The Mirror of Akasha or simply, the Mirror, is a massive lake that dominates much of House Pendrakken’s lands. The royal House, its outer branches and its vassals have their holdings beside this great body of water. Lutharion, the name of the King’s keep as well as the city that has sprung up around it, is also lakeside, although its colossal construction, Dwarven make and fluttering banners easily distinguish it from the nearby manors and castles. The foundations of Lutharion and the other keeps are built especially well and their towers are especially tall to compensate for the seasonal rising of the Mirror’s waters. The Mirror dominates much of this area’s mythology and mysticism, with rumors of disappearing islands or even mysterious water fae peppering the local folklore.
Due west of the Mirror are the lands of House Vagnar, once the second largest in Pendrakken. Their fields and plains were commanded by hilltop keeps or mountain fortresses. The majestic horses that carried the Vagnarian military still roam the vast landscape in tiny herds. The borders of these lands have since been given to House Macha, House Graellen and taken by Vassal Lords to Pendrakken. But Lady Adrianna Pendrakken, cousin to the Vale-King himself, is the guardian of these holdings. From the citadel at Vagnarholt, she presides over the well-being of the domain, the concerns of the remaining Vagnarian Vassals and the sizable tribal dominion given to the Pendrakken Beastlings for hunting and residence.
East of the Vagnarian plains are the riverlands where the icy runoff of the Greytooth Mountains to the north eventually meets with the Mirror of Akasha. In this stretch of river-soaked and fertile land, stands the Manticor’s Hammer, where Macha headquarters their forces and launches them across the Kingdom to keep the King’s Justice. In the holdings of Macha, boats used almost as frequently as horses and bridges span the dozens of rivers and tributaries that drip from the peaks of the Greyteeth. Considered one of the richest and profitable of dominions despite its size, House Macha strictly polices its domicile for any signs of corruption and crime. Thus, justice in the riverlands of Macha is harsher than any part of the Chivalric Kingdom. Whether the commonfolk suffer or thrive in this environment is difficult to say, but even the boldest of brigands keep their heads down when they see standard of the Black Manticor.
Marked by the blue and white banners of the seven-headed Hydra, the wooded, coastal holdings of House Arius lies east of the Mirror. The House Arius and their commonfolk are a godly people, every village hosts a chapel or at least, a shrine, to the Seven United. Thusly, Priests are especially beloved and respected in these lands, by both the nobility and the commoners – the word of a Priest here is almost as much law as the King’s own dictum. The nobility and the priesthood are hand-in-hand within the dominion of Arius, with almost every noble family tied to the church through a son or a daughter.
From the cliffside manor of Castle Arius, one can spy a large island off the coast of Arius property. This storm-swept island is the home of the Seven-Tower Citadel, the center of the Seven United. It is here that the legendary Arius formulated the roots for the Pendrakken faith. While most of the gigantic sea serpents in the area have been driven away, reaching the Seven-Tower Citadel can be treacherous journey through tide, surf and crag by those without knowledge of the sea and of the terrain. Similarly, the guardians of the Seven United are watchful in their duties of protection — long decades of attacks by godless pirates and Dammerung fanatics have taught them too many harsh lessons.
South of Arius lands and stretching until the south-eastern border of Pendrakken are the storm-soaked holdings of House Rayne. It is said that when the rains pass over the stormlands, the fog is not far behind. Despite the dismal weather however, the people of Rayne are a cheery sort – the best songs and the best brews come from the holdings of Rayne. The latter typically comes flowing up the River Akasha from the city of Stormhold and Stormwatch Keep, the ancestral home of the Raynes, toward the Mirror and Lutharion by the Lake. Stormhold is the center of trade in southern Pendrakken, bolstered further by interaction with the merchants from the Obsidian Kingdom to the south and the mariners of the Labyrinthium.
South of the Mirror are the wooded, hilly dominion of House Vard. While Rayne lands halt the advance of the sea-born storms, their fogs spread into the vales of the northern Vardian holdings. As one travels southward however, drier climes and more mountainous terrain prevail; a reminder of the Obsidian Wastes on the other side of the Vardian mountains. One particularly barren crater marks the battle where the legendary Vard met her end, a doom wrought by her own hands when a demon attempted to wield her against the first King of Pendrakken. Ebonshard Keep was rebuilt upon the edge of this ruin to remind Vard’s scions and vassals of their House’s motto: “Bound by Words”. House Vard maintains academies and tutors for students of the magical arts – the witches and the sorcerers of Pendrakken often go to the Vardian mountains to study, for great is their mastery of arcana.
Standing between the Labyrinthium to the South-west and the core of Pendrakken are the tangled lands of House Graellen. The Wild Elves of this House esteem the arts of woodcraft as much as they do war, embracing their primal heritage as no other Heraldric House can do. Thus, House Graellen are the most comfortable of Pendrakken when dealing with the newly arrived Beastlings, a trait that only fuels accusations of being quaint or rustic. The territories of Graellen are second largest to that of Vagnar, but their towns, villages and steadings are separated by miles of heavy forest and wild growth. Graellengard is the seat of House Graellen’s power; once the stone keep was surrounded by the forest – now, only the withered skeletons of trees and salted fields surround it. Only recently rebuilt, Graellengard and its proximities are only starting to recover from the Vagnarian rebellion. But the Graellen are as resilient as the trees they live amongst, slowly yet inexorably recuperating from loss as Wildlings are wont to do.
The King’s Law:
When Luther von Pendrakken came to this lawless land and made it a sanctuary for his people, he entrusted his six comrades with their own roles to play as well as the protection of the people in their employ. Thus, the nobility are granted their high stations in life because of this sacred, ancestral oath to protect the people and the land from all that would despoil it.
Because the authority of the Heraldric Houses stems from the first King, it is their task to arbitrate what is called “the King’s Law”. Each Heraldric House is tasked to police its own lands, with each lesser Lord and vassal answering to their superior. The Lord-Patriarch of a Heraldric House is the penultimate arbiter of his dominion’s justice; only the King and the Minister of Justice’s hand-picked agents (his Magistrates) may overturn a noble Lord’s judgment in his or her own land.
The Cardinal Crimes:
Treason, murder, rape, brutality, oath-breaking and thievery – these
transgressions are the Cardinal Crimes that the King’s Law punishes worst. Those who are accused of any crime are brought to court and tried by the local Lord or a Magistrate of Macha (occasionally called Black Lions or “Stingers” by the streetwise). Criminals of a Heraldric House can only be tried by a noble of higher rank or a Magistrate of Macha, although the vicious and merciless reputation of the latter sometimes dissuades commoners from asking for their aid.
Priests of the Seven United can only be tried by their Church, although it is believed that a Priest would rather submit to the mercies of the Heraldric courts than face judgment from the Hierophants of the Seven-Tower Citadel.
High and Low Justice:
There are two broad types of Crimes: the High Crime and the Low Crime. High Crimes are typically perpetuated against the Heradric Houses and Priests and are therefore more harshly punished. Low Crimes are perpetuated against Commoners and are not as harshly censured. However, a criminal that belongs to a Heraldric House that commits a crime against the people he or she is tasked to steward and protect is typically considered to be committing a High Crime, despite the social status of the wronged party.
For crimes that are not Treason, wealthy criminals may choose to pay were-gild (an old word for “Man-Price”). In Pendrakken, were-gilds can be paid to compensate for murder, theft or similar crimes. Criminals of any crime are also Branded (with a Vardian hell-brand) in the face for at least one year, the removal of this Brand through magic is also subject to punishment for the “remover” as well as the carrier of the Brand.
In lieu of death, a Criminal may choose to join the Church in life-time exile (if the Church is willing to have them). Such exiles are magically branded and bound to the Seven-Tower Isle – any attempt to escape is punished with death.
A criminal condemned to death, exile or maiming may request a Trial of Seven: a trial by combat where the Accused must gather up to six allies to fight seven judicial champions. Typically, no magic is allowed in this combat (except in the Vardian courts) and the accused is stripped of all magical or mystical items. If any of the accused’s allies are found to be cheating, the accused and all of his allies are condemned to death. Local Lords are not automatically obligated to grant the request for a Trial of Seven, but the valor in such a trial. A Trial of Seven is not a fight to the death, although the brutal nature of the combat allows accidents to happen. If the Accused loses in a Trial of Seven, he or she suffers the punishment they were condemned to; those who help him or her are Branded for conspiracy with a criminal. Needless to say, such a Branding can sully the name of any would be legend.
No matter the perpetrator, anyone found guilty of committing Treason is always punished by torture and permanent death. A Trial of Seven may be invoked for such a criminal, but few are willing to do aid those who are accused of Treason – losing such a Trial means instant death for those who would ally with a traitor to the crown.
In the Chivalric Kingdom, it is believed that all creatures were made by the Gods for their own place in life. For the Mortal Races, there are three roles of which they are created to fulfill: the Tradesfolk, the Clergy and the Nobility.
The Tradesfolk make up the majority of the Kingdom: men and women who trade and craft. Farmers and serfs, merchants and craftsfolk, even common-born sorcerers and peasant-born witches are considered Tradesfolk. The life of a Tradesman is not an easy one but it is a simple one: to practice their trade, to follow the dictates of the Pendrakken King and to honor those who have come before them.
The members of Clergy are drawn from both the scions of the Tradesfolk and the Nobility. Spiritual direction and healing are their roles in the community. In the smallest communities, the Clergy is also a source of education. Their main goal however, is making certain that the people’s injuries are mended, their troubles are assuaged and their faith in the Gods ever strong.
The primary purposes of the Pendrakken Nobility are the protection and advancement of Chivalric Kingdom. While many of noblefolk are trained in the military arts, others are educated as leaders, teachers and counselors; however, all are ingrained with the virtues, histories and pride of their families. Much is given to these men and women, but much is also expected of them – and there are many tales of young nobles that crumble from the pressure and leave the Kingdom forever.
Being an Elf:
Despite their prominent roles in the Chivalric Kingdom’s foundation, Pendrakken’s Twilight Elves and Wild Elves are still treated differently by the more common Humans. This difference in treatment is based in part with their relative rarity, the rumors of their origins and their perceived relationship to certain Heraldric Houses and archetypes.
Pendrakken Shaedlings are often regarded with wariness and nervousness. This is mainly because most Shaedlings have ties to the dreaded House Macha. Furthermore, peasant superstition and jealous hearsay has attached negative worldviews on Twilight Elves’ shadowy Racial powers.
For their part, Shaedling reaction to this perception is varied. There are those who take advantage of the assumptions of others, adding menace to their demeanor. On the other hand, some dress and act in ways to completely assuage suspicion and fear from those they interact with.
Pendrakken Wildlings have a more benign standing among the Humans of Pendrakken. The perception of Wildlings is that of a fey creature, a personification of the savagery and beauty of the wilderness. House Graellen is associated with most Wild Elves and they are renowned for their hunting and martial skills – abilities that are well-respected in the Chivalric Kingdom. Most Humans still consider them and their demeanors somewhat alien and treat them with some distance.
The typical Wildling response to this treatment is by remaining distant from most Humans. Most Wildlings speak only when they have to in the presence of strangers, becoming their normal selves only when surrounded by their peers and comrades.
Being a Beastling:
The feral Race of Beastlings were allowed entry and residence within the Chivalric Kingdom a little more than a decade ago. Moreso than the Elven Races, they still feel like outsiders. Beastlings entering the average Pendrakken community are met with curious stares and awkward greetings. The typical Pendrakken will be courteous and friendly with a Beastling newcomer, but will remain largely distant.
Beastlings often keep to their own communities but the few who dare to explore their new homeland and meet with their fellow countrymen find some difficulty in interacting with most of the populace. The subtlety of certain social customs often elude these explorers. Also, their straightforward demeanors tend to be o
ff-putting to the average Pendrakken citizen.
There is a friendly accord between the Beastling Race and the Wild Elves of Pendrakken. The Wildlings are in touch with the ways of the wilderness just as the Beastlings are. Thus, these two Races of the wilderness get along famously.
Within the areas given to them by royal decree, Beastlings follow the laws of their tribes. However, Beastlings are still held accountable for any Cardinal Crimes they commit. Furthermore, they are to obey the laws set to them by their Local Lord.
The Chivalric Code of Pendrakken: When they reach adulthood, the nobility of Pendrakken are expected to follow in the Pendrakken Code of Honor. Continuous breaching of this Code looks poorly upon those who flaunt it.
Courage: Face obstacles and adversaries without fear. Tackle difficulties without surrendering.
Charity: Show mercy to those who deserve it. Grant compassion to those who need it.
Courtesy: Remember your place in the world. Grant those around you, below you and above you the respect they are due.
Commitment: Remember the ties that bind you: Blood, Allegiance (to King and Country) and Faith. Keep that oaths and vows that you have sworn.
Clarity: Speak no lie. Know the truth of what is around you.
Tradesfolk Families: Tradesfolk families are patriarchal, led by the Father-husband figure. A family unit is usually composed of the husband, wife, their unmarried children and the first-born son’s own family. Married daughters live with their husbands (and their husband’s families if he is first-born). Non-first-born sons that marry often live nearby, in neighboring residences or in apartments upon the property.
When the Patriarch of the family dies, he is succeeded by the first-born son in leadership. Household management then falls to the first-born son’s wife, with advisement from the former matron of the house.
It is only when the Patriarch and his sons are dead that leadership may move to the Patriarch’s brothers; that is to say that a dead Patriarch who fathered no sons will have his properties fall into the possession of his brothers and failing that, his male cousins.
It must be noted that Tradesfolk are less tradition-bound than the Heraldric Houses. Alteration of the formula of succession above is uncommon. Sometimes, the Matron of the Household holds the power of the former Patriarch until she gives it to her First-born son (or whomwever else).
Elven Families: The Wildlings and Shaedlings of Pendrakken follow a similar structure to the Tradesfolk families, except that one’s gender matters less than one’s birth-rank. Management of a family may fall to the oldest daughter instead of the oldest son, if the daughter is the elder among the two.
It is believed that the Elves used to follow a Matriarchal structure long ago but have since adapted to human policies.
Beastling Families: Because they are newly arrived to the Chivalric Kingdom, the Beastlings of Pendrakken still follow their own familial customs. Their families are large units, led by a patriarchal figure and composed of the children of that Patriarch (married and unmarried). Married daughters live with their husbands. Beastlings do not follow primogeniture and instead choose a married male heir to inherit control of the family; thus a dying Beastling patriarch may choose one of his sons, brothers or even his male cousins to take on the family’s leadership after he dies.
Heraldric Houses: The familial structure of the nobility is similar to that of the Tradesfolk, except for the staggering amount of ceremony that comes with every rite and event. Furthermore, marriages among the Nobility are almost always arranged marriages – however, many parents will often take their sons’ or daughters’ opinions into account. Despite the first King’s marriage being not the norm, marriages among the nobility will always involve the families of the betrothed in its arrangement and proceedings.
Clergy and the Family: Joining the Clergy usually means leaving familial obligations behind to take up the duties of the Church. Only members of the Nobility can keep their names when they join the Church of the Seven United. However, choosing to keep one’s name often means retaining one’s familial duties as well as maintaining the trust of the Clergy. Woe to the Priest who finds his two obligations at cross-purposes.
Clergyfolk are not prohibited from marriage, although such an act immensely complicates the Cleric’s life by adding more obligations to fulfill and more factions to answer to. Some Priests that marry choose to retire to a quiet stewardship.