VeBrance is a collection of islands located in the Sea of Winds about 1300 leagues due east from the coast of Eresbor. The collection of islands are considered an archipelago called The Eastrise Archipelago. The entire chain of islands is composed of two large land masses named Venriane and Everstar. These make up the largest portions of VeBrance and are the two central inhabited areas of the entire island chain. Amongst the smaller countless islands are the individual duchies and baronies and villages, ruled by a local lord who treats his own island as a nation. Some islands are powerful such as Venriane and Everstar, while others are small and insignificant. Some city-states, such as Ferestal on the island of Angelmair can leverage their mercantile success into political power. Politics and war are the norm for VeBrance. While Venriane and Everstar are forever at ends politically and militarily, it is the smaller forgotten islands that can lend sway to one side or another. The Royal Emperor of Everstar and the Imperial Senate of Venriane use their power to gain allies form the surrounding small nations by offering precious metals, trade, and the promise of victory and glory.
Some islands ally with one side, then suddenly experience a change of heart (brought on by a more favourable deal) would find them siding with the enemy of their former allies. This has all bought about the use of mercenary armies and slaves. They are bought and sold like any commodity, usually going to the highest bidder, where good and evil are a mere contrivance.
The story of VeBrance begins with the explorations of two renowned adventurers and merchants named Velsendra and Beavience both of what is now known as The Territories. In the year 117 rm, when the nation of Eresbor was becoming a widening influence in terms of trade, military and political will, the smaller shires and baronies of the land to the north was struggling. Stuck in a feudal state, the baronies continued to war with one another, and at time with Eresbor itself. Threatened under the possibility of being swallowed whole by Eresbor, the Baron of Seaside struck a deal with two adventurers who were successful in exploring the coasts of both the Shallow Sea in Eresbor and the Sea of Storms in The Telesean States. A letter of mark was sent out by the Baron to a fleet of twenty vessels to sail east across the Sea of Winds. With the aid of Velsendra and Beavience, both who captained their own vessels and had the ability to organize and command such a fleet, agreed to sign the letter and began assembling their press gangs.
The First Expedition
A year after the letter of mark was signed by the Baron, Velsendra and Beavience had gathered their crews and assigned commanders for the other vessels. Velsendra captained the Beaugoss, a three-masted barque of no small legend. It was this vessel that faced the fierce storms that gathered in the Telesean States and survived. Beavience would captain the Frenelle, a two-masted brigantine that was captured by Beavience in 111 rm on the Sea of Winds from Eresbor. The purpose of the explorations was to claim land for the expansion of The Territories, a loosely formed nation at that time.
On the 14th Day of Spring, 117 rm the fleet set sail into the sunrise to find a new world. Working with maps drawn by the ancient elven explorer Ehoan the Wanderer, Velsendra and Beavience knew that there were land masses to the east. Unfortunately for Velsendra and Beavience, the maps drew by Ehoan were quite inaccurate. Ehoan knew that a major island chain lay east of Morvia but never marked his starting point. Unknown to Velsendra and Beavience, the map led them to believe that the islands were located 400 miles further south than they actually were. Leading to months of searching. On the 74th Day of Spring, 117 rm, the fleet came across several uninhabited islands, but none were large enough for a colony or appeared to correspond to Ehoan’s maps.
By the 44th Day of Summer, 117 rm, the fleet anchored off the coast of a small sand bar named after Beavience’s ship, the Frenelle. Here the fleet was able to take what resources they could locate, such as food and water from fresh rivers, but found no Island chain. The fleet departed from Frenelle Island on the 59th Day of Summer, 117 rm and swung north-east. On a heading that would take them into the eye of a particularly strong hurricane, the fleet lost three vessels in that terrible storm from the waves and wind. When the storm passed two days later, they had to scuttle two more. They lost 155 men.
On the 77th day of Summer 117 rm, the fleet suffered a second set back. By not bringing a cleric of the Church of Morvia, disease started to set in. Nearly a third of the fleet suffered, with many needlessly dying from scurvy and cholera. The fleet eventually steered again north and then north west. Unfortunately, the fleet never located the fabled island chain and limped into the port-city of Seaside on the 21st day of Autumn, 117 rm. The Baron of Seaside would never finance another expedition.
The Second Expedition
It was not long before the word had spread of the failed expedition of Velsendra and Beavience. Despite the set backs, the loss of life and the tremendous cost that nearly bankrupted the city of Seaside, whispers of a second expedition soon followed. In the year 121 rm during the renovation of an old monastery on the coast north of Seaside, the presiding priest, Father Delmiere and his attending acolytes discovered in an unknown compartment in the rectory, a previously unknown map showing the coastline along the Sea of Winds. And on the very edge of the map, across from the coast was a cluster of islands dominated by two larger land masses. The markings on the map was in ancient Morvian. Under the islands was the word, Vebriles (which in ancient Morvian means ‘cluster of islands’).
Needing money to help fund the restoration, Father Delmiere sent the map to Seaside to be sold to those who could use it. It didn’t take long for anyone seeking the opportunity to put together a second expedition to learn that a new map had been found including the position of the islands.
Several parties became interested in the map and soon a bidding war began. Needless to say, when the bids started, nearly anyone with moderately deep pockets placed a bid on the map, but when the price began to soar, only those with true wealth remained to the end. In all 6 prominent Lords remained in the bid, all unwilling to let the other get the upper hand. It was Lord Galvin of Leering who led the charge on pooling the resources of the other lords however and it was agreed that all 6 would establish a consortium to finance the expedition. With the map in hand, and with the many thanks of a very rich monastery, plans for the second expedition started to form.
In the year 122 rm the second expedition, was formed and once again, Velsendra and Beavience were hired to command the fleet. Armed with a better map and with better ships, better sailors and more money, the expedition head out from Seaside. Unlike the prior expedition, the fleet was not require to adjust their course from due east too often. The weather agreed and the sea was calm.
On the 16th Day of Summer, 122 rm, the second expedition reached the coast of what is now considered Angelmair Island. Beavience wrote in his log that the green of the trees was as pure a hue as he had ever seen. The number of islands he said, outnumbered the stars in the heavens. The problem now, however, was properly exploring, cataloging and mapping this immense archipelago.
In the year 146 rm the first attempts at colonization of the two main islands began with a royal proclamation from the King of The Territories stating that families who elect to move to the islands of Venriane and Everstar could lay claim to up to 1000 acres of land to, “work for Lord and Land and to claim profit of 20% from what is produced.” This was a lucrative and attractive proposition, especially for young farming families. The first families to land at the settlement of Fort Garalon on the north coast of Venriane numbered 250 with a total population of 600 colonists. Soon more colonists joined and the population of Garalon swelled to over 2500 by the end of 150 rm.
In 169 rm, the town of Pointwyrth was established as a launching point for The Territories Navy. Soon Serris, Southpoint, and Guardsmouth were settled. by this time however, the smaller countless islands surrounding Venriane and Everstar became fair game for explorers from Eresbor and The Divided Kingdoms. These explorers were hastily assembled and paid high prices to claim the choice islands that remained forgotten by The Territories. It wasn’t long before the islands fell sway to one country or another. Bitter skirmishes on the seas surrounding the islands grew in frequency, forcing those countries with an interest in further colonization to improve their navies ensuring the security of their claims and of their colonists.
By the year 220 rm, nearly all of the 100,000 islands were either claimed by one country or another, or occupied by those isolationists and criminals who use the sea to ply their illegal trades.
In the year 557 rm VeBrancian explorers sailed west in search of new lands and opportunities for wealth. When they landed upon the shores of Westrel, they found an untapped land of seemingly endless resources. With more explorers pushing further into the jungles, the first meeting with the halflings occurred. It did not go well. Nearly all of the expedition were killed, wounded or captured, forcing the exploration of the dark continent to be abandoned. It wasn’t until the year 581 rm that larger and better armed expeditions were made to Westrel where contact with the halflings was made once again. This expedition was led by renowned explorer Lord Belshem who saw an opportunity. Bringing gifts of the modern world, including magic, weapons and gold, Lord Belshem was able to befriend the local tribe of halflings. Over the next two summers, he taught then VeBrancian culture, language, and customs. He was also able to drive a wedge between this tribe and those who lived deeper in the jungles.
Lord Belshem was commissioned by The Prelate Council, a consortium of lords, barons and knights who, by proclamation of the Senate were able to purchase the many small islands around VeBrance, to locate an expendable workforce to tend to their lands. Some of the islands were quite sizable and to successfully work the land, it required a workforce much larger than the current population of VeBrance could provide. It was agreed that a chattel slave trade would be established, and in the year 563 rm the first slaves were shipped to VeBrance. By the year 600 rm there was an estimated 100,000 slaves in VeBrance and Westrel where VeBrancian colonies have become viable. Today the total slave count is around 600,000.
There are several detractors of the slave trade throughout Morvia, including the nations of Eresbor, The Divided Kingdoms and The Telesean States. The Territories maintains a neutral position with respects to slavery.
With the rapid expansion of the colonies across many of the islands in the Eastrise Archipelago, the question of self governance was spoken in hushed whispers amongst the rulers. With Eresbor and the Telesean States establishing their own colonies in the archipelago as well, the need to protect the borders of VeBrance proper became a concern. With the Territories docking their naval fleet during the winter season at Fort Garalon, it became increasingly aware that self-sufficiency would become a priority. The House of Governors was established as the ruling governing body of VeBrance during the years of colonization but this system was ill-equipped to offer fair representation. The people living on the island of Venriane sought to remain under the bureaucratic rule of The Territories, where the House of Governors were popular while colonists on the island of Everstar clamored to break free from the rule of The Territories. Colonists on Everstar wished to maintain a lord/liege system loosely based on the older feudal system. This of course allowed the colonists to maintain their slave trade of halflings, something that The Territories disagreed with as it was very unpopular on the world stage, especially with Eresbor. With the divide growing between the island colonies, it was inevitable that Everstar declared that it would become a sovereign state, splitting from The Territories. Succession was officially adopted in the year 607 rm.
The Island Wars
With Everstar removed from the House of Govenors, the colonies on Venriane faced a newer and more insidious enemy. The thousands of small islands, many populated by lesser lords and their houses fell through the gap created by the division that was created by Everstar’s succession. As many islands nations were seen as beholden to The Territories, many were forced to succeed with Everstar because many served the lords of that great island. Many did not wish to go and felt betrayed by the House of Govenors. Thus many lords formed their own island nations, and thus started the island wars. There were many islands still left unclaimed at this time and the pressure of Eresbor and the Telesean States seeking to colonize what remained caused many lords to sail out with what ships they had to plant their house banners. Often times, this led to petty skirmishes between lords. What started as skirmishes flared into a long and festering war on the land and on sea. From the year 622 to 638 rm, all out war between these numerous lords waged, with many houses paying fealty to those lords who proved strong, and able to defeat those who had less constitution for war. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Valanos, a document that allowed for the creation of 6 leading houses to lay claim to the remaining islands. To this day however, it is not unheard of for small naval engagements to occur between lords with long lived rivalries. In addition, the wars allowed for piracy to spread among the more treacherous waterways, allowing privateers and other outlaws to ply the waters for unsuspecting merchants and traders.