Welcome to the Sovereignlands...
Deep in the Kingswood lies an ancient people who can trace their line back to the Kings of Old. The Valefolk, a reclusive, superstitious and talented people who have lived in relative isolation for centuries in a broad forested valley surrounded on three sides by towering peaks. Here, in the shadow of the mountain, the Valefolk have quietly carved out an empire that has spread throughout the rest of Arnesse as far as the wastes of Tarkath and the tundra of the Everfrost. This is a realm of contradictions, where pure-blood Ardan nobility rule over a more primitive people that they subjugated to their will in a time out of memory. It is a place where the mysticism of the ancient world collides with the newly emerging faith of the Aurorym and threatens the very foundations of all that the Bannons have spent a thousand years building. This is a land where wolves still run free through old growth forests beneath a full moon and tales speak of dark creatures that lurk at the edge of firelight, waiting to drink the blood of the living. The Sovereignlands is the home of King and Highcourt; it is here that the fate and future of all Arnesse is likely to be decided.
Using This Guide
The player supplements for Eldritch are intended to provide detail information beyond that which is known to the general player population. All information in this guide is to be taken as in-play information, known by you and others in your corresponding faction. You may over the course of Eldritch events discover new information that corresponds to your faction, however you will be able to share this information as you wish.
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Major Figures of the Sovereignlands
Giles Bannon II
His Majesty, Giles Bannon II, King of the Ardan, Lord Sovereign of the Seven Protectorates and Defender of the Vale
King Giles II is the King of Arnesse and sovereign of the Seven Protectorates. Within the Sovereignlands, the King is seen as the personification of heroism, for his leadership and his victory over his father, Giles I, who the people believed had been turned against his own people by the wiles of the Innis ‘witch’ Maeve. To his people, Giles II is brilliant and idealistic, a true visionary that wants the best future for his kingdom. While many within the Sovereignlands may be unsure about the Aurorym faith, their long history of belief in the monarchy, combined with their almost fanatical devotion to the ideals of their leaders as heroes, have seen many adopt the religion simply because Giles II has chosen to do so. The rumors about his despotism and fanaticism have been largely disregarded by the Valefolk as misinformation spread by those who would want to see the Bannon monarchy undone. With few external sources to refute their beliefs and their own leaders reinforcing them through a variety of persuasive and manipulative methods, one would be hard pressed to find a resident of the Sovereignlands who wouldn’t fervently defend the King, his accomplishments, and his right to rule Arnesse.
Her Majesty, Aline Bannon, Queen of the Ardan, Queen of Flowers
While at first, the thought that the King would marry an outsider from beyond the Sovereignlands was not well accepted by the Valefolk, Queen Aline has proven to be one of the most popular monarchs in recent memory among her people. The Valefolk have taken to calling her Damă Zorilor, the Queen of Dawn, as it is said that she brings the dawn to lands covered in darkness. Of all the realms in Arnesse, the people of the Vale genuinely love their Queen and there are few that would ever speak against her. That she is often seen as a figure who does good works for the people only builds her legend and, in many ways, she is more popular that her husband is. While many in the Sovereignlands have come to the Aurorym faith out of obedience to the King, the Queen has shown the way the faith can be lived, and thus many more have come to the Dawn because of her. That she has not born the King an heir is a source of great sorrow for the Valefolk.
Ser Blake Bannon, Knight Master of the Ordo Rosarius
Sir Blake Bannon is cousin to King Giles II, the son of Lord Paragon, Charles Bannon, and sister of the Lady of the Crossing, Jocelyn Corveaux. Sir Blake is currently the head of House Bannon’s armies, the Ordo Rosarius order, and a fine knight in his own right. He trained under Lady Victoria Holt and is a fine swordsman and regarded as an even finer man. He said to not be political like his father and his sister, but he is a great leader of men. From all anyone can see his men love him and he’s a knight carved from the essence of the chivalric code. Sir Blake cuts a handsome figure and is also unmarried, making him one of the most eligible bachelors in all Arnesse.
His Grace, Charles Bannon, Lord Paragon of the Sovereignlands and Warden of the West
Charles Bannon is Lord Paragon of the Sovereignlands and the head of House Bannon. He is the Uncle of Giles II and brother of the former monarch, King Giles I. Lord Charles was known to have fought against King Giles II at the battle of Lanton and by all accounts should have died a traitor. The King, at the behest of his new Queen Aline, showed Lord Charles mercy in the hopes that he could persuade the other Bannon Lords loyal to Giles I to bend the knee to Giles II. Lord Charles was able to do this and thus earned a place in Giles II’s court. Since then he has been placed in charge of House Bannon’s affairs in the Sovereignlands and proven himself loyal to his nephew. From all accounts, Lord Charles is the penultimate elder statesmen and patriarch of his family. He supports House Bannon and the monarchy fiercely and without question, but in recent years, much controversy has been stoked because he has not converted to the Aurorym.
Emma Hale, Formerly Emma Bannon
Lady Hale, Lady of Grimfrost
Lady Emma Hale is the half sister of Giles II, daughter of Queen Elysande, the wife of Giles I executed for adultery. She is married to the Lord Paragon of House Hale, Talbot Hale, and she has four children by him. She has lived most of her life in the Everfrost, having fled from the Sovereignlands when she was young and is a rare for her to ever be seen in her homeland. It is well known that King Giles II thinks highly of his half-sister, as she and her husband’s battle-hardened armies were instrumental to his victory at Lanton.
Jocelyn Corveaux, formerly Jocelyn Bannon
Lady of the Crossing
Lady Jocelyn Corveaux is the daughter of Lord Paragon Charles Bannon, the sister of Ser Blake Bannon, and the wife of the Lord of King’s Crossing, Lord Garamond Corveaux. Lady Jocelyn is, much like her father and even more so than her husband, a master at the art of politics. Those who work with her find that she is demanding, stern, but fair to all who show loyalty. Under Lord Garamond and Lady Jocelyn’s rule, King’s Crossing has seen unprecedented wealth flow into its coffers during the last several years and rumors at court say that as a result, the couple’s star is on the rise in the Kingdom.
The First King & the Great War
The victories that House Bannon and their allies achieved during the Great War, over three centuries ago, still echo through the halls of the Sovereignlands and in many ways have come to define the very essence of who the Valefolk are. It was during the Great War that the First King, Edric Bannon rose to power, not by force of arms against his fellow man, but by laying the Gods themselves low. For this, Edric would be immortalized in the minds of the people of the Vale as the ultimate monarch and hero. Edric’s murder at his coronation, allegedly by forces of House Aragon and ancestors of House Innis, was a tragedy that the Sovereignlands has not forgiven or forgotten. The ensuing civil war that followed for the next eight years only proved that House Bannon and the newly formed monarchy were the betters of anyone who stood before them, and their victories secured a dynasty of Kings that has stood for three centuries. The modern holiday of King’s Day is meant to commemorate these achievements and to this day, the people of the Sovereignlands feel as though they have brought the gift of order to the Kingdom. While the people of the Vale cannot often recount the exact details of history, they are extremely proud of their ancestor’s legacy.
The Bloody Queen
The days following the Great War were a time of chaos, with vassals turning upon lieges and the people suffering incredible hardships. It was then that daughter of the First King, Edric I, Catherine Bannon, who had led Bannon’s armies to victory in in the last days of the Great War, ascended the throne. While her father is credited by most to have begun the monarchy in Arnesse, she is the one who established and defined it. While history has varying viewpoints on Queen Catherine, everyone agrees that her reign was marked by warfare and bloodshed. Some realms consider her to be a tyrant, a despot, who was given the name ‘The Crimson Queen’ or ‘The Bloody Queen’. The people of the Sovereignlands disregard this talk as those who would seek to disparage the Bannon monarchy, claiming instead that the severity of Catherine’s rule was necessary to deal with the chaos and insurrection of her time. Queen Catherine is known as ‘Queen Mother’ by the people of the Vale and while many may be divided on her methods, the effects of her reign and many of the policies she established have been employed by monarchs up until the modern day.
The Age of Kings
The reign of the Bannons throughout the Age of Kings was nearly absolute, but not without strife. The people of the Vale well remember the days of the Brother’s War and Bastards War, when siblings fought each other for the right to rule. But it was the rule of Giles I, the father of the current King, Giles II, that brought some of the greatest strife to the Kingdom. Giles Bannon I was the son of Queen Eleanor and King Miles, the two victors of the Bastards War and half siblings. Their reign was chaotic, with King Miles dying early in his reign in a duel against an Aragonese knight. The knight took offense to King Miles declaring the current Lord Paragon Charles, his bastard son by a woman of Tarkath and the wife of the knight, a full-blooded Bannon and no longer a bastard. Giles was raised by his mother, Eleanor. Eleanor was a fine and just Queen whose reign is well regarded, save her decision to wed a Lord of Tarkath, Astor Aragon, who became King Regent.
Giles was crowned King Giles I in 727 and from the time he ascended the throne, his reign was marked by prosperity and wealth that had not been seen in generations. Proving to be a capable administrator with a keen mind, he made sweeping civic changes, including the creation of boroughs within fiefs, mandating an administrative structure led by a castellan and a sheriff, regulating the flow of taxes and to stop the hoarding of supplies by both the peasantry and nobility. This allowed towns to grow larger and more numerous and the already existing cities even more prosperous. Giles’ reign was also marked in his dislike for faith and religion. During his reign, the Aurorym faith and House Blayne enjoyed little privilege. He was said to have distrusted their power and said he had been shown a vision of their faith destroying the Kingdom.
While as a King, Giles I proved capable, his personal life is regarded by some as chaotic. The folk of the Sovereignlands often tell a different tale, in that it was the King’s right to act as he did, and some Valefolk even see the King’s choices as a sign of his virility and magnetism over women. Giles I took his first wife, Lady Rosalind of House Bannon, who bore him a son, Giles the Younger. While there was much speculation is as to why Rosalind fell out of favor, the King decreed that annulment was legal again and dissolved their union. She would flee north with her son, Giles the Younger and there, live among the Northmen, remarried a Lord of the Everfrost, if stories are to be believed. King Giles I quickly found a new love, the Lady Elysande of House Corveaux, who he wed in 734. Elysande bore him a daughter, Emma, and their union seemed good for a time. It wasn’t until the Queen was accused and proven guilty of adultery that the King’s house was once again embroiled in scandal. It was Giles I’s grim duty to order the Queen’s execution and she was put to death for her crime. The Sovereignlands mourned with the King, even as they decried the actions of Elysande. King Giles found comfort in the arms of Lady Alice of the Corveaux, the cousin of Queen Elysande, and less than a year later, the Kingdom rejoiced as the King took her as his wife. But tragedy struck once again as the new Queen died in childbirth with their son only a year later.
The King remained unmarried for many years, stricken by grief from the deaths of his wives. Even the people of the Vale admit that during this period the Kingdom began a period of decline as Giles I’s melancholy and bitterness began to define his reign. As his unpopularity rose, he also took Lady Maeve of House Innis into his court and in 748, made her his wife and the Queen. Given the Valefolk’s long-standing distrust of the Woodfolk of the Northern Reaches, it was unpopular among the people. Few could believe that the King could have chosen such a course of his own free will. Rumors began to spread that the Queen may be a witch and that she may have the King under a spell to love her. In the north, the voices of rebellion rose as Giles I’s son, Giles the Younger, was said to speak against his father’s actions. In response to the malcontent, Giles I ordered his men to find dissenting voices among his people, particularly those in the Sovereignlands and over the next few months, hundreds were arrested, put on trial, and executed. Amid this chaos, the Queen Maeve was said to be with child, and the people begin to fear that she would give birth to an unhallowed spawn that would become their monarch.
In 750 Giles the Younger marched south with an army of Hale warriors, but was soon joined by elements of House Blayne and dissatisfied Bannon nobles. They met Giles I at Lanton in 751, and despite the King having a much larger army, Giles the Younger won a resounding victory over his father. Many people of the Sovereignlands heard the tales of the valor and the might of the Aurorym forces, including the heroic Living Saints of the Vellatora. While some of attributed the victory to Giles I’s unpopularity among his nobles and infighting between rival houses like Aragon and Richter, many in the Vale felt it was providence and came to see Giles the Younger as a savior and liberator who was welcomed with open arms. Those who accepted their new King were treated well and given reprieve, but those who were loyal to Giles I were often treated badly and suffered greatly at the hands of House Hale’s raiders.
Giles the Younger was crowned King Giles Bannon II in 751 and ordered the trial of his father and his Queen, Maeve. They were found guilty of witchcraft and both burned alive. He also ordered the death of his half-brother, the ‘witch child’ of Giles I and Maeve, which was carried out shortly after his pronouncement by the Knights of the Five Towers. Giles II cemented his alliance with Blayne by wedding Aline, the daughter of Lord Paragon Frederick Blayne of House Blayne. He also granted House Blayne a Protectorate, a portion of the northern Midlands known as the Troth, which was renamed the Hearthlands. He cemented his alliance with Hale by wedding his half-sister, Emma, to Talbot Hale, the heir to Everfrost.
The people of the modern Sovereignlands are at a crossroads in their history. The King has chosen the Aurorym faith and made indications that it is the future for not only the Sovereignlands but the entire Kingdom. For centuries the Valefolk have remained isolated and withdrawn from many of the affairs of Arnesse, content to do as they are told by those who rule over them. But now, as various Bannon vassals fall on either side of the decision to convert to the faith, many Valefolk find themselves torn about what to do. The Valefolk also live with the fact that their leaders have shown that compliance with their ideals and decisions are not optional and many dread that in the the coming days, the tyrant’s hand will emerge and attempt to force them in one direction or another.
At the head of this is King Giles II, who has made overtures of kindness and reward for conversion. Many wonder how long his patience will last. Already he has shown a preference for leaders who are also Aurorym, and that tendency has only grown in the last few years. Among a normally staid and conservative people, the King is seen among many as a revolutionary, placing many of them in the unenviable position of having to decide between honoring centuries of tradition or following their monarch. But another force is rising among the Valefolk. For the first time, the Aurorym faith has awakened in the them the ideas of resistance, independence, and the desire to better themselves. The people of the Sovereignlands are not known to be a troublesome lot, but many nobles have come to fear the growing specter of revolt. To make matters even worse, the nobles cannot seem to agree on what side of the question of the question of faith they fall. Some houses have converted while others have abstained. This has led some to question how long a house divided can stand before civil war becomes an inevitability.
Recently the Sovereignlands has also seen a public resurgence of ancient cultural practices among some of its residents. These practices originate from an early people known as the Drago who called the Sovereignlands their homes over a thousand years ago. The Drago were defeated by the original Ardan kings who settled this land and their culture largely subsumed or forgotten. Some practices of the Drago remained have remained a part of Sovereignlands culture, however but were often performed privately or in remote places in the region. Some feel that the more public embrace of these ancient ways is a reaction to both the arrival of the Aurorym faith and a manifestation of the growing dislike among some of the commonfolk for the monarchy’s decision to embrace it.
Bannon High Houses
House Bannon of Cadwyn
Castle: Caer Cadwyn
Ruler: Charles Bannon, Lord Paragon of the Sovereignlands and Warden of the West
Home of the Lord Paragon, Charles Bannon, Caer Cadwyn is the ancestral home of House Bannon and has been for the better part of over seven hundred years. Located along the Western Coast of Arnesse it sits above a sheer cliff several miles from the Coast Road leading into Highcourt from the South. Caer Cadwyn has the distinction of being the closest castle to Highcourt and one of the largest fortresses in all Arnesse. The castle is said to be unconquerable, or at least the cost to take it would be more than most lords would be willing to pay in time, resources, and troops. From here, the Bannons administrate the Kingdom and the Sovereignlands. Caer Cadwyn also impressively overlooks the sea, making it only able to be attacked from one direction and giving the surround an impressive view of the majestic cliffs and the ocean hundreds of feet below. The only notable town in Wolfhome is Falder’s Kray. Once a small fishing village, it’s position near the Coast Road and Highcourt have seen it grow into a major source of seafood. Seafood is very popular in the Sovereignlands, especially in the West, and the markets of Highcourt are filled with some of the finest in all Arnesse. This region is is also a noted vacation destination for many in the Kingdom. Its proximity to the Grand Court, natural beauty, and mild Summers have encouraged many to build manors that are often used only a few months out of the year.
House Bannon of Dorston
Castle: Caer Dorston
Ruler: Lawrence Bannon, Lord of Dorston
The Lord Lawrence is an aging nobleman who is known for his patience and wisdom. He is the Lord of Caer Dorston and has been given ownership of the fief known as the Eistwald along the Vermilion Road and West of the Gatewatch. The land is rich in timber and the Lord of Dorston has focused much of his attention on foresting. He formed a group known as the Golden Axes, who serve to gather lumber as well as ensure that the land is revitalized for future cuttings. Lord Lawrence is also the ruler of Silverdale, the wealthiest village in the Sovereignlands if not the Kingdom.
House Bannon of Coventry
Castle: Coventry Castle
Ruler: Arthur Bannon, Lord of Coventry
The descendants of Queen Margery Bannon, the wife of Edwin I, had long born the blame for the Bastard War that divided the Kingdom for almost a decade. It is only in the last five years that the star of Coventry Castle has once again been on the rise. Lord Arthur Bannon was given the lordship upon the death of his father, Henry Bannon, and made the bold decision to convert to the Aurorym faith. He was welcomed with open arms by the King and in the years that have followed, Arthur has been given increasing responsibility and command in the King’s armies. The Bannons of Coventry control the fief of Stonewall and the town of Archdale, a place well known for its high-quality textiles and jewelry. Stonewall sits at the edge of the Northern Barrows, supposedly haunted hills where the tombs of the long-dead kings and queens of ages past now lie.
Castle: Silverhart Castle
Ruler: Evelyn Laurent, Lady of Silverhart
House Laurent was once the First House in the Bannon lands. It was the home of a line of great knights that leads back to Ser Tristan Laurent, the King’s Blade, who’s legend and skill were rivaled by few others, but history has not been kind to the Laurent family. Once Silverheart was a place of renown and valor, a castle where legends were born. In recent years, the house fell out of favor with the Throne due to a scandal with its former ruler. Lady Evelyn Laurent, the current ruler of the house, has struggled for years to restore the family’s good name. In the hopes of winning favor with the King, Lady Evelyn recently converted to the Aurorym faith and has encouraged her people and vassals to do so as well.
Castle: Caer Stormholme
Ruler: Victoria Holt, Lady of the Watch and Warden of the East
House Holt is the newest noble house in Bannon lands, and was formed by King Giles II after his coronation. It is led by Lady Victoria, a Knight of the Five Towers who distinguished herself on the field of battle of Lanton, earning the nickname the Black Banshee for how much death she brought to the field. Lady Holt is aging, but she is said to still be one of the finest blades in all Arnesse. It is not uncommon for students to come from all around to seek training from her. She formed a group of knights known as the Wierguard whose duty is to secure the Vermilion Road in and out of the Sovereignlands. The Wierguard also collects a road toll from all travellers.
Castle: Caer Caddock
Ruler: Catherine Blackwood, Lady of Caddock Tor
Catherine Blackwood, or the Lady of the Wood as some call her, is the regent of Caddock Tor and ruler of House Blackwood. The Blackwoods are hunters by trade and oversee most of the fur and meat trade within the Sovereignlands from their castle at Caddock Tor, high above the River Ard. They also control the town of Wolfstone, a small village between the Misty Grove and the Wolfwood. Wolfstone is little more than an outpost during the Winter, but during the Fall and Summer hunting season, its population grows to almost five thousand, turning it into a destination for hunters and trappers. It is said that Lady Blackwood is the finest hunter in all Arnesse, better than even the Knights of the Ivy and the Woodswards. The Blackwood’s reputation attracts the wealthy from all over the Kingdom to come to Caddock Tor and have a guide take them into the Wolfwood seeking one of the great stags that live there.
Ruler: Edward Marston, Lord of Lyonhall and Warden of the South
House Marston is ruled by the Lord Edward Marston, a renowned horsemaster that has grown the Lyonesse into one of the primary sources of cavalry for Bannon armies. House Marston makes no secrets that it employs former Corveaux retainers to increase the quality of its horses. There is said to be a running rivalry between House Marston and House Perryn, a vassal of the Corveaux, as to who has the finest steeds in Arnesse. This rivalry extends to tournaments and has even turned from a friendly competition to outright violence when one side’s honor is questioned. Lord Edward is also the Warden of the South and as such he is is charged with the defense of the borders into Tarkath. Mounted outriders on patrol are a common sight in the Southern Barrows and along the Aurean Road. Those who pass through these lands are often subject to inquiries from Bannon forces as to their nature and business. Those proving to be from Tarkath face more scrutiny and the real risk of being turned back.
Castle: Hawthorne Hall
Ruler: Roderick Hawthorne, Lord of Hawthorne Hall and Warden of the North
House Hawthorne is a noble family in its last days. Led by the aged Lord Roderick Hawthorne, this house has been plagued by tragedy in the last twenty years. Once the Shadowvale was well protected by the Hawthornes, trusted by King Giles I to guard Bannon’s holdings in the North, but the locals say that a darkness has come to the Vale of Shadow and brought with it the chill winds of death. Several years ago, Lord Roderick’s son and heir, Darion was killed under mysterious circumstances while on patrol. Lydia Hawthorne, Roderick’s daughter, died to a strange wasting sickness that same year. The cold Winter of 760 took the life of the Lady of Hawthorne Hall, Lena, but it is said her true cause of death was a broken heart. The ghosts now outnumber the living in Hawthorne Hall and Roderick himself is said to have slipped into an ennui from which none can rouse him.
Castle: Castle Weatherstone
Ruler: Astor Cornwall, Lord of Weatherstone
House Cornwall rules the Northeastern section of Bannon lands including the Silver Hills and the town of Lanton. When the forces of House Blayne allied with Giles II and defeated his father at the battle of Lanton, many Blayne stayed behind and chose to make their home there. They founded a chantry which has grown to be the largest in the Sovereignlands. Lord Astor Cornwall was the first Bannon noble to convert to the Aurorym faith shortly after King Giles II took the throne, and his lands have become a haven for the Aurorym. This earned him a great deal of favor from King Giles II. The Cornwall family has grown wealthy off the local silver mines, but there have been rumors of late of rebellion in their lands from radical elements of the Aurorym faith. King Giles II has expressed his displeasure at Lord Cornwall by ordering Lord Arthur Bannon into Lanton to occupy the town in the name of the King. Lord Arthur placed Lanton under martial law and is overseeing all local affairs until the King is content the threat of further rebellion has passed.
Traditions of the Sovereignlands
Home and Hearth
The concept of home is a very powerful for Valefolk. For many Valefolk receiving guests into their homes is a very important social moment. Most will make sure the house is clean before guests arrive and some may even cleanse the house with white sage to drive away any hostile or harmful spirits. Visitors will often be offered a cup of palinca or tuica, a traditional fruit brandy, and then be invited to sit and eat. Be it for lunch or a dinner, the residents of the Sovereignlands will have prepared a real feast for guests, with multiple courses. It is thought to be a great offense to refuse food and drink in someone’s home. It is also the direst of offenses to disrespect a person in someone’s home, destroy property within their house, or perpetrate violence there. Valefolk often have meetings within their homes and feel secure that the host will not attempt to harm them while they are there. To do so would be an incredible breach of Valefolk protocol and likely would result in backlash against the offender.
Traditionally, the Sovereignlands has been a patriarchal society. While this has changed somewhat in recent years to become less prevalent, it is still more common to see a man in a position of authority in the Sovereignlands than a woman. While women do inherit land, much of the primogeniture of the Bannons and their vassals favors male heirs and has for centuries. The head of the family is usually the oldest man of the current generation. Still, women like Queen Aline Bannon, Lady Victoria Holt, Lady Evelyn Laurent, and Lady Catherine Blackwood all rule the High Houses of Bannon and represent a wave of women rulers in the Sovereignlands who have earned their positions through hard work and proven to be capable leaders; this alone has done much to dispel the practices of old. One practice that is still prevalent is respect for one’s elders. All elderly are respected and cherished for their wisdom and valuable advice, and are often expected to sit at the head of the table. The most senior members of an organization are usually the de-facto leaders of the group, and expected, if not to lead, at least to offer advice, drawing upon years of experience.
Dragobete was a figure of legend and was said to be the son of Baba Dochia, the figure who represented the arrival of spring at the end of the harsh winter. Due to Dragobete’s endless kindness he was chosen to be the Guardian of Love. Dragobete is a holiday for lovers, not unlike that of the Feast of Flowers, save that it is a much older rite that has its origins in the days before the Ardan kings conquered the Sovereignlands. It is celebrated during the second cycle of the moon and the day is often called “the day when birds are betrothed”. It is around this time that the birds begin to build their nests and mate. On this day, considered locally the first day of spring, and if the weather allows, girls and boys pick snowdrops or other early spring plants for the person they are courting. One tradition associated with Dragobete is for women to eat salty bread baked by the eldest woman in the household and place some verbaena under their pillow. It is believed that the one who does this will dream of their future husband. Another tradition is to wash one’s face with snow for happiness and good health. Maidens will also sometimes collect the snow that lays on the ground and then melt it, using the water in magic potions throughout the rest of the year. Those who participate in Dragobete are supposed to be protected from illness, especially fevers, for the rest of the year.
The Great Hunt
In most protectorates, hunting is almost the exclusive purview of the nobility. Within the Kingswood, hunting is particularly prized by Valefolk and is often afforded to the lower castes as well. While most of the lower castes who hunt do so out of necessity, killing animals for their meat or pelts, almost all nobles of the Sovereignlands are skilled at some level in tracking and the bow so that they don’t embarrass themselves while in the pursuit of prey. This tradition of hunting traces itself back to the legend of the dragon, the hawk, and the wolf, where as many nobles of the Sovereignlands seek to be like Edryn, son of the wolf, a hunter and survivalist of exceptional skill. The process of hunting in the Sovereignlands can be complicated, as to even be allowed to hunt, one must be given permission from the lands they intend to hunt on. This permission is typically given by the liege who rules that land and to hunt on someone’s land without that permission is a serious offense, punishable under the law. More than one hunter has lost their life for not being careful whose land they wandered into while in pursuit of a quarry. The King retains the Hartwood as his private hunting grounds, and none may hunt there unless by permission of His Majesty. During the late fall, when the game is at its most plentiful, the King hosts host the final hunt of the year, known as the Great Hunt. Nobles from all over the Kingdom come to test their skills. The hunter who claims the most points on a stag is honored by the King and receives a prize, but what most hunters seek bragging rights and the status that victory brings.
Despite the Sovereignlands love of hunting, one animal is forbidden to kill – the wolf. The Kingswood is often considered very dangerous for it has a somewhat high population of wolves. Some among the Valefolk believe that the souls of their ancestors are caught in the wolves and to kill one is to strike a blow against their family. It can happen from time to time that a wolf goes feral and gains a taste for the flesh of man. If this happens, the locals will call that wolf a ‘lupinfurna’, believing that it has been taken by dark spirits and must be put to rest. They will form a hunt known as the ‘întunecată’ during which the hunters will dress in animal skins and wear wolf masks in the hopes that the wolf will think them to be one of its own. In this way, they may get close and kill it. To kill the ‘lupinfurna’ is seen as a great honor and the victorious hunter is allowed to skin the wolf and wear its pelt as a sign of their hunting prowess. Those who wear a wolf pelt are held in high esteem among the people of the Sovereignlands for their bravery and skill.
Ritual Masks & Ancient Rites
A call back to their more ancient traditions, the custom of wearing masks is a practice that dates back over a thousand years. The masks represent real or imaginary animals, characters from the everyday or imaginary world. Masks are used in some customs, rituals or traditional dances, depending on the time of year and the popular calendar. Among the most famous masks are those used in winter traditions, such as the wolf, the bear and the deer. They can represent fantastic beasts such as werewolves, dragons, and other creatures of myth and legend. These masks are often accompanied by a group of dancers who wear masks made in the image of people, such as the elderly, maidens, warriors, knights, and nobles. Masks can cover only the face or the whole body, depending on the size and the importance of the moment. Masks are often used in funeral rituals such a ritual dance, called Chipăşurul, and is said to ward those who still live against hostile spirits and their own death.
In the depths of winter, in the twelfth moon cycle, near the year’s end, the people of the Sovereignlands from all age groups travel about more rural town dancing, playing musical instruments and singing as part of the bear ritual. Dancers wearing coloured costumes or animal furs, often featuring actual bear heads as masks. The dancers and singers go from house to house in villages, singing and dancing to ward off evil. According to legend, if a bear enters a household it brings welfare, health and luck.
Known as the “Deer’s Dance”, this rite that is celebrated during winter and features a deer, considered by some to be a totemic animal that would tell the people if what was to follow was good or bad times. At its origins, the Deer’s Dance is a harsh ceremony and features killing, weeping, burial, and resurrection. However, the dance is meant to bring richness to the following year, growth in animal numbers as well as richness to the crops. The dance itself is very lively and it’s mostly used to capture the attention of the viewer. The deer’s costume itself is often very lively with its multitude of ornaments such as antlers, mirrors, colored rags, dried flowers or tinsel. The deer is accompanied by other characters like shepherds, old men or women, and dancers in traditional costumes.
Translated as ‘The Fool’, this is a tradition the whole of a village takes part in and takes place in the early spring, during the fourth moon cycle. The main character, The Fool, wears a mask shaped like a globe, embellished with hundreds of paper flowers and ribbons. The rest of the participants are men dressed as women wearing their lovers’ clothes. They wear belts with loud bells around their waists and carry sticks. They roam the village and touch, or even gently hit, those in the audience granting protection against diseases and misfortune in the coming year.
The Three Fates
The concept of Fate is incredibly important to residents of the Sovereignlands. For centuries, they have revered the arts of augury and those with oracular gifts are highly prized among their people. The tarot is often employed by Valefolk to read their futures and determine if good or ill is in store for them. It is no surprise that the Fayne are revered as sacred among the Valefolk and they have attained an almost cult-like following among many of the commonfolk. To have a Fayne visit one’s village is the best of luck and to have one read you a fortune or share a vision is considered a blessing. House Bannon and its nobles make attaining Fayne in their service a priority and will often put aside many other retainers in favor of employing one. The proximity of the Reverie has made the Fayne Moirai a regular presence in the Vale and they are welcomed here more than most other lands. As the Aurorym faith has grown in power, some Valefolk have soured to the idea of the Fayne and become suspect of their methods. Some have begun to whisper they may be witches and while this has not become open hostility, the Sisters of Fate are being watched more closely by some.
The Fate Fairies
Many in the Sovereignlands believe that when a child is born, he or she will be visited by the Fate Fairies, or ‘Ursitoarele’ on the 3rd day, after sunset. That is why, it is customary to welcome the faires with a selection of gifts, such as flour, salt, coins, wine, flowers and even cakes. They are typically placed by the window by the eldest lady in the family, often the child’s grandmother.
The people of the Sovereignlands have many strange and unusual superstitions and there are dozens of them that vary by region, town, and village. Most center around the bringing good or bad luck with certain actions or events.
If you forget something at home, returning to retrieve it is considered to bring bad luck upon you.
If you sit at a corner table, you will never be married.
The rain brings good luck and good fortune.
Even numbers of flowers are for the deceased, and odd numbers are given to those who are still living.
Black cats are considered bad luck and an ill omen.
Breaking a mirror will grant seven years of bad luck.
Do not walk on graves or you will risk waking the spirit who rests there and it may follow you home.
If your ears are red, someone is talking about you.
Legends of the Sovereignlands
Banyn the Brave
Stories are told of Banyn the Brave, a legendary hero and the greatest general to have ever lived. Banyn waged war against the ancient powers of the world in times long forgotten and was never defeated in battle. It was Banyn that led the forgotten tribes out of the darkest age and made the first settlement within the city of Thrantis. Banyn is said to have passed wisdom and knowledge to the early men, allowing civilizations of old to flourish and grow into mighty kingdoms. The blood of Banyn the Brave is said to have coursed through the veins of Miles Bannon, First Lord and the founder of House Bannon.
The Golden Stag
Tired of the cruel mistreatment they endure from their wicked stepmother, who is also a witch, a brother and sister run away from home. They wander off into the countryside and spend the night in the woods. By morning the boy is thirsty, and the children go looking for a spring of clear water. But their stepmother has already discovered their escape, and has bewitched all the springs in the forest. The boy is about to drink from one, when his sister hears how its rushing sound says “Whoever drinks from me will become a Bear!”. The girl begs her brother not to drink from the spring, lest he transform into a bear and tear her to pieces. So, they continue their way, but when they come to the second spring the girl hears it say, “Whoever drinks from me will become a Wolf!”. Again, she desperately tries to prevent her brother from drinking from it. Reluctantly, he agrees to her pleas but insists he drink from the next spring they encounter. And so, they arrive at the third spring, and the girl overhears the rushing water cry, “Whoever drinks from me will become a Stag!”. But it is too late, because her brother had already drunk it, and changed into a stag.
As the initial feeling of despair clears up, the children decide to stay and live in the woods forever. The girl would take care of her brother, and ties her gold chain around his neck. They go to live in a little house deep within the woods and live there happily for some years, until they are disturbed one day by a hunting party and the king himself who has followed the strange stag home. Upon seeing the beautiful girl, he immediately asks her to marry him and she accepts. Thus, she became queen and they all live happily in the king’s castle. Time passes and the queen gives birth to a son. Their stepmother, however, soon discovers that they are still alive, and plots against them. One night, she kills the queen and replaces her with her own disfigured daughter, whom she has transformed to resemble her. When the queen’s ghost secretly visits her baby’s bedside for three nights, the king catches on and her stepmother’s plan is exposed.
The queen is restored to life once again. Her stepfamily is tried for their crimes by the King. The disfigured daughter is banished into the woods, where she is torn to pieces by wolves, and the stepmother is burned at the stake for witchcraft. At the exact moment of her death the boy becomes human again and the family is reunited.
The Dragon, the Hawk, and the Wolf
A myth is often told of the dragon, the hawk, and the wolf. In the story, the mighty warrior Aras conquers the throne of his brother and condemns the king’s daughter, Lisena, to live as a virgin. Lisena is visited by the Old God Critas, the Eldarch who makes her with child. When she gives birth to triplets King Aras is enraged and sends the children down the River Ard in the hopes they are killed by the waters. Spared by Fate, each of the three is taken in by a fabled creature of Arnesse and taught to be a great warrior. When the three siblings meet and try to overthrow King Aras, two of them fail to defeat him. It is the third twin, Edryn, trained by wolves, who unites his sister and brother to defeat the wicked King Aras. Edryn, son of the wolf, is acknowledged by his siblings to be the greatest leader among them and takes his place as the rightful ruler. House Bannon claims lineage to the line of King Edryn and use it as a symbol of their right to rule over the other great houses like Corveaux and Aragon.
Black Annis is said to be a hideous, blue-faced hag with iron claws and a taste for human flesh, especially the flesh of children. She is said to live in a cave with a great oak tree at the entrance. Allegedly the cave is built into the side of a sandstone cliff somewhere deep among the Worldspine Mountains. Black Annis is said to venture out at night looking for unsuspecting children and lambs to eat, then tanning their skins by hanging them on a tree before wearing them around her waist. She is also purported to reach inside houses to snatch people and many of the more rural cottages in the Sovereignlands were purposely built with small windows so that Black Annis could only get a single arm inside. She was also known to hide in the branches of her oak tree waiting to leap upon unsuspecting prey. Other traditions state that when she grinds her teeth, it is a sound loud that other people could hear her it, giving them time to bolt their doors and keep away from the window. It is also said she howls as she stalks the countryside. The howls are a warning sign for cottagers to fasten skins across the window and place protective herbs above it to keep themselves safe. The tale of the hag is often used by parents in the Vale as warning their children that Black Annis would get them if they did not behave themselves.
The Prince, the Snake, and the Wolf
A King of Wolves’ apple tree bore golden apples, but every night, one was stolen. Guards reported that a snake had stolen them. The king told his two oldest sons that the one who caught the snake would receive half his kingdom and be his heir. They drew lots to see who would be first, but both fell asleep; they tried to claim it had not come, but it had stolen an apple. Finally, his youngest son asked to try; his father was reluctant because of his youth but consented. The young man remained awake, and upon seeing the snake, tried to catch it by the tail. Unfortunately, the serpent managed to slip through his grasp. The snake did not return, but the King longed to capture it. He said that whoever caught the beast would have half his kingdom and be his heir.
The older brothers set out, seeking the snake. They came to a stone that said whoever took one road would know hunger and cold; whoever took the second would live, though his horse would die; and whoever took the third would die, though his horse would live. They did not know which way to take, and so took up an idle life. The King’s youngest son begged to be allowed to go until his father yielded. He took the second road, and a wolf ate his horse. He walked until he was exhausted, and the wolf offered to carry him. It brought him to the garden of the First King. There, sat the snake and the wolf told him to capture it without touching the golden cage in which it sat. The prince went in, but thought it was a great pity not to take the cage, but when he touched it, bells rang, waking everyone, and he was captured by the King of Dust’s guards. He told his story, and the King of Dust said that the snake would was his if he brought him a horse with a mane that shimmered like golden dragons.
The Prince then met the wolf and admitted that he had tried to steal the cage. The wolf then carried him to the kingdom and stables where he could get the Golden Mane Horse but warned him against the golden bridle. Its beauty tempted him, and he touched it, and instruments of brass sounded. He was captured, and the King of the Sky told him that if he would have give him horse if he brought the Princess, Helen the Beautiful to be his wife.
The Prince went back to the wolf, confessed, and was brought to Helen’s castle. The wolf carried her off and even though she was scared, the Prince calmed her fears. The Prince brought Helen back to the King of the Sky, but wept because they had come to love each other. The wolf transformed into Helen and the Prince exchanged it for the Golden Mane Horse. The Prince and Helen rode off on the real horse. The wolf escaped the King and the Prince asked the wolf to become like the Golden Mane Horse and let him exchange it for the snake, so that he could keep the Golden Mane Horse as well. The wolf agreed, the exchange was done, and the Prince returned to his own kingdom with Helen, the horse, and the snake.
The wolf said its service was done when they returned to where it had eaten the Prince’s horse. The Prince was sad for their parting, but he continued the journey homeward to his father’s kingdom. On the way, the Prince’s older brothers ambushed him. After murdering him, they sliced his body to pieces, and told Helen that they would kill her if she would not say that they had fairly won the horse, the snake, and her. The older brothers returned to to their father, and the second son received half the of his kingdom, and the oldest son was to make Helen his wife.
The wolf found the Prince’s dismembered corpse and caught two young crows that were about to eat it. The crown’s mother pleaded for them, and the wolf sent her to fetch the Water of Death, which restored the body, and the Water of Life, which revived him. The wolf carried him to the wedding in time to stop it; the older brothers were made servants or killed by the wolf, but the Prince married Helen and was granted half his father’s kingdom.
The Blade of Kings
In the days of and myth, long before the Age of Kings, a mighty blade was forged from the shards of Angrist, the World Hammer. This legendary sword would come to be called Auranthis, the Blade of Kings. It was said to have only been able to held in the hand of a true and rightful sovereign and used only in the defense of their Kingdom. Auranthis was known to have been wielded by Banyn the Brave as well as the First King, Edryn Wolfson. No one knows what happened to the sword or where it went, but it has not been seen in centuries. Quite a few believe the weapon was never real in the first place and is only a story. Auranthis was said to have a mystic connection to the land and legends say that when Arnesse is most in need, it will appear again and find its way to the hand of a great King who will lead the people out of darkness.
The Ruins of Highcourt
It is said that the seat of power in Arnesse, Highcourt is built upon the ruins of a city even more ancient. Rumors say that if one travels deep into the sewers of Highcourt they might find the entrance to a lost catacomb filled with deadly traps and unspeakable horrors. At the heart of the catacombs is said to a labyrinthine maze, the center of which is the prison for some nameless evil from the dawn of time. Tales abound of adventurers travelling deep into the undercity of Highcourt in search of this maze and its treasure only to never been seen again.
Creatures of the Night
There are countless tales of various creatures of the night that are alleged to stalk the Sovereignlands. The stories vary by region, village, and the teller. While the stories are many and varied, one would be very hard pressed to find anyone who had actually seen or could prove these creatures existed. Most of the time the stories involved some distant relation or friend of a friend who swears it to be true. While little evidence can be produced, the Valefolk in many areas live in terror of these creatures.
The Domovoi is said to be a masculine, small, bearded house spirit. Domovoi is archetypically imagined with a gray beard and sometimes a tail or little horns. It is more common to hear the Domovoi than to see it. The spirit is said to live either in the stove, under the threshold, in the cattle shed, or in the stables. If the family takes good care of it, the Domovoi will regard them by keeping the peace and order in the household. To keep him happy, the family should leave him gifts such as bread, salt, milk, porridge, and tobacco. If there is disharmony in the family, abuse or disrespect towards the Domovoi, he might get disturbed and even though he is never harmful, he can get angry. When the domovoi is angry people call him a barbashka which means “the knocker or pounder.” Sometimes, when he is not happy, and the family is not preventing his anger, he might abandon them. This is viewed as a serious disaster because he was perceived as crucial for the well-being of the family. The Domovoi is also respected as a being which can foretell or forewarn about the future of the family members. If the Domovoi is very content and happy, he is said to express his satisfaction by singing, dancing, and laughing. But sometimes he might cry in the evening, put out a candle, or try to make himself visible. If this happens, it is a sign that someone in the family is going to die very shortly.
Strigoi, also known as Night Walkers, are the troubled spirits of the dead rising from the grave. Some strigoi can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the strigoi include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality of victims via blood loss. They are said to be heralded by signs such as unexpected plagues, drought, or floods. When people suspect the presence of Night Walkers in their community they begin to stockpile items for defense. Stones, pitchforks, rugs, garlic, nails, rotten eggs, basil, wine, incense, and salt are all favorite methods for warding off the Strigoi. Upon allegedly discovering the identity of a Strigoi, the villagers will dig up the person’s grave. They turn the body upside down and then stab them through the heart with a wooden stake so the spirit will be plunged into the earth and never return. The following signs are often used by locals in the Sovereignlands to identify who might be Strigoi:
Those with a red nose, a great amount of hair, or particularly sharp features are often Night Walkers
Men or women with early signs of balding hair
Anyone who has a clear aversion to garlic
Anyone who dies of unnatural causes
If an animal crosses underneath the bed of a sick person or someone who died they may return as Strigoi
People who have an aversion to burning incense
The Drekavac or the “Screamer” as it is known to many locals, is a terrifying creature said to be and is birthed from the souls of dead infants that are not given proper burials. There isn’t any consistent description of what the Drekavac is supposed to look like, though. Some say it resembles a bird, while other tales say it looks like a dog, or a very thin child with a disproportionately large head. But all accounts say that no matter what form it takes it is said to possess a horrible scream that is said to be a cry to be laid to final rest. The cry of a Drekavac has also said to be a premonition of death to those who hear it.
While the Verdilac is thought by some to be another name for a werewolf, the tales of the Sovereignlands tell a different tale. The Verdilac is said by legends there to be the spawn of those infected with the curse of lycanthropy but their bodies have rejected the disease and instead, turned them into rabid, half-humans with excessive hair, feral teeth, and nails like talons. But they are not fully transformed into the werewolf of legends. The Verdilac is said to be permanently stuck in this state of madness and rage that causes it to roam the woods like an animal and feast on the flesh of all who cross its path, animal or human. It has very little intelligence, but have been said to have rudimentary communication and to also hunt in packs, giving the strongest among them the role of alpha. Verdilacs are also said to be the thralls of stronger werewolves, who use them much like a pet dog.
While some have said the Moroi are the same or akin to the Strigoi, they are known among the people of the Sovereignlands as the spirits of the dead who return to drink the lifeforce of the living. Stories about what a Moroi looks like vary from tale to tale. Some say that it appears to be much as the person was when they were alive and others say they are little more than ghostly mists and vapors. All the stories seem to agree that the Moroi seeks out those who slumber and seeks to drain their energy while they rest. The Moroi is allegedly an expert at entering locations, coming in through a window that is unlocked or even supposedly being able to turn to a mist and seep through the cracks of doors or windows. Many villages will deal with an alleged Moroi much as they would a Strigoi, warding it away with garlic, nails, rotten eggs, basil, wine, incense, and salt. If a person is found to be a Moirai, it also will be dug up, decapitated, and then staked through the heart face down in the grave.
Industry of the Sovereignlands
The great houses of Arnesse have remained in power throughout history due in no small part to the leverage granted them by their industrial and economic influence. This section details the current state of their affairs in these realms.
The major exports of the Sovereignlands are wood, iron, and precious metals. The Kingswood provides an abundant source of live wood of high quality and the Golden Axes of Caer Dorston ensure that cutting is regulated, with young trees replanted to replace the fallen. The foothills of the Worldspine Mountains support a vast mining operation that yields iron and other precious metals used in coins throughout the realm. This trade is carefully overseen by the forces of the Bannon military to ensure that none of the valuable cargo goes missing.
Being as the towns and cities of the Sovereignlands are so separated, there is little in the way of true industry in this land. Instead, may of the smaller communities such as Archdale, Arkendale, Mistdale, and Silverdale rely on artisans and artificers to produce finished goods. One of the major imports of the Sovreignlands is raw materials to turn into a variety of practical and decorative items. The quality of these works is often so high that they can demand a premium price in other markets. A piece of furniture made from King’s Oak in the Sovereignlands can sell for a small fortune in the North of Arnesse. Those who seek to hone their skills as Artisans often seek to apprentice in the Sovereignlands as the skills taught there can be found nowhere else in the Kingdom.
Protectorate of the Sovereignlands
The Sovereignlands Protectorate rests within the wide valley between the Worldspine Mountains to the North and the Vokun Mountains to the South. The Kingsvale, as it is often called, is a heavily wooded region and dominated by by three major forests: the Kingswood, which is by far the largest, Wolfwood, and Hartwood, far to the West and North of Highcourt. The Hartwood is also considered the King’s personal hunting ground and home to Cardington Manor, the King’s private Summer estate. Those found in the forest without leave of the Crown are punished harshly. The River Ard runs through the middle of the Sovereignlands and provides a vital trade artery that runs all the way through to the city of King’s Crossing in the Midlands. The second largest river, known as the King’s Vein, runs South from the Worldspine, through Kingswood and into the River Ard.
Collectively, the towns in the Sovereignlands are called ‘The Dales’ as many are very remote, isolated villages in heavily forested regions. Even though the noble seat of power may not be far away, many towns developed a sense of autonomy and in many ways, their own culture. The people of the Sovereignlands are an industrious lot that can be xenophobic and superstitious when facing outsiders or change. All the Sovereignlands has been divided among the nobles loyal to House Bannon, then divided further into boroughs, each ruled by a castellan administrator who is loyal to the noble owner of that land. A noble often is the ruler of at least two boroughs.
Due to its proximity to the sea and its rather high elevation, the Sovereignlands can be quite cool most of the year. Being as it sits between two mountain ranges, rainfall is common during all seasons and the skies are frequently overcast and grey. This can make the region feel a bit dreary and dark. The dale rarely gets very hot during the Summer and on those few days it does, one can often find respite in a cool sea breeze from the coast. Fall tends to be a mild and wet allowing for an extended growing season. The cold temperatures of Winter bring unrelenting, heavy snows. Most towns in the Vale stock up on supplies as most major routes of trade and resupply are cut off for months. This harsh season increases the general isolation of the region and it is a struggle to keep even the main roads clear during the Winter. Spring is wet and cool and the snows are replaced by flooding in the lowland wood as the heavy rains combine with melt from the mountains.
The largest city and capital of Arnesse is home to four hundred thousand people. Within lies High Keep, the seat of power in the Kingdom as well as the Grand Court, where most of the duties of running Arnesse are carried out. The Apotheon, home of the Apotheca, and the finest library in the realm, rises high against the skyline. The city is divided into quarters with the wealthy and privileged living on a raised rocky outcropping above the city in either the King’s Quarter or the High Quarter. Surrounding the wealthy on the lower tier is the Artisan’s Quarter, the Low Quarter, and home to the poorest residents of Highcourt, Beggar’s Alley. The River Ard runs through a part of the lower city and is crisscrossed by several bridges, the greatest of which is the Rose Bridge. One of the largest markets in Arnesse sits between the Artisan’s and Low Quarter – the King’s Market, bringing in goods from all over the continent for trade and sale. Sitting at the far end of a deep, natural harbor the city’s ports are always busy, ensuring that Highcourt is not only the seat of power but a one of the largest trade hubs in of the Kingdom.
The next largest town in the King’s Vale is a located along the Vermilion Road where the River Ard meets the Lyonesse River. Home to approximately forty thousand people, it is a major trade hub, collecting goods from the surrounding dales and towns for shipment East along the Vermilion Road. The Cirque has a strong presence in Silverdale, hosting a second Guildhall run by a Ringmaster known as “Fingers” Gillan. Lady Clara Bannon, daughter of Lawrence Bannon, Lord of Caer Dorston, serves as the city’s castellan and is known as a capable administrator and a fair individual. Silverdale is an anomaly among towns in the Kingsvale, as it is a fairly open and even cosmopolitan town that is quite welcoming to outsiders.
To the North and East of the Kingswood lie the Silver Hills, home to a vast mining operation that helps ensure the wealth of House Bannon and the Kingdom. This town was once the site of the famous battle between Giles I and the now king, Giles II which saw the latter rise to the throne by defeating and executing his father for witchcraft. This area is ruled by the Lord Astor Cornwall and has recently been a source of unrest and rebellion. Whispers have spread that Aurorym agitators have stirred the local populace to rebellion, but Lord Arthur Bannon of Coventry castle currently has the city under martial law and is working to ensure that it’s silver and goods will continue to flow to the Kingdom’s coffers without issue.
Sitting at the junction of the King’s Vein and the Widow’s Wash, Two Rivers serves both as a collection hub for outbound trade and an intake for goods bound upriver to Coventry Castle, Silverheart Castle, Arkendale, and Archdale. This town is ruled by the Catherine Blackwood, the Lady of Caddock Tor. Two Rivers is less of a town and more of a work camp where goods are transported, sorted, and stored. Serfs laborers make up most of the population and are often treated poorly. The Blackwoods are harsh masters and have appointed a castellan from the Knights of the Five Towers named Ser Killian Ironhand who ensures that the required work gets done, no matter the cost. While there is coin to be made here, there are also dangers. People go missing on a regular basis and rumors abound that black market uses this place to gather slaves for sale. This town also sits amid the Whispering Marsh and it’s said that not a few are claimed by the whatever horrors lie with the depths of that fetid bog.
Founded in 729, shortly after Giles I ascended to the throne, Hollowmere sits on the border of House Bannon and House Richter lands, just on the edge of the Vale of Shadow. In 742 a border dispute erupted between House Richter and House Bannon when a surveyor claimed that the dividing line between their territories was incorrectly drawn. Both sides were unable to come to a resolution, tensions rose, and both sides sent armies to the area. When House Bannon moved to occupy the town, the Richter army moved to block them and what resulted was the Battle of the Vale, a bloody multi-day battle that cost the lives of over four thousand soldiers on both sides. The Richters, unwilling to continue the bloody fight for territory, sued for peace and agreed to a dividing line that split Hollowmere in two along the river known as the Dread Run.
House Bannon owns the South bank and Richter the North. Hollowmere is the gateway to the Vale of Shadow and the Annwyn. The people living there have made the best of living so close to their neighbors and in some ways, this has brought the almost ten thousand residents closer together. Given the long tradition of craftsmen between both Houses, this is one of the best towns to find an item of particularly good craftsmanship.
Sitting amid the Worldspine Mountains, little is known of this place other than that it is the home of the Sisters of the Fayne Moirai. It is said there are three great stone pillars there which are sacred to their order. The wise know that to travel there uninvited to is to likely never return and all manner of tales and stories are told of the mystic and forbidden rites which are practiced high in the mountains on moonless nights. Few have seen the Reverie itself and even fewer have lived to tell the tale or are willing to speak of what they saw while there.
House & Guild Relationships
The following details how the people of the Sovereignlands generally feel about factions in Arnesse. This information is to be taken as in-play by you and other members of this faction.
The Sovereignlands tends to be an isolated and withdrawn place, but Midlanders interact with them more than most other realms. Be that because of proximity to each other or the familial relations, these two people have co-mingled more so than many in Arnesse and thus are, in general, well disposed toward each other. Many Valefolk view the Midlanders as a bit too lighthearted and jovial for their tastes, but they respect their loyalty to the King and his laws. Midlander nobles and knights often feature prominently in Valefolk folklore and tales. Typically, the imagery of a hawk or other bird of prey represents the Corveaux nobles and many of these tales have wolves or Bannon heroes proving to be better leaders and braver heroes. This has led to frequent and friendly rivalries between these two regions and while they often remain good natured, neither the Bannons nor the Corveaux like to lose a competition. Some Valefolk envy what the Corveaux have in their bountiful and temperate lands and it is a common lament in the depths of a snowy Sovereignlands winter that the kings of old should have chosen better lands to claim as their own.
The Woodfolk and Valefolk have one major trait in common and that is they both are a reclusive and skeptical people. This has led them to almost never interact, and many who live in the Sovereignlands believe the residents of the Thornwood are fantastic creatures of the wood who engage in dark rituals and often traffick with witches and other fell beasts. It was these beliefs that made it so easy for the people to turn against the last Queen, Lady Maeve of House Innis, believing her to be a witch and her child to be the spawn of evil. Even the mention of a Woodfolk or House Innis is likely to cause a Valefolk to spit and make a sign to ward off a curse. Woodfolk who have visited the Sovereignlands and casually entered more remote areas of the country are often never seen or heard from again, especially if they don’t seek to hide their origins. Despite this there is one exception and that is House Bannon of Dorston. Lord Lawrence Bannon has welcomed the Woodfolk into his domain many times and they have worked with him to keep his lumber and wood operations flourishing and healthy. The scions of Innis are also welcome in Silverdale and Highcourt, but few other towns will tolerate the heraldry of Innis nobles.
House Hale and Bannon have had a long-standing alliance, but their people hardly know each other. Thousands of miles separate these two factions, and many Valefolk only know tales of Northmen and their savage ways. Quite a few of the Valefolk believe that the Northmen are possessed by bear spirits. The bear is considered an animal of fortune in the Sovereignlands and it is said that if a bear enters your home, it is a sign of good luck and good fortune for the coming year, so many Valefolk look with kindness on any Northmen who come to visit their lands. The Sovereignlands connection with the Everfrost used to be much more distant, but when King Giles II invaded with an army from the north, some of the Northmen chose to stay behind and make a home there. The Northmen are not common among the villages and towns of the Sovereignlands, they are not entirely unknown. Not all the interactions have been good, especially when the Northmen first arrived and began to raid and pillage the settlements of those who were not loyal to King Giles II. This did much to embitter some of the Valefolk to them and has created the perception that Northmen are savages who take what they want and kill any who oppose them. Still, stories are told that the nobles of House Hale can trace their blood back through the Kings of Bannon and while some Valefok may live in fear, there is a tenuous kinship between their two peoples.
Few are reviled in the Sovereignlands as much as House Aragon and the Tarkathi. Though they are neighbors and share a rocky border to the south, the long history of conflict and radical differences in culture have driven a wedge that is deep and lasting between these two peoples. Most Valefolk see the Aragons as a lesser house than Bannons, would-be kings that have nowhere near the experience or pedigree in leadership. They also have a strong distaste for the stories of Tarkathi treachery, betrayal, poison-use, and violation of the King’s Laws. Of all the regions in Arnesse, the Tarakathi’s decadent culture is seen as excessive and dangerous by the often distrustful Valefolk. Many see their perfumes, spices, potions, and silks as attempts to ingratiate and normalize the Aragons into the Kingdom’s culture. The Sovereignlands has gotten by without that kind of excess for centuries and it can for centuries more. Most Tarkathi avoid the Sovereignlands unless they absolutely can’t and even then, they will travel to Highcourt only. It is not uncommon for border guards among the Vermilion and Coast Roads to deny Tarkathi entry into the protectorate, even if they have a good reason for being there.
House Blayne has a growing but complicated relationship with the Sovereignlands. For centuries, the people of the Troth and House Blayne were regarded as little more than potential rebels and adherents to a strange faith. As King Giles II rose to power, married a woman from the Hearthlands, and began to spread the faith throughout the protectorate, House Blayne has been more present in the Sovereignlands and people have begun to convert. The relationship dynamic has changed and quite a few among the Valefolk now count House Blayne as staunch allies. Quite a few Hearthfolk have immigrated to the Sovereignlands in the last few years and settled in fiefs along its northern border. This has brought a decidedly different dynamic to many of those regions and for the first time in centuries, the Bannon nobles are having to deal with the threat of revolt and rebellion. This has not helped Valefolk in the rest of the protectorate, many of whom who still view the Hearthfolk as a simple people prone to troublemaking, from resenting their presence. In recent years, there has been more than one instance of Valefolk coming to blows with the new immigrants, only serving to deepen the divide that has been growing steadily among the peasants of the Sovereignlands.
The Richters have been a long-standing ally of the Bannons and even though the Worldspine separates them, the influence of the Dusklands has been felt throughout the Sovereignlands. Both the Sovereignlands and the Dusklands are known for their crafting expertise and excellence, the Dusklands for blacksmithing, the Sovereignlands for artifice. Historically, Dusklanders have had few interactions with the Valefolk and those interactions have been intense and often violent. The Battle of the Vale, two decades ago, was a conflict between Bannon and Richter that cost the lives of over four thousand soldiers in one day of fighting. This alone may have escalated to an all-out conflict save for the eruption of the Shardmount. It was the cataclysm in fire and brimstone that brought these two people closer together as King Giles I poured money, aid, and supplies into the Dusklands, allowing the Richters to keep their realm stable. With the establishment of Hollowmere on the border of Richter and Bannon lands, Dusklanders and the Valefolk have managed to keep the peace for several decades.
The Rourkes and the Seaborn are regarded with a great deal of skepticism and distrust by most Valefolk. In the eyes of most of the residents of the Sovereignlands, House Rourke and its people are little more than brigands, thieves, and outlaws. Given their adherence to the King’s Laws, they are likely to report a Seaborn on sight, as they could not see a world in which they were not doing something illegal or immoral. It is not uncommon for the Seaborn to feature prominently in the tales of the Valefolk as villains or rakes. Some might see them as dangerous and even a bit alluring, but practically few of the residents of the Sovereignlands would even associate with a Seaborn out of fear they would become involved in something illegal. Fortunately for both peoples, the Seaborn stick largely to the seas and the Valefolk to the land. The Sovereignlands also does not have much in the way of coastline that can be raided by the Rourke fleets, so Valefolk are not frequently victims of Seaborn predations. This means these two peoples do not come into contact very often, and given how far apart they stand on issues, both sides are happy to keep it that way.
As in many realms, the Apotheca are well regarded, but the Sovereignlands can be very superstitious and more than one Magister has run across trouble due to their curiosity or more progressive ideas. The nobles of Bannon hold Magisters in high esteem and this has translated to respect from the people. Interestingly, that the nobles respect the Apotheca is about the only reason the Valefolk do, as they don’t value scholarly pursuits and they have been reluctant to adopt their healing talents. Many villages of the Kingsvale still rely on ancient methods of healing, including herbal remedies, potions, and even superstitions as curatives. This ‘medicine’ is most often performed by a wise man or wise woman, often the village elder. Most Magisters don’t casually wander the countryside of the Kingsvale as they often find it to be regressive, overly superstitious, and sometimes dangerous. The few times many Valefolk have likely seen or met a Magister is at a noble’s court, or if one happens to be on an expedition in their area.
The Cirque has generally not been welcomed in the lands of the Valefolk. This is mostly because many villages and towns in the Sovereignlands don’t host moon markets and merchants are seen as outsiders who are there to take advantage of others for their own benefit. The Valefolk don’t trust the Cirque and merchants because their communities are often work for the common benefit of all and the idea of making profit or gain at someone else’s expense is abhorrent to them. This is part of the reason that Sovereignlands artificer and craftworks are so valuable – because the Cirque is not a regular presence there and exports of their works are small. The nobles did work out an arrangement with an independent trade company called the Royal Coaster, which is directly backed by the King himself. The Coaster travels from village to village collecting goods for trade under the guise of a local tax from the King. This is then in turn taken to Highcourt and sold through the Cirque guildhall as exports bound for foreign lands. The Coaster is guarded by a famed mercenary company that has operated out of the Sovereignlands for years called the Red Wolven. If one is to see members of the Cirque in the Sovereignlands it is in the town of Silverdale, the city of Highcourt and no place else.
The Aurorym remains a growing force in the Sovereignlands and is a controversial force that is splitting the protectorate in two. No place besides the Dusklands is the faith growing faster and, aided by the King and Queen, its popularity is sweeping across the northern towns and villages, taking root not only among the commonfolk, but the nobles. The nobles of the Sovereignlands are among the first outside of House Blayne to adopt the faith. Adoption of the faith is also unique in that often the faith grows because of dissent and unrest among the lower castes, who turn to the Aurorym for solace and comfort. In the Sovereignlands, the adoption of the faith is strong because the King and his nobles have chosen to do so and the people have followed the desires of their liege. If the King was not faithful and the nobles had not converted, it would be unlikely that the Aurorym would be anywhere near as popular. In general, the Valefolk are divided over the faith and the tensions among them are continuing to rise. There are many Valefolk who continue to reject the idea of faith, even in the face of the King’s love for it. While violence has been minimal, there is a strong push among some elements of the Aurorym to try more convincing tactics to convert those who remain unconvinced. The recent revolt in Lanton may have just been the tip of the spear for more unrest and violence to come and a peaceful resolution seems to be nowhere in sight.
Playing a Valefolk
The Valefolk live incredibly different lives than their lords and masters. The Sovereignlands is a tale of a people divided, of the Ardan kings who conquered a land and subjugated a simple and superstitious people to their will. Since then, they have largely kept their blood and their traditions to the halls of the nobles and left the folk of the Kingswood to their anachronistic ways. Through stories, myths, and a carefully orchestrated mix of tyranny and kindness, they established themselves in the minds of their commonfolk as heroes and legends. It is not uncommon for local villages to revere the Kingdom’s significant figures, both living and dead, as figures akin to saints, keeping shrines and places to offer prayers and offerings to their well-being and good health.
The Sovereignlands are a region isolated in the mountains and as a result, the Valefolk often live in remote villages that are cut-off from much of the Kingdom. They regard visitors and the unknown with a great deal of suspicion and concern. Despite this, they can be a very friendly and generous people once someone has earned their trust. They also don’t get the latest information, access to the most current news, and as a result they can be a people who seem a bit behind the times. But the anachronism can be a bit charming and to many they come across as a very traditional people who are stuck in their ways. They honor authority and the law almost to a fault and perhaps even exceed the zealousness of the Midlanders in this regard. It is not unheard of for the Valefolk to, without any prompting from a noble or Sheriff, to form a mob to bring a criminal to justice. Unfortunately, these mobs also have been known to get overzealous with an accused criminal and more than once, an innocent has been summarily hung or stoned to death without due process. The Valefolk are also an extremely superstitious people who believe strongly in the ideals of luck, fortune, and fate. They often perform rituals to help ensure good luck and regard those who can understand the ways of fate like fortune tellers and the Fayne with reverence and respect. More so than most cultures, save maybe the folk of the Hearthlands, they believe in the creatures of the night, and though stories and legends are very common, few could tell you they’d seen one or even known someone who’d seen one.
Like many protectorates, education isn’t common among the Valefolk, but they are known to be an artistically talented people. Storytelling, tradecraft, and musical talent are all highly prized and those who are skilled are often regarded well. Because of their isolation and general lack of open farmland, crafting and tradecrafts are popular and as a result the Dales of the Sovereignlands are home to some of the finest craftsmen in the realm. Tradesmen come from all over to get instructed by Masters there. Hunting is also a prized skill among the Valefolk and one would be hard pressed to find better woodsman and archers outside the Thornwood. They are known to be a proud people who are, in many ways, defined by the lineage of Kings which have come before them. They are used to living beneath the harsh yoke and have learned to adapt to that life. Most Valefolk communities are very tight knight, community-oriented, and protective of each other. Inter-Sovereignlands conflicts can be bitter, but they will band together against a common foe quickly and easily. Valefolk also are almost always faithful to their oaths and only the Northmen take them more seriously. Breaking an oath or disobeying one’s superior is a crime that is less severe in other realms but a serious offense in the Sovereignlands.
The Attire of the Sovereignlands
House Bannon is characterized by kingliness. They have held the crown of Arnesse for some time now, and as such, the kingdom follows in their fashion footsteps. Players of House Bannon especially can lean heavily on both the Highfolk sections of the Pinterest board, and this one. Members of House Bannon can be seen wearing embroidered and/or patterned fabrics. Jewelry and accessories of precious metals are common. Common colors are red, gold, yellow, black, and white.