Post by LiquidChicagoTed on May 22, 2020 2:03:41 GMT
Shield of the Realm
The Garetian Empire, commonly known as the Middenrealm is the largest and most prosperous nation in Aventuria, its primary superpower and a force against all who seek to disturb the balance of power on the continent. However, the Middenrealm itself is not invincible and in the past, it had to suffer through crises and invasions. Most of these came from the wilder regions of the northern Aventuria, from the Orkland, the Bornland or the Nivesian lands. Luckily for the innocent citizens of the Middenrealm, the three northern provinces have proven to be sturdy and unyielding in their defence of the Empire.
These three provinces are the duchies of Meadows and Tobria, as well as the smaller, but crucially located Margravedom of Griffinsford, with all three of them being collectively known as the Shield of the Realm. They are all that stand between the dangers of the northern wilds and the prosperous provinces of the central Middenrealm. With strong knightly traditions, large standing armies and decisive warriors as their leaders, they have faced foes that would have broken through any other part of Aventuria with ease and though they have been battered and tested, they remain unbroken.
Among the dangerous denizens of the border regions of the Middenrealm are not just the orks and goblins, who are given a deeper look at in the regional guides about the Orkland and the Bornland respectively, but also the dull, but inhumanely strong ogres of Tobria, the wild men of the Troll Peaks and the ancient trolls who have given the region its name. And though relations to the belligerent amazons of the Mountains of Beilunk remain neutral, it is yet another duty of the Shieldlands to look out for any threat that might arise from their lands.
Furthermore, this guide is meant to give you an overview of Aventuria's elusive defenders, the witch covens and druid circles. They are not shields of the realm, but shields of the land itself, sometimes allies sometimes enemies of the people. Meadows and Tobria are home to the largest population of witches and druids in all Aventuria.
Blood of the Bear - The Duchy of Meadows
As the only province of the modern Middenrealm, Meadows has never been an official part of the Bosparanian Empire, whose reach extended to the fortress city of Warkhome just south of Meadows' borders. Instead, the later Bosparanian Emperors merely made the first attempts to settle in the wild lands north of Veratia, as they called the city of Warkhome. Back then, the empire was already in heavy decline after the catastrophic outcome of the First Battle of the Demon, which decimated the Bosparanian legions and weakened the hold the empire had over its border provinces.
The early human settlers of Meadows were left largely on their own, though they hardly considered that an issue. Many of these pioneers were sympathizers of the Garetian rebels, who had hoped to escape the Empire's grasp by settling on its very borders. Their attempt was largely successful, though the lack of protection from Bosparan had some unforeseen consequences.
Back then, Meadows was virtually a no man's land. Though it had a fertile heartland suited for agriculture and cattle-herding, its harsher borders were partially unexplored and essentially unprotected. The elves considered it an extension of their homeland, but took no offence to the human settlers and relations between the races were largely neutral.
However, this should change when the nearby orks invaded. They were led by Nargazz Bloodfist, an Aikar Brazoragh, or high chieftain of their people. He took the lands of Meadows, Griffinsford and the Valley of Svelt and built his Kingdom of the North on their territory. As such, the orks were the first to actually rule over the region as part of a proper state.
The Kingdom of the North was short-lived and fell after Nargazz was slain in the region known as Griffinsford in modern days. While the Bosparanian Empire managed to reincorporate Griffinsford into their empire, they lacked the strength to properly secure Meadows, resulting in it becoming a lawless frontier region, not unlike the modern-day Valley of Svelt. During these days, settlements such as the merchant outpost of Baliho and the border fortress of Trallop were constructed.
Shortly after the Bosparanian Empire collapsed and the Garetian rebels formed their own empire under the rule of Raul of Gareth, this newly formed Middenrealm put its attention onto Meadows. Emperor Raul knew how important a strong, fortified border would be for the safety and prosperity of Garetia, so he annexed Meadows and made it one of his new empire's duchies. This annexation happened without bloodshed, as the settlers of Meadows, now the descendants of the original Garetian sympathizers, were all too happy to join forces with the empire that defeated the hated Bosparanians.
This has led to Meadows being far less influenced by the Bosparanians as former core provinces of the ancient empire, such as Almada or Darpatia. For its entire history, the province has been the shield of the Middenrealm as a whole and Garetia in particular, with a strong martial tradition, but no significant achievements in terms of science or history. In fact, Meadows is often considered to be less developed than other Middenrealm provinces and a stereotype about its people paints them as crude, uncultured pig farmers. They are also seen as highly superstitious and prone to blame even mildly inexplicable happenings on supernatural forces. It is customary, of course, to never name these forces or else one could invite them into his home.
Instead of a classic education, many people of Meadows worship Rondra and have martial ambitions. The Church of Rondra has a strong presence in Meadows and there's a temple dedicated to the lioness within every city, as well as numerous shrines in the smaller towns and villages. This caused severe problems for the people of Meadows during the rule of the Priest Emperors, the fanatical Envoys of Light who had built their theocratic regime after the death of the last Middenrealm emperor of Raul's line.
Since these Priests of Praios saw other churches as threats to their absolute worldly and divine power, they heavily persecuted many of them, especially the Priests of Rondra, since they feared their martial skill. And since Meadows was the centre of faith for the Church of Rondra in the Middenrealm, the entire land was sanctioned heavily during these days.
Many battles were fought in the early days of the Priest Emperor reign and gradually, the sturdy fortresses of the Rondrians were conquered and torn down. The Theatre Knights of the Bornland, themselves a knightly order of Rondra, marched against the illuminated armies of Priest Emperor Aldec Praiofold and their climactic battle was also fought on the land of Meadows, in the Dragongap, the ravine that connects the counties of Baliho and Sicklewatch.
These dark days saw heavy casualties among the citizens of Meadows and many lived in fear of the Priest Emperors and their armies. Thankfully, the violent cleansing of Meadows stopped when Aldec Praiofold's friend and general of his armies, Walmir of Reeveshoff was killed during the battle for the Alackskeep in northern Meadows. The people of Meadows consider the ruined castle haunted ever since.
Worship of Rondra has gradually resurfaced after the end of the Priest Emperors' reign, with their successor, Rohal the Wise, supporting the Church of Rondra in their endeavour to rebuild Meadows. Faith in the divine lioness returned gradually and before the end of Rohal's reign, Meadows was once more the centre of faith for the Church of Rondra in the Middenrealm.
While it is true that the people of Meadows are typically less educated and definitely more superstitious than those in other parts of the realm, there are countless exceptions, though mages and scientists hailing from the province usually have to overcome the stigma of being a learned human from a province where Hesinde is rarely worshipped. There are virtually no public schools outside the key cities of Baliho, Trallop and Menzhome, though every larger settlement has at least one temple to Rondra and a majority of the people of Meadows, regardless of gender or age, know how to wield a weapon. The sole exception to their lack of education is classical courtly poetry, which is quite popular among the many knights of Meadows, who strictly stick to a traditional code of knightly honour and virtue. Knights are very important to the people of Meadows and it is expected of a warrior that they follow the knightly code of honour just as well. While most knights of Meadows are men, female knights are not unheard of and they receive the same recognition and praise as male knights.
The nobility of Meadows has a strong position of power and despite Emperor Hal's reforms, the feudal lords still have near-absolute power on their own lands as long as they pay the ducal tax collectors. The serfdom, a practice that is slowly getting out of favour in the southern parts of the realm, is still quite present in Meadows, with many of the poorer people being bound to serve their land and lord. Many of the noblemen and women of Meadows have been trained by one of the duchies prestigious warrior academies in their youth, receiving both, a martial and an academic education and while the lords of the southern Middenrealm have grown to enjoy peace and stability, the nobility of Meadows still prides themselves in their ability to lead their troops in battle if necessary.
The common people are simple folk, which can be equal parts good and bad. They are usually seen as humble and without higher ambitions, yet also uneducated and without manners. One thing everyone can agree on is that the people of Meadows are seen as the most friendly in the entire realm. Though outsiders, especially those of other races, are initially viewed with slight suspicion, few among the people of Meadows would turn away a wanderer in need of a bed for the night. The many villages of Meadows are tightly-knit communities, where people share their meagre belongings with each other and even with strangers. The hospitality of the people of Meadows is without equal and those who actually spend time among them typically speak of their humble friendliness and generosity.
Unfortunately, their focus on martial prowess over classical education is necessary. Though the Bosparanians saw little value in Meadows, it is actually a fairly fertile land and its central province, the County of Baliho, is one of the key granaries for the entire realm. This has attracted the envy or greed of its neighbours, in particular the orks to the west and the goblin tribes of the Black Sickle mountains to the east. Raids by Blackfurs or Redfurs are not uncommon and with such a wild and comparably sparsely populated land, not even the famous knights of Meadows can fully protect the borders from smaller raiding parties. As a result, it is common for farmers to be armed and ready to defend themselves with spear and bow if necessary, especially in the border regions of the duchy.
The orks in particular have a difficult history with Meadows. The proud shamans of the Blackfurs still see the fertile land as their rightful property, considering it once belonged to their Kingdom of the North, over a thousand years ago. For centuries, Meadows has been at the front of every orkish incursion into the Middenrealm and the people of the duchy have grown to hate the Blackfurs with a ferocity unparalleled in other parts of Aventuria. Whereas a nobleman from the southern city states would view an ork as a curiosity, a man of Meadows would kill any Blackfur on sight. Many of the barons of Meadows even pay a bounty for every dead ork or goblin.
Though such measures seem harsh, they have proven to be necessary in the past. Just a few years before the start of the story, in the year 1010 after Bosparan's Fall, Meadows gained unfortunate prominence when the orks launched their devastating attack on the Middenrealm, the Orkenstorm. Though the neighbouring Margravedom of Griffinsford had to suffer more severely under the orks, Meadows was actually the first stage of their invasion.
In the early days of the year 1010, the orkish highwayman and exile Sadrak Whassoi managed to infiltrate the city of Baliho, where he attempted to assassinate Duke Waldemar of Lionshead during a parade. He was confronted by the guard captain Heldar of Arpitz, who managed to stall the ork long enough for the duke to get to safety even after receiving lethal wounds in the struggle against the Blackfur. Despite his failed assassination, Sadrak was rewarded by the orkish warchief, Ashim Riak Assai and he was named Marshall of the orkish army, the Legion of the Red Moon.
The orks managed to devastate the easternmost province of Meadows, the County of Herostand, razing it to such a degree that even five years later, the rebuilding efforts have barely managed to clean up even half of the damage done. They also unsuccessfully besieged the city of Baliho, though Sadrak Whassoi soon led them to more promising grounds, past the Meadows and into Garetia. To this date, it was the only time Meadows failed in its duty to guard the Middenrealm from any northern incursion.
That being said, the duchy and its army still played a major role in defeating the Blackfurs, as Duke Waldemar of Meadows and his men came to the aid of Garetia's army, with the duke himself leading the centre of the Middenrealm formation during the fight. Thanks to the resilience of his men, the Middenrealm army held out for over two days until support from Almada arrived. Due to the massive losses the orkish army has suffered during this failed invasion, the situation in Meadows has calmed down nowadays, though darker and stranger threats are looming on the horizon.
The duchy has been ruled by the House of Lionshead for the past four centuries. Even before they became the rulers of Meadows, the knights of Lionshead have been known for being among the most renowned warriors in the entire duchy and this tradition has only continued after they ascended to the position. The current duke, Waldemar of Lionshead, is still a fighter without equal in his realm and his daughter and heiress Walpurga easily continues in his footsteps.
Meadows itself is separated into four counties, each made up by dozens of smaller baronies. The westernmost province is Herostand, by far the most resilient and well-defended part of the duchy, as it borders on the Darkencrest, the harsh mountain range that separates Middenrealm and Orkland. It was heavily devastated during the Orkenstorm and to this day, the people struggle to rebuild their county. The Church of Rondra is particularly strong in Herostand and one of their holy fortresses, the Rhodestone, is located here. As such, the people of Herostand worship Rondra in particular and due to a lack of perspectives and greater work opportunities, many young people of Herostand join the army.
The northern county of Bearswood is the seat of Duke Waldemar himself, who rules over the fortress city of Trallop, the northernmost outpost of the Middenrealm, right on the southern shores of the dreaded Lake Lamprey. It was also affected by the orkish armies during the Orkenstorm, though the Blackfurs never made it as far as Trallop, so unlike Herostand, the rebuilding efforts have finished swiftly. Bearswood is home to the knightly orders of Meadows, the pride and joy of the entire province and one of the backbones of the military might of the duchy. Furthermore, Bearswood is home to some of Meadows' darkest mysteries, such as the haunted witch forest of Blue Firs and Lake Lamprey, the largest lake in Aventuria, which is connected to downright frightening tales of beasts dwelling within.
To the east lies the county of Sicklewatch, a sparsely populated county bordering on Tobria, located almost entirely in the foothills of the Black Sickle and the Red Sickle. It is a heavily forested region and home to many unsavoury characters, such as bandit groups or goblin tribes. The people of Sicklewatch live hard lives and often have to arrange themselves with the local bandits. Over the years, many of them have come to prefer the bandits to the ducal tax collectors and there are parts of Sicklewatch that are downright under control of self-proclaimed bandit barons, unlawful rulers, often nothing more than cutthroats who took control of a remote mountain tower or ruined fortress in the Sickle mountains. These parts of the county are a part of Meadows in name only. Though entirely spared the horrors of the Orkenstorm, the people of Sicklewatch are no stranger to tragedy, as the bandits and the occasional goblin raid makes it the most dangerous county of Meadows.
Finally, the southern county of Baliho is the largest, richest and most fertile of the four counties. It makes up most of the rich heartland of the province, where lush plains hold many opportunities for cattle herding. While the nobility is traditionally strong in the other counties of Meadows, rich commoners have gained a lot of influence in Baliho, with the old nobility often being impoverished when compared to large trading companies and landowners, whose wealth grows steadily. These cattle barons are often the true authority in the county and the conflict among them occasionally leads to skirmishes between their respective armed forces right in the heart of Meadows. At its centre lies the merchant city of Baliho, the richest city in Meadows and the only one that can offer a standard of living comparable to the great cities of the southern Middenrealm.
Survival at any Cost - The Margravedom of Griffinsford
Few Middenrealm provinces have ever suffered as greatly as the Margravedom of Griffinsford. Originally part of the Bosparanian province of Garetia, it was most affected by the empire's weakness after the First Battle of the Demon. In the following centuries, the declining empire was unable to fully protect its vast borders anymore. Griffinsford, then known as Saljeth, was taken by the ork Nargazz Bloodfist and turned into the capital of his orkish Kingdom of the North.
For over a century, Saljeth was the heart of the Kingdom of the North, with its human inhabitants cruelly enslaved and forced to serve at Nargazz's whim. According to myth, it was there that the griffin Scraan, a servant of Praios, appeared to the enslaved humans and inspired them to fight against their oppressors. Together with an army of elves and dwarves, the orks were defeated and Nargazz was slain. Though Saljeth was freed, it was nearly entirely destroyed during the war. The Bosparanians managed to reincorporate the region back into their declining empire and the humans of Saljeth rebuilt their city, now under the name of Broadsford.
Just a few decades later, the northern half of the empire separated after the Second Battle of the Demon and formed the Garetian Empire, the Middenrealm, with Raul of Gareth as its new emperor. Griffinsford was once more part of the Kingdom of Garetia, but even then, its strategically important location close to the Orklands gave it a great deal of local autonomy and the Count of Griffinsford was almost equal in power to the other provincial rulers of the realm.
Fittingly, Griffinsford became a province of its own when the Priest Emperors usurped the throne of the Middenrealm. During their theocratic regime, several important Middenrealm counties, such as Perricum, Beilunk and Griffinsford became separate provinces, the so-called Illuminates. Around that time, Griffinsford also gained its current name after a visiting high priest of Praios saw a griffin soaring over the city, which he interpreted as a holy sign from Praios himself.
The Illuminate of Griffinsford remained separate from Garetia for the entire reign of the priest emperors, though their successor, the Mage Emperor Rohal the Wise undid their work and re-integrated Griffinsford into Garetia proper. To this day, however, the people of Griffinsford look back upon the reign of the Priest Emperors with unusual fondness. Whereas they are painted as cruel tyrants in most of the realm, Griffinsford remembers them as laying the foundation for its later independence from Garetia.
Afterwards, Griffinsford and the surrounding county repeatedly tried to gain more autonomy within the realm and Garetia. Repeatedly, they were at the front of orkish raids into the Middenrealm and the otherwise fertile landscape shows heavy signs of warfare to this day. As such, the people of Griffinsford have long since demanded proper recognition for their fight against the orks. Whereas the neighbouring Duchy of Meadows has long since gained the praise it deserves for keeping the realm safe, the people of Griffinsford often felt their sacrifice overlooked.
This changed in the later years of Emperor Reto's rule. In the year 982 BF, he granted the county the boon it long since desired. It was raised to the status of a Margravedom, a province of the Middenrealm largely equal to the duchies that surrounded it, though its ruler, the margrave, is always appointed directly by the emperor and unable to bequeath the title to their children.
The most major event in Griffinsford's history happened during the Orkenstorm, where the young Margravedom was once more at the front of the orkish attack. The unusually numerous Blackfur army downright annihilated the first, second and third line of defence, with the entire army of Griffinsford crushed. The Blackfurs managed to take the city by force, though only a token force was left to actually hold it, as the main army moved deeper into the Middenrealm.
The Church of Praios, who considered Griffinsford a holy site, used this mistake to send a group of elite soldiers to retake the city before the main orkish army would notice them. This group was led by Avesius Marcian, an Inquisitor of Praios. Appointing him to lead the daring attack was met with severe criticism within the church, as Marcian was by no means without critics within the ranks of the inquisition. He was known as a highly unorthodox member of the church, whose tactics and views often bordered on heresy. Strict and short-tempered, he has made a fair share of enemies in younger years, most notably when his forbidden relationship to a Garetian witch was uncovered. Back then, the only thing saving Marcian from the pyre was his willingness to personally execute his beloved. This ruthlessness proved his devotion to the church, but few inquisitors were willing to ever trust a man who would turn on the love of his life without a second thought to save his own neck.
Nonetheless, Marcian proved to be the right man for the task, as he inspired the people of Griffinsford to take up arms and drive the Blackfurs from their city before the main force of the orkish army even noticed what had happened. His first move under the authority of the church itself was to disempower the Margrave of Griffinsford, Shazar of Worthlington, whose weak leadership allowed the Blackfurs to launch their devastating surprise attack on the Middenrealm to begin with. Placing the city under martial law, the inquisitor ordered Griffinsford to be fortified for the inevitable orkish counterattack.
Virtually everyone expected the city to fall again within a few weeks. Eventually, it held out for almost an entire year until the imperial troops managed to defeat the orkish army during the Battle on the Silken Plains just before the gates of Gareth. Prince Brin of Gareth managed to break through the orkish siege and with this final defeat, the Orkenstorm was brought to its end.
There are few in Griffinsford who wouldn't attribute the good outcome of the siege to Marcian and his leadership. From the very beginning, the inquisitor acted harshly and placed the entire city under martial law. Unusually for an inquisitor of Praios, he used every tool at his disposal, to the point of even using tactics many would consider dishonourable or downright cruel, albeit objectively necessary. Without him, Griffinsford would have fallen to the Blackfurs, who would have undoubtedly burned the entire city to the ground for its defiance. Furthermore, by binding a part of the orkish army through the siege of Griffinsford, Marcian deprived the main host of the Blackfurs their much-needed reinforcements during the later stages of the Orkenstorm.
That being said, the inquisitor never received the honours many citizens of Griffinsford believe he deserved. His tactics strayed far from what is acceptable for the moral guardians of the church and quite often they even strayed from Middenrealm martial law. Most controversially is a temporary alliance between Marcian and Zerwas, the Arch-Vampire of Griffinsford, a creature of the Nameless One and enemy to the Twelve Gods even above the Blackfurs. The vampire clearly helped solely to further his own sinister goals and though the alliance between him and Marcian lasted only briefly, the fact that it happened at all made Marcian a heretic by church laws. While minor transgressions would have been overlooked in the face of his overwhelming success, his alliance with Zerwas and other actions are inexcusable for even his most ardent supporters within the church.
It was therefore a small mercy that the inquisitor himself found death during the final moments of the siege. Some claim he outright sought to die in combat to avoid a thorough investigation by the inquisition, who would have undoubtedly sentenced him to death for his numerous questionable actions during the siege. No matter what, though, the people of Griffinsford consider him their hero, without whom the city would have fallen and with it, quite likely, Gareth as well.
This crucial siege, now known as the Year of the Griffin among contemporary Middenrealm historians only strengthened the power of the Church of Praios within the Margravedom. The current ruler, Irmenella of Worthlington, is young and inexperienced, with many believing she was chosen solely because she can be a puppet ruler for Prince Brin and the Envoy of Light. In the absence of a strong worldly ruler, the church has risen to tremendous popularity.
The people of Griffinsford have always been pious supporters of the Church of Praios, but in the three years since the Year of the Griffin, their faith has grown stronger than ever. The remote western border of the Margravedom, where the fertile hills of Griffinsford slowly grow steeper, in the foothills of the ominous Darkencrest, the mountain range that separates the Middenrealm from the Orklands is home to the Holy Order of the Keepers, a monastic order of the Church of Praios dedicated to keeping dangerous and forbidden secrets from falling into the wrong hands. Through them and the ever-present inquisition, Griffinsford embodies the praiotic values like no other Middenrealm province.
The current Margravine of Griffinsford is Irmenella of Worthlington, Shazar's only daughter and heiress. Many were surprised that Prince Brin allowed another member of the Worthlington family to ascend to such an important position after the monumental failure of her father, but Irmenella has not disappointed him so far. She is young, barely sixteen years old, so the day-to-day business of the Margravedom is taken care of by her steward, though under her rule and thanks to significant aid from Garetia and the North Marches, Griffinsford is slowly being restored to its former glory.
A Wolf Reborn - The Duchy of Tobria
The wild lands of Tobria have seen through trouble, turmoil and constantly shifting rulers. In ancient times, it was the heartland of the troll civilization and to this day, a select few of their megalithic architecture remains in the more remote corners of the duchy, even though the few remaining trolls themselves have long since abandoned their homes in favour of more secure valleys within the Troll Peaks.
The first human settlers came not, as it is the case with many of the Middenrealm provinces, from the expanding Bosparanian Empire, but rather from the Tulamid lands. In these ancient days, around the year 1600 before Bosparan's Fall, the Tulamid lands and the Khom desert were ruled over by the Mage Moguls of Gadang, a group of thirteen exceptionally powerful mages, led by Assarbad of Zhamorrah. They were tyrants, who openly consorted with demons and used their people as just another resource to fuel their own arcane powers. Freedom of religion was virtually non-existent, with the Mage Moguls themselves being worshipped as gods.
Back then, Hesinde was not a widely worshipped goddess by the humans, for her origins lie within the Lizardfolk pantheon, who worship her as H'Szint. The Mage Moguls tolerated no gods aside from the few they begrudgingly allowed to keep their people satisfied. As such, all who worshipped another god, especially one belonging to the hated lizardfolk was viewed with suspicion. Furthermore, Hesinde's followers often had arcane secrets of their own, which the ever-curious Assarbad yearned to take for himself. As such, all who worshipped this new goddess were soon enslaved by the Mage Moguls.
Two tribes of Hesinde worshippers, the Al'Hani of modern-day Arania and the Beni Nurbad of the Khom desert, gained a vision seemingly from their goddess herself, where she warned them of Assarbad's ambition and convinced them to leave their homes before the Mage Moguls would come for them. This saved their lives, but their exodus was only the beginning of their struggles.
First, they newly mingled tribes of the Al'Hani and Beni Nurbad settled in the lands of the Sultanate of Nebachot, where the Middenrealm port city of Perricum is located in modern days. This proved to be too close to the realm of the Mage Moguls, who soon coerced the people of Nebachot to turn on the Al'Hani. The Nebachoti first tried to resist the Mage Moguls, but they stood no chance and were soon vassalized by the Mogul Empire. To avoid complete annexation, the Sultan of Nebachot agreed to wage war against the Al'Hani, to gain their secrets for Assarbad.
At first, the Al'Hani within the lands of Nebachot were persecuted and imprisoned. However, a few decades before this fateful war between Nebachot and the Mage Moguls, a large part of the Al'Hani people, feeling that their journey to a safe homeland of their own was by no means finished, had already left their erstwhile home in favour of a perilous journey across the Troll Peaks.
Beyond that, they found a lush coast, uninhabited by humans, with only a handful of goblin tribes quickly driven away by the cunning Beni Nurbad warriors and the powerful mages of the Al'Hani. There, they laid the foundation of their own nation, the Sultanate of Bey-el-Unukh. Their capital city is known as Beilunk in the modern Middenrealm and a major port for the Middenrealm fleet.
While the Mage Moguls were busy with suppressing the growing unrest among their people, they sent their new vassals, the Sultanate of Nebachot, to attack the new realm of the Al'Hani. The war between Nebachot and Bey-El-Unukh lasted for two decades, during which neither side was able to gain a military advantage. While most of the Al'Hani stayed, some tribes, predominantly from the Beni Nurbad, journeyed further to the north, where they became the ancestors of the modern Norbardians, the nomadic merchant people of the north.
Eventually, the Mage Moguls lost the war against the Tulamid rebels, led by the legendary hero Sulman al'Nassori and the Mogul Empire was overthrown in favour of the Diamond Sultanate that stretched across all of the Tulamid Lands, the Khom desert, Meridiana and Nebachot. The Diamond Sultans, impressed by the Al'Hani and their long resistance against the Mage Moguls, opted for peace between their realms.
As such, the Al'Hani were able to settle in Tobria relatively undisturbed for centuries, while their culture excessively mingled with that of the Tulamids. Through marriage, their dynasties were even bound together. This is mainly the achievement of the Al'Hani queen Bilkis, who is rumoured to have charmed the Diamond Sultan through the use of dark lizardfolk rituals, eventually becoming his favoured wife and queen of an independent Al'Hani empire.
This Al'Hani realm was predominantly ruled by women, as it is customary within the Al'Hani and their modern-day successor state, the Mhaharanyat of Arania. As such, though contemporary sources called it the Kingdom of Al'Hania, modern historians occasionally call it the Queendom of Al'Hania. Men were allowed to inherit as well and some great rulers of the Al'Hani have been men, but by their laws, the eldest daughter would always inherit before the eldest son, which led to most of the Al'Hani rulers to be women.
Though peace between the Al'Hani and the Diamond Sultanate was secured, a new threat soon emerged, not from the south but from the west. The Queendom's rapid expansion has brought it into conflict with another great power of the Aventurian Continent, one with similar desires to expand its territory into the fertile lands of Tobria: The Empire of Bosparan.
The wars between the Al'Hani and Bosparan were brutal and led to the fall of Bey-el-Unukh itself, in the year 872 before Bosparan's Fall. The persistent Al'Hani still defied Bosparanian rule and their new capital became the northern city of Ysil'elah, which is known as Ysilia in modern days, the capital of the Duchy of Tobria.
Eventually though, the Al'Hani had to accept the Bosparanian peace offer. Their queendom became a province of the empire and it was meant to be ruled over by a cousin of Emperor Yarum-Horas. Said cousin never arrived in the rebuilt Al'Hani capital of Beilunk, his whereabouts a source of speculation to this day. Fed up with their defiance, Yarum-Horas allowed the Al'Hani queens to still rule over their land, as long as they swore fealty to him.
This uneasy situation could only last as long as the Al'Hani remained strong enough to thwart any Bosparanian hopes of taking the remote province without suffering massive casualties. Everyone knew it could not last forever. No one, however, expected the end of the Al'Hani queendom to come not from outside forces, but from within.
The second-to-last queen of the Al'Hani, Rasesha, was murdered by her own husband, Amagomer the Bloody-Handed, who sought to take control over the realm for himself. His brief rule saw a massive civil war between his supporters and those loyal to Rasesha and found its end when his adopted son, Sildoryan the Smith, slew Amagomer and became prince-consort to Rasesha's daughter Merisha, the last queen of the Al'Hani.
The civil war was so costly that the Al'Hani were unable to resist the Bosparanian legions any longer. Yarum-Horas' great-grandson Jel-Horas saw the opportunity and just a decade after the victory over Amagomer, he took the entire land by force, driving the Al'Hani either into another exodus to their Norbardian cousins in the north, or into complete submission to the empire. In place of the Queendom of the Al'Hani, Jel-Horas formed the first Duchy of Tobria, one of the three pillars of Bosparanian power in the north alongside the Kingdom of Rommilys and the Kingdom of the North Marches.
Unfortunately, Tobria continued to be hard to rule, especially after one Duke of Tobria married the leader of an Al'Hani tribe, not knowing that she was actually a great-granddaughter of Queen Merisha, therefore giving the Al'Hani queens another chance to rule over their ancestral homeland. The frequent insurrections and riots among the Tobrian population forced the last few of the Bosparanian emperors to react harshly and their punishments decimated significant parts of the Tobrian population. Especially the last empress of Bosparan, Hela-Horas utterly decimated the Al'Hani tribes and by the time the empire fell, almost no human of openly Tulamid ancestry remained in the entire Duchy of Tobria.
To this day, Al'Hani influence can be felt throughout Tobrian folklore and their burial mounds can be found across the entire countryside, though the actual Al'Hani people have been almost completely decimated by the Bosparanians. Their descendants are the Norbardians of the northern wilds and, to a lesser degree, the Aranians to the south.
It took centuries until Tobria managed to fully recover from the last emperors' decrees. In the meantime, the Bosparanian Empire was toppled by Garetian rebels and the new Emperor of the Middenrealm, Raul of Gareth, issues special boons and favours for new settlers who would help with rebuilding the war-torn lands of Tobria. During this time, the land had no duke, instead it was ruled by a steward from the fortress city of Warunk, who oversaw the re-population effort.
Still, it would take centuries until Tobria sufficiently recovered. During these centuries, many Tobrian cities were newly founded or rebuilt on top of old Al'Hani ruins, only their names vaguely hinting at the original masters of this land. Legend has it that the first Duke of Tobria under Middenrealm rule, Jarlak of Honourstone, was chosen not by Emperor Rohal the Wise, during whose reign said re-population effort was finally finished. Instead, Firun himself, or one of his champions, led Jarlak into the forest, where he found Shaleyars, the sword with which Sildoryan the Smith, last prince-consort of the Al'Hani Empire slew his adoptive father, the tyrant Amagomer. Until Bosparan's Fall, where it was stolen by a marauding tribe of goblins, the sword had been the symbol of the Tobrian dukes.
Though Jarlak was merely a small baron, it is said that Rohal the Wise considered this a fulfilment of an old prophecy regarding the fate of Tobria. He named him the first Duke of Tobria in centuries and his family, House Honourstone, held this title ever since. This went against the wishes of the Tobrian stewards, House Mordaine of Warunk, who feared their own family line would vanish into obscurity. Time would prove them right, as House Mordaine is extinct nowadays, whereas House Honourstone is still thriving, making it one of the oldest noble families in Aventuria who still managed to keep prestige and titles.
It would be tempting to say that House Honourstone has been a loyal vassal for the trust Rohal has put into them. Unfortunately, this would not always be the truth. Almost a full century before Answin of Ravenmouth made his first unsuccessful attempt to usurp the throne of the Middenrealm, it was a Tobrian duke who made an infamous bid for the throne. In the year 902 BF, the Middenrealm throne was without an emperor after the Eslamid dynasty had died out. Dozens of smaller noblemen, all distantly related to the Eslamid emperors, tried to win the crown during this period, the Interregnum.
The most infamous of these was Kunibrand of Honourstone, then Duke of Tobria, with only questionable relations to the Eslamids. The first time he declared himself emperor, he provoked open war with the allied forces of Garetia and Darpatia, who had rallied behind Tedesco of Perricum, Steward of the Middenrealm. This war, the Tobrian War, lasted for seven years and would weaken both sides to the point where Tobria and Darpatia were nearly bankrupt.
Eventually, Kunibrand lost a decisive battle at the Trollgap and had to flee from his enemies. With a few loyalists, he hid in the Bornland, where he spent the next five years building new alliances with the bornish Bronnjars and with Amene Firdayon, Queen of Horasia to the south. When he returned, he did so in full force, with his army, strengthened by Horasian troops from the south and mercenaries from the Bornland managing to retake Tobria at once, before conquering Rommilys and Warkhome, essentially forcing the Duchy of Darpatia to submit to his rule.
In the Chords of Warkhome, the self-styled Emperor divided the Middenrealm between himself and the Horasian Empire, with Garetia meant to remain an independent buffer state between the two great powers. It never came to this, however. The people of Garetia revolted against their steward, Tedesco of Perricum, even though he had been their saviour and protector during the Tobrian War. In his stead, they chose the charismatic warlord Balduron of Mersley to lead them.
Indeed, under Balduron the Middenrealm army managed to decisively defeat Kunibrand's army at Eslamsbridge, where the self-styled emperor found his own death. With him gone, the alliance between Tobria and the Horasian Empire dissolved and though Balduron died from wounds suffered during this final battle just weeks later, his son Perval was left to ascend to the throne as Perval of Gareth, nowadays infamously known as Perval the Cruel, the founding father of the current Garetian dynasty, the rulers of the Middenrealm.
Despite his grim reputation, Perval showed mercy to his Tobrian foes. He even allowed the House of Honourstone to keep their titles, though he hand-picked the new Duke of Tobria from the few Honourstones who remained loyal to him, while mercilessly executing the rest. Compared to Perval's other deeds, this was downright decent. The new duke, Silbahart of Honourstone, was reportedly loyal to Perval for the rest of his life.
That being said, roughly a hundred years later, the current Duke of Tobria, Kuniberth of Honourstone, would once more support a would-be emperor. When Answin of Ravenmouth, the power-hungry Duke of Darpatia, tried to usurp the throne, Kuniberth was one of his first and most powerful supporters. He did so out of a misplaced sense of family loyalty, for his wife was Answin's sister. That being said, while initially believing in the Raven Emperor and his claim to the throne, he was also among the first to become disillusioned when Answin tried to press his claim by force.
Ultimately, Kuniberth breaking his alliance with Answin was a deciding factor that led to the usurper's loss during Answin's War. This move earned him Prince Brin's full pardon and the Duke has patiently rebuilt his reputation as a stalwart and honourable man. This is not done entirely without self-interest, for the Duke needs support to rebuild his broken duchy.
Just a few years before Answin's War, in the year 1003 BF, Tobria was the epicentre of a catastrophe. Shortly before this, Emperor Hal of Gareth had exiled and shamed his First Imperial Court Mage, Gaius Galotta, for which the man swore bloody revenge upon the realm. Using an ancient ritual, he managed to dominate the minds of nearly a thousand ogres, who had lived in the foothills of the Tobrian mountain ranges since time immemorial.
This March of the Thousand Ogres struck the realm where it was at its weakest, in the heart of one of its provinces, away from the armies who guarded the borders. The ogres crushed the Tobrian army with ease, before utterly destroying the capital city of Ysilia. Only a few hundred of its people, among them the ducal family, was able to escape.
The ogres continued to pillage their way through Tobria, only meeting their end at the Trollgap, the border between Tobria and Darpatia, where a hastily assembled army, led by the brilliant Marshall Helme Haffax managed to outmanoeuvre and kill the ogres while an elite team of agents managed to break Galotta's hold over the creatures. Though the treacherous court mage managed to escape, the Middenrealm was saved and Tobria was able to be rebuilt once more.
These rebuilding efforts finally start to pay off. After a decade of construction, the city of Ysilia has recently been restored to its former glory, with Middenrealm monetary aid did the rest for the Tobrian mainland. The Tobrians are proud of their resilience, considering themselves the most stubborn people within the realm, probably rightfully. Though they are cold and quiet towards strangers, friends describe them as warm-hearted people, who cherish the little they have in life. They are proud of their land and proud of their House of Honourstone, or the House of Wolves as it is also known.
Kuniberth's realm is drenched in darkness and mystery. No other province has such dark tales surrounded to it, unless one believes in every made-up peasant story from the Meadows. In the case of Tobria, it isn't too hard to believe them all. Less fertile than Meadows, it is covered in dense, dark forests, some of which are home to dangers virtually unheard of in other provinces, such as the bestial ogres.
The whole province is also littered in old Al'Hani burial mounds and it is commonly known that not all of the dead rest peacefully. The darkest of these tales would be that of Amagomer the Bloody-Handed, the prince-consort whose murder of his own wife started the civil war that weakened the Al'Hani Empire to the point where the Bosparanians managed to take it over completely. It is said that though slain, he had to be locked within his tomb with all his riches and servants to prevent him from ever escaping as a vengeful undead.
As the only part of the Middenrealm aside from the Garetian county of Perricum south of the Troll Peaks, Tobria has a connection to the Sea of Pearls, the sea to the east of Aventuria. The Stormy Coast, consisting of the counties of Misamouth and Mendena, is a major centre of trade in Aventuria, where exotic goods from Maraskan and the Bornland first enter the Middenrealm by ship. Though the region itself is not particularly fertile and infamously heavy storms make it difficult to settle near the coast, the fortified harbour cities of Ilsur and Mendena are among the richest in all Tobria.
To the south, the county of Beilunk contains the former Al'Hani heartland, with the eponymous capital of Beilunk built directly on the ruins of Bey-El-Unukh, the largest of the Al'Hani cities. It is a fortified city located within a large bay and together with the city of Perricum a little to the south, it is the main harbour for the Pearl Sea Fleet of the Middenrealm Navy. Even though the entire county was once littered in Al'Hani ruins, they are fairly rare nowadays, as the late Bosparanian Emperors and later the Priest Emperors of the Middenrealm have done some heavy ethnic cleansing to rid the region of its Al'Hani roots, given that the previous inhabitants of the land were known as troublemakers who rejected the divine authority of Praios.
As such, the modern Beilunk has no similarities to Bey-El-Unukh. Al'Hani tombs in the region are almost entirely plundered and to this day, priests of Hesinde lament the loss of knowledge that came as a direct consequence of the Priest Emperors' ruthless cleansing. On top of that, it seems they were successful, as Beilunk is one of the Middenrealm's most zealous centres of Praios worship.
Farther away from the coast, Tobria becomes darker and wilder, a land of heavy forests and deep moors. The central counties of Warunk and Tobimoria are sparsely populated, with each barony containing only of a few hamlets and most of the people living within a few sturdy cities instead. The ones that don't are faced with the dangers of the wilds. There are tales of werewolves within the forests of Tobria, of vengeful spirits and malevolent witches.
As such, the people of the land often turn to druids to protect them. Even local barons have to accept the authority these strange protectors of nature have over the wilds. It is widely accepted that taming the region through sword and fire would be way too costly, so even the Church of Praios begrudgingly accepts that the druids have a necessary role as mediators between the wilderness and the people, at least in Tobria. For many rulers, especially the weaker ones, a druid serves as an advisor, though there are matters where the druids authority exceeds that of his nominal liege by far.
The people fear and revere the druids in Tobria, just as they fear and revere the land they live in. They are simple folk, though not as infamously uneducated as the people of Meadows, mostly since a majority of the people live in the cities, where education is actually affordable for many. Agriculture is not very widespread, partially due to bad soil and partially because it does too much damage to the wild nature the druids wish to preserve. Instead, Tobrian farmers are typically shepherds and the duchy is the leading producer of wool in Aventuria. The Tobrians are considered a bit odd by the rest of the Middenrealm, they are considered dour and solitary, yet also stubborn and unyielding. Due to the heavy mountains that block Tobria off from the rest of the Middenrealm, it benefits from a larger level of autonomy and during its weakest moments, the realm was only able to keep Tobria as a part of it because the duchy actively chose to stay, knowing that it needs the economic advantages of being a part of the largest political entity in Aventuria.
Another major geological feature of the province is the Tobimora, the second-largest river in the Middenrealm, which roughly divides the duchy in half, running through almost every county, but mostly through the county of Tobimoria. The land near the river is wet and swampy, while the river itself has made settling in Tobria significantly harder for a long time. The Al'Hani have settled almost exclusively south of the Tobimora and the Bosparanians didn't consider the regions north of it a part of their empire at all. Only in recent centuries, during the peaceful reign of the Eslamid emperors, did the Middenrealm manage to construct bridges across the dangerously wide river, allowing for a reliable passage through central Tobria.
The capital city of Tobria is Ysilia, located on the northern shore of Lake Ysli in the county of Sokramor. As described above, it was largely destroyed during the March of the Thousand Ogres and many of its inhabitants lost their lives or their material wealth. Emperor Hal of Gareth took pity on the plight of the Tobrians and granted the duchy extensive amounts of coin from the other provinces in order to rebuild, partially as a prestige project and partially out of a genuine desire to restore the homes of so many of his subjects.
The construction efforts were supported by dwarven architects from the Mountain Kingdom of Lorgolosh in the Mountains of Beilunk and thanks to them, the recently finished city of Ysilia is now one of the most beautiful in the entire Middenrealm, a white fortress city on the beautiful shores of Lake Ysli. It was built as a bulwark against any foe who dares to invade Tobria from the north and is a worthy seat for the ducal family, even though it is rumoured that Duke Kuniberth still prefers the temporary ducal seat at Mendena, to where he had to relocate during the rebuilding efforts.
Though the Tobrians worship all of the Twelve Gods piously, the god most Tobrians feel connected to is Firun, the Lord of the Hunt. Firun is rarely worshipped in other parts of Aventuria, where his grim reputation and the focus on snow and ice are off-putting for many people. Tobria however already is a land of cold, harsh winters and due to the lack of agriculture, many Tobrians make their living as hunters. His daughter Ifirn, the Swan Maiden, is worshipped as a gentle counterpart to her father's harshness and Tobria is also a centre of faith for her church.
Freedom Through Pain – The Troll Peakers
Part of what makes Tobria so hard to conquer is that it is almost entirely surrounded by dangerous mountain ranges or the unforgiving sea. The southernmost of these mountain ranges deserves special mention, for they are the Troll Peaks, home of some of Aventurias most savage human inhabitants, the eponymously named Troll Peakers.
A side branch of the first humans to settle in Aventuria, the Troll Peaker society has developed largely undisturbed by outside forces, leading to a unique, if rather crude culture and worldview. As one of the only people of Aventuria, the Troll Peakers worship no god. Instead, they have a dark and grim religion, in which they believe that every soul is doomed to suffer in unparalleled agony in the afterlife. It is therefore the duty of every Troll Peaker to strengthen their body and spirit, to endure great hardships and painful rituals, to steel themselves for the afterlife. In their belief, a soul that sufficiently strengthened itself and suffered great pain in their old life will be spared the worst the afterlife has to offer. A Troll Peaker embraces pain, physical and mental and the toughest of them have developed a pain threshold that goes way beyond what any ordinary human could suffer through.
Therefore, Troll Peakers are savage and fearsome warriors, who charge into battle without fear for their own lives. Their shamans, the Shochzul, conduct bloody offerings to the cruel spirits of the afterlife, often involving ritualistic scarring or mutilation. Those chosen for these dark rituals consider it a great honour and every Troll Peaker warrior is covered in countless ritualistic scars, which they consider a status symbol.
Physically, the Troll Peakers are among the largest humans in all Aventuria and it is quite common for them to reach at least seven feet in height. A chosen few grow even larger and stronger and it is rumoured that they have the blood of trolls in their veins. They are called Rochshaz in the Zhulchammaqra, the guttural language of the Troll Peakers and they are seen as a symbol of good fortune. In their society, the Rochshaz are almost exclusively great warriors and leaders.
Troll Peaker society is tribal in nature and absolutely unforgiving. Newborn who suffer from deformities or are otherwise deemed weak are killed at birth, so that their weakness won't drag the whole tribe down. Often, it is the mother herself who willingly performs the grisly deed. There is no place for weakness or gentle thoughts in Troll Peaker society, as their entire live revolves around strength and endurance, as they scramble to make a living in the barren Troll Peaks. Those who break the rules of the tribe are usually killed as well, though lesser offences see them merely exiled for life. As a result, quite a number of exiled Troll Peakers decides to travel to the lowlands, where they seek to make a living for themselves. True tribal Troll Peakers almost never leave their mountains.
Due to their great strength and fearlessness, Troll Peakers are highly sought after as bodyguards by the rich and powerful of Aventuria, especially those too scrupulous to outright hire ogres. On top of that, Troll Peakers are still essentially humans and have therefore no fundamental problems with adjusting to other societies. In fact, their worldview which is centred around endurance has prepared them well for a life in strange environments, such as the lush city states of the south or the courts of Horasia. Many see this as just another test to prove their willpower to the spirits of the afterlife.
A single exception to their largely undisturbed world happened several thousand years ago, during the Great Exodus of the Al'Hani. Back then, several Al'Hani family clans decided to settle within the remote Troll Peaks, where they could easily avoid the Mage Moguls and their servants, instead of travelling to an uncertain future beyond the mountains. Though neither written history nor oral tradition has recorded the fate of these settlers, traces of their language and customs survive within the Troll Peaker society to this day, indicating that they were eventually accepted as part of the savage clans.
It should also be noted that the Troll Peaks are home to one of Aventurias oldest and rarest races, the trolls, who also gave the mountain range its name. Countless millenias ago, the trolls were the dominant race in Aventuria, long before humans, elves or dwarves even appeared on the continent. They had one of the first high cultures ever recorded and though their achievements seem crude by modern human standards, the technological advantage of the younger races wouldn't have been possible without the groundwork the trolls prepared. Their massive stone fortresses can still be found in more remote corners of the world and while many consider them an extinct race, scholars know that this is not true.
The trolls are, in fact, not quite extinct, but certainly a dying race, with only a few hundred individuals remaining in Aventuria. They are the largest sentient race with the exception of higher dragons and still live in small tribal communities throughout the Troll Peaks, where they use their ancient and barely understood magic to hide entire valleys from curious eyes. They are declining in numbers and in innovativeness, with the lack of new impulses often being stated as a major factor in their eventual loss of power.
Trolls worship an archaic version of the pantheon of the Twelve Gods, though scholars have found evidence in ancient trollish keeps that a majority of their race once worshipped the Nameless One, the feared and hated thirteenth god. A possible explanation is that the Nameless One himself once uplifted the trolls to make them the dominant species of the fifth era and that when the gods fought against and eventually overthrew him, they massacred his servants unless they stood against the Nameless One from the very beginning. This could explain the sharp decline and currently stagnating numbers of the troll population. Whatever the truth, the trolls refuse to talk about this past.
That being said, they have an excellent memory and extensive written tradition, though both, their language and writings are incomprehensible for even the smartest of humans. Trolls share their legends through shamans, who each pick one student in their lifetime. When they pass on, they magically share their entire knowledge with said student, who takes on a new student to continue the cycle. Through this method, the trolls have managed to preserve secrets older than humanity itself and they guard them fiercely.
When not guarding their secrets, the trolls are surprisingly gentle with the smaller races. Though sightings are exceptionally rare, they are almost always peaceful and a troll would only use its massive strength and size to protect itself when pushed to the point where it has to face actual harm. To humans, they often seem clusmy and foolish, which is a result of significant differences in their respective cultures and an utter inability of the trolls to adjust to human societal norms. They also crave sweets and the people who live around the Troll Peaks tell tales of trolls who have been convinced to help a village in need if sufficiently bribed with gallons of milk and honey.
In the Name of the Lioness - The Amazon Queendoms
No description of Tobria would be complete without a mention of the Amazons, the warrior women of the Mountains of Beilunk. Most of them live in the southern part of the duchy, close to the dwarven kingdom of Lorgolosh and for the longest part of Tobria's history, their territories, though nominally part of the duchy, have been governed by the Amazons themselves, as autonomous rulers of their Queendoms.
Amazons are a militant order devoted to Rondra, the goddess of war and combat. However, they are certainly no part of the Church of Rondra and relations between them are strained at best, due to heavy differences in how the goddess should be worshipped. Amazons are fundamentalists, who worship a brutal, archaic and utterly uncompromising form of Rondra, which goes against the usually more classically noble views of knighthood and bravery that are preached by the warrior-priests of the church.
They are exclusively female and, in fact, view men as inferior in the eyes of Rondra. After all, the goddess herself is a woman, so the Amazons believe that women are naturally closer to her than men. Of course, the Amazons are by no means one unified group with unified views and there are hardliners and moderates alike, with the latter being more open-minded towards the Church of Rondra and male fighters, whereas the latter are harsh and dogmatic in their views. They see Rondra as the highest and most important goddess and yearn to prove themselves in combat to her, so that they may ride by her side in the afterlife.
That being said, their downright sexist views on men are not entirely unfounded and have their origin in the beginnings of the Amazon order. Originally, they were founded by the Tulamid warrior maiden Ayla Al'Yeshinna during the brutal rule of the Priest Emperors, who systematically hunted down those faithful to Rondra. Men and women were welcome, though a majority of the male Amazons quickly opposed Ayla's rule and tried to betray her to the Priest Emperors. This event spiralled out of control and nearly spelled the end for the young order, with the few surviving Amazons eventually coming to the conclusion that only women can become ideal servants of Rondra in the goddess' own image.
The only thing all Amazons have in common are that they are unparalleled fighters who are trained with sword, spear and bow, as well as quite likely the most experienced riders in all Aventuria. Their light cavalry has a legendary reputation and an Amazon warrior is practically born and raised in the saddle. Though most legends about the Amazons are exaggerated or toned down to make for a better, softer story, their skill in combat cannot be understated.
As stated above, they are exclusively female and this aspect also harbours one of the darkest aspects of Amazon culture. Though men are almost never permitted within the walls of their mountain keeps, they are allowed to settle on Amazon land, where they are protected and usually live in villages and hamlets with their own families. In exchange for protection, they pay taxes and give the Amazons part of their grain and livestock.
Every Amazon warrior is expected to take a mate at least once in her life, exclusively for procreation. These unions are consensual, though the children that come from them are solely under the care of the mother. In past centuries, if the baby was a girl, she was raised as an Amazon, but if it was a boy, the Amazons usually killed him, for they saw little value in male offspring. This horrible tradition earned them great infamy and hatred among the Church of the Twelve Gods, in particular among the clergy of Travia, Tsa and Praios. In recent years, the Queen of the Amazons, Yppolita of Kurkum, has slowly modernized the archaic Amazon society, with one of the most important changes being that male babies are no longer killed, but instead given to the father's family.
Most of the Amazons live in the Queendom of Kurkum, in the Mountains of Beilunk, though they have outposts in southern Tobria, in the Sickle Mountains and the Rashtul Wall, respectively the keeps of Lionstone, Keshal Yeshinna and Keshal Rondra. As a result of their brutal society and their infamous baby-killing history, it is no surprise that they have a poor relationship with the rest of Aventuria and live in a stagnant, declining society. Under their current queen, Yppolita, they have slowly opened themselves to the world and the queen even earned official acknowledgement from the Duke of Tobria.
In recent years, merchants have been allowed to enter the queendoms, though the Amazons remain fiercely territorial and wary of strangers. This opening to the outside world brought the Amazons some much-needed innovation and fresh wind, though it also brought new problems. The mage and illusionist Xeraan, desiring the gold of Kurkum, came to the keep disguised as a merchant. He cast forth a dark illusion of Rondra herself, with which he sought to control the Amazons while siphoning off their riches for himself. Under his dark influence, the Amazons began to raid and terrorize the nearby Tobrian villages, with their rites becoming more similar to those conducted by demon cultists who follow the archdemon Belhalar. All this time, they believed to act in the will of Rondra.
Though Xeraan was eventually stopped, the mage managed to escape with his life intact. The damage his actions have caused for the slow opening of the Amazon society has been unparalleled, however. To this day, Yppolita's course of introducing moderate reforms has been slowed almost to a standstill, as she has to battle orthodox enemies within her own order, who blame her for the illusionist's trick, while also trying to appease the Duke of Tobria, who is rightfully furious for the destruction her people have wrought while under the effects of Xeraan's spell. A part of the Amazons also refused to believe that Xeraan's illusion was just that. To this day, they continue to worship this dark illusion of Rondra, with many of them having since fallen to Belhalar. They are the darkest and most feared of the Amazons, called the Mactaleänata, also known as the Lionslayers. Cast out by their sisters, they live in the Troll Peaks, where they seek to honour Rondra by proving their worth in an endless combat. In reality, this means they kill and raid to their heart's desire. Even the surrounding tribes of the Troll Peakers live in fear of them, considering them dark demons from the afterlife, sent to torment them.
Sons of Sumu and Daughters of Satuaria – The Witches and Druids of Aventuria
Though druids and especially witches can be found in every region of Aventuria, they are nowhere as numerous and fundamentally a part of society as they are in Meadows and Tobria. Especially in the latter, druids are an integral part of the duchy itself and many consider them the true power behind some of the land's barons or even the duke himself.
Whereas the number of male and female druids is largely equal, witches are almost exclusively female and whereas any latently talented mage can decide to become a druid, a witch needs to be born as a witch, often by a witch mother, to actually join one of the many covens that exist throughout Aventuria. Druids worship none of the Twelve Gods, though they are on friendly terms with the churches of Firun and Tsa. Instead, they worship Sumu, the Mother Goddess herself, whose dying body has created the foundation upon which Aventuria rests. Witches meanwhile worship Satuaria, a relatively unknown goddess and sister to Tsa, with whom she shares many aspects. Meanwhile, Satuaria is not worshipped at all among the Church of the Twelve Gods and respectable theologians even dispute her status as a proper goddess. There are no temples for either Sumu or Satuaria and it is not known if they have ever given their followers a karmic blessing similar to the divine powers the priests of the Twelve Gods or their canonically accepted demigods wield.
The druids are especially crucial to the Duchy of Tobria. They are equal parts guardians of the untamed wilderness and protectors of isolated villages and hamlets who would otherwise be at the mercy of nature itself. This has given them a position of undefined but immense worldly power within the duchy. More remote barons all but require the cooperation of the local druids, who often serve as self-appointed advisors at their courts to ensure a peaceful coexistence between humans and nature. There are a thousand horror stories about barons who chose to ignore the druids' advice. Reportedly, even the duke himself needs the acceptance of the druids through their leader, Fyrnenbeard the Old. To their credit, however, the druids never offer bad counsel and to this date, they only object to barons who are fundamentally unfit to rule over their barony. They are respected, revered and thoroughly feared and not without reason.
Druids are inscrutable and scheming. Most of them live far removed from human society, in druidic groves and sacred places of power, only ever interacting with each other. This had led to them not quite understanding human society. Though they understand human needs and make sure that the surrounding villagers won't starve, they have neither patience nor tolerance for humans who want more than just fulfilling their basic needs, which is where human settlements and druids often clash. Lumberjacks who wish to cut more than their share, hunters who wish for more food than the druid is willing to grant them, miners who wish to open a lucrative gold mine in a region that stands under the druid's protection, all of them have to either get rid of nature's guardian or come to an arrangement.
Whereas they are revered in Tobria, they are feared in Meadows, where people only know the darker, scheming side of them. This is not true for most druids, who are well-intentioned, if somewhat ruthless keepers of balance. There is a particular sub-sect of druids that deserves special mention though, for they believe there is a fundamental imbalance between nature and civilized society. They are known as the Raisers of Power, for they seek to raise nature's power in this world. Unlike most druids, who protect a certain part of the land and never bother anyone who doesn't interfere in their quiet watch, Raisers of Power live among humans, to study and manipulate them. Where most druids come across as socially inept and shady, Raisers of Power are charming, confident and cunning. While most of them have mastered the darker arts of Influence and Domination magic, they rarely need to use their considerable powers, as they are equally skilled at conventionally manipulating their surroundings. A Raiser of Power always has some type of long-term scheme going on. Since druids have no organized leadership and Raisers of Power usually consider themselves a step above the normal druids, they are working exclusively on their own and their schemes are a major part of why druids as a whole have such a dark reputation.
Druids harbour ancient secrets among their order and have access to a strange nature-based magic, barely connected to the arcane powers the guild mages use for their spells. Their magic is hard to learn for any outsider not thoroughly trained in the ways of the druids from an early age, though not impossible to master, just like how a druid can learn proper spells from the guilds of magic, hinting at some common origin between the two schools of magic. Druids are masters of elemental magic and often so in tune with nature that they can summon elemental servants to do their bidding. Though they are skilled at domination magic, no proper druid would use such spells to dominate the mind of a nature spirit or animal, as their free will is one of the most sacred virtues of the druid order. Particularly complex rituals are cast with the help of a stone dagger, a tool which every druid shapes for themselves after finishing their apprenticeship. This dagger is infused with druidic magic and virtually indestructible. It allows the druid to store their magic and to channel their spells through it, as some sort of catalyst for their most powerful rituals.
Meanwhile, witch magic is usually seen as less potent than other schools of magic. This is partially true, no witch could ever unleash the sheer level of destruction as a trained guild mage with their spells. Their magic is less flashy, often less directly impactful or invasive and it would be easy to dismiss it as weak. This would be wrong though, as a skilled witch can easily be the equal of powerful guild mages or druids.
Witch magic puts its focus on secrecy. In fact, all but the most skilled mage hunters among the Church of Praios would never notice a witch casting a spell unless they are directly looking out for the signs. Instead of druidic rituals or the spells a guild mage has to intone, witch magic is intuitive and often completely non-reliant on gestures. They are potent healers and alchemists and can influence their surroundings, shaping wood and stone and control animals to follow their command. Infamously, witches can cast powerful curses upon their enemies. For this, they usually need hair, blood or bone of their victims. These curses are limited only by the power of the witch and her vindictiveness and can range from a mild case of bad luck for a limited amount of time to permanently disfiguring injuries or even a slow, painful death if not properly broken by an anti-mage.
Furthermore, witches can fly with the help of a special alchemical paste which they rub onto a wooden object of their choice, allowing it to fly at the witch's will. Though folklore usually has witches riding on brooms, they are by no means limited to them. Some witches prefer thrones, barrels or even beds to fly on and at least one coven on the island of Maraskan uses wooden armour to fly in. The possibilities are endless, as long as the object in question consists mostly of wood. Many alchemists would pay a fortune for the recipe to this paste, but the exact ingredients are perhaps the most strictly guarded secret of the covens.
Every witch is accompanied by a familiar, usually a smaller animal that has bonded with the witch at an early age. The witch and her familiar share a mental link and the familiar is always more intelligent than other members of its species, sometimes even bordering on true sentience. It is perfectly obedient to the witch, though like every animal, it has a personality of its own. Most witches have a familiar connected to their respective sisterhood (more about that below), but some witches have unique, more powerful familiars. The witch can see through the eyes of her familiar and can even cast spells through them. It should be noted though that witches who sell their soul to the Nether Hells and enter a demon pact tend to permanently lose their familiars, as the animals can rarely withstand the corrupting effects of the demonic powers. A familiar can die, which is a painful and potentially traumatic experience for the witch, in which case it is re-incarnated after a short amount of time. This new re-incarnation is still connected to the witch and is drawn to her position, no matter how far away and when meeting her again, the two reform the proper bond between a witch and her familiar.
Witches are both, less and more tightly organized than the druids. While all druids consider Fyrnenbeard the Old, the High Druid of Tobria to be their undisputed leader, witches lack such a unified leadership. Instead, they are organized into seven sisterhoods, among which countless covens exist. Virtually every known witch has joined one of the sisterhoods at some point, though there are many witches unaffiliated with a coven, which would be a smaller circle of witches who all follow the same sisterhood. These sisterhoods are more than just groups, they are philosophies and ways of life.
The largest of the seven sisterhoods are the Daughters of the Earth. As the most numerous, they have shaped the general view Aventurian humans have about witches like no other sisterhood has ever made. When an Aventurian thinks of a witch, they almost certainly will think of a Daughter of the Earth. They generally prefer unassuming, peaceful lives and wish for peaceful coexistence between witches and non-witches. For this matter, they are usually found not too far from smaller villages, where they help humans who usually don't have the luxury of a proper medic to tend to their injuries. Though they are organized in covens, with two or three witches often living together, many of them are solitary village witches whose coven is spread over several neighbouring villages. It should be noted that not every self-proclaimed witch actually has any magical powers or is connected to a coven. A true daughter of the earth can be recognized by her familiar, an unusually intelligent toad, which can usually be found near her. They treat the sick and help the pregnant, they ease the pain of those who are about to die and they bless fields and livestock.
Unfortunately, this also means that the Daughters of the Earth are those most likely to get blamed for misfortune. It is in the nature of some humans to blame what they don't understand whenever bad luck or tragedy befalls them. Though witches have access to intuitive magic, which gets stronger if they cast a spell under the influence of strong emotion, they are not always capable enough of saving someone from certain death and they cannot prevent unforeseen tragedy. This leads to agony and hatred against them and in the past, witches were regularly burned by more extreme factions within the Church of Praios, who view their unrestricted magic and lack of devotion to the Twelve Gods as open heresy.
Only in recent years has the witch-burning slowed down. Ironically, it was Emperor Perval the Cruel who outlawed the burning of witches. He did so not out of the – likely non-existent - kindness of his own heart, but out of a deep fascination for the darker aspects of witch magic, as well as a desire to prove himself stronger than the Church of Praios, who were outraged by him protecting the witches of the realm. After him, more moderate elements within the church took control of the clergy and to date, the church never fought against his law. Witches still get burned from time to time, but now only if they actually have placed a harmful spell upon another human being and thanks to Perval's decree, the amount of lynchings has significantly decreased.
Nonetheless, to counter violence against the witches, the second of the seven sisterhoods was born. The Concealed Sisterhood does not believe in the harmonious and peaceful co-existence between witches and non-witches. They are belligerent and often skilled with martial weapons as well as offensive magic, which is quite unusual for most witches. Most sisters of the Concealed Sisterhood do not live in one place, instead they travel from place to place to prevent or avenge injustice against their fellow witches.
The Concealed Sisterhood can always be found where there are many self-proclaimed witch hunters. As such, they are most numerous in the northern Middenrealm, even if they aren't many of them to begin with. They are virtually unknown south of Almada, where people have a more open mind for witches and their kind. Due to their willingness to even kill respected warriors of the Banray and similar organizations, the Concealed Sisterhood is openly persecuted and no witch would ever admit to be a part of them towards an outsider. Experts on the topic can recognize them by their familiars, which are almost always large owls.
While most witches belong to the Daughters of the Earth, this cannot be said about the deeper south, where a third sisterhood, the so-called Beauties of the Night, becomes more common. They are unusual, as they prefer not the solitary life in small villages or remote forests, but thrive in larger cities. As their name implies, they are almost always of extraordinary beauty, sometimes enhanced through arcane means.
The Beauties of the Night are outgoing and sociable, they enjoy conversation and stimulation. According to their philosophy, the meaning of life is to have as much pleasure as possible, often by any means possible. For some Beauties of the Night, this means wealth and luxury, for others it means carnal desires, for others it means intellectual stimulation, all of which can be found primarily in larger cities. Where there is pleasure and fortune, there are Beauties of the Night.
These witches share more than one trait with their familiars, who are always feline in nature, ranging from common house cats to lynxes or more exotic animals, such as leopards or even tigers for the most powerful of their kind. They are playful, yet easily bored, with sometimes severe mood swings and often a cruel streak. They enjoy toying with non-witches, breaking hearts and winning them over again. They strive to be seen and desired, to stand in the centre of attention and a Beauty of the Night rarely has a problem with acquiring a fortune in the city. In the south, they are often fully honest about their identity as a witch, something most northern witches could only dream of.
Elusive and solitary, the Seers of Now and Morrow are by far the least connected to the complex web of covens that connect all other Aventurian witches. They have no allies and no enemies among the witches, though all would do well to respect them. As the name implies, the Seers of Now and Morrow are prophet witches. They use strange rituals, offerings of blood, guts and bone and their own magic to get a glimpse of a future to come.
Their powers have given them the fear and admiration of many, including other witches. There's not many of the Seers as it is and their numbers are slowly dwindling, as prophecy is not something any witch with a shred of magic can learn, but a gift one needs to be born with. Sometimes, such a gift is not even recognized, as it often takes a lifetime of rigorous training to become apparent. There's tales of Seers of Now and Morrow who have trained for decades only to realize that their gift of prophecy is at best minor.
True Seers are rare and highly sought after. They are solitary and prefer not to be bothered by the countless supplicants who seek their aid. If they offer counsel, they do so out of their own free will. Seers of Now and Morrow are connected to ravens and usually have one or even several as their familiars and, as some claim, their spies.
The Sisterhood of Knowledge is the second-largest of the sisterhoods and the one with the most wide array of opinions and morals among them. The only thing that connects them is their pursuit of knowledge. Some of these witches outright worship Hesinde alongside Satuaria and they are on good terms with the Church of Hesinde and the grey and black guilds of magic. These witches, who openly converse with priests of the Twelve Gods and guild mages, are viewed with suspicion by the Concealed Sisterhood, but can enjoy some modicum of protection by their allies among the Church of Hesinde.
Other Sisters of Knowledge have darker intentions and some of the most ruthless witches belong to this sisterhood. Their pursuit of knowledge has led them down a darker path, as they investigate secrets that mortals were never meant to know. They converse with demons and with cultists of the Nameless One and sometimes even commit terrible crimes to further their studies. For the, the pursuit of knowledge is an obsession and they have long since left the path approved by Hesinde or Satuaria.
Most members of the Sisterhood of Knowledge can be found in southern Aventuria, as their familiars are snakes, who prefer a warmer climate. Since they have a love for books and libraries, they are typically found in the cities or near them, though travelling Sisters of Knowledge are not unheard of. Those who pursue the darker secrets of the world are usually forced to live solitary lives in the wilderness and while civilized society shuns them or even actively hunts for them, they are rich in knowledge and many of their sisters actively seek them out to learn from them.
The Travelling Fellowship is the sixth and smallest of the sisterhoods, with many of their members being only briefly a part of the sisterhood before joining other, more stable covens. They commit to a life on the road, which might sound beautiful at first, but is definitely not a life which most witches are satisfied with.
That being said, the Travelling Fellowship combines the joyful, sociable attitude of the Beauties of the Night with the peaceful kindness of the Daughters of the Earth. They live among travelling artists and often join their troupes outright, where they help with the various ailments these people have to deal with on a daily basis. They themselves are unreliable and spontaneous, yet always well-intentioned as long as they are treated well in return.
As the only sisterhood, the Travelling Fellowship has a rather large population of male witches, the so-called witchers. They themselves are rare and almost non-existent among the other sisterhoods, though for some reason, the ratio between the genders is almost equal among the Travelling Fellowship. Their familiars are small monkeys and they are typically seen as less powerful than other sisterhoods, due to their focus on non-invasive healing magic as opposed to curses or manipulation.
Finally, the Black Widows, the most infamous and even feared sisterhood. Primarily found in southern Aventuria, in the Horasian Empire and the city states of Meridiana, the Black Widows share some similarities to the Beauties of the Night, as many of them can be found in prefer larger cities, where they can be the centre of attention. In more secular places, the Black Widows live semi-openly, without fear of the Church of Praios or local authorities.
Unlike the Beauties of the Night, the Black Widows are not necessarily hedonistic and in search of constant pleasure. Instead, they all follow their own complex schemes, which can vary wildly from witch to witch. Some are indeed well-meaning, but in general, the Black Widows harbour some of the most sinister intentions among all the Sisterhoods. They are skilled schemers and masters at brewing poison, which they themselves are typically immune to. This, paired with their arachnid familiars has given them the less flattering moniker 'Spider Witches'. Their spider familiars often serve as the source of their potent poisons and the more lethal the familiar, the more powerful the spider witch.
The Black Widows are the only sisterhood with occasional political ambitions. It is an open secret that several noblewomen from Horasia and Al'Anfa are spider witches, including those who use their arcane powers and connections to the upper class for actual political gain. Though they are, as stated above, not always ill-intentioned, Black Widows are notoriously fickle and are willing to ruin entire families for even minor slights.
A special mention deserve the Avengers of Lycosa, a large coven of Black Widows on the island of Maraskan, who seeks to destroy the hold the Church of Praios has over the island, in retaliation of the Praiots burning their semi-mythical founder, the spider witch Lycosa. They live in small groups in the jungle, where they use the famous wooden armour of the Maraskani to fly from tree to tree, while dispatching of whole Middenrealm units with blade, spell and lethal poison.
The Dull Sons of Ogeron – The Ogres of Aventuria
The wilds of Tobria and the eastern Meadows are undoubtedly a dangerous place. Bandit barons rule over the lawless outskirts of the Middenrealm, goblin raiders terrorize the few villages who persist in such a harsh environment and orkish warbands occasionally descent from the Sickle Mountains into the lowlands. In terms of sheer destructive force, they all pale to another threat, for the northwestern Middenrealm is home to the largest known population of ogres.
Out of all the sentient races of Aventuria, aside from the higher dragons and trolls, both of whom are exceptionally rare, the ogres are the strongest and largest. Even a small northern ogre easily grows to nine feet in height and larger specimen can grow as tall as twelve feet, towering even over armoured human knights on their steeds. They are strong enough to rip said knight apart with their bare hands and can withstand a mind-numbing amount of pain and injury before going down. In appearance, they show vague similarities to humans, with whom they likely share a common ancestor, though they look typically far more brutish. They also gain fat more easily than humans, a necessity since many ogre tribes go through repeated periods of starvation, though their corpulent bodies hide their monstrous strength and surprising speed.
It is a small mercy for the other races of Aventuria that the ogres are also the least intelligent of Aventuria's sentient races. Few ever develop more than a child-like intelligence, which means that ogre culture is barely existent as it is. They construct only rudimentary tools and prefer to live in caves instead of structures they built for themselves.
Furthermore, paired with their low intelligence comes a short temper. Ogre society is inherently violent and ogre chieftains rule exclusively because they are the largest and strongest of their kind and conflict between ogres usually results in brutal fights, although ogres rarely fight each other to the death. As a result of this violent society, ogres are aggressive beings and their rudimentary intellect makes peaceful relations with humans difficult. An ogre attacks what he doesn't understand and there's a great many things he doesn't understand. However, ogres also defend their tribe against all outside threats and even the violent ogre chieftains have been observed tending to the weak and frail of their kind with great care and a gentleness one would not expect from them, perhaps because the weak and frail are of no threat to the chieftain's position.
At their highest, ogre culture is still primitive, with a rudimentary shamanistic tradition and a religion based around Ogeron, a giant king and former enemy of the gods, who, according to human theologians, created the ogres in an act of spite against the more refined creation of the other gods, but he was destroyed by Praios himself before he could give them proper intelligence. That is most likely highly exaggerated, but whatever their origin, the ogres have been a menace to Aventuria since time immemorial. Only their lack of intelligence and understanding even of concepts such as kingdoms has prevented them from ever building an ogre nation of their own, as a united ogre army is hardly stoppable.
Though ogres are aggressive by nature, some of the more unscrupulous elements of Aventurian society occasionally make use of their brutish strength and simple needs. The orks have long since learned to appreciate these qualities and a captured and trained war ogre is a symbol of status and great pride for their chieftains. Though the ogre population of the Orkland is constantly dwindling, the orks are known to pay good coin to any hunter fearless or stupid enough to steal an ogre infant from its tribe throughout all of Aventuria. These captured infants are raised into war ogres, miserable creatures, enslaved and mentally broken, completely subservient to the chieftain or shaman who owns them.
Though the ogres have long been looked down upon for their low intelligence and lack of culture, with them being at best a local menace and hardly a threat to the Middenrealm as a whole, they are actually crucial to one of the two great tragedies the realm had to suffer in recent years, with the other being the Orkenstorm. For this, it is important to know that ogres are also extremely vulnerable against domination magic and even an unskilled mage can easily control the mind of an ogre.
The mage Gaius Galotta, once the proud First Imperial Court Mage, now disgraced, publicly shamed and exiled, was far from unskilled. A prodigy on the field of domination magic, he used an ancient ritual which he himself recovered to gain bloody revenge on the Middenrealm and its emperor, Hal. In the year 1003 BF, he conducted this ritual and managed to control the minds of pretty much every single ogre chieftain in Tobria. In a short time, he managed to amass more than a thousand ogres and used them to wage war against the realm.
Though his army was defeated, as described above, this tragedy reminded the humans why they once feared the ogre tribes. It was not just a tragedy to the humans, however, but infinitely worse for the ogres. Already not as numerous as the shorter races, losing almost a thousand of their kind was downright devastating and to this day, the population hasn't fully recovered, especially as the Tobrians now openly hunt for the beasts who nearly destroyed their duchy. The ogres were driven back into the more inhospitable regions of the Middenrealm, with most of them living in the Sickle Mountains nowadays. Though 'smart' is a very relative term when it comes to the ogres, the smartest of them have actually since figured out that they were dominated and forced to march on the Middenrealm. As such, ogres have recently developed a fierce hatred against all kinds of magic, vowing to never be controlled again.
Unlike their dull northern cousins, the Black Ogres of southern Aventuria are actually rather intelligent, with most of them having little trouble integrating into human society. They are slightly shorter (usually growing around 7-8 feet in height) and covered in black fur, which leads to many northern travellers mistaking them for large orks. While they are still not particularly great thinkers, they are articulate and capable of learning. Though many of them are hired as cheap work force by the rulers of the city states of Meridiana, a select few actually managed to make a name for themselves. Their strength and cruelty makes them highly sought after by slavers and it is said that anyone who hires a black ogre to guard his slaves doesn't have to worry about runaways ever again. Due to this, many free black ogres also choose to get involved with the slave trade in one way or another.
Important people of Meadows and Tobria
Duke Waldemar of Lionshead
Waldemar comes from a long line of warriors and for the entirety of its existence, his ancestors of House Lionshead have ruled over the Duchy of Meadows with strength and pride. Ruling over such a vast, cold and dangerous land requires a particular kind of ruler and Waldemar is absolutely up to the task ever since he inherited the title from his father, who died at a young age when killed by marauding orks.
His people affectionately call him 'Waldemar the Bear' and he resembles this animal in both appearance and character quite remarkably. He is taller and stronger than the average human, as well as much hairier, with his wild, unkempt beard having become his signature look. Though usually jovial and good-natured, he also has a heavy temper and is relentless if angered. People who meet him with respect or good intentions can be certain to get along with him, whereas he has absolutely no patience for sycophants or those who look down on him for his rough attitude and lack of proper education.
While far from stupid, Waldemar is indeed not a big thinker. He is a decent tactician and one of the best warriors in his well-fortified duchy, but didn't learn how to read until he was already a grown man and all he knows about courtly manners and statesmanship comes from his far more savvy wife, the Horasian noblewoman Yolina of Aralzin. However, he has an unparalleled understanding of his duchy and its people, as well as a soft spot for their continued hardships. More than Yolina or any of his advisers, he knows what his subjects need and his best trait as a ruler is that he always puts these needs first.
Privately, the duke is a man with many friends. He loves to hold feasts, which can be seen by his belly and he loves to drink to the point where many would consider him an alcoholic. Furthermore, he can look back at decades worth of battles and he loves to speak of his accomplishments as a warrior. That being said, his failure to prevent the western Meadows to be ravaged by the orks just a few years ago still haunts him, even though there was objectively little he could have done to stop the Blackfur army.
Though his marriage with Yolina is by all accounts a happy one, the union is not particularly fruitful, as Waldemar has only one child, his daughter and heiress Walpurga. The Bear dotes on his daughter, especially as she comes after him in terms of personality and where a Middenrealm noblewoman is usually expected to pursue a higher education, he is highly supportive of her becoming a warrior like him.
Duchess Yolina of Aralzin-Lionshead
Few took Waldemar of Lionshead serious when he travelled all the way to the distant Horasian Empire to look for a suitable bride. Many laughed as he clumsily tried to gain the favour of the beautiful Yolina of Aralzin, daughter of the Count of Bethana. Yet for some reason, Yolina herself never laughed, nor did her shrewd father, who seriously considered and ultimately accepted the offer. After all, clumsy, illiterate and rough as he was, Waldemar was still the Duke of Meadows and a union between their houses would be of great political importance.
When Waldemar and his bride returned, many of his own people envied him for having married such a beautiful and well-mannered wife. Now that both are older, the same people envy him for having married a wife who is equal parts smart and capable of actually running a duchy. Though all of the worldly power in Meadows lies in Waldemar's hands, it is actually Yolina who runs the day-to-day administration of the province and she has done a remarkable job over the last three and a half decades.
Classically educated, well-mannered and calm, Yolina couldn't be more different from Waldemar, in appearance and personality, but perhaps it is this difference that actually made for such a successful marriage. Whatever the reason, the ducal pair has been happily married for three decades now. The only child from their union is their daughter Walpurga, the crown princess of Meadows. To Yolina's chagrin, however, her daughter is nothing like her, instead coming fully after her father.
Princess Walpurga of Lionshead
As the only daughter of Duke Waldemar and Duchess Yolina, Walpurga is the Crown Princess of Meadows. Though she thankfully looks more like her mother, she has her father's tall build and affinity for combat. She is an accomplished warrior, feeling more at ease in chainmail and plate armour than in the silken gowns her mother would prefer for her. The young princess is gifted with the sword and on horseback, but like her father, she lacks patience and tact. That being said, she is highly educated, especially for someone from the Duchy of Meadows, thanks to her Horasian mother and though she is a warrior first and foremost, she is more well-spoken and sharp-minded than one would suspect at first.
In recent years, Walpurga has been appointed as the head of the prestigious Order of Thunder, a knightly order from the Meadows that aspires to follow the teachings of the goddess Rondra in particular. As a devout servant of Rondra, who would have likely even joined the ranks of the goddess' priests if not for her status as the crown princess, Walpurga took great pride in this and few would doubt that she thoroughly earned it.
Privately, she has found the love of her life in Dedric of Honourstone, the younger son of Duke Kuniberth of Tobria. Taking a page from her parents' book, Walpurga fell for a man who is nothing like her, but the pair has reportedly been happily in love. The prince won her heart during a tourney, where he impressed her not with his skill in combat, but with his brave heart and stubborn endurance. She married the bard prince against her father's outspoken wishes, essentially forcing him to accept Dedric as his son-in-law.
The witches of Aventuria have no leader and outside of a coven, no witch would ever bow to another. However, if there is one of their kind whom they all look up to, it would be Luzelin, their queen in all but name. In her youth, she was known as Luzelin the Raven, for her dark hair, though as a woman in her mid-sixties, this name was hardly fitting anymore and once the grey streaks outweighed the black in her hair, the other witches began to call her Silverhair instead. She originally joined the Sisterhood of the Beauties of the Night, though holds no particular connection to them nowadays, as she favours to remain neutral to the disputes between the sisterhoods.
Luzelin is not the oldest of her kind, nor does she claim to be the wisest or most powerful, though other witches would argue in favour of it. Unlike many notable witches she is not egg-born and therefore just as mortal as any ordinary human. She is, however, undoubtedly the one who is most faithful to the teachings of the witch goddess Satuaria. Though she remains ever humble, the other witches, especially those in Meadows, look up to her and follow her words out of respect. It is her lifelong mission to unite the witches of Aventuria into one big sisterhood.
That being said, Luzelin's position is not unchallenged. She has a lifelong rivalry with the Aranian witch Asha saba Arataz, who tried to have Luzelin killed repeatedly in the past. Following Asha's example, many darker witches reject Luzelin's authority. She herself preaches a harmonic coexistence with the other people of Aventuria, a world in which witches have their place even alongside their mortal enemies, which does not sit right with the more radical elements among the witches of Aventuria.
In the long decades of her life, Luzelin has become a legend among the people of Meadows. Her home lies deep within the forest of Blue Firs, a place the people of Meadows consider haunted (mostly thanks to Luzelin's presence) and few in the region even dare to speak her name, mostly out of superstition. Luzelin does support this darker view of her just as well, as it keeps visitors away from her forest.
Margravine Irmenella of Worthlington
The young Irmenella is one of the most tragic noblewomen of the Middenrealm. Barely sixteen years old, she is the current Margravine of Griffinsford and therefore technically in a position of power and strength within the hierarchy of the realm at an exceptionally young age. However, few believe Irmenella enjoys her position, for her Margravedom was violently plundered by orks just months before she herself ascended to the position. Her predecessor was her father, Shazar of Worthlington, who was personally responsible for the failed defence of the Griffinsford troops against the orks during the Orkenstorm. For this, he was deposed and exiled by Avesius Marcian, the Inquisitor of Praios who was in charge of the desperate defence of Griffinsford in these days. It is rumoured that Shazar was tortured as well, in front of Irmenella and the higher noblemen, to ensure they all understood the price for failure during these dark times.
In any case, Irmenella hadn't been the same ever since the Orkenstorm. A lively girl before the Blackfurs attacked, something within her has broken during the Year of the Griffin, leaving her perpetually stressed and at times overwhelmed by the problems of her devastated Margravedom. The loss of her father, who has been forbidden from ever entering the Middenrealm again, is heavily affecting her and she reportedly suffers from nightmares, not just about the Blackfurs, but also about Inquisitor Marcian, who gave her enough reason to fear her during his uncompromising and harsh martial rule over her city during the siege. Though the Inquisitor himself wrote the recommendation that allowed her to succeed her father as the Margravine after the Orkenstorm, Irmenella still has miles to go before being ready for such a position.
As such, Irmenella relies heavily on her advisers and the benevolence of Prince Brin of Gareth, who has taken pity on the traumatized girl. She has talent and her shy, demure facade hides the desire to rebuild her city and her land to the best of her abilities, but the demons of her past and the loss of her father are dragging her down. To make matters worse, one of the last actions her father had done before the Year of the Griffin was to promise her to Dragosh Corrstone of Sicklecourt, the Sword of Swords. While such a union is usually quite an honour for any family, Irmenella is still a girl of sixteen years, whereas Dragosh is in his mid-fifties and though he is not know for cruelty, he is a cold, harsh man. It is telling that the newlyweds spend little time together, with Irmenella learning the duties of a ruler from her advisers in Griffinsford, while Dragosh spends most of his time in the Rhodestone in western Meadows, dozens of miles away from his young bride.
Duke Kuniberth of Honourstone
The Duke of Tobria has ruled over his province for decades by now. As a devout follower of Firun and Rondra, he is a harsh and unyielding opponent to his enemies, but he is also a highly popular man for bringing Tobria back from the brink of destruction after the March of the Thousand Ogres. In general, Kuniberth would die for Tobria and his subjects and they would follow him to the gates of the Nether Hells for it. He is a man of deep-seated principles and is willing to make even uncomfortable decisions to live up to his own standards.
Infamously, he was among the first noblemen who supported Answin of Ravenmouth in his claim for the crown of the Middenrealm. He did so out of a sense of obligation, since he was Answin's brother-in-law through his marriage with Answin's sister Faduhenna. However, when Answin used force to take the city of Gareth, Kuniberth was horrified and among the first of the Raven Emperor's supporters to abandon him. His wife was also instrumental in riling up a large part of House Ravenmouth against the usurper, ultimately resulting in Darpatia remaining a part of the Middenrealm.
This move earned both of them Prince Brin's full pardon and forgiveness, which the duke is reportedly grateful for. In the following years, he and his wife have worked tirelessly to remove all ties between them and the usurper. Together, the couple has two children, the crown prince Bernfrey and his younger brother Dedric. Though both were intended to marry into House Ravenmouth during their youth, the recent events have forced Kuniberth to reconsider. Instead, he now tries to bind his dynasty to other influential families from the Middenrealm, mostly those who were loyal to House Gareth during Answin's War.
Prince Bernfrey of Honourstone
Wild, capricious and not without a dangerous streak, the Crown Prince of Tobria is truly a Wolf of Honourstone, whose short temper and bloated pride have caused a fair share of trouble for his family during his youth. However, Bernfrey also has a noble side, as he is a gallant knight and man of honour, who is aspiring to be a good ruler for his people. Though he lacks experience, he has the same deep convictions as his father, which has served him well so far.
During the March of the Thousand Ogres, Bernfrey was in his late teens and against his father's wishes, he led the Tobrian cavalry against the ogre horde. His act of heroism nearly claimed his life, but he ended up saving the people of the besieged city of Ysilia through it. This bravery has secured him a place in the heart of the Tobrians.
Though in his late twenties, with an important family name, a golden future as the duke of Tobria, and blessed with good looks and a brave heart, Bernfrey remains unmarried and he reportedly prefers his freedom to pursue several flings among the smallfolk and nobility alike. Though his father is actively looking for a bride for him, he had no luck so far and even his younger brother Dedric has been married off already. This makes Bernfrey the most wanted bachelor in the entire Middenrealm, a status the young prince clearly enjoys.
Prince Dedric of Honourstone
Almost the complete opposite of his older brother, Dedric is gentle and sociable. Where Bernfrey aspires to be a great knight and ruler, Dedric's true passion is making music. He has a beautiful voice and a talent for playing the lute, which has given him the mocking moniker 'The Bard-Prince of Tobria', much to the chagrin of his stern father. Few would deny that Dedric is a prodigy with the lute, however.
As a child, he had to witness the destruction of Tobria's capital Ysilia at the hands of the Thousand Ogres. This event had a deep impact on him and he grew up composing ballads lamenting the fallen city and praising the heroism of his father and brother. It has also given him a deep desire to prove his worth as a warrior. Unfortunately for him, he has not an ounce of talent with the sword and a brave heart alone doesn't win duels.
That being said, his kind heart and charming personality has won him the love of his life. In a match so unlikely that her father openly lamented it as a cruel joke from the cunning god Phex, Dedric won the heart of Walpurga of Lionshead, a woman many thought to be miles out of his league. The couple was married recently and ever since, Dedric has tried his best to win the approval of his father-in-law, Duke Waldemar.
Fyrnenbeard the Old
Fyrnenbeard the Old is, as the name kinda implies, the oldest and most respected druid in Aventuria. First impressions are treacherous when it comes to him, as he initially appears as nothing but an old, jovial and somewhat cooky old man, who enjoys his own herbal mixtures a bit too much. In truth, Fyrnenbeard has thoroughly earned his position as the nominal head of Aventuria's druids. He is fully in touch with nature, a druid of downright monstrous powers when provoked and even his rivals among the ranks of the druids would never dare to openly challenge him.
No one knows for sure how old Fyrnenbeard actually is. He has always been Fyrnenbeard the Old, even for senior druids, who only remember him as the hunched, haggard and white-haired old man he is today. Rumour has it that Sumu herself refuses to take him back to her until he has fulfilled his mission, but just what this mysterious mission contains is unknown.
That being said, his age is slowly affecting him. Though still physically capable, especially for someone of his age, Fyrnenbeard has grown a bit more delusional lately, his moments of clarity being few and rare. The other druids still respect and even fear him too much to replace him, but even Fyrnenbeard himself seems to realize that his mind is slowly failing him. He has become increasingly more forgetful, with his odd mannerisms only getting more prominent. Lately, he even saw himself forced to take on an apprentice, the young druid Xindra, who serves as his assistant and, essentially, as his memory. The two reside in central Tobria, on a small island known as Sumu's Cottage. Due to his age, Fyrnenbeard rarely leaves the island, but druids from all over Aventuria come to visit him instead.
Queen Yppolita of Kurkum
By tradition, the Queen of Kurkum is also the Queen of the Amazons as a whole. As such, the crown of her people went to Yppolita after the early death of her mother, who died in combat. For an Amazon Queen, Yppolita is remarkably progressive. Over the decades of her rule, she has realized that her people cannot continue to live as they have for hundreds of years and as such, she has gradually opened the Amazon Queendoms to the outside world, inviting merchants and historians into their sacred mountain fortresses and carefully trying to adjust the beliefs of her people with those of the outside world. Under her reign, the Amazons became notably less violent, as she successfully got rid of some of the darkest aspects of their traditions, such as the killing of male infants born to an Amazon, whom their society previously saw little value in.
As such, it is no surprise that Yppolita is the most popular Queen of the Amazons in the entire history of their people, at least to the outside world, who has already immortalized her in countless songs and legends. Her own people view have mixed opinions on her and in the past, Yppolita's path of slow but steady reforms has led to several attempted coups against her. In one such occasion, her own sister, Ulissa, conspired against her, ending with Yppolita banishing her from the Queendom of Kurkum.
Now a woman in her early sixties, Yppolita has aged with grace and she remains a deadly warrior. Rare for a living being, she has already climbed the first two steps necessary to being declared a saint by the Church of Rondra and it is possible that she will actually be sanctified during her lifetime. The queen cares little for such honours, however. Knowing that she won't remain a capable fighter for much longer, she actually yearns for a death in combat, which she sees as the most noble death in the name of Rondra. Unusually for an Amazon queen, she has only one child, her daughter Gilia, with whom she had a major falling out several years before. Gilia's whereabouts are currently unknown and the queen is regularly sending her best scouts to look for her wayward daughter, in the hopes of preparing her for her role as the future Queen of the Amazons. Up until now, none of her own riders had any success on their search, though Yppolita vehemently opposes the idea of hiring outside help for this personal matter.
Saldor Son of Sabron of the Foslarin clan is, quite likely, the most unusual mage in Aventuria. First, he is a dwarf, one of the few of his kind who have the gift of magic. Second, he has become a guild mage instead of following the path of the geods, the dwarven druids. Third, despite being a dwarf, he has joined the notoriously elitist white guild. Fourth, after decades of hard work, he has recently been appointed as the Convocatus Primus, the leader of the white guild.
This decision can all be traced back to the historically good relations between the Brilliant Dwarves of Lorgolosh and the nearby human city of Beilunk in southern Tobria. His clan had a notorious distrust towards the solitary geods, so when Saldor, to the horror of his parents, showed arcane talent, they decided, with a heavy heart, to send him to the humans of Beilunk, so that they would teach him how to control his abilities. Though they are not in particularly close contact, this decision was arguably made out of love, as a life amongst the white mages of Beilunk allowed Saldor a certain degree of normalcy, while a life amongst the geods would have permanently separated him from his clan.
Though Saldor was an outsider in Beilunk, his dwarven mentality helped him a great deal. Always hard-working and ambitious, he won his critics over, those who believed that a dwarf had no place within the white guild. It helped that the dwarven culture as a whole is actually not too different from the mindset that is predominant within the white guild. Within two decades, a very short time for the long-lived dwarves, he had gained acceptance in Beilunk and before long, he was named as the spectability, the head of the Academy in Beilunk, the first dwarf to ever gain such honour among the guilds of magic. From there, it was only a short step for him to become the Convocatus Primus.
Saldor is highly conservative when it comes to the rules of the guild, as well as relentless in his pursuit of order. Though there are more talented mages within the guild, none of them are as dedicated to their principles as the Convocatus Primus. His temper is infamous, however, and his students fear his frequent outbursts. He is a strict, but capable teacher and leader and even though the White Guild is the most conservative of the three guilds, he has virtually no internal rival to challenge his position as the most unusual Convocatus Primus they ever had.
Names of the Shieldlands:
The people of Meadows prefer simple names, often with some relation to the gods, as they are usually just as pious. Though the nobility favours grander names, such as Waldemar or Maximus, many of them also use some syllables that sound similar to one of the Twelve as an expression of their piety. Rondra, Praios and Peraine are especially favoured by the people of Meadows, so many names bear some resemblance to these deities. It should also be noted that only free men and women have last names and Meadows is the province of the Middenrealm with the largest amount of serfs, who usually only have one simple name. For women of the lower classes, names with a flower motif are fairly popular, whereas men usually wield shortened forms of longer names that are common in other parts of the Middenrealm.
Examples of male names from the Meadows: Arris, Bob, Dan, Firudan, Gunther, Hildebrandt, Jack, Maximus, Parinor, Peldor, Rondrigan, Tom, Travis, Waldemar, Will
Examples of female names from the Meadows: Annie, Betty, Brunhild, Daisy, Dana, Fenia, Hildemara, Linai, Mary, Nettle, Praiodane, Rondriga, Rose, Tsaja, Walpurga
Though the people of Tobria speak the same language as the rest of the Middenrealm, the Gareti, they have a slight dialect, a result of the various kinds of people who settled in the region throughout its history, as well as its geographical separation from the rest of the Middenrealm. The Al'Hani in particular has influenced the Tobrian dialect and naming conventions, as well as the Bornland, which is far closer to many Tobrians than even the neighbouring Middenrealm duchy of Meadows. Generally, traditional Tobrian names are inspired by Anglo-Saxon names.
Examples of male names from Tobria: Aethelwulf, Alfred, Bernfrey, Cuthberth, Dedric, Deorwine, Egbert, Fastred, Guthmund, Herubrand, Kuniberth, Leofstan, Osmund, Sigeberth, Wigmund, Wilfreth
Examples of female names from Tobria: Aethelrith, Brithild, Cyneberg, Deorrid, Eawena, Elswyth, Gudrun, Hildith, Judith, Kunibertha, Kwenhild, Osbirg, Saerith, Sighild, Theodwyn, Wendyth
The Troll Peakers of the Troll Peaks have a unique language that has developed with only minor influences from the outside for thousands of years. It has common roots with the ancient Tulamidiya, but has been distinguished as its own language for almost the entirety of written human history in Aventuria. Their language is harsh and generally considered unpleasant to listen to, which also counts for their names, who are preferably guttural and coarse. Troll Peakers have usually only one name, though renowned warriors receive the right of choosing a secondary name (explicitly not a last name, but rather a second first name), usually meant to honour them, but sometimes serving as a warning for particularly heinous members of the clans just as well.
Examples of male names from the Troll Peaks: Achzul, Bashoth, Dabrush, Faraz, Ghonech, Kchorech, Rochan, Shamsharb, Shulman, Zuldar
Examples of female names from the Troll Peaks: Abara, Chumra, Draneth, Habiza, Kcharra, Manlochla, Noqtah, Rhana, Uchazu, Zulecha
Examples of honorific names from the Troll Peaks: Amadacht/Amahdcha (The Battle-Hardened One), Bal/Balt (The Lord/The Lady), Grim/Grima (The Raging One), Zert'Zul/Zerta'Zul (The Honourless One)
The ogre tribes speak a language as crude as everything about their rudimentary society. Many ogres outright lack the mental capacities for long, complicated names, so a majority of ogre names are fairly short and easy to pronounce. Their language includes a lot of grunting and growling, which can also be found in their names. Particularly infamous ogres often receive nicknames, but these are exclusively applied by the humans they torment, as they themselves don't seem to have the intelligence to grasp the concept of nicknames. It is known that some ogres have taken a liking to these nicknames to the point where they use them instead of their own name. Furthermore, it appears there are no specifically male or female ogre names, so they can all be considered gender-neutral.
Examples of ogre names: Arzuch, Barga, Dorruk, Garrg, Goro, Gurza, Krazz, Moggo, Nockra, Porg,