To Forge A Kingdom
Issia and Rostland
From the towering spires of the Ruby Fortress, King Noleski Surtova looks out across a nation divided. For most of the last 200 years, the descendants of Choral the Conquerer led the various people of two formally separate (and vastly different) nations, welding them together to forge the nation of Brevoy. Now Choral’s descendants are gone, and cracks are appearing that threaten to tear apart the nation and plunge its people into a sea of fire and blood.
Brevoy was formed when a mysterious Iobarian warlord named Choral the Conquerer forged a new nation, with the help of his red dragon allies, out of two neighboring rivals. Despite the efforts of Choral’s descendants in House Rogarvia, these two regions retain much of the character and national identity they had as independent nations.
All of that changed 9 years ago, when every member of House Rogarvia vanished without a trace or explanation. Stripped of its rulers and its only uniting force, Brevoy is on the brink of plunging into civil war.
The northern half of Brevoy was once the independent nation of Issia. A twisted landscape of rugged hills covered only with scrub and scree, the uniformly poor quality of the soil makes it nearly impossible to grow anything here. The people live mostly on the fish they can catch, a diet supplemented only by food shipped up from Rostland or areas further south. In centuries past, the people of Issia were infamous raiders, and their river-raiding craft were feared along the whole length of the Sellen, all the way to the Verduran forest.
For more than a thousand years, the Surtovas have ruled Issia. The family of pirates and scoundrels has retained an iron grip on Issia ever since it beat all the other pirates and scoundrels into submission. Collectively, Surtovas are known as crafty schemers. Lacking both natural resources and a large population, Issia has never possessed anything like a mighty military force, but it usually survives by outsmarting its enemies. When Choral and his dragons arrived, the Surtovas surrendered immediately and were therefore spared the retribution that nearly destroyed their southern neighbors in Rostland. Since that day, the family worked, slowly and carefully, to advance its position in the royal hierarchy of Brevoy—a diligence that paid off when the Rogarvias disappeared. Many suspect the Surtovas are somehow behind the mysterious disappearance, as no sooner had the Rogarvias vanished than the Surtovas began consolidating their grip on the throne.
On the whole, Issians remain a reclusive and enigmatic bunch. Each village has its own traditions dating back hundreds of years. Outsiders find themselves distrusted and shunned. Rumors of bloody rituals and human sacrifice remain unsubstantiated, but in the far-away cities of Restov and New Stetven, people whisper that the true masters of Issia remain hidden beneath the waters of the Lake of Mists and Veils, emerging in the dead of night to strike terrible bargains with the villagers.
South of the Gronzi Forest lies a vast rolling plain of fertile grasslands, dotted with farms and small villages. This is Rostland, breadbasket of the north and homeland of the Aldori swordpact.
Centuries ago, the Taldan colonists who founded Rostland arrived in the north under the leadership of Baron Sirian First, a fiery, impulsive noble forced to emigrate from Taldor after losing one too many duels. In the early days of the colony, bandits struck from hidden camps in the river kingdoms, nearly destroying the budding colony before it had a chance to get started. The bandit leader was himself a master swordsman and challenged the baron to a wager: half the baron’s fortune against the bandit’s head. Unable to pass up the challenge, Baron First took the wager and was broadly humiliated by an ignoble defeat. After he paid the bandit, he disappeared for several years. Most assumed he had f led somewhere, too ashamed to show his face after such a defeat.
The people were surprised when the baron returned several years later a changed man, a swordsman like the world had never before seen. Calling himself Sirian Aldori, he promptly challenged the bandit lord to a rematch, whereupon he disarmed and defeated the bandit in seconds. Reestablishing his rule, Baron Aldori issued an open challenge of 100,000 gp to anyone who could beat him in a duel of swords. Thousands answered the challenge from across the world. Some were earnest and honorable duelists, while others tried to cheat with magic or other tricks. It didn’t matter. Sirian defeated them all, forever cementing his reputation as the greatest swordsman in the world. At first, Sirian refused to teach his techniques, but eventually he selected a small group to train. He made them change their names to Aldori and to swear an oath not to reveal anything they learned to someone not of the swordpact. Through the generations that followed, Sirien’s pupils became known as the Aldori swordlords, a force feared throughout the continent. Until Choral arrived, the swordlords ruled Rostland and were every bit as impulsive and prickly as Sirien. The Aldori uniformly distrust the Surtovas, and their patience with the new king wears thin.
The people of Rostland are mainly farmers, craftsmen, and tradesmen. Most are outgoing, happy, and welcoming of strangers—as long as the strangers are willing to conform to the local customs, of which there are many. This welcome is somewhat misgiving, however, as the people of Rostland are obsessed with honor and personal standing, and take offense at the slightest provocation. One wrong word is likely to find the offender in front of the local magistrate or facing a prospective duel. If an outsider takes the trouble to learn their customs, the Rostlandi prove to be fast friends and staunch allies.