The Scarlet Brotherhood was until recently a secret, apparently isolated power in the
Flanaess. It came into its own during the Greyhawk Wars, toppling governments in a campaign of espionage, blackmail, and assassination. Prior to revealing itself, the Brotherhood had planted agents in the courts of rulers throughout the Flanaess. The revelation of the order has caused much paranoia and (often undeserved) exiles and assassinations within circles of rulership. If reports from northern spies (often suffering climate-induced fever, insect-borne disease, or worse) can be believed, the Scarlet Brotherhood controls the whole of the vast Tilvanot Peninsula, from the confluence of Vast Swamp and Spine Ridge to the immense tropical island of Lof Bosok, off the northeast coast of the mainland. The nation’s capital, said to be a marvelous walled city, has seldom been seen by foreign eyes. It is believed to be hidden somewhere on the massive Okalasna Plateau. The formerly closed port city of
Kro Terlep now welcomes ships from distant ports, though few sea captains brave waters rife with piracy and sea monsters to trade with the Brotherhood. Vessels flying the colors of the Lordship of the Isles anchor in the eastern port of Ekul, near squalid shipyards teeming with activity. At least one ship departs Ekul for Hepmonaland every day—the purpose of these voyages can only be speculated upon in the
north, though few believe the activities of the Brotherhood in Hepmonaland and the Amedio Jungle to be charitable. The armies of the Brotherhood, or at least those
offloaded in occupied ports to the north and west consist primarily of savage warriors from the southern jungles, soldiers who give no quarter, and who are said to indulge in ritual blood sacrifice. These forces are supplemented by orcs, hobgoblins, and
other creatures. Many in the north speculate that the Brotherhood boasts a standing army within its own borders, but little is known for certain. Many nations have met the impressive navy of the Brotherhood, which as often as not is supported by “independent” ships ostensibly from the Lordship of the Isles.
Prior to the last decade, few save the folk of Sunndi paid much attention to the inhabitants of the Tilvanot Peninsula. Humans of pure Suloise stock, the southerners appeared to lead simple lives, taming their land as plantation farmers, trading but
little with the outside world. To the Sunnd, their isolation seemed a natural result of the Spine Ridge and Vast Swamp cutting the Tilvanot from the rest of the world.
In 573 CY, however, red-robed ambassadors from the south appeared in the courts of the Iron League. Speaking in whispers, they offered their services to the merchant lords, announcing themselves as peaceful envoys of the Scarlet Brotherhood, representatives of the kingdom of Shar, an Ancient Suloise word meaning “purity.” At the time, few connected the appearance of these sagely, monastic advisers to the disappearance of Prince Thrommel of Furyondy, or to any number of political developments throughout the Flanaess. The arrival of the Brothers of the Scarlet Sign did trigger curiosity, of course, and in short order spies were sent to the Tilvanot.
Few agents returned to their masters. Those who did told of an agrarian society along the coasts that farmed far more than it could consume, with huge shipments of crop sent to the plateau at the center of the peninsula. The farmers, it was said, were kept in line by orderly monks in red robes, men and women who had on occasion displayed unimaginable acts of unarmed martial prowess. These monks kept the
populace in order, making examples of those few who would defy their orders.
The spies also spoke of bredthralls, bizarre slave races created through magic and arcane science, and of the powerful wizards of the Scarlet Sign who created and controlled them. Last, and perhaps worst of all, the agents of the north reported that the Scarlet Brotherhood did not worship proper gods, but instead gave tribute to dread Tharizdun, the Great Destroyer. Needless to say, such reports frightened the rulers of the Flanaess, who turned to their own trusted advisers and agents in conference to plan strategies to deal with the growing threat. Unfortunately, many
such advisers were themselves Brotherhood agents, and advised caution and patience in the matter. In time, they reasoned, the Brotherhood would reveal themselves, and could be dealt with as the rabble they certainly were. Time, of course, proved something else altogether. As the Greyhawk Wars erupted in the north, the agents of the Scarlet Brotherhood sent aid, advisers, and weapons to the states of the Iron League, disguised as succor from friendly nations. After buttressing
Irongate and Sunndi from the attacks of South Province, the Brotherhood struck in the Lordship of the Isles, replacing the reigning sovereign with his cousin, the corrupted Frolmar Ingerskatti, who declared for the Brotherhood, ceding the nation
and its powerful navy to the Scarlet Sign. With Duxchan ships and charmed monsters, the Brotherhood set up a blockade along the Tilva Strait, effectively choking mercantile trade between the east and west. Thereafter, agents of the Brotherhood appeared in the court of Prince Jeon of Monmurg, bearing a simple message to the nobles of the Sea Princes: “Submit to the Scarlet Brotherhood or be destroyed.” The princes, lawless nobles and pirate kings who had faced challenges more threatening than a band of men in robes, laughed at the emissaries. By the next morning, twenty-seven of the thirty Sea Princes had been killed. The conquest of Monmurg ensured the Brotherhood’s hold on the southern seaways. In a matter of months, Idee and Onnwal had fallen to invasion and assassination. The Brotherhood made a move for Irongate as well, but crafty Cobb Darg, who had known the allegiances of his “advisers” all along, survived the sudden onslaught. After the events of the Greyhawk Wars, the goal of the brotherhood is now clear. Followers of a philosophy established before the Twin Cataclysms, they espouse the cause of the Suloise race as rightful rulers of the Flanaess. Other races will serve as little more than slaves on whose broken backs will be built an empire to rival that of the ancient Suel. Apparently, the organization of the Brotherhood is divided into three tiers, with monks at the pinnacle of the order, followed in rank by assassins and thieves. The leader of the thieves is called “Elder Cousin,” that of the assassins is known as “Foster Uncle.” Lesser members of each order are, respectively, cousins and nephews. For a time, it appeared as though the Scarlet Brotherhood would come to control even more of the
Flanaess. Unsuccessful wartime overtures in Keoland betrayed a great ambition, and many feared what might come next. Fortunately, the Great and Hidden Empire soon fractured. In late 586 CY, South Province captured the northern half of Idee, and would own the whole of the territory by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the peasants of Onnwal threw down the Brotherhood government in all but the crucial port town of Scant. In 589, the slaves and former nobles of the Sea Princes took advantage of
internecine struggles within the provincial leadership to engulf that nation in a continuing civil war. Despite these losses, the Brotherhood as a political entity is now much, much more powerful than at any time during its long history. While it has lost
land, it has gained enormous wealth, destroyed and destabilized enemies, and made important gains in the southern jungles. The Brotherhood commands the southern seaways, with naval blockades in the shark-infested waters of the Tilva Strait, and in the so-called “Southern Gates” of the Azure Sea, between the Amedio Jungle and the Tilvanot Peninsula neat the Olman Isles. Perhaps most importantly, many rulers in the Flanaess believe they have purged their courts of possible Brotherhood agents, giving sovereigns in courts still populated by inactive agents an unwise sense of security. Paradoxically, though the Brotherhood has lost much power since the wars, it is now more feared than ever before, and arguably remains poised to strike in several key, as-yet revealed locations.