Table of Contents
Early origins of Rang
Rang is said to be half as old as the world. The first settlers of the territory came from the cold regions to the northwest of Rang. The people were scattered, organized only on the clan level, and united only on the rare occasion when there was war with the equally disorganized tribes to the south and west. The balance between the northwestern shepherds and the southern farmers was maintained only because no war was big enough to conquer more than a couple farms or a grazing tract. Guillame the Conquerer changed that, by forging an alliance between several southern tribes and forming the kingdom of Mezonee. Under his talented leadership, the Mezonese pushed their borders north, raising the banner of the Bloody Son (part of ancient Gallian mythology). Guillame was a harsh ruler to those who had been his people's traditional enemies for so long, and many of the clan leaders reacted by moving east into the mountains and dense forests, where the land was harsher but the competition nonexistant. It took nearly two hundred years for Mezonee to conquer all of the northern territory, by which time stories of Guillame the Conquerer had been blown up into the well-known legends of Guillame the Dragon-Slayer. Within fifty years, however, the northerners had crossed the mountains, and were united under a new flag. Two generations out of Mezonee, the tribe was ready to settle a new land, and they found it somewhere in what is now northern Rang. Their superior iron swords and ranged weapons let them conquer a first group of natives, and form the beginnings of a kingdom. Scholars claim that this could have occurred as early as the 290s or as late as the early 400s, so difficult is it to resolve the myths surrounding Guillame, the official histories of the Andrithan Church, and the better-known later histories of Rang.
The small conquered region was known as Rannenothy, which means “the land which has been completely overcome.” Scholars often refer to the conquerors, for lack of a better name, as Rannenoths. The region remained small for over a century, during which time many minor battles were fought, and the borders of Rannenothy changed continuously. Although the borders of Rannenothy were far from constant, the military policies of the Rannenoths were. All conquered peoples were required to speak only their conquerors' language, practice only their conquerors' religion, and adopt imported customs with complete enthusiasm. The penalties for disobedience were severe, and soon all native culture was lost to history forever. Rouch became the dominant language of the region, and Rannenoth values pervaded society, even far out from defended borders.
It is worth mentioning once, although the issue will not be overemphasized, that even the more respectable of sources from this time showed that their authors had a great fear and unshakable belief in magic. Many claims are made regarding the use of sorcerers and enchanters in the field of battle, of temporary alliances with non-human races, and of magical interference of so many kinds it is impossible to list them. If something went wrong in a battle or in any other activity, magic was more likely than not to be blamed. Common as such writings are today, it is not surprising that from this period come the most elaborate mythology and the most numerous and varied of stories and legends. Perhaps the only useful piece of information regarding the mythologies is that the Rannenoths seem always to have been on the losing side whenever there was magic involved. Rannenoth sources endlessly elaborate on the lack of magical aid for their side, and the abundance of magic in the hands of their enemies. Other sources corroborate, if only to say that they themselves had frequent magical aid; there is no mention in non-Rannenothian sources that the Rannenoths were without magic. This imagined imbalance led to a great fear of magic in Rannenoth society, and eventually, to the Battle of the Magics in 577.
It wasn't until 511, in the midst of the greatest level of superstition ever held in these lands, that the kingdom began to expand, with Ghorheim the Overtaker at its head. In fact, many scholars refuse even to call the region a kingdom before that date. Ghorheim was the first to organize the mobs of untrained swordsmen and archers into an army, and was the first to build a stone fortress, which declared by its very presence that the territory was permanent, and that the borders would no longer be allowed to collapse arbitrarily. The borders, of course, did continue to change, but they were expanded outward far more often than before. Ghorheim more than doubled the size of the kingdom, but at the peak of his reign, the kingdom was still only a fiftieth-part of what it is today. His most important contribution was to stabilize the borders, and post guards and watchtowers wherever there was a risk of invasion. Ghorheim's fortress, according to doubtless exaggerated accounts, was destroyed by a great bolt of lightning from the heavens, during the height of the Battle of the Magics. Whatever actually have happened during that battle, if all the mythology could ever be stripped off, it had the result of giving the soldiers of Rannenothy much more confidence against the mysterious magical forces of their enemies. Very rarely following that great battle is magic portrayed as an unbeatable enemy. Eventually, it is barely mentioned at all.
There were sixteen warmongering kings and many battles between Ghorheim and Drannenveldt in 637.
Drannenveldt (635-660) and the Assembly of 637
Andrithanism had been one of several religions in the area, and had been slowly growing in influence, but less than a third of the population of what is now Rang was Andrithan. The religion that the Rannenoths originally brought with them has been lost to history, but was most likely related to one of the major religions of 637. In that year, Drannenveldt, eager for the help of the gods in what he hoped would be the greatest battle in the history of his people, assembled the best-known priests of the four most popular religions in his territory and the surrounding areas. The Assembly of 637 consisted of Furlan, a High Priest of Morenth (a religion whose influence today extends only to Maelbourg in Huerten and Haelbourg in Elgony), Ranshakah, Revered Worshipper of Polinaka (a religion which is now totally extinct), Burkhard, a Senior Director of Jarram, and Torval, an Ecclesiarch of Andritha (after whom His Emminence Torval is named). Each religious leader gave his blessings and suggestions, but it was Torval's advice that was most closely followed, and that therefore yielded the greatest reward. The kingdom was again doubled. It is still difficult to tell whether Torval's advice was sound or he was just lucky, since the only clear biographical information about Torval is in the biased writing of the later Andrithans. In thanks, Drannenveldt offered his crown to Torval, who re-crowned him and named him Diure. He also blessed the kingdom and named it Rang, which, in Sarnam, means “Land of the Holy.” From then on, Ecclesiarches of Andritha performed the coronation ceremony, preferably in the spring. As was the common way among the Rannenoths, Diure made his new religion law, and before long, Andrithanism was the most widely-observed religion in Rang.
Drannenveldt became Diure the First in 637. He is also known as Diure the Holy, and as Diure XXXIII. Before him, Rang is historically referred to as Rannenothy, or, to more Rouche-centered historians, the Central Kingdom.
The Plague of Morenth (678-699)
After Drannenveldt, the leadership of the Church of Morenth grew a bit frantic. They saw that the Jarramites, due to their commercial power, had a small measure of official tolerance, and they came up with their own plan to get a bit for themselves.
For years, Andrithans had been trying to rid Rang of both Morenthians and Polinakas. To secure the Andrithans' gratitude, Morenth began a twenty-one-year campaign, after which no one outside of bitty little hamlets would admit to being a Polianka worshipper.
At first, the authorities were pleased at this turn of events, but then they realized that all the people of Rang, not just Polinakas, were living in fear. Then, the Morenthians spread beyond Rang, and pressure came from other kingdoms to push them back. Before long, Rang was at war with nearly all the surrounding kingdoms, and with a good chunk of its own population, and there was civil war between Morenthians and Polinakas everywhere. That part was particularly bloody. Whole towns were left desolate.
By the end of the Plague of Morenth, there appeared to be no Morenthians or Polinakas left anywhere in the world. As it turned out, over fifty years later (751), the Morenthians were actually holding up in Maelbourg, Huerten (conquered in 748), and Haelbourg, Elgony (747), which at the time of the Plague, had not been part of Rang. At the time the Morenthians were found, the rulers of those baronies had other things on their minds, so they allowed the Morenthians to stay, but made it discretely known that the murder of a verifiable Morenthian outside those towns would not gather much attention.
Four people ruled over Rang during this period:
- Diure XXXIV (660-679), son of Drannenveldt, was the first king of Rang to allocate permanent fiefdoms.
- Ecclesiarch Berenor (679-680) was the Andrithan Ecclesiarch who ruled quietly as regent until Diure XXXV came of age.
- Diure XXXV (680-687), son of Diure XXXIV, is also known as Diure the Zealous. He is best known in educated circles for retroactively renaming his ancestors through the church.
- Diure XXXVI (687-712), also Diure the Conqueror, tripled the size of the kingdom, partly due to the Plague of Morenth, to which his army put an end.
Diure XXXV (680-687) and the renumbering of kings
In the first year of his reign, Diure XXXV had the names of all his traceable ancestors retroactively changed to Diure, as he thought it improper for a king, even in a history book, to have a name in such a profane language as Rouch. His name became Diure XXXV, making his grandfather Drannenveldt into Diure XXXIII. The precise numbering becomes a bit confused before that, as Ghorheim, only eighteen generations behind Drannenveldt, was named Diure IV. The eleven extra Diures were brothers, brothers-in-law, and even the more renowned cousins of the direct line. The three Diures before Ghorheim were thought to be of his direct line, but Diure III was later found to be a cousin of Ghorheim's father, and Diure I was found to be a general under Ghorheim's grandfather. The son of Diure the Zealous repaired that mistake by transferring the name Diure I to Ghorheim's actual grandfather, but the general was already in the books as Diure I, so it became difficult to tell which was which. To futher complicate matters, Drannenveldt is sometimes referred to as Diure I, being the first to be crowned with that name by an Ecclesiarch. And if that wasn't enough, Diure XLV decided he would end the confusion once and for all, and renumbered all three early Diures to be in a direct line to Ghorheim, even though nothing at all was known about Ghorheim's great-grandfather. So, in total, there are four people who can be correctly referred to as Diure I. Fortunately, Drannenveldt and Ghorheim retain their given names in most written and spoken histories.
Diure XXXVIII also confused the numbering a bit, by naming four of his wife's dead ancestors Diure, and thus producing a gap in the numbering of kings.
Loss of territory and the expansion of 742
Diure XXXVII (712-721), son of Diure the Conquerer, was also known as Diure the Compromiser. He lost over two thirds of the kingdom to rebellious dukes, including the original land of Rannenothy. This created a feeling in subsequent kings that Rang must always expand.
Ranr I (721-729), brother of Diure XXXVII, served as regent until his nephew reached majority. He retained quite a bit of influence on his nephew throughout his reign, and some say it was his advice that made the Expansion of 742 so successful.
Diure XXXVIII (729-749) increased the size of Rang to half of its current size. He married the queen of the largest conquered territory (after murdering her husband, incidentally), and, in a futile attempt to gain her favor, he had the previous four kings of that territory, excepting her late husband, renamed Diure. Duerstadt was part of the acquired territory, and, being an excellent place for trade and an easily defensible area, he made it the capital of Rang. It was the Jarramites who made the first loans to get the city started, and on that merit, they remain in Duerstadt to this day. They were not liked, but they became indispensable as money-lenders and merchants, even after the initial loans were repaid.
A few insignificant kings (749-791)
Diure XLIII (749-762) was known as Diure the Belcher. The story of how he acquired that name has been lost.
Diure XLIV (762-779), known as Diure the Invisible, was said never to have seen the light of day. Even in his time, there were doubts as to whether he existed at all.
Diure XLV (779-791) renumbered the ancestors of Ghorheim, adding to the confusion in the numbering of kings.
The Years of Corruption (795-845)
The murder of Diure XLVI (791-794) by his son Diure XLVII (794-795) did not begin the Years of Corruption, but it did set a precedent of regicide that allowed Ranr II, great-grandson of Ranr I, to murder the new king. Diure XLVII's death was followed by twelve years, during which the throne was fiercely contested by his many sons and nephews, not to mention Ranr himself. His Eminence Covasord the Monarch made minor and oft-ignored decisions of government, but Rang was, for the most part, in chaos. It remained in chaos for fifty years that have come to be known as the Years of Corruption. During that time, the kingdom slowly shrunk, as kings gave away land and freed fiefdoms in exchange for alliances, until, in the summer of 845, it was only a quarter of its current size. Volupture I, First Emperor of the Realm, began his reign in 794. His influence over Rang was quite significant until his bankruptcy in 795. It is quite possible that he was more powerful than Diure.
Diure L (2/817-3/817), also known as Diure the Dead, he only ruled for one month. His precise relationship to Diure XLVII is unknown. During his month as king, he gave the title Diure to his father and grandfather post-mortem (Diure XLIX and Diure XLVIII, respectively), in order to legitimize his claim to the throne.
Diure LI (817-818) was known as Diure the Diyar, implying that his life was worth no more than a copper piece. The notion was confirmed when he was assassinated less than a year into his reign.
Ecclesiarch Lenthan (818-819) ruled rather unsuccessfully as regent until murdered. Lenthan was the first and only ecclesiarch to be assassinated by a king. Unwilling to become further entangled in the dangerous politics of the time, the church disowned Lenthan, claiming that he had invented his title without their knowledge. Despite this, Diure LII (819-820) is still known as Diure the Heretic. It didn't help that, shortly after this cousin of the previous king crowned himself at the age of fifteen, he attempted to create his own Church. One need only observe the length of his reign to measure his success.
Ranr III (820-821), son of Ranr II, is known as Ranr the Rat Catcher, for reasons lost to history. He was poisoned to death in the eighth month of his reign.
Diure LIII (821-826), brother of the Diure the Dead, was known as Diure the Waddler, due to his enormous girth. He stepped down after six years in the throne due to multiple threats on his life and a substantial bribe from Diure LIV.
Diure LIV (826-827) was known as Diure the Unwise after he bought the throne for four stone in gold. Outside of Duerstadt, he was even referred to as “the Unwise” in public, during his own reign, with no fear of retribution. Diure LIV was the nephew of Diure LIII (but not the son of Diure the Dead), and was older than his four predecessors.
Diure LV (827-832) was the stepson of Diure LIV. It was with him that the bloodline of the Diure family was completely separated from the crown. He is ironically known as Diure the Invincible. Each of ten assassination attempts left him increasingly crippled. When the final attempt succeeded at last, both legs and one arm were lame, he was blind in one eye and extremely far-sighted in the other, and he had a chronic cough, chronic nose bleed and uncontrollable bowels from the various poisons he'd survived.
Ranr IV (832-837) was the son of Ranr III. In between dodging assassins, he attempted to stabilize the borders of Rang, which required a military expansion so costly that it resulted in widespread economic depression.
Diure LVI (837-845), known as Diure the Scrivener, decided that the kingdom could only be restored if the entire royal government dedicated itself to scholarly pursuits. Much land was lost during his reign.
Diure LVII (4/17/845) reigned for less than a day. The date of his murder officially ends the Years of Corruption.
The Second Expansion (845-982)
Diure LVIII (845-893) was the longest ruling king in the history of Rang, which in itself produced as sense of calm and peace immediately following the Years of Corruption. Diure the Restorer suppressed all major opposition at the age of twenty, through bribery, threats and assassination. During his reign, he built up Rang's armies with foreign mercenaries and local peasants (many of whom were later knighted through dubious claims to noble blood), and regained most of the lands lost during the Years of Corruption. From 870 until his death, Diure LVIII held the title of Second Emperor of the Realm. The title increased his influence, and made his military efforts easier. Partially due to his responsibilities as emperor, however, he worked himself far into debt, and had to break all his new territory into fiefs to repay it. Diure the Restorer was the nephew of Diure the Invincible. He had no sons.
Before his death, Diure the Restorer made a great effort to find a replacement and avoid repeating the Years of Corruption. His efforts backfired, however, as several candidates arose to fight for the title of king. Diure LIX (894-912) won the crown after five months, largely due to the claim that he was of the original Drannenveldt line. Members of the Ranr family, however, still claim that they are more closely linked to the blood-line than he.
Diure LX (912-927) and his son Diure LXI (927-932) did little of historical note, though almost forty years of stability following Diure the Restorer allowed both the borders and the treasury of Rang to settle down. By the end of Diure LX's reign, there was no doubt as to the military power of the kingdom.
Diure LXII (932-953) was the first of the long-lived, powerful kings that have maintained the stability of Rang for the greater part of a century. Diure LXII, starting in 940, was the Third Emperor of the Realm. A few brief but significant wars and trade agreements during his reign paved the way to the substantial increase in the size of the kingdom that was to be carried out by his son.
Diure LXIII (2/1/953 - 2/9/982), known as Diure the Negotiator, made a significant addition to the kingdom. In 956, Aranas, king of Rang's eastern neighbor Ostmark, signed an agreement that reduced his rank to Duke, and made him a noble under the Diure crown. It was made clear to Aranas by Diure LXII that he had little choice in the matter, given the far superior military and commercial power of Rang. Ostmark and its dukes, however, have had no reason to regret the agreement, as the duchy has maintained much of its independence, and it has thrived commercially. Part of the agreement gave Diure half of what is now the Royal Estates.
The Present King
Diure LXIV was crowned king by His Eminence Torval on 2/10/982. He is often likened to Drannenveldt, although, following in his father's footsteps, he prefers to gain land and power through diplomacy rather than war. He is likely to become Fourth Emperor of the Realm.
The decline of serfdom
by Nathan Weismuller
Rang, although having little social mobility from a 20th-century Earth perspective, is remarkably liberal compared to its neighbors. Ranr I, recognizing the revenue potential of the emerging towns, and observing that only freemen settled towns, instituted certain legal reforms regarding property rights of serfs, as well as setting a standard price which could be paid to a serf's lord, either by the serf or by another, obligating the lord to free the serf.
These reforms, combined with certain assurances Ranr I instituted to prevent arbitrary imposition of agricultural bondage on freemen, had the net effect of massively reducing the institution of serfdom over the next four generations. By the time of the Years of Corruption, these “rights of the commons” were traditional enough in Rang that attempts by lords to overturn them proved disastrous, as the commons refused to cooperate or moved to neighboring territories. The loss of the option of large-scale agricultural bondage has proved to have little effect on the power of major nobles who rule the various substates of Rang, but the lesser nobles, who were much more tied to their local agricultural estates, have lost much of their influence and importance.
During the Years of Corruption, many bankrupt lesser nobles turned to outright banditry. Meanwhile, the influence of the wealthy commons in the towns and cities has increased over time.
Today, the larger part of the income of many lesser nobles comes from taxation of the towns. Major nobles hold most of the power, with the king having only weak control over anything but his personal estates. That weak control is not always a visible thing; in times of peace and plenty, the king seems to have a great deal of power indeed.
Peseants, these days, have a great deal of liberty, although most are still bound to their land by poverty. In times of trouble, however, when there is no room in the towns for additional labor, the peseants are as good as serfs, and each time, some must again sell themselves into serfdom to survive. It is thus in times of trouble that the lesser nobles are most prosperous.