom under the ultimate authority of the monarch.
The Holdfast also contracted the dwarves to build a strong northern-wall to protect the kingdom from further attacks from the North, which was completed some years later.
The kingdom has mostly enjoyed peace since that day, with only minor skirmishes across its northern border with the Splinter Territories.
It’s military focus has since been predominantly naval, with attempts to manage incursions from corsairs and brigands from the Pirate Isles in the East being mostly successful.
Politics and Laws
Bardac’s Holdfast is a monarchy where the ruling Queen (or King) holds absolute power.
Under the ultimate rule of the monarch stand the noble houses, who are each responsible for the management and organisation of the segmented areas of the kingdom known as Duchies.
There are 24 noble houses in total, including the family of the ruling monarch, and 24 duchies (the royal family also has its own duchy, however traditionally the management of this has been left to a younger sibling or cousin of the monarch).
Among these 24 houses, there are 16 lesser houses and 8 high houses. Each high house has a single vote on the High Council, while the lesser houses have a 2 votes divided between the 16 of them. This draconian approach has been much criticised in recent years but has yet to gain the support of the High Houses and monarch, and without their support reform is impossible.
However the noble houses also have the power to create end enforce their own by-laws and regulations within their own Duchy only, as long as these rules do not work counter to the national laws or limit the power of another house within its own Duchy. This is called devolution.
Historically the monarch has often included the noble houses, who together make the High Council of Bardac’s Holdfast, in numerous law making decisions, as well as asking representatives from the houses to act as judges in deciding cases in the Royal Court.
While the full national laws themselves are lengthy and complex, with numerous bylaws and regulations individual to each Duchy, it is best to remember that generally the monarch has over-riding power except for the few minor exceptions described below.
1) Section 50 of the Holdfast High Council Act 88
If the monarch delegates a specific decision to the High Council, that decision will be binding on the monarch and they may not seek to remove that power from the council or attempt to override the decision at a later date.
This allows the High Council to deal with many of the more onerous and technical issues without fear of being undermined by the monarch, while the monarch has to be very careful not to delegate any task specifically to the council which may limit their power at a later date. In practice, very few cases fall under this rule as there is a requirement for the monarch to specifically state they delegate the decision, which very rarely happens.
2) Section 151 and Section 152 of the Holdfast High Council Act 88 (Amendment 107)
Section 151 of the Act allows the High Council to vote, in the absence of the monarch and without any permission or consent from them, to remove the monarch from their seat of power in the eventuality that they “are, or have become, unfit and incapable of ruling with sound mind and clear judgment”.
Under Section 151, while the monarch cannot take a seat (and therefore cannot vote) on the deciding High Council, a member of their family or other suitable representative may represent their Duchy’s vote in their place. The monarch can however give evidence in their Defence.
If the monarch is deemed to be fit and capable of rule, the High Council are barred from attempting to bring a similar action for at least 10 years.
If the monarch is deemed unfit, they are removed from the throne while maintaining their respectful status and titles (but for monarch) and the next in line to the throne succeeds them.
This rule is most often used, often with the royal family’s assent and request, to release a sickly or elderly ruling monarch from the burden of sovereignty, especially where they are unable (or unwilling) to formally cede power themselves.
In contrast, Section 152 of the Act allows the High Council to vote, in the absence of the monarch and without any permission or consent from them, to remove the monarch from their seat of power in the eventuality that they “committed High Treason against the nation and its people”.
Under Section 152, while the monarch cannot take a seat (and therefore cannot vote) on the deciding High Council, a member of their family or other suitable representative may represent their Duchy’s vote in their place. The monarch can however give evidence in their Defence.
However in this circumstance, if the monarch is found to have committed High Treason, the penalty is death. As such, the monarch is stripped of all titles and honours and is publicly executed by hanging (beheading being reserved for nobles only, and through the act of High Treason the monarch has been stripped of noble status).
In this circumstance, while it is recommended that the next in line to the throne succeeds the monarch, there is allowance for another further down the line to take up the throne if it is deemed that those higher up are “of similar mind and fortitude” as the committed individual.
In this rule there is no limit on the High Council before they can bring a similar action, however given that the monarch in question is often minded to convict those bringing the allegation of High Treason against the monarch (and indeed as the sovereign they require no vote or consensus to do so) the High Council does not in practice attempt this more than once.
Indeed both Section 151 and 152 the burden of proof is on the party bringing the allegation. There is no requirement that the monarch in question even be aware of a pending decision (although often a political ally or family member will inform them) however there is a requirement that the monarch must be informed after a completely vote, regardless of the outcome. This is also the only scenario in which the monarch cannot be the member representative of the High Council, and instead the House of the monarch must be represented by another.
Both sections were added into the Act following the rule of King Korvus the Black, who was considered by many to be insane and as a result of his paranoia ordered a number of mass killings of common folk (including the eradication of entire towns) and numerous political assassinations that threatened to de-stabalise the entire nation.
While Section 151 has been used on numerous occasions, Section 152 has understandably seen minimal use and has rarely been attempted and to date, never successfully enforced. Both in the case of Korvus the Black and the only other reported attempts to utilise Section 152, it was deemed that the monarch was not in fact guilty of treason (although the case against King Korvus did succeed under Section 151, thus leading to the end of his reign). The closest vote in a Section 152 decision was the most recent case of Queen Zinnanda Bardac, where there was only two High Council votes’ difference between the Guilty and Not Guilty verdict.
Due to its shrewd and clever manipulations of the Empire of Vaiparis’ weakness with ‘ Morven’s Treaty‘, as well as the Kingdom thereafter fast becoming both an economic and military power on the world stage, Bardac’s Holdfast has a reputation for being a ‘small kingdom with a big punch’, meaning that it often successfully able to hold its own against larger forces both politically and martially.
Its citizens are often seen as dogged and determined, with a keen eye for profit and a hardy endurance for survival. This is particularly true of the citizens in its main trading cities, both those on the coast such as Winterbreak and Mallowmarsh or those on the land-borders such as Longsight and Lasthope.
As the Kingdom is only a few hundred years old, it is often viewed in more ancient kingdoms such as Darr Anhew and the Empire as being a somewhat uncivilised and ignorant place. The elves in particular view the nation with a high level of disdain and have often been known to disregard or deny it any political influence whatsoever.
This is further strengthened by the people of the Holdfast generally being straight-talking and boldly spoken, with very little thought given to maintaining old traditions or unnecessary etiquette. The Royal Court is often more ‘open’ to visitations and cases brought from the common folk than in other monarchies, and it is one of the few nations where anti-establishment philosophies are not punishable by law. Generally a more liberal nation than others, this has further increased the mistaken belief that the nation and people alike are dis-organised, disrespectful and impertinent.
The kingdom does however benefit from being well positioned in that it shares a border with numerous other powerful states as well as inhabiting much of the lands abandoned by the dragons after The Severence, and historically has benefited from maintaining amiable relations with Three Cities, the dwarves of Vogr Bordir and The Empire. Numerous ancient and magical artifacts are often found within its boundaries, while both the Sky Vault Realms and the volcano Arenamayon fall within its borders.
Its rich and fertile farmlands produce a high level of food and its high rain-fall is supportive of its agricultural background, allowing the nation to be predominantly self-sufficient. As such, international trade is mainly produce and lumber. While exporting of ancient or magical artifacts is strictly prohibited, there is also a thriving black-market for such goods both inside and outside the borders.