Rogalia is a land torn by war. Once, Rogalia was a beautiful and fertile land full of rolling hills and lonely meadows, misty valleys that hid quiet hamlets. Few remember any time such as this, or would recognize the face of the land today. Presided over by a staggering array of hereditary warlords, Rogalia is a shifting battlefield of constant low-level warfare and deadly political rivalries. The various counties of Rogalia sometimes have laws that vary wildly from those of their neighbor, and the borderlines of these counties can sometimes shift a few times per season through meddling or conquest. There is no King in Rogalia, only the Counts and the House of Lords that they sit upon. Their styles of rulership vary substantially, from oppressive tyranny to nearly hands-off stewardship.
The chaotic state that Rogalia persists in is part of what makes them so uniquely useful to the rest of the Throne at large, and part of the reason that the Emperor does little to forcefully settle the area. Rogalians are warriors-born. The Throne’s finest captains and generals come from Rogalian stock, hardened in the crucible of war that none in that place can escape.
Battle in Rogalia is usually pursued by knights: vested champions of a given Count or other ranking noble, as well as noble themselves. Knights control small portions of land and can levy their peasants into service at any time. In exchange, they pledge to keep their stable of peasants safe from other knights who seek to slay them for their lands.
Rogalia emerged from the Age of Witchkings in a much more structured position than other countries. During the Rule of the Witchkings it was Adrasteia, the Vampire Queen who held Rogalia, while her Vampire Counts reigned over the human population. Each Vampire Count or Countess had a province handed to him or her by the Queen, and quarreling amongst one another was forbidden. The Vampire Counts took their taxes from their peasants in the form of blood rather than coin or commodities. In that time, Nobleman and vampire were synonymous terms, and the vampires had armies of their Spawn as well as other monsters under their control. The humans, not required directly as in other countries for food production or war, served partially as a kind of cattle to keep the noblemen fed and become selected as Spawn when the need arose. Very few scholars are quick to admit, however, that as the Age of Witchkings lasted for nearly a century, by necessity the humans were not merely blood slaves.
In order to protect their existence, the noblemen had to manage their human factors carefully. While they themselves did not require bread or beer, the humans that fed them did. They also required clothing, settlements, and protection from the attacks of the minions of other Witchkings. And of course, the vampires themselves were once human as well, and many preferred to maintain a relationship with other humans to a point. The noblemen needed people to protect them while they slept through the day from attacks and other subversion, and furthermore to actually run their fiefs in the daylight hours. All of this interconnection actually meant that vampire rule was not actually so dissimilar from the feudal rulerships of the Lion Age. Some Counts even earned the genuine loyalty and trust of their people, though these reclusive lords were rarely seen very often with their peasants, to remind them as infrequently as possible of the inhuman nature of their master.
More often, the noblemen were hated and feared, but the peasants could do little to resist. Vampires are truly immortal, and no act in the world can slay one forever. This changed when the Ordo Croix arrived, and at their head, St. Aren Kauspyre, Heaven’s Chosen. No one knew how, but the leader of the Ordo Croix had the power to slay vampires forever, and demonstrated it when he destroyed the Count of House Sanguinius, Sebastian. The peasant revolt was immediate and fierce, the entire county rising up with torch and rake against the remains of House Sanguinius, but they were put down at once by the beasts that served the Count, and his vampire sons and daughters took his place. Word spread, however, and acts of sabotage and insurrection began to occur more frequently, and with coordination from Ordo Croix agents in the area. When a Count was weak because of their meddling or because of an attack by the forces of Andrugal, the Sovereign Usurper or Sulterok, the Burning Prince, Ordo Croix would signal for the peasants to revolt against their Counts to give them time to make an attack on the castle itself, and bring St. Aren Kauspyre in to perform the execution.
It eventually became clear that this strategy could not bring the war for Rogalia to a close. Queen Adrasteia seemed capable of replacing her subordinates at least as quickly as Ordo Croix could arrange their ruin, and it seemed that only destroying the Red Queen herself would rid the land of her kind.
A conspiracy to sow agents of Ordo Croix into Queen Adrasteia’s court was made. Over the next 10 years, loyal subjects were discredited or killed and replaced with agents of the Ordo Croix (giving up their humanity to aid mankind) or dissenters and malcontents. The machination led to a horrible night of rebellion where Queen Adrasteia was torn limb from limb and consumed in her entirety by her own courtiers. From then, the grip of the vampire nobility was broken. Alone and besieged on all sides by enemies, the vampire nobility was strangled out by infighting amongst each other and the culture of vampire hunting that swept Rogalia.
The first of the new Rogalian Counts was Adam the Greathammer, the first man to lead a revolt against his vampire master and hold the territory from even other vampire lords. From there, others followed, and the remaining vampires were either destroyed or driven into hiding. The first generation of human Counts of Rogalia had been born, and the country began to largely stabilize under human rule. Early alliances formed to help route out the last of the Vampire Counts, already landed human lords installing their relatives or favorites into available domains. As the counties began to be settled under human rulership, the first great crisis arose.
Famine wracked the land in the winters after the human rulers began to settle. The new gentry were not prepared for the logistics of running the country and had no trade arrangements with one another, so without the infrastructure provided by the Vampire counts, shortages began to be the norm and conquest amongst the various counties began in the spring. As the seasons changed and militarism set in, the counties that had survived the year without having to kneel to another lord made a partial recovery due to an unusually bountiful harvest that year. The atmosphere, however, of the Rogalian countryside was set. Each county was on its own and should treat the others with hostility. This state of affairs persisted for decades.
When the Emperor arrived, he found the region completely militarized, with each individual section blocked out like fortresses. By this time, Victor von Herkheist was gray, but still potent, and Templar missionaries had already been preaching in the area to prepare for his coming. He sent messages to each Count inviting them to a small coastal fishing town called Archa, and proceeded to move his army through the region under a peace banner. Understanding that such an entrenched Rogalia would take years to conquer, likely a longer campaign he still had in him with Sha’ra and Njordr still left on the horizon, he decided on a diplomatic option. The Emperor’s army was vast and imposing, and would have been a hard battle for any three counts to match, but the Emperor did not attack any settlements, simply moving through the various counties in his path until reaching Archa. Once there, he awaited the counts.
Almost all of the counts were in attendance, and Von Herkheist explained the situation and his mission of creating the Throne. He promised relative autonomy to Rogalia, and pointed out that since the country was not unified, it could not resist his conquest. He explained that just as humanity had risen up here to overthrow its vampire oppressors, humanity would rise up everywhere and overthrow the darkness of the world. The meeting resulted in the signing of the Pactum Domini, which, amongst other things, created Rogalia as an official country, and ceded that country to the Emperor. The town became renamed to Port Melandir, and became the site of a Parliament of ruling Lords Temporal and Spiritual, which then would meet periodically to discuss the issues of the land and agreed to be bound by the decisions of the other lords.
THE ROGALIAN PEOPLE
The Rogalians are, at their heart, a practical, proud and loyal people, driven above all by duty. They teach their children about war and honor, and have a proud history of brilliant strategists and brave soldiers fighting against impossible odds. The reality of their situation is not lost upon them, however. Any Rogalian can tell you that war has nothing to do with honor, and that brilliant strategies do their best work at helping only half of your friends to die in the first wave instead of all of them. Aside from the Counts, every Rogalian has a nobleman who they count on for protection and justice. Even the lowest of serfs can run to the strength of the knight that is charged with the protection of the fief he works if he must, and those occasions are in no way uncommon. The social mentality of the average Rogalian needs little evidence that, despite the strict laws and heavy taxes, the smallfolk need the noblemen as much as the noblemen need their peasantry.
In preparation for a life of potential conflict, children as young as 8 are mustered into ranks and taught infantry disciplines. On the last day of each month, any child that can half draw a long bow is enlisted to begin training in half-hope that they could survive and return from even a single battle. Formations, commands from a horn, and receiving a charge are just some of the many disciplines taught and retaught from adolescence to adulthood. In addition to boys, girls are also educated in war if they can half draw a bow. In times of need, women have been known to train while the men are away at war to ward off attacks from bandits, and rival infantry. The training is not as formal and is more done as an act of necessity, rather than something that is required by law from the gentry.
Much as in Gotha and other countries, the church administers training and higher learning for skills that are deemed necessary for the platform of the region, and in this region war is the primary skill. The Mithrihim Warrior Priests are very prevalent in many cities, but there are almost as many Nuranahim Sacrosanctum priests, as the crimes of war as well as remnant vampires continue to be a problem.
One of the world’s two true Universities is in Rogalia, in Port Melandir. Students from all over the world come to the Parliamentary University to learn in innumerable classes taught through the dozens of schools that make up the campus. In the egalitarian spirit of the Melandihim priests and the Archangel which patrons them and for who the city is named, admission to the school is by personal merit only, and membership is not forbidden to anyone based on class, sex, birth or station. Thus, students there come from a great many backgrounds and upbringings, as well as from many different places in the Throne itself.
Ordinarily the Church frowns sternly at ideas and institutions that promote any kind of social mobility in the Throne. This is due in large part to the idea that those without proper breeding and training are unfit to lead the Throne, part of why it finds the rise of the Merchant Class so disturbing. However, the Archbishop of the Melandihim Order, at the University’s founding in Lion Age 71, personally became the patron and protector of the University. He believed that all people have a right to the fullest education they have the wisdom to apprehend, and that graduates of the University’s programs would indeed have the necessary training to be important men and women in benefit to the Throne.
In reality, it is not quite as egalitarian as it seems. Tuition is still expected, and can be quite expensive, though the cost of tuition is based upon your academic success in the previous term. Exceptional students pay a very modest tuition, while lackluster students pay more, sometimes much more. Students that do not have wealthy or noble families supporting them have to work to maintain their costs of living, the costs of their materials, and their tuition, which means they have less time to devote to study and have greater difficulties academically. Thus, members of wealthy families and nobles tend to be more successful students, have affordable tuition, and thus make up a greater than otherwise proportion of the students. That said, it is still a very important fact that many of the students do come from humble birth, do excel, and do go on to do great things in Rogalia and elsewhere. In the meantime, the family rivalries of Nobility don’t stop at the University gates.
The University also has a partnership with the Magician Guilds, and members of the guilds can attend classes there in the exoterics, the non-arcane academic studies that are such an important foundation of their more specialized work such as philosophy, astrology, natural philosophy, and mathematics, and their tuition is paid for by their guild membership. In exchange, the guilds perform certain services for the University, though what those services are is unknown.
Blackwood Military College, also part of the Parliamentary University, has become famous throughout the Throne as it is one of the only sources of formalized military training that is available anywhere. Most generals have to learn on the field, and do not have the advantage of being able to learn from failures. Thus, even though the foundation they get at Blackwood is theoretical and practiced only in military exercises, and that the training in no way guarantees success, a Blackwood cadet is imminently more able than a fresh lordling with only the confidence he was bred for to provide him success. Blackwood College has two programs – one for junior cadets who have never seen war, which accepts applicants beginning at the standard age of adulthood, fifteen years, and a second program for senior cadets, who are veterans of at least one campaign, their entrance and tuition usually being funded as an expense of their army as an investment in their staff.
Rogalian language is a sharp tongue of hard consonants and few vowels. Hard ‘s’ sounds and ‘f’ sounds, originally believed to be an attempt of ancient men of the Rogalt tribespeople to mimic weapon noises have been built heavily into the language proper. Due to the shared border, Rogalians share more than a few words with the Gothic, and the diverse invasions from Njordics and coastal invaders have left the language a horrible mash of grammatical soup. Grammar widely ranges from county to county, with the populace insisting that ‘dogs’ is pronounced anywhere from ‘dags’ to ‘dohgs.’ They say Rogalia is a country divided by a shared language. So much is this the case, that Rogalian nobility have a refined version of the language that they use to properly communicate in the House of Lords to keep proceedings running smoothly. This form of Rogalian is the most common language for legal documents to be written in, even elsewhere in the Throne, for it contains almost twice the words as any other language spoken throughout the Throne, and the nuance of difference is sometimes used to the advantage of the document’s drafter with those who are less familiar with the tongue.
The Rogalian nobility’s focus on diction and enunciation has made the accent of the upper class sound entirely different than that of the lower class, and this was partially the point. Nobles teach their children to speak in a very particular way that is intentionally designed to make them sound more intelligent and more regal. In other countries throughout the Throne, people will sometimes mimic the Rogalian accent when telling a joke to affect the line of some character meant to sound fancy or even pompous.
In Rogalia, there are roughly two kinds of people: the nobility and everyone else.
At the top of this pyramid are the Counts, the highest temporal rank in Rogalia, they rule regions called Counties wherein their rule is absolute. The men, or women, in the case of a Countess, who occupy these positions generally conform to an ideal of austere autocracy. Since there is no higher law in the land than they, there is no one besides themselves and their loyal factors to protect them from the intrigues of other Counts such as they. Because of this ever present danger, those of their number who do not see to their interests with ruthless pragmatism quickly find their County overturned by a rival lord with more cunning or less scruples.
Some Counts with particularly expansive or remote domains, or those split by natural or political barriers, grant the rank of Viscount upon their most trusted lieutenants. These sub-rulers control some portion within the realm of a Count and manage it in their lord’s stead. They are given certain commands or objectives by their patron and anything not specified is under their express command. Viscounts or Viscountesses are sometimes the hereditary children of a Count, but as often they are trusted military or political advisers. A count can create any number of Viscounts, though those who employ too many of these are seen as weak and fractious by their rivals, and risk attack.
Barons occupy the next rank of Rogalian nobility. The title of Baron, or Baroness in the case of a female, originally meant “Free Warrior,” and was granted to distinguish knights who had served their master well. It was essentially an honorable release from service while keeping the rights and privilege granted in exchange. The title is hereditary, however, so most Barons and Baronesses in the modern time were never knights, though it is still common enough. A Baron controls the land he lives in and the surrounding countryside, but bears his own authority. Though they are still bound to uphold the laws of the County in which they reside, a Barony may have any further laws the Baron wishes and can collect whichever taxes it wishes, so long as the appropriate share goes to the Count. Towns are typically ruled over by a Baron and subject to his laws. The largest distinction between Viscount and Baron is that a Viscount may have a number of baronies within his reach, and may call upon them and their retainers for military service. The son of a Baron is a Baronet, and will usually inherit his father’s title.
Finally, below the Barons are the Knights. Knights are noblemen who have sworn their life to the cause of a higher ranking nobleman, such as a Baron, Viscount or Count, usually after a period of apprenticeship as a squire to another Knight. Any knight can create another knight, but they must at some point be confirmed by that knight’s lord. Knights rule small parcels of land and homestead communities of ten to thirty people or so, usually from a larger manor house in their midst. The knight is charged with protecting his peasants, and the peasants are expected to serve him in return. As a member of the nobility, he can press any commoner into service for any reason.
PEASANTS AND FREEMEN
Peasants are tied to the land that they are assigned to and usually never leave it in their lifetime. Travel is difficult, expensive, and extremely dangerous, but these are all secondary to the wrath of the knights and other nobles whose law it would violate to attempt it. The nobles, and thus the country, need each peasant to work their assigned plot effectively or the region could not produce its resources for the greater concerns such as war and survival. Furthermore, if the law weren’t in place, seducing peasants away from one lord to another would be just another strategy of warfare between warring counties. Thus, any peasant attempting to leave their land without their Sir’s permission is considered a fugitive deserter and hunted like any other criminal.
Peasant villages contain one to five dozen families and one knight and his household. A peasant dwelling is constructed from wicker and slicked down with mud. Roofs are thatch or hay and the floor is some amount of dirt with the obvious rocks removed. Hogs, chickens, and any other animals a family holds are kept within the dwelling and an effort must be made to keep them from fouling or eating any food stores, or killing very small children. A small fire burns day and night in the center of a hut for cooking and heat, and the smoke is usually released through a hole in the roof with a drainage ditch nearby for when it rains. Sleep is usually on a little hill of leaves or moldy hay in one’s only set of clothes, covered by a fur. Villages usually do not contain services such as inns and forges, and the only products created there are ones that can be created by hand or by simple tools such as looms.
There is usually one or two large open fields which are plowed in sections by different families by a shared team of expensive oxen with a heavy plow. Everyone in the village works together to maintain the oxen and plow because without it, they cannot maintain their tax or labor and coin to their lords.
On the opposite hand are the Freemen. While not specifically tied to the land, freemen are people of craft or skill that are not bound by the laws of the peasantry. They are bound by much harsher laws. Freemen are not bound to the land as a traditional peasant is, and while this gives them the autonomy to move about the country or the Throne at large, they have no lord and thus no protection in case of war, famine, or other emergency. They tend to pay a fee to rent land from a lord rather than have land assigned to them, and usually cannot afford to rent as much land as is given to a peasant as part of their service. If asked, most Rogalian peasants, given the choice between being an unfree peasant working a good plot of land and a free man with a smaller amount of land, almost any of them would choose to remain unfree peasants for the protection it offers.
For those families that are not part of the gentry, naming is very informal. Mothers and fathers agree upon a child’s name, though the mother gets final say. Second names are usually professional in nature, and carrying on a family craft is more common here than in other parts of the Throne. This is perhaps in part because there are more large towns and less unused countryside than elsewhere, and thusly, more people of varied profession in tighter spaces. Family names such as Fisher, Porter, Cooper and Brewer are all reasonably common, though even among commoner families, some select names that resemble highborn family names, either out of genuine if peripheral relationship, or simply wishful thinking. Names like Wyvern, Arch, Bainer, and Falcon are more uncommon, but not to be unexpected.
“In a true brotherhood of mankind, all wars are civil wars.”
The most current concern in Rogalia is always war. Because when Victor von Herkheist annexed Rogalia, he did it by treaty with the assembled nobles rather than by conquest as he did in other regions, Von Herkheist was forced to give a concession to the disparate lords that Rogalia would retain a certain level of autonomy that other lands of the Throne such as Hestralia, Cappaccione or Gotha itself do not get. The Emperor will not intervene militarily within Rogalia to side against one lord in favor of another unless in the case of treason to God and Throne, and Rogalia may have whatever temporal laws it wishes so long as it accepts the Auctoritas, the body of law which governs the Nobility itself, and enforces the spiritual laws of the Church of Holy Benalus. Because of this otherwise hands-off relationship, which all future and current Emperors have promised to uphold, Rogalian Counts are not technically vassals of the Emperor like the King of Hestralia may be, or a Herzog of Gotha. In a certain regard, this means that the Counts have no masters save God and Benalus, or at least they like to think of it that way. The practical truth is that they are about as powerful as any other middling noble in another land, but the technicality of it does puff up some Count’s chests now and again.
Whether the ego of having no higher master on the Earth, the pragmatism of the safety of their lands from others, or more personal ambition or schemes, the Counts and other nobles treat Rogalia as a board to play out a wargame of epic proportions. The average county sees upward of one hundred violent encounters with other Count’s forces in a year. Few if any Counts or their factors can hide from this conflict, as a region that has fattened itself by managing to avoid war for a time only becomes more and more appetizing to raiders. Still, the absolutely constant strife has made Rogalia a fortress state that means there is such formidable defensive emplacements and strategies that in truth most encounters are stalemates that accomplish nearly nothing for either party.
All of this civil conflict means that traveling is very difficulty because nearly every person you don’t know is an enemy agent to a foreign power. There are few if any neutrals in this world, as almost every Rogalian falls within the fealty of some Count. Relocation, then, is almost unthinkable because the moving party would have to settle in the midst of outright hostility. With no alternative place to go if a reputation is sullied, Rogalians tend to be rather upstanding and dutiful to their lords and communities – a misdeed or a tarnished reputation stays with you forever.
It is not impossible to relocate. Some people are freeholders, technically the property of no lord, and if they can provide proper papers to this effect to the new authority, they have the right to live there, even in suspicion. A freeholder who works as a free employee of a Count to spy or sabotage has been tried before. It is also possible to relocate within the County of one’s lord, if it is permitted by their masters, both current and future, but such things are announced and arranged for well ahead of the arrival of the new individuals.
Rough work and monthly drills under a cloudy, gloomy skyline make most Rogalians out to be slightly stocky with fair skin. Though some mixing occurs, the same mixing that convoluted their language, the majority of Rogalians have brown hair with light colored eyes. On the frontlines of battle, the more frail men get weeded out at a young age, and only the strong, or lucky, make it home for the season. Half starved due to poor supply lines or harsh winters mean that many of the peasantry do not eat enough to become hefty and thick and simply have the broad shoulders that bones and breeding give them.
Unlike Gothic or Njordic men that border them, Rogalians men favor a clean shaven face, regardless of age. Aristocrats often grow their hair long, a tradition that dates all the way back to the Vampire Counts, but peasants generally favor close-cropped hairstyles that are utilitarian in times of battle. Women of all castes tend wear their hair long, but often gather it into partial braids to keep it from their face.
Rogalia has a difficult reputation to overcome in regards to cuisine. A foreigner watching a Rogalian eat will too often see a soldier or levied peasant scarf down tasteless bricks of hard bread or tear into withered, oily roots that have been boiled bland. On the road and during war, this is all too true. There is no effort spared to make food anything but long lasting and filling as a ration, but it is wrongly perceived as the entirety of Rogalian dining. Game fowl spiced with apples and berries, and abundant use of breads and porridges are common to Rogalia. The food is subtle in seasoning, with modest portions and usually served with a cup of hot or cold cider, which is a customary drink in most of Rogalia, as beer is not as widely available.
Meats in Rogalia are not uncommon, however, there is little livestock that is raised to be eaten, unlike other places in the Throne. That is because hunting is a large tradition in the fractured Rogalian culture. It is a rite of passage for a boy to hunt his first meal as a man, gut and clean it, then cook it himself before finally eating it. Thus, venison and many types of game fowl, like grouse or pheasant, are more often consumed instead of slaughtering calfs that can be used for muscle or sheep for their milk and wool. However, on special occasions, it is considered luxurious to slaughter a calf or sheep for their food and eat well in celebration.
Common Fruits: Apples, strawberries, blackberries, grapes, pears
Common Vegetables: Rye Wheat, Parsnips, leeks, peas, chives, garlic, marjoram
Common Meats: Fish, mutton, wild game fowl, venison
Common Dairy: Eggs from domestic geese, Sheep or goats milk and cheese or butter made from it.
Common Recipes: Batter-fried fish with potato wedges, mutton pie, roast aurochs beef and egg pudding, cheese, egg and mustard pie
It is said that the Rogalia of yore was a lush and full land, but the countryside shows the scars and hardening of war wherever one goes. Roads span the country, but have been strategically demolished and rebuilt in several places. One finds bridges that are out due to sabotage with some regularity. Fields report the burning of their crops a year or two before with traces of the same soot and ash on the far edges. There are whole hills that have been constructed artificially out of the turf removed to make a nearby moat and to build a new castle upon, but where no castle ever survived long enough to be built. The landscape has changed over and over due to war, and the land is an unrecognizable descendant of the way it must have looked in the ages before.
Rogalia sits upon the Westernmost border of the Throne, and has a long coast that joins with the Rogalt Ocean. Most of the country runs North and South along this coast, though proceeds inland for a great distance until bordering against the Cragcleft Mountains which form its shared border to the East with Gotha. The Northern most edges of Rogalia border with the Sea of Coils, from which Northmen have raided since times of old. Once Port Melandir, also in the North, became a major sea power as all of the Counts that have one dock some of their navy there, it began to act as a buffer zone against Njordic incursions, which lead to the creation of more coastal monasteries and churches, which otherwise would have been raided for their silver and other wealth in a time before Port Melandir, the Throne, and Njordr’s current annex.
Rivers run through Rogalia, running down from the Cragcleft mountains, and they form important strategic points all through the land. The most powerful of the rivers, the Quitch River and Mastow, join at one point, where House Telford has placed its castle, Sunken Sorrow, and its surrounding town of Gildwater. Strategic points like this one form the vertexes of the Counties, and while many things change in the landscape due to the vicissitudes of war, strategic points like this and dozens of others have seen hundreds of battles over the centuries as wars reach climactic conclusions or long, protracted sieges at these points. Because of the layers upon layers of calamity that occur there, these sites also have more than their share of encounters with the Night Malefic.
PLANTS AND RESOURCES
Much of the thick forest land of Rogalia’s history has been converted to forts and bridges. Unlike Gotha or other parts of the Throne where humanity’s numbers has not yet caught up with its potential living area, each Count is boxed into their own County by their hostile neighbors, and are forced to use all available resources within their borders. Trade for valuable commodities like lumber is less common in Rogalia because one may need those same commodities and never know when trade will or will not be available. As well, a constant sense of emergency means that lords do not look farther into the future than the next invasion when considering the long term effects of ravaging their land for resources, and the burning of a forest or collapsing of a mine is one more innovation of war. This means that quarries, mines and forests are generally more depleted in Rogalia than they otherwise would be elsewhere, but one should not think that Rogalia is without resources. In fact, much of the spoil of war in Rogalia is over built fortification, taking a wooden castle from another Count means you have effectively taken the bounty of the forest he consumed to make it, so effort is made not to utterly destroy that which can be yours on the morrow with a different war strategy.
GEOGRAPHIC EFFECTS ON CULTURE
One would think that given the insulating climate of Rogalia’s petty kingdoms, peasants forbidden to leave their lands, and Lords seeking ways to destroy, subvert, and guard against their neighbors, that Rogalia would be not one but dozens of fractured cultures. The reality is quite a bit different, however. The constant waging of war is actually more of a pervasive atmosphere than an actual reality; it just isn’t possible to have a battle occurring everywhere at once every day. Instead, being in Rogalia feels as though the sky is black and a storm is about to break – but not yet. Soon, but not yet. Like the weather, this is a condition that affects everyone, not just one County, and that atmosphere of fractured factions and bloodshed ironically does more to unify the Rogalian people at large than it does to separate them. Strife is the condition of life in Rogalia, and it is the Rogalian way to endure through strife, to resist it, and to struggle above it. A Rogalian man or woman needs to actively work to rise above the oppressive atmosphere of not knowing whether this year, this harvest, this meal, is their last together with their family. This produces a culture of adamant, steadfast, and overall positive people who are born to struggle against adversity and make every day, season, and year count. It also produces a strong desire to find meaning and value in the conflicts of their land, to know that it is all worth something.
Rogalia is the birthplace of Valor, the knightly ideal of honorable, steadfast, and courageous men who rise above conflict and war and conduct themselves with modesty, decorum, honor, passion, and power. Valor is an attractive concept to a people who live on the edge of depravity and blood every day, whose lives and deaths are governed by the bloody whims of powers above their station. Many stories of brave, handsome, or courageous knights have been told around fireside, and even in some famous written manuscripts that adorn the halls of Barons and Counts throughout Rogalia, such as The Redguard, a tale of virtuous warriors who journeyed through Rogalia righting wrongs under the orders of their Count, Rodrick the Red, a probably fictional character, who some Lords such as Count Telford of Gildwater and Count Strongbull of Farthington, claim to descend from. Honor, ideals, and some higher purpose to combat are all very dear concepts to Rogalians to protect them from the despair of endless war. The concepts of Valor are very well developed and cared for, and while Knighthood was born in Fenristadt, Valor, the soul of Knighthood that all Knight Orders uphold and venerate everywhere in the Throne was born in the hearts of Rogalians.
Rogalia, it is said by some, wants to be unified. Rogalia wants a king, wants to be one people, but it cannot quite manage the feat. The Pactum Domini that Von Herkheist signed with the lords of Rogalia promised that the Emperor would not intervene directly or militarily in their matters of internal politics, and so far every Emperor since Victor has upheld that pledge, meaning that without violating the terms of the Pactum Domini, the Emperor may not crown a King – only Rogalia can do that. At some point, every young Rogalian nobleman grows up wondering if, just maybe, they could unify Rogalia and become King. They could save the country from constant warfare.
In many small ways, the insulation of the counties makes the people grow stronger together as one people with one plight. The Church encourages this however it can, for while the Emperor cannot meddle, the Church still may. The Warrior Priests of the Mithrihim Order have a strong presence in the country, and not only do they sermonize about the ideal of human brotherhood, but they also may travel freely through the various lands and counties bringing news, messages, and culture from one County to the next. Even the Counts would not dare impede the Church, and they are pursuing a long term goal of a unified Rogalia through unified peasant and noble culture. They work with the Mendicant Order of St. Bathier to create as much of an interconnected ideal as possible between the lands of Rogalia.
HAZARDS OF TRAVEL
“May we quiet our screams with theirs.”
Travel in Rogalia is most often limited by and to military needs. All of the roads that exist between the various settlements are used during war to move armies and supply lines, but the large-scale movement of armies is hardly every day, even in Rogalia. During most parts of the year, County paid road wardens patrol the major traffic lines on horseback to ensure the well-being of travelers and merchants, as well as act as local scouts to spot enemy troop movement and banditry for the main forces of the Count. Each road warden travels a set portion of land once a day, usually the distance between two landmarks such as from an inn to the bridge and back, and wealthier or more important areas sometimes have two wardens who will cross one another around midday. It is popular for merchants to time their travels with the passage of the road warden who acts like a free bodyguard for the portion of their trip. Poor merchants cannot afford their own retinue of bodyguards, so even one armed horseman makes a significant difference in how vulnerable their wares are and helps absorb some of the risk of transporting expensive goods over land. This is intentional on the part of the Counts, for without this service many fewer merchants would risk travel between areas and the supply of goods would go down, throwing their economies into chaos. Or, more likely, only wealthy trade guilds would have enough resources to afford the risks of travel, and more and more merchants would conglomerate into fewer and fewer directions, ultimately leading to a situation where the merchant guilds themselves were a power on the Rogalian stage, able to make demands on Counts and influence the outcome of politics. House Telford, which has a major stake in many of the merchant guilds of Rogalia, actively encourages such conglomeration, from which they would benefit the most, and rumor has it they have secretly sponsored banditry that makes the roads more dangerous than otherwise to encourage this outcome.
Because of the nature of Rogalia’s County system and the general state of disrepair the roads, bridges, and other means of travel are in, most Rogalian villages are just under a day’s walk away from one another in a web that extends out from a larger central town that serves as the County seat. Once the most external village is passed, there is typically a long stretch of wilderness before reaching the interior of a neighbors County, and it is within these empty spaces that much of the fighting occurs. Once that great distance is traversed, hostilities and fear of spying are constant concerns to any traveler. A stranger to the County could be the vassal of a rival Count, there to sow evil and discord, so merchants commonly wear a device or sign of their association to their group prominently. Ordinary travelers such as pilgrims, wanderers, actors, and other traveling individuals generally have no such security, and are met with suspicion or even hostility.
Historically Njordic raiders have come to the coastal regions of Rogalia to reave. The practice somewhat died off during the Lion Age when Rogalia became highly militarized, as it no longer projected such an appetizing target, though it certainly occurs with some regularity. Traditionally the Njords would simply have to arrive with an army, threaten a hold with a protracted battle and ask to be paid off, and the local Count likely would do just that. This was simpler and less costly than an actual battle with the northmen, and it had the added advantage that the still battle ready Njords would then travel farther south to the next hold, likely the land of the Count’s enemy, and demand the same of him, depleting his foe’s resources as well, or, if he decided to put up a fight, harming his army enough for follow-up attacks by Rogalian knights.
With the annex of Njordr into the Throne, reaving was forbidden by the Emperor and most Njords no longer participate in it, though the amount of actual raiding has remained roughly constant. The Rime Clans who refuse to be annexed have redoubled their raiding efforts enough to make up for the laxity of their southern kin, and raid now out of anger and malice than for resources.
Depending on the season, vampires roughly tie with enemy military for the role of most fearsome external threat. While supposedly nearly all of the Noblemen of the last age were wiped out, vampires still undeniably plague the land. Most often encountered are the spawn, lesser vampires with feral instincts and ferocious predatory mien. While they were once human, they only crudely resemble their former lives, and seem largely devoid of much of their memory, personality, and soul. Some vampire spawn are capable of human speech, often those which have survived for some time as spawn, though even those who speak do so as madmen, tending to be extremely excitable, emotional, and skittish. Spawn are also gluttonous, seeming to be in a perpetual state of starvation. They seem to require upwards of an entire adult human blood supply per day to remain in peak condition. Though when fully fed they can pass as human beings, going even a day without gorging upon a human vessel begins a rapid descent into monstrosity that reveals them to any as what they truly are – running, leaping, feral corpses that are clever and persistent hunters of men. Because they require so much upkeep, Vampires only make spawn in times of emergency or war, and doing so is a temporary concern. Vampires rarely spend the effort keeping these ghouls fed after their purpose is ended.
Vampires themselves, the true noblemen of the night, certainly still exist, and they are the true fright in every Rogalian’s heart, from the mean to the mighty. As a whole, they possess wide arrays of frightening powers, though individual vampires seem to exhibit only a small number of these abilities, often sharing their talents with those of their close vampire kin. One Vampire may command all the beasts of the wild, while another may have command over the weather, or over thoughts. No one knows how many of the night’s masters still exist, or what they are doing, but they occasionally do appear.
ROGALIAN PEOPLE IN OTHER COUNTRIES
Because of Rogalia’s top-heavy population of Nobility, most Rogalians outside of Rogalia are nobles or those in the agency of nobles. Some Counts have considered that the best place to raise a promising young son or daughter may be outside of Rogalia entirely, where the intrigues of other Counts are less likely to reach them and they can receive their training and education from another noble House elsewhere in the Throne. Some send their heirs to Hestralia to learn business from the Merchant Guilds, knowing that the professional general wins wars with logistics, not tactics. Some send their kin to Gotha, to learn statecraft and build relationships with the Elector Herzogs or learn the Church’s message in Holy Lethia itself. These young wards often have their own staff and retinue of several dozen retainers, and this may contribute to the stereotype that all Rogalians are haughty and affected, since outside of Rogalia so many of them are young and inexperienced noblemen out in the world away from their dangers and duties for the first time – and those who need clean up after them.
Not all foreign Rogalians are nobles, however, though nearly all the rest are soldiers or mercenaries. Rogalia’s chief export, it is said, are hard men. Seasoned veterans of the Rogalian wars make excellent additions to existing armies, as well as personal security teams or bodyguards for high ranking officials, clergy, and wealthy merchants. As well, some professional militaries and Knight Orders use Rogalian veterans as strategic consultants, simply giving training and advice to the officer corps of some far flung Cappacian or Gothic army, some simple soldiers having seen more battles and more campaigns than even top ranking Captains and other senior officers in an army, many of whose positions were purchased with family coin.
Art in Rogalia is usually commemorative, having an aspect of storytelling and record keeping. In the tumult of war, not to mention the occasional sacking of one’s capital, it is more than likely details and history will be lost to time. This, combined with the fact that most high production art is done at the request or patronage of a Count or other ranking official means that a special attempt is made to depict scenes and events from the lives of Counts, Barons, Knights, Bishops, and other powerful men and women doing the memorable or heroic deeds for which they wish to be remembered. These events are largely military, but just as many are famous meetings, more personal heroic acts like a valorous knight saving of an innocent, the slaying of some malefic beast, or the veneration of a saint.
As there is a higher population of nobility in Rogalia, the trades of whitesmithing and gemcutting thrive there, and the Counts compete for status at parliament with the exquisiteness of their raiment and gems, but many of these are largely made to order or made to the taste of the Count whose patronage the jeweler has or hopes to have gained. Because of this, the style of these can vary wildly but often somehow depict the house standards and colors, such as jeweled falcon broaches for the Faulkners or gold bladed-daggers with onyx hilts for an Underwood.
More traditionally, Rogalian sculpture is very advanced compared to the rest of the Throne, owing partially to the traditional bone or ivory carvings that the ancient Rogalt tribesmen would create. Scrimshaw made from whale bone and teeth is very popular along the coasts, as in an early age many great and varying whales travelled the coast of the Rogalt Ocean, though many fewer exist today. As the whales diminished, the tradition moved toward carving stone, and many of the traditional tribes of Rogalia created standing stones or large dolmens to mark sacred places. In the course of war, some of these places have been torn down for quarry, but a large number of them still survive to this day, and are seen by some of peasants who still remember the oldest traditions as sacred places to spirits, pixies, and even Vecatra. In the more modern time of the Lion Age, the stone carving traditional to Rogalia is used to create huge and lifelike lions for churches and cathedrals, as well as statues of ancient Counts and other historical figures. Port Melandir has a statue of Hershel Archibald, the founder of their line and supposedly the author of many of the first academic texts that most texts today are cited or copied from, which sits above the enormous “Learner’s Steps” leaving the dock of Port Melandir for the city proper.
Traditional Rogalian music is in ballad form and sung by professional bards. Ballads are epic retellings of real, supposedly real, or allegorical events meant to demonstrate meaning by way of the story, and Rogalians have always found a special fascination with these stories. The stories quite often feature the classic roles of Rogalian life, such as clergy, knights, noblemen and women, millers, pilgrims, and other staple characters. Often these staple characters have a specific name such as Tom the Miller, and feature in many stories by many bards who write them into their stories more as archetypal set pieces than as actual characters, and knowing the amalgamated history of these characters goes a long way to understanding Rogalian theater as a whole. Each character represents a certain archetypal caricature of how Rogalian’s think of Rogalia and their own culture. For instance, Tom the Miller is often dishonest, taking unfair advantage of his customers, and this reflects the reputation of many real millers in Rogalia, who take an unfair or dishonest share of the wheat offered to them for milling by their peasant customers.
Also featured are such characters as a heroic knight and a wicked knight as distinct characters. These two ideas of how Rogalians see the vested champions of the Counts are very in line with how Rogalians understand their own political system. The heroic knight is a model of charisma, virtue, Valor, and Benalian faith, and is usually local to the area of the story, while the wicked knight is often an invader of a distant Count, and is often featured committing rape, murder, lying, and other cruelties upon the people. It is important to note that the color and standards of these knights is never fixed. The wicked knight in one story may be boasting the black and grey of House Baines in one story, and the gold and black of Underwood in another, but still bear the distinct characterization and even specific history of a black and grey knight in another story, as if they were in fact the same character in different livery. In the sense of Rogalian ballads, this is normal as the personalities in each story are meant to be somewhere between specific and non-specific individuals for the sake of the story’s message and meaning, though outsiders are often quite confused trying to understand the context of a Rogalian ballad without the full vocabulary and experience of the larger Rogalian set-pieces and repertoire of stories.
While many bards are independent wanderers who take up the craft as a family trade or on their own, three bard colleges exist in Rogalia – The Harper’s College of the Arts in Port Melandir, the Windsinger’s Guild in North Pass, and the Companions in Stonesborough. While Bards originally were pre-Benalian shamans or wisemen, in the Lion Age they are treated more as a professional group and a service culture hired for special events, or traveling to and fro across the countryside paying their way with their voice or lute while they learn or write new epics and stories and build their reputation for their later career where they arrive by request or stay on indefinite retainer with some lord.
Bards travel specific routes from estate to estate in paths from one patron of music to another while making the deviations that are cost-effective to make along the way. These routes usually begin in the spring, take them most of the way through Rogalia, and then have them back at their college for the duration of the winter. With all the bards wintering in one location, they take that time to swap stories, learn one another’s new songs, and gather supplies for the new spring journeys. During the winter they also hold music festivals and let the audience come to them for giant concerts that feature dozens of famous bards performing alongside novices and rising stars. Many lords make the journey, since military matters slow to a crawl during the winter, and these concerts also make an excellent venue for new political alliances and arrangements, since many important lords are present, largely without movable armies and have had a long campaign over the summer to consider what they want to attempt with the spring thaw. Because of this reputation for intrigue and politics, the concerts themselves have begun getting their own songs about the concert, telling of adventurous spies or daring trysts that take place during these winter festivals. It is rumored that this trend began when one such ballad was created by request of a clever nobleman who wished to warn a peer anonymously of the goings on at that very event.
Though originally born in nearby Dunland, the harp is a large part of Rogalian musical tradition. In the time before the Lion Age or House Renett’s annexing of Dunland, free trade and communication by sail with Dunland was much more common and ideas moved to and from the archipelago with relative ease. While the issue for the Dunnick is much strained, the harp nevertheless has become important all over the Throne and bards of Rogalia certainly use them for their distinct sound as well as portability and versatility. A small traveling harp can be kept in oiled leather in a pack without difficulty or danger, and a large stationary harp is often on hand in larger estates.
The seven-string lute is the other favorite instrument of bards and amateur singers, partially because it is easy to learn the basics of, and partially because of how difficult it is to truly master. This makes it a favorite novices and masters alike, and casual players have something in common with the romantic ideals of the traveling bards.
Rogalia can be a harsh land, and if it weren’t for its people’s unique sense of upright determination, it would be a truly abysmal land of despair. Somehow, however, the people keep their spirits in the midst of endless war, and the influence of the Church is a large part of that cultural backbone that keeps the Rogalian people strong and capable.
It is easy to forget that Parliament, more formally called the Parliament of Lords Temporal and Spiritual, is in one third constituted of the powerful priests of Rogalia and not only its ruling Counts and their houses. The priests, usually of Bishop rank, with the Rogalian Archbishops of the various orders acting as party leaders, act like a heavy anchor on the political power of the nobles. The priests, while not always, are usually fairly united in their position and when voting comes, it can be difficult for lords to pass their power bloc. Adding to the fact that the Counts themselves are rarely united unless against obvious and unanimous external threats, (and even this can be a challenge as certainly even a universal threat will harm their enemies as well), the considerable weight of the priest’s unanimity make them a powerful force in Rogalian politics.
The Church wants a King of Rogalia. It believes that a king could settle the fighting in the area after an epoch of war, and Rogalia could return its attentions to its spiritual well-being. A united Rogalia could remember the Church’s message of a brotherhood of mankind, and its borders could be broken up, increasing diversity, marriage, and population. All of Rogalia’s considerable military might could be put toward conquering new lands and expanding the Throne instead of conquering one another. To a point, the Counts agree with this notion. Many Counts dream of becoming king. The question always comes down to who, however.
The Church, as well, will not support just any candidate to the kingship of Rogalia, and would want certain guarantees that such a man would not only be sincerely pious and devout, but also that such attitudes would be impressed upon his entire line, as it would not do to have a great king for one generation before a monstrous heir set Rogalia aflame once again. Thus, any candidate who would be king needs not only to prove his loyalty to the goals of the Church, but also to prove his loyalty over more than a single generation before the Church would back him. This ensures that a great many Counts give great weight and authority to the Church, both in their own lands, and also in the lands of their neighbors and enemies.
Orthodoxy is strongest in major towns, and the church’s main foothold in Port Melandir. Chiefly, orthodoxy concerns have to do with safety and conduct in and around battle sites. In order to keep favor with the Church, the Rites of Conquest must be part of any military engagement, and any of the Sanctae Viae priests must be allowed free travel through Rogalia, unmolested and even defended by any organized military wearing the standard of a count. The common people of Rogalia are split between total distaste at the incessant wars of their Counts and the unending gratitude of their protectors, but the first group clings hard to the Church and makes twice sure it follows every rule. Peasants fight hard to live a virtuous life, knowing that in such a dangerous land, any day could be the last.
The official stance of the Church is that all matters of war in Rogalia must have the blessing of a Warrior Priest and have their oversight. Because of the alarming frequency of conflict, this is actually impossible. The next best thing is that military matters are blessed in the war room when military plans are shared with the Mithrihim priest. This is vulgar, as the true Rites of Conflict prescribe a speech at the head of the columns that each man listens to and understands, but half a prayer is perhaps better than none at all. Rogalian soldiers who find themselves at war without a Warrior Priest on their side are told that the Mithrihim priest has prayed for this battle, and that it has been made clean for them from afar. Whether this is true in every case is hard to verify.
A secondary effect of this practice, however, is that long-term military strategy is run past the Mithrihim order and can be communicated to their Order and to other Orders of the priesthood well in advance of the other armies. When they do this, they take great care with secrecy, both to protect their source of information by not being exiled from the war rooms, but also because the secrecy of the information is essential to its effective use. With these secrets in hand, brothers of the church can pull their agents out of war zones before the fighting comes, and can also use the battles to their advantage in other ways. For example, brothers of the Cyanahim Order, the watcher priests of St. Decimus, often make their appointments with noteworthy figures who so often turn up for such conflicts.
While the Church does everything it can to maintain its connection between all of its orders and brothers hard at work trying to settle a peace in Rogalia from behind the scenes, the nature of Rogalia makes this impossible to achieve in totality. The Cyanahim do their best to maintain a network of homing ravens in every place of interest, and the Melandihim carry missives with them as they travel the country, but in the end, no amount of political influence can make a mountain pass open in the winter, or walk across a broken bridge demolished by a retreating army. In these cases, the brothers of the church are on their own and the desperate situations that Rogalia creates may cause members of the clergy to allow their moral ground to slip.
With such a powerful stake in Rogalian politics, the Church is constantly being curried with for favor, and it is tempting to become lost in the dance of politics and lose sight of the mission. Some Bishops live with more luxury than Counts, since their wealth more rarely comes under attack, and only the Vow of Poverty that all of the Mendicant Priests of St. Bathier’s Order swear keeps their personal opulence from becoming gross with time.
Superstition, otherwise known as the people’s best attempt at understanding the Night Malefic.
Black dogs – Black dogs are thought to roam the fields and roads at night, and are associated with vampires. These huge black dogs are larger than normal, and can be seen from afar with glowing red eyes. It is said if they bite you, that you become a vampire spawn, and that anything they see can be known by their masters.
Bogarts – Bogarts are faerie men who hide in your house and befoul your food, steal your things, and cause other minor disasters. It is believed that they cause this mischief on behalf of the Counts themselves, and that if a house has a bogart, that family is traitor to the true lord of the land.
Brownies – Kind people who leave food, cream, or alcohol out for the local spirits may get the attention of a brownie, a kind of friendly faerie man. Brownies do chores for their patrons while they sleep, and while are thought of as Night Malefic, are a controversial exception that all of them are, in fact, malefic.
Chiming Folk – Babies born on the chime of midnight by the local monastery or church’s bells are thought to be able to see the dead. This is a terrible curse, and it is believed that the night itself is born into such children. Mothers, and midwives too, do all they can do delay any delivery that seems to be running into nightfall until after the chime of the bells, though mothers or babes that are lost to the birthing death at night are treated as Chiming Folk also, and are buried eight feet down, “demon deep” just to be sure.
Conrack the Njord – A ghostly raider who is said to attack coastal villages with a crew of spectral njorsemen, carrying off women and prizes even to this night. It is said that he is the spirit of the son of a Rogalian Count, banished to the north for some unknown treason, and come back for revenge
Husk Dolls – Rogalian people sometimes believe that the wheat has a spirit, and part of the wheat, specifically the very last stalks that are reaped from a single field, contains the spirit of the wheat field, which is then turned into a humanoid doll and hung in the house until next planting season in order to keep it alive.
Dragons – Everyone knows that dragons once flew the skies of Rogalia and other places, but the last of the dragons are believed to be killed in the Age of Witchkings with Quixalialtha, the Dragonmother. Still, people still say that they find them in ancient dales or caves, far away from lands of the Counts. A few knights report to have managed to kill one of the few remaining as well, though this has never been verified.
Faerie Men – Faerie are the people from the Fae, another world thought to exist alongside ours in the Age of Heroes but far separated now. It is said that with their Faerie magic, they can still traverse from the Fae to the Throne, but the Fae is not of God’s Creation, and so is an unholy place. There are many, many legends of the Faerie and their cruel kings and nobles, all of them depicting Faerie as above all, capricious, as if living by rules totally alien to men. Modern scholars have theorized that Faerie Men are, in fact, simply Vampires, and that encounters with the Faerie are encounters instead with some of the last remaining of Night’s Masters that haunt Rogalia.
The Wild Hunt – All areas of Rogalia have some story or other about the Wild Hunt, a group of terrifying hunters that chase any they can find to death, clearing the land of all living men and animals. Some forms of the Wild Hunt have these as armies of Spawn, being yoked and driven forward by one of the Old Noblemen, while some stories have them as ghosts being led by an angry spirit. Still others say that the hunt is lead by elves who secret in the Rogalian wood, killing whole armies in disastrous battles, or else enchanting whole armies to do their bidding with their incomprehensible beauty.
EFFECT ON CULTURE
The Church is actually one of the only senses of continuity through Rogalia, as it is one of the only elements of Rogalian culture that doesn’t stop and reinvent itself at every other bridge or pass. This gives it is a certain charm that the rest of Rogalia lacks, and yet inherently craves. Rogalians want to be Rogalian, not just the servants of House Baines or House Avery. Roglians are a hopeful and dutiful people who look to a horizon of peace somewhere down the line for their country, and they hope that one day Rogalia will be one Rogalia. Whether it is true or not, the sense in Rogalia is that that day might be getting closer, and they enjoy keeping whatever cultural traditions in common with their neighbors in other counties as they can.
The Church provides a way to do that, in that they can communicate back and forth with one another. Especially regarding lands that do not border one another, Rogalians enjoy hearing stories of what happens in other counties, the wars that they fight, the heroes among their knights, the trials of their people. As long as the county is far enough that they don’t encounter them militarily with any frequency, they can believe that those people are just like they are – soldiers in an endless war to protect themselves and their loved ones from wicked Counts just over the hill. These stories are encouraged by the Church, and used in their sermons to the people. Carefully managing the setting of these stories, the Church hopes to create a complex lattice of proxy friendships between what might otherwise be cultural rivals, to better prepare Rogalia for its someday unification. While it has little success making a case that any county’s direct neighbor and thus oldest rivals are just as they are, if it can make friends and peers of a distant county, and that county can make friends of some County that rivals the first, perhaps one day all of the various friendships can be linked together in a great chain that will make Rogalia whole.
The Church wants a King of Rogalia to make peace, it is true, but loss of lives and brotherhood of mankind is not the only reason for this desire. The circumstances of Rogalia are a perfect breeding pit for heresy.
The constant state of war can grind down people’s mental endurance. Living in a constant state of alarm, never knowing whether your family or friends are safe, and being forever at the mercy of the warlords who rule Rogalia causes some, whether through patriotism or a simple need for revenge, pushes some people toward Kuarl. Kuarl offers the power to kill, and some people see killing as a way to end the killing, or even a way to become king. Indeed, roving bands of Kuarlites operate more openly in Rogalia than nearly anywhere else, taking on armies and trying to pull converts from weakened military powers of Counts in precarious positions, sometimes using their overwhelming power to make their killing its own object lesson about the hopelessness of continual war.
Ambitious Lazarines find that Rogalia’s fields are positively full of dead soldiers, sometimes literally. More than once a commander has set out to dig a trench for a mass grave and found the spot already the site of a grave from some past battle a generation or two before. Lazarines mostly operate quietly from the shadows, but on occasion they have cause to commit to some open endeavor, and in those cases, Rogalia becomes a very dangerous place to have a necromancer for an enemy, if only because of the sheer number of dead soldiers at their disposal, not to mention that they may come somewhat better armed and armored than corpses from some backwater town’s cemetery.
While it is always difficult to tell for sure, it thought that Tarrantists may have a significant hold here, and the Church is very worried about the deity’s presence here. Those whose ego knows no satisfaction, who recognize no authority above their own, who see others as pawns to do their bidding for the endless accumulation of power and prestige when the costs are borne by others make natural Tarrantists. The fact that this perfectly describes the average Rogalian Count has not been lost on the Inquisition or the Cyanahim. In the Rogalian nobility, ambition is the stuff of life. If you do not have ambition – an ambitious goal, an ambitious attack plan, an ambitious design on how you will get enough food to make it through winter, you will be subjugated by someone more brazen. Generations of escalation have resulted in a caste of nobility that see rules as illusions for those less clever, and that victory comes every time you see a place to break a rule that your enemy unwittingly follows. This dangerous mindset is the perfect place for heresy to set in, and with the subtle hand of an artist, a well-placed Tarrantist can move the tide of the nation.
The woods witches, once called the Clever Folk in Rogalia, still show themselves now and again as well. Though the attitude toward them has changed, a complex history of traditions dealing proper conduct when encountering an ancient bard or wiseman are still in the memory of the people, Everyone knows that you always accept any gift given to you by them, and you must never be rude to them. If they offer you a trade of some kind, you should take it. Anyone who offers shelter or comfort to a clever one can expect their kindness repaid threefold, but anyone who spurns them earns a sevenfold vengeance. In times past, these bards and poet priests would act as protectors of a community from wicked things, sometimes by appeasing the primal lords of the Faerie by knowing their strange customs, or in later years it is said they could drive off vampires, or even cure a vampire’s bite. It is said they could enter the Fae by using giant stone henges found in the deep dark woods, and travel to any other henge in Rogalia in but a day, though perhaps more time would pass in betwixt for the traveler, or perhaps less.
While the traditional view of the Clever Folk is mostly benign, the modern Church points them out for what they are now known to be – Vecatra worshiping witches, and a blight on any community that tolerates them. The tricks of the past were the collaboration with demons of the land, and wicked spirits that serve the Triumverate of the woods goddess. Like all witches, no congress between they and the people of the Throne is permitted, as their influence is considered dangerous heresy.
Holidays often vary from County to County because of the unique rulerships of each Count. Many Counts have holidays which venerate an ancestor such as the founder of their line, or to commemorate famous or important battles won or lost. There are several holidays, however, that transcend County borders and are part of the Rogalian cultural identity.
Soldier’s Day is a day of remembrance for those who have been killed in battle. If the bodies were able to be returned home for burial, the family will visit the gravestone of the lost soldier. Cemeteries are usually very full on this day, and the living gather to reminisce about old times and glorify the lives and sacrifices of the fallen. If a soldier’s body was never recovered, or whether he actually died never proven, it is traditional on this day to ask a priest to light a candle for them, which they carefully take home and place upon the window ledge. This is thought to help to guide them back home. If the candle is still burning in the morning, it is thought to be an omen that they are still alive out there, somewhere.
During the first weeks of winter, Rogalians take a day to bring their families together, wherever they can be found if they are able. Almost no peasant families transcend County lines, so this is usually feasible. Merchants and other traveling professionals try to make a special effort to come home during this holiday so that they can be with their loved ones. The feast marks the start of winter, and thus, the end of campaigning season. Soldiers are almost always home by this time for the winter, since war cannot be waged for the rest of the year. The gathering acts as a kind of headcount to see who has survived this campaign, and any family member that went off to war that does not make it home for Homecoming is assumed to have been killed in battle.
Those that do make it home are greeted with a huge party, as generally all of the village’s soldiers arrive home from the Count’s army on the same day, so the celebrations are often combined in the village square, and then break off into smaller familiar groups back at the individual homes.
The Nightlord’s Feast is a popular holiday, especially with young people. On this day, everyone in the village dons special costumes and clothing in order to appear like vampires. People wear costumes to try to look like aristocrats, (though with far poorer material and mostly a caricature of it) and otherwise accessorize to try to represent what they believe the Noblemen of old appeared as and acted like. Copious amounts of red wine are consumed on this day, and a great cask is opened in the middle of the village from which everyone is permitted to take as much as desired.
This evening, which takes place in mid-Autumn, corresponds to the anniversary of the death of the Red Queen, and is somewhat in reference to the great blood tithes that villages once had to perform to appease their vampire masters when the Noblemen would come around to collect.
Peace Day happens in the middle of summer, when the days are their hottest, and when armies in the middle of campaign. On this day, a general truce is called for and almost always honored by all militaries everywhere in Rogalia. The day originates with the story of St, Richard Heatherfield, called Richard the Trustworthy, who is legendarily said to have brokered a peace between four opposing armies in a single day. Several versions of this story exist as Ballads, sometimes switching this Count for that one regarding exactly which armies were stopped, but all accounts agree that St. Richard made a truly moving and impressive speech that shamed all the lords present into peace.
Strange as it may sound, the Counts, even extremely militant Counts like Baines, follow the tradition and do not seek to engage enemy forces on this day. Furthermore, anyone who has had a quarrel in the past year will give an earnest gift to their enemy on this day. Between hard rivals, these gifts are an art form all their own of subtle backhanded jabs, such as a portrait of the recipient in an unflattering pose or with their nose a little too large, or perhaps a new sword, given that the giver had sundered their sword dramatically in the last defeat, and the gift can remind them of the occasion. While it may seem strange to some, nobles who receive such gifts almost never take personal offense at them, even from a bitter enemy. On the contrary, the effort gone into such a gift is a mark of respect for them as a foe.
As many gifts are genuine attempts to make an actual overture of peacefulness, or to court a new ally. Among the smallfolk of Rogalia, who can be just as grudge-bearing as their nobles, an attempt is also made for less epic quarrels, such as who ruined who’s shoes last spring, This day is seen as a way to end a feud honorably and without losing face, or even admitting that you were ever wrong. The holiday demands that peace be made, so they don’t have to feel bullied or shamed into admitting they were wrong, but all the same, people can rejoin and move forward as friends.
Legends tell of scoundrel Counts or captains who have broken tradition and engaged in combat on this day, hoping to catch their enemy unawares. Not only are their efforts said to have failed in disaster, but the survivors were haunted to the end of their days by the spirits of those they slew, their lives cursed forever.
Rogalian tradition has it that a vampire cannot drink your blood if you wear a scarf, collar, or choker around your throat. Most people have no idea if this is true, but nevertheless Rogalian fashion has grown around the idea, and almost all Rogalians, regardless of class, wear some sort of neckerchief, tie, a high-collared coat or shirt, or perhaps a choker of lace or velvet, in the upper class.
Rogalian trade is a risk-filled venture, but where there is risk, there is profit. Thanks to the wars, the roads are difficult to travel, which means that outside goods are scarce, so those that can provide them may set their own prices.
Most of the merchants in Rogalia are not Rogalian. Given that the roads are so difficult and fraught with peril from raiders, night malefic, or the greatest danger – armies in need of supplies who pay with their swords instead of coin – most merchant travel is done by ship. Rogalia has a long coast and its capital city is a trade port, making ship travel a natural second option to the roads. This, naturally, would induce the Counts to pursue naval action to perform trade operations, and certainly they do, but piracy, or rather naval warfare, is very common. Strong naval powers like the Houses of Underwood, Telford, or Renett that can afford to guard their merchant vessels still can make a good profit, but for others they would have to rely on the resources of a rival.
Thus enter the Hestralian Trade Companies, most specifically the Rogalia Company, which act as neutral to the main conflicts amongst the Counts. While piracy does still strike at these traders, it does so with far less frequency, as to attack the trade vessels could mean the loss of essential contracts and goods that can’t be found in one’s own County. Acting as a united force, the Rogalia Company, which is actually a confederacy of private captains who agree to sail under the same flag and split the profits of their voyage with the company back in Hestralia, is able to punish Counts who act against them with trade embargos. On occasion, Counts still do interfere with their merchant traffic, but this is usually for strategic reasons to deny supply to their enemy, and usually do so with a blockade rather than sinking the vessel. The Rogalia Company assesses a fine for this behavior, common enough to be built right into their contracts, but the Counts sometimes deem the price well paid to finish a campaign with fewer losses.
Another novelty of recent years is trade from Njordr. With its recent annex into the Throne after centuries of raiding and reaving, many of those that come viking to Rogalia have their longships laden with furs or metal ore rather than spears and warriors. Some of them leave with more treasure than in the old days, but the sight of a longship running up the beach near a coastal settlement still terrifies quite a few people, and many still refuse to trade with them. The Church, however, has made a special effort to recognize the efforts of these Njorse traders, granting them special subsidies to trade their Njorse goods in Rogalia, and offering to purchase any unsold goods at fair price after they try the main markets.
The great majority of import goods though, comes from neither Njordr, Hestralia or anywhere else on the mainland.
Rogalian fields are an unreliable place to grow food. Too often they are put to torch, or even poisoned as acts of war. The peasants still plant, of course, for this is not always the case, but supplemental food is needed to feed the populace. For this purpose, Dunland is kept as the great breadbasket of Rogalia. In a counter-intuitive move, House Renett took its own war for Rogalia out of Rogalia, conquering the neighboring Dunnick Isles instead. Dunland is a lush, verdant and soil-rich country.
It is kept thoroughly subjugated by House Renett’s armies and navy, and in the meantime House Renett grows fat on its resources which include copious amounts of wheat and grains, as well as rich iron and silver mines. The Dunnick people, like any other Rogalian peasants, for legally they are all Rogalians now, are not allowed to leave Dunland without permission, but Dunland ends up exporting plenty of Duns as well.
Dunnick people, red or auburn of hair, freckled of face, are common all over Rogalia, and even elsewhere in the Throne. Duns are proud in spirit, and hate their conquerors, and while some of them foment rebellion, others just want to leave, and they can do so by swallowing that pride. The authorities in Renchester, the Renett stronghold in the isles, will agree to export Duns who wish to leave, across the treacherous Strait of Edges to the Rogalia mainland. However, the cost for this is an enormous financial debt to House Renett, for which they must enter a debtors contract. Dunnick in Rogalia and elsewhere, then, are most often indentured servants of House Renett, forced into positions of menial labor.
Dunnick workers form a kind of invisible lower class all over Rogalia, lower even than ordinary peasants. They are seen in the back kitchens of inns and roadhouses, mucking out stables, lifting crates dockside for Stevedore guilds as ad hoc day laborers, as sex workers in brothels, and emptying fields in harvest time. Technically many of them as a vassal of House Renett, though Rogalians don’t bother to think of them as enemy agents, if they bother to think of them at all. Everyone knows the only loyalty to Renett they have is that if the payments stop, so too do their lives. Others, however, are property of the local rulership. Dunnick (or, technically, their debt contracts) are purchased by Counts in medium to large-sized groups to work their lands or do whatever chore the Count has in mind for them.
Few Duns ever pay off their debts, though some lucky ones do. Most die in debt bondage or, just as often, escape to live a life elsewhere, or return to Dunland to fight for freedom with whatever resources they can bring back.
Rogalians are not known for their hospitality to strangers. As a general rule, despite whatever the Church may teach about brotherhood, there is just too many things that can go wrong, including accusations of treason for helping an enemy. While an enemy count cannot hide an entire army in the closet of peasants, he could be sending a spy or an agent deep within enemy territory.
Among those they know, however, the story is entirely different. Rogalian townspeople do not think of themselves as civilians, rather just members of the military in a support role rather than a combat one. If some disaster, military or otherwise, befalls loyal members of their County, the entire township mobilizes into an auxiliary field hospital. Rogalians from villages over can be counted on to drop everything and assist the wounded, or to carry people for miles on litters to safer areas.
Rogalian’s armies are usually specifically organized around their knights, which are responsible for levying, equipping and training their armies. Since many knights have small fiefs without much industry, the Order makes an effort to produce or purchase as much arms and armor as it can to equip armies with, but ultimately, much like other parts of the Throne, armies usually fight unarmored and with poor equipment. However, the efforts of the knight orders to produce equipment usually mean there is at least one or two units of heavy, fully equipped infantry forming the vanguard. These troops, usually veterans, form the hard edge of the Rogalian sword, and fight using all the advantage that their heavy armor and weapons grant them. Their fighting style, called Rogalian Sortie, involves muscling down their opponent with their plate-laden body or a smash from their heavy shield, executing grounded opponents, then moving forward with the line to the next foes.
Rogalian bowmen are also famous, often timing using the famous Rogalian longbow, which, far taller than a man and sometimes fired with the legs from one’s back, can launch arrows nearly twice as far as standard archers, shooting enormous, thick shafts the size of broomsticks. Fighting between Rogalian armies often involves using infantry or cavalry to force enemy troops into vulnerable positions where the longbowmen can bleed them at ease.
Because of the constant strife, and the wish for Counts to get an edge on their opponents, the mage guilds get plenty of work in Rogalia. The Magicians of Fire gain many contracts from the constant warfare, but other magicians find work as well. Earth Mages can, for an incredible price, erect fortifications on short notice to defend against a siege that would otherwise destroy a capital and end a dynasty. Water Mages, uncommon as their temples may be, can sometimes be called upon to correct a terrible growing season or to protect their people from disease, and air mages, if they can be found at all, can provide priceless intelligence, manipulation or assassination.
Some people even think that one or more of the guilds are playing the Counts as their own pawns, using Rogalia and its counts as pieces in their own conflict, even as the Counts believe they are doing the same.
RULING HOUSES AND NOBLE BLOOD
Coat of Arms: A single blue chevron behind a gold hammer on a black field.
Maxim: Dread our Ire
Keep: Weight of Woe
At the end of the Age of Witchkings, Adam, The Great Hammer, founded an order of avenging knights to take back his lands from vampire lords. They eventually became known as the Sons of Adam, endeavoring to liberate mankind completely from the curse of vampirism. One of the first to overthrow the yoke of vampire oppression, Adam is hailed as a hero both within and beyond the Addison county, an inspiration to Rogalian people. House Addison, today, continues the tradition set by its founder and trains some of the greatest hunters and slayers in all of Rogalia. Even further, the county refuses to be ruled by a Count that has not personally slain a vampire and House Addison is forced to send those in line on hunting expeditions to earn their right to rule.
Sons of Adam
The Sons of Adam are renowned Vampire Hunters, following the tradition of Adam the Greathammer, first man to hold a County from the vampire counts. Despite their famous use of heavy mauls in battle, the Knight Order’s true pride is their ability to find such elusive prey in the first place, sorting through rumor, gaining information, and ultimately uncovering the secret identity or hiding place of vampires and their spawn.
– First of the human strongholds since the late Age of Witchkings, though not the oldest.
– Maintains a core of vampire hunters called the Sons of Adam who specialize in crossbow use and special war hammers that feature a wooden spike.
– Placed upon a great and prominent bluff that has a commanding view of the valley around it.
The Order of St. Una
Patron Angel: Nuraniel
Patron Saint: Una the Redeemer
Una is said to have returned a vampire back into a mortal human man with the force of her faith and love. The vampire was her husband, Renard. He went hunting in the wilds and did not return for several days. He was sighted around town as a vampire, hunting the villagers he used to know. Una, his devoted wife, decided to go to him, in defiance of the admonishments of the villagers. She thought she could save him from himself, but the villagers thought she would simply be turned vampire herself, as she walked into the midnight darkness from the village. When she returned at dawn, it was arm and arm with Renard, her beloved, miraculously changed back into human form. She was declared a saint in Lion Age 73.
Coat of Arms: A raven blocking the sun with its wings on a white field.
Maxim: Touch The Sun
Keep: Authority of Tomes
House Archibald is premier in research of the undead and vampires and have a scholarly approach to dealing with their enemies, both living and dead. Founding the Parliament of Lords, Port Melandir is a tremendous gathering point where representatives from each county can assemble and discuss matters concerning all of Rogalia. An agreement signed around the founding of the throne, the Pactum Domini, stipulates that no act of aggression can be made with House Archibald as long as they continue to show hospitality to the Parliament. However, they may only possess a military that can maintain their modest borders and it may not leave their own county. Thus, much of the city’s focus is in the maintenance of their tremendous archives and libraries. Here, scholars, philosophers and scribes are all common ways of life where academia is routinely indulged. In the darker underbelly of Port Melandir and the House Archibald, as well, are strange and bizarre experiments that are illegal to most residents not privileged to be born with noble blood. The apex of which is a rumored vampire of ancient origins, carefully studied and locked up in the depths of the city.
Knights of the White Raven
The White Ravens are sometimes called the “Librarian Knights,” for their duty is the pursuit of knowledge, wherever it can be had. They go into ancient tombs and take rubbings of old inscriptions, break into ancient libraries to find rare tomes and bring them back to the libraries of Port Melandir, as well as take it upon themselves to learn everything they can from books, tomes and scrolls in the endless collections of House Archibald. Since House Archibald has no army by order of the Pactum Domini, the White Ravens are often lent on retainer to other Counts throughout Rogalia where they serve as seneschals and advisers to the Counts, offering to assist them with their vast expertise.
Port Melandir, The City of Scholars
– The largest city in Rogalia and home to Parliament, it is neutral ground for the warring Counts. It is the largest urban center in Rogalia, approximately ten times the population of the next largest town governed by a single Count.
– House Archibald’s love of learning and literacy makes Port Melandir’s libraries the largest repository of books and scrolls in the known world.
– Port Melandir has no military of its own, only a constabulary police force, and the borrowed might of every other Count’s navy and military, who can and do keep forces there year round.
– The Harbor district, the largest part of the city, can dock over 1000 ships on its enormous wing like docks. Each “feather” of the wings can dock about 10 mid sized ships.
The Benevolant Order of St. Sebastian
Patron Angel: Cyaniel
Patron Saint: Sebastian the Forger
St. Decimus found himself on the coast of the empire. He was bruised, disarmed, and very nearly captured. He had only just escaped from the prison of the warlord who ruled from the modest walled town of Port Melandir. Wounded, and fleeing carefully through the the town’s unfamiliar streets, he became lost in the twisting alleyways and cornered by soldiers. A nearby craftsman offered to hide him until the danger passed, seeing a man alone and in danger. When Sebastian the Forger asked after the man’s story, Decimus told him all he had done. Sebastian was not angry with him, as others had been. He saw the wisdom behind Decimus’ actions, and believed his story of divine guidance. He offered him a new blade, and new armor and tools, and sent him along his way once night had fallen. It was on that very night that Bronka, warlord of the west, was killed. Sebastian was declared a saint in Lion Age 304.
Coat of Arms: A white crescent moon in a black starry field.
Maxim: Dread the Dark
Keep: Dusk Watch
Sometimes accused of vampirism, the populace of House Ascalon is shrouded in a narrow valley against the Highcrown mountains, and their lands receive only a few hours of sunlight each day because of the high cliff-sides surrounding it. They are known for their many successful night raids against invading military, and their nobility tends to be extremely fair-skinned.
Shadowvale, City of Lanterns
– Shadowvale was once used as a stronghold in the nights of the Age of Witchkings by the Vampire Count Karsus.
– The city, build upon the cliffside of the Highcrowns, is set above hundreds of caverns which twist through the mountainside. Obviously not naturally occurring, no one knows who originally delved the tunnels.
– The city has system of pipes which draw natural gas from deep within the mountainside. These power a huge array of gas lanterns throughout the city. It is said that somewhere in the depths of the caverns is an ancient dwarven golem that keeps it running, though no one who has ventured into the darkest tunnels has returned sane.
Knights of the Lantern
The Knights of House Ascalon are known for their terror tactics, and night raids, as well as capability for infiltration and assassination.
The Order of St. Balta
Patron Angel: Cyaniel
Patron Saint: Balta the Bold
Balta the Bold was a lady in waiting and the daughter of a knight. A sly gambit to take back the throne had corrupted the current head of House Ascalon to favor a subversive Vampire within the court. When collusion of the matter was revealed between several members, Balta led a small group of priests into the castle to kill them during the few hours of sunlight in the town. When the house guards saw the slaughter at dusk, they hung Balta and her collaborators for treason. Balta was lionized in Lion Age 442. The Order of St. Balta keeps true to her sentiments by policing internally all suspicious and subversive heresy in the city of Shadowvale, working with the town watch, but keeping vigilant to turn on any who become corrupt.
Coat of Arms: A set of white scales on a blue and black checker field.
Maxim: Let Wisdom Reign
Keep: The Broadstone
City of Influence: Caranthe
House Avery is a house with a history as checkered as its coat of arms. Historically the Lords of Avery have been great idealists, philosophers and scholars, and have attempted many ambitious plans, with only a few coming to their true potential. Still, that is many more than those who did not try, and Caranthe boasts several wonders issued from them. The House Avery has long been associated with law and order, and many of the philosophical basis for laws in other lands originated with the younger brothers or sisters of the ruling Lord Avery over the years, whose responsibility it is to design and implement laws, rules and plans. While the maxim espousing the virtue of wisdom drives the Averies to scholarship and good judgement, its high handed ideals have been criticized as being impractical, and occasionally a backlash occurs in the Avery rulership wherein a strong bend toward cruel pragmatism takes over in the house. This has occurred several times in the House’s history, with rulers that have taken the ideal of Let Wisdom Reign to task in fixing crumbling infrastructure, painfully increasing taxes and brutally attacking enemies or fair-weather friends who have been seen to abuse the friendship of the House of Avery. These times are looked as dark times by more idealistic Lords Avery, but in true pursuit of wisdom, they acknowledge these periods rather than suppress them from their history, and the white scales on the checker field is an acknowledgement of this dual nature of their ancient line.
– Built upon a mountain peek in the Highcrown range, Caranthe is a natural fortress, requiring a long trek through mountain roads to get to. This is a mixed blessing, as while it makes the town quite difficult to attack, it isolates it dangerously if supplies are cut off.
– The city boasts several engineering marvels, including an aerial carriage that can lift people and goods up and down the mountainside. The device has to be worked by several oxen, though it was expertly designed so that the device can only be operated from within Caranthe to prevent it being used as a method of assault on the mountain fortress.
– Caranthe is somewhat famous as a source of philosophical books and letters, thanks to the Monastery of St. Roger of Caranthe, which is supported almost entirely by the Avery family.
The Order of Solomon
Valor: Heavy Weapons
The Order of Solomon began as a sworn order of judicial champions, sworn to perform ritual trials by combat to determine the worthiness of a legal cause. The founder of the Order, Solomon himself, acted as the champion for Count Simon Avery, the founder of the Avery line in the early years of Rogalia’s independence in a matter of dispute with House Addison. Before any law was agreed on between the budding Counts, Simon Avery suggested varying series of equitable laws by treaty that the new Counts could live under, but Adam the Greathammer disagreed, having been busy installing his relatives and favorites in nearby fiefdoms, so matters had to fall to the trial laws of old tradition instead.
Since the forming of Parliament, some among the Order have sworn an oath to Parliament in general act as the judicial champion for any Highborn who wishes it, though they will never fight one another. They are strongly tied to matters of legal arbitration, and are often deputized as magistrates empowered to administer law throughout the land. So famous is their professional impartiality and skill that they are sometimes empowered to act in this capacity even in the lands of neighboring Counties.
The Order of St. Roger of Caranthe
Patron Angel: Cyaniel
Patron Saint: St. Roger of Caranthe
The monastery at Caranthe, built so high into the mountains, gives a commanding view of Rogalia, much farther than the actual County of Avery extends. The monastery’s many balconies and patios are said to be an excellent place to contemplate the country, its purpose, and its fate. Many here are the quiet brothers of the Cyanahim covenant, always writing and reading, and speaking only rarely, and many are monks or other lay people who come to the monastery for contemplation. The monastery produces works of philosophical importance as a result of its contemplation, and makes arguments for policy throughout the Church and in more secular government.
St. Roger, for who the order is dedicated, was a dedicated monk of Cyaniel who wrote a series of harsh critiques of the ruling Avery lord and would continually have them delivered to the Count. The Count, Martin Avery, originally attempted to have the man arrested for treason, but he could not find him to do so. Month after month the letters came, becoming more desperate and insistent, and eventually copies of the letters leaked into the populace and became the spark for a revolt against the Count. Finally, in the midst of a riot, the authorities captured Roger and executed him, though Count Martin later died of wounds incurred during the riot. The next Count, Patrick Avery, who had read the letters and seen in them the wisdom of Roger’s criticisms, resolved to enact many of the changes he suggested, and offered to the Church to fund the construction of the monastery at Caranthe. Roger was lionized in Lion Age 480.
Coat of Arms: A Crowned Skull on a black field.
Maxim: Deal in Iron
Keep: Doom Iron
City of Influence: Blackforge
House Baines has but one endeavor, and that is war. It is this single-mindedness that makes them so formidable. Known for its weaponsmiths, torturers and disregard for anything else, House Baines is as bleak and austere as the crowned skull on its banner. They are a house without mercy or joy, and signs of their sacrifices are seen in the settlements within its county. There, acres of forest have been cut down to make charcoal for smithing and abandoned mines litter the landscape. Though, this not all in vain. The host of Count Baines’ is the largest by far, and threatens the borders of all his neighbors. Only the threat of an allied defense keeps them in check from a full invasion.
– Blackforge boasts a smith district that is wider than many villages. The entire city bends to support the smiths, the forges of which run day and night in shifts to fulfill the endless orders of the Count. Because of their endless hunger for iron, trade often occurs in the form of iron ingots as a means of transaction. A tradition of this has lead to Blackforge’s mint producing coins of iron or brass rather than the traditional metals.
– Baines County probably started out rich in timber, but it is hard to tell now. Miles of clear-cut countryside surround Blackforge, forests of old stumps cut for charcoal line the ground while the horizon is only dotted by the derelict mouths of exhausted iron mines. Even though its own resources have been so largely depleted, the citizens of Blackforge do not starve or want for commodities, able to turn the iron swords that they produce into a means to get any other commodity necessary from elsewhere in Rogalia by means of conquest.
– The city requires a second military district to house its soldiers and armies when they are not on campaign. The Military Quarter of Blackforge is essentially like a giant barracks or base, only with services such as whorehouses and alehouses to keep the soldiers entertained when they are at home. The buildings to house soldiers and their families are built high, as well as wide, often seven or eight story high in huge iron citadels, the sides braced for impact against siege equipment. At the center of the district is the enormous iron castle, Doom Iron, which houses the noble House of Baines itself, as well as his elite champions, the Blackguard.
Clad in thick iron plates and often carrying giant shields, the Knights of the Blackguard are fearsome opponents, acting as pylons in the midst of the armies. This Order is exclusively a military one, and all of its assignments are military operations for the glory and conquest of House Baines.
The existence of this Knight Order is integral to the success of the Baines military machine, but not in the obvious way. It takes more than just metal to make an army – it also takes men willing to wield it and fight for the cause of another, and no matter what else, Baines County only has so many people in it. Gaining entry into the Blackguard is a matter of military skill and personal ability, which means that any common soldier of exceptional skill may be granted title and nobility if they serve House Baines faithfully and well. An opportunity to join the gentry by killing the old ones is the secret fantasy of many a Rogalian peasant, and so if peasants were to betray their lawful lord and travel to the County of another, it is quite likely to be for the Crowned Skull. While generally wary of traitors as any noble would be, House Baines certainly does allow these renegades to join their forces, though often puts them into special regiments within their armies until they are trusted enough to join the regular forces of peasants born in Blackforge and the lands surrounding it.
The Order of St. Iron
The man called Iron of Blackforge was an unnamed slave taken in the wars of conquest that happened before the Emperor arrived. He was brought to what was then the small, forested village of Blackforge, an outpost which processed the iron from their one small mine and worshipped a cthonic local deity that was thought to live in the mines and caves. The mine had nearly run dry, and only a few days after he had arrived and was put to work in the shafts, the mine was declared to be exhausted. The miners and forgers blamed the new slave for this turn of bad luck, saying that because of his worship of the Prophet Benalus, the Mine God had abandoned them. The man said that the bounty of the earth was God’s alone to give, and that if allowed to live and the men turned to worship Holy Benalus, he could find a new mine, and the town could continue to prosper. Allowed to go into the woods to explore, the man prayed to God for guidance and that very day located seven new iron mines that no one in the area had ever heard of or discovered. The men called him Iron, savior of Blackforge, and they all agreed to convert to the worship of Benalus.
The Fortress Monastery of St. Iron is built upon the site of the original empty mine in Blackforge, using its ancient tunnels, now reinforced with beautiful engraved stonework, as halls of worship and reflection. The Order oversees the military issues of House Baines and augers fortuitous times of war and attack. Historically most of the Counts have listened to the Order’s augeries about when to attack, but some critics amongst the army believe that the Order is simply there to trick the Count into attacking less frequently, to temper his endless appetite for war.
Coat of Arms: A white lion above a sword on a blue and white field.
Maxim: Forever the Keepers
Keep: Canticle of Stone
City of Influence: Bradford
Pious and devout, the House Bradford is known for their rigorous religious practices, taking the teachings of Benalus to their written word. Priests and paladins are held in extremely high regard as is any edict from the church or pontifex. So much so is their zeal, that many think House Bradford predictable and naïve, but they have proven to be extremely adept at political maneuvering and military campaigning. Due to their constant tithing as well, the church pays House Bradford many favors and rulings, allowing them resources and influence beyond that of many houses.
– Bradford, rich in stone, is a walled city built upon a hill near the river crossing that gives it its name. Its streets and alleys are all paved in stone, and its buildings are tall and strong. A stone bridge extends from the town’s walls and over the river Mastow, where several stone embankments and gatehouses have been erected so that if necessary the bridge acts like a dam and can block all river traffic while archers or siege weapons fire from within the fortifications on vessels or armies below.
– Bradford has a love of festivals and parades, and at least one major town-wide holiday happens each month celebrating some aspect of Benalus’ life or other religious observances under the oversight and organization of the local Church at St. Luther. Colored paper streamers and banners are strung up between buildings during parades, and the soldiers and knights walk to the applause and cheers of their people.
– The wealth of Bradford is due to a policy of frugality and temperance in its nobility. The House of Bradford grows rich from river commerce and strictly puts that wealth back into its people and into the Church, maintaining a minimalist defensive military with strong fortification rather than powerful ability to project its force. It is the belief of House Bradford that its responsibility is to God and to its peasantry to give them hope that Rogalia, their home, can be a wonderful place. Critics in their neighboring counties often say that they are simply pandering for favor with the Church in hopes that the Pontifex will illegally crown their Count King of Rogalia, or support a bid to do so with Pontifical armies of Templar.
The Guardian Order of St. Luther
While not actually a Holy Order under the control of Lethia, the Guardian Order of St. Luther is a church order in all but name. The House of Bradford maintains their Order for the purposes of defending Bradford officially, but grants substantial control of them in all other respects to the Order of St. Luther and other Church officials whenever they are not otherwise engaged, even giving members of St. Luther Abbey honorary commander’s ranks in the organization so that they can take control of them more easily when needed.
The Guardian Order make excellent bodyguards and stewards, acting as something of a majordomo and chief of security for whomever they are assigned to personally.
St. Luther’s Abbey
Patron Angel: Melandiel
Patron Saint: St. Luther the Mason
Luther of Broad Ford, long before the great house that would eventually come to bear the name of the region, was the stone mason who built the bridge over the river Mastow at the broad ford that travelers and herders had been using for generations. Every year, the river would flood the ford and become unusable. The timing was somewhat hard to predict, however, so often flocks of sheep and their shepherd would arrive at the crossing only to find it impassable, then local bandits would raid them, often killing the shepherds and rustling off the sheep to sell elsewhere. Luther, under his own expense, hired men, as well as asked his several sons, to defend the herders while they detoured to the next crossing a few miles to the south, and protected them while they performed the long and treacherous operation of crossing at the narrow fords. In the meantime, he quarried the stone for and built a wide permanent bridge across the broad ford, making sure that herders could cross all year long. Luther of Broad Ford was lionized in Lion Age 237, and is the ancestor of Lucian Bradford, first of the noble line that rules there today.
The modern order of St. Luther’s Abbey oversees the area of Bradford and takes a hand in much of the local governance, advising House Bradford on various policies as well as guiding the flow of economics and trade. Thanks to the House’s cooperation with the Church, they do use the benefit of their communications networks with other dioceses and coordination with other orders to their assistance in what ways they can.
Coat of Arms: Vermilion wheel of fire on a black field
Maxim: Born of Fire
Keep: Dragon’s Lair
City of Influence: Torchgutter
In all of Rogalia, the Drakes are the most renowned for their cruelty. Prisoners are rarely taken, rather men are left to rot in cages or on spikes, or gruesomely burned. An ancient house, the Drakes have existed before the rise of the Throne. In the Age of Witch Kings and before, they worshiped a Dragon God and ritually burned live people to appease Her. It is said that the purpose of their cruelty has always been to reawaken their Dragon God, and that the house still secretly worships Her. A relic to such brutality still exists in the Torchgutter today. At its very center, a giant brazier is kept burning with coals and wood where enemies and criminals are roasted alive for daring to cross the line of Drake.
– Torchgutter’s most infamous landmark is the great brazier at the center of the town, called by locals the “Dragon’s Maw” or the “Dragon Pit.” It takes thousands of pounds of wood to keep it burning day and night, as well as fire magic to conduct its heat. It is said that nearly ten thousand enemy soldiers and criminals have been roasted over that pit, and a monument of pulverized bone and ash grows in slow testament to the lives lost there. Apparently some dismal functionary within the Dragon’s Lair is in charge of tallying the exact weight of the ash and bone, and recording through the generations how many have been killed on that pyre.
– The Dragon’s Lair is actually a giant Dextera Inflamatio tower, for the House of Drake has long been associated with the Fire Wizards. The ruling chamber and throne room of the House is near the apex of the tower, able to look out over the County and, it is said with hushed voices, to immolate any man who dares cross the long horizon of Drake County unbidden. While not everyone believes such viscous claims, a careful use of mathematics and official maps will indicate that Drake County is precisely the size and shape of what can be seen from line of sight from the pinnacle of the Dragon’s Lair.
– Outside of its fearsome reputation, Torchgutter is actually quite wealthy. The Count of House Drake is reputedly a powerful figure in the Guild of Fire Mages, the Dextera Inflamatio, and uses his position to hire out a corps of veteran war mages to supplement the forces of acceptable military candidates, thereby gaining wealth from his enemies as well as strategically altering some future battlefield in his favor by dint of selecting the victors in important battles across the Rogalian chessboard. It uses this wealth on civic projects and has an excellent sewer system, so the city is largely free of disease, despite the high numbers of burned corpses that line the street and squares in iron gibbets. Thanks to its draconian justice, crime is also quite low. The citizens of Torchgutter and Drake County do not complain, whether because they need not or dare not.
Clad in black and red platemail that is designed to resemble the scaled and webbed claws and wings of dragons, the Dragonknights of House Drake act as an honor guard for the Count as well as elite agents. Exceptionally well-educated, the Dragonknights are not the official thugs of House Drake but rather strategic thinkers who are trusted to enter a hostile situation and resolve it with both skill and knowledge. They are trained academically to disassemble any situation and solve it procedurally, and many of the Knights, including most of its senior leadership are also fire mages as well, under the direct control (from a Magician Guild perspective) of the Count. It is said also that they practice Secret Techniques that blend their heavy armor and sword with the power of that magic, enhancing them both.
The Order of St. George
Patron Angel: Sepharian
Patron Saint: St. George the Dragonslayer
It is said by some that the Drakes keep their land so clean of crime and discord because they wish to prevent the rot of Heresy, owing to the presence of the equally fearsome Inquisitorial Cathedral in Torchgutter. In truth, the Order is there to watch the Drakes, and even the fearsome Count cannot banish them from their land without suffering crushing retaliation from the Church. In the oldest legends of the region, the ancient dragon Atuhlashta ruled here and planted a brood beneath the earth, warming her clutch with a bonfire of ten thousand skulls and bones. The people of the area had to feed the dragon two sheep every day, until that failed and the dragon then demanded children, chosen by priests that worshipped the dragon, and then the finally a princess was required. The princess was being brought forth to the dragon for sacrifice, and a knight (as is told, though the story is older than the concepts of either Knights or Valor), called George was riding past. The princess begged George to depart and leave her, but he vowed to remain and, fortifying himself with the sign of Benalus, fought the dragon in single combat and destroyed it, freeing the princess. St. George was lionzed in Lion Age 43, though it is unknown if he was a real individual.
The Order of St. George are a group of expert single combat fighters who make it their mission to hunt down and kill exceptionally powerful monsters and heretics, and old legends about the ancient dragon remain to this day in association with the House of Drake, who the Order of St. George believes to be descended from the original dragon priests in the legend.
Coat of Arms: A gold falcon bearing its talons on a green field.
Maxim: Strike Deeply and They Shall Fall
City of Influence: Rookhaven
Traditionally falling to the woman, the Countess Faulkner rules the House. Rogalian Counties are sovereign powers, and so can pass any laws they wish, including the arrangement of their succession. The Faulkners are famous for their use of spies, assassins and saboteurs, preferring information warfare to more traditional kinds of martial conflicts. Their armies fight non-traditionally, using wilderness tactics to delay, harass, impede and otherwise prevent proper combat from occurring rather than defeating armies in the usual way. Despite being the only House that has a traditionally female ruler, the Faulkner Countesses have earned a great deal of respect in Parliament and among other Counts as cunning, cruel, and dangerous adversaries. Occasionally elsewhere in Rogalia another female will find herself as Countess because no male heir could be found, and these powerful women often find a kinship with the powerful Countesses of the House of Faulkner.
Besides their expert use of subterfuge and espionage, and their ability to influence events all over Rogalia instead of just with their neighboring enemies, the Faulkners have a political advantage that no other House does: alliance by marriage. It is very uncommon for two Counts to wed because they are almost always both men, and female Countesses are so rare that the idea hasn’t been widely considered. However, in the case of the Countesses of Faulkner, an alliance by marriage to another Count can mean that their Counties, especially if neighbors, are effectively joined into a single super County, and since the Laws of House Faulkner prescribe that a female heir has the right to inherit, that law applies to the new County as well, meaning that the Faulkners can keep the land after the fact, and slowly increase their land and power marriage after marriage through the generations. In point of fact, their especially large County was once a collection of smaller counties, quietly combined over the generations by marriage to what it is today.
– Rookhaven sits on a high craggy hill in the midst of the forested valley that is Faulkner County. It has a commanding view of the rest of the valley, as well as the steep mountains that ring its perimeter. The military of House Faulkner keeps only a small force in Rookhaven itself, instead positioning it throughout the dense forest of the valley below, as well as all throughout secret caves and crags all along the mountain range nearby, so that it can attack or skirmish anywhere within the area. Trained falcons deliver messages back and forth through the area to keep their vigilance coordinated.
– The town is built upward on a long slope, with the Talonsreach fortress at the pinnacle. The town is built in a sort of screw shape around the hill, with the general status and opulence of the populace increasing with altitude along the climb.
– Inside the crag itself there are a series of tunnels that connect certain areas of the town, originally made as secret routes for special operations, but once they were eventually discovered by the populace, were turned into general foot traffic short cuts through the town and now host several seedy bars and taverns along the dim dark of the “secret” routes.
– A giant aerie exists in the spires of Talonsreach, from which hundreds of falcons and ravens are bred and trained. The falcons are used in war and trained for the Huntresses, while the ravens are taken to far off places of interest to be used by Faulkner spies sending intelligence back to the Talonsreach. A small cloud of raptors and corvids perpetually surrounds the fortress, and the birds come to rest on many buildings throughout the town, perched like gargoyles on nearly every overhang.
The Order of the Hunt
While the Faulkners themselves pursue high politics and information warfare, the Huntresses and Hunters of the Faulkner’s Order protect the Faulkner lands from attack, as well as act as special agents far afield helping the Countess gather the information and destroy distant enemies. This Order is one of the few Knight Orders that openly allows women to be inducted, and most of the members of the Order are indeed women, called Huntresses, while the men, no less respected, are called Hunters. When referred to generally, members of the Order of the Hunt are called Huntresses.
Every Huntress trains and uses a falcon as a special sort of weapon, using it to mark the position of those they are tracking, or to attack their enemies directly. In warfare, the Huntresses combine their mastery of the wilderness with their abilities of manipulation, expertly tricking enemy forces into long-prepared ambushes.
The Sisters of St. Bridget
Patron Angel: Lurian
Patron Saint: St. Bridget the Revelator
Long ago, before the time of Benalus and the Throne, there was a legend of a Faerie maiden in the wooded valley where Rookhaven was eventually built. It is said that the Faerie maiden would lure travelers to her and use them carnally, and that none would return sane from the experience. The men who did return, however, spoke of strange things they had learned, of events of the future, and other things, and much was made of these prophecies.
In the Lion Age, after the coming of the Emperor and the Pactum Domini, occasionally stories would still surface of people speaking prophesy and knowing all manner of things they should not. In Lion Age 120, a girl from the then small village of Rookhaven said that she had seen the future and known truth, and that the truth was given to her in dreams by Benalus himself. It is thought that all dreams are prophetic, especially those involving figures like Benalus or the angels, and her words were recorded every time she slept. The girl, called Bridget of Rookhaven, would sometimes sleep in a remote place in the woods to help the dreams come.
Bridget was burned as a heretic after she was accused of getting her dreams from carnal visits with the Faerie maiden of the woods, in the areas’ old legend. She was later lionized as a martyr after she appears in the dreams of several other sisters in the local abbey, and after her lionization, an order of nuns sprang up, each of them occasionally reporting dreams of the future from the spirit of St. Bridget.
Coat of Arms: A winged leaning Scythe on a crimson field
Maxim: Untameable is the Wind
Keep: Stone Tempest
City of Influence: North Pass
House Gale is, relative to the others, a newer House in the Rogalian political scene. Over time, numerous Houses fall and rise in and out of power and favor, and while Gale is an old name, it has not had a Count in many years. Its return to prominence has come from a series of extremely adept social climbers, both men and women, and an aggressive social schedule. House Gale has gone out of its way to be the center of a social scene that is useful and attractive enough that its value overshadows the mistrust and enmity that naturally occurs between the Houses of Rogalia. It began with parties and gatherings in Port Melandir during Parliamentary sessions, as Port Melandir is something of a neutral ground. These gatherings had strict rules of conduct, but afforded an opportunity for factions that would otherwise have no contact to be able to meet and exchange ideas and alliance, even friendship. At some occasions early on, revealing one’s lineage and politics were against the rules, forcing even junior members of families which were old rivals to accidentally become acquainted and amiable. While the Gales, once Counts and powerful, then lowly Barons in the shadow of another House, remained the center of a wheel of power and influence, they quickly catapulted into success and recognition, and had been granted a Countship within only a few years of these social engagements. Things have only escalated since then.
No one knows whether it is the genius of the current House’s rulership, a secret arrangement with the Church, or even sorcery to blame for the Gale’s rapid social advancement, but they are certainly an up and coming power in Rogalian politics. Being able to broker alliances and deals across many different political lines otherwise impassable has turned out to be a service that the Rogalian scene had no idea how badly it needed, or how much it would be worth to keep. As long as that is true, House Gale will rise and rise, carried on the shoulders of all of the other Counts who value their abilities so much.
– North Pass is the home to the Wind Singer’s Guild, a bard’s college of very high renown, and thus is also the location for the mid-winter concerts which are such an important social occasion. Between the concerts in winter and the parties and gatherings that are held in the Spring and Summer, North Pass has a constant stream of visitors of noble birth, and is thought of in Rogalia as a party town – a place of excitement and enjoyment by some, a den of sin by others.
– The town itself is built upon the pass between the Highcrown range in the North and the Cragcleft range in the South both of which are the ranges which separate Rogalia from Gotha. This, too, causes the town to be especially cosmopolitan with travelers not only from Rogalia and Gotha, but from anywhere in the Eastern empire that wishes to approach Rogalia from the North. Furthermore, it gathers a great deal of wealth from the goods that flow through, both in tariff and trade.
– Due to its altitude and the powerful winds from which the House draws its name, North Pass can get very cold in much of the year, starting from early Autumn and into mid-Spring. However, House Gale takes care to keep the pass especially clear of snow and ice, using crushed mineral gravel to dissolve the snow and peasants with special hand plows to work the powder from the roads. Inversely, the summers are thought to be some of the most pleasant anywhere in Rogalia, because of how the mountains change the weather from the sea, the town sits above the line of the normal gloomy and grey atmosphere that characterizes Rogalian weather generally. The drastic change in climate seasonally results in a need for two very different sets of clothing. This is perhaps the start of the attention to fashion and design that so characterizes the nobles of the House of Gale.
Most Honorable Order of The White Glove
With its emphasis on society and power brokering, the Knights of House Gale are themselves specialists in this field. Acting as long range diplomats and envoys, the White Gloves are the very soul of decorum and class, focusing on aesthetics and character in their engagements with other Households. Less warlord and more hero, they do in fact still lead military campaigns on behalf of their House’s interests, but they do so with a regal air as it they were kings every one, and not knights. While it is true that most knights are much more than military commands, instead the trusted agents of their Lord in fields both mighty and mean, the White Gloves make every effort to make their battlefields where they believe they can be most effective – the parlor, the ballroom, the bedroom.
The White Gloves are known for their extraordinary fashions and attention to class and style. Unusually, their Order accepts and trains women, and the Dames of the White Glove are every bit the refined charmer and diplomats as the men are, with even more attention to fashion and style. Knights of both sexes make it their business and a point of honor to start trends of design that catch on in the rest of Rogalia’s courts, and see tailoring as a perfect metaphor for the tapestry of social conquest that they are carefully weaving all through Rogalia.
The Poor Fellows
Patron Angel: Melandiel
Patron Saint: St. Claude d’Beaumont
The Poor Fellows are a sect of the Melandahim who take their Vow of Poverty extremely seriously, but moreover, do everything they can to abase themselves as a further expression of the spirit of their Vow. Not satisfied with simply a lack of wealth, the Poor Fellows never wash or bathe, even trying to roll in oils or soot to make themselves even more filthy. They also starve themselves to the point of near death before accepting food until they feel healthy again, then begin starvation again, as well as truly grim acts of flagellation and mortification in public places. They do this in protest to the excesses of the nobles in North Pass and the attention to politics and socialization instead of the needs of their peasants and their poor.
The Poor Fellows are a new order, following the example of Claude d’Beaumont, a travelling Capaccian chevalier who had come to High Pass to meet the Rogalian nobility decades before. He had arrived expecting to find what he had heard about Rogalian nobility – they were austere, powerful, wary and cunning, masters of war and politics, and as the eldest son of the Lord of Beaumont, heir to his lands in his Cappacionne home, he had thought to learn all of their ways before his father’s health failed and he was called to rule. What he found was a land that suffered and bled for a gang of ruthless warlords who cared nothing for their peasants or for the Throne, or for the vision of a unified mankind, or any of the virtuous ideals that he held so strongly. He was so disgusted with Rogalian politics and their treatment of their lands that diverted massive wealth from his home and began a mission of humanitarian aid, bringing in food and supplies from Cappacionne, Hestralia, and Gotha by convoy with money from his personal coffers, mostly rallied, organized and distributed from North Pass. He impoverished himself helping the poor of another country, and died before he ever inherited the Lordship he was due back home, killed by a knight of House Baines for his role in military interference that his aid caused. He was lionized in Lion Age 504.
Coat of Arms: Heather flowers loosely gripped in a gauntlet on a deep purple field
Maxim: Virtue, Strength and Providence.
Keep: The Unguarded Castle
City of Influence: Rodershire
House Heatherfield has no particular conventional advantage, no great resource to exploit, and while it has its armies, they are not known to be particularly elite or overwhelmingly powerful. That said, House Heatherfield is an ancient House with a long history, that has survived trials, attacks, famines, and most any other disaster that could have befallen a Rogalian House; calamities that would have dragged lesser Houses down into the dust of history. The Heatherfields call it providence – God providing for the virtuous, and indeed, many of their military successes seem to have come unexpectedly through no direct action by the Heatherfield forces, such as sudden fortuitous rainstorms flooding critical roads for the enemy, enemies suddenly being recalled due to unforeseen problems at home, and otherwise. During a famine, right as the stores were near emptying, an unusually rich harvest occurred, and so on.
The Heatherfield, strong and austere in personality, have always said that God provides for those who are worthy, and continued their ancient ways. Their reputation amongst the other Rogalian Houses is such that it is usually believed to be almost too much trouble to sortie against their House because of the frustrating and eventual defeats by circumstance that have been tallied over the ages. Certainly the Heatherfields themselves do nothing to prevent such perspectives, though whether their success is due to true divine providence or some kind of trickery remains the subject of debate amongst their critics.
– Rodershire sits in the center of a long valley replete with waves of purple heather. The valley has only one entrance and exit and so is fairly straightforward to defend from incursion. While plentiful, the soil isn’t particularly fertile, but the ample space does make good grazing for herd animals, from which most of the region’s food is culled.
– A heather festival is performed in Rodershire once a year in Autumn, and large parades and demonstrations using the heather are performed. Peasants and nobles alike weave the heather flowers together into huge ornamental displays, competing to see who can outdo one another with their expressions of lavender beauty.
– The valley also contains a series of menhirs erected in the Age of Heroes, and each one has strange writing that does not appear to be Rogalt or any of its parent forms.
The Upright Order of Knights Valiant
The Knights Valiant are the champions of House Heatherfield, and maintain a rigorous military discipline. Given their ample space for animals in their valley, they favor cavalry tactics and flanking maneuvers whenever possible, and train to take advantage of and create disarray in the enemy forces. Given their military’s strange reputation for accidentally winning battles, the Knights Valiant take a very conservative and straightforward approach to battle that has strong attention to basics, ready to pounce if God should provide some circumstance to capitalize on. Off the field, the Knights Valiant, when representing House Heatherfield to other Houses, take care to carefully maintain the reputation that the House has been blessed with that wards off so many unwanted attacks from enemies.
The Silent Sisterhood of St. Vanessa
Patron Angel: Cyaniel
Patron Saint: St. Vanessa the Burdened
The Silent Sisterhood are a group of Cyanahim nuns who, taking an Oath of Silence, walk the lonely valley’s heather waves in silent prayer and reflection. It is said that Vanessa was a widow and cursed by the Lord with seven terrible disasters as a kind of antemortum penance for a future sin, and that she was given terrible visions of a future harm. She remained silent after her visions, only writing a series of manuscripts about the mysteries of fate that she was given to understand. She always accepted her pre-emptive punishment as exactly right and necessary, and her humility in the face of Holy Judgment is an inspiration to the Sisterhood that now venerates her legacy. She was lionized in Lion Age 311, and is thought of as the patron saint of terrible burdens.
The Sisterhood read the secret documents that Vanessa wrote, and once they do so, are sworn to never speak again or to ever communicate the contents. The people of Rodershire provide food and supplies for the convent that they live in, seeing their terrible burden as a holy and necessary service that they provide for the community to continue living in the Lord’s favor.
Coat of Arms: Two silver cups pouring wine into a third golden cup on a red field.
Maxim: We Drink First
Keep: Castle Crimson
City of Influence: Seravia
House Maynard inherited the castle of Adrasteia, the Vampire Queen after the wars. In that age, the Maynard were a house of rogue sorcerers that had escaped the power structure of other Witchkings such as Andrugahl, Sulterok or Danarius and had lent their assistance to Ordo Croix and others attempting to overthrow the powers of the Witchkings. During the final assault on Crimson, St. Aren Kauspyre reluctantly accepted their assistance in return for a claim on the land there. After the day was won, the Maynards said that they would remain in the castle to properly ensure it was cleansed of vampiric evil, though many suspected they simply wanted to loot the place of its Vampire artifacts.
Thus was House Maynard born, though they did not appear as a political power until many years later. House Maynard is one of the few Counties at that time that did not appear for the signing of the Pactum Domini, and did not add their name to the document, though later they agreed verbally to be bound by the treaty during the first meeting of Parliament.
When asked today, the Maynards no longer practice any form of arcane sorcery. When the Guilds grew into a power later in the Lion Age, House Maynard was naturally approached, as they were not the only remnant magicians left over in the new Throne, and the others were forming the formal structures that would become the Arcane Guilds. When approached, however, they refused to join, and swore to not pass on any of the Arcane Power of the then aged masters who headed their House. Periodically, the Guilds have launched investigations into whether they still practice sorcery unlicensed, as they are able to tell such things, but such investigations have never found them in breach.
The Maynard are considered to be very shrewd political minds, and no one to be trifled with. Their lands are covered in swamps and gnarled old trees, half flooded and half rocky bluffs, suitable for a Vampire Queen and her court who have no traditional material needs such as food, but their land is considered almost too wild and undesirable to bother attacking by most rival Counts. They manage a few small villages in the area, deep in the swamps and forests, and those villages eek by, while the main town surrounding Crimson, Seravia, is supplied by outside trade.
– Seravia sits in the shadow of Castle Crimson’s massive spires and ancient ramparts, older still than any other standing structure in Rogalia, having been constructed on the backs (sometimes literally) of Spawn and by other vampiric means to complete a century’s work in only a few years. The town itself, once little more than the pens that sustained the Noblemen in the castle, now house the vassals of House Maynard just the same.
– A high rate of literacy marks Seravia, and the Maynard insist that every peasant be taught to read and write by adulthood. The Maynard pay for their peasants to be transported to outside communities to act as scribes and clerical assistance for local magistrates and churches. Ordinarily this would seem strange, but the peasants they export having a strong academic background while also understanding traditional peasant work such as farming, mining, forestry and other skills makes them a unique asset in assisting smaller towns that could greatly benefit from advanced techniques.
– The dismal and dark skies that tend to loom over Maynard County are part of the curse the land seems to endure from long decades of Vampire rule. The land seems to be under an eternal fog that only dissipates completely on the hottest days of the year, and sightings of strange fishmen, huge black crows the size of eagles, ghosts, and Spawn are had with some regularity. The people of Seravia are unworried about this, as they have grown up amongst such sights, and as the beasts of the Night seem to rarely if ever attack Seravia directly, perhaps remembering some ancient Vampire treaty with the monsters, or perhaps frightened of some other force.
When the Maynard took over as the land’s new stewards, they found many advantages to the strange and fortified position of Castle Crimson. Among these was the castle’s armory, which served to arm and armor both the Gentry’s Blood Knights and their elite human slaves who had been empowered by drinking vampire blood. Ever pragmatic, the masters of House Maynard, having no such equipment of their own to arm the defenders of their new dynasty, simply took the exquisitely crafted armor for their own and began training their new forces. The armor bore strange devices and was often built with designs suggesting bat wings and other features of the beasts, and quickly the fledgeling Knights of House Maynard became known for it, for the people still remembered well the armor worn by the Noblemen and their champions. It struck fear into people’s hearts, and fear was thought to be a useful enough tool. The finest of the armaments the masters took to ensorcelling with powerful magics, and the oldest weaponry and armor is still passed down today amongst the Order’s commanders.
The armor universally featured claws and barbs on the gauntlets that allowed the Vampires who used it to grab victims and slice throats with great ease, to better facilitate feeding upon blood on the battlefield. The Ordo Chiroptera, while having no need of blood, still found the weaponry to be quite effective at killing enemies none the less, and so trains extensively in the use of these special weapons and other hand-to-hand techniques.
The Order of the Bloodless Saint
Patron Angel: Nuraniel
Patron Saint: Ornias the Bloodless
When the final assault on Crimson occurred, the Ordo Croix tapped one of its key resources, Ornias, a vampire who, after being approached by agents of the Ordo Croix, found Benalus and accepted his worship, vowing to help destroy the Red Queen. Ornias claimed that he knew Benalus in life, but would speak no more of it to anyone. Within the stronghold at Crimson, Ornias worked to undermine the power of the Aristocracy of the Night, and when the time came and St. Aren called upon him, the assault began, Queen Adrasteia being torn apart in a brutal battle with her own courtiers. Once it was all over, Ornias swore to never again steal human blood, and to descend quietly into eternal slumber. He was considered to be a member of Ordo Croix and was lionized, controversially, in Lion Age 476.
The Order of the Bloodless Saint maintains a small chapel in Seravia where a small group of quiet monks see to the maintenance of a simple shrine that commemorates the battle that freed Rogalia. While most forget the assistance of Ornias and the human members of Ordo Croix that agreed to give up their Humanity to help stop the Red Queen, this small humble order maintains its account. They slowly work through the long list of curses upon the land to remove its innumerable blights and make it useful and holy again, but with such a small presence, it is unknown if they will ever complete that great work.
Coat of Arms: A pair of brown, tall oak trees on a narrow field.
Maxim: Stand tall
City of Influence: Arbory
The County of Merriweather is almost completely wooded with few main roads or trails traversing it. Poor in stone, House Merriweather has held the territory without a keep of any kind, preferring to use skirmish tactics and familiar ground to break troop morale. They are a smaller house with particularly undesirable territory to invade and thus get away with little trouble from neighboring counts. This has given Merriweather a poorly earned reputation as a peaceful county, in spite of the frequent dangers from the deep forest. Additonally, pagan worship becomes steadily more common in the more isolated villages where inquisitors and sane travellers dare not tread.
– The largest town in Merriweather is the Arbory, a logging town at the bottom of a narrow ravine. Arbory grew out of a logging effort of the great dark woods there, and still produces a lot of timber which is used by Merriweather and sold elsewhere.
– The timber itself, once felled from the great forests in the highlands, is put over the cliffs where a tributary of the Quich river called the Catarinde has carved out a ravine. The logs float down the river, with a few small camps of foresters at likely jam spots to keep them moving forward, and head down to Arbory for milling.
– Loggers and other foresters have to come into Arbory to get supplies ocassionally, and the town has become sort of a giant stopover for many kinds of out of the way dealings. Most people never go far into Merriweather itself, and few ever see the actual Lords, who reside in a series of fortresses in the high forests, but the Arbory is a place where one can find many kinds of people willing to do or already doing dirty work out on the fringe.
Order of the Iron Marten
The Iron Martens are the Knights of Merriweather, and their duty is to keep the woods clear of enemy soldiers and other dangers so that the business of lumber can continue. Each of them is expert at using the forest to their advantage, and makes it a point of Valor to know every tree in their woods. They are said to be able to navigate it blind and in any weather, and to force enemy soldiers into positions of their choosing at will while in the safety of their great forests.
Coat of Arms: A black ram’s head in front of a pair of red crossed swords on a gray field.
Maxim: Forward, Onward.
Keep: The Ram’s Crag
City of Influence: Rockshire
House Ramsey is known for their tenacity and bravery. In several of the petty Rogalian wars that are ever present, Ramsey has evaded terrible military ends with sheer determination alone. Their land sits near the Southern tip of Rogalia, near only the Rogalt Ocean and the Dunland archipelago, and have no direction to expand except outward and upward. With their County up against the sea, the majority of their infrastructure has moved right up into the southern tip of the Cragclefts that end there, which happens to be extremely rich in iron. For this reason, many have tried to take Ramsey before in order to gain its resources, but no one ever has. The Counts of Ramsey punish any who dare with break-away cliffsides, thunderous mountainside charges and other unexpected tactics, able to use the mountains as their own weapon.
Some say that the House of Ramsey learned these techniques from the Dwarves, who made fast friends with the mountain folk due to their similar attitudes, and even taught the human lords the secrets of their steelsmithing, but this is more of a story of legend than history. It is true, however, that Rockshire is home to a small community of Dwarves, and that they are treated with great honor by the ruling Lords and the rest of the people there. It is unknown, at least to outsiders, whether those Dwarves had always lived in the Cragcleft or whether they had migrated there from farther North, perhaps in the Imperial Crown above Gotha, where other Dwarves are known to live.
– Rockshire is a high altitude mining town with very productive mines. Several mechanical improvements have been made to the mines, including a mine car system and rails, as well as a series of belts that turn by crank to carry ore out of narrow shafts and into more open areas for further work.
– The town is known for its rare and expensive production of steel, a superior metal to iron that requires special techniques to create but is stronger and lighter than iron. Very little of it is sold outside of the area, mostly given to equip the Ramsguard in their duties, or for specific mechanical systems that require the extra strength or lighter weight to be effective.
– The people of Rockshire have little in the way of arable land, but they have a very effective goat herding system that they use to stay fed, having mostly a diet of meat, as well as a few hardy vegetables like turnips and tubers. The average Rockshire resident is large and hardy.
The Ramsguard oversee the mining operations, and are charged with slaying any sort of monster or wickedness in the mines, especially the old mine shafts that have been disused for a long time. They also defend the town and its lands, and have built extensive stone fortifications within Ramsey County to give themselves endless fall-back points if enemies should attack the steep slopes to take their mines. Each such fortification is designed to be destroyed and buried under tons of rock if the need arises, though despite that they are not known for fighting overly defensively. The Ramsguard are actually quite aggressive fighters who use the mountainous terrain of their home in aggressive ways as well, trapping enemies in tactically awful positions, rolling boulders at enemies from higher aslope while specially trained horses or even mules carry knights in special stirrups down to finish off any who survived the rock slide.
Order of the Broken Heart
Patron Angel: Lurian
Patron Saint: Saint Agnes the Joyless
The Order of the Broken Heart is the heir to a tragic story of two young lovers from within Rockshire. The man, Conner, was a peasant miner serving a term in a particularly costly military campaign, while his wife, Agnes, remained at home to tend to wounded soldiers who returned. She received word from a supply runner that her husband had been grievously wounded and was being sent back, but that a rock slide had knocked him senseless and mutilated him. Agnes wished to tend to him and nurse him to health, but because of the injuries her husband suffered, could never be sure if she had actually been able to tend to him as many times many soldiers came back with horrible mutilations and in deep comas. Even after the war ended, she continued to work day and night in the hospital, sleeping there amongst the wounded and rising to immediately continue her work. She died of age many years later, without ever taking another break, except for her essential needs. She was lionized in Lion Age 332.
Today the Order of the Broken Heart venerates the extreme dedication and sacrifice of St. Agnes, and continues in her tireless example with a dedicated hospital staff.
Coat of Arms: A black fort on a green checker field
Maxim: Who Shall Conquer us?
Keep: The Black Keep
City of Influence: Ryker’s Gate
House Renett is the House that holds watch over the conquered lands of Dunland, and control over its imports of food and iron have made it extremely wealthy. Most of the potatoes, grains, and other foods that are traded between towns and not grown locally are exported from Renett lands by its trading companies, originally grown in the Dunnick isles. Its treatment of the Dunnick people have given it an infamous reputation, especially outside of Rogalia where its economic power can win it fewer friends.
– The twin city to Renchester in Dunland, Ryker’s Gate is the muster point for all of the iron, food, and other goods that House Renett can export from Dunland. It acts like a giant warehouse and distribution center, and has a huge dockside district to process all of the wealth. The dockworkers there belong to powerful Stevedore, Teamster and Merchant Guilds which have to wield huge power to manage the breadth of the Dunland account. Almost everyone who lives in Ryker’s Gate is in some way employed to help process the goods, especially since they can all survive off of food and supplies pulled in from Dunland instead of producing it themselves.
– Many of the workers in Ryker’s Gate are Dunnick themselves, having been drafted into service to help with the trade. Some suspect that with so many Duns inside the walls, handling the spoils of their raped homeland day after day, a revolt is eventual.
– Ryker’s Gate, named after Count Ryker Renett, the Count who conquered Dunland, built the town and its enormous fortifications with the first injections of wealth from Dunland before any of the other Counts knew what he was up to. The masses of resources are a natural draw to enemy Counts, but the town’s defences make it much less tempting. A sea chain in the harbor to stop unwanted traffic, thirty foot walls, ten feet thick surrounding the entire area, even with a set of imported cannons on the ramparts to destroy any enemy siege equipment or ships stuck in the harbor. Furthermore, a failed attack on the town would certainly mean the end of any trade relationship with their House to purchase Dunland food for those Counties whose warfare make food too risky to intensely produce.
– The town has more through traffic than almost any other in Rogalia save North Pass or Port Melandir, but no one comes to Ryker’s Gate to have a good time. Everyone coming and going is on important business, either in the pursuit of trade and commerce, or in trade negotiations with those who are. The city itself is drab, has little entertainment save a few dockside brothels and taverns, and has a reputation for being a place of cut-throats and robbers – a reputation shared by House Renett itself.
The Seward Sword
The Sewards are House Renett’s enforcers, mostly in a naval capacity, but also in the twin landed capitals of the House in Ryker’s Gate and Renchester. The Sewards are responsible for maintaining the naval blockade between Dunland and Rogalia, enforcing the harsh laws that the House has imposed on Dunland and its people, and to ensure that no kind of insurrection happens in either location.
While being excellent seamen, they are also called upon to orchestrate much of the merchant matter that is the occupation of Dunland, and to manage its markets and economy. Traditionally the Master of the Seward Sword is also the Viscount of Renchester, and acts as Lord Governor of the entire archipelago, as the entire matter is largely a military and security matter, though members of the House Renett proper do regularly perform inspections and give input on the governance of Dunland. It is an enormous operation to extract the wealth of Dunland, move it from the islands to the mainland, and also to prevent attacks from rebellious highlanders and other insurrectionists. Much of House Renett’s success and much of the total wealth of Rogalia is owed to the Knights of the Seward Sword.
The Order of the Night Wind
Patron Angel: Melandiel
Patron Saint: Patrick the Ferryman
The Order of the Night Wind is a secret order of mendicant priests who assist Dunnick people who wish to escape Dunland. They operate a few small safehouses inside Ryker’s Gate and Renchester, and make it their mission to set up infrastructure such as sympathist smugglers among the Renett merchant fleet to help get Dunnick people free of House Renett’s control. Naturally, House Renett is doing all they can to smother their operation and kill them as criminals, regardless of their clergy status, but so far they have proved elusive except in small cells.
Coat of Arms: A gray pair of crossed morning stars on a white field.
Maxim: With Guile
Keep: Sunken Sorrow
City of Influence: Gildwater
Cunning and clever, House Telford prides itself on its intelligence in adversity. One of the richer houses, Telford knows how to exploit every advantage and play every angle. Even their keep, The Sunken Sorrow, is designed with break away levies that will drown any would be siege attempts under the might of their nearby river. Strong political players, they are feared for their ingenuity in spite of their smaller armies and reliance on trade over arms.
House Telford are considered to be masters of the political long game, a reputation that could only please them more if they had completed more of their devious master plans without anyone knowing about them at all. It is suspected by their rivals that they have spies in every court, in the board of every trade guild, a loyal clergyman in every local order, and traitors in every army. While this is no where near the reality, it isn’t as far from the truth as some may guess, either. House Telford isn’t without limits, but it does everything it can to maximize its position with information and leverage.
House Telford is one of the few Rogalian Counties to truly embrace the merchant class and trade. Analysing their historical expenses, they learned that their information network and manipulations were enough to derail most conflicts before they began or to take much of the bite out of an attacking force, and as such they found that it was more cost effective to hire mercenary forces for the short times when battle was unavoidable rather than paying the costs to field long-term standing armies. Since their information allows them to predict when conflict is coming, they can arrange mercenary contracts with plenty of notice to meet the enemies. In the meantime, all of their resources are bent toward commerce and espionage, maintaining connections with Hestralian trade guilds like the Rogalia Company.
– Gildwater straddles the intersection of the two major rivers in Rogalia, the Quitch and the Mastow. This is an important strategic point in Rogalia at large, as House Telford has the power to regulate the majority of trade along either river. This brings massive wealth to House Telford, which as towns go is quite a bit larger than most others in Rogalia, though nowhere near the size of a true city like Port Melandir.
– As affluent as the town is, it has trouble with crime. While House Telford does employ a standard town guard and constables, the lack of a strong formal military presence and the presence of so many mercenaries tends to be a cause for internal nuisance fairly frequently. Mercenaries never know when exactly more work is coming, and it is just frequent enough to warrant long-term stays within Gildwater, so many companies spend an inordinate amount of time frustrated, losing money, and looking for ways to relieve their impatience. House Telford spends more on internal police and guards every year.
– Gildwater has been in use in one form or another for as long as Rogalia has been populated with human tribesmen, and perhaps before, if the ancient carved bones that have occasionally been found buried in the town’s soil are any indication. Legends tell of ancient Rogalt and Gelti tribesmen warring with Orc in the area, though no one has seen an Orc this far from the mountains or this close to Gildwater in over a hundred years.
Knights of the Whisper
House Telford doesn’t ordinarily employ standard military except in great emergency, and when they do they keep the numbers to the calculated minimal that ensures the result they want. Instead, the Knights of House Telford, the Whisperers, are tasked with travelling all over Rogalia and even farther for their Lords to gather intelligence and perform espionage. They are the true power of House Telford because they give the Count and his teams the information they need to make their plans and calculations, as well as create opportunities to pit Count against Count or be struck a killing blow by a well placed attack.
The Gilded Brotherhood
Patron Angel: Mithriel
Patron Saint: Calirad the Quiet
The Gilded Brotherhood is an order of pacifist Mithrihim priests who refuse all requests for armed combat or for Rites of Conquest. They exist as a sort of protest movement for the various Rogalian wars, and maintain a stance of that all such battle would be decided. They have been trying for decades to arrange a movement in Parliament that all war should be halted for the period of one year so that Rogalia can see what it would be like to be at peace, and realize they had nothing truly to fight over. So far the movement has never carried.
It is said by some that House Telford uses the Gilded Brotherhood to get information from the rest of the Mithrihim Order, getting access to secret war plans elsewhere in Rogalia to their own benefit.
Coat of Arms: Three Black Stakes on a white and grey checker field.
Maxim: Make Them Fear Death
Keep: The Ribcage
City of Influence: Stonesborough
Formerly exiled Capacionne royalty, House Tre laid its claim on the ashes of countless vampires. Tre county was once considered unconquerable and forever cursed under the tyranny of vampire rule. However, when Lord Sebastian Tre arrived, he gained the support of the county and launched a bloody and underhanded campaign against the three vampiric counts that occupied the land. House Tre, today, pioneers its own school of thought on vampire slaying, foregoing or improving on more traditional methods as detailed by the Sacrosanctum, sometimes going so far as to develop clockwork and mechanical weapons to counter these monsters.
– Unlike several other settlements in Rogalia such as Shadowvale or Castle Crimson, Stonesborough was once a powerful vampire castle, but Count Sebastian Tre decreed that no man should ever take up what a vampire has laid down, and ordered the castle demolished. The stones from the castle were unmortared, blessed, and then recut to become Stonesborough, a huge town built from the ruins of the castle.
– Stonesborough is home to a powerful Mechanists Guild called the Grey Gear Company, and they have the full support of House Tre as well as their own healthy finances from their labors. Importing experts and young talent from far away Cappacionne or Nidavell in Gotha, Stonesborough has some of the finest minds in the mechanics trade working on new devices. If they can produce a device that will assist in slaying vampires or other minions, House Tre will purchase the blueprints and give its inventor a lifetime patronage to produce additional works.
– When the castle was demolished, a gruesome sight was discovered – the Vampires had apparently built the site on the ruins of an ancient dragon’s corpse, perhaps killed in the Age of Witchkings by the Vampires themselves after an attack by Quixalialtha’s brood, or perhaps from some even older age. While much of the skeleton could be removed, the ribcage of the beast was too large to move by any known technique, and so had to be left there. The bones now form the buttresses of the throne room of Count Tre, and the castle has taken on the Ribcage as its nickname.
The Hands of Pitiless Justice
The Hands of Pitiless Justice, or the Hands of Justice for short, are the Hunter-Knights of House Tre. Each one uses a customized set of equipment that is carefully calibrated and often hand designed by the knight for the task at hand. The Knights work closely with the Grey Gear Company and use that Guild as something of a research and development arm of their Order. They use crossbows, stake-firing rifles, climbing spikes, spring-loaded ratcheting shackles, grenades, and any other device they can produce in their quest to vanquish every vampire and creature of darkness from their lands and every other land.
If not for a strict code of ethics, many of their tools would have already been mass-produced for general military purpose, but their oaths forbid it until their primary mission of cleansing the world is complete. Even so, most of the tools they have would be poorly suited to open battle, instead usually designed for more close-quarters encounters in urban or fortified environments.
Brothers of the Blessed Holly
Patron Angel: Nuraniel
Patron Saint: St. Sebastian Tre
It is rare that the Patron Saint of a priestly order is also so directly connected to the nobles whom they work closely with in the modern day, but it does happen. After his death in Lion Age 42, Count Sebastian Tre was suggested for lionization immediately in Lethia, his story of a king in exile challenging evil ringing so well with Benalus’ own, as well as the great deeds he accomplished. His lionization was accepted in Lion Age 55, and he became one of the earliest saints of Rogalia, though he was not a Rogalian in life.
The Brothers of the Blessed Holly are Sacrosanctum exorcists who work closely with The Hands of Justice and House Tre to produce every advantage they can for the war against vampires, a war that the three factions agree wholeheartedly is still going on today in earnest, only with the ancient aristocrats hiding in shadows instead of ruling in the open.
Coat of Arms: A Pot Roast on a green backing
Maxim: Die Laughing
City of Influence: Farthington
The Strongbulls tend toward big men, big hearts, big voices and big appetites. They have a reputation of being dauntless, good-tempered and carefree. They rarely involve themselves in politics, which is a feat in itself in the Rogalian social climate, prefering instead to hunt the rocky forests of their land and win glory in tournaments and jousts, though they rarely host such events themselves. Strongbull women are just as large as the men, and jokes are made about the Strongbull coupling with giants to produce women of such bountiful portion.
– Farthington has excellent pastures and is able to produce a large amount of meat for its citizens. Unusual in the rest of Rogalia who mostly stick to wild game or else mutton and goat, Farthington pastures mighty aurochs steers. The animals are very difficult to domesticate, so the farmers who do take tremendous risks when handling them or slaughtering them, but they make a huge amount of meat for those that are successful. A long line of local Farthington wisdom tries to impart the secrets of working with the dangerous animals, but every year some ranch hands are still injured.
– Farthington’s folk aren’t generally as large and muscular as the Strongbulls themselves, but they are just as boisterous. Farthington has festivals more often than any other Rogalian town save Bradford, though they argue that their own are more fun. Drinking contests, feats of manly prowess such as log hurling or stone lifting, as well as dance contests at increasing levels of intoxication are common. Famously, the festivals also include aurochs wrestling and riding, events seen as extremely dangerous by everyone, including the people of Farthington, who love it for that reason.
– Local legends do indeed suggest that giants once walked the lands that Farthington now occupies, back in the Age of Heroes when Njords would come reaving with giant companions, and even more recent tales from the Age of Witchkings suggest the ancient legends could be true.
The Most Enormous Order of Giants
The Strongbulls love to fight, but don’t ordinarily participate in campaigns of aggression. One of the ways they have done this is by maintaining a giant army – in every sense of the word. Firstly, the armies themselves benefit from the excellent farming and supply strategy that Farthington and its nobles have developed, and because of this can maintain huge amounts of troops supplied on cattle. The armies actually drive aurochs cattle into the field with them to slaughter as needed, as sort of a mobile supply train that can defend itself with giant horns and an aggressive attitude.
Furthermore, the Most Enormous Order of Giants, the vested champions of House Strongbull, are selected only from the tallest and mightiest of Farthington’s stock, and men compete every year in strength competitions to be allowed to join. The minor knight families of Strongbull County are all of brawny stock, bolstered by a lifetime of hardy eating and rigorous strength training. The average knight of House Strongbull stands at least a head above even other noblemen, and two heads above peasants and other menials. The heavy iron armor and aurochs horned helms they wear add to their apparent height another foot or more, making them truly imposing.
Brothers of the Stone Heart
Patron Angel: Mithriel
Patron Saint: Eric Stoneheart
The Brothers of the Stone Heart are an enigmatic order of Mithrihim warrior priests who have been had a Fortress Monastery in the area for as long as anyone can remember. The Monastery itself is enormous, a huge stone enclave built upon a tall hill near Farthington. The monks of the Fortress Monastery never come out except if the area is under attack, preferring to stay in their fastness in contemplation. It is said if a warrior is to approach them, they will give them seven tests (or tasks, the stories differ) to prove their worthiness before God, and if the warrior were to pass, they would be taught a secret technique of war that the old monks guard. No one in recent memory has passed their tests, but supposedly various Strongbull Counts and younger sons have accomplished them in the past, though they are forbidden to speak about what they were taught.
Coat of Arms: A Pair of crossed white lances over a crown on a purple field
Maxim: Naught but Glory
Keep: Twin Colossus
City of Influence: Port Valeria
House Valerian is a House of consummate soldiers and generals. Valerian nobles and their knights have been famous for centuries for their fighting prowess, and have settled several political disputes through legal Trial by Combat before Parliament. They are thought to be haughty and arrogant, but the truth is that they are extremely disciplined, believing that a man’s personal martial prowess is both a duty and a responsibility before God. Still, they have few friends because of their standoffish nature, but those who do make it through the cool personalities produced by their training find them to be the most reliable of allies.
House Valerian began as knights to a long dead house of Rogalian nobles called House Randal. Sir Richter Valerian was an ordinary peasant who intervened to save the Count from a band of enemy soldiers clad in black, the traditional way for Rogalian knights or soldiers to hide the identity of their master, and with great skill at arms he killed all seven assailants. The Count rewarded the man with knighthood then and there, and he became the Count’s most trusted champion, eventually becoming Master of their House Guard. When Richter Valerian and his sons were away on campaign, the entire House of Randal suffered a terrible plague that killed indiscriminately throughout the land, including the entire line of House Randal. Since Sir Richter had the loyalty of the armies and had recently been named Viscount, House Valerian succeeded House Randal.
Today the House of Valerian is thought of as straightforward and uncompromising, clinging to the martial cult that are its knights and lords, and staunchly campaigning throughout Rogalia to win lands for Count Valerian and his noble sons.
– Port Valeria, renamed from Port Randchester, is a port city of middling importance. It does not do a particularly vigorous amount of trade, and while many attempts to liven its economy have occurred over the years, trade remains somewhat limp. Several trade guilds and individual merchants have attempted to revitalize it with various plans, but inevitably they have come into conflict with House Valerian for one reason or another, and have been cast out from the operation.
– Port Valeria has a larger than normal navy stationed at its docks, and part of the campaigns of House Valerian has been over the ocean, trying to seize control of the coasts. Specially trained beachhead battalions have been formed to try to quickly and effectively gain a foothold after landing from sea vessel, and their methods have improved year after year.
– Some people think that the plague that spread over the town all those years ago somehow came from outside the city, as old legends say that the sea air has always kept the people of the town healthy and long-lived. Some blame Lazarolth for sending plague spirits amongst the people, and warn that impure nobles invited the possession.
Order of the Roaring Sword
Valor: Arming Weapons
The Order of the Roaring Sword is certainly a knight order like those you would find elsewhere in the service of Rogalian Counts and other nobles, but it is also just as close to a martial cult of warrior priests who worship their swords as extensions of God’s will. They hold that when invoking in Benalus’ name to guide them, the sword takes on the power and the righteousness of Benalus himself, and that they become merely a vessel for the will of the sword. They train relentlessly with their weapons, never parting with them, even to bathe, and cleaning and polishing them in a daily ritual. If a sword is broken, their code demands that they submit to a scourging by a priest until they lose consciousness, and only then may they have their sword repaired as they themselves recover.
Many think the Order of the Roaring Sword to be fanatics and want nothing to do with them, but one cannot argue that they are masterful swordsmen, and at the merest suggestion of something less, they are obligated to challenge the offending individual to a duel.
Order of the Black Gull
Patron Angel: Cyaniel
Patron Saint: St. Corva
The Order of the Black Gull is an order of Cyanahim priests who reside in Port Valeria and conduct various operations using the ships that move to and from the port there. It is thought that the Black Gulls believe that House Valerian is not so straightforward and headstrong as it may seem, and that they may be involved in a number of unpleasant activities that are thought of as ungodly and unseemly. Besides their normal duties, they are always careful to watch House Valerian closely, and to look carefully into the events of their history.
Coat of Arms: Six black daggers, all pointed outward on a gold background.
Maxim: Victory, the Highest Law
City of Influence: Cry Haven
Murderers and cut-throats, The Underwoods are a line of bandit lords that have come into noble power. Running Cry Haven like a den of thieves, they preside over several lesser criminal bosses and take a cut of everything that goes down there. Relatively lawless, their realm is flooded with smugglers and murderers. So much so, they cannot do business with the guild of merchants, thus making the town a surprising place of free trade. The Keep of Spinebreak overlooks a cliff of the same name where the previous noble line was cornered and eventually thrown off. It is now custom to execute prisoners by hurling them off the Spinbreak and the bones of hundreds litter the chasm floor.
– Cry Haven is a large port town in the South of Rogalia. It has a warehouse district on a lowland where the docks are laid at sea level, followed by a steep bluff that looks out over the harbor and its ocean. On the bluff sit the houses of wealthy families, other lesser crime lords that have found Cry Haven to be a suitable place to set up their operations from. Cry Haven lacks an established police force, so law enforcement such as it is, is handled by semi-organized gangs that are part of the power structure of the crime lords of the city.
– With such a lawless atmosphere, one would think that Cry Haven would be a terrible place where no ordinary business could ensue, but that would be a mistake. In fact, the city has lively trade from all over Rogalia, Njordr, those Hestrali traders who do not wish to pay the fees to fly Rogalia company flags, and even the occasional Shariqyn traders, who get a fairer deal there than most anywhere else. There are no guilds in Cry Haven, so a sort of free market takes over, and merchants have learned that paying racketeering fees to local gangs is actually starkly cheaper than paying guild dues and fees. Unlicensed craftsmen who for whatever reason didn’t gain their training through ordinary apprenticeships also can ply their trade here, standing only on the quality of their work rather than the fixed costs of their guild association.
– Some trade companies set up in Cry Haven unofficially, having a sort of district office there to benefit from its relatively lower (if somewhat riskier) fees, and then move the goods elsewhere in Rogalia to sell in more formal markets. House Underwood either doesn’t realize how much money it could make by taxing all this trade with tariffs, or realizes exactly how much they are making by doing just the opposite and attracting business from far and wide.
The Onyx Daggers
The Onyx Daggers act as sort of a special police force for House Underwood when not on campaign. Because their town is one giant thieves den, the powerful interests in their holdings are perhaps more likely than most to act in rebellion or sedition, or otherwise make power plays against them. To counter this, an elite force of soldiers called the Onyx Daggers work their way through Cry Haven’s underbelly making sure they know exactly what is going on at all times, quietly observing from the shadows and making damn sure that they aren’t being lied to. They are well supplied and well trained, and no one to trifle with. They combine all the low cunning and ferocious mien of a desperate thug with the formal lifelong training and high-quality equipment of a nobleman.
Brothers of the Tawny Owl
Patron Angel: Melandiel
Patron Saint: Strix the Redeemed
Strix was Cry Haven gutter scum from the poorest neighborhoods of Cry Haven, and joined gangs to provide himself with protection. Growing up in the gangs and alleys, he was forced to terrible deeds to survive, and inflicted pain and misery upon others. After a tragedy involving his younger brother, he renounced his gang affiliations and refused to join any other gang. His old gang tried to kill him for breaking ties, and rival gangs in the area thought to take the opportunity to kill off their old rival as well, but Strix proved too clever and too dangerous to catch or pin down, injuring anyone who came after him.
He did not have the means to travel so could not leave the town, instead sleeping in secret boltholes his long life of homelessness had taught him, but it could not last forever. He stopped running and founded an orphanage for other children of the city who had been pushed into harsh circumstances, living openly and notoriously in the city, promising to defend to the death the children he protected. Miraculously, no one dared attack Strix or his children, and the children grew up with him as a hero, calling themselves the Tawny Owls. After Strix died of disease, his story made it to Port Melandir and he was lionized by the Cardinal of the Melandihim Order in Lion Age 510.
Today, the Brothers of the Tawny Owl are children of Cry Haven who have been inducted into the Priesthood, for whom living a life of poverty seems no sacrifice at all, and who still hardened by the harsh life of the city, tattooed in scarred from their various gang affiliations, guard children throughout the city. No child who doesn’t wish to belong to a gang needs to if they claim the protection of the Owls, and young men and women who tire of the gang life often join the Order as Brothers and Sisters to help the children of the city escape that life to somewhere else.
Adelaide – Noble and Kind
Brooke – A gentle river
Caitlin – Torture, female power, Derived from Vecatra
Diana – Heavenly
Edith – Wealth, Fortune, War
Fiona – Fair, white
Gwynivar – Soft and smooth
Hilary – Cheerful
Imogen – Maiden
Joan – God is Gracious
Kimberly – Royal Fortress
Letha – Derived from Lethia, Truth
Margaret – Pearl
Nell – Torch
Olivia – Olives, bounty
Paige – Servant, service
Regina – To Rule
Serena – Tranquillity
Tiffany – Manifestation of God
Unice – Good Victory
Victoria – Victory
Wendy – Blessed
Alfred – The Elves’ Council
Benjamin – Son of the South
Charles – Warrior of Armies
Douglas – Dark River
Edward – Rich Guardian
Frederick – Peaceful Ruler
George – Earthworker, Farmer
Henry – Home Ruler
Isaac – Laughter
John – God is Gracious
Kenneth – Handsome
Lance – The Land
Merlin – Sea Fortress
Nigel – Champion of the Clouds
Ogden – Oak Valley
Percival – To pierce the valley
Quentin – The Fifth
Reginald – Advisor to the Ruler
Silvester – Of the forest
Trevor – Big village
Upton – From the upper town
Vaughn – Little
Walter – Ruler of the Army
Xavier – The New House
York – Yew Grove
Zachary – God Remembers