“Seven keep you standing tall, or in Their mercy catch your fall.
And if They grant no aid at all, I pray you wake amidst their Halls.”
– a Pendrakken Knight’s blessing
It has only been three hundred years since the banners of the Pendrakken was raised above keep and tower, but the Pendrakken have become just as strong and just as influential as their neighboring, older kingdoms. Arcturus I, the Errant King, the first of his name, rules Pendrakken with the wisdom and skill that he has learned after forty years of hard travel and hard combat. Commoner and nobility sing tales of his triumphs; his death-duel with the Jotun Thane, Surtur, receives as much praise as his debate with the Obsidian Throne of Kenrei. But for all the progress that he has claimed to have brought, Arcturus is concerned for his Kingdom’s future. And it is this concern which has led him the transformation of Freehold as a neutral ground and to the forging of the Concord among the Kingdoms that he hopes will bring the fabled Seventh Kingdom to pass. Those from Pendrakken that travel to Freehold are tasked to be as shining examples of His Majesty’s wisdom, His justice, His piety and, when called for, His valor.
“Reaper, Reaper, take my soul. Take it piecemeal, take it whole.
Reaper, Reaper, keep my heart. In your care do I depart”.
-Damerrunger Nursery Rhyme
Gotterdammerung, also called Damerrung, is a Kingdom under siege –packs of the restless dead run amok and savage the countryside. For too long have the whispers of Demons undermined the priesthood. And the borders of Damerrung face constant threat from Orcs, Goblins and other Kingdoms. But King-Priest Siegfried Godhammer has begun a holy crusade to take his Kingdom back from those would despoil it. Despite their grim demeanor and bleak perspective, the Men and Women of Damerrung find themselves roused by the King-Priest’s call to arms. Godhammer has charged commonfolk, clergy and nobility to a sacred calling. Worship in the Lord Reaper, the Damerrunger God of Fates, has been renewed after the King-Priest cast down a hundred corrupt priests from their Ziggurats in a cleansing purge of the clergy. Change is afoot in the Corpse-Kingdom, and it bears a Silver Flame in one hand and a Runed Hammer in the other.
“You will find no weakness and little mercy in Morread’s marches, outsider. And you will find little and less of them in Morread’s daughter. Cruach the Cruel made Men of mud and blood
–and that’s all you’ll be when I’m done with you.”
– Magda the Redspear, Dyed Man of the Witch-Eye
The desolate marshes of Morread lie between the inner sea of Ordas and the western sea of Kaos. Amid this misty landscape dwell the Fir Bolg, a Race of Men made hardy and dour by the bleak marches they call home. King Baelor Witch-Eye claims leadership of the holdings, villages and towns scattered across the bog and beneath his banner, the Fir Bolg have become a force to be reckoned with. No longer can a Jotunbrud raider, a Shadow-Eater, or even a Hollow Man find even the loneliest village as easy prey. Where the Witch-Eye’s mark is painted, no trespass against Fir Bolg goes unavenged. The Baelor-King’s Dyed Men, the deadliest slayers among the Fir Bolg, and the Witch-druids of Maerla’s Coven, ensure his protection and enact his vengeance while within the unfinished stone citadel of Muirthemne, the Witch-eye sits upon his cold, cracked throne… and plots – what he intends when he sends Dyed Men and Witch-Druids to Freehold is anyone’s guess.
“Patience is the first step upon the stair of Enlightenment.”
– Ixian Proverb
Amidst the mountainous reaches of Ekthalon, there lies a civilization of thought, of philosophy and unity with the natural world. Until recent memory, Ixia had never existed in the minds of the common population as more than a whispered rumor. In a world wracked by war and atrocity, there seemed no place that could keep above the disputes and the bickering. But in truth, Ixia exists – it is a society where Gnome, Nightkin and Troll dwell in harmony, or something akin enough to it. Arcturus the Errant was not the first outsider to breach its borders, but he was the only one to advance the idea of Freehold to its ruler, the Horned-King Malleus. Malleus, in traditional Ixian patience, gave his answer after five days of fasting and meditation. With a single stroke from his club, the Horned-King made ruin of the gate which had sealed misty Ixia from the rest of the world – he then turned to Arcturus and spoke thusly: “The Gate is open. The deed is done. Let the Keepers of Fate now decide what is wisdom and what is folly.”
“Villainy, a virtue
Anarchy, a law.”
It is said that only savages, monsters, and worse dwell in the tangled jungles of the South. Many of those that belong to the last category reside in the Labyrinthium, a ruin of a city that manages to house the some of the vilest villains, cultists and outlaws in Midworld without them killing each other. Villainy is virtue and anarchy is law in the Labyrinthium, say the rumors, although they often fail to mention the true cohesive force of this den of thieves: a creature known as Kristoff Kingslayer– said to once have been a King in Black among the Riverfolk. He keeps the Labyrinthium intact and his power is secure for now, although to what end he keeps it is anyone’s guess.
“The Jotunbrud are here!
Your Fate is all but clear!
We’ll chain your sons and spill your blood!
The Jotunbrud are here!”
– Jotunbrud War-song
The Chainers, the raiding parties of the Jotunbrud, are feared across the land for their reaving and their slaving. However, the Men of the Jotunbrud are enslaved by those whom the fearsome have much to fear: the mighty giants known as the Jotun and their Frost-King Ymir who took the head of the god Woden and enslaved the Chainers. From his citadel somewhere in Jotunheim do the Chainers issue forth to rend and reave, to slay and slave the neighboring lands. And woe to those who have their fate writ that they should meet the Chainers – to face them is to feel cold and deepening Fear that pours forth when the Jotunbrud chant their war-songs, when they smash their blades into their shields and when they charge into battle, howling, screaming as a storm in winter. Jotunbrud are as welcome to the Seventh Kingdom, to Freehold, as any – but Chainers will always have their duties… and their enemies whether in their homelands or in neutral territory.
“River, river wending free
Follow, follow, follow me
River, river, see me roam
Bring me safely, bring me home.”
Named after the rivers they are often camped beside, it is easy to believe think that the nomadic Riverfolk are a scattered, leaderless people. But to assume that these relaxed yet vibrant people have always been so would be as foolish as petting a bear cub in front of its mother. It was only a few generations ago that the word “Riverfolk” was synonymous with “pirate” or “brigand”- The rivers and the seas were their domain and they taxed all intruders with threats of steel and blood. A drastic change to their leadership, the five hidden Kings or “Datu” of the Tagalog, allowed the Riverfolk to drift away from brigandry and bloodshed and more toward mercantile means of prosperity. Those colors have yet to run completely however, as some Riverfolk persist in the old ways even while their kinsmen’s boats glide from village to village with trade and rumors.
“No debt unpaid, No trade turned away.”
Amid smoke-spewing foundries, bubbling breweries, and glittering armories lies the Iron City, called Malak Travak by the Dwarfkind. The Iron Dwarves have put aside bloody feud and bitter grudges for one gleaming goal: profit. Warring clans have been replaced by mercantile guilds that wage bitter rivalries for the favor of the Runed-King and a seat upon the Council of Ten. But this competition bears precious fruit: all that comes from the Iron City is priced highly by the rest of Midworld, be it arms, armor, or beverage. Dwarves from Malak Travak are individuals driven by greed and jealousy to great heights of craftsmanship and mercantile prowess. And if there is a bit of bickering on the side… well, a little competition is always good for business.
“There are those that say that the stars are distant lamps, fixed high above the heavens. They have not seen Her Radiance, the Queen of Callas Selvarion…”
Callas Selvarion is an oath re-sworn, a vow made anew: the Elves will continue to keep watch over the world their gods have made and keep it safe until their return. The first city of the Silver Elves was lost to arrogance, betrayal, and a foul horde of Orcs and Demons. But the Race of Elves is nothing if not resilient and when Silver Elves rebuilt their city, they named it “Callas Selvarion,” or the Price of Pride. And it has stood for two thousand years since it was built by the finest Elven craftsmen and warded by the mightiest of Elven magics. Silver Elves are among the greatest artists in Midworld, and this mastery shows well in their fashion, in their craftsmanship, and in their manners – all of the finest and highest quality. There are those that say that Silver Elves are arrogant and haughty, but each Callasine knows the Price of Pride and they know well that it is too steep to pay.
Once a vibrant and noble civilization, this kingdom has fallen into ruin.
Nothing remains but a savage demon invested wasteland.
Anyone coming from this kingdom is considered a refuge, a survivor from before the fall.
“Kali-Avesti-Ishtar is Mother, Magister and Murderer. She births, she judges and she kills – and we should be so lucky if she should choose us.”
When King Arcturus I called for the forging of the Concord of Kingdoms, the Sunless Kingdom appeared as if from thin air and demanded their part in the protection and development of Freehold. Not long after the ink had dried, the Ishtari were quick to establish an Enclave within the districts of Freehold, quick to establish shrines to their three-faced Goddess and quick to hire able-bodied professionals to perform tasks for the advancement of Ishtari interest. Those that often consort with Kali-Ishtar can swiftly recognize the magical augmentations that they can grant to those whom they favor; the Ishtari possess Priests and Sorcerers aplenty among their ranks. But few non-Ishtari are aware of the object of their single-minded devotion and the true depth of the Ishtari’s machinations. The Sunless Kingdom has been hidden from the eyes of Mid-world for centuries and centuries; it did not reveal itself for a mere alliance. Something is at stake here and the Ishtari, with their selfless, dangerous piety and their skill with otherworldly power, will stop at nothing to advance their cause.
“At the heart of each Clan, a forge. At the head of each Clan, a king.”
It is said that the Race of Dwarves were forged by the Maker from the corpse of Wyrm, the Father of all Dragons. And while the Maker granted mighty talents of creation to those who would follow him, the fallen Wyrm gave the Dwarves fortitude, determination, and a heart ripe for vengeance. No Clan truly knows what began the feuding, but each Clan strives to survive the others and the tunnels beneath Midworld are drowned in Dwarf blood. The feuds are as cruel as they are senseless – but those that survive them, those Stone Dwarves of this modern age, are the fiercest, bravest and craftiest warriors the world has ever known. When one encounters a Stone Dwarf in Freehold, it is best to give him more than enough breathing room – they’re always itching for a new feud to fight.
“You want enemies ground into dust? You call Grellken. You pay gold. Grellken make chop-chop of enemies. Grellken eat enemies’ hearts for breakfast and lungs for dinner. You call and pay. We kill and eat. Fair trading, yes?”
The Grellken Clans are wandering mercenaries, entire clans of Trolls and Minotaurs dedicated to battlecraft for the sake of coin. Named Grellken or “War-Eater” by their kindred in Ixia, there are few creatures in Midworld as feared and as loathed as these Trolls. Each day for the Grellken involves harsh regimens designed to bolster the already sturdy Troll physique. Yet, unlike their larger, savage cousins, Grellken temper their might with a soldierly honor and military discipline. Furthermore, the price for disobedience among Grellken is torture and the price for desertion is a death at the hands of one’s own family – harsh lives require harsh laws.
“Domains? Trespassing? These are empty words and empty threats. Not even the Mother of Trees or the Father of Mountains owns Midworld. There is only one land, one world that matters, and we are all dwellers upon it, for good or ill.”
In Midworld, there exist tribes and towns that have yet to be discovered or that refuse to swear allegiance to any of the Kingdoms or societies above. These are the Free Tribes, disunited and scattered. Free Tribes do not have a voice in the politics of the Seventh Kingdom, but they are still a force to be reckoned with in their numbers. After all, even the smallest action can undo the greatest of plans. Those that come from a Free Tribe have the benefit and the weakness of having no political allegations and no political prejudice.
Note: Free Tribe benefits are slightly less powerful than the benefits given to other Kingdoms. However, choosing a Free Tribe is choosing greater narrative control and lack of political allegiance. On the other hand, your character may be less strong and less tied to the world and its plotlines.