Post by LiquidChicagoTed on Sept 30, 2019 3:26:05 GMT
Land of the Black Bear – The Bornland
In the northeastern corner of Aventuria, to the south-east of the Nivesian lands and north of the Duchy of Tobria lies the proud Bornland. It spans from the Red Sickle Mountains in the west to the Brazen Sword in the east, from the Dragon Stones in the south to the North Weal Downs in the north. In the several hundred years since its foundation, it has developed its own, unique culture and has become an important military power in Aventuria. It is also the region where most of Aventurias goblins live and, in fact, they significantly outnumber humans in many parts of the Bornland.
The Bornland is formed by an alliance of noblemen, the so-called Bronnjars. They are barons, counts and dukes who choose their leader, the Noble Marshall, from their ranks. In contrast to most Aventurian nations, the Noble Marshall gains comparably little power with the title, as the Bronnjars are each absolute rulers within their territory. The Noble Marshall is therefore known as the 'First among Equals' and has mostly just representative duties, with the exception of leading the entire Bornland in case of war and settling disputes among the Bronnjars.
The Bornland consists of the regions Festenland, Mark and Seweria, though there are also several colonies in southern Aventuria which are considered Bornish territories. The landscape within the Bornland is dominated by wild forests, despite centuries in which the Bronnjars have tried to tame the region. Though they succeeded at settling within the Bornland and though there are strong cities and fortified roads found in it, the entire region remains, at its core, wild and mysterious. Druids and witches have strong traditions within the Bornland and darker secrets can be found within its many forests and marshlands.
The Goblins of Aventuria
The history of the Bornland cannot be explained without detailing the history of its most numerous inhabitants, the goblins first. They are the native inhabitants of the Bornland and outnumber any other race within its borders by far. While goblins can be found in many parts of northern Aventuria, specifically in the Sickle Mountains between Meadows and Tobria, the Bornland remains their ancestral home. Smaller goblin populations are scattered throughout the entire northern half of the continent, though they are getting rarer the farther one gets to the south, with them being virtually unknown in the city states of Meridiana.
A lot of the early history of the goblins is unknown. They most certainly predate elves and dwarves and even humans in Aventuria, as the early history of each race knows stories of encounters between them and the goblins, most of which ended in violence. The goblins have always lived in the shadows of the other races, however, never achieving the same strength of the human, elven or dwarven empires, nor the notoriety of the orks. For their entire history, the goblins have been looked down upon, with few individuals of other races ever recognizing their culture and true value. The goblins haven't made it any easier for the other races, however, as they are at least partially to blame for this earlier aggression.
They are, at average, a bit larger than dwarves, but notably shorter than humans, as well as thinner than either race, no more than human children in height and build. Their predominantly red fur is the origin of the term 'Redfurs', which is usually uttered as an insult. No goblin would ever use that term for their race, instead they refer to each other as the 'Suulak' in their native language. Nowadays the term 'Suulak' is almost exclusively reserved for tribal goblins who still live their old way of life in the wilds of the Bornland.
Due to their thinner build and shorter height, they are not known for particular feats of strength, albeit goblins are often quite crafty and dexterous and at least a little bit stronger than one would assume at first glance. They have very sharp claws and teeth, slightly pointy ears and larger eyes, usually of a slightly yellowish colour. Despite their short, red fur, they can grow hair on their head and male goblins can grow beards on their faces, often of a darker red or brown colour. Their lifespan is generally shorter than that of a human, with most goblins maturing within the first ten years of their lives and being considered elderly at around fifty years of age. As a goblin grows old, their red fur shows signs of grey and the oldest of their kind are entirely covered in grey fur.
Traditionally, goblin society is matriarchic, with female goblins being the spiritual leaders of the different tribes. Within the tribes, male goblins are hunters and warriors, who spend most of their day outside of their tribe's settlement, while female goblins gather plants, prepare food and, most importantly, raise the young goblins. This means that all goblins have strong ties to their mothers, aunts and other women who raised them. While magic talents are extremely rare within their race in general, only female goblins have ever developed it and therefore, only female goblins can be trained as shamans. Every tribe has a high shaman, whom the entire tribe bows to, as well as a male warchief who is responsible for raids and quarrels with other tribes. Even he, however, bows to the wisdom of the shamans.
Generally, other races see goblins as weak and cowardly, which is entirely wrong. Goblins are physically weaker than other races, but cunning and crafty, skilled hunters and trackers and though they prefer hit-and-run tactics, stealth and ambushes, they are not more cowardly than other races. Their tribal society knows no concept of honour, however. In a fight, everything is a legit tactic and all that matters is success and survival. They have no problem with using dirty tricks of any kind if it gives them an advantage. However, especially tribal goblins have strong ties to each other. Many goblins will fight to their last breath or even sacrifice themselves to save their loved ones. Within their tribes, they might be opportunistic and lack honour, but they are most certainly not selfish. In the past, it has been documented more than once that the male goblins of a tribe all gathered to a last, suicidal stand against human invaders to allow the women and children to escape. In such an occasion, no goblin would ever run.
Just like how they lack a concept of honour by human standards, tribal goblin society knows no concept of personal shame either. For a goblin living with other goblins, it is perfectly natural to walk around naked, to defecate even during a conversation or to engage in sexual activities even outside their own hut. Their reputation as depraved and dirty beasts is heavily exaggerated, however, they simply aren't ashamed of the things respectable humans prefer to do behind closed doors. City goblins are a different case, as they usually quickly pick up on behaviour that is acceptable within a human society. Even the wildest tribal goblin can usually easily assimilate into human culture when observing it for a few days. Their adaptability is among their greatest strengths.
Goblin women are known for their high fertility. For almost their entire life, from the moment they reach adulthood to the moment they die, goblin women are fertile and giving birth to triplets or quadruplets is not a rarity. In fact, only giving birth to one or two children at a time is seen as a misfortune. A goblin woman usually gives birth to over two dozen children in her life, often even more. Pregnant women are seen as blessed by other goblins and they are treated with great reverence, with the entire tribe making sure that the pregnancy and birth goes along without issue.
In goblin society, pigs are of special importance. Since horses are too tall for them and usually shy away from the beastly smell of the goblins, pigs are trained as mounts, especially grown boars, who are even used to carry goblins into battle. Pigs give them milk and meat and they freely live alongside the goblin tribes, as the only animals who do not fear their smell. While they are usually mocked by the humans of the Bornland for their close connection to pigs, few would dare to laugh at a goblin warband riding into battle on trained boars.
Tribal goblins worship the gods Orvai Kurim and Mailam Rekdai, who are depicted as giant, boar-headed goblins. Orvai Kurim is the god of the hunt and worshipped solely by male goblins, whereas Mailam Rekdai, the Mother Sow, is the female goddess of peace, motherhood and fertility. She is worshipped by goblins of both genders and grants karmic blessings to her exclusively female shaman caste. Orvai Kurim doesn't grant karmic blessings and has no shaman to worship him, but the tribal goblins believe that he looks favourably upon great and daring hunters or warchiefs, protecting them in their endeavours. According to their religion, Mailam Rekdai has created the world and everything within it, whereas the solitary Orvai Kurim, whose origins are unknown, has joined her only later and never stays long by her side, preferring to roam the lands in the shape of a giant boar. Their union, at least according to the mythology, has brought forth the first of the goblin race. During the warm months of summer, Orvai Kurim comes to join Mailam Rekdai and her happiness causes the sun to shine brightly, whereas his absence during the winter causes Mailam Rekdai to cover the entire land in ice and snow, in an attempt to force him to return to her side.
Of course, a goblin who lives alongside humans, especially within the cities of the Bornland, often takes on human customs and it is quite common for them to fully assimilate into the human culture if they spend too much time outside their tribes. Goblins are nothing if not flexible, so to survive, they have little to no problem with giving up their customs and culture. Even their religion is not too sacred for city goblins and they usually see no problem with praying to the human gods, even if no goblin has ever been appointed as a priest of one of the Twelve Gods. Roughly half of Aventurias goblins live not in their traditional tribes, but alongside humans. Within the Bornland, they even have special quarters within the larger cities solely for themselves and in some cases, they outnumber the humans within the cities, even if most of the actual power lies with their tall, furless neighbours.
Before the arrival of human settlers within the Bornland, the goblins had their own realm within its borders. They used to be a threat to the human kingdoms south of it, repeatedly invading and pillaging the kingdom of Alhania (in the region of the present-day Tobria) and even the Bosparanian Empire in its weakest moments. For several decades, goblins even controlled large parts of the present-day Middenrealm, being a legitimate danger well into the rule of the first Middenrealm emperors.
This boldness was their undoing. To fight the goblin menace, the best knights of their time formed the Order of the Theatre Knights, named after the place of their foundation, the theatre in the Horasian city of Arivor, which has previously been destroyed by a goblin warband. Favoured by the goddess Rondra, the theatre knights brought the fight to the goblin homelands. With their heavy armour and tall steeds, they defeated the goblins soundly, destroying their empire, killing many of their warchiefs and probably coming closer to eradicating the entire goblin race than anyone else ever before or after. The surviving goblins fled into the wilderness and a few decades later, the Theatre Knights settled within the region that now came to be known as the Bornland.
Nowadays, there is no war between the two races anymore. Many goblins live alongside the humans, where they slowly lose their original culture, in special goblin quarters within the cities. There are cities where they outnumber the humans, but the worldly power within any of these regions lies entirely with the exclusively human Bronnjars. City goblins are viewed as second-class citizens by many Bornish humans. However, there are peaceful and fruitful relations between the races just as well, as goblins are willing to do tasks the humans see as beneath them, whereas humans often profit from employing the usually modest and hard-working goblins.
To a Bornish nobleman, a city goblin is usually nothing more than a slave in all but name. However, with them usually outnumbering the Bornish people even within their cities, many officials have realized how important it is to listen to the concerns of the goblin matriarchs within the city quarters. As such, city goblins are not without influence, even if few respectable noblemen would ever be seen conversing with them. The speaker of the city goblins is always an older matriarch who is traditionally named after the Kunga Suula, an ancient goblin leader and heroince. The current Kunga Suula lives within the goblin quarters of Festum.
Tribal goblins are a different case entirely, as they are solitary, rarely engaging with the human settlers, at least in a peaceful way. They are feared as raiders and bandits, who use the wild forests and harsh mountains of their home to strike without warning. It is rare that goblin raiders are out for blood, though, as needlessly chasing and killing their victims is seen as a waste of time and effort. Instead, they are usually satisfied with stealing whatever they can and most goblin warbands can be bribed to spare a village.
The History of the Bornland
The Age of the Theatre Knights
The early human settlements within the Bornland were build by the Alhani, ancestors of the modern Norbardians, who fled from their Tulamid homelands as the powerful and semi-divine Mage Moguls waged a war of subjugation against the entire region. Most of them settled within the region of the present-day Tobria, but the wisest of their people knew that this was not far enough to escape from the Mage Moguls.
As such, they were the first humans to permanently venture into the wild and dark lands north of Tobria. Surprisingly, there was little animosity between them and the goblins, despite the threat the Redfurs posed to the Alhani settlements outside the Bornland. These Alhani settlers supposedly made a pact with the goblins of old, a mutually beneficial cooperation in which the goblins shared their knowledge of the wild lands with the human settlers, while they in return taught the goblin shamans the Alhani spellwork. While the truth has been lost somewhere within hundreds of contradicting legends, it is a fact that this was when the goblins, now supported by powerful shamanistic magic, first became a threat to larger human settlements and cities south of their usual territories.
The abovementioned Theatre Knights were first formed shortly after the Fall of Bosparan, in the first year of the new Garetian calendar. Back then, the rebel forces under the Tulamid warlord Raul of Gareth had successfully beaten the powerful Bosparanian empire, killing their empress, Hela-Horas and freeing the Garetian provinces from the Bosparanian yoke.
It came at a severe price though, as the ever-opportunistic goblins used this moment to invade the weakened Bosparanian empire and its now independent northern provinces. They pillaged entire cities and drove even into the Bosparanian heartland, the territory of the present-day Horasian empire. Knowing they could not be beaten by numbers, the Church of Rondra came up with a plan to drive back the goblin horde.
In the city of Arivor, pillaged and nearly destroyed only weeks before this fateful meeting, priests of Rondra from all over the continent gathered in the ruined theatre right next to the utterly razed temple of Rondra, where each swore an oath to drive back the goblins into their homeland and beyond, to ensure that no human realm should ever have to face the Redfurs again. It is said the Goddess of War blessed them on this day and with her resolve, the newly-formed Order of the Theatre Knights rode north against the goblin horde.
They proved to be supremely efficient against the goblins, who had never fought a proper human army that wasn't weakened by internal struggles before. Without mercy, the theatre knights cut down every goblin they could find, shattering their armies, killing their warchiefs and driving them back into their northern homelands. That was not enough for the knights, however, as they cut down even the fleeing goblins, driving deep into the goblin heartlands and slaughtering even the innocent goblins in their tribal homes, just as the goblin armies had slaughtered innocent civilians during their raids. At the end of their campaign, approximately eighty percent of the goblin race was dead, a loss that is felt even to this day. Without the Theatre Knights and their harsh response, the goblins of the present day would likely outnumber all other sentient races in Aventuria combined.
Afterwards, however, internal struggle between the powerful and revered Theatre Knights and the Middenrealm arose, as the new emperor, Raul of Gareth, could hardly tolerate the powerful, independent and prestigious knightly order side by side with his young Middenrealm. The situation escalated quickly, as the first Knight-Captain of the Theatre Knights, Lutisana of Kullbrook took it upon herself to rebuild her home, the region of Greater Phecadia, which nowadays consists of the Middenrealm province of Windhag and the Horasian provinces of Phecadia and Septimana. She proclaimed herself Knight-Commander of Phecadia and essentially proclaimed the regions independence from the Middenrealm.
Though few doubt that her motive was benign, considering that Phecadia had been suffering under the tyranny of Hela-Horas, the bloody rebellion of Raul of Gareth and then the goblin hordes in short succession, she still forcefully removed a strategically important province from Raul's empire. Such a move couldn't be allowed by the young Middenrealm and after just a few years, Garetian armies invaded Phecadia and destroyed the Order of the Theatre Knights, with Lutisana herself being executed as a traitor.
Raul saw himself forced to dismantle the order to stabilize his realm and in the following years, he had to unify and pacify the Garetian provinces to properly form his Middenrealm. In the absence of the Theatre Knights, no one stood guard at the northern border, which allowed the weakened goblin race to recover and thanks to their massive rates of birth and swift maturity, it only took them a little over one century to once more pose a threat to the neighbouring lands.
In these days, the goblins were led by a mythical high shaman, the Kunga Suula, whose warband drove away the Nivesian settlers to the north and the elves to the west of the Bornland. She spared the Alhani clans, however, who had long since lost their Tobrian homeland to the Bosparanian legions. To this day, the Kunga Suula is held responsible for the wild, hardly tameable nature of the Bornland, as her shamanistic magic supposedly awoke thousands of forest spirits.
With every human settlement build close to the goblin lands, the Kunga Suula expanded her territory into another direction, until the new strength of the goblin race threatened the northern fortress cities of the young Middenrealm once more. By then, Emperor Raul's descendant Gerbald, fifth emperor of the Middenrealm, had to take a drastic and, at the time, unpopular step.
He lifted the ban on the Order of the Theatre Knights, who had driven back the goblin menace once before and granted them the entire land between the rivers Born and Walsach, deep within the old goblin lands. Once more, the goblins learned to fear the Theatre Knights, as their armies enforced the human settlements within their new domain with an iron fist. The settlements they founded back then mostly still exist and they form the heartland of the present-day Bornland. They drove back the goblins in a series of brutal wars over the next centuries, costly for both sides, but thanks to their superior equipment and karmic blessings, the knights drove deeper and deeper into the goblin lands.
First, they founded the city of Festum, richest city and nominal capital of the present-day Bornland, but many cities within the Bornland originated as Theatre Knight settlements. Driven to great heroics, sacrifices, yet also violence by the costly war against the goblins, the Theatre Knights of those days followed an archaic, bloody and vicious version of the goddess Rondra, worshipping also her wild dragon-consort Famerlor and their demigod son Kor, the Lord of Battles. Slanderous rumours persist to this day that certain elements within the order took to the worship of Belhalar, Rondra's archdemonic counterpart and while this was certainly not true for the order as a whole, it has been proven that bloody and questionable rituals have been conducted by at least some within their ranks.
With the final defeat of the Kunga Suula, the originally martial purpose of the order changed, as there no longer was a unified enemy to fight against. They became overlords and administrative rulers, which resulted in them slowly losing their traditions of old. The Theatre Knights of the Bornland became factually independent from the Horasian main chapter, which still had its headquarters in their old founding city of Arivor.
As suited as their order was for warfare, as unprepared were they for their new administrative power. The Knight-Marshalls of the Theatre Knights, as the leaders of the Bornish chapter were called, grew increasingly more decadent, their castles becoming fancy palaces built by goblin slaves, their receptions turning less formal and martial and more into wild orgies and decadent banquets. This was a decidedly Bornish phenomenon, as the other chapters of the order within the Middenrealm and Horasia were less powerful, but all in all stalwart and well-respected knights of Rondra.
The subjects of the Bornish Theatre Knights grew increasingly dissatisfied with the cruel, decadent rule of their knightly masters, especially as it was rumoured that they worshipped dark gods in their catacombs beneath Festum and Notmark. Unrest was beaten down with an iron fist and the Theatre Knights ruined many sympathies within the rest of Aventuria.
Around these days, a major schism happened within the Bornish chapter of the knights. Those who still upheld their old, stalwart duties gathered within a secret sub-chapter of the order, the so-called Silver Horde. Sick of their sword-siblings and their decadence, the Silver Horde clashed with the main chapter, but instead of openly fighting against them, they took most of their worldly riches and sacred artifacts and left their castles all at once. The Silver Horde moved east, into the wild Weal Mountains and probably into the Brazen Sword and the dark lands beyond, where their trail grew cold.
After such a heavy blow, the knight's downfall came when Emperor Ugdalf, himself a sympathizer of the Theatre Knights, died at a young age in the year 333BF, long before his infant son Rudo was fit to rule. According to Ugdalf's last will, a regency council was installed until Rudo was old enough to rule, led by the Envoy of the Light, Aldec Praiofold, a fierce enemy of the Theatre Knights.
The regency council wasn't for long, as Prince Rudo was murdered brutally just two years later. With his death, the line of Raul of Gareth was over, as the late Emperor Ugdalf's many daughters were unable to inherit the throne by Middenrealm law. As such, Envoy Regent Aldec Praiofold took the crown for himself, starting the infamous reign of the Priest Emperors and installing a theocratic dictatorship within the Middenrealm.
Rumour has it that Rudo's mutilated corpse had been found clutching a blood-stained sigil of the Church of Rondra, which Aldec immediately took as an opportunity to arrest every High Priest of Rondra he could get his hands on. Under his rule, the Church of Rondra and all its orders, including the Theatre Knights, was banned from the Middenrealm, its temples closed and demolished, its castles torn down and its leaders imprisoned and executed. Historians are still divided if the Church of Rondra actually murdered Prince Rudo to avoid him becoming a puppet of the Envoy of the Light, or if Aldec himself orchestrated the whole thing to take the throne for himself, while also fabricating a reason to get rid of his fiercest rivals.
The Theatre Knights, weakened by decades of corruption and mismanagement, still preferred to go down fighting when the Sun Legion came for them. In their prime, they could have beaten Emperor Aldec's army, but in their current state, they were thoroughly defeated. In the Battle at the Dragongap, near Broonsgorge in the Duchy of Meadows, the Knight-Commander of the Theatre Knights and almost the entire order was trapped and slaughtered by the Praiots. The few survivors were captured without exception and brought to the capital. There, they were paraded around on the streets for several days, before the newly-founded Order of the Banray burned them at stake.
The few survivors once again chose to flee instead of fighting and as the Praiot army arrived at the order headquarters at Festum, the city guard opened the gates for them, revealing an empty castle, with the last of the theatre knights being gone. With them, they took the greatest treasure of the order, a collection of four hundred sacred swords, the so-called Blades of the North, many of whom have been blessed by Rondra herself to support the first Theatre Knights in their battle against the goblin horde. To this day, no trace has been found of the last Theatre Knights and their great treasure.
The rule of the Priest Emperors and the Rise of the Bornland
Under the Priest Emperors, the Bornland, traditionally with its strong ties to the Church of Rondra, was marginalized and brutally subjugated. The noblemen who were able to believably renounce their ties to the church were able to keep their land and titles, but many citizens of the Bornland were persecuted and even killed by the Imperial Inquisition. The Banray, who quickly became Emperor Aldec's favourite henchmen, grew especially notorious here and aside from nearly succeeding in cleansing the Bornland from followers of Rondra, they also ruthlessly moved against all those who used magic, including goblin shamans or those who practiced the ancient and largely harmless traditional magic of the Norbardians.
Without their once-proud Theatre Knights to lead them, the Bornland lost its pride and influence, mostly sinking into irrelevance. The very soul of the Bornish people was hurt by the loss of their greatest heroes, despite the decadence of the last years. It was during the two centuries under the Priest Emperors' rule that the people of the Bornland first came to consider themselves as Bornlanders first and foremost, instead of citizens of the Middenrealm. In secret, many Bronnjars defied the Priest Emperors and the Banray and it is thanks to them that the cultural heritage of the nation has endured.
Violent as that period was, it brought the Bornlanders closely together. They suffered through the brutality together, helping out their neighbours, tolerating secret worship of Rondra in private and even hiding the Alhani refugees, who were driven north, out from their last permanent settlements in Tobria by the Priest Emperors' purge. At some point during this period, the people of the Bornland came to seem themselves as a community, separated from the rest of the Middenrealm, an idea that should eventually lead to the regions rise into an independent nation.
Almost a hundred and fifty years later, in the year 466BF, the mysterious mage Rohal the Wise overthrew the Priest Emperors and crowned himself as the new ruler of the Middenrealm. His long reign was a drastic and well-received change from the cold callousness of the Priest Emperors. Recognizing that the Bornland had suffered more than most other Middenrealm provinces, Rohal granted the region a great deal of autonomy, while also granting them financial support to rebuild what the Banray had taken from them.
The province blossomed greatly, ruled by competent stewards for the first time in its history. Slowly, the wilderness was driven back, even if the Bornland remained a fundamentally untameable region. Might fortress cities were built along the coastline and scientists and merchants came from all over Aventuria to settle within them. In just a few decades, the once backwards region became reinvigorated with pride, purpose and technological advantage. Especially the Bornish ships of these years were groundbreaking, which allowed for safe travels by ship along the entire eastern coast of Aventuria. Such safety attracted rich merchants and with them came a lot of coin.
The Bornland remained neutral during the Mage Wars that followed after Rohal's disappearance, which spared the region the great destruction that was brought upon many of the other regions of Aventuria. When the dust settled, the dynasty of the Eslamid Emperors had taken over the throne of the Middenrealm and while their reign was a stable one, they were largely weak, unable to suppress the growing desire for an independent Bornland.
While several Middenrealm provinces tried to separate from the realm during these days, the Bornland was the only one who managed to do it without bloodshed and permanently. The Bornish nobility gathered in Festum, where they elevated anyone who could prove blood relation to the old Theatre Knights into the ranks of the nobility. In the year 755 BF, they wrote their own constitution, granting themselves a great deal of autonomy over their respective counties and baronies and decided that they would be ruled not by a king or an emperor, but by a marshall, just as it used to be during the rule of the Theatre Knights.
The Bornland declared independence immediately afterwards and the weakened Middenrealm had no choice but to accept peacefully to avoid a costly war against a region which the Eslamid emperors saw as strategically and economically ignorable. As a result, relations between the two nations were mostly pleasant during the centuries to follow. Another close friendship has emerged with the nation of Thorwal, whose sailors often serve on Bornish ships. They also share a common enemy in the southern empire of Al'Anfa.
The southern ambitions of the Bornland have peaked with the founding of Kannemünde, or Khannemouth in the tongue of the Middenrealm, a Bornish colony and trading port south of the Mountains of Unau, which mark the southern border of the Novadi Caliphate. It is an important southern trading centre, close to the Lizard Marches and the Sea of Pearls, as well as a major factor in the wealth of the Bornland and their quarrels with the nearby Empire of Al'Anfa, whose influence reaches all the way to Selem at the other end of the Lizard Marches. Khannemouth is ruled over by a plutocratic council of merchants, free of the sometimes despotic rule of the Bornish nobility, yet with all the benefits of a free Bornish city.
The modern Bornland and its customs
The modern Bornland is separated into three provinces: Mark, Festenland and Seweria. In each of them, the nobility is exceptionally strong, with rights and privileges that are unheard of in most parts of Aventuria. Serfdom is very common in the Bornland, with a large percentage of the people being born into serfdom. They are not free, limited in where they can go and which profession they want to undertake and sworn to loyally serve the noble family on whose land they live.
The nobility of the Bornland is known as the Bronnjars. Most, if not all of them, can trace their ancestry back to the Theatre Knights and from their midst, they elect a nominal leader every five years, the Noble Marshall. The Noble Marshall is especially a leader of the Bornland in times of war and the only one who can actually unite the independent Bronnjar forces into one army. Each Bronnjar is responsible for their own troops, their own people and the safety on their own lands. They collect taxes for themselves as they see fit and have to answer to no one but the Noble Marshall and even then only in specific cases. Originally, only the Bronnjar families had access to higher education, but the rise of the merchant families along the coastal cities has allowed rich commoners to buy their way into the Bornish universities in recent decades. Traditionally, the Bronnjars wear fine fur, predominantly in darker colours, with long fur mantles and a distinctive fur cap to protect their ears against the biting cold. However, in recent years, this attire has become associated with people from the Bornland in general, not just the Bronnjars.
The Bornland is renowned for its resilient people. Living within a wild and hardly tameable land has given them a great resolve, strength and determination. Traditionally, a Bornish human is modest in their needs, used to physical labour and many have a reputation of being friendly and generous hosts, since the harsh frontier is not a place for strife and selfishness amongst the settlers. They are also known for their exceptionally strong alcohol, in particular the Bornish Brandy, which is served at least once a day by Bornish commoners and gladly shared with new arrivals. However, outwardly friendly and jovial as many Bornish seem, they are prideful and stubborn, with even the lowest serf being highly proud of their nation and its achievements. Many people of the Bornland are patriots and would serve and die their nation without hesitation.
As such, the military has a strong tradition within the Bornland and troops are usually always needed to defend the people against the threats of their own homeland. Even the southernmost and most civilized of the provinces, Mark, is plagued by goblin warbands, wild beasts, dangerous cults and covens as well as the ever-present threat of lawless brigands. While the Bornland hasn't marched to war in centuries, the majority of the Bronnjars has a standing army trained and drilled for all eventualities.
In war, the Bornland is renowned for its cavalry. Horse-breeding is a wide-spread and respected occupation, as the Bornish have a constant need for horses, be it for physical labour, transport through the harsh landscape or for war. A typical Bornish horse is tall, strong and fearless and it takes a skilled rider to fully tame one. A traveller can deduce how safe and well-protected a region is by how frequently the local Bronnjar sends his riders to patrol across the roads, usually in groups of six, which is more than enough to deal with the most common threats. As a sign of status, rich and strong provinces display their mounted knights as often as possible, sending them to patrol the roads even when there are no threats around, whereas poorer, struggling regions can barely even pay for one or two of these mounted units.
There are also the legendary Winged Riders, three elite units of cavalrymen sworn to the powerful Sewerian Bronnjar families of Ilmenstein, Ask and Notmark. Each rider within one of these units is equipped with a set of metal wings on the backs of their armour, depending on which house they serve either styled like the wings of an eagle, a dragon or a swan. They follow a Wing Leader, whose pair of wings is enchanted with ancient and barely investigated, yet undoubtedly potent magic. Alone, the wings have little power, but all three combined, leading a single, united unit of cavalrymen, they become downright unstoppable. Unfortunately, the three families who own the wings have been quarrelling for generations now, making it unlikely anyone will manage to unite all three wing bearers
Outside of the battlefield, the Bornland is a nation of traders, trading in anything except slaves, a small concession to their Thorwalian friends. Though a majority of the Bornish people lives in poverty, or at least in very modest homes, a great majority of the wealth is distributed along the old noble families of the Bronnjars and the newly arising merchant houses, with the latter quickly working to secure the absolute majority of wealth within the nation.
To the chagrin of the Bronnjars, the merchant families are filthy rich. They have a reputation for greed, but unlike the rich merchant families of southern Aventuria, they are not particularly renowned for decadence. Instead, they encompass the Bornish virtues of resilience, hard work and modest spending taken to its logical extreme. Focussed on the coastal cities, the great merchant houses of the Bornland even begin to gather political power, indicating a growing shift in power between the old, but slowly impoverished mainland nobility and the coastal merchant families.
Furthermore, the mercantile Bornland is known to trade in mercenaries. The city of Uhdenberg, nominally a free city at the western border of the Bornland yet actually under Bornish control, is a haven for sellswords of all types, including the infamous Uhdenberg Legion, one of the few mercenary companies in Aventuria where humans fight side by side with orks and goblins. Due to the lucrative trade in mercenaries, the Bornland is historically inclined to neutrality, never lending its troops to any cause but its own, instead allowing all who can pay enough coin to buy Bornish sellswords. This neutrality is a key virtue of the Bornland, as its citizens are unlikely to get involved in any foreign conflict that does not directly threaten Bornish interests.
The Geography of the Bornland
The southernmost province of the Bornland is the land known as Mark, or simply 'March' in the Garetian Common Tongue. Though part of the Bornland from its very beginning, it is still the most recent region to join the nation, falling under the Theatre Knight rule only shortly towards the end of the knightly reign itself. Previously, it was part of the now dissolved Margreavedom of the Dragon Stones, formerly encompassing the northern parts of Tobria and the province of Mark.
Mark is known for its wide plains. Settlers have chopped down a lot of its once primeval forest, but villages are still few and far. Due to the importance of trade by sea, the larger settlements of Mark are all located alongside the well-developed coastline, where a sturdy road connected each city. Those who travel across the plains deeper into the Mark usually have to ride for days between small villages, travelling on muddy paths barely fit for horse carriages. Deeper into the land, the region also has an over-abundance of moors and dangerous marches.
To the north of Mark lies the Festenland, the smallest, yet most densely populated and richest region of the Bornland. For a southerner, the Festenland is the most civilized and tamed region of the Bornland, with three major roads connecting the Festenland and the northern and southern provinces. That being said, a majority of the settlements can be found alongside these roads and on the coast, with the parts inbetween still showing the region's primeval forest, a dark and dangerous place. The trees of the Bornland are often ancient and stubborn. Forest spirits are no rarity, so that a commercial use of Festenland's forests is rarely easy, yet still occasionally lucrative.
At the height of their power, Festenland was the heartland of the Theatre Knight order after their final victory over the Kunga Suula and her goblin hordes. As such, the castles of the region are large and splendid, built by thousands of goblin slaves and paid for by the high taxes the knightly overlords collected from their serfs. They are built to last and though the theatre knights are no more, the Bronnjars of Festenland remain within their castles, each a palace worthy of a king. A few have fallen into disrepair, however, either when an impoverished Bronnjar had to give it up in favour of more modest lodgings, or when a Bronnjar line died out. These ruins are just as common as the palaces the Bronnjars still inhabit and at worst, they have been taken over by outlaws.
Festenland is also the home of Festum, largest city and nominal capital of the Bornland. Of course, every Bronnjar in their castle, village or city has a significant amount of autonomy, so Festum's position as the capital is only nominal, but it is without a doubt the richest city of the entire nation, due to its important location as a central node of trade in the Bay of Festum. It has a famous Academy of Magic, the Hall of Quicksilver, over a dozen of influential merchant offices, temples to each of the twelve gods and quite a number of demigods and foreign embassies for most of the larger nations of Aventuria, with the exception of the Bornland's historic rivals, the Al'Anfanian Empire. All of this makes Festum the political and cultural centre of the Bornland.
Festum is home to the largest population of goblins in Aventuria and it is from there that the Kunga Suula, the most respected goblin matriarch of the city goblins, whose word is even respected by the independent tribes. The Kunga Suula works tirelessly to improve the lot of her kin in the human cities. As a city of commerce and science, anyone can make it to decent riches there if they are willing to work hard and have just the right amount of luck or connections, which means that Festum is usually the first city a goblin goes to if they decide to leave their tribal communities in favour of a steady income and a warm place to sleep.
The northern province of Seweria spans across more than half of the Bornland and due to its sheer size, a majority of Bornlanders live within this region. However, Seweria is still the least densely populated region of the entire Bornland and sometimes, it takes days or even weeks to traverse between the villages, not just due to the sorry state of many of its forest roads. It spans from the Green Plains to the west, where the Nivesians settle during the harsh winter months, to the foothills of the Brazen Sword to the east.
Enclosed by mountains on three sides, Seweria is the coldest province of the Bornland. Snowfall is common, not just during the exceptionally harsh winter months, but also in early autumn and well into the spring. As a result, the region is not very fertile and every field has to be claimed by the quickly growing forest and often against the will of the influential druids of the Bornland, who seek to protect the unique, living nature of the region against human expansion.
A majority of the tribal goblins live within the often unexplored wilds of Seweria, within its dense forests and jagged hills. Within the southern regions, goblins mostly settled down in the larger cities and goblin raids grow less common with every passing decade. Up in Seweria, however, the goblins prefer to live as they have before the arrival of the human settlers, who, in return, have never forgotten how dangerous the Redfurs can be.
As such, every village and city needs to be well-protected and the Bronnjars of Seweria have generally larger standing forces than the ones in the southern provinces. They are exceptionally powerful even by Bornish standards, with every Bronnjar being almost completely independent from the Bornland as a whole, united only by their common culture and heritage. Most of the Noble Marshalls of the Bornland have historically been chosen from the nobility of Seweria and some of its greatest heroes originate from the province.
Life in the Bornland is always hard, outside of the coastal cities at least and life in Seweria is even harder. As such, the people there are closely connected within their villages and cities, but generally quiet and distrustful towards outsiders. Among friends, the people of Seweria thaw up, encompassing the jolly nature and simple kindness the Bornish are known for. A stranger has to earn their trust first, however. This is especially true for the Bronnjars, who live within simple, unadorned, yet exceptionally sturdy fortresses, far removed from the concerns of the peasants, whom they rule over with absolute power and an iron fist more often than not.
Goblins are treated terribly in Seweria. While people have largely arranged themselves with the Redfurs in Mark and Festenland, allowing the short, crafty goblins to find a niche for themselves in human cities, the people of Seweria are still threatened by goblin raiders. As such, goblins are generally looked down upon and outside of the larger cities it can even happen that a goblin is killed on sight. The commoners of Seweria hate the goblins with a passion and even within the cities, they are usually blamed for any misfortune that befalls the neighbourhood. Many of Seweria's Bronnjar rulers keep goblins as slaves in all but name, chained up and forced to work in mines or lumbermills.
While Festenland is the richest of the three provinces, the strong position of the Bronnjars in Seweria means that it is the political centre of the region. A majority of the Noble Marshalls of the Bornland's history came from this province and political struggles between the noble families have shaped the entire region. Due to the power of the Bronnjars, even violent conflicts between some of them are not unheard of. It takes a strong Noble Marshall to prevent ambitious Bronnjars from actively marching against the rivals and enemies and keeping the peace within a region so full of stubborn, fully autonomous noblemen with their own standing armies is among the hardest of the Noble Marshall's duties.
The Weal Mountains and the Midnight Lands
Finally, a Bornish region in name only, the Weal mountains, consisting of rugged mountain ranges and deep, dark valleys, the latter of which has given it its more ominous moniker. The Weal mountains are without any doubt the most dangerous part of the Bornland and it is quite telling that not even the Theatre Knights at the height of their power dared to venture too deep into the still largely uncharted region.
Mages have theorized that the border between the Third Sphere, which is the sphere Aventuria is located in, and the demi-spheres of the fairy realms are particularly thin in this region, allowing for the appearance of many strange creatures that are found nowhere else in Aventuria. Since their only reference for this theory are the similarly dangerous and barely explored Fae Forests of Albernia, this theory is by no means uncontested.
The only thing that is known about the Weal Mountains for sure is that they are home to many dangerous creatures, sometimes even sentient races, who are found nowhere else in Aventuria. One of the only proper scientific expeditions was undertaken by the famous Aventurian explorer Bastan Munter even before the formation of the Bornish nation in the year 641 BF.
In his book 'The Midnight Lands', he details his encounters with strange races of possibly non-Aventurian origin, such as the Vilay, green-haired nymphs who live in forests full of walnut trees, or the dangerous Levschy, whom he describes as haggard humans with the horns and legs of a goat, whom he theorizes to have been created by the demigod Levthan, son of Rahja. Where Rahja is the goddess of pleasure, Levthan's sphere of influence is desire. Just like his reckless desire has driven him close to the Nether Hells, the Levschy are describes as hormone-driven and aggressive, with almost no self-restraint, whereas the Vilay are more gentle, yet dangerously tempting.
Perhaps most worryingly, Bastan describes his encounter with the Hagrim, a race of exceptionally tall humans who settle deep within the Weal Mountains and claim to hail from the eastern continent of Rakshazar. While not overly aggressive by themselves, the Hagrim sternly warned the explorer from venturing deeper into the mountains, for they are ruled over by Suldru, a three-headed Rakshazan wyvern who has proclaimed himself king of this region.
Bastan's outlandish report was enough to scare away any explorer for centuries. And indeed, the people who live close to the Weal Mountains claim to this day that on some nights, they can hear the Vilay dancing in their groves, or that deep within the midnight shadow, they sometimes see horned humans. Every once in a while, children disappear in this region, possibly taken by the Levschy, or by some of the stranger creatures Bastan described in his report.
That being said, no one but Bastan ever encountered the Hagrim or heard of their wyvern-king Suldru, which causes quite a lot of doubt about this part of his report. While no respectable explorer ever ventured into the mountainous region, it is known that for way over one century by now, less savoury elements of society have used the remote region for their own purposes. The foothills of the Weal Mountains are a haven for bandits, pirates and smugglers and deeper within its valleys, witch covens and druid circles are rumoured to gather. Adding to the connection the infamous demigod Levthan has with the region, his cultists, almost universally shunned in civilized society, consider the remote mountains to be a holy place to their god.
In recent years, the Noble Marshall has decided to do something against the dangers of that region, especially the mundane threats of outlaws and dark cultists. As such, in the tradition of the Theatre Knights, an order of knightly explorers was founded to explore, chart and possibly pacify the region for Bornish settlers. This Order of the Ram consists not just of knights, but also of scientists, scholars and scouts and without their permission, no one is allowed to journey into the Weal Mountains.
The recent political struggles and the current state of the Bornland
Especially notable are the foreign affairs surrounding the Bornland in recent years. The Khom war, the most massive conflict in southern Aventuria within the recent centuries, threatened Bornish interests in Khannemouth, when the Al'Anfanian army invaded the Novadi Caliphate. For the entire duration of the war, Khannemouth was besieged by the Al'Anfanian navy, which threatened to ruin quite a number of powerful merchants from the Festenland. While unwilling to send troops to support the Novadis, the Noble Marshall of that time, Jucho von Dallenthin, sent gold and supplies south, in order to help the caliphate against the Al'Anfanians, to weaken the most powerful Bornish rival in southern Aventuria.
Furthermore, shortly after the end of the war and the victory of the caliphate, Emperor Hal of Gareth disappeared during a visit in the Bornland in the year 1011 BF, which caused significant and still lasting struggles with the Middenrealm, perhaps permanently souring the relations between the two nations. Hal was staying at Ilmenstein Castle, ancestral seat of House Ilmenstein, one of the three most powerful Bronnjar families of Seweria. Though the head of House Ilmenstein, Thesia, believably denied any involvement in Hal's disappearance, she herself has failed to uncover the emperor's whereabouts.
Previously a promising candidate for the position of the Noble Marshall, this soured Thesia's political career for the time being. Furthermore, Marshall Jucho fell ill not long afterwards and though he has recovered since, his period of weakness left him unavailable to defend his position when the time for a new election came. The cuththroat politics of the Bornland don't allow such signs of weakness and even something as simple as a serious illness can be enough to put someone's political career on hold for years.
Both of these incidents allowed House Ilmenstein's greatest rival, the northern House Notmark, hailing from the furthest north-eastern border of the Bornland, to advance. Tjeika von Notmark, daughter of Count Uriel von Notmark, was unexpectedly crowned as the Noble Marshall in the year 1013 BF, a position she holds to this day. Due to how surprising the outcome of the election was, the defeated Countess Thesia von Ilmenstein has still not fully accepted the rule of Tjeika and remains her sharpest critic. Quite surprisingly, Tjeka's own father, the notoriously power-hungry Count Uriel, is also reportedly unhappy with his daughter's rule, likely due to her not bowing to his demands as much as he would prefer. With House Notmark's support being questionable at most, Tjeika's rule is weakened and her true supporters are few and far between, considering that most of those who voted for her only did so to get into her powerful father's good graces. Tensions are high within the Bornland and the struggles between House Ilmenstein and House Notmark, as well as the generally weak and contested rule of Marshall Tjeika could even escalate into a civil war. With the old alliances between the Bronnjar families being more fluid than ever, now that the generally morally flexible merchant families have started to influence impoverished noblemen to support their cause, such a civil war could easily break the Bornland beyond saving.
The Northern Wayfarers – The Norbardians
Aside from goblins and Bornish citizens, the Bornland is home to a third group of note, the Norbardians. Where the Bornish have their cities and the goblins have the wilds, the Norbardians live on the roads inbetween. They are restless travellers, journeying across the entire Bornland and a sizeable portion of the Nivesian lands to the north and west, their colourful carriages being equal parts home and vehicle.
They have no permanent settlement and instead act as merchants and nomads of the northern wilds. No one knows the most remote regions of the Bornland as well as the Norbardians, potentially not even the goblins. They typically live in large family clans, though smaller groups or even solitary Norbardian wanderers are known. Without any land to defend, they are peaceful people, who prefer to just leave instead of fighting.
Though the travellers are seen with distrust by the home-loving Bornish citizens, their merchant caravans are important for many of the less developed regions of the country. The Norbardian way of life, constantly on the road, leaves little room for privacy and absolutely none for grudges. As such, the Norbardians are generally open-minded and free-spirited people, who value freedom and kindness. According to their beliefs, it is important to treat strangers with generosity if one wishes to expect generosity in return. They share almost anything among each other and are quite willing to do the same with others, even if the Norbardian elders are usually cunning businessmen beneath their generally jolly demeanours.
As a remnant of their Tulamid ancestry, the Norbardians, though lone since of heavily mixed ancestry, have typically darker skin when compared to the Bornish citizens, as well as almost exclusively black hair. Male Norbardians shave their entire head safe for, at most, a long ponytail at the back of their heads and they also usually wear thick moustaches. Female Norbardians shave the top of their heads, but grow out the sides. Like the goblins they shared the Bornland with for so long, they live in a matriarchic society, led by a so-called Muhm, an old and well-respected clan matron, who is supported by the Zibilja, the practitioners of the ancient Norbardian magic and scholars of their family clans.
Clad in colourful dressess, riding brightly painted carriages, often playing music on the way and sharing their potent liquor with any traveller they befriend along the ride, few pay the Norbardians any mind and even the Bronnjars generally leave them be when they traverse their lands. They do not get involved in politics and care for little but the survival of their people and their way of life. That being said, their history is actually one of the more tragic and bloody of the human races of Aventuria.
The Norbardians are what remains of the once-proud Alhani kingdom, as well as the first humans to permanently live within the borders of the Bornland. Long before the Order of the Theatre Knights, it was the Alhani who settled within the goblin lands, but not entirely by choice. Originally, they are Tulamids, ancestors of the Mhaharanyat of Arania between the Tulamid coast and the Middenrealm. They had a high culture there and traces of it remain in Arania to this day.
Their history is one of constant struggle and subjugation. Seven times have they built a permanent settlement or even kingdom in Aventuria and seven times have they lost it. Originally from the outskirts of the Rashtul Wall, the Norbardians were part of the Ferkina tribes, the ancient Tulamids who remained within their mountain homes instead of settling in the desert and steppe below. The Ferkina tribes of that day worshipped the giant Rastullah, as well as archaic forms of the gods Phex and Ingerimm. The ancestors of the Norbardians, however, the so-called Al'Hani, began to worship the goddess Hesinde as well, who, at the time, was predominantly worshipped by the lizardfolk.
Always struggling against the lizard expansion from the south, few of their Ferkina brothers looked kindly upon the Al'Hani and their lizard goddess. After several struggles and conflicts among the tribes, the Al'Hani, after conversing with an oracle of Hesinde, decided to leave their mountain homes. They settled in the fruitful region of the present day Arania, where they separated themselves from the other Tulamids and remained largely among each other.
Their great exodus truly began when the Mage Moguls, a group of thirteen mages of unparalleled power assaulted the Sultanate of Nebachot to the south of the Alhani lands. To avoid complete subjugation, the Sultan of Nebachot struck a deal with the Mage Moguls, where his armies were to wage a war of subjugation against the Al'Hani tribes in the Mogul's name.
At first, the Nebachot cleansed their sultanate of any Al'Hani within, often either killing or enslaving them, before their armies marched north. By that time, Hesinde sent her oracle to the Al'Hani once more, revealing the looming invasion to them and urging them to flee instead of fighting a hopeless war. As such, when the Nebachot armies arrived in the Al'Hani lands, they found them largely deserted, with most of its inhabitants having fled to the north.
A part of the Al'Hani remained in the jagged mountain range that is known as the Troll Peaks today, where they became the ancestors of the Trollpeak Barbarians that plague the region in the present day. Most of the Al'Hani, now led by the noble Nurbadi clan, settled in the region that forms the present-day Duchy of Tobria. Most of their story and the impact they had on the region shall be revealed within the upcoming region guide to Tobria, though it should be noted that their new home, the Kingdom of Alhania, was doomed to fail eventually, as after a few centuries and a period of heavy internal struggles, it was taken over entirely by the Bosparanian emperor Jel-Horas in the year 301 before Bosparan's Fall.
A few Al'Hani clans never trusted the centuries of peace within the Alhani kingdom. They never settled there, but instead they preferred to travel further into the northern wilds. They are the ancestors of the modern Norbardians, bringing with them a wild cultural mix of ancient Ferkina traditions, Tulamid customs and Tobrian influence.
Against all warnings, these tribes settled within the goblin lands. Surprisingly though, these people, now calling themselves the Nurbadi after the warriors who led them to Tobria, managed to achieve what no one else had done before: They achieved peace with the goblin race. Where elves, dwarves, orks and all kinds of humans had only ever fought the Redfurs, the Nurbadi families did as they had always done and they listened to Hesinde, the goddess of wisdom. With her guidance, they negotiated peace with the goblins.
In the following centuries, the Norbardians were allowed to settle freely within the goblin lands, as long as they didn't seek to outright conquer them. A strangely respectful relationship between the two races emerged and it lasts to this day. Influenced by the goblins, the Norbardians adopted a matriarchic system, where an older clan mother leads the younger members of her family.
The goblins taught them how to survive in the harsh wilderness and the Norbardians perfected this craft until they became even better at it than their new neighbours. In return, the Norbardians had their Zibilja, their magic users and scholars, share their wisdom with the goblin shamans. This led to an evolution of goblin magic, boosted by Zibilja secrets and it earned them the deep friendship of the goblin race.
The Norbardians settled within the great city of Starpnika, which means “Wooden City” within their language, which had, by now, become a wild mixture of their Tulamid roots, the Bosparanian language and even the harsh goblin tongue. From there, their existence was a very peaceful one and they remained neutral even as the Theatre Knights invaded the goblin lands.
However, their strong ties to the Redfurs should be their undoing. After the war against the goblins was won, the Theatre Knights began to subjugate the Bornland. The Norbardians, with their naturally independent attitude, were a threat to the absolute rule of the knights. Furthermore, it was their Zibilja secrets which allowed the goblin shamans to use powerful and destructive magic against the knights during their long wars.
Out of revenge for the many knights who had died to the goblin spells, Knight-Marshall Jadviga issued a decree in the year 264 after Bosparan's Fall, which forbade the Norbardians from ever owning land, damning them to either leaving their home once more or to live as eternal wayfarers. They conquered the great city Starpnika and tore it down, building a mighty fortress of stone in its place which they called Norburg. In the present day, Norburg consists of a new wooden city built around the fortress and inhabited by Bornish citizens, while the Norbardians only receive a nearby field which they can camp on during the harsh winter months. Even centuries after the downfall of the Theatre Knights, Jadviga's decree remains active, as no Bornish ruler ever bothered with renouncing it.
Ever since, the Norbardians are the travelling folk people know them as in the present day. Without a permanent home, they never stay at one place for too long. While they usually have excellent memory, Norbardians are not known to hold grudges unless for the most serious of offences. They rarely fight, instead they avoid conflict either by leaving a place or by negotiating and befriending anyone who would seek to disturb their way of life. They care little for politics and are naturally curious, which has led to Norbardian travellers even visiting the far south of Aventuria, including nations that stand hostile to the Bornland.
As constant travellers, it is not unusual for Norbardian clans to become merchants and in this function, many clans have grown exceptionally rich. That being said, their lifestyle holds a lot of dangers, as even the richest Norbardian merchant cannot legally own land, meaning most of them have to keep their worldly riches with them at all times. At worst, they lose everything during a bandit attack. This reality has made many Norbardians generous when it comes to spending their riches. Unfortunately, those who are not aware of the necessity behind this excessive spending often see only the Norbardian wealth and consider them arrogant show-offs as a result.
Important people of the Bornland:
Countess Thesia Jadviga von Ilmenstein
The Countess of Ilmenstein is the current head of the powerful and prestigious Bornish house. Her ancestor Treson von Ilmenstein was among the three nobles who discovered the legendary metal wings that became essential for the formation of the Winged Riders. Her riders wear wings styled after eagle's wings on their backs. The countess of Ilmenstein is secretive, yet undeniably ambitious. Though almost fifty years old, she legitimately hasn't aged a single day for the last twenty years, which has given birth to rumours that her mother, of whom little is known, was a witch. Indeed, Thesia seems to age slowly, if at all, and she often leaves Castle Ilmenstein for extended journeys into the wilderness, possibly to meet her mother's coven. She never comments on such things and, in fact, she is generally solitary, quiet and stoic, though not without charisma or leadership abilities.
Though many Bronnjars have courted her over the years, Thesia has rejected them all and remains unmarried and childless, which unnerves her more distant family members, many of which fear a family feud if the seemingly ageless countess ever actually dies. Privately, she is actually in a loving relationship already, a fact that has become common knowledge a few years ago, provoking a scandal in the process. The generally fairly conservative nobles of Seweria are unhappy that Thesia's beloved is a woman and a priestess of Rahja on top, as such a union makes it all the more likely that Thesia will die childless, taking the main line of House Ilmenstein with her. But what even the most moderate Bronnjar holds against her is the fact that her beloved, Mirhiban Saba al'Kashbah is a Tulamid and therefore as far away from a proper Bornish Bronnjar as possible, meaning their love is against all social standards the Sewerian nobility clings to. As Thesia's consort and possibly in an attempt to mitigate the significant difference in social standing between them, Mirhiban was even appointed as the Baroness of Pervin, a small barony on Thesia's lands, making her the first non-Bronnjar to receive land and titles in Seweria. Her political rivals consider this high treason, but Thesia has repeatedly proven to care little for their opinions.
All of this has held Thesia's political career back, despite her considerable ambition, skill and wealth. With unquestioned birth circumstances and a proper Bronnjar husband, or even a wife as long as she's not a Tulamid, the countess would have quite likely advanced to the position of Noble Marshall many years ago. As it stands, these factors have earned her many enemies among the more conservative elements among the Bronnjars, who would rather have a true Bornish patriot in the position. Furthermore, Thesia was one of the last people who have seen Emperor Hal of Gareth when he disappeared during a visit at Castle Ilmenstein and to this day, she has failed to come up with an explanation as to what happened to the missing emperor. While officially cleared of any blame, Thesia still has to fight the rumours that she has something to do with Hal's disappearance, as well as the likely permanent damage this has done to the diplomatic relations between the Middenrealm and the Bornland.
Count Uriel von Notmark
Count Uriel von Notmark hails from one of the oldest noble families in the Bornland. His realm lies in the northeastern corner of the country, constantly in the shadow of the Brazen Sword and his ancestors have always been great heroes in the battle against the goblins and the darker threats of this region. In fact, his ancestor Dilja was one of the three heroes who discovered the pairs of wings, allowing House Notmark to command a whole unit of Winged Riders into battle. In Notmark's case, their wings are styled after a swan's wings.
Unfortunately, Uriel is nothing like his more heroic ancestors. He is a crabby, power-hungry tyrant, who rules over Notmark with an iron fist, hated and feared by his subjects and even his family. Anyone who meets Uriel describes him as deeply unpleasant and if there is any redeeming quality about his personality, it is his well-developed sense of self-irony. He is well known for having a problem with warts all over his face, which has given him the unflattering nickname “Count Warthog”. Surprisingly, Uriel accepts and even occasionally jokes about this nickname, though with his generally shameless attitude, he is just as known for making tasteless jokes about anyone else he dislikes. And if there is one thing even Uriel's supporters would agree on, it is that the Count of Notmark dislikes everyone equally, possibly even himself.
His lust for power is infamous and in his youth, he repeatedly tried and failed to become the Noble Marshall. The constant rejection from the other Bronnjars has made him bitter and hateful and not even his own family is save from his schemes. His young daughter has succeeded where he failed, but his joy and pride over her achievement is almost non-existent, as she very publically and vocally tries to avoid being dragged into his schemes and ambitions. He has a very personal rivalry with Thesia von Ilmenstein whom he sees as unfit to rule over anything larger than a cheap brothel, much less the prestigious House Ilmenstein.
Marshall Tjeika von Notmark
The young daughter and heiress of Count Uriel von Notmark has surprisingly won the recent election for the new Noble Marshall, after her predecessor fell seriously ill, while her greatest rival, Thesia von Ilmenstein, had to battle the diplomatic scandal that arose from the disappearance of Emperor Hal of Gareth on her lands. Seen as an unlikely and weak candidate, few had expected her victory and even fewer are happy with it. She did not earn the victory out of her own strength of character or political influence, but because those who were disappointed by the previous Noble Marshall or by Countess Thesia's more recent scandals rallied behind a member of House Notmark without actually casting their vote for someone as deeply unlikeable as Uriel von Notmark. Realizing that his daughter could give him indirect control over the prestigious position, Uriel rallied his own supporters in secret and with them voting for Tjeika as well, the young and inexperienced woman has been put into a position she has yet to prove herself worthy of.
The new marshall is generally seen as her father's puppet, considering that she is inexperienced and without many achievements, while her father is renowned for his intelligence and ambition. However, Tjeika at least tries to distance herself from her father, with varying degrees of success. Against his will, she married not a sewerian Bronnjar, but a rich merchant from Festum, a man named Stane ter Siveling, which has given her a lot of support from the influential merchant families of Festum and gave her a financial advantage over her often impoverished rivals. This might be the sole reason why Tjeika is expected to last through at least one full term in her current position.
Behind the scenes, her father remains a strong influence in her life, unfortunately. Yearning for his daughter's title, Count Uriel has forced himself into her life as her personal advisor, encouraging her to support the interests of House Notmark. This in return has earned her the animosity of several Bronnjars, especially the Countess of Ilmenstein, who has neither forgotten nor forgiven Tjeika for the humiliating defeat. For someone who won the election very decisively, Tjeika has managed to lose a great deal of sympathies from all sides in a remarkably short time, all but forcing her to support her father's ambitions, since her own political survival is strongly tied to her father's begrudging support.
Count Wahnfried von Ask
Like Thesia and Uriel, Count Wahnfried of Ask hails from one of the three heroes who discovered the legendary pairs of wings that have secured their families power ever since, namely his distant great-great-grandmother Ulmia von Ask. In his case, the wings of House Ask are styled after a dragon's wings, which is ironic, given that Wahnfried is one of the greatest dragon hunters of the continent.
The middle-aged man is not a particularly skilled politician and his previous attempts at increasing the influence of House Ask have failed, most notably a very humiliating rejection from Countess Thesia von Ilmenstein, whom he sought to marry when they were both younger. He claims to hold no grudge against her, however, and is actually on friendly terms with the stoic and somewhat solitary countess. Instead of participating in the cutthroat political schemes Seweria is infamous for, he focusses on increasing the renown of his family by other means. For him, this means doing the one thing he is truly good at, namely hunting all sorts of nasty creatures that roam the wilds of the Bornland.
For this, he has formed the prestigious Order of the Hunt at Ask, an knightly order of hunters, employing only the most skilled hunters, trackers and archers of the Bornland. Originally reserved just for the Bronnjars, Count Wahnfried has since opened its ranks for commoners as well and he seems remarkably progressive on the idea of common citizens advancing into positions of power within the Bornland. His Order of the Hunt has led a lot of daring cavalry hunts against dangerous beasts and the count himself is specialized on killing dragons. Recently, he was personally responsible for slaying a dangerous wyvern who descened upon the lands of Notmark from the Brazen Sword. Though generally seen as an ally of House Ilmenstein, this deed has given him many sympathies among the subjects of House Notmark, making him one of the most universally respected Bronnjars of the notoriously divided Seweria.
Stover Regolan Stoerrebrandt
Stover's ancestors have come from humble origins. His grandfather was the first Stoerrebrandt to even be considered a free man, after escaping serfdom and living within the walls of Festum for a full year, a move that granted him and his descendants citizenship within the largest city of the Bornland and freed him from the whims of the Bronnjars. This deed allowed his son, Stover's father, to become a merchant and by the time of his death, he had left his son and heir a modest merchant house and a fleet of three small ships.
Nowadays, a few decades later, Stover Regolan Stoerrebrandt is head of the influential merchant family of House Stoerrebrandt and the richest man in all Aventuria. Thanks to a keen sense of business, a ruthless drive for profit and strong ties to the other merchant families of Aventuria, House Stoerrebrandt commands the largest merchant fleet in Aventuria, owns trading stations in most large ports along the whole continent and has ties to almost every other merchant family along the coast, either through trade agreements or through marriage. In terms of marriage, Stover is one of the first merchants to actually pursue a system similar to the noble dynasties of Aventuria, with his children, their children, his cousins, siblings and even he himself all having married into the important merchant families of the continent, sometimes even into impoverished noble houses. His wealth has become proverbial and his influence is felt even on a political scale, as his coin can decide entire wars.
Luckily for Aventuria, Stover has no political ambitions and is content with just becoming ever richer. While utterly ruthless in matters of business, Stover is well-liked by those who work for him and considered a fair boss who genuinely cares for his workers. He is a patron of the arts and a portion of his significant wealth goes into charity just as well. He supports scholars and has even founded the Stoerrebrandt College in the northern city of Riva, a private academy of magic dedicated to the education and training of promising mages who can accompany Stover during one of his many expeditions. That being said, he grows older and his descendants are usually seen as less brilliant or well-intentioned as he is, a thought that greatly worries the other merchant families and even the Bronnjars of the Bornland, even if the latter would never publicly admit to it. Stover has consciously avoided a proper last will for the time being, instead preferring to constantly test his numerous children in order to find out who is the most talented, the most ambitious and the one with the greatest strength of personality.
It is generally known that brilliance and madness often stand side by side and no one embodies this proverb better than Rakorium Muntagonus, Spectability of the Hall of Quicksilver at Festum. He is one of the greatest mages in Aventuria, skilled way beyond what is usual even for other spectabilities and as such, he is a highly decorated archmage, accepted as one of the most powerful members of his guild, the Great Grey Guild of the Mind.
Unfortunately, Rakorium is also highly eccentric, which is a nice way of saying that he is batshit insane. A renowned scholar, he has travelled into some of the darkest and most remote parts of Aventuria and during one of his journeys, he has encountered something, uncovered some secret that basically drove him mad. He is not a rambling lunatic by any means and actually capable of living up to his position and actually teaching his students. However, ever since that fateful expedition into the wilds of Maraskan, he is incredibly paranoid and believes that the lizardfolk, long defeated and on the brink of extinction, is secretly plotting to return to power, enslaving or destroying every major race on the continent as they had done during the height of their power. He sees lizard spies within every suspicious shadow, believes that his enemies and critics are in league with the lizardfolk and every tragedy that befalls the world is, in his mind, somehow connected to the lizard master plan.
Of course, his theories are generally laughed at, which only drives the still-brilliant mage to great lengths to try and prove his theory. Since his countless expeditions into the lizardfolk lands are also of great scholarly value, he usually receives the funds he needs for his projects, even if he seeks, for example, a way to explore the bottom of the sea. This has the side effect of making him one of Aventuria's most well-travelled and knowledgeable scholars, which does wonders in preserving Rakorium's reputation even despite his growing paranoia. His closer friends are afraid that he is slowly losing his mind in his ever-increasing paranoia and they outright fear the day a mage of his power actually snaps.
The Kunga Suula
The first Kunga Suula, which translates into 'Queen of all Goblins', was a legendary goblin shaman who rallied her people after the devastating first loss against the Theatre Knights. She awoke ancient magic within the Bornland, supposedly made pacts with higher powers of possibly ungodly origin and led her people into a long, bloody war against the knightly invaders of the Bornland. Though her war did not end with victory, her tireless efforts allowed the goblin race to survive and gradually recover from the brink of extinction.
The goblins honour her to this day by choosing a leader from the ranks of their shamans who is given the title of the Kunga Suula in her honour. Contrary to her title, the Kunga Suula is not the unquestioned leader of the goblin race, but more involved in the matters of the city goblins. She is responsible for the peaceful co-existence of the two races, with the more numerous goblins living side by side with the taller and more well-equipped humans.
As such, even though the Kunga Suula holds no official title in the Bornland, even the Noble Marshall should generally listen to her. Tirelessly dedicated to the goblin race, the current Kunga Suula, whose given name is Maatka Riiba, lives in Festum, from where she tries to improve the lot of her often marginalized people. She is very old for a goblin and has been in her current position for such a long time that no living goblin can remember a time under a different Kunga Suula. Though not classically charismatic, she is persistent and few can avoid her constant requests for long. Thanks to her work, the goblins of Festum have greatly improved their social standing and now have the monopoly over the rat catchers, garbage collectors and skinners, occupations which few humans like to do, but which are essential for the growth of the city.
One of the tallest goblins to ever live, the warchief Gragh Krigscha has often been mistaken for an ork due to his almost human size and he could easily pass as one of the Blackfurs, if not for the fact that his fur has a naturally auburn colour. Towering over his fellow goblins, he is a natural leader, a ruthless raider and a fearsome opponent for even the most skilled human fighters. He leads a large warband of goblin raiders who are responsible for countless bloody raids all over the southern Bornland and the Black Sickle mountains. In this function, he has proven to be exceptionally cunning, as he has outsmarted or simply overpowered every human army sent to stop him.
He is furthermore allied with the warchiefs Tschak Chekrai and Shraa Rasha, who lead powerful tribes of their own. Together, the three have settled in northern Tobria and the essentially lawless region of the Black Sickle mountains, from where they conduct increasingly daring and violent raids against the nearby villages, always retreating when facing an enemy they cannot beat, but mercilessly pushing against those who are weaker than them.
Out of the trio, especially Tschak Chekrai is driven by downright genocidal hatred against the humans who enslaved him in his youth, whereas Gragh Krigscha is more driven by the challenge itself. For a goblin, he follows an unusual code of honour, where he often challenges worthy opponents to single combat. Despite the natural physical disadvantage of his race over virtually any other sapient species in Aventuria, Gragh has defeated even battle-hardened knights. He currently resides within the Black Sickle mountains, gathering a horde of tribal goblins who are sick of being pushed around by the humans who invaded their land.
Names of the Bornland, the Norbardians and the Goblins:
The citizens of the Bornland have their names vaguely inspired by a variety of slavic naming conventions, with a hint of germanic names within them as well. Generally, the lower levels of society have very short and unassuming names, rarely even a last name, whereas the higher classes of society tend to have longer, more elaborate names, sometimes even two names. Especially members of the merchant families, always eager to improve their status, tend to give their children two first names. Bornish nobility is marked as such by having the word 'von' between their first and last name, meaning 'of' in German. As such, the name Uriel von Notmark reveals that the man in question is a member of the noble House of Notmark. The merchant Stover Regolan Stoerrebrandt meanwhile, for all his riches, is not a member of the nobility and therefore, he doesn't have the 'von' within his name. Due to the close proximity of the Bornland to the Middenrealm and its historic connection to the empire, typical Garetian names are not uncommon either, albeit truly proud Bornish parents would always prefer to give their child a proper Bornish name. The syllable 'sch' is very common within many Bornish names, especially in the last names, pronounced just like the syllable 'sh'.
Some examples for male Bornish names: Aleks, Arvo, Boril, Brankow, Danislaw, Ertzel, Fredo, Irschan, Joost, Kirill, Kolja, Lukas, Mikail, Niklaus, Oswin, Pjerow, Stanislaw, Stover, Uriel, Yuri
Some examples for female Bornish names: Alwinka, Branka, Danscha, Firunja, Greta, Gudwine, Jadviga, Jassia, Lena, Ljudmilla, Maline, Marja, Olga, Rowenja, Selwine, Thesia, Tjeika, Ulrika, Vanjescha, Yasinde
Some examples for Bornish last names: Alatzer, Baerensen, Bagoltin, Bornski, Donsemki, Firunkin, Gerberow, Jannerloff, Kruschkin, Laikis, Luminoff, Nagragski, Ouvensen, Puschinske, Sewerski, Surjeloff, Stoerrebrandt, Timpski, Walroder, Walsjakow
After centuries within the Bornland, the Norbardian names have generally been assimilated into the Bornish naming conventions, albeit some would argue that the two naming conventions have instead mingled with each other until they formed one largely cohesive union. However, as widely travelled folk, it is not unusual for Norbardian parents to give their child a name entirely foreign to the Bornish culture (such as Khalid or Theodora) and change them slightly to match the Bornish culture more closely (such as Khaljow or Theoscha). Norbardians don't have last names, instead they have clan names, which is always the last name of the current Muhm, the matriarch of the clan.
Goblins have harsh, guttural first names and usually no last names. Some syllables within their names are meant to be literally growled, shrieked or barked, which is only another aspect that makes the Bornish look down upon the seemingly savage goblins. If there is an R within their names, it is spoken in a harsh, growled way. In general, female goblins have longer names, but there is a surprisingly large number of gender-neutral names common for male or female goblins.
Tribal goblins have tribe names which they sometimes address each other with, which always consists of a short two-word phrase in the goblin tongue, usually meant to describe the most important feature of the clan. For example, the Lungai Ruuga are the Children of the Stone, who have chosen this name for the barren mountain lands they inhabit.
Meanwhile, goblins outside of the tribes, especially those within the cities, often seek to make a name for themselves by adding a nickname to their first name. Sometimes, this name is meant to sound intimidating or virtuous, sometimes it is a reminder of a great deed the goblin performed in the past. In the latter case, the name might not sound particularly special at all, safe for the goblin who wears it. The only goblins to have something resembling a last name are those of high social standing. Influential matriarchs and shamans, war chiefs or political leaders of the city goblins often pick a second name when they rise to prominence. This second name is just another first name added to the one they were given at birth and other goblins address them by both. Many goblin names furthermore have a tendency for double vocals or consonants directly after each other. The double vocals are pronounced as two vocals after each other, not a single long one. For example, the goblin Traak would be pronounced as Tra-Ak.
For goblins within the city, it should also be noted that some of them have taken on typically Bornish names, sometimes making them sound indistinguishable from their human neighbours. Such goblins are usually the ones who have lost most of their old culture, instead being fully assimilated into the human way of life. With each passing year, there are more of these 'humanized' goblins, much to the chagrin of the tribal matrons and warchiefs. At the very least, a city goblin usually shortens their name to not include the typical double vocals and consonants their tribal names are known for. In the above mentioned example, the goblin Traak might decide to shorten his name to Trak, to make his name sound more like those of his human neighbours, or even Trajow to take on an almost Bornish sounding name. Assimilating even further, he could discard his goblinic roots entirely, addressing himself to Trajow
Examples for male goblin names: Argaal, Bluurz, Chraak, Gorrwarn, Groggi, Grotz, Gruugrazz, Gulin, Jaak, Jiukoor, Kobold, Mraak, Norf, Priidul, Snigs, Suulrik, Traak, Urmag, Xeetsch, Ziplim
Examples for female goblin names: Aada, Azzgrascha, Burscha, Furka, Garrghi, Jamuutan, Jeetka, Kaschka, Kergaatai, Lelosch, Maalis, Mantka, Naissuguun, Riiba, Russuula, Siiskai, Suviintan, Uukra, Yakscha, Zooqa
Examples for goblin nicknames: Ashrain, Acornfinder, Blacktooth, Bloodfur, Firepot, Goldtooth, Horserider, Pigcatcher, Rotbreath, Sharpclaw, Sowtamer, Swiftrunner, Wolfshunter
Examples for goblin tribe names: Kuyac Mapai, Lungai Gyrrwa, Lungai Mikdai, Lungai Mulla, Lungai Naarak, Lungai Ruuga, Lungai Scherschai, Lungai Siiskal, Lungai Theluzi, Lungai Urmorgh, Saali Bluughai, Saali Moorakh, Saali Priidah, Saali Triphaa