The Firstcomers
Date: Wed, August 10, 2005
Topic: History

During the early history of Keoland and the Sheldomar Valley, a question has always lingered about the Suel were who came to the area before the Rhola, Neheli, and others that passed through Slerotin’s Tunnel after the Rain of Colorless Fire. There are no details about these people, although various Greyhawk books have characterized them as evil, cheating, and otherwise debased. In lieu of detailing them specifically, the term “Firstcomer” has been coined to to refer to them as a group, reflecting on their status as those who were the first non-Flan humans to come to the Sheldomar Valley. The following essay expands on their background.

The Firstcomers
By: Samwise
Used here with permission. Do not repost without permission form the author.

Origins of the Term

During early development of Keoland and the history of the Sheldomar, an important issue that kept coming up was the Suel who came to the area before the Rhola, Neheli, and others that passed through Slerotin’s Tunnel after the Rain of Colorless Fire. No details exist about these people, although the various Greyhawk books have characterized them as vile and evil, lying, cheating, stealing, and enslaving the various peoples they met (typically meaning the Flan or demi-humans). In lieu of detailing them specifically, the term “Firstcomer” has been coined to to refer to them as a group, reflecting their status as those who were the first non-Flan humans to come to the Sheldomar Valley. This essay now expands on their background.

Three Groups

The term Firstcomers encompasses three separate groups. The first were a limited number of colonists sent by the Suel Empire at its height to establish mining and lumbering colonies. Both were in increasingly short supply back home, and the prices on both were high enough to justify the transportation costs. The second are the dissidents, criminals, and exiles who fled to the Sheldomar prior to the last Suel-Baklunish war. The final group was the refugees from that war, leaving to avoid the destruction that would culminate in the Twin Cataclysms. These latter two groups characterized the worst elements of the Suloise (although even the colonists were not particularly pleasant), and their actions have tainted the legacy of the Suloise ever since.

The Colonists

Very little of these Firstcomers is known as most all of their settlements were overrun and absorbed by later refugees. Most of those settlements were in and near the hills and mountains of what is now the Yeomanry, although they had farming settlements across the plains to support them, and some few lumbering camps existed as far east as the Javan River, and south to Jeklea Bay. All of these colonies were established by force, seizing lands and mines from the native Flan, Dwur, and Olve. Oddly, the Imperial overseers preferred to use regular shipments of convicted criminals rather than locally captured slave labor in the deep mines, so aside from the initial violence in establishing the colonies, they managed to exist in relative peace afterwards. In many ways, this ensured their later conquest by the Refugees, as they never had the need to build significant fortifications against outside assault.

This group also includes the explorers, those bold enough to travel well beyond the bounds of Imperial authority, and controlled enough to deal with the Flan and demi-humans they encountered. These men had explored as far the Pomarj, bringing back lightweight but valuable resources, as well as valuable information as to what lay beyond.

The Interlopers

Those who had worn out their welcome in the Suel Imperium had fled across the Crystalmists for centuries. Although few in number, they were just as vile as the larger groups that would follow. It was only the disorder of the Sheldomar left by Vecna that allowed them to seize what small areas they could. Their small numbers and violent racism limited their power and the number of people they could control, with villages representing the upper limit of the settlements, and how far they could reach. But over the centuries those settlements stretched as far as the Jewel River beyond the Lortmils.

The Refugees

The largest group came only in the last quarter century of the final war between the Suel and Baklunish empires before the Twin Cataclysms. Some were legitimate refugees, their lands ravaged by the wars. Others were the losers in various internal conflicts, or disgraced military commanders, fleeing to avoid the executions of their entire families. Some simply fled, afraid of the losses they would suffer in the war, and hoping they could make conquests in the new lands beyond the Hellfurnaces at lower cost. A very few objected to the war on moral grounds. While admirable, such attitudes led to their swift destruction at the hands of the other refugees in the Sheldomar Valley. These larger groups began to seize significant stretches of land, and expand those holdings into something approaching full sized nations.

Settling the Valley

For the most part, the Firstcomers who came to the Sheldomar preferred to do as little as possible to build new homes. Wherever possible, they would conquer an existing settlement, enslave the survivors, and settle down to rule their new “ancestral lands.” If that was not possible, or if they lost such a battle, they would move on in an effort to find someone less able to defend their lands than the last people. Only in the most extreme cases would they bother trying establishing new farms and plantations, carving them from the vast forests that covered the lower Sheldomar in those days. While this certainly saved time, it also outraged the people they enslaved. The previous Suel inhabitants accepted this as a matter of course. The Flan and demi-humans took it less well, and began a constant, low-level war against the invaders. This worked well for the demi-humans, and the Firstcomers were soon barred from the woods and hills of the Sheldomar. The Flan were not as successful. With the rise of Vecna to the north, their old associations had been shattered, and they could do little to resist as wave after wave of Firstcomers spread out across the Javan. Thousands were slain, and more thousands enslaved until the establishment of Keoland and the outlawing of slavery within its borders.

Having conquered their new homes, the Firstcomers saw to three critical elements. First, defense so they would not be expelled by the next refugees to come along. Second, to securing sufficient slaves to maintain themselves in the lifestyle to which they were accustomed. And finally, to recreating the lifestyle they had enjoyed in the old Suel Imperium as best they could. Said lifestyle involving gaining more slaves, settling old scores with rival Houses, creating new ones, and engaging in magical research. All of this served to keep them weak. Unable to form alliances with the native inhabitants, unwilling to form them with their fellow refugees, they remained only as strong as their own resources could produce. As a result, most Firstcomer Principalities were little more than the size of an average Barony. (About 1,000 square miles.) Some few managed to conquer a few of their neighbors, and leave enough of them alive, to form “Kingdoms,” but the largest of these was less than half the size of the Duchies of Gradsul and Dorlin at the time of the founding of Keoland. Not well known, but also forming a barrier to their expansion was Vecna. The lich lord had very little concern for who exactly he ruled, provided they acknowledged that rule. Those that refused survived no longer than the leaders of the Flan they had enslaved. Likewise those who thought to build nations strong enough to challenge the authority of Vecna.

The Fate of the Firstcomers

With the destruction of the Suel Imperium and the coming of the Rhola and Neheli to the Sheldomar, the era of the Firstcomers came to a close. Unlike previous refugees, the Rhola and Neheli desired more than just recreating the incessant infighting of the now dead Suel Imperium. They wanted to build something more, and they were willing to do what none of their predecessors was. They were willing to cooperate. First with various minor Houses that had come to the Sheldomar through Slerotin’s tunnel with them, then each other, and finally the native inhabitants that they found, primarily with the Flan and Olve. And when Vecna fell, they were both willing, after some brief conflicts, to form a large scale alliance with the Oeridians that came south, particularly the powerful Keogh Tribe. It was from this alliance that the Kingdom of Keoland was formed, with the express intent of subduing the valley. Less than two years after the founding, they had their excuse to begin eliminating the Firstcomers. It came from the Malhel, another House that had come to the Sheldomar through Slerotin’s tunnel. Excluded from the new Kingdom for refusing to surrender their magical resources to the new order colloquially known as the Silent Ones, the Malhel had managed to attack the stronghold of that order, and make off with a significant amount of magical lore and items. Seizing on the “threat” to the Kingdom, Nyhan I began the first stage of what came to be known as the House Wars that lasted for a decade. Twenty years later they would be completed in another decade long campaign under Malv I, the Defender. The House Wars were savage affairs. Driven primarily by revenge, the campaigns typically ended with the target Firstcomer House fleeing the Sheldomar or being utterly destroyed. The Rhola, Neheli, and Keogh had each other and the few allies they had chosen. They wanted to eliminate any possible threat to their rule once and be done with it, and few prisoners were taken. In the process, they freed thousands of slaves who they were willing to accept as allies, setting the stage for future expansion.

Where did the Firstcomers go? Anywhere, as long as it was not Keoland. Some went east, following previous losers of battles in the Sheldomar, and settling the Pomarj and Wild Coast. More went south, settling in the fields south of the Javan where they came to be ruled by the Necromancer-Pirates of Toli, spreading hatred of the invaders who had displaced them, or crossing Jeklea Bay and trying to settle the Amedio Jungle, where they became locked in a struggle with the Olman that destroyed both peoples. Some few went further, settling the mysterious Pirate Isles further south, but little is known of them.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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