Chapter 4 - History


Despite its relatively recent settlement, much has happened in Korvosa since its glorious founding. Some consider the time before the arrival of Cheliax’s explorers just as exciting as the three centuries since, but those doddering old dreamers sit in dusty libraries reading through tomes thicker than their heads. The true history of Korvosa begins in 4404, when the field marshal received the charter to form a city in Zingara. Three centuries of glorious battle, hard-won victories, and selfless sacrifice have made Korvosa the jewel it is today!
—Mercer Cucuteni, Magistrate of Tourism

Conflict, misery, and division define the history of Korvosa. Three distinct periods define the history of Korvosa from its blood-splattered founding to its current turmoil.

Pre-Cheliax Invasion

Long before the first Chelaxian stepped foot in Zingara, the native Shoanti lived in relative peace throughout the southeastern area of the region. They centered their lives around the Grand Mastaba (which they call Mashka-saht-puyuhoke) near the mouth of the sacred Jeggare River (which they call Mashkapikki). Their oral history spoke of a thing of great power somewhere beneath the sacred pyramid—something they could never again allow to see the light of day. Thus, the Shoanti consider the Grand Mastaba on Citadel Hill one of the most important sites below the Storval Rise.

The Sklar-Quah tribe inhabited the floodplains along the Jeggare River for centuries, defending the hill from infrequent goblin, marsh giant, or ogre raids and the rare infiltration of adventurers from distant lands. Ruthless in their defense of the area, the Sklar-Quah maintained a small garrison of warriors and hunters on Citadel Hill and a supporting fishing village on Endrin Isle (which they call Suwa-saht-kaum). For generations, the Shoanti held the area, never encountering a single challenge that truly threatened their warriors. That all changed in 4407.

Fort Korvosa (4407–4503)

In 4406, as the Everwar slowly wound down, Field Marshal Jakthion Korvosa led a small army with an even smaller group of brave and hardy pioneers trailing behind from the Empire of Cheliax, through the Bloodsworn Vale, and into the southeastern reaches of untamed Zingara. Savage barbarians known as Shoanti fought the Chelish troops for nearly every foot beyond the vale. As winter approached, the Shoanti suddenly relented and disappeared into the plains.

With the help of the civilians who accompanied it, Field Marshal Korvosa’s army just barely survived the harsh winter, albeit at a much-reduced capacity. Spring came late and brought with it no succor. Not until the rains of Desnus faded and the warmth of fair Sarenith hardened the mud could Korvosa’s beleaguered men move from their encampment and follow the foothills of the Mindspin Mountains north. Once again, Shoanti harried them relentlessly. After another month of nearly endless battle, the army reached a fast-running river racing out of the mountains. Korvosa deemed the spot worthy and his men set about constructing a palisade.

Meanwhile, in the early spring, the flotilla Admiral Kiameleu begged from the emperor set sail for Zingara and ended up in Conqueror’s Bay. This ill-fated expedition consisted mostly of wealthy nobles, with only two companies of elite Chelish marines for protection. Kiameleu’s major financial backer, Montlarion Jeggare, insisted on taking a small party up the mouth of the nearby river even as Kiameleu landed one company of marines on the large island in the bay. The marines were immediately attacked by Shoanti on the island and found themselves quickly outnumbered. When the battle turned against the marines and the Shoanti launched attacks against his flotilla in small fishing boats, Kiameleu lost his nerve and ordered a retreat. Only the frigate Merciless remained behind to offer support to the beleaguered marines still on the island.

Founding the Colony

Montlarion Jeggare led his famed (and many say, blessed) expedition up the river that bears his name to its source, deep within the Mindspin Mountains. Upon his return downriver, Jeggare met Korvosa’s army and, with little effort, convinced the Field Marshal to follow him. The eccentric gentleman explorer led Korvosa and his army to the mouth of the river, fending off Shoanti attacks along the way. They fought their way past the Grand Mastaba and came at last to the shores of Conqueror’s Bay, where they spotted the besieged marines on Endrin Isle.

With great haste, Korvosa’s men launched a pounding and brutal attack against the Shoanti, capturing most of the natives’ boats and crossing the narrow but deep strait separating the island from the mainland. A bitter battle ensued, and in the end the Chelish army regulars linked up with the exhausted marine comrades-in-arms, finally breaking the siege. The dozen surviving marines welcomed the return of Jeggare and the arrival of Field Marshal Korvosa’s army and provided what cover they could for the landing boats. This initial victory signaled the end of massed Shoanti aggression on the island. Field Marshal Korvosa commissioned sergeant-at-arms Waydon Endrin, the ranking marine survivor, and placed him in command of the island’s defenses.

For the next 22 years, Fort Korvosa acted as the center of a network of trappers, hunters, fishermen, and adventurers who came from Cheliax to exploit the resources of the untamed lands of Zingara. It also struggled constantly against the Shoanti stronghold on Citadel Hill, less than a mile away. Thanks to Captain Palin’s Merciless and the capture or destruction of all the local Shoanti boats, the Chelaxian settlers controlled the Narrows of Saint Alika and all of Conqueror’s Bay within sight of the river mouth.

The Great Fire

On 13 Neth, 4429, disaster struck. Shoanti brought pitchcovered and pitch-filled canoes down the Jeggare River and snuck onto Endrin Isle. Although the first group to land consisted of only a handful of brave and suicidal warriors, with the element of surprise they managed to light their canoes and set ablaze the wooden palisade of the fort.

The Great Fire razed the palisade and all the buildings of the fort, as well as half the civilian buildings on the island and some of the docks and ships in port (including the Merciless). Many of the settlement’s most beloved residents perished, as did roughly one-quarter of the entire population and all but a company’s worth of soldiers. Only two members of the Sable Company survived, but those who died inflicted heavy casualties on the Shoanti.

Alika Epakena had seen the fire in a vision some time before, though, and warned Waydon Endrin. Endrin
contacted Cheliax about her vision and the emperor responded by sending a flotilla of warships and an entire regiment of soldiers, which arrived only a week later. This influx of Chelish soldiers prevented the Shoanti from capitalizing on the settlement’s weakened state, but it signaled a subtle shift in power.


Shortly after the fire, the Sable Company recruited the newly arrived marines and shifted its focus to defense of the village, even as the newly formed Korvosan Guard launched a major and concentrated offensive on the mainland. With the aid of Sable Company scouts and rangers, the Korvosan Guard struck at the Shoanti south of the Jeggare River, driving them away from the shore.

Headway gained on the mainland disappeared when the Shoanti struck back in 4439, driving the soldiers and settlers there back across the Narrows of Saint Alika. The Chelish soldiers reversed this loss a year later, however, and began construction of a wall around their mainland holdings. Shortly after they completed this wall, the Shoanti assaulted it but could not breach the defenses. Using that small enclave as a base of operation, the Korvosan Guard began a systematic assault on Shoanti holdings south of the river, driving them to the foot of the Grand Mastaba. After a nearly 4-year siege, in 4449 the Korvosan Guard finally breached the defenses of the pyramid, breaking organized Shoanti resistance for more than a decade.

Over the next 10 years, Fort Korvosa grew into a sizable village and trading post. With control of the pyramid, the Korvosan Guard expanded its influence all across the mainland. The northern and eastern shores, however, remained a dangerous wilderness controlled by Shoanti hunting parties, goblins, and other dangers the guard could scarcely afford to suppress.

The Last Shoanti War

In 4462, the great chieftain Galstak Sevendeaths (who was resurrected six times) brought together the Sklar-Quah and Skoan-Quah to form a small army. This army crossed the Jeggare several miles upriver from Korvosa. Riding massive dire animals, the Shoanti crashed through the forest and burst onto the farmlands southeast of the city.

The Shoanti raid, coupled with their subsequent weeklong siege of Palin’s Cove and the Chelish mainland enclave in Korvosa, reignited anti-native feelings among the settlement’s leaders. The entire regiment of Korvosan Guards stationed on Endrin Isle marched straight into the heart of the Shoanti encampment, driving the savages back across the river. Over the next 26 years, a state of general war existed between the Shoanti and the Korvosans.

Finally, in 4488, the Korvosan Guard once again killed Galstak Sevendeaths, but this time they managed to capture his body and prevent his eighth return to life. With Galstak’s final demise, the alliance he formed crumbled, and the tribes quickly fell to in-fighting, even as they fled north and east at sword-point. The Chelish soldiers firmly established their dominance of the area around the mouth of the Jeggare River.

Ascending Korvosa (4489–4606)

With the defeat of the Shoanti in the area, Fort Korvosa’s leading families felt safe enough to lay claim to lands on the mainland. Only the military houses of Bromathan, Endrin, and Kroft claimed lands east of the river.

Lord Magistrate Remsev Ornelos, confident in the security provided by the soldiers stationed at the newly named Castle Korvosa, moved the town’s seat of power onto the mainland in 4489. Most civilians feared further Shoanti attacks on the relatively undefended mainland, leading to a general protest that resulted in the destruction of many of the mainland docks. Those responsible for the destructive fire were executed, to a man, creating for the first time a tension between the town’s elite and its commoners.

This tension increased over the next 2 years, as the noble families fled the cramped conditions on Endrin Isle to set up manor houses on the mainland, leaving behind the soldiers and the working class. Two noble houses, Arkona and Viamio, remained on the island. Finally, in 4491, fed by the honeyed words and subtle assistance of House Viamio, a group of disgruntled longshoremen invaded Remsev Ornelos’s home and slaughtered him and his family.

With popular backing and promises of reconciliation between the classes, Amycus Viamio became the next lord magistrate. Amycus sent representatives back to the homeland to recruit settlers for Fort Korvosa, and over the next decade he brought in from Cheliax shiploads of discontents and noble families allied to his own.

The newcomers brought with them wealth and—for the most part—a certain level of lawlessness and rebelliousness. Over the next 12 years, the population of Fort Korvosa nearly doubled, bringing it to almost 8,000 citizens, and for the first time the military and its support infrastructure found itself outnumbered. Clashes between the established noble houses and the unwelcome newcomers began in 4492 and steadily increased as the population grew and safe land became scarce. This unstable political powder keg needed only a spark to ignite a full-blown war.

The Cousins’ War

Inadvertently, House Jeggare provided the tinder in early 4502, when it approved a large loan to House Viamio, which Amycus used to fan the flames of discontent and to quietly hire a private army of mercenaries, Shoanti, and goblins. Several months later, Amycus lit the tinder when he orchestrated a debate among the noble houses. His allies called for the holdings east of the river to be abandoned to allow for an easier defense of Citadel Hill. When House Endrin refused (its representative laughing bemusedly), Amycus declared the noble families that had settled beyond the river traitors to Fort Korvosa and the crown of Cheliax. The wrath his declaration created shocked him and gave him a glimpse into his destiny.

It is a testament to the draw of wealth that House Viamio and its allies lasted as long as they did. Word spread quickly of the lord magistrate’s declaration, and throughout town fires sprang up as mobs of purchased Viamio supporters set ablaze the holdings of the house’s enemies. The private army of mercenaries Amycus hired swept into the eastern holdings, intent on proving his point. Unfortunately for the mercenaries, Lord Endrin predicted this move and had brought half out the garrison of Castle Korvosa to counter it. In less than an hour, Viamio no longer had a private army.

The streets of Fort Korvosa degenerated into a war zone, and the back rooms and parlors of nobles’ manors became battlefields in their own right. When negotiations broke down between the loyalists and separatists, assassinations soon followed. In the spring of 4503, no noble house remained on the fence, and House Viamio realized its doom approached. Only four other houses had aligned with it, while more than 20 stood against it. Amycus attempted to flee the town with the spring thaw, but a Sable Company patrol caught him and brought him to the company’s headquarters on Endrin Isle. No one ever saw him again.

With the desertion of Amycus, House Viamio collapsed. The emperor declared the entire family traitors and moved quickly to confiscate Viamio holdings throughout the empire. Those members of Viamio who survived the war in Korvosa disappeared into the dark dungeons under Endrin Isle, never again to see the light of day. Houses that sided with Viamio, even if they later renounced that decision and joined the loyalists, suffered a range of fates from a loss of noble title to an equitable declaration of treachery and utter destruction.

Reconciliation and Peace

With the end of the Cousins’ War, healing and reconstruction began in Korvosa. The noble families pledged their allegiance to the Chelaxian crown and worked together to establish a greater degree of unity among those of their class. The holdings of the traitorous families reverted back to the crown and then became public lands in the blossoming town. In order to put its past tragedies behind it, the town officially dropped the word “fort” from its name, becoming simply Korvosa.

With the emperor’s attention now drawn to it, Korvosa found itself flooded with immigrants loyal to the crown. These new arrivals hoped to fill the holes left by the traitors and brought a dozen more noble families, including the first members of House Zenderholm. Chelaxian ships arrived in Korvosa’s port almost weekly, bringing with them necessities and luxuries the damaged industries of Korvosa could not supply. Those ships returned to Cheliax laden with the riches of Zingara, from fine textiles and thileu bark to gold and Acheronian relics.

A century of relative peace, broken only by infrequent and increasingly desperate Shoanti raids, and unprecedented prosperity followed. Korvosa’s population ballooned to more than 20,000 and it found itself on the brink of becoming one of the most important cities outside of Cheliax.

In that heady climate of wealth, peace, and cooperation came the most horrible news imaginable. A cataclysmic event that rocked not only Korvosa and its beloved empire, but the entire world. Aroden, Cheliax’s patron god, had died.

Independent Korvosa (4606–Present)

Aroden’s inexplicable death crippled Cheliax, paving the way for a disastrous series of civil wars. Korvosa knew nothing of the conflict and only suspected trouble in the empire when the weekly shipments from Cheliax stopped arriving. The storms resulting from Aroden’s death affected Korvosa, of course, but no one suspected the empire was on the verge of collapse.

Lord Magistrate Skara Leroung convened a meeting of the noble houses after the second week to discuss ways of preventing a panic. Rioters already marched through the streets and the Korvosan Guard seemed understandably reluctant to use force against them. The nobles could not reach an agreement over what needed to be done. Some preached patience, praying for Aroden’s swift return. Others sought to embrace the rebellion and swear fealty to whomever stood strongest when the chaotic haze lifted. The most radical, though, saw the opportunity for their own revolt, a chance to create their own nation and keep the bounty of their toil for themselves.

As the nobles argued, the common folk and soldiers clashed. Any hesitance the Korvosan Guard felt toward attacking its own people disappeared when supporters of the neo-separatists turned violent. When the first soldier died, speared in the back by a supporter of an independent Korvosa, the town very nearly shook itself apart.

In the end, two factions remained: a majority of royalists loyal to the crown, regardless of who wore it, and a faction of traditionalists (who rejected Cheliax’s new, infernal ways), who swore to the old ways of the empire but who were unwilling to openly revolt. With neither side able to convince the other of its wisdom, the traditionalists finally conceded the debate and peacefully departed the city to found Magnimar.

The Rise of Royalty

When stability returned to Cheliax, Korvosa sent its first ship in several months. In addition to the treasures of Zingara, the ship carried envoys to express the colony’s undying loyalty to the empire. When neither that nor the next several ships returned, Sable Company scouts took the long land route to Cheliax. The town waited.

Months later, some of the envoys returned bearing dark news. Cheliax had no interest in its Zingaran colony, although it might some day require the services of the town’s loyal subjects. When the people of Korvosa learned of the severing of their imperial ties rebellion almost erupted in the city for a second time.

Lord Arbust Arabasti paved the way for the ascension of his son, Eodred, who took over leadership of the town upon Arbust’s death in 4624. A fine and popular ruler, Lord Eodred reclaimed abandoned parts of Korvosa, strengthened its rural holdings, and improved relations with Cheliax. In 4633, the people voted to change their lord’s title—to king.


Chapter 4 - History

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