Duchy of Gradsul

The Duchy of Gradsul is the Kingdom of Keoland’s most populous province and sports its largest metropolis, the port of Gradsul (pop. 49,400) on the Azure Coast. This territory extends north and westward from the city proper along the western bank of the Sheldomar River to a point south of Jurnre in Ulek. The border extends to the Dreadwood in the southwest before continuing along the coast to the border with Salinmoor. Though Gradsul extends over a large area inland, it is dominantly a maritime province, with hundreds of miles of coastline, including the banks of the broad and deep Sheldomar. Gradsul’s numerous coastal villages and towns make its character unique in the kingdom.

Gradsul has always been a possession of the nobles of an ancient Suel house known as the Rhola, who founded it almost a thousand years ago following the migrations. Its name literally means “Haven of the Suel” in the ancient tongue of the settlers, and the territory more than lived up to this mantle, becoming the primary destination of many surviving Suel families escaping devastation in what would become the Sea of Dust.

Though once much larger than it is today, including portions of the modern day Ulek states, Gradsul has remained Keoland’s most cosmopolitan and prosperous region. This may be due in large part to the attitude of the Rholans, which is often described as resourceful, forthright, domineering, and even covetous. Though they are well known for naval pursuits and their zeal for exploration, the Rhola are as frequently painted as having a lust for conquest.

The City of Gradsul, at the mouth of the Sheldomar, is the largest seaport on the Azure Sea, larger than both the foreign ports of Gryrax and Irongate, its closest rivals. The Duke of Gradsul maintains a large fleet year round in the viscinity to guard access to the mouth of the Sheldomar River and provide security for the numerous mercantile vessels along the Azure Coast. The city proper is divided into several distinct districts of individual character and utility.

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Behind the expansive wharves of the docks lies a vast quarter of flat-roofed warehouses interspersed with the occasional shop and tavern. The massive open markets of the city make Gradsul the undisputed mercantile center of Keoland, a gateway to traders from as far away as the Aerdi Coast and the Densac Gulf. Unlike Niole Dra, the city sports a diverse population which is a close mixture of Suel and Oeridians, as well as numerous visitors from across the sea. The people of Gradsul are not as superstitious or provincial as their brethren in other regions of Keoland. The city is a haven for independent mages and is infamous for its dominant thieves guilds. Politics and culture the likes of Greyhawk and Dyvers are in full evidence here.

The Duke of Gradsul, whose family seat is the port city, is a powerful figure in the kingdom. The current duke is Luschan VIII, who also heads the royal navy in his role as Lord High Admiral of Keoland. He is often thought of as second in influence only to the Throne of the Lion and the Council of Niole Dra (of which he is a prominent member). The duke is also traditionally allied with mercantile interests and until recently maintained close ties with the Prince of Ulek. The Archmage Drawmij, who is a distant relation of the duke, is a close advisor and can sometimes be found in his company. Duke Luschan, the latest scion of the Sellark family, is considered one of a handful of prime candidates to replace King Skotti, should the current monarch fail to produce a suitable heir. Many Dukes of Gradsul have been elected to the throne in the past, most notably the line of Tavish (287-488 CY) which inaugurated the kingdom’s imperialistic phase over three centuries ago. Daily rulership of the provincial capital has been left to a favored cousin (who acts as Lord Mayor of the City of Gradsul). Duke Luschan spends most of the year at the seaside palace of Sanduchar (pop. 4,890) located 40 miles southwest of the city along the coast.

The towering Sanduchar was built during the reign of Tavish the Great. With its closed harbor and proximity to the Dreadwood, it has become the seat of the admiralty and main shipyard for the overhauled navy of Keoland. The fleet, which suffered a terrible defeat to the Lordship Isles five years ago in the harbour of Gradsul, is being rebuilt here under the direction of the duke. Ever since that ambush, the waters between Gradsul and Gryrax, which are heavily plied, have been the subject of numerous attacks by pirates. Duke Luschan, who once sponsored explorations of the Amedio Jungle and the Olman Isles before the wars, has steadfastly focused his attention on the threat now posed by the Scarlet Brotherhood and their allies. The duke strongly supported King Skotti’s recent efforts in the south, providing key naval maneuvers in the capture of Westkeep, which has won him the support of hardliners in the House of Rhola. He argues the case for continued military readiness before the Court of the Land. Such actions have encouraged the duke’s enemies, for many nobles see Luschan Sellark as a potential successor to Rholan Kings of the past in more ways than one, and they want no part of another bid for empire.

Source: Gary Holian, ‘The Kingdom of Keoland’, Living Greyhawk Journal, Spring, 591 CY September, 2000