The Peoples and Nations of Scalgard

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Ceumri[edit]

Ceumri rests on the Inland Sea and reaps the green reward of moist winds carrying soft rain. A wide river valley cradled between low hills, the land gives its people a variety they use to the fullest. They mine iron from the hills, and quarry stone; they sift gold from rich deposits in the rivers, where they also fish for salmon; they grow wheat in the soft ground and potatoes in the hard, and hunt game in the forests. Where other nations trade and war for what they need, Ceumri has the luxury of choosing allies based on love and enemies based on hate.

Unfortunately, the people of Ceumri have much to hate. The forests to their north are a surer home for the Fir Bolg than any other, and invasions of the wolf-men mirror those of giants marching down from the coastal mountains. Meanwhile, the Tuatha Sidhe have an easier crossing from their realm into Ceumri than in any other land in Scalgard. Orcish raiders have a hard time navigating Ceumri's southern straight, but the lure of gold drives them ever on. And across that straight lies Annwyns' Realm; Brother Worm is not an aggressive neighbor, but who can rely on the will of gods?

These many threats have kept the Ceumri close to home, in small stone-walled cantrevs, a few days' dangerous ride from each other. Keeping them all one people, though, are their Three Crowns - a college of Bards, Druids and Heroes, wandering the land and each standing for one of the three types of people: the skilled, craftsmen and farmers; the wise, herbalists and doctors; and the strong, miners and warriors. The Crowns travel abroad and bring news, judgment and justice to each castle in turn in exchange for hospitality, and their travels unite their people. Feted as kings, they are guardians of tradition, an old ritual protection for a land that lives with dangerous magic so near around.

A character knows the following with a successful skill check:

  • History DC 20 - Hope in Hidden Springs - At a small lake nestled in the hills in the Ceumric north an Aelfin warlord, Uldane the Rivers' Son, calls heroes to his hold. He welcomes all to his table, but takes care to send emissaries of his own to his fellow cantrev lords, outside the bond of the Three Crowns, who he seems to tolerate only barely. Uldane has fast become a force to be reckoned with, while cantrev lords and nearby Fenian clans wait in wonder and hope that the reckoning he plans is not with them.
  • Arcana DC 25 - A Fair, Inconstant Castle - When the morning mists have lately parted on Ceumri's southwest shore, shepherds have seen a new castle in the distance, battlements gleaming. Though the castle's gone by mid-day, those same shepherds report the beating of hooves far behind as they turn east and bring their flocks home with the twilight. The castle is almost certainly a Sidhe thing, and the local lords seem content to wait for one of the Crowns to wander by to deal with it. But while the Strange Lord who rules the new keep has sent no messenger so far, he, or she, or it may grow tired of waiting.
  • History DC 30 - Uneasy Rests the Crown - It is hard to find hope in a land so beset by darkness, and even the greatest may succumb to despair. So it is with some of Ceumri's Crowns who, seeing total annihilation ahead, have sold some of the Ceumric to the enemy to keep the rest safe. The Fir Bolg sneak in through opened secret passages, the giants come up over unguarded walls, and in the course of a night castles fall. If any knew of their treachery, trust in the whole tradition, and the tenuous unity among the Ceumric that it brings, could come crashing down as sure as those few, betrayed castles' walls.


Dwarves[edit]

High in the mountains to the north of Ceumri and of Thrudvang, the dwarves make their homes. The last of the Foimoire's kin, they live lives of strength and industry in sprawling stone castles atop the tallest peaks. Each dwarven castle is a complete community, ruled by a thane. "Thane" is a hereditary title, but long is the dwarven memory, and strong their pride - a son would not last as thane if he did not live up to his father's name.

Though the dwarves' best customers are each other, they are not isolated from humanity. Skilled metalworkers, their forge-goods are in high demand across Scalgard. But, more, dwarves mix freely with the Fenian tribes. Family branches have lived with the human folk there as long as any can remember, stout and loyal members of the clan they call home. These dwarves travel freely between mountains and hills, living with their relatives in each land and setting aside their rivalries as they move between. This is part of the thanes' law.

The dwarves have no gift for human magic, no love for gods and no ties to the Tuatha-Sidhe, but their oldest thanes have kept alive an ancient lore, passed down from the Foimoire, and rumors say they are the only beings since their forebears left the world who know the rituals to bind enchantment with the power of the runes.

A character knows the following with a successful History check:

  • DC 20 - All Wise, Ever Young - When Brokkr, Thane of the Sindri, died in battle with a flight of gryphons and their rimehag mistress, his children fell beside him. His only heir was his brother's son, Alviss, a Fenian clansman. But no dwarf has ever shirked his duty, and the young soon stood in his ancestral hold. Alviss rules his new people with wisdom, and increased their profit and honor through expanded trade, but his heart still longs for battle and the wild hills; he gazes from the top of his mountain down to the valleys below, waiting restlessly for the call to war.
  • DC 25 - The Kings of Stone Eternal - When a Dwarven Thane nears the end of his life, when his grip on his hammer grows weak, he walks to the hall of his ancestors. There his eldest son recites the lineage of their family and makes of it an incantation of power. When his son is done the old Thane is regal and strong again - he has become a thing of stone. Like any other statue the old Thane waits, dreaming dwarven dreams, blind to the world around him. But should the need arise his sons can raise again, quickening stone to living flesh. In this way, the dwarves preserve the wisdom of generations; hundreds of thanes wait in their father's halls...
  • DC 30 - Forging the Crown of Kings - Goldcraft, whitesmithing, forgework, these are not the greatest of the dwarven arts; that claim is reserved for the rune-lore of the Foimoire. But where the two combine, there is power to be found. On one ancient scrip of vellum, in a library forgotten to almost all, are the plans for the Crown of Kings. If forged and worn atop a noble brow, its wearer's power would be kin with that of the Foimoire of old and the mountains would bow to his will.


Estria[edit]

Resting entirely on the sheltered shores of the Inland Sea, flanked by dwarven mountains and it's back pressed firmly against the Low Countries, Estria has a natural protection from orcs and the Fir Bolg that other lands lack. A mild climate mitigates the harshest weather Mannanan throws down and, combined with a wealth of natural resources and an aggressive desire to trade, this has made the people rich. The only land in Scalgard that could rightly be called a "nation", Estria is filled with farmers who walk their fields largely without fear and tradesmen who travel safely from town to open town.

But while the single Estrian is safe, his nation struggles on. At the center of Scalgard, Estria is a crossroads for all nations, with none so dependent on trade that the spoils of war aren't a worthwhile gamble. She fights constant small border wars with warbands on all fronts, and her response to these threats is numbers; Estria does not send heroes to the field, but drilled men, who fight in strong formation.

The Plutarch holds the reigns of Estrian power, and uses the Keepers of the Hoard as the whip that drives his nation on. These tax collectors, trade-police and spies keep the barons honest and carry their advice to the Plutarch. The barons tread carefully, though, for their nobility and the power it entails can be literally bought and sold. The Plutarch's family is, of course, the wealthiest, and though they could theoretically lose their hereditary position should their trading ventures fail, Estria's strict laws governing land and taxes prevent the Plutarch's treasuries from growing too empty.

A character knows the following with a successful History check:

  • DC 20 -
  • DC 25 - Walking the Halls of Gold - The secret wheel that moves the Keepers of the Hoard and ensures the Plutarch's continued rule is a ritual of fiscal power. Hidden in the Estrian tax codes, secreted away in the Keepers' ledgers, is the formula to move, mystically, a whole person into the Plutarch's treasure vault. This transit does not come without cost, but the Keepers' job ensures that they are wealthy men. The trip, however, is one way; though a Keeper can walk past the many guards and out of the Hoard, the Plutarch is too greedy for a ritual to take anything away again.
  • DC 30 -


The Fenian[edit]

Barbarian tribes of the Northwest, the Fenian dwell in the Deiran Highlands. A rocky country of hills and scrub-grass, and nearer the marauding orcs than any other land, the Deiran has made the Fenian a hard people. Far from a cohesive group, 'Fenian' is an adjective, meaning 'wild' in the local tongue, used to describe the various clans that occupy the region. Each clan marks itself unique in patterns of plaid on their kilts and in the colors they paint their faces when going off to war.

Without cheap access to iron, advanced industry has been hard for the Fenian. The people live in homes of stacked moss, piled stones and earth, which they group together in villages and surround with piked fences of fire-hardened wood. The clans live mainly by raising sheep and cows and trading the wool and cured hides to their allies amongst the dwarves and in nearby Ceumri. So vital is this cattle to Fenian life, and so tenuous the trade, that clan war over territory or herd ownership is almost as much a business as the care of the herds themselves.

These small wars, combined with frequent orcish raids, have made the Fenian a fierce folk, proud of personal strength, but also doggedly loyal. They are superstitious, too, both fearing and respecting magic and those who use it. It's a common assumption of the people that those who know magic are of Aelfin blood, and only a true human can rule among them. Thus, their leaders are most often the fierce Berserkers that their clans produce rather than the often wiser Druids or Bards who serve instead as advisers to the lairds of the clans. The position of laird is said to be won by strength of arms, and while often true, this is not always the case. Instead, a laird can be challenged to any sort of competition, be it combat, hunting, singing, or a game of fidchell, with a clan's Druids serving as judges over the challenge.

A character knows the following with a successful skill check:

  • DC 20 -
  • History DC 25 - Blood Feud - Cinaeth MacAeda's critics say he puts on airs. He builds great stone orreries across his lands; imports dyes, spice, fur and steel by ship from as far off as Thrudvang; and calls wizards to his halls to give him advice. And he does stand out amongst their Lairds of the Fenian, but his strangest attribute is also his most secret, and his most horrible. Deep in the privacy of his halls, Cinaeth feasts on the flesh of men, as indeed do all of his kin. This is a rite of blood and power, but in service to what god or monster is a better-kept secret still.
  • DC 30 - The Soldiers of Frost and Bone -


The Low Countries[edit]

A collection of low-lying land around the delta of three rivers and bordering the northern sea, the Low Countries are, like Ceumri, resource-rich. Unfortunately, they do not have Cemrui's natural protections of tall mountains and turbulent waters, so while the Low Countries support a dense population it is also one of the most war-torn areas in bloody Scalgard. Bordered by Ceumri to the west, Estria to the south, Saesony and Thrudvang to the east and dotted with orcish settlements along the north shore, the Low Countries are really an outpost for other lands' influence, with walled cities swapped back and forth seasonally between different armies. Out of these wars arises only one constant: banditry. As men flee the predations of each new army and flock together in the wilds, they form rag-tag armies of their own and take whatever their numbers will let them.

But those cities that stay free of foreign influence fare little better. Acrhen is ruled by a Horned King, who claims to have wrested his power from a giant and who sends a brotherhood of Huntsmen, their lives linked by magic, to protect the surrounding fields. Charmar's only lords are the dead, thirteen mummified men and women who sit in council and whisper commands to their vizier only in dreams. Power here, more than anywhere else in Scalgard, goes to they who can seize it.

The Low Countries are also the site of mankind's first welcome to Scalgard, and home to their first kingdoms. Though those days are not long gone from the world, the rise and fall of of rulers has spotted the land with a rich history of ruins, ripe for exploitation. Many are the band or noble who, seeking easier work than the taking of a peopled city, have taken one of the ruins for their own and called folk from afar to make it home. But many, too, are the giant, Tuatha-Sidhe or Undead prince who've done the same.

A character knows the following with a successful skill check:

  • History DC 20 - The Wolves of Maldeen - Though the warlord whose name they bear is a generation dead, this grey band of mercenaries carries on his work. Drawing ranks from the orphans and dispossessed of the Low Countries' many conflicts, the Wolves pledge themselves to the idea of a free land. They take service with whatever local leader or guild will have them, using their knowledge of their home to fight back Estrians, Thrudvangir and orcs alike. They are ideologues, true, but the past ten years have seen more of the Low Countries' cities ruled by Lowlanders than any decade before.
  • DC 25 -
  • History DC 30 - Palace of the Silver Princess - Lifetimes past, the lady Argenta raised a kingdom on the western shores of the Low Countries. She was friends with dwarves and kept court with Tuatha-Sidhe, and from their joined work gained a fist-sized ruby in which she kept her death. But such glory was not to last and scaly creatures rose from the sea to bring her realm to ruin, changing the land to swamp and sealing her palace behind a magic wall; at their head, flew an ancient black-scaled drake. But the power of the scaled folk seems now faded, for through the swamp-haze shine the flash of silver walls.


Orcs[edit]

Orcs rarely live on the main continent of Scalgard. Rather, they call a plate of dirt-covered ice to the furthest northwest home. When their population grows too large for their frigid home to support them any longer (or, some say, when they get bored), the Orcs take axe and shield in hand, pile into their longships, and make for a quick raid on any coastal village or city they can find. They strike hard and fast and haul off as much loot as they can fit into their boats, even going so far as to leave behind the bodies of their fallen comrades in order to fit more treasure or, more importantly, food. Occasionally, even a living orc who does not have his fellows' respect will find himself without a ride home from his adventure.

Unlike other races, there are no tales that tell of the orcs beginnings, no songs to be sung of their origins. But while where the orcs come from is a mystery that few care to explore, their actions leave behind dark clues for those with eyes to see. In their raids, orcs sometimes carry off the womenfolk of their fallen foes as valuable plunder. These women become the raiders' wives, as do some women wooed by those raiders left behind and, with time, they bear their orcish husbands orcish children, without a trace of the human showing through their green skin.

Because of their frequent raiding, orcs have become some of the best ship-wrights on Scalgard. Though it is difficult, if not impossible, to find an orc who will freely accept a commission for a ship, many an orcish prisoner will bargain his freedom for use of his skills.

A character knows the following with a successful skill check:

  • Nature DC 20 - The Wolf-Sworn Chieftain - Three years gone, even other orcs did not know the name Graggar. He was one of an endless horde, struggling for glory. But since he pledged himself to Mannanan's service his name has been whispered on a stormy wind, and his life is strength and carnage. Already, he has slain his rivals and claimed three ships and crew for his service. He has raided towns and spread his name along the coast of the Low Countries and the Deiran Highlands. He rides the fury of a storm, and none can say where next he'll strike.
  • Religion DC 25 - Succor of the Wolf-Father - It seems that storms always nip at the heels of the orcs' raiding ships and their priests, in service to Mannanan are why. A sacrifice of blood and the promise of more calls thunder and fog from even the clearest sky, and cuts away the watchmen's vision that would guard against an orcish raid. Too many are the towns that, even expecting the raid that so often follows the storm, have had the orcs' arrival take them by surprise.
  • DC 30 -


Saesony[edit]

Saesony is a land of moors, dark patches of forest surrounded by patches of heather and rolling hills. Home to a wide collection of loosely allied towns and villages, the people of the land are a simple but hardy folk, farmers and millers for generations on ancestral land. In Saesony, no man is a slave, but there is only one king. Or... there was. The last king died in his bed two years ago, and even the wisest bards, wizards and advising priests of Biera couldn't name the cause. Worse, he left behind no wife or heir, and now the dukes watch each other warily from their castles, bargaining over the succession in public and preparing to seize it in private.

Despite these troubles, though, the Saesons are a people given to pageantry. If war comes, it will come with bright banners and the clear call of trumpets. Even the local farmers will turn out to watch in number from the sidelines, confident that they are not the targets of the war. From all of their festivals, the Saesons have grown a strong sense of family and community, and welcome outsiders who would join in. Those who keep to themselves find, instead, a strong willed and wary folk. The peasants may see the inevitable war between their dukes as a game, but when met with outsiders - orcs, fomoire, the Thrudvangir, the Volkhovi and wandering monsters - the situation is far more deadly.

I character knows the following with a successful skill check:

  • History DC 20 - Keep On the Borderlands -
  • History DC 25 - The Raven Banner - When Richard of Woaden had cause to war with Henry the Bold over Elaine of Herester last summer, he hired a mercenary company called The Raven Banner to fight for him. They came in dark armor and rattling chains, with a tattered flag covered over in feathers. They seemed hard, desperate men, little better than brigands, and lead by a woman they called the Raven Queen. Beautiful, pale and black-haired, she owned a withering power of unknown source and led her army to slaughter Henry's irregulars. She won Richard his woman, but he still has nightmares about what he saw and has yet to visit his new wife in the marriage bed.
  • History DC 30 - The High King's Fate


Thrudvang[edit]

Sons and brothers, sisters and daughters. In Thrudvang, each is king. The father of a generation bestows his lands on his children upon his death, and before their own children are grown they must win land enough to leave behind. Neighboring Saesony is, and Volkhov was, an ideal target for conquest, but both lands are fiercely guarded. Often, it's just easier to war with kin.

A land of deep forests, scattered hills and temperate climate, Thrudvang is cold and wet in winter, hot and dry in summer. The land is rich, but its wealth, like its rulership, must be fought for. Serfs bound to the land work hard the year round fighting for survival against the dark things in the forest and also for excess. Every extra bushel of grain, every extra pig, that a farmer can bring to the table could buy the attention of a burgher, baron or king, and with that attention could come the sword, armor and shield of the landsknecht, and the richer rewards that come from war.

But not all serfs are happy with the struggle. Some look to the men of Saesony and Estria and wish for the same freedoms. They form small bands, landsers, armed with simple spears and armors and what magics they can bargain from the gods (typically Cerithwen), and train in secret for the day they're ready to rise against their kings. What then, none of them have dared yet ask.

A character knows the following with a successful History check:

  • DC 20 - Crowns in the Mud - Not all Thrudvanir nobles war with their siblings for land. Some join the clergy of one god or another and seek power through the faith; some do not have the heart to kill their brothers and retire to a small town, with no land to call their own but a farmer's plot. A very few, though, like the brave fighter Sigrun Holdrsdottar, take a stand against it all. Sigrun has left the comfort of castle, handmaids and bondsmen, unlimbered her shield and hefted her hammer in service to a small band of landsers and seeks to end the very real slavery of the serfs and the idealogical slavery of her noble kin.
  • DC 25 - The Plague Knows No Master - This fall, Gotfried, king of Straslund hired a mercenary troupe called The Raven Banner to claim his brother Lothar's lands of Achvart. Lothar set in for siege, but would have done better to fall on his sword. The Banner's leader, the Raven Queen, is not a patient woman. She hung a great cauldron above a strangely crackling fire and, naked and pale, she danced before it, chanting in a strange tongue, throughout the night. As dawn broke, all of Achvart's men, Lothar included, fell over dead. The women wailed as she turned and lead her banner from the field, but they shrieked in terror when their dead husbands rose once more and, weapons in hand, to shamble after their new Queen.
  • DC 30 -


Volkhov[edit]

Once, Volkhov was a land of wide, fertile steppes kissed by the wind and run through with mineral-rich rivers. The long winters were white, pure and beautiful; the summers were short and golden. Four years ago, foul tempests sprang up from a clear sky to boil through the air; lightning blasted down upon the plain, razing fields and setting whole towns to the torch; The dead tore their way free of the ground, and stranger things crawled out of the blackness - things even the Tuatha-Sidhe would not claim.

Today the plains are gone, and Volkhov is full of sharp mountains, jagged as fresh wounds. They cut the villages off from each other and leave them to huddle in their shadows, with only a spare and distant glimpse of a larger world. Storms boil constantly overhead. The once warm people are gruff and wary, prey to the stresses that the constant horrors of the night have wreaked on their minds. They keep to themselves, with a suspicious eye for outsiders, and they're always too ready to build a witch-pyre when things turn... bizarre.

In all Volkhov, only Kyiv Castle stands against the monsters of darkness and chaos. Every other castle is a ruin. Home to the last of the Volkovi Kralj and his Bogatyr-warriors, Kyiv is the only bulwark Volkhov has. These heroes sleep by day and ride out by night, when they can catch their enemies at work. Unfortunately for the Volkhovi, fewer of the Bogatyr come back with every hunt.

A character knows the following with a successful skill check:

  • History DC 20 - The Lord of Kyiv Castle - Ivan Tsarevitch is a mountain of a man; tall, strong, square-jawed. But tired. Once he was one of many proud kralj in Volkhov; now the others are all dead, scattered, or poor guests in his lonely castle. Ivan laughs rarely, and sleeps less. He wins small victories against his foes, but can never enjoy them, for there's always another village in need of aid, and the village he saves now will be mad again by next week. Ivan Tsarevitch presses ever on.
  • DC 25 -
  • Religion DC 30 - Wolves in the Night - Though Mannanan brought the storms, Ivan is truly the one responsible for Volkhov's woes. Five years gone, the godless Ivan turned one of Cerithwen's Luminous away from his gate, and suffered a curse in return; on the nights that the moon goddess was fullest in the sky, Ivan would become a raging bear and no good host at all to any that he loved. A pact with Mannanan now keeps Cerithwen from ruling the nighttime sky and grants Ivan relief from the bear-curse. But the state of Volkhov is a curse far more terrible to weather.



Legends of the Phantom World