The fabled city-nation of Istar had its beginnings somewhere between 1750-1300 PC during the latter period of the Age of Dreams known as the Time of Might. At the same time, Sancrist and Solamnia began their rise. Ergoth was already a potent power in Ansalon’s far west whose influence reached and helped shape the emerging nations.
Istar was bordered by Silvanesti to the southwest, by Solamnia to the west, and Balifor to the south, with the rest of its edge defined and battered by seas. One of the areas making Istar a desirable destination for seafarers and merchants was its huge bay in the northernmost area between Istar and Karthay. After passing two small tooth-like peninsulas that look like they nearly meet on a map, the waters open into a protected stretch of water ending in a river delta. This has its source in Lake Istar just a short distance to the south-southwest. On the northern section of this area, where the river pours from the lake and marries the salt water of the bay, the city of Istar was born and was sheltered both from sea storms and the scorching, scouring winds from the deserts of Dravinnar.
Building a Nation
Unfortunately, as with most histories of this period, detailed references are sparse: Most were stored within the Kingpriest’s Temple Chancery, which was destroyed during the Cataclysm. Very little is known of the individuals who began Istar, names of the warlords who fought over her, or what families became prominent in very early commerce. (There is a vague reference to humans climbing beyond barbarism in neighboring Chidell and quickly spreading what they learned outward to others in the area around Istar.) The fact remains that by 1480 PC, Istar was a prosperous nation with Ansalon-wide recognition. Its businesses owned ship traffic plying seas throughout Krynn. Merchants and suppliers had developed connections that made its major cities destinations for caravans from the south. Commerce grew in silks, timber from the jungles and forests of Gather and Falthana, and glass from Micah. Also copper, iron, precious stones, and rare metals could be mined from the mountains. Leading families prospered, and Istar began to bustle with wealth, importance, and beauty. It became the nexus of world trade while Vinas Solamnus developed his military vision and devised the Knights of Solamnia, Silvanesti closed its borders against its neighbors, and corrupt Ergoth continued its death throes.
Following the Third Dragon War, Istar opened the Age of Might in 1000 PC at the apex of influence in Ansalon. Its trade standards had been adopted by most other countries, and its ships were welcomed everywhere they dropped anchor. Istar’s goods were recognized as the standard of luxury and its civilization was considered the epitome of human expression. When the dwarves drove the ogres from Thoradin between 1000-800 PC, Istar benefited when they became their major supply center. For many years, it seemed, Istarans could do nothing wrong.
Trade’s Bumps and Bruises
Pride eventually caught up to the business leaders and the government of Istar. With wealth and power rides corruption and complacency. Self-centered trade standards, tightened regularly, became so limiting that even normally cheerful kender became angry. Balifor began an extended trade war against Istar between 850 and 727 PC. Following years of legal and military maneuvering, the kender (believe it or not!) won. Istaran representatives signed the “Kendermeld,” which exempted Balifor from the heavy trade taxes.
The reserved Silvanesti next took righteous umbrage against Istar, whose sea routes began to overlap theirs between 673 and 630 PC. Battles ensued, heightening already rough relations between the reclusive elves and the nation viewing itself as the center of the world. The Silvanesti blockaded Istar, causing trade revenues to plummet. Showing chagrin at their losses, Istarans signed the Swordsheath Scroll in the Elfmeld. The Swordsheath Scroll existed from the time of Kith-Kanan in 2073 PC and was a treaty negotiated by that hero between dwarves, elves, and the humans of Ergoth. (A replica Hammer of Reorx, forged by the dwarves of Thorbardin and later known as the Hammer of Kharas, was passed between signing nations to strengthen the agreement. The Hammer of Kharas was later used by Theros Ironfeld to forge the famous dragonlances employed by the forces of good against evil during the War of the Lance.)
Another threat to trade arose soon after. Between 530-522 PC, ogres from the Khalkist Mountains, determined to take back Thoradin, attacked dwarven and human land commerce. Allying with the dwarves of that area and the Knights of Solamnia, the Istarans helped drive the attackers back beyond the mountains. As part of the agreement for military assistance from humans, the dwarves signed the Swordsheath Scroll and became part of the huge pact dominating Ansalon. The dwarvish part of the treaty was known as the Dwarfmeld.
By 490-476, Solamnia looked to Istar for many necessities, as well as currency and ideals not associated with that country’s military heritage. The Istarans realized that this close association supported their prestige, as well as kept most of Istar’s enemies at bay. The trading empire took advantage of this relationship when barbarians in Estwilde began raiding caravans traveling Istaran trade routes. Istar’s government called Solamnia to intervene on their behalf. Soon after the barbarians were eradicated, the Istaran government persuaded their military allies to re-sign the Swordsheath Scroll. The Solamnic part of the agreement was called the Greatmeld.
Peace and Plenty
From approximately 460 PC until 280 PC, peace ruled much of Ansalon, and Istar governed many of its people. Istar’s commerce pervaded all deals, and its duties and taxes reached everywhere. Its capital city was one of the most beautiful and luxurious in history; it also possessed a population larger than Palanthas and Tarsis combined. Istar had colonies as far away as Icereach. Many prized its art, copied its government, accepted its currency without question, and sought its influence as an ally.
The attitudes of Istar’s leaders took new paths during this time. Gradually their thoughts turned to encompass religion as well as secular practices. The city became a religious center as more temples of many faiths were built. One major faction was that of Paladine, the Platinum Dragon. His followers, as well as those of the healer Mishakal, became two of the most popular religions.
The Fist of the God
Istarans embraced the new religious fervor with the same energy and dedication they’d devoted to developing their trading empire. By 280 PC, they claimed to be the axis of belief in Paladine. A Kingpriest soon became ruler of the empire, overseeing religious duties that reached fingers into the secular realm. Solamnia, convinced that Istar supported the cause of Good, acclaimed the change. Seeing the situation more clearly, Silvanesti developed a deep enmity toward Istar.
During 260-212 PC, the Kingpriest ordered a temple built by the finest artisans he could find in Ansalon. Its stated purpose reflected the glory of Paladine, but a few individuals saw that the opulent building with a crystal dome also honored the power and wealth of Istar.
Despite visions and dreams of doom given to a number of people religious and not, and prophesies that popped up at odd times and places (as they so often do), no one of importance paid attention to naysayers of Istar. The Kingpriests followed standards of personal “purity”, which narrowed as time passed. By 250-100 PC, their rule resembled a closing fist upon personal freedoms, particularly against any religion not Paladine’s, any race not human, and any ideals beyond their own idealized practices. Such arrogance earned more repugnance from the elves, who withdrew once again from all but the most necessary human contact. By 118 PC, the Kingpriest announced that Evil required eradication in his Proclamation of Manifest Virtue, and he published a list of banned activities. Those arrested for such acts by his clerics (who were quickly losing their magical powers) became fodder for Istar’s gladiatorial arena and slave markets.
By 94 PC, the situation had become horrible for nonbelievers. The current Kingpriest added a codicil to his Manifest Virtue proclamation, stating that certain races were inherently evil and required extermination. Hunters looked for these enemies of the state, and their captures earned them huge bounties from the church. Dwarves, ogres, and fugitive humans dug tunnels beneath many cities as bolt-holes for escapees from so-called justice. Some said that one might walk anywhere in Istar through the hidden network of holes snaking underneath and between cities.
Wizards did not find themselves exempt from the purges, though they had resided in Istar from its founding. Five Towers of High Sorcery existed in Ansalon; two of these resided within Istar’s borders, and one, known as the Tower of the Bloody Fingered Hand, sat stark and tall among Istar’s beautiful religious houses. A battle between wizards and the Kingpriest’s followers destroyed Losarcum when the sorcerers allowed wild magic to demolish their tower rather than reveal its secrets.
The Kingpriest stepped beyond reason in 6 PC when he endeavored to name himself a god and declared he could command all other gods to obey his will in eradicating evil. Wrathful, the true gods sent thirteen signs of doom. Only a handful of people paid attention. The last edict of the Kingpriest mandated the use of renegade mages to read people’s minds on the assertion that evil thoughts equaled evil actions.
And on the third day of the New Year, on the thirteenth day of Yule, Paladine’s flaming hammer eradicated Istar and changed the face of Krynn, ushering in the Age of Despair.
The dates used in this article are those of Astinus of Palanthas, who divided history into two parts labeled PC, Prae Cataclius or “Before the Cataclysm”, and AC, Alt Cataclius, “After the Cataclysm”. They are different than the dates used in Chris Pierson’s Kingpriest Trilogy, which are based on the Istaran calendar.)
Those who seek to learn more about Istar can find information in the Dragonlance Campaign Setting, and in the Age of Mortals Dragonlance Campaign Setting Companion by Sovereign Press. You can read Istar: Land of the Kingpriests, a website article by Steve Miller. Additionally, check out Chris Pierson’s Kingpriest Trilogy: Chosen of the Gods, Divine Hammer, and Sacred Fire.