Cora wrote this for the edification of Aidan, Athal, and whoever else may profit from it. (I’ll annotate it more extensively yet.)
The Valdyan people as a whole are not given to subtleties or dissimulation: time and again we have been surprised at their actions, because of this. There is this exception: the Valdyans continue to deny that the history of Valdyas has been shaped by the constant strife between two great political and religious factions: the Guild of the God of War and the Guild of the Deceiver. Both factions have worked incessantly to bring the king or queen under their influence, to gain the ascendancy in the towns of Valdyas and to dominate trade. The Guild of the God of War is most closely allied to the noble house Brun, the Guild of the Deceiver to the noble house of Eraday.
In these days, we may well be witnessing the final victory of the Guild of the God of War, as is proper when war is being waged against the Khas. The noble house Brun has, through canny marriages, wise counsels, active support of the royal house Velain when the Guild of the Deceiver broke out in open rebellion and unstinting financial support, allied the royal house of Velain to itself with nearly unbreakable ties.
The towns that are counted as belonging to the God of War are: Valdis, Turenay, Veray, Tilis and Sarabal and, by some, Essle, especially since the Crown Prince Vurian was born in Essle. The towns that are counted as belonging to the Deceiver are: Ildis, Rizenay and Lenay. Essle might also be counted among the towns belonging to the Deceiver, since the Guild School of the Deceiver is here. (The message that that man was carrying from Radan of the Dawn to Rava was about this school, if I remember correctly.)
The villages in the countryside have not been counted and no-one in Iss-Peran has taken an interest in them. However, from my own experience, since there are villages that completely belong to the God of War, it follows that there are villages that equally belong to the Deceiver. Lord Moryn has told me his village of Tal-Nus was one such. I have heard many rumours of banditry in the Valdyan countryside: since not even the uncouthest of bandits can live by stealing the occasional goat and huddling in the forest all year long, I suspect that these “bandits” are actually people whose village belongs to the Deceiver that go on raids to weaken their neighbours who belong to the God of War.
In Iss-Peran, the existence of the two guilds is known, as well as their religious affiliations. However, they are seen as political factions and the use of the strength of the spirit is not generally known, since that use is the prerogative of the dandar.
Traditionally, in Albetire, the faction of the reds is aligned with the faction of the Deceiver, while the blues are more sympathetic to the Valdyan faction of the God of War. (They are thugs and louts, though, so their overtures are generally dismissed, my spies told me. The blues also tend to support the King, while the reds support the army, in Albetire.)
The trading house named “Dawn” supports the faction of the Deceiver, the “Star of the South” supports the God of War.
Albetire used to support the faction of the Deceiver in Valdyas. But after the Rhanion rebellion failed unexpectedly, the Court changed its politics and started supporting the house Velain and the faction of the God of War.
This changed again when my first husband died and was replaced by Koll Konandé. (Oh, had King Athal taken me into his counsels then! I would have warned him, since the Koll family is strongly connected to the reds — although they have their own feud with the Dawn.)
The army of Albetire has always been neutral in this regard, with, of course, the understanding that they serve the God of War themselves, though not in the same way as the Valdyan Guild of Anshen. (But I think that they are now firmly on the side of this faction, given that Princess [Cora calls all nobles “prince” or “princess”] Raith has been their ally for a long time now.)
Ever since the royal house Velain has marked the entry into the civilised world by sending its daughters to Iss-Peran to be trained in the twelve womanly arts, the various kingdoms and trading houses of Iss-Peran have gathered knowledge about Valdyas.
I will now review what I have been taught about the history of Valdyas in an orderly fashion, making notes whenever my own experience contradicts my teachings. I will use the Valdyan reckoning of years.
The first princess of Valdyas to come to Iss-Peran was Alysei Alyse. I think she reigned as Alyse the first: but I might be mistaken. She was born in 481, that is 66 years ago. She was taught in Iss-Peran in 498 to 499 and she then returned to Valdis to take the throne. She was the first Valdyan queen to marry to a noble from the house Brun [Hayan, in fact: Hinlei Jeran astin Hayan]; he gave her one daughter, Alyse. Queen Alyse took the grand masters Raisse and Riei as her servants so she was aligned with the God of War. Her brother, Athal, conspired with the Deceiver to poison her (that is what we learned in Iss-Peran, but I now know that he did not directly poison her, but indirectly, through the substitution of her medicine). Her husband died in 509 and she killed her brother in 511 in Turenay. This led to the foundation of the School of War in Turenay in the same year, and thus to the strengthening of the faction of the God of War.
Queen Alyse, after the death of her husband, allied herself to the neutral Hayan family by keeping the second Queen, Ryath Hayan, as her consort. (I now doubt this: they were together, but I do not believe that King Jeran was married to Lady Ryath, too.) Queen Alyse died in 513.
Princess Alyse, born in 496, that is 51 years ago, when her mother was 16 (not so much older than I will be when our first daughter will be born!), was also in Iss-Peran when her mother died. She ascended the throne in 513. She was the second princess [actually the first] to marry a nobleman from the house Brun: however, she did not ally herself with the God of War at first, but came under the influence of the Deceiver. Her maid Ayneth (and I suspect my first husband and the Khandihan to have been, ultimately, Ayneth’s lords and paymasters) led Queen Alyse astray, leading at first to an estrangement between her and Lord Radan, who did not dare to align himself to the faction of the God of War, because of his wife’s inclinations, and did not want to align himself to the Deceiver because of his own inclinations and his family honour. The grand masters Riei and Raisse were evicted from the court, as were almost all representatives of the faction of the God of War.
After the mysterious disappearance of the maid Ayneth, the Queen was very sad and named her third daughter Ayneth [second daughter, third child]. The court re-aligned itself to the faction of the God of War under the leadership of Prince [see above] Vurian astin Brun who maintained a relentless campaign against the Lords of the Deceiver; he started this campaign in Essle through a scheme of mercantile fraud designed to topple the merchant house named The Dawn of the Deceiver’s Lord Radan — the exact nature of this scheme nor its goals has ever been ascertained by our spies.
The faction of the Deceiver did not acquiesce in this loss of power and went openly into rebellion, first in Ryshas, where at that time there was no standing army. In 525, the rebel prince of Veray (whose name I have forgotten, very provoking!) [Laran] was defeated and hanged by the Queen’s own hands, who thus proved herself the equal of her mother in disdain for executioners. The Order of the Sworn occupied the town of Veray. However, Veray is still often counted as belonging to the Deceiver, since there remained a strong presence of their faction, ever since.
The faction of the Deceiver was not yet beaten. Supported by certain mercantile factions, the army commander of the viceroy of Velihas, Rhanion, led a small army into Valdyas in an attempt to rescue the position of the faction of the Deceiver. In Valdyas, the faction of the Deceiver was ready to support him. (I suspect again financial assistance from Albetire, but I have not seen any bills or reports of this.)
In the ensuing civil war, the house Brun supported the house Velain vigorously. Rhanion was beaten in 526 in the Battle for Tilis, without having been able to conquer a single town for the Deceiver. The consequences for his faction were dire: their armed forces in Ildis were disbanded and Ildis was occupied by the Order of the Sworn. (It was clear the Royal Guards of Ildis did not fight in the battle near Tilis, but nobody in Albetire knew why not; it was expected, and I know they used to receive money from Albetire. Maybe they fought somewhere else?) For their loyal service to the Queen, the Order of the Sworn was rewarded and the Captain of the Order in Valdis received a permanent place in the Queen’s council.
The house Eraday had been divided during this war, some nobles supporting the Queen, others Rhanion. Lenyas remained very chaotic for many years, and was impossible to pacify, even for the Grand Master Raith, who was installed as Princess [baroness] of Lenyas after the battle for Tilis. Only when King Athal in 545 utterly destroyed the town of Erday, where the family Eraday had their seat, declared the house Eraday disbanded and sent Lord Moryn to pacify Lenyas did the unrest finally cease: this has taken 19 years.
Directly after the civil war, the viceroy of Velihas sent noble ambassadors and representatives to the Court in Valdis to make amends for the depradations of his commander-in-chief. This made the position of the Queen of Valdyas in Velihas much stronger. The Queen then decided to bring the province of Idanyas, which had almost become independent, to order: she assembled her army and travelled to Dol-Rayen. She did not have to do battle, but was hailed as Queen of Idanyas and Valdyas. The commander of the Order of the Sworn in Dol-Rayen, who had secretly aligned himself with the Deceiver, was deposed and replaced. Returning to Valdis with the Queen were many nobles from the house Rhydin. Through marriages with the Brun family, this house has become firmly allied to the court and to the Queen.
Queen Alyse died from an epidemic in 535, when she was was only 39 years old, having borne five children: Athal, Alyse, Ayneth, Aidan and Valain. Her youngest son, Valain, also died.
She is known in Iss-Peran for her martial prowess, her strength in the field of arms and her many victories. The strengthening of her family and her influence in her other dominions made Albetire for the first time consider Valdyas as a strong and influential neighbour.
Also, the growth of the Valdyan nation in Albetire, from a few hundred before the time of Alyse I to more than twenty thousand at the end of Alyse II’s reign impressed upon the court of Albetire the importance of friendship with Valdyas. From the fall of Rhanion, the King of Albetire has no longer supported the faction of the Deceiver. (Until that stupid oaf Koll Konandé, of course!)
Besides, when in 527 the Khas conquered Aumen Síth, the need for a strong ally became obvious, even to the eunuch faction in Albetire. However, until 540, when the Khas had severely disrupted trade between Valdyas and Iss-Peran, and when it became clear how much of the wealth of Albetire was tied up in this trade, no practical course of action was decided upon.
In 543, Prince Attima decided to use his private fleet to help Valdyas: the Khas were beleaguering Idanyas. At the same time, Princess Alyse had aligned herself with the noble house Tavalyn, who are servants of the Deceiver. I have seen records of her asking for help from Albetire; I even suspect that she had been in the company of dandar during her time in Iss-Peran. However, her request was not entertained seriously.
Princess Alyse wanted to make a common cause with the Khas and was beaten by the Valdyan army in 544. The Khas were driven off by Prince Attima and the Valdyan fleet at sea; on land, they were repelled by the Valdyan army and the army of the Ishey nation, which had taken refuge in Valdyas.
The generosity of King Athal in allowing refugees from the Khas into his kingdom, allowing them to live wherever they wanted instead of in designated areas has always amazed the politicians of Albetire.
(The wisdom of Athal became apparent when he came to Iss-Peran and demanded, and got, the sovereignty over the Valdyan quarter in Albetire, as well as the Síthi quarter. If the Valdyans had lived spread out over the city, this would not have been possible. That part of the merchant faction also put themselves under Athal’s protection was completely unexpected, I guess. I was no longer in the palace at that time, and I was too frightened and sick with grief to really pay attention.)
In 545, King Athal married Raisse astin Brun: the third [second] marriage of a reigning Velain to a Brun in a row. In 546, King Athal and Queen Raisse travelled to Albetire to seal the alliance between all remaining Kingdoms that encircle the sea — of which King Athal ruled three already (Idanyas, Valdyas and Velihas). At that time, nobody in Albetire knew of the fealty of the people of the western plains.
Athal the Great greatly impressed the Court in Albetire with his ruthlessness and decisiveness by utterly destroying first the city of Dol-Rayen and then, witnessed by the Khandihan (and nobody believes that that wasn’t intentional!) of the town of Erday.
In Albetire, King Athal beat down an uprising led by refugee Lords of the faction of the Deceiver, people who had supposed to find a ready welcome in Albetire because of the ancient friendship between Albetire and their faction. When they were not welcomed at the Court of the King, they went into hiding and started their insurrection and failed to break the alliance. (I no longer have spies, so I don’t know what happened afterwards in Albetire.)