It is often said among Galans that it is in their land where the gifts of Ninuah and her Bounty have been truly made manifest throughout the ages. Indeed, it would seem so. The old imperial province of Galania is blessed with rich soil, good farming weather and nourishing rivers, the combination of which yields plentiful crops, fruits and, most famously, wines. But for all its natural beauty and wealth -from the imposing dales and ravines leading to the west, to the clear topaz waters of its shores and all the valleys and green, rolling hills, vineyards and rivers in between- and for all the prized products that originate in their beautiful lands, Galans pride themselves above all else for their influence in the arts, education and higher culture of the Kingdoms. But the greatest pride still comes from their military contribution in the form of the Knights, or so claim the Galans, who, ignoring the Orders, trace the institution back to the legendary founder of their oldest Kingdoms.
While many believe the myth is full of anachronisms, tradition names Tancred, famously a mounted warrior and chieftain of a Galton group of Old Dominion refugees, as the founder of the three first Galan Kingdoms and indeed the father of the Galan people. Legends go on to number with flare and gusto the many acts of gallantry and heroism that Tancred performed, uniting various groups of refugees against the Keltonni in the process. Historians today claim that Tancred, while not a fictional character, has been… refined by tradition, his story and circumstances much filtered and reshaped by Galan literature, underlining that even the term “Galan” didn’t appear until the establishment of the Empire’s provinces.
The historical Tancred is believed to have been a chieftain of brigands, chased from the plentiful shores of the Bounty during the arrival of the Orders. Caught between the Orders, which sought to bring lawfulness to the Heartlands, and the Keltonni border forts in the north and west, established to secure the lands against the latest waves of refugees, Tancred and his group preferred to face the latter. While there is no record of the campaign Tancred led against the Keltonni, in its end, his group had indeed secured their own territory. In time, his rule was recognized by the Orders, whose true aim was to create a stable status quo rather than enforce some obscure definition of nobility and right of rule. Named Lille at the time, Lerac would be established but Tancred would not rest. Saon would follow, starting its existence as a fort for an expedition exploring the lands east, once the Long Winter started to recede and new passages opened shyly. In the twilight of his years, Elysses would become Tancred’s vision of bliss, a last settlement blessed by the waters of the Bounty. Historians readily challenge this narrative, underlining that, considering the logistical difficulties and weather conditions, it is time-wise nearly impossible that all three of these Kingdoms were first established by the same person.
Ruthless brigand or gallant leader, the legend of Tancred would inspire local nobility in the generations that followed. Its members would be trained in the art of mounted combat and greater or lesser Kings in the region were expected to lead in the same manner. At that time, this practice was problematic; after a century of winter who had only just began to break, the lands further from the shores of the Bounty could barely sustain the settlers, much less many horses. Those that could be sustained were valued greatly, treasures to fight over, rather than to be lost in combat, more helpful in breaking the frozen earth under the plow rather than breaking enemy lines. The answer to the dilemma came from the Orders that had forced the original settlers to claim those frigid grounds in the first place: an elite, heavily armored type of combatant with a barded horse. It would not be long until the merits of this expensive practice became apparent to all nobility; a heavy armor and strong warhorse became symbols of rank and prestige, awarded for favor and influence.
The rise of the Tellian Empire would trample on these traditions almost overnight, as the Emperor ensured that knighthood would not turn into a social tool or title of influence but rather it become a strictly military one, awarded based on merit only to those of proven skill, determination and mettle. What is more, only those of the rank of Margrave, Count Palatine and above would be able to knight a candidate and even that only if certain conditions were met. Various Knightly Oaths were born as a response by different cultures in different provinces, the local nobility trying to adapt to the new law but the simple reality was that the nobility, established and aspiring, suffered from this decree. The standards set by the Imperial Throne for knighthood were just too high and the nobles ranked high enough too few and, protected by the Imperial mantle, too indifferent to bend the law. In Galania, however, things evolved a little differently.
The Household of the de Leracs, connected through marriage to the Imperial line since its inception, would readily use this connection to try and establish dominance over the entire province. Once the Empire was truly established, however, this backfired spectacularly, with the Throne ensuring no such great power could rise to challenge the Empire. First of all, he would divide the Galan lands into two provinces, Galania and Galania-Trans-Sinia. Then, much like the de Leracs would use their relation to the Imperial Household, so would the Emperor use his connection to them and “the Father of Galans”, Tancred. Backed by the noble Households outside Lerac, the Emperor would be crowned “King of Galans”, a title added to the many of Emperors that followed, while the traditional title of the heir apparent to the Imperial Throne would be “Duke of Galania”. This left little room for the highest echelons of nobility throughout the province. The titles of all Galan Households would suffer irrevocably, their right to royalty and wide rule forever overshadowed by the Imperial Throne. As compensation and to pacify any violent grudges, the heads of the old Royal lines of Elysses, Lerac and Saon, already established as powerhouses in the province, would be named Count Palatines by the Emperor, while the Imperial Margrave would also traditionally come from this province. This guaranteed the rule of the previously established royalty in their respective areas, safeguarding their importance and might by allowing them their knightly tradition to endure. At the same time, however, it ensured that the Imperial Household was the one all these knights would answer first and foremost to, through the Imperial Margrave.
Adapting to the new regime and adopting the narrative of heroic warriors in true Galan style, each of the three grand powers of Galania would shape their own legends and form their own Knightly pledges, oaths and vows under their Counts Palatine. The “Bounty Vow” of Elysses, the “Pledge to the Lily” of Lerac and the “Oath of Lions” of Saon are but the most well-known among them, connected to the three dominant Households of the province. Of the three however, not to mention the numerous similar traditions spawned in other Kingdoms, the Oath of the Lion would in time spread throughout the Empire’s lands, resonating best the military culture of nobility, its creed demanding constant proof of a Knight’s worth and absolute loyalty to their Household. Today the Lion is a de facto default sumbol carried by Household Knights everywhere, even as some Households have kept different symbols and pledges alive for their Knights. Some say that the support of Saon by the Theist Church played a role in this and it indeed it could be so. Saon’s seat of rule was transferred to Leona right on the borders with Hermania, where construction of a cathedral had already begun and in which their rulers would since be blessed by the local Bishop, while and the oath of Lions was endorsed by the Theist Church. While the endorsement held no institutional significance, it added a prestige to its knights that resonated well with the mostly Theist nobility all over the Hundred Kingdoms.
After the dissolution of the Empire, Galania was suddenly left with countless lesser titles, which held little meaning in the absence of an Emperor, King and Duke. Overnight, the province became ripe for the taking by neighboring nobles of higher titles for, should any of the local noble Households try and claim such a title previously held by the Imperial House, it would instantly mean a claim to the Hollow Throne… and a rapid and violent response by every Kingdom of the dissolved Empire. To avoid such an incident, it was decided very early on from the Conclave that the tradition of elevating the three Counts to the title of Count Palatine would be adopted by the Conclave as well, making the title all but hereditary, even as there is no true guarantee that the heir apparent to each County would also be the one named Count Palatine by the Conclave. Household politics and schemes would become the number one occupation of most generations in the three so-called High Counties, for, for all intents and purposes, the title is perceived as equal to that of “King” in any other province and Galania’s three major Counties are perceived as Kingdoms in their own right.
Rich, powerful and with a strong tradition of knighthood, noble Households in Galania have had peculiarly limited true wars between them since the rise of the Tellian Empire, with few and far between exceptions. While certainly not without disruptions in their history, this saw their three major cities becoming some of the oldest established Kingdoms, their wider influence within the province practically unchallenged for centuries. While lesser Galan Households never shied away from battle, the three major players of the region, occupied by their internal schemes for elevation to Count Palatine, ever preferred to not upset the status quo too much, opting to act against third parties through proxy lesser households. A prime example was the War of Eleven Lilies, a famous and very violent period of twenty years that followed the Dissolution, which saw no less than eleven Baronies and lesser counties war each other, urged by all of the three Count Palatines and their aspiring successors.
At its end, the War only marginally rearranged any sphere of influence, and today, while often romanticized and glorified in the arts, politically it is mostly being perceived as… uncouth, not to mention financially unsound. Since then, the might and wealth of the three major cities is reserved for “outside” aggressors but for struggles between them, they prefer to display their might in Tourneys, feasts and, only when forced, the field of battle through proxies. When simple shows of power don’t prove enough for Galan affairs to be settled, marriage alliances, political schemes and even assassinations often bring the desired result, while avoiding the much less refined and much more expensive tool of open war.
The recent “Enque Incident” with the Spire of Haustellum and the Fire Drought that befell Lerac have already heralded unprecedented changes in the province. The de Lerac Household is no more, an unbroken line of rulers since antiquity meeting a violent end during a revolt ignited by the drought. With the Count Palatine –along with an attending Braeon druid figurehead- dead by the hands of commoners, an occurrence not seen since the Red Years, the true consequences are anyone’s guess and everyone’s fear. While Dorná de Rosmund has fused the County with hers to bring order, elevating herself to the title of Marquise in an attempt to fill the power vacuum left by the Count Palatine’s death, neither Elysses nor Leona are expected to sit idly by. What’s more, effectively led by devout Theist Mikael von Kürschbourgh, Leona already brings forces near Lerac, claiming that the true culprits of all this corruption -and even the Fire Drought- are the devils in the Spire of Haustellum, a notion that gains increasing momentum following the events with Nepenthe in Riismark.
Tensions rise in Galania, making its beautiful lands a prime battlefield table, filled with rivers, forested areas and hills for some interesting terrain, and even farmhouses on the field, which a forward-thinking Warlord might have converted into impromptu garrisons. Hundred Kingdom armies with Knights supported by a strong Militia presence are solid choices for a Galan Warlord, while Leona supporters can readily add a Theist Priest to field their Militia forces with. To add to the mix of war, who is to say how the ancient Spire of Haustellum will answer to the provocations it receives or even to the violence among humans around it? Their elders rarely allow things to evolve without intervention, after all… And for the more violently inclined, the Hold of Ghe’Domn and its many lesser Clans are not as far as the Galans would have liked.