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The territory of Mareave is currently in Grendel hands, but was once the home of the Skouran people.


During the Summer Solstice, the Department of Historical Research was charged by Vaclav Mladenovich Kosti, Minister of Historical Research to "research the history of the territory of Mahal, now known as Mareave, and its inhabitants through history, with particular regard to the Urizeni." One of the challenges here is that the territory itself is broadly unknown; an actual visit must be made under the auspices of the Grendel and, with the Apulian business and the peace treaty about to end, they make less than welcoming hosts.

It's fascinating, however, to see how little we actually know about Mareave-that-was-Mahal. Very little survived Nicovar's destruction of the libraries; Octavia of Stream's Source Spire has evidence that there used to be extensive records of Imperial involvement in the territory at Ankarien, in Spiral, but nothing survived the flames of the Mad Emperor's destruction. There are numerous references to Mahal, and later Mareave, in the Civil Service paperwork, stretching back to the foundation of the Empire, but Marko Siwarsbairn reports that much of it is tantamount to useless because it is so thoroughly stripped of context. And Snowstorm Henk tells us that there are ruins of obvious Urizen provenance in northern Mareave but that they are mute witnesses to a stretch of history we have, as an Empire, broadly forgotten.

Last season the Civil Service also commissioned an extensive spy network in Mareave. With the approval of the Minister for Historical Research, it is the intention of the Department to prepare this preliminary overview document, and then once the intelligence-gathering operations in Mareave begin in earnest, Snowstorm Henk and perhaps Marko Siwarsbairn will compile a secondary report once we know a little more about the Urizeni ruins.

Octavia Stream's Source Writes

Before the Empire

Octavia of Stream's Source Spire has spent the last three months in Urizen, primarily in Spiral, but also visiting spires in Morrow and Redoubt known for their interest in political history. From her studies in her natal nation, she has put together a broad overview of the people of Mareave in the period leading up to the first formal war between the Empire and the people of Mahal, during the reign of Empress Aenea.

Even allowing for the turbulent recent history of Spiral, a territory that spent more than seventy years under occupation by the Grendel, and whose identity is now undergoing a fundamental change, it is still surprising how little actual information there is about Mahal and Mareave. The earliest histories of the place come from journal fragments and references in crumbling incunabula penned by adventurous Urizen exploring the regions south of Spiral. They agree that it is a broken, barren land populated by septs of orcs who fight among themselves but unite against the threat of any outsider. There are scattered accounts from sentinels of efforts to claim the place for the young Urizeni nation. The contentiousness of the orcs, and the relatively inhospitable nature of the land itself, encouraged Urizen to look north and west for their expansion, into the significantly more welcoming territories of Zenith, Morrow, and Redoubt.

At some point toward the end of the period commonly called Chaos, humans arrive in Mahal from elsewhere. They move north out of the territory the Grendel call Ayereed. They're described as practical, extremely martial in nature, and with a grim determination to carve a nation of their own out of the eastern Broken Shore. There are some references to them as "Scourers", because of the methodical way in which they move, but to me that seems a little pat - as we will see - and I think it likely that this is clever word-play from Urizen writing after the fact.

These are, of course, the Skourans. Having already established settlements in Ayereed, they fight the orcs in Mahal, and over the course of several decades break the septs and drive them out. There is some contention here - while some of the orcs flee east into the mountains, others retreat north into Spiral. There are reports of significant battles in southern Urizen, as orc septs caught between the hammer of the Skourans and the anvil of Urizen fight desperately for their existence. The survivors will eventually toil in the depths of the Urizen mines as slaves - a dark period in our nation's history - and ultimately their very distant descendants will become part of the Imperial Orcs. Sadly, any details about them - who they were, where they came from, how they thought - are long since lost to history.

With the orcs defeated, the Skourans establish a walled settlement at what is today Beoraidh, which they call Oranth. They press against the borders of southern Urizen, but are repulsed. Yet reading between the lines a little, it seems that the Skourans and the Urizeni are reasonably well matched. While my people possessed much superior understanding of magic, especially ritual magic, the Skourans by all accounts burned with a zealous flame that drove them to conquer, and are already marked as peerless artisans whose warriors wielded potent weapons and armour infused with their own magic.

Rather than press Urizen, the Skourans spread eastward into the mountains that lie to the south-east of the nation, between the Empire and Axos. There are a few references to the Skourans competing with the Axou, but only as asides and footnotes. The warlike nature of the original Skourans is not entirely spent - there are a few references to Skouran mercenaries in heavy metal armour armed with thundering warhammers and great shields that can turn aside any blow, being employed during skirmishes with the Highborn and the Dawnish. According to these notes these mercenaries invariably chose to be paid in ambergelt and dragonbone, resources in great demand for people living in the arid territories of the Broken Shore.

At some point, there is a final border war between Urizen and Skoura, which results in concessions in the form of ceded land. The accounts here are confused and inconclusive. It's not entirely clear if the Urizen were the aggressors, and won a portion of northern Mahal for themselves, or if the Skourans attempted to conquer Urizen spires already established in Mahal. Regardless, after the dust dies down, there are multiple references to the spires of Icarion prospering from trade with the Skourans.

In the century or so before the foundation of the Empire, there are records of extensive trade with the Skourans who seem to have "settled down" a little after their initial flurry of expansionism. Skouran stone and metal, and the fruits of their artisans, flow north into Urizen, while caravans of wood and forest goods travel south to Oranth (Beoraidh).

The Founding

Mahal is mentioned only once in documents speaking of founding of the Empire, and even then it is far from a primary source. Located not in Urizen but in the library at Diora University, it is a copy of an original penned by one of the first citizens of the then-newly-formed League, writing in the time of Emperor Giovanni. I mention this mostly to try and make clear what a paucity of information there is about what was once, by all accounts, a thriving territory in a fierce nation, As a copy, albeit one that itself was penned over two and a half centuries ago, it is not corroborated anywhere else that I was able to find, so please take it with a pinch of salt.

It seems that around the same time Myfanwy was sending out messengers to speak with the nations that would eventually found the Empire, she also sent Navarr representatives to the Skourans. They rejected the invitation to come and hear the First Empress speak. They declined to become part of the grand endeavour that would become the Empire, and unlike the Urizen, they did not later reconsider.

The reasons the Skourans refused to join the Empire are unclear. It seems obvious that it would have been to their advantage - their position on the Broken Shore must always have been precarious - but they chose to remain independent. Even after Urizen joined the Empire, the Skourans would not. They were content to trade stone, metal, and worked goods with the people of Urizen, and welcomed Imperial merchant vessels to Oranth (Beoriadh). But on the matter of formal alliance, they remained recalcitrant.

War with Skoura

For the first hundred years or so, relations with Skoura followed a relatively friendly course. There were occasional spats of course, but their position of the south-eastern borders of the Empire meant that relations were actually reasonably peaceful. Skouran merchants from Oranth (Beoraidh) visited Sarvos and Siroc, but they are not mentioned as being a particularly maritime nation. A lovingly prepared letter held by Diora Univeristy - coincidentally preserved as part of a demonstration of a technique involving sealing parchment between thin sheets of ambergelt that never really caught on - talks of the ships of Mahal as "blocky and ungainly, like someone had stuck a sail on an ox-cart." The Freeborn writing of their experiences in Oranth goes on to expound on this unflattering simile, describing the people of Mahal as "like their boats - blocky and ungainly".

There's again mention of Skouran mercenaries fighting alongside Imperial armies, but not in great numbers. The majority of their military interest is focused on conflict in the south, in Ayereed, fighting the earliest iteration of what would in time become the Grendel nation. There are slightly more records of the Imperial Synod - especially in the time of Empress Teleri - urging wayfarers to go to Mahal, to bring the way to the "blasphemous Skourans". There's no indication of what inspired this enthusiasm beyond a few references to them "denying the Doctrines of the Faith", and again reading between the lines it seems reasonably clear that the Skourans rejected these missionaries. There is a marginal note in a history of the time that talks about a Senate project to establish a temple in Icarion, from which Imperial priests would head south to "carry the waters of Wisdom and Pride into the parched desert of Mahal."

These disputes are relatively minor until the reign of Empress Aenea. Under the Builder, the Senate and the Military Council sought to expand the borders of the Empire. This included an effort to expand into Mahal. The Senate sought to press slightly dubious Urizeni claims in the territory, but there is documentary support that what the conflict with the Skourans was really about was stone. Marble, granite, and white granite from the mountains, was in demand to slake Empress Aenea's boundless thirst for construction, and Skouran merchants had responded to this by raising their prices to eye-watering levels. There was a great deal of sabre rattling, leading to three armies being dispatched south from Spiral into Mahal. The fighting seems to have been resolved in a little more than a year. Imperial military forces were very stretched during the reign of Highborn Aenea - defending from Jotun, Druj, and Thule aggression and contending with Faraden and the Iron Confederacy in the west, meant that they were able to commit only token forces to the fight with the Skourans in Mahal. The invasion ended in stalemate before the walls of Oranth (Beoraidh) - the Skourans had built the small city up into a formidable fortress. By all accounts, the Empire's armies inflicted significant damage on the castle, but were ultimately unable to breach it. The Skourans (with laudable practicality) bedevilled the Imperial forces by ruthlessly attacking their supply lines, and one admittedly embroidered account suggests that the dry land and hot Summer weather killed as many Imperial soldiers as the soldiers of Oranth.

A treaty was inevitable. Negotiations at Anvil ensued, and led to an agreement that guaranteed the safety of the spires of "Icarion and Nadir" - my colleague will write of this later I believe - but focused primarily on the establishment of trade between the Brass Coast, League, and Skourans focused around Mahal. Another Senate document details a "white granite docks" build in Mahal that would allow trade of weirwood for white granite and mithril, and an uneasy peace settled over the eastern Broken Shore until the reign of Emperor Barabbas.

In Summary

The history of Mahal is the history of the Skourans, but there are repeated references to Urizen spires in the territory. Pulling all the disparate threads together, there are interesting parallels between the Urizen in Mahal and the Dawnish in the Barrens - if one allows for the fact the Skourans were slightly more amenable neighbours than the orcs of the east. An enclave of Urizen, living in a foreign territory, occasionally threatened by developments in the larger political picture. occasionally expanding their influence but always eventually dying back to where they started.

Marko Siwarsbairn Writes

Imperial Records

Until the reign of Empress Mariika, Mareave was Mahal. A territory of the Skouran people, close to the Empire - sharing a border with Urizen in fact - it's obvious it should be mentioned from time to time in civil service paperwork. Octavia has already written of events leading up to the reign of the Builder, and for the next hundred years relations are roughly what one might expect. Mahal is mostly mentioned in reference to trade in Oranth. There's a Senate motion from the reign of Empress Varkula calling for Imperial mercenary bands to travel to Mahal to assist the Skourans in a battle against the "Sand Walkers" - who seem to be a group of orcs causing major trouble in Ayereed - that is interestingly vetoed by the Throne. Varkula opposed most things that tried to encourage Imperial soldiers to get involved in matters beyond Imperial borders, or anything that might distract from pushing those borders back.

The Synod continues to sporadically remember that the Skourans do not follow the Way, and try to send missionaries to bring them news of the virtues. Each time, they are rebuffed, with varying levels of polity. It's clear from some of the Synod judgements that survive to the current day that the Highborn in particular found the refusal of the Skourans to accept the truth particularly galling. Trade sanctions come and go, depending on the influence of the Synod and the needs of the Senate, but relations broadly remain cordial. The Skourans have their own problems, with orcs on their borders, and occasional disputes with their trading partners in Axos.

An odd parallel exists during this time that I find fascinating, in that trade with Axos seemed to mostly go via Skoura, mirroring the modern situation where trade with Skoura mostly goes through Axos. It's pretty clear during this time that the Skourans are much closer to the Axou than they are to the Empire, probably because the people of Axos spend less time trying to convert them to their religion, and demanding they lower the price for their white granite, mithril, ilium, and gemstones. There's a record of an "Axou Market" built in Oranth by the Senate specifically to purchase herbs and beggar's lye from Axos, with the aid of Skouran merchants.

During the reign of Emperor Barabbas, things start to turn a little sour. Ill-advised comments about Human Destiny, and the ultimate conquest of Attar and the Broken Shore lead to angry words exchanged between diplomats. A Skouran ambassador denounces Imperial claims on Skouran territory, sinking any hope of an alliance against the Grendel. The Barrabine Fleet could have been supported by a joint operation, with Skouran armies attacking from the east as the navy sweeps down from the north. In all fairness, it's not clear from the records we have that the Empire intended to conquer Skoura after it had finished bringing the orcs to heel... but Imperial citizens have always been ambitious and the neighbouring nations know it.

After the disaster that ends the Barabbine era, the orcs apparently decide that they've had enough of humans on the Broken Shore. There is a Skouran delegation asking for Imperial assistance in their southern territory, but the Military Council under Emperor Nicovar declines. The new Urizeni Throne is by all accounts sympathetic, but is focused on rebuilding and refocusing the Empire internally after the crushing blow to its pride following the devastating failure of the Attar adventure. Some minor concessions are made; the Freeborn Assembly urges their corsairs to protect vessels trading with Oranth. The Urizen Assembly encourages magicians to trade crystal mana to their neighbours to the south, and there is an abortive attempt to establish a fortification in Icarion.

Then the Axou invade. As detailed in the recent document about the citadel of Solokha, Axou forces come down through the mountains and invade Icarion. The spires fall. The armies press into Spiral, but are ultimately defeated. The Skourans annexe the former Urizen regions, finally controlling the entire territory. There is some back and forth of diplomacy; the Empire is mollified with a gift of white granite. The Skourans continue to be pressed by the orcs. Nicovar starts burning libraries, and the Skourans are pushed out of Ayereed by the Grendel.

We know that by the time of Empress Mariika, the Skourans have lost a portion of southern Mahal, and are being hard pressed. The Empire regretfully declines to get involved, unless the Skourans are prepared to join the Empire, perhaps as part of the League or Urizen. The Skourans decline. Mahal falls to the Grendel. Some Skourans flee north to Urizen where they are absorbed by the spires of Spiral and Zenith. The majority retreat east into the mountains, to the safety of the newly-established deepholds. Ironically, for a short period of time the Skourans hold on to the thin strip of land in the north of Mareave, that same strip of land that once belonged to Urizen, Then the orcs swallow it up, the Skouran access to the Bay of Catazar is lost, and silence falls.

It's interesting to speculate on how things might have gone differently. The Empire arguably should have paid more attention to events in Skoura. It's easy to be critical, but until the reign of Empress Deanne, Imperial citizens tended to utterly dismiss the Grendel as a threat. Their ships raided the southern coast sporadically, but rarely had any particular impact. Most of the fighting took place at sea, and Freeborn warnings about the growing power of the Grendel over the orcs of the Broken Shore broadly fell on deaf ears, even among the Highborn and League citizens whose ships were being threatened. The Urizen listened, but were too busy as a nation being caught up in the political fallout of "their" Emperor becoming increasingly erratic and destructive. If the Empire had paid a little more attention to what was happening in the south-east, to the way the Skourans were being trounced by the orcs at land and sea, they might have been less surprised by what happened in 311YE.

Snowstorm Henk Writes


While my colleagues have consulted documents and fellow scholars, I travelled south of Apulus to Mareave itself. On the way, I took the opportunity to talk to some of the new League orcs, many of whom had lived in the territory before coming to Apulian. My intention is to join the Imperial scouts preparing to perform their own study of Mareave, and use this as an opportunity to get a better feel for the territory and its history. If all goes well, I will append anything new I find to this document.

As a land, Mareave is warm and dry, not dissimilar to the Brass Coast, but with a significantly less hospitable coastlines. Most of the territory rests well above sea level, with vertiginous cliffs of crumbling stone making any naval approach extremely challenging if not downright impossible. It is a not especially fertile land, dry and arid, putting me very much in mind of Segura. It's not a territory with much in the way of large-scale vegetation, either, with no actual woodlands. It rises fairly steeply eastward towards the mountains, from which flow several rivers, the largest of which is probably the one that pours over the cliffs near the Blood River Colossoi.

The Grendel were not especially hospitable, but the peace treaty is still holding. I was able to visit some of the Urizen ruins that our mariners spotted from the sea during the grand endeavour to map the coastline of the Bay of Catazar. They are, unmistakably, Urizen spires. There are half a dozen sets of ruins I was able to visit briefly during my trip to Mareave. They are scattered across the region of Icarion, and when my colleagues speak of the Urizen in Mahal, it is of these spires they are speaking.

Urizen sources sometimes refer to the territory as "Nadir" - contrasting the south-eastern territory with the north-western territory of "Zenith". Yet Nadir also refers to the mountainous region east of Icarion, where there are also some few Urizen ruins. The broken spires here stand in the foothills of the soaring eastern mountains, and were the first to fall to the Axou during their invasion. Little more than tumbled stones remain. These ruins seemed younger and more precarious than the ruins in Icarion, suggesting that the Urizen presence here was much more recent than it was along the western cliffs.

There are remnants of the Skouran domination of Mahal everywhere I visited. Some are repurposed by the orcs of the Broken Shore - crumbling Beoraidh is the prime example of this. Most of the Urizen spires I visited stood at the centre of populous orc communities - swollen with the tents and makeshift structures attendant on villages along the border with an enemy power. The largest ruin was certainly the lighthouse, reported during the mapping of the Bay of Catazar, that stands high on the cliffs south of the Apulian Way. That seven-sided structure of white granite, topped with a globe of tempest jade, put me in mind of images I have seen of the Lighthouse at Apulian before its destruction, and closer examination gives the distinct impression it may once have served as similar purpose, as part of that great work. It is clearly very old - perhaps even pre-Imperial - and it was a sobering experience to look out across the Bay from its pinnacle and feel the age of the stone beneath my feet.


The history of Mahal - of Mareave - is a history of the Skouran people. There is no doubt that there were Urizen settlements here, in the northern regions of Icarion and to a lesser degree Nadir. The Skouran folk who lived here seem to have been both dissimilar to what we know of the modern Skourans - much more martial in nature, capable of holding their own against Imperial armies when the need arose. Yet they are also clearly the forebears of the modern nation - everything we know of them tells us they are proud, masters of stonework, mining, and artisanry, and stubborn to a fault. With news of a diplomatic envoy visiting Anvil at the Autumn Equinox, it's possible that there may be an opportunity to learn more about their more recent history.

Further Reading

  • Mareave - Limited territory details available from the mapping of the Bay of Catazar
  • Mission - 383YE Spring Wind of War about the raid on Beoraidh in Mareave
  • Fall of Solokha - Historical research referencing the Axos invasion of Mareave
  • Skoura