Map by Anna B. Meyer
The Chronicle of Secret Times is a book banned by the Keoish crown, a strange set of affairs for a work that is said never to have existed. Nonetheless, numerous apocryphal copies are said to be in certain clandestine collections, including the Great Library of Greyhawk. The book's sometimes lyrical prose tells of the Suloise survivors of the Rain of Colorless Fire, beginning with how Slerotin, the Last Mage of Power, led twelve tribes out of ruin and into the valley of the Sheldomar. As the story continues, the Magus, nearly consumed and at death's door from his exertions, bids the most powerful noble houses to set aside their rivalries and unite to make a home in this valley and be at peace with its inhabitants. He prophesizes that they will one day combine with a noble people and together will lay the foundations of an exalted kingdom. Slerotin enjoins them to look for signs and portents and to act upon them in the noblest tradition of their ancestors. The Last Mage of Power then quits the ken of mortals in a thunderclap that levels the surrounding trees and scatters them into the form of a glyph pointing toward the northeast, or so the tale goes.
History records that it was only a few years after their arrival in the Flanaess that the refugees fought each other and went their separate ways, disregarding the Last Mage's words. The powerful Zelrad family withdrew to the northeast, departing from the Sheldomar Valley entirely to settle in what became the South Province of the Great Kingdom. The tales also recount how the vile House Malhel fled toward the Dreadwood and was consumed by its own evil after trying to summon up powers of the earth in a desire to resurrect the Suel Imperium. Similar groups suffered other malign fates, while others fled across the Azure Sea, never to return. The remaining Suel Houses fought the local Flan and abundant nonhumans for control of the rest of the land, which was dominated by the near-mythical Empire of Vecna in the north. The nobles of House Rhola made for the Azure Coast, where in -368 CY they founded the city of Gradsul. While they began settling the southern coastal lands, the nobles of Neheli took their chances in the northern valleys, heeding the apparent words of the Last Mage and striking for the northeast. Their much-feared Seers, who were among the few powerful apprentices of Slerotin to survive the cataclysm, closely advised the leaders of Neheli in all things. Niole Dra was founded by them within ten years of Gradsul's creation. The next few seasons brought many changes to the land, as the Oeridian tribes entered the Sheldomar Valley from the north after a great upheaval appeared to bring down the Empire of Vecna from within. The Oeridians were the first people to encounter the Neheli, settling with the latter peacefully.
Keoland was officially founded in the year 303 OR (-342 CY), a union between the Neheli, Rhola, and minor Oeridian nobles who came to control large swaths of the central valleys between the holdings of the Suel. This series of disjointed states between the rivers Javan and Sheldomar became one nation after a series of brief struggles with the Flan. Niole Dra was taken as the capital and its first king, a nobleman of House Neheli, was chosen to rule by a consensus of the peers of the realm.
By -242 CY, Keoland had expanded beyond the Good Hills, allied with the inhabitants there, and entered a period of rapid expansion characterized largely by the peaceful annexation of new lands and territories. Sterich was soon founded in the west, followed in -161 CY by the Gran March, as the kingdom expanded the northern border beyond the city of Shiboleth to Hookhill. The Order of Knights of the Watch was awarded the fief to defend the northern borders by the duke of Dorlin. In -96 CY, the Yeomanry was brought within the kingdom, and its freeholders were given a voice in council in Niole Dra.
The expansion of Keoland came to a slow halt by the middle of the first century CY, after the death of King Malv III of the Rhola. In 49 CY, the throne reverted to House Neheli, where it remained for nearly two centuries. A long stagnant period in Keoish history ensued, during which the country remained a benevolent if slumbering and introverted land.
Keoland awoke from its long slumber during what is generally regarded as its imperial phase, beginning in the late third century of the common era. When the last Neheli king died without issue in 286 CY, the summer conclave of the following year recognized the ascension of the first Rholan king in more than two centuries, King Tavish I. Tavish, the duke of Gradsul, was the scion of his house and its most formidable leader. He was determined to make the aspirations of Keoland rival that of the Aerdi and the nascent Furyondy, both of which already dominated the neighbors of Keoland and its rivals in the north and across the Azure Sea.
Tavish immediately brought a cosmopolitan air and youthful dynamism to sleepy Niole Dra when his court assembled the following year in the capital. He quickly reversed the course of the nation and raised armies in great numbers. He accelerated castle-building across the frontiers of the nation and abolished certain magical prohibitions that had stood for centuries amid the strong opposition of the anchorites of the Lonely Tower, the Silent Ones. Tavish's early maneuvers were subtle efforts to marshal the resources already at his fingertips by treaty. In 289 CY, Keoish forces verged on the Fals Gap, where the city of Thornward was founded by the Knights of the Watch as a northern outpost to ward and tax the trade roads between the Baklunish and Furyondy. While a brief skirmish was fought with the Baklunish of Ket, large-scale actions were as yet unknown. In 292 CY, Tavish negotiated a treaty to formalize the union of the Ulek states to Keoland, bringing them into closer cooperation with the Throne of the Lion. Keoish ambassadors were dispatched even to Enstad, and distant outposts were soon tolerated by Celene and its fey court. Tavish accomplished the near-total confederation of the Sheldomar Valley, from the Crystalmists to the Azure.
Following the death of Tavish the Great in 346 CY, the throne was taken by his eldest son, Tavish II (called "The Blackguard"), a move that was grudgingly approved by the Council of Niole Dra. During the early summer of 348 CY, the new king made his so-called "Wealsun Proclamation", over the objections of the members of the Council. In it, he asserted the manifest destiny of the Keoish to hegemony over the Sheldomar Valley and all its borders. Within a handful of years, Keoland had marched armies into western Veluna and annexed the Pomarj from the prince of Ulek.
Using the added support he gained from early victories in Veluna, Tavish II quickly drove the ill-prepared rulers of Ket to the Tusman Hills. In late 362 CY, he ordered the extension of a formal trade road from Thornward to Molvar and eventually to Lopolla. Earlier the previous year, the Yeomanry had closed its borders to the Keoish, withdrawing its forces in protest against the "wars of aggression," while Celene expelled royal garrisons from within its borders. The Ketite expedition began unraveling within a few years. The next three decades were rife with fits and starts that amounted to a slow retreat to Bissel.
By the year 400 CY, the forces of Keoland had completed their final withdrawal to Thornward, fortifying the Fals Gap and making Bissel the northern frontier of the kingdom. Keoland's aggressions took a lengthy hiatus under the rule of Duke Luschan, the new regent who had no stomach for war. In 414, the old regent became ill and died, and his young nephew assumed the title Tavish III. In 438 CY, the Small War (sometimes called the Short War) between Furyondy and Keoland ended Keoish influence in Veluna. Furyondians and their armies advanced on Thornward and south to nearly the city of Hookhill, as the Knights of the Hart captured Bissel before Tavish III reinforced the northern border in disgust. Keoland's influence north of the Gran March came to a complete end.
Troubles for the Throne of the Lion continued unabated in the south. In 433 CY, Tavish III's errant younger brother and the heir to the duchy of Gradsul disappeared, and reports placed the duke as lost in the Amedio, the victim of pirates or other foul play. The old king attempted to salvage some dignity in a doomed expedition to reclaim the south, culminating in the Siege of Westkeep in 453 CY. In a prolonged battle against the insurgents, King Tavish III was himself slain.
The king's surviving son was crowned Tavish IV, assuming the throne immediately following the death of his father on the battlefield. Recognizing the disastrous policy that had propelled the dependencies of the kingdom to fly apart and resulted in the death of his brothers and father, young Tavish IV reversed the course of the nation. He recalled and disbanded expeditionary forces from the frontiers, sending home men who had not worked their ancestral lands for their entire lives. In 460 CY, the Yeomanry League was formally recognized as an independent realm, and relations were reestablished. However, despite the best efforts of Tavish IV, many of these changes came too little and too late for others. In 461 CY, the realms of Ulek and Celene severed formal ties with Keoland, the former gaining complete autonomy. Two years later, seeing their opportunity, minor Suel nobles in the Pomarj forswore their fealty to the prince of Ulek and took Highport as their capital. This act went unchallenged in Niole Dra, which was tired of war.
For nearly a millennium, the Keoish heartlands have spanned the lands from Gradsul at the Azure Coast to the Rushmoors in the north, between the great Sheldomar and Javan rivers in the east and west. These lands are some of the most provincial and bucolic in the Flanaess. The climate is customarily temperate year-round and the soils of the central valleys are rich, allowing the kingdom to grow wheat, rye, and other grains in great abundance. The country has never been rich in terms of mineral wealth, and perhaps for that reason, it has always conducted a brisk trade with its neighbors, to whom it supplies staples such as foodstuffs in return for hard-coin.
The folk of the land can be friendly and generous, but they are primarily noted for their superstitious natures, particularly their wariness of foreigners. The people are a mixture of Suel and Oeridian bloodlines, well blended for the most part in the provinces of the nation, except in certain rarefied circles such as the nobility and other closed societies. Flan still exists in small pockets in the kingdom, no longer numerous in the heartlands and driven to the peripheries of the valley. The common tongue is spoken there, but the primary dialect is called Keolandish. The speech of the common folk is highly recognizable for its accent.