Atlas Rules Resources Adventures Stories FAQ Search Links
Kingdom of Blackheart Gazetteerby Andrew Theisen
Ruler: King Hugorth the Misanthrope (Wiz20, CE, Member of the Grand Council)
Hugorth's epithet doesn't quite do him justice- he dislikes all sentient races equally, not just mankind. He considers everyone else to be inferior and disgusting, and has difficulties when required to carry on a conversation with another being. Mostly, though, Hugorth resents the way intelligent creatures scream and beg when they are being unmercifully tortured and experimented upon. He pays a man he has never met to represent him on the Grand Council- he would have been replaced years ago, but many council members find his predictability refreshing (he always abstains from any vote).
Appearance: Height: 5'5", Weight: 190 lbs. Common Alphatian ethnicity.
Brown hair, brown eyes, unremarkable features. Hugorth dresses in featureless rumpled clothes of any colour, usually spotted with dribbles from the last few days' worth of meals. Apparent age- 50 years.
Belgoroth the Lamer (Clr11, CE, Jammudaru)
Hugorth's "son" is, in fact, one of the Misanthrope's greatest successful creations. Experiments in crossbreeding beasts and men resulted in Belgoroth, the only product of such unions to survive. Hugorth raised the abomination as his own son, which is to say, he treated him only slightly better than he treated anyone else. Belgoroth schemes and plots for the day he will replace his "father" on the throne of Blackheart.
Appearance: Height: 6'2", Weight: 214 lbs. His head is shaved bald, his eyes are black, and he has the coppery skin tone one associates with Common Alphatians. Belgoroth is a stout, strongly built man. He exercises regularly- not just to keep in shape, but mostly because he finds working out to ease the pain caused by his not-completely-human anatomy. He sweats incessantly, hiding his hairy body beneath shapeless brown garments that seem to be made out of burlap. (They hide his inhuman form somewhat, allowing him to pass as a normal man.)
"Anything goes" would be the national catchphrase of Blackheart... that is, if it weren't already "Watch your back." The 'kingdom' is truly an anarchy- the only crimes are assault on king or family (death penalty), damage to kings property (immediate compensation, can result in death if king angry enough). Everything else is eminently legal. Everything.
Non-Alphatians often get the wrong impression of Blackheart. Hearing about the tongue-in-cheek humour the Blackhearts make of Alphatian nationalism, and the way other Alphatians grumble about the "cruel bastards of Blackheart" can lead outsiders to think that Blackhearters are misunderstood, or that the rumours of their evil ways are deceptive, offered forth by the wounded pride of other Alphatian nations.
They aren't. Every rumour is well deserved. If anything, perhaps the other Alphatians are too easy on their fellow countrymen.
True, the Blackhearters poke fun at the prideful ways of many other Alphatians, and scoff at any sense of nationalism, or order, or lawfulness. Yet there is a vicious undertone to all of their jests that goes far beyond individuality or rebelliousness. The Blackhearters are just plain mean. These are people who'd cut out an outsider's vital organs and share a "hearty" laugh (pun intended). They don't spit in the face of nationalism and civic pride just to be rebellious- they do it because they're the toughest, meanest cusses around and they know it. And they don't care if everyone else knows it, too.
So why does the Empire tolerate them? For one thing, the Blackhearters, for all their arrogance and disdain, tend to keep to themselves. They don't go around with chips on their shoulders- they don't have to. Most of them are in illicit or dangerous lines of work, and to survive in that business, you've got to refrain from drawing unnecessary attention to yourself.
Secondly, the Blackhearters are a valuable resource to wizards across the continent. Anytime some dirty work is needed, the archmages know where to go to find skilled and competent assistance- because no one survives long in Blackheart if he can't take care of himself.
Then there is the fact that Blackheart is considered a getaway location for hundreds of the Empire's most prominent wizards. It is one of the few spots they can go to where they can truly be removed from the outside world, a valuable asset for reclusive wizards. Only the foolhardy tread the depths of Blackheart casually.
Finally, for all the embarrassment the Blackhearters may cause internally in the Empire, their reputation has only helped the image of imperial Alphatia abroad.
1) Shraek (pop. 20,000): Blackheart's capital city, and the only real settlement of any note within the kingdom's borders. It's population consists of reclusive wizards (1%), townsmen and mercenaries (40%), and slaves, servants, and victims of wizards' mad experiments (59%). Shraek has dark libraries (which charge substantial use fees), taverns, inns, alchemists, poisoners, zzonga dens, crematoriums; almost anything can be found here- including things which would be illegal elsewhere in the Empire.
The city itself is dark, and gloomy. By longstanding tradition and kingly decree, the streets are laid out in twisting, winding patterns, constantly crossing and recrossing. All buildings are built in disturbing fashions, and must be built of or painted in dark colours- greys, blacks, midnight tones. The inner quarter of Shraek is surrounded by a warped and oddly angled curtain of black obsidian. It is a marvel of architecture, as it is only a few inches thick at almost all points, but it is nearly indestructible. Only a very few people know that the wall is actually a baaka (see WotI Book One, or Immortal Set DM's Guide). Over the centuries, the city's population has grown to extend outside the walls (into what is called the Outer City, naturally). It is here that most of the commoners make their dwellings, leaving the inner city largely to the manors and townhouses of Shraek's wizardly denizens. There are also several farms in the outer reaches of Shraek, which provide a substantial proportion of the city's agricultural needs.
2) The Ugly Woods: Only a few scant miles from the outer city, the Ugly Woods of Blackheart spring up in the full force of their twisted, ominous glory. In the depths of this wood lay hundreds of wizards' towers, dungeons, castles, and laboratories, all distant and hard to reach.
Monsters unlike those found elsewhere roam the forest- deranged experimental victims, nightmare creatures, undead spirits of the woods' former fey races, and creatures unnaturally altered by the poisonous soil of the Ugly Wood.
Here, too, is the realm of what is arguably Blackheart's most dangerous denizen. An elder Air Elemental from the Nightmare Dimensional Plane of Air (HD24). Shaddoth by name, this creature was released into the Normal dimension by the magicks of Atzanteotl, in 734 AY. It was largely through the depredations of this beast- driven half mad by its transition to Mystara- that led to the fall of the elvish kingdom of Ilmaryl. Since then, the poisonous gases that constitute its vaporous form have caused the trees and wildlife of Blackheart to take on their unnatural natures- for no normal plant or animal could long survive the dark taint of Shaddoth's foul presence.
The poisons of Shaddoth have only been kept in check by the guardian baak that is Shraek's inner curtain wall. Sent by the Immortal Eiryndul to protect his followers in Shiye-Lawr, the baak contains within it a magical artifact that binds Shaddoth to Blackheart. So long as the artifact is functioning, Shaddoth cannot pass beyond the bounds of what is now known as the Ugly Wood. The Nightmare Elemental long gave up trying to assault Shraek (and the baak guardian) directly. It now roams the Ugly Wood, venting its frustration on any unfortunate enough to come across the creature. Several expeditions were sent to destroy Shaddoth centuries ago- none ever returned. Normal magicks are largely ineffectual against the Nightmare creature, and it is physically powerful enough that it can withstand all but the strongest mortals. Though half-mad, it is not stupid- Shaddoth would run rather than fight an obviously superior opponent.
Notable Sites in Shraek:
1) Hugorth's Villa- This ominous, four story structure looms over nearby residences. It is built atop the an old asylum for the mentally deranged.
When Hugorth became king, he ordered the entire staff fired, and the residents of several surrounding buildings to evacuate in order to make room for his villa. They got off lucky; it is said that the screams of the asylum's patients can still be heard whenever Hugorth is in the city performing his experiments.
2) City Planning Building- To say this structure is an eyesore is an understatement. Built in a myriad of angles and physics-defying shapes, it is the only building in the city that is permitted to exist in violation of the strict colour statutes. Its clashing bright hues and tints stand wildly at odds with the blacks, greys, and dark tones of all other buildings in the city. Indeed, sometimes the structure seems to change and shift its features at random.
Tolstoy (Sor14) is the current commissioner of the City Planning Department. An idiot savant, he mostly sits and stares outside drooling.
Prospective developers rail at the idea of presenting their projects to Tolstoy, since his approval seems completely random. In actuality if he were to be allowed to continue his choices for another millennium or so, the alignment of angles and buildings in the city would bring Shraek in conjunction with the planets, making it the focal point of chaos in the universe, and drastically altering the surrounding landscape. It would also inadvertently elevate Tolstoy to Immortality. The odds of him surviving long enough to see this project through are so astronomical that it would be nearly impossible. His nursemaid, Gelinka (Com2), plots with half a mind to destroy the child. The other half is bound by a geas placed on her by Tolstoy's parents before they died to watch over him.
3) Nicodemus' HydroThaumatoponic Gardens: Nicodemus (Wiz6/Dru9) is one of the most successful businessmen in Shraek. His "gardens" are actually several large buildings filled with massive enchanted aquatic apparatuses that enable him to grow foodstuffs that are several times larger than anything occurring naturally. His gardens provide a large portion of the agriculture to the citizens of Shraek. Secretly, however, Nicodemus is working on a new form of vegetable life. He believes that vegetable matter will one day conquer the world, with him leading the way. Several huge (15 HD) Shambling Mounds patrol the gardens, taking care of any possible intruders.
1) The University of Malebolge (pop. 175): Founded in 1946 AY, Malebolge provides its students with areas of specialisation not found in many other universities outside of Blackheart. The fields of translocational surgery and thaumaturgical agriculture are particularly sought after by many aspiring archmages. The graduation rate is very low, however, as many seniors don't survive their final thesis projects.
2) Castle Qain (pop. 0): Just one of many abandoned and ruined towers in the woods of Blackheart. Castle Qain was the centre of a showdown between a dozen powerful wizards back in 993 AC. The tower still reeks of the magicks that were unleashed, and discerning wizards may also detect the tint of even more powerful, Immortal forces at work in the ruins.
Army: Blackheart maintains no regular army. In the unlikely event of invasion, the mercenaries and wizards living within the city would form a powerful adversary to any attacker. (Though under serious threat, they would probably cut their losses and move elsewhere). The Shraek's baak wall is sufficient to prevent any hostile force from entering the inner city itself (it could even potentially stand against minor Immortal attempts to break its defences).
(Note: The army stats listed in PWA1010 must be mercenary forces and conscripts).
Black, Red, and Silver. The heraldic symbol of Blackheart is a black background with a white hand dripping blood in the middle. The hand is set in a gesture that is almost universally considered rude. It should be noted that Blackheart has no formal crest- this logo was created in response to the artistic craze of Mylertendal centuries ago, and has come to be the 'unofficial' crest of the kingdom.
Blackheart has no national flag.
What Others Say:
Eirikr Samrson, from Frisland: "How do ye know a Blackhearter? He's the one sittin' alone in the dark corner of the tavern with the full stein o' mead, an' the broadsword unsheathed on the seat next to 'im, keepin' watch on anyone who looks too close..."
Malemayns, a noble from Arogansa: "Why doesn't the Council just get rid of Blackheart? Well, half of them have towers in the woods there anyway. Even if they didn't, who would ever want to live there? It's just acres of dead forest. Besides, what about all those vicious sorts who live there now? I wouldn't want them moving down here to my neck of the continent. Bring the property value down something fierce. No, I say it's not worth the bother..."
Posting on a tavern wall in Shraek: "Have sword, will travel. Special rate on assassinations. Contact Kale at the Rotting Spleen tavern, 13 1/2 Bloody Corpse Way."