The Black River Irregulars
Llael’s primary geographical advantage turned out to be its greatest weakness: sharing its borders with four kingdoms with few natural barriers to inhibit trade—or the movement of armies. This served to line the pockets of certain entrepreneurial nobles and merchants who exploited the shipping along the Black River flowing from Rhul to the Gulf of Cygnar. Llael’s merchants were centrally located to serve as middlemen for a variety of lucrative mercantile organizations, while its gentle valleys and lush farmlands offered few barriers to slow the advance of the soldiers who marched to seize them starting at the end of 604 AR. By the end of 605 AR Llael had become an occupied nation.
Cygnar had been allied with Llael for three hundred years, and it was only with their protection that the smaller nation had weathered numerous Khadoran assaults over the generations. It may be an overreliance on Cygnaran soldiers and mercenaries led to a certain denial among the Llaelese people about their vulnerability. Llael earned its early fame during the Rebellion for being the birthplace of blasting powder and long boasted many of the finest pistoleers and alchemists in western Immoren. Unfortunately, these talents were directed more to commercial gain and less to bolstering the kingdom’s rotting defenses and inadequate military. Its people spent their time instead in appreciation for the finer things in life, from expensive locally produced wines, to great written works in their native tongue, works of art, music, and architecture, all sponsored by bickering nobles competing to control the trade that was the nation’s lifeblood.
Corruption from within hastened the Khadoran invasion and occupation of the small country. Llael’s last king had died decades before, and his heirs had all fallen prey to murderous conspiracies by those seeking to exploit the chaos. The nobles who came after allowed Llael’s small army to languish, relying increasingly on foreign aid and unreliable sell-swords instead. The nation’s renowned pistoleers became duelists and assassins for hire rather than protecting the borders. The Llaelese people suffer the consequences of this neglect, as they have dealt with not just one but two invading armies. After Cygnar was driven from Llael by Khador, the Northern Crusade of the Protectorate of Menoth moved in to seize certain eastern lands. While within these occupied lands a beleaguered Llaelese Resistance remains determined to regain the nation’s freedom, to many Llaelese their cause seems desperate and futile. Only a handful of Llaelese towns remain free of foreign influence.