The Early Years of the County
The County of Knurl in the southwestern corner of the Bone March has long been ruled by House Kargus, a minor family from the city of Edgefield, in the Principality of Edgefield, in the North Province of the Great Kingdom. A minor Family in Edgefield, they ventured into the Bone March in search of riches and to build a reputation for themselves. In 108 CY they followed the Aerdi army as it marched into what was then a frontier town called Knurl and set up shop as a merchant helping to supply the army. The ruthlessness at which House Kargus took over Knurl was appalling, but Aerdy looked the other way as they quickly became a necessary cog in the supplying of their troops.
As the Bone March became an official territory of the Great Kingdom, Knurl was the first to be recognized as an official county, and the head of House Kargus was awarded the title of count for their loyal services. Over the following centuries, the county grew as did the once frontier town into a small city. The Counts of Knurl were faithful servants of the crown, but at the same time, they had organized and paid a small army of smugglers to ferry goods out of the March without paying taxes. In addition to their smuggling operations, the counts and countesses of Knurl had retained the contract for overseeing the transfer of supplies from Depots in Edgefield to Knurl and then to all of the Aerdi armed forces in the March. Most of these supplies made it to their destinations, but the Knurlite foremen in charge of the distribution ensured that ten percent of all goods sent north found their way to the count's smugglers.
The reputation of the county became well known for its wickedness and indulgence. However, the Knight Protectors in the Bone March could do nothing about it as the county operated under the jurisdiction of the Great Kingdom. Their loyalty to the crown was unwavering in matters concerning the Bone March. The Count's and Countesses also raised a sizable mercenary force, which was then commissioned by the Great Kingdom to aid in defense of the March.
The Cursed Invasion and Countess Salvie
In 560 CY the winds of change were evident in the March and the current Count, Count Thayer Kargus, new what it was. Because of many of the county's shady practices, he was in touch with many of the same humanoid tribes that would eventually invade the March. Thayer, of course, had no idea of the size of the invasion that was coming. He thought it would only be some large scale raiding. In response, he recalled any of Knurl's mercenary forces from their posts in places such as Johnsport, and Spinecastle back to Knurl. Thayer justified the termination of the mercenary contracts was to strengthen the county's defenses, which was the truth. However, he didn't mention anything about the impending humanoid invasion. He thought that he could make more money leasing out his mercenaries after the local troops had defeated the humanoids and depleted their ranks.
In 563 CY, as the Cursed Invasion of the Bone March was in full swing, Count Thayer was assassinated by his then 19-year-old sister, Salvie, who became the new Countess of Knurl. Salvie did not just kill her older brother, but she also murdered her elderly mother and her older sister Lovisa in a family purge. The children of both Thayer and Lovisa were not spared either, save for Dunstan, the young son of Lovisa, who was spirited away by a loyal servant to Nyrond.
Fortunately, The Mercenary army of Knurl was quite strong and performed exceptionally well. Still, Salvie feared for the future of her small kingdom and reached out once again to those orc tribes that had taken bribes from the county in the past. She offered to pay them not to attack the county and even began recruiting them to fight for her. In the end, the county was able to survive the years of invasion, but at a cost. The County had shrunk considerably, losing most of its northern lands along the Harp River. The county was now condensing it into just the southwest corner of the Bone March.
The Arrival of the Hextorians
During the eventual lull following the invasion and occupation of the Bone March, Countess Salvie looked to strengthen her position. She knew that an attack on Knurl was inevitable once the orcs had consumed all their spoils of war. The county's coffers were nearly depleted, and the orcs she had hired to bolster the county's defenses were getting restless. Needing friends and allies, Salvie sent a letter to the church of Hextor in the Northern Province and pleaded for them to come forth with force sufficient to save her lands from destruction. At that time, priests and clerics of Hextor found themselves split over Herzog Grenell's current behavior. Grenell was recruiting large numbers of orcs and gnolls from amongst the tribes that had conquered the Bone March and deploying them along with the regular army. Chief among the opposition to this was, Meldrick Tervil, a cleric of high rank and station within the church. Seeing Countess Salvie's offer as a chance to organize those loyal to him and who opposed Grenell, Meldrick gathered his followers and set out for Knurl.
Soon Knurl found itself flooded with fresh warriors backed by the magics of the Hextorian priests. First, they expelled or slaughtered the humanoids that Countess Salvie had hired. Next, Meldrick fortified the county, personally overseeing the construction of a series of forts. The County of Knurl was now far more secure thanks to the Hextorians, but the countess began to worry if she had replaced one problem with another. However, Meldrick and his followers were easily controlled so long as there was a battle to distract them.
The Return of Dunstan
In 563 CY, when Salvie's paid assassins marched through the royal estates killing her relatives, Jisell Maltares, a servant, scooped up Dunstan and fled the castle. Unknown to Salvie, and everyone else at the castle, Jisell was a spy planted in Knurl by the then King Archbold. Dunstan's name was changed to Dunghal Maltares, and raised by Jisell and her family, for future use as a possible pawn to control Knurl.
Dunghal, as he was called, showed skill with weapons and soon found himself in the Nyrondese army and fought for Nyrond against the Great Kingdom, but as soon the hostilities were over he headed off adventuring with a band of friends. The band was a mix of friends he had grown up with in Rel Mord and during his time in the military. This was quite a surprise to everyone and happened so quickly that no one could persuade him not to. Even Jisell, whom he still believed was his mother, could not dissuade him.
Over the next couple of years, Dunghal and his friends traveled widely throughout the Flanaess amassing a small fortune and becoming known as the Gallants of Rel Mord, or just the Gallants for short. After years of adventuring, he returned home to visit his family in Rel Mord. That's when the new King of Nyrond, Lynwerd, ordered Jisell to reveal to Dunghal his real name and heritage. This revelation was a shock to Dunghal, but what was even more of a shock was King Lynwerd's promise to support him in the claiming of his birthright, the County of Knurl. After some thought on the subject, he accepted the offer. The adventurer named Dunghal Maltares had returned to Rel Mord, but left at the head of a small army as Count Dunstan Kargus.
The help that Lynwerd supplied Dunstan was not much. He was given only one hundred men, most of which were drawn from the crowds of Tenha refugees now living in Nyrond. He was given a pitifully small war chest and sent on his way. Lynwerd's true intentions behind this course of action are unknown. Still, most agree that he simply hoped to sow discord within the county and slow the raids from out of the county into Nyrond. Despite the minimal assistance from King Lynwerd, Dunstan had potent allies; indeed, Dunstan was the leader of the Gallants of Rel Mord.
Dunstan and his group entered the county under the guise of a Mercenary troop calling themselves the Sons of the Red Company. Surprisingly Dunstan found that their story was not questioned at all, and instead, they were offered employment almost immediately. Over the next few months, Dunstan and the Gallants, saw action fighting against bands of humanoids while they planned their coup.
The end of Countess Salvie
With all the pieces in place, Dunstan sprang his trap. The primary targets were Meldrick and the other Hextorian priests. An intense battle was fought at the Temple of Hextor in Knurl. At the same time, a second group, led by Dunstan himself, infiltrated the castle and confronted Countess Salvie. The Countess herself was an accomplished wizard, but in the end, the Gallants and their 100 Tenha mercenaries proved more than either her or Meldrick could stand against. The bulk of Knurl's regular troops were unavailable as they had been drugged through their nightly meal and blissfully slept through the battle. The other mercenary companies employed by the Countess had been bribed and promised more coin from the county coffers if they did not interfere. Within an hour, both Countess Salvie, along with most of her followers, was dead. Meldrick, narrowly escaping, had fled to Spinecatle and joined fellow priests of Hextor in the service of General Nar, the ruler of that city and fortress.
The next few months were tenuous as the new Count weeded out those who were still loyal to the old regime. There were a number of minor uprisings that needed to be squashed, but Dunstan was able to hold onto Knurl until a company of Nyrond soldiers and allies from the gnomes of the Flinty and the Blemu hills arrived to help. Over the next year, Count Dunstan continued to strengthen his position by settling more of the Tenha refugees from Nyrond and refugees fleeing the increasingly unstable new Northern Kingdom. Nyrond, the County of Knurl's closest ally, has only been able to provide some weapons in assistance, but the Church of Tritherion has taken an interest in Knurl's success, and several priests have come to the county.
The Future of Knurl
While the moral and spirit of the Knurlites are strong, Count Dunstan's activities have not gone unnoticed. There have been positive responses as with the dwarves of the Raker Mountains. They have come down out of their fortresses into the March for the first time in nearly a hundred years to make contact with the new nation. The Gnomes of both the Flinty and Blemu hills quickly allied with them, and the ties with them are strong, but not all that have noted Count Dunstan rise to power wish the county well.
Two separate invasions of sizable amounts have been launched against Knurl since Dunstan took power. The first was a probe from the Forces of General Nar of Spinecastle and his Vile Rune tribe orcs. A force of a thousand orcs attacked Knurl from the north but was repulsed by the combined forces of Knurl and the gnomes of the Blemu Hills. The attack was not intended to succeed but to gauge the new count's abilities. The response was enough to give General Nar concern and mark the county for a future invasion, but not until the Orcs of Johnsport and the Gnolls of the Loftwood have been dealt with.
The second attack launched against Knurl was led by none other than the Eye of Gruumsh, Breka, himself. The puppet of a high priest of Gruumsh Gorsh commanded Breka to attack with members from his Bloody tusk and Death Moon tribes of orcs. They sailed down the Teesar Torrent intent on surprising the defenders by beaching their ships just outside the city and overwhelming it. Fortunately, Thistlehand, druid of the Two Rivers Clan, learned of this and informed the count before Breka's arrival. When they landed on the banks of the river outside of Knurl, the castle was prepared, and the inhabitants of the city were all safely within the walls.
Breka laid siege to the castle, but it only lasted a month before Breka was forced to head back to put down a rebellion in Johnsport. Since then, there have been no further attempts from Breka and Gorsh to launch an attack that far west into the March.
Since these two invasion attempts, the county has expanded by reclaiming all the land along the banks of the Harp river up to Harodford. Dunstan has also expanded eastward along the Tessar Torent to within 60 miles from Red Falls. There he founded the fortified town of Walton Fort. In addition to Walton Fort, and reestablishing Harodford, Dunstan has overseen the creation of two more towns, Nivlek, and Nlul. Nivlek lies in the lands between the Harp River and the northwestern reaches of the Ardi Forest. At the same time, Nlul is another fortified town on the banks of the Tessar Torrent, just northeast of the confluence of the Harp and Tessar Torrent rivers.
While trade with the Northern Kingdom has opened, Dunstan is fully aware that Overking Grenell still covets his lands. And despite his initial victories, Count Dunstan knows that whichever wins between the warring orcs in the east, they will eventually turn their attention toward Knurl again. Because of this, Dunstan has been welcoming settlers to his lands and recruiting adventures to help him tame the wildlands of his kingdom.