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Orph

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The realm of Luxidor is one that has endured many calamities. The first of these was known as the Sundering, which ended an ancient conflict and shattered the world itself, dividing the lands of Men from all other species which inhabit the plane, and beginning the First Age of recorded history. From the Sundering were born five known continents- although much of the world has yet to be mapped, and none can say for certain there are not more. The continent we are primarily concerned with is Elichor- the home of Man. And Elichor is where the second great calamity took place, which brought the First Age to an end and ushered in the Second.

This disaster was known as the Harrowing- when the Old Magic vanished from the world. The commonly accepted version of the story holds that a disease known as the Blight swept the world, and for reasons unknown, those with an aptitude for the arcane were especially susceptible, causing the ways of magic to slowly die out. But some hold to another version of history. They say the Blight was no mere disease, but something far more sinister. They claim that the Blightfolk were beings from beyond the Veil, who emerged into our world and absorbed magic from the world, draining mana from the land itself. They say that the Blight would have eaten color itself next, and left the world a gray, lifeless shell- were they not beaten back by the Armies of Man.

Whichever version of history is the truth, it is true that magic is nearly gone from the world. Enough traces remain that its existence cannot be completely denied, but to claim oneself as a practitioner of the arcane would be met with great skepticism, if not outright mockery, in most of the human world.

On the continent of Elichor, humanity is divided between three nations- though smaller fractious polities do exist on the fringes.


The Three Kingdoms of Man

The Kingdom of Adelstahl is the greatest power in these lands, and perhaps the entire world. It controls some seventy percent of the entire continent, divided between its Great Houses, and their vassals. Theirs is a rich history, stretching back into the First Age, where stories tell of magic and monsters, the like of which has not been seen in the Kingdom for over two thousand years. These histories say that Adelstahl was once controlled by a secretive council of magi known as the Occluded Order, whose arcane abilities raised the very walls of the capital, Tarengard, at the dawn of the First Age. If this was true, it is no longer- instead, Great Houses now rule, the influence they wield second only to the King himself.

To the southeast is the Chevaroyale, or Kingdom of Chivalry- a small but prosperous nation which was once the domain of a coterie of squabbling nobles. This Kingdom’s wealth was obtained through trade, their dominance in that field guaranteed by the nation’s powerful knightly orders. As their largest neighbor, Adelstahl is their most obvious trading partner, but they have relations with the northern Vaskul, and even other continents across the vast ocean. But over the past twenty centuries of the Second Age, the Chevaroyale grew decadent, their noble class increasingly concerned only with maintaining and advancing their position in the social hierarchy- until the nation was brought to the brink of a civil war. This conflict was only prevented when the knightly orders intervened, crowning the greatest among them Knight-King, and instituting a military dictatorship. The nobility was stripped of title, rank, and privilege, with the worst offenders jailed or executed, and their hoarded wealth was distributed to the citizenry as a show of good faith.

To the north are the Vaskul lands. These warrior clans have no formal nation, but maintain undisputed control of their territory, thanks to the latent mana in their soil- the only place in all of Elichor where the Old Magic can still be found. The Vaskul warriors do not wield magic like arcane sorcerers of old, but its presence has made them mighty, and they have fiercely maintained their independence even in the face of the expansionist tendencies of Adelstahl’s Great Houses.

Among these three kingdoms, Adelstahl is our primary focus- as the tenuous peace between the Great Houses is soon to be broken. But to understand the nature of this imminent conflict, one must first understand the Houses themselves.



The Great Houses of Adelstahl

House Marshall of the Ninefold Throne.
Words: Our word is law.
King: Byron Marshall.
Colors: Royal blue, gold, red.
Symbol: A crowned eagle with wings splayed, scepter in one talon, a scroll in the other.
Vassal houses: House Hawken.
Main role: The royal house of Adelstahl, having held dominion since the First Age. Legend says the first King Marshall received the crown from the ancient Proto-Mage of the Occluded Order.

House Stern.
Words: Dawn shall come again.
Lord: Syzygus Stern.
Colors: Dark blue with gold trim, black.
Symbol: A solar eclipse ringed in gold on a dark blue sky.
Vassal houses: House Banisher, House Hayward, House Marbury.
Main role: The foothold of the Northeast, loyal to the throne. Slayers of monsters.

House Warding.
Words: Break against us.
Lord: Willum Warding.
Colors: Green and gold.
Symbol: A golden oak tree on a green background.
Vassal houses:
Main role: House Warding controls the valley between the North and the Mid. They are famous for their unbreakable siege defense. They possess the oldest castle in the land, and are unflinchingly loyal to the throne.

House Blackacre.
Words: Reap what you sow.
Lord: Boldt Blackacre.
Colors: Black with gold trim.
Symbol: A black scythe over a field of golden wheat.
Vassal houses:
Main role: House Blackacre controls the most fertile land in all of Adelstahl, west of the capital city. They are farmers, providing massive amounts of food to the rest of the kingdom, but also have a host of deadly warriors.

House Provident.
Words: Foreseen is forearmed.
Lady: Yvonne Provident.
Colors: Light blue and copper trim.
Symbol: A fox on blue background.
Vassal houses:
Main role: House Provident’s domains are intelligence, commerce, and foreign relations. They employ a small army of propagandists, and are known for their affinity for the high arts.

House Vredefort.
Words: Til’ the bitter end.
Lord: Helmar Vredefort.
Colors: Red on silver, black trim.
Symbol: A silver wolf on red background.
Vassal houses:
Main role: Called mad by some, House Vredefort are the Wardens of Northwest. They are strategic but brutal warriors.

House Goldbuck.
Words: Crowned in our honor.
Lord: Jonathan Goldbuck.
Colors: Yellow on black.
Symbol: A black stag on a golden background.
Vassal houses:
Main role: House Goldbuck’s holdings are located in the Western Mid of Adelstahl. They’ve contended with House Blackacre in the past, and are known to be prouder, but also more just.

House Storm.
Words: Our sails full, our blades sharp.
Lord: Reiner Storm.
Colors: Sea green, dark gray, gold trim.
Symbol: A swordfish over clashing waves beneath thunderclouds.
Vassal houses:
Main role: House along the Northern Coast. The most skillful sailors with the most dangerous fleet, house Storm are fearless pirate hunters. They love the rain, but are at a disadvantage when out of their element.

House Lochner.
Words: Rouse not our wrath.
Lord: Arno Lochner.
Colors: Bronze on red.
Symbol: A bear standing on its hind legs with claws bared.
Vassal houses:
Main role: Lochner is the house to the south of Vredefort. They are stubborn, but not swift to action.

House Duncannon.
Words: Virtue lies in action.
Lord: James Duncannon.
Colors: Purple on gold.
Symbol: A roaring lion.
Vassal houses:
Main role: Allies to House Blackacre. Rich and proud fighters.



Vassal Houses.

House Banisher.
Words: Give no quarter.
Lord: Duncan Banisher.
Colors: Signal blue with silver trim.
Symbol: A silver owl on blue.
Vassal of House Stern.
Main role: Loyal vassal house of Stern, the Banishers were potent monster killers in the distant past. They are known to be exceedingly ruthless, and despise backstabbers.

House Hawken.
Words: The truth will out.
Lord: Kellrick Hawken.
Colors: Black and steel gray.
Symbol: A hawk in flight, clutching a blade.
Vassal of House Marshall.
Main role: Head of the Royal Inquisition. Mage-hunters, witch-burners.

House Stackett.
Words: Suffer no lies.
Lord: Ermire Stackett.
Colors: Blue and Gold.
Symbol: A man throttling a serpent.
Vassal of House Goldbuck.
Main role: Loyal vassal house of the Goldbucks. They have a reputation for honesty and venerate it in their house words and sigil.



Elsewhere.

Beyond Elichor are the four known continents. Three of these four are distant, almost impossible to reach by conventional means- and after the Harrowing, unconventional means of travel effectively no longer exist.

The first is known only as the Far Continent. In ancient texts from the First Age, it is said to be the home of the Elves, who had their own name for their lands, nearly impossible to pronounce with a human tongue. In these histories, it is said that the Far Continent is almost entirely dominated by a massive, otherworldly forest, which the Elves lived in harmony with, treating the land itself like a member of their society. Some even claimed that Elven diplomatic delegations traveled to Elichor, and were received by the King in Tarengard. To most, these are fanciful tales or exaggerations- and even if Elves do exist, most scholars insist that they are simply humans with strange customs, not some other species.

Prash, the continent which is said to be home of the Dwarves- a diminutive species with an incredible talent for artifice -is not quite so distant as the Far Continent. However, visiting these lands is just as difficult, albeit for an entirely different reason. The barren, mountainous landscape of Prash is virtually impossible to navigate, and the Dwarven strongholds spoken of in legend and myth are thousands of miles inland, in a region known as the Deep Mountains. If Dwarves truly exist- and are not simply humans who happened to be strangely short of stature -they dwell within these mountains, building machines that are powered by raw mana, and put even the greatest human technological innovations to shame. But their existence is a matter of much scholarly debate in Adelstahl, and proving one side or the other correct would be virtually impossible.

Third is the continent of Tagesh-Tul, where the savage Ork is said to live. Stories of this species are more suitable for frightening children than anything else, as they are believed to be flesh-eating marauders who lived only to kill. Most of the stories of Orks predate even the First Age, as it’s said that the war that preceded the Sundering was between an alliance of Men, Elves, and Dwarves against the forces of a vaguely-described Dark Lord and his army of Orks. Whether any of this is true at all is unknown, as there are no proper recorded histories of the time before the First Age, only stories. However, travel to Tagesh-Tul is just as proscribed as to the Far Continent or Prash- not because it’s impossible to reach, but because no ship sent to those lands in the past two thousand years has ever returned.

Fourth is the continent of Szel, where a variety of smaller human kingdoms are located. This continent is the closest to Elichor, and some of its nations maintain trade relations with both Adelstahl and the Chevaroyale. However, this represents only some half of the continent- the rest of which is dominated by a ravaged region known only as the Deadlands. None dare travel there, and those fool enough to make the attempt are not long for the world. But many fear that whatever dwells behind the walls that separate the Deadlands from the rest of Szel will not be content to remain there forever.



The Story.

Though the present day is notionally a time of peace, it is by all accounts a tenuous one. Adelstahl is on the brink of war. House Blackacre’s defiance of the Throne has come to a head, and banners are being called. Loyalties will be tested, and blood is sure to be shed. Tensions have risen between Adelstahl and its northern neighbors, the Vaskul who have historically seen Adelstahlian merchant vessels as ripe targets for piracy. The Knight-King of Chevaroyale sees Adelstahl’s internal strife as weakness, and rumors have it that he’s readying his armies for war.

Worst of all, there are whispers, rumors, tremors in the very fabric of things- all of which point to only one conclusion. The Blightfolk are soon to return. A second Harrowing is nigh. Many fear this could mean the death of all magic, the barest remaining vestiges drained from the world, leaving it a colorless, lifeless place. But some dare to hope against hope that if the Lightless Ones can be defeated, the magic they stole might return to the world.

The Second Age is coming to an end, that much is certain. But whether the Third Age is one of magic, or one of metal... that is for you to decide.



OOC.

Call the Banners is not quite a traditional RP. While players are free to write individual characters that are simply small parts of the wider world, they are encouraged to instead take a bigger role. After all, the future of Luxidor is yours to shape, and it takes more than just a man to decide the course of history. From one of the mighty Great Houses to a diplomatic delegation from a far-flung nation, it’s within your power to wield significant political and military might.

While the above description of the world is light on details for any of the non-human species, such beings do exist within this world, and you are welcome to play as any of them. Necessary lore will be distributed to anybody curious about playing as an Elf, Dwarf, Ork, or any number of other potential species- and if we haven’t accounted for them in our lore so far, we’re more than happy to work them in somewhere. If you want to create a new Human kingdom, you're also welcome to do so, although for the most part we'd expect them to be located on the content of Szel, rather Elichor, to explain why the characters from Adelstahl and the Vaskul lands aren't as familiar with them.

If anybody chooses to write as a member of a non-human species, the full lore for that group will be released publicly once they have established themselves in the RP itself. However, the main ‘action’ will be centered almost exclusively on Elichor, and the Kingdom of Adelstahl in particular. I (Orph) will be controlling the Vaskul, but specifically a group of them that have traveled to Adelstahl. Likewise, if a writer wants to write as a group of knights from the Chevaroyale, or even an Elven warband from the Far Continent, they should have a good reason for being in Adelstahl. Obviously, we’re happy to work with writers to come up with those reasons, but ‘they just felt like hanging out there’ isn’t going to be considered valid.

Besides the polities and factions detailed above, players are free to create their own groups, whether they are vassal houses or smaller nations, and potentially even larger ones, provided an appropriate amount of effort and commitment to the setting is provided. All player-created factions larger than a single character are subject to GM approval (DM orph_ and jack.law on Discord for details).

Here are some examples of different groups and factions you might play as. Some will be largely confined to the political or military side of the RP, while others would have opportunities to do both.

Representatives from the Merchants’ Guild, attempting to seek influence with the crown and the Great Houses (exclusively political).
A mercenary company on the front lines of the battle (exclusively military).
Agents of the Royal Inquisition seeking to solve mysteries within the capital (political, but with a side of combat).
A fanatical religious organization attempting to spread its influence (political and military, with preachers in the capitol and crusaders on the front lines).

These are just a few of your options, and we encourage you to get creative.

Individual characters will still require GM approval, but the process will be much more lax- effectively just a check to make sure nothing about them breaks the setting’s lore or rules. Anything beyond that will require a bit more scrutiny, but rest assured, our personal philosophy is to err on the side of ‘yes’ before ‘no,’ as we have no desire to see anyone rejected, or their entrance delayed. We will also not be enforcing any kind of style guide- character and faction bios are free to take whatever form the writer wishes, as long as the basic relevant information is conveyed in a concise and legible manner.

While all are welcome to get involved at precisely the level of commitment they feel comfortable with, we would encourage prospective writers to be ambitious. Writing a single character will reduce your ability to interact with the world, as getting between locations requires days or weeks of land or sea travel. But if you’re writing even a smaller vassal house, that means you could have both knights on the battlefield, and nobles in the capital competing for influence with the High King.

Finally, don’t hesitate to DM us with any questions, concerns, or simply ideas you might have for how to make this world more interesting!
 


The Vaskul.



“So say the dead.”

There’s some irony to the fact that the only place left in Elichor where you can still find traces of the Old Magic is the land whose inhabitants care for it the least. The Vaskul, hardy northmen well-acquainted with warfare, never had an arcane tradition, unlike their neighbors to the south. But their land has rich magic in the soil, and of all the human kingdoms, theirs was most unaffected by the Harrowing. And without greedy magi sucking the magic from the land, it has suffused its inhabitants passively, causing them to develop stupendous strength, greatly surpassing the men of Chevaroyale or Adelstahl. This- and their frequent clashes with the monsters that still stalk the ice sheets and wooded foothills of Vaskul lands -have made them unparalleled warriors, feared and respected in equal measure.

The smaller population of the Vaskul and harsher climate they endure means that there is no dedicated warrior or knight class among their society- all are expected to have facility with weaponry, and thanks to their magically-suffused bodies, most Vaskul take to this task with ease and enthusiasm. One does not fight only for glory, but to protect the other members of their clan, and keep fed those who cannot yet hunt for themselves. However, for some the blade is merely a skill used for personal protection, not a lifelong calling. These are the farmers, fishers, and craftsmen of Vaskul society. The others, who make warfare their sole focus, are Skarn, the deadliest of their brethren.

Skarn warriors maintain a strange tradition of tattooing themselves using a solution derived from the iridescent, magically-infused blood of slain monsters, which continues to glow faintly on their skin. These markings tell the stories of their triumphs in battle, and possessing a sufficient number of them has the occasional tendency to cause a Skarn’s eyes to flash that same shimmering color when in battle.

Leadership of Vaskul society is sourced exclusively from the Skarn, as the strongest warriors are considered the most fit to rule. However, the Varl, or chief of a clan, is not an absolute ruler. Instead, he is expected to take counsel from the elders of the clan’s families, as well as its most prominent warriors, and other advisors. A Varl attempting to rule alone would be as foolish as a Skarn trying to win a battle by himself.

Perhaps the most important duty of a Varl is to safeguard their clan’s Aesarn, or Sky-Arms. These ancient weapons originate in the First Age, with the details of their creation having been lost to time. Vaskul legend claims that they were granted to the clans by the Skyfather himself, to help better arm them against the monsters that stalked their lands. These same legends ascribe incredible abilities to these weapons, such as the Ghostblade, which is said to have stored the souls of every warrior who fell in battle alongside its bearer, with the ability to summon their shades in a time of need. Today, however, the Aesarn have but a shadow of these supposedly fantastical abilities.

Besides the harsh climate, what makes life in Vaskul territory especially dangerous is the presence of the Nightbreed, unnatural monsters long since driven out of the civilized south, and the Røtgar, reanimated remnants of fallen Skarn.

The Nightbreed have long dwelled in Vaskul lands, and there exists a certain respect for their kind among the hardened warriors of the north. While their bizarre, horrifying appearances set them clearly apart from ordinary predators, they are still ultimately a part of the circle of life, even if there is deep magic in their blood. Still, this does not mean a Skarn will ever hesitate to slay one of these monsters- indeed, seeking them out and destroying them is one of their most important duties, particularly if they should ever stray too close to a Vaskul settlement. Unlike ordinary animals, fire is not enough to ward off the Nightbreed, who hunger for human flesh above all else. Left unchecked, they would ravage the clans’ strongholds and leave none alive. Vulfir, the savage Nightbreed cousin of ordinary wolves, will strike in packs, while Lyttkel, bloated and monstrous toad-like beasts, dwell in ponds and bogs, leaping out to assault unsuspecting travelers. Chief among the Nightbreed are the Fell Beasts, eight legendary monsters that are believed to have roamed the land since before the First Age. Their ranks include Rïskúlfr, King of the Vulfir, an ancient, massive wolflike creature with hide said to be as tough as a castle’s walls. Centuries worth of weapons remain lodged in its back, a testament to the brave Skarn who fell in battle against it. Also notable is Skírnaxi, the Serpent of Helskar Reach, a vast coiled creature who spits deadly venom and swallows warriors whole. Impossible to tame or appease, these creatures would be the clans’ greatest foes... were it not for the Røtgar.

None can truly say where the Røtgar come from. Those with a knowledge of the Old Magic say that some Skarn have absorbed too much of it through contact with Nightbreed blood, enough that their bodies are incapable of rest even when their souls depart to the afterlife. Others claim they are warriors who died without honor, and are bound to dark powers as punishment. But perhaps the most common, and most concerning explanation, has to do with the first, and last, ruler of all Vaskul. The Otr-Varl, Ásbrandr the Wise, is a legendary figure in ancient Vaskul texts. It is said he united the clans in the time before the First Age, leading them in an alliance with the Elves and Dwarves against the Ork armies of the Nightmare King. It was his wisdom, bravery, and might that won the most crucial battles, but at the end of the war, the Otr-Varl was one of many to fall victim to the Sundering, a cataclysmic event that shattered the world forevermore, dividing the lands of Orks, Elves, Dwarves and Men. With the Otr-Varl dead, the clans were divided once more, and descended into decades of warfare. But some say this was not the end of Ásbrandr’s story. As the legend goes, he made a bargain with the God of the Dead, hoping to outsmart him and return to reunify the Vaskul once more. Instead, he was transformed into an undead lord, who carries out a cruel parody of his original goal, now seeking to unite all of the clans- in death. As the story goes, he is now Ásbrandr the Undying, and his armies are endless, as at his command, every Skarn who ever fell in the snow and was never taken home will rise and return to make their kin join them in death.


Whatever legends one believes are essentially immaterial in a battle of life and death. These are the facts. The Røtgar are reanimated corpses of fallen Skarn, who roam the frozen wastes, attempting to kill every living thing they see. For the most part, they are disorganized and aimless, though if one happens to recognize their armor, it is possible to identify who they were in life. The Røtgar bear no real resemblance to their former selves, incapable of speech and uninterested in anything other than dealing out death- but they do retain their former skills, making them formidable foes. Worse still, the Røtgar are capable of organization in a manner that the Nightbreed have never displayed. It’s uncommon, but a sufficiently large group of Røtgar will sometimes form a raiding party, a warband, or even a full-scale army. In such large groups, they seem to gain a greater measure of intelligence, as though directed by some unseen force- and will launch attacks on Vaskul settlements with no goal other than total destruction. Facing their former comrades is a difficult proposition for even the most battle-hardened Skarn, but rather than shy away from the battle, they take it upon themselves as a grim duty to put the Røtgar back to rest, and whenever possible, give them the burial they were denied, in the hopes that it will prevent them from rising once more.

The relationship of the Vaskul with their southern neighbors has historically been fraught. In lean months, when the harvest was poor, Skarn raiders would often pillage merchant ships and border settlements, causing them to develop a reputation as savage barbarians. However, the majority of the clans now abide by the terms of the Worldspine Accord, signed some two hundred years ago, which negotiated a peace between the Vaskul and Adelstahl. The terms of the Accord are enforced strictly by the House of Storm, against whom most Vaskul harbor deep, ancient resentments. A few clans, including the notorious renegade Blackwinds, refuse to recognize the treaty, and continue their raiding, which has inflamed tensions as of late.

Although no human has seen the likes of Elves, Dwarves, or Orks have not been seen in centuries, Vaskul legend does make mention of all three. However, these legends predate all historical records of human contact with the magical species. The Vaskul myths are from a time before the First Age, when the lands of Man, Elf, Dwarf, and Ork were not so vastly removed from one another. In this age, a great Ork empire threatened to spill beyond its borders and conquer the world, and only through an alliance of Men, Elves, and Dwarves were they finally broken. The Vaskul claim that they were the men of this era, and that their warrior tradition is still descended from those days. Some even suggest that the Aesarn were in fact magical weapons gifted to them by Elven artisans and Dwarven forgemasters, although this conflicts with more recent Vaskul religious texts. Most of these stories are dismissed by the scholars of Adelstahl, but the immortal Elves have long memories, and were they available to ask, their answer might be very different.



Grímskell Ghostblade.

“To fight and die with honor is a Skarn’s highest reward.”

It’s a common misconception that a Varl of the Vaskul is always his clan’s greatest warrior. While martial prowess is typically a strong indicator of suitability for the position, it is not all that’s considered important. And conversely, the greatest warrior of a clan is sometimes utterly uninterested in leading anything other than a headlong charge into enemy ranks. Such is the case with Grímskell of Clan Eindell. His valor in combat earned him the sacred duty of safekeeping the clan’s greatest Aesarn, the Ghostblade, but rather than accept the role of Varl, as was expected of him, Grímskell ceded that position to his blood-brother, Jökull.

In battle, Grímskell does not fight with the hot-blooded rage of many of his brethren. Instead, he is known to channel a cold fury, maintaining his composure and emphasizing tactics and strategy rather than blind fury. Some speculate that this has something to do with the Ghostblade he wields, as it’s said to carry the soul of every Skarn who’s fallen in battle beside its owner, and Grímskell’s strategies often emphasize putting himself at risk while protecting his fellow warriors- perhaps because he doesn’t wish the burden of more deaths to haunt the blade, or his conscience.

Whatever the case, Grímskell is renowned as a brilliant strategist as well as a fearsome warrior, though he has a strong sense of honor, and refuses to employ underhanded strategies, preferring always to meet an opponent on the open field of battle.

According to legend, the Ghostblade can raise an army of spirits, summoning the souls collected within the crystalline blade and returning them to the battlefield for one final battle. If this is true, it is a capability that has not been demonstrated in centuries. However, the weapon does still retain certain preternatural abilities, which none who have seen Grímskell in battle would be so foolish as to deny. Some say that when the wielder of the Ghostblade is about to receive a fatal blow, the weapon will manifest a ghostly armor about him, cloaking him with the spirit of one such fallen Skarn, which absorbs the deadly strike and allows him to fight on unharmed. If true, this is surely not an ability Grímskell can summon on command, but rather a desperate manifestation of the sword’s diminished power. Besides this, the blade seems to give Grímskell a superior sense of battlefield awareness, particularly as it relates to his allies. Many Skarn in his retinue tell stories of being overwhelmed, surrounded and without hope, only for their leader to appear out of nowhere and cut down their assailants, as if he knew precisely when they would need him the most. And, of course, the blade itself is impossibly sharp, especially considering it’s forged from crystal rather than steel- and doesn’t seem to have a single chip or fracture, despite being over two thousand years old.



Jökull Serpent-Slayer.

“Do any now doubt that I am worthy to lead?”

Sworn blood-brother of Grímskell Ghostblade, and current Varl of Clan Eindell, Jökull Serpent-Slayer is a renowned warrior and respected leader- but this was not always so. When his blood-brother rejected the title of Varl, Jökull was the clan’s second choice, and many saw him as an illegitimate leader as a consequence. Other Varls laughed behind his back, and even many Skarn of Clan Eindell undermined his leadership, each claiming they would be better-suited for the position. Many felt that a direct challenge was imminent, and that Jökull would have to face his own kinsmen in battle to defend his title, or else step aside and be shamed ever after.

Providence, however, had something else in mind. For when Skírnaxi, the Serpent of Helskar Reach, driven into a blood-frenzy, attacked Clan Eindell, it was Jökull who led the charge against the ancient beast. And after more than a dozen brave Skarn fell against the creature, it was Jökull who slew it, burying his axe in its neck and ripping out its still-beating heart with his bare hands. Single-handedly putting an end to a menace which had terrorized the Vaskul for generations, since the very First Age, was enough to not only win Jökull the respect of his clan, but of all clans.

Though he does not wield an Aesarn, Jökull’s axe drank deep of the Serpent’s blood, and absorbed the potent magical toxin that it secreted. Once without a name, it has been given the title of Bleakfang, for whoever feels its bite shall also taste the serpent’s venom. This lethal draught is enough to overwhelm an opponent in seconds- but Jökull prefers to wield it only against monsters, as the effects of the venom on a human are indescribably painful, beyond what even a Skarn would wish on his enemies.

As Varl, Jökull has made defending Clan Eindell against monsters his main priority- especially as their numbers have been resurgent in recent years. Some blame the return of magic to the world as the cause, but Jökull’s only concern is keeping his people safe. To this end, he has pursued alliances with other clans, even those who have traditionally been enemies of the Eindell- but should they instead display aggression, he’s made it clear that he has no compunctions about cutting them down, the same as he would do to a savage beast.



Dyrdis Foebreaker.

“Let them come. I’ll grind their bones to dust.”

Woman warriors are a far more common sight among the Vaskul than any other human kingdom, due in part to the fact of their physical superiority derived from the raw magic still dwelling in the frozen soil of their lands. The average Vaskul woman could likely beat all but the burliest southern men in an arm-wrestling contest, and a female Vaskul warrior could break their arms with ease. Dyrdís, the Foebreaker, is one such warrior. The massive hammer she swings around one-handed in battle is proof enough of her strength, but the title she bears is the true mark of her might. Hundreds of foes, from rival clans, as well as foreign soldiers and frozen revenants, have fallen by her hand- enough to fill a graveyard and have more to spare.

Among Clan Eindell, Dyrdís is something of an outlier. She is the loudest voice of a small but vocal contingent who believe the Worldspine Accord weakened the Vaskul, and that they should return to the raiding ways of old. According to her philosophy, the men of the south are weak, divided, and deserve to be preyed upon if they are not capable of defending themselves. Though she has not outright violated the terms of the Accord, her warband has been known to harass merchant vessels, perhaps attempting to bait them into striking first, and justifying a raid.

Dyrdís was one of those who challenged the fitness of Jökull to rule the Eindell, and though any concerns about his valor or strength have been entirely assuaged, she remains uncertain that his push to unite the Vaskul and bridge old divides is wise. To hear her tell it, the constant conflict between clans is what keeps the Vaskul strong, and forging alliances would only serve to weaken them. Despite this, Jökull continues to keep her counsel, in order to prevent her from dividing the clan by plotting against him in secret. For her part, Dyrdís has not sought to take power for herself, or outright attempted to undermine her Varl, for she does respect the traditions of the clan, even if she might not agree with everything the Varl says or does.

Though she wields no Aesarn, Dyrdís is exceptionally skilled with the use of her chosen weapon, the warhammer. Her title is quite literal- if any of her opponents are lucky enough to survive an encounter, they are sure to do so with more than a few broken bones. The members of her warband are a carefully chosen few, who agree with her in matters of clan politics, and work well with her on the battlefield.



Ivarr the Pitiless.

“I care not.”

Ivarr, the Varl of Clan Scylûng, is a practical man before all else. He executes defeated foes not out of cruel sadism, but because leaving enemies alive to seek revenge is foolish. He abides by the terms of the Worldspine Accord not because he has any respect for the men of the south, but because going to war with the House of Storm would be more trouble than it’s worth. And he wields a simple broadsword rather than one of his clan’s Aesarn not because he isn’t worthy, but because he prefers to rely on cold steel rather than ancient, enchanted artifacts.

Ivarr is not what one would typically call an ambitious man, but he sought the position of Varl because he knew, deep in his bones, that he was the only one fit for the job. Thus far, some years into his rule, this has been borne out. His steady hand, and unemotional manner of decision-making, have kept Clan Scylûng safe. It’s made him few enemies, but few friends as well. Yet Ivarr has entertained diplomatic overtures from Clan Eindell, despite the long-standing animosity between the two groups, because refusing an alliance based on some ancient, half-remembered hatred is not his way.

In battle, Ivarr is as his epithet would suggest- without pity. He fights with little care as to fallen warriors, and pays no mind to pleas for mercy from fallen foes. This has given Clan Scylûng something of a reputation, especially among the men of the south, in their rare confrontations. Unlike Clan Eindell, Clan Scylûng places little value on honor- they would prefer victory. This makes the pair unlikely allies, but such are the times the two groups find themselves in. Ivarr sees in Jökull a worthy leader, and a dangerous opponent, but has open disdain for Grímskell, both for abstaining from leadership, and for placing the value of his own men higher than himself.



Rannveig Dawnshield.

“This far, no further.”

Clan Scylûng may have a reputation as pitiless warriors, but not all of the clan’s Skarn follow their Varl’s example. In particular, Rannveig, who wields the Aesarn known as the Dawnshield, wishes to resurrect the clan’s ancient tradition as protectors of the innocent and defenders of the weak. These are the very members of the clan who Ivarr has little patience for, and pays little mind in meetings with the clan’s families. If they cannot pull their weight, and contribute to keeping the rest of the clan safe, what good are they? Rannveig feels differently. As steward of the Dawnshield, she is chiefly concerned with defending the clan’s land, rather than venturing out into the wilds to hunt Nightbreed or Røtgar. This has earned her derision from some Skarn, but considering Clan Scylûng’s precarious position in the northernmost reaches of Vaskul territory, hers is perhaps the most important role of all.

While she and Ivarr rarely see eye to eye, the pair share a certain mutual respect, and he often keeps her counsel, as is Vaskul tradition. While most of Clan Scylûng follows their Varl, a not-insignificant contingent follows Rannveig’s example as well, and those among them who are Skarn count themselves as part of her warband. The defensive battle formations they employ are highly uncommon among Vaskul, and they typically avoid succumbing to battle-rage, as doing so would make maintaining those formations difficult- but they are undeniably effective in the right circumstances.

The power of the Dawnshield itself makes Rannveig’s unusual tactics more effective. Despite being a seemingly small shield, it has the strange power to protect those who fight alongside its wielder, granting them supernatural durability, with even their bare skin able to deflect blows from enemy blades. However, this ability is far from without limit- the shield’s power is easily exhausted if enough people are placed under its protection. In one notable case, Rannveig was able to shield an entire village from an avalanche using the Aesarn, but in doing so, depleted its powers for more than a month afterwards.

Though she makes effective use of her Aesarn, Rannveig does not rely on it in battle, and pairs it with a simple shortsword, of the same type that the rest of her warband employs. Most Skarn prefer axes, both due to Vaskul tradition, and their effectiveness against Nightbreed monsters, but the shortsword and shield are necessary for the defensive tactics Rannveig prefers. Instead of charging headlong into enemy ranks, she and her warriors prefer to let the enemy come to them, and break against their iron resolve.



Starkathr Snowblessed.

“Cold take you.”

The solemn Skarn known as Starkathr Snowblessed is rarely sighted within the walls of Clan Scylûng’s towns or villages. Instead, he and his small warband, which is said to consist more now of beasts than men, roam the wilds, hunting Røtgar and Nightbreed with unmatchable tenacity. To spend so long in the cold would be fatal for all others, but Starkathr’s band is protected by the Rimestaff, an ancient Aesarn said to once have commanded frost in all its forms. Though it can no longer summon blizzards, the staff does shield its wielder, and all those who travel at his side, from the worst of the elements.

The Snowblessed was not always so solitary a man. In his youth, he was blood-brother to Ivarr, before the Varl had the title of Pitiless. But after a disastrous raid, Starkathr was separated from the rest of his warband, and believed dead. Ordinarily, when a Skarn falls in battle, effort is made to retrieve their corpse, to prevent them from turning Røtgar, but that year’s winter was the worst in ten generations- no search parties could be dispatched when howling winds whipped at the walls of the longhouse and hail rained from the heavens, large enough to fell a grown man.

None have ever successfully extracted the story of his survival from Starkathr. All that is known is that he returned wielding the Rimestaff, thought lost more than two hundred years prior- and with a warband of wolves and bears at his back. Whether there is animosity between he and Ivarr is not known, but the two men are no longer blood-brothers, and Starkathr does not offer his Varl counsel, though his status as a long-serving Skarn would earn him such a privilege if he chose it.

Those who fight alongside Starkathr are typically of a similar temperament, not given to idle chatter, and preferring the company of beasts to that of men. They fight in tandem with the animals who accompany them, and with all the savagery that suggests. While none have ever observed Starkathr using the Rimestaff to directly influence the weather, the cold does seem to follow him wherever he goes, and often in ways inconvenient to his enemies.



Örn Farseer.


“He does not lie. But he has an unfortunate habit of twisting the truth.”


While the Vaskul have no innate talent for arcane magic, the raw magical energy in their blood does occasionally manifest in unusual ways. For most, this comes in the form of strength and fortitude, but for a select few- rarely more than one every generation -it is instead a gift of sight. These ‘Farseers’ possess a form of future-sight, gifted with the ability to foretell possible outcomes of present actions. Their methods are shamanistic, but the insight they provide is invaluable- meaning a Varl must take their counsel, regardless of how much they may or may not trust the individual in question.

Örn falls squarely on the less-trustworthy side. His gift did not manifest until he was of age to be a Skarn, meaning he spent his youth relentlessly mocked for his scrawny stature and lack of grit. Scarcely capable of lifting a greataxe, he was expected not to survive til his fifteenth winter. All that changed when, seized by prophetic madness, he perfectly predicted the exact date, time, and means of his chief tormentor’s death. The gleam of Nightblood in his eyes was unmistakable. It was more than a guess, it was prophecy- and it came true soon enough.

Since then, Örn’s predictions have been less accurate, more likely to represent potential outcomes than certainties- but he’s never once been totally wrong, either. The cryptic, often confusingly-worded predictions he makes are easy to misinterpret, but examined with a critical eye, it is usually possible to decipher what he meant.

Ivarr puts little stock in Örn’s abilities, but cannot deny they have been useful upon occasion, and therefore continues to keep his counsel, though the Farseer’s contrary nature often tries his patience.
 
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